This Thursday, I am off to Igls, Austria, a small ski town outside of Innsbruck, where I will be training for the one-man bobsled, also known as the monobob, at the Bobsled World Cup. Igls is a resort town high in the Austrian Alps, with great ski slopes, natural ice skating, and the bobsled track.
I admit, I’m a little nervous. I’ve been prepping as much as I can - doing the same workouts as non-adaptive athletes - focusing on snatches, power cleans, and hard core hip drive for the explosive power you need to push the sled faster and shave seconds off right at the beginning. I’m maintaining a stricter diet, laying off the beer and carbs so that my body has the best fuel possible, and I’m watching every video I can find online of the track, to study it, memorizing the layout and all the turns. But I haven’t driven my own sled yet - all the training I did in Calgary was as brakeman in a two-man sled, and that makes me a little anxious.
The brakeman pushes the sled to get it going down the track. I discovered that my leg doesn’t fit into the sled - you have to point your toes and prosthetics don’t do that - so I had to figure out how to push off with one leg. I did manage to get my time down to within 1 ½ - 2 seconds off the non-adaptive athletes, which is how I secured my spot on the team headed to the World Cup. But you’re inside the sled, you’re folded over like a taco, staring at your crotch, under the lip of the sled to avoid adding any wind resistance. Meanwhile the driver navigates you through high-G turns, using just the most delicate touches on the D-rings to guide the sled depending on where you want to come out of the turn on the track, and wait till the driver tells me it’s time to hit the brakes.
In between runs, I watched my driver, another adaptive service member from the UK, Corrie, rehearse the track in his mind. He would tilt his head back, close his eyes and simulate the hand gestures he intended to use to steer. So, I’ve been doing a little of that while watching the videos of the track. I’m sure I’ll take to it as quickly as I took to being a brakeman, but it’s the anticipation of getting there and actually doing it that’s got me antsy. With 20+ runs and not a single crash yet, I’ve been promised that it’s going to be epic when I finally do because it’s been so long and those odds are weighing on me too. As they say, one way or another, once you enter the track, you are getting to the bottom of it. The trick is to get there shiny-side down.
Bobsled is one of the scariest, most exhilarating 60 seconds of your life. You’re flying down the track at 80+ MPH, feeling the Gs alternate between sucking you down into sled or almost lifting you up out of it. It’s your job to hold on for dear life. There is so much preparation that goes into it, from the physical prep to understanding every element of the track. If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to ride in a bobsled, most tracks offer amateur rides, where someone who’s never done it rides with an experienced driver and brakeman. Careful though - you might get hooked!
The World Cups will probably be on TV or streamed somewhere online, and I’m going to try to find out where so anyone who’s interested can check them out. Unfortunately, they hardly ever televise the para games, but I’m hoping to change that one day! Stay tuned for info on where you can watch.
Bis bald! (Till Next Time!)