It’s the evening after the first sliding session of the 2018-19 season. Day one is done! For me, the main emotion is usually relief that I can still remember how to slide. Today was a little different however. This is my third pre-season with the GB team and this years’ day one has been much more pleasant than usual.
I think everyone appreciates that skeleton is a scary sport; people assume you’re crazy for doing it. And if I am honest, sliding headfirst down an icy water slide type structure at speeds of 120 kph plus with your chin an inch from said ice… yea I get it. Over a winter, you become accustomed to the sensation of sliding and how to manipulate your sled to follow the fastest lines. Over summer, you don’t slide for eight months and a lot of the subtleties are lost.
So, come day one, the nerves are real. And don’t get me wrong, the nerves were there. I felt a bit sick; struggled to eat my pre-sliding snack and had a few self-doubting thoughts. But what is more interesting is these feelings took a lot longer to turn up, and they were a lot less intense than in past years. For the first time since I started skeleton, my only emotion about starting pre-season was excitement. I was genuinely super excited to get out to Lillehammer and get on my sled.
Like I said, the nerves did creep in at the track today. But they didn’t create a disturbance, because I expected them. Moreover, I had strategies to cope and deep down had some confidence that I could deal with whatever the day threw at me. This represents a major shift in my mindset, and the fact that is does get easier, is the biggest relief of all.
Today’s sliding went well (bar a popped spur!). The first few days aren’t about times etc. they’re about re-establishing the feeling and connection. And today I started to do just that. You forget how quickly you travel; the speed really hits you from the get go. It’s tempting to try and see and analyse everything, but that just isn’t realistic. My focus was on my position on the sled which in the past has let me down. Today however, I was visibly calmer and quieter on the sled. I did pop a spur (when the sled comes out of the start groove) which isn’t ideal but in the main part the day was drama free and for the first time… fun!
A decent start.