Monday, March 01, 2010

paralympic blog, day -6

Some of you reading this have been checking my blog weekly or even daily, hoping I would finally get my act together and write something (hi, Grandma & Grandpa!). More likely, you're catching this on an RSS reader, Facebook, or Google Buzz.

I am going to try something here. I'm going to attempt to write something in this space every single day from now through the end of the Vancouver Paralympic Games, on March 21. It will be good for my head, and some of you might even be interested to hear about my experiences, opinions, &c.

So. The Paralympic Opening Ceremony isn't until March 12, but we will arrive at the Village in Whistler on March 6 to begin settling in and do a little last-minute training. So that makes today six days out from the beginning of the Paralympic experience, and a good day to start the daily blogging for two other reasons, as well.

To wit: (1), Last night was the Closing Ceremony of the Olympics. People have put that warmup competition behind them and are ready to start thinking about the main event. (Ha ha.) And (2), this is the eve of the final World Cup race series of our season.

We're staying in Carbondale, Colorado this week, racing downhill, super-G and super-combi half an hour away at Aspen's little sister mountain, Buttermilk. (No working people in the Aspen area can afford to live in Aspen itself anymore, so they all live in these peripheral towns that are named after minerals, like Basalt, Carbondale, Marble or Redstone.)

Yesterday and today at Buttermilk we have had what's called "downhill training." But don't let the name fool you: this is really more like a race than anything else. We get to inspect the race course — the same one we will be racing tomorrow and Wednesday, when it counts — and then run it, with everything exactly the same as it will be on race day: timing, race bibs, blue dye, the whole shebang. Only one run per athlete per day, just like race day.

At least, that's the idea. But of course, how can one day really be exactly like another day? That's not how the world works. The weather changes. The track changes, gets bumpier or icier or softer. People get sick, or well. People wake up on different sides of the bed.

For those reasons, training run results can be a pretty poor predictor of the actual race results. Who knows whether someone is holding back in training, or whether someone who crashed in both training runs will keep it together on race day and be the fastest one down the hill?

All this said, my training runs have gone well. Yesterday I was sixth, a little over two seconds slower than the leader, my teammate Joe Tompkins. And today I was second, just 0.11 seconds behind today's leader, Germany's Martin Braxenthaler. Downhill is a game of hundredths of a second, and that's particularly true on this course, which is so easy that there's no room for error. Lose half a second, and you might find yourself five places back.

The plan for tomorrow's race, then, is this: try to do exactly what I did today, and try not to make any mistakes. (And maybe try to beat some of those people with Wikipedia articles about them.) Easy, right?

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