Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Training in Calgary

"You guys are training for the world championships now, not just the America's Cup" 
Lascelles "King" Brown, Olympic bobsled medallist

The Calgary bobsled track has a bit of history attached to it. For those who have seen the Cool Runnings film, you'll know what I'm talking about... for those who haven't, I'm not really sure what to say to you...

The Jamaican bobsled team made it's Olympic debut here in Calgary in 1988. What many don't know, is that in that same year Australia also made it's Olympic bobsledding debut. 

It's hard to say what the difference is between two bobsled tracks, particularly when, as a brakeman all I see is the bottom of the sled. But even though you are nicely tucked in, you feel every corner. The pressure your body goes under crushes you into the floor... and here in Calgary there's a special kind of corner called a 'kreisel'.

It's a 270-degree turn, that sends a g-force of about 6 right through your body for over a second. It knocks the breath right out of you...

I've now been down the run about 6 times, and I'm starting to get used to it.

I even occasionally yell "Weeeeeeeee" as we go round to amuse the coaches who may be beside the track. You might as well have fun right?

Calgary is the second stop on the America's cup circuit... and we made our way up here following our races in Utah.

In park city, we enjoyed the final moments of hospitality in Jimmy Shea's mansion, and got a cheeky look at his gold medal....

We then hit the road for the 14-hour drive to Calgary.

This was a bit of a win for me, I'd always wanted to see more of the USA, and even though we didn't stop much, I got a good look at Idaho, and Montana.

Though there were vast expanses of very little to see, I found that in itself, interesting viewing. There's nothing quite so special as seeing something for the first time.

Roadtrip USA

When in Idaho... hold a potato

Lucas catching some Z's
I was clearly very happy we stopped for a minute...

We got to Calgary very late, and went straight to sleep in Heath's basement.

Now that we are on Heath's turf... the routine has completely changed. While there wasn't too much downtime in Utah, we've been put to work even more here in the true north.

On the way to training..

It's been non-stop gym sessions, sled work, four-man loading practice, and training runs at the track. It's a 14-hour day, every day, involving a heavy physical load.

Gareth preparing to lift the house down

My first run down the track was in Olympic gold-medallist Jimmy Shea's sled (he needed an extra man for the night).

He told me to give him a few yells during the run, and I was more than happy to oblige...

Before big corners, my mouth-guard muffled voice could be heard yelling "C'mon Jimmy, nail it.... NAIL IT!" Not often you get to yell that at 120 kilometres an hour!

That night the four man crew of myself, Heath, Gareth and Lucas got our first runs together at the new track, which involves a flatter push-off than Utah (better suited to us because we're fast).

The run went fine, but as we were getting our sled sorted at the bottom of the track, we heard "81 on the track, 81 on the track" over a nearby radio. This means a crash, and it was Jason who was on his way down. It's a terrible sound when a bobsled is flying down the track on it's side... though most crashes don't severely injure anyone... that sound still makes me think the worst.

We rushed to help Jason as his sled crashed over the finish line... it wasn't his body that had copped the biggest hit. He was ok, but I could tell with one look in his eyes, that something had changed.

As we got back to Heath's place that night, Jason pulled us aside and told us that he wasn't going to be racing for the rest of the season... the fire had gone out. There's a few personal reasons attached to his decision, and from the teams perspective, we hope he's back at it next year. he's an incredibly valuable member of the team, and not just because he's a pilot. We're all completely behind Jason's (aka Jessepi) decision.

A spare half hour in downtown Calgary...

Today the four man crew were back at it on the top, and with a good launch from the top, Heath drove 'Bruce' beautifully to set his own PB on the track of 56.52. We will be very competitive when the vour man races kick-off on Sunday.

Tomorrow, it's two man training, and from what I gather, a lighter training during the day, much to the relief of our bruised and battered bodies.

Two man races begin Friday. With one less sled for Australia, that makes competition for that one brakeman spot much more intense.

It's also going to be bloody cold... not the best in our skin-tight race-suits...

Not a fun forecast....

Time to get the game face on.

Keep feeling the rhythm.

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