Our team is now officially set for the first part of our World Cup season that kicks off the week before Thanksgiving in Lillehammer, Norway. After an intense three weeks of training filled with our national championships and two seeding races, everyone can breathe easy for a few weeks of training, and focus on sliding. Our national championships were held in Lake Placid, N.Y., Oct. 12, after a very difficult week of training due to the uncooperative “winter weather.” I was happy with a second place finish. I had an abnormally difficult week of training, with persistent driving errors in a few key parts of the track that I was never able to fix completely. Naturally after winning my first national title last year, I had my sights set on the top of the podium this year; however, with the depth of our women’s team, I know that on race days making mistakes is not an option if I want to be the fastest. The best moment of the weekend was my start times, which were the fastest they have been on that particular track since 2009, and I had a group of about a dozen people from Maine there cheering me on, including my greatest fans — my mom, sister and nephew. Teammate Kate Hansen had a great race and won her first national title.
We moved from Lake Placid to Park City, Utah in preparation for our final world cup selection race. This was a welcomed change — unlike the 70-plus degree days in Lake Placid, the weather was cold and dry, allowing us to training for a week on consistent ice. This is crucial for testing new equipment, which I took full advantage of for the week. USA Luge has partnered with Dow Chemical Company and U.S. Steel to produce new runners for the Olympic year, and after riding them for a short five days I am very optimistic about their potential to be very fast. They ride a bit different than I am used to and I have still yet to find a comfortable groove on them so that will be the focus over the next two weeks as training winds down to the first world cup. As a team we are extremely grateful for our partnerships with both Dow and U.S. Steel. As a smaller sport we don’t have a budget for the technical side of our sport, which is very crucial for improvement. They have both donated endless amounts of time, energy, intelligence and materials to our future, trying to make us the most competitive sled on the hill.
I finished second again in the race in Park City. Technically the race had no meaning for me as I am already qualified for the fall world cup team, but with the Olympic Games right around the corner every race is an opportunity to show myself where I stand and where I still need to improve. Both of the selection races were extremely close, which speaks to the strength of our team. Our women’s world cup team for the first part of the world cup season will be myself, Kate Hansen, Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher. I am anxious for us to get on the world cup and show everyone how ready we are. Having such great competition within the team pushes me to ensure that I make use of every training session — on the track, in the gym, in recovery — to ensure I am constantly getting better and ready for the opportunities to race coming up.
Our first international event is actually a training week in Sochi on the Olympic track. I struggled to find a groove there last year, and it wasn’t until the final few days of training that everything seemed to click. I am anxious to go back and pick up where I left off, and find more speed on the Olympic track!!