One of the things I was looking forward to most, about going back to Lake Placid, was the chance torevisit the Olympic Training Center and the USA Luge offices. The last time I was in Lake Placid was 9 years ago for a USA Luge camp, this was before I even knew skiing was a sport. I was there for one of the scouting camps that the team puts on to look for potential athletes and to show young people what it’s like to be an Olympic caliber athlete. The entire week was an experience that has (and will) stick with me forever. Speeding down the track in a luge sled, eating, sleeping and breathing a single sport; this was the first experience I had of being an elite athlete. I absolutely loved it! Although I didn’t continue luge after the training camp, the attitude and passion has had a huge impact on the energy I’ve been able to put into skiing. Since we were in town, it only seemed fitting to stop by the USA Luge Office and thank them for the experience they provided. Everyone in the office was very nice and it was fun to hear how the program has done over the past few years.
The walk down memory lane continued as we walked the track at Mt. VanHoevenberg. Luckily we arrived during Skeleton and Bobsled practice. Watching the athletes go down the track on a TV screen barely does their speed justice. Bobsleds can reach 80 mph! About halfway though our walk up the track, a truck pulled up to us and the guy inside offered us a ride the rest of the way. This guy turned out to be “The King” of Mt. VanHoevenberg. He is a retired Bobsled athlete that got into the sport because he spend a long weekend in Lake Placid (in the 70’s) and still hasn’t left. He is in charge of all of the ski trails, the track and facilities at the venue. The King gave us an awesome tour of the starting area and even introduced us to the Jamaican Bobsled team!
As it turns out The King (we never learned his real name) was given the option to coach the Jamaicans when their team was developed. Instead he chose to stay in the US and coach our development program. As our tour was ending, he wished us luck at our races and we continued on our way to the next Olympic Venue. The Herb Brooks Ice Arena.
Lake Placid has a huge amount of Hockey history. Part of this is due to the 1980 games when the USA Hockey team upset the Russians winning the gold medal. Walking around the arena it was fun to picture the stands filled with cheering fans as the “Miracle on Ice” became an official win for the United States.
Just outside the Herb Brooks Arena is the outdoor Speedskating track. This immediately caught my eye and served as yet another reminder of my failed 2014 new year’s resolution. Since watching the Olympic Trials last January in Salt Lake City, I have been determined to try the sport. Unfortunately none of my potential lesson leads have worked out, so I have yet to get on a pair of skates. This year I am more motivated than ever to arrange a lesson. I can’t wait to feel the blades glide across the ice, be able to compare the skating movements to that of skiing, and to have the sensation of flying.
Tuesday night was the NCAA banquet. The food was surprisingly good this year, although our table was one of the last ones released, so maybe we were just exceptionally hungry. The host school, St. Lawrence, welcomed us to the event and wished all of the athletes luck at our competitions. The program was well put together and short, which no one complained about.
The first event of the week was the 5k skate race. Coming off our Regional Competition, I was super excited to see how our girls performed at a National level. With my pigtails up, the proper amount of pre-race dancing and full confidence, I clipped into my skis ready to leave it all on the course. I had a plan, and executed it the best that I could. Crossing the finish line, I immediately wanted nothing more than a nap. This is always a good feeling, because when this happens I know that all my energy was used during the race. The result didn’t end up being very good compared to the other races I’ve had this season. Although this was disappointing, I know that all of the variables I could control were in their proper spot. My mind was where it needed to be, I had the training, breakfast was standard and I had completely exerted myself. One of the things that drew me to skiing, is the number of unknowns each race contains. Sometimes things go in your favor, sometimes they don’t. That’s what makes racing fun!
The next morning my head was still super foggy from the race, and the entire experience was surreal. Luckily Miss Rachel made an (almost) surprise visit with enough energy and excitement to even make Eeyore smile. Skiing, hanging out in the hotel and going on a pre-race walk with her was a sorely needed attitude boost! By race time the next day, it was time to give the best performance I could. This was it! the last race of my college career.
For our team as a whole, this day went much better. Deedra had her best finish ever at NCAAs, I improved on my place from last year, and Tom and Hakon improved on their places from Wednesday too. It was especially exciting to watch the boy’s finish as Freddie (NMU) claimed the top of the podium.
The week was capped off with the Slalom races at Whiteface. Being Nordic skiers, naturally we walked up the ski hill rather than taking the lift. It was exhausting. Cross training for next year?
Watching the Women’s Slalom was super cool. Seeing them fly around the gates, it’s kind of crazy to think that the NCAA considers Alpine and Nordic the same sport. If any of those girls had seen me going down the final hill on Friday, they would have been appalled.
Our journey back to Houghton was much smoother than the way out. Everyone had boarding passes and no one got stopped at security for too long. When we landed in Minneapolis the Chaco’s immediately came out and it was so warm all of us decided to change clothes before heading off to dinner. Winter has definitely left the Twin Cities! Spring here we come.
All in all I could not have asked for a better collegiate racing experience. To be able to share this with my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and sometimes even strangers, has been a great adventure. It’s hard to believe that it’s really over, but I’m excited to see where the next year will hold.