I have. In fact, a few years ago, I decided that if I ever had a shot at competing in the Olympics, Luge would be my sport. I like going fast and am generally optimistic, and this sometimes leads to a slight disregard for my own personal safety.
I should say upfront that I know full well that the odds are small. I haven’t trained to be an Olympian, and I don’t really plan on doing so. And the odds are made even smaller by the fact that I’d never once SEEN a luge (or even a track) in person, met anyone who had done it, or stopped to ponder what sort of training the world-class athletes might do. But hear me out. Because while every sport needs training, some sports are decidedly more technical and others more physical. Curling is quite different than shot putting, for instance.
I am decidedly not built like a shot putter; I’m a lanky 6ft, 150 pounds. But maybe I could learn to pull really hard for a strong start, and learn to finesse my body movements enough not to crash. Consider also the lack of competition: With only 4 tracks in North America, and fewer than 20 in the world, the majority of people will never even TRY the luge, let alone train for competition. I’d bet it’s even less popular than curling. Compare this to a common sport like soccer (football), where nearly everyone in the world plays as a kid. The more I thought about it, the more I seemed like an Olympic Luge athlete just waiting to be discovered!
So on an otherwise dreary Tuesday afternoon, I felt inspired to look up Luge in Canada, and was THRILLED to see that they had scouting days! My heart started pounding with excitement. General level of fitness - check. Good heart - check. Ages 8-13 – fiddlesticks! 20 years too late! My dream was crushed as quickly as it had emerged.
But wait – they have public “try luge” days! And for 35 bucks (plus 600 bucks for a flight to Calgary), I could slide down part of the track, just like a pro! No experience necessary. On the spot instruction with no training required. No age limits. This was my big chance! And as it so happened, I was speaking in Alberta at the time, which saved the 600 dollar flight and made it a sweet deal! Gosh, I though! “I’d be a fool NOT to go!”
So I did it. In fact, I went twice! And it was pretty amazing. I think I set a new track record!
Just kidding. I didn’t set any records, except perhaps for enthusiasm – if only they had they been measuring.
I was slightly surprised with the lack of instruction and the confidence of the coaches at the top of the run: “Lie down like this and don’t sit up to look around. Make a double chin, and try to relax. You can steer by pointing your toes, but try not to do that too much, since it usually causes more problems than it solves. Who’s up first? Do you want a push?”
They’re actually letting me do this? I suppose I signed the waivers… The coach added: “If you do ‘run into trouble,’ just stay where you are on the track and the medic will come and check you out.” It sounds like they already had the ambulance engine running…
I reached 61.3km/h, which seemed very satisfying. Much faster than I’d drive in a city school zone, for instance, but amazingly, only half as fast as the Olympians! Most importantly, I didn’t die, which is very good. I didn’t even crash, which is also very good, though there were a few moments where I was definitely out of control - my legs jostled around, and I got bounced off walls like a pinball. But I made it!
Some life lessons I thought I’d share from the experience.
- Challenging yourself is really rewarding, but also really scary. Life gets boring when you stay in your comfort zone, but trying new things is uncomfortable. What are YOU doing to challenge yourself?
- Stuff looks different from the outside than it feels doing it. I didn’t feel like I was going as fast as it seemed when watching people scream by, and it reminded me that you can’t really know what something is like until you try it for yourself. What do YOU need to try for yourself?
- Being good at stuff takes a lot of work. Competitive sliders (the real name for the athletes, probably because “luger” sounds a lot like “loser”) train 5 days a week, even as teenagers. They change school schedules to lift weights, spend hours paddling around on ice with spikey gloves, and pay big bucks to visit tracks around the world. They need to hold their head up (and maintain their composure) against 5g’s of force around sharp turns at high speeds. Sliding down the track twice (poorly) was a great reminder of how doing something well takes attention to detail, consistent effort, and a lot of hours. What do YOU feel is worthy of your time and energy?
So it was great! And it’s set me up for the next adventure: I’m going back to try the bobsled in 2 weeks!