Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My first race!

"What are your legs? Steel springs" - Gallipoli (1981)

The Australian bobsled team

I've been down a bobsled run about 15 times now and experienced a crash... so I'm basically an expert on the sport..

I'm actually totally full of was our first race, my first race, and the feel was totally different to any training run.

We rocked up in our fantastic new team snow pants (see above), which turned heads at the start-house. The Panamanians, Canadians, and New Zealanders all loved them, while many of the others were obviously so jealous they refused to comment.

Psychedelic 80's pants aside, we had business to get to.

It's not every day you represent your country, in fact for me, this was a first. It was a tremendous honour. 

As we warmed up I found myself unnervingly calm... I knew I could run fast, it's something I can always do, and ultimately, that's all I'm there for. Outside the start house all of the Aussie boys went through the warm-ups. Lucas was jumping in for his first ever bobsled run with Jason, while I was braking for Heath... Gareth simply wanted to stretch his abnormally long legs after his long flight.

We had a single interruption, but for me, it couldn't have been a better one. My favourite Aussie Rules team, North Melbourne had been doing altitude training coincidentally in the same small town in Utah while we've been here. After my Dad let them know I was up here, we'd made contact, and I had hoped a few of the boys might come along...

The entire team showed up. I was stoked. I have been cheering the team on since I was a very young boy, and to have my team come and cheer me on, was something I couldn't have been happier about.

Despite them being there though, the race was priority number one. So after a quick meet and greet, it was back to preparation.

Heath prepares with boisterous grunts, jokes, and shouts....

Jason on the other hand is in his own zone... you could find two more opposite pre-race pilots.


As I sat in the start-house minutes before the race, I thought about how fortunate I was to be in this position. 

It only very rarely dawns on you how lucky you can be sometimes... but if you spend to long thinking about it you can miss what is in front of you. 

So I snapped out of it, slammed down a Red Bull and made my way to the sled to get us set up.

"Heath Spence and Ben Lisson to the line please..."

My head was amazingly empty... despite the noise from all the North Melbourne boys, and the crowd alongside the start-line. I was nervous, but I was ready...
Heath and I high-fived... we got in position, and as I called "YES", we both lunged into the sled...

In the video above, the North boys are on the left, ringing cowbells, and cheering us on..

With so much nervous energy it's not hard to run fast... and we gave it a good nudge, our loading was great too.

The start though had nothing on Heath's run... he nailed it. 

There were times in that sled I felt I could have been sitting on a stationary park bench reading a novel... he smoked it. 

We got down to the bottom, and were in 8th position after the first heat. I found out we pushed a 5.14 off the top, a good tenth of a second off what we'd done in our first go the day before.

There were 22 sleds, and many boasted Olympic-standard brakeman, considering all this, I was stoked.

Next up was Jason, and Lucas (on his first ever bobsled run).

They gave it a fair hit at the top, and took it through the starting timer at 5.41... before coming down at the bottom inside the top 20, meaning they were into the second heat (and most importantly ahead of New Zealand).

I caught up with Drew Petrie of North Melbourne in between the first and second heat, again another thrill for me on a day of highs.

Me and Heath were soon lining up again... and I was determined to improve again... somewhere in there the mentality of a caged animal was firing me up...

Me and Heath (we don't have uniforms so we borrow Canadian stuff)

We took off again... and I drove through every step, searching for more and more with every push... we launched in and we were off again. The run though wasn't as good as the first... we slid between turn three and four, crucially losing speed in one of the fastest sections of the track. Heath nailed the rest of the run, but couldn't salvage the speed we lost. We finished up in 9th place. Our start time though, was 5.12, another improvement. 

It was nothing on the Canadians though, who set a track record start time of 4.77, a record that has lasted 11 years (previously held by the Jamaicans).

Jason improved again in his run, he knows he's got plenty for in him.

For Gareth, today was frustrating... as he watched his mate Lucas get his first crack in a sled. It'll be the big man's turn tomorrow. Meanwhile Ryan was on sled-lifting duty today.

And as we watched on at the women's skeleton event to cheer on eventual winner Cassie Hawrysh of Canada... she dominated the event and won gold... no doubt she'll be looking for a repeat tomorrow.

Cassie at the start line...
Gareth decided jetlag had gotten the better of him...

The rest of us, on the other hand, decided we'd never EVER give skeleton a go...

Time for bed, there is another day of racing tomorrow in the two-man... another day of representing Australia, and another day of hurtling down a bloody great mountain at 130 kilometers per hour. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Thank you again to everyone supporting all of us along the way, it means so much to all of us. We'll keep trying to do you proud.

Keep feeling the rhythm.

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