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Archive for January, 2014

bob3I woke up Monday morning trackeager to begin my learning and training of bobsledding. Mornings were relaxed and not rushed which worked out well for me. Gave me plenty of time to get ready each day and feel well rested and prepared.

The next three days were filled with bob2meetings, classes, memorizing the track, and working with a physical therapist 1606841_10201295122241856_856618144_nfor strength testing and my ability of getting in and out of the bobsled. Meetings were fine, classes were fine, memorizing the track was fine, my upper body strength was fine….getting into and out of the bobsled…not so fine. As you can see from the picture, a bobsled is shaped rather like a bullet with a section of the top removed. Also because of the shape of the bobsled, I was not able to get my wheelchair very close. That meant quite a large lift up, over and down into the sled without damaging myself. (The sled was safe from harm) I think if the sled and me were the only two things on the top of the mountain away from prying eyes and my personal embarrassment, I could have eventually made it into the sled. But I assure you it would not have been a pretty sight. Thankfully, once again, there were volunteers on hand to help lift me up and into the sled. Even then it was not the smoothest of activities for me or them. They were trying to lift me up and over, while at the same time, bending over the sled without killing any of us. I need to pick up a few chiropractic bills for their efforts. once seated in the sled as the driver, the only thing that showed above the sled were my eyes. The “brake-man” sits in the back of the sled while leaning completely forward, head between the knees. He/she sees absolutely nothing of the entire trip down, completely trusting on the skill of the driver. Talk about blind faith! After crossing the finish line at the bottom, the driver yells “BREAK!” and hopes that the brake-man hears. Just in case the brake-man did not survive the trip down, there is plenty of run-out track to use up, with a wall at the end of that. So either way, you will stop. 🙂

1559826_10201311057440226_1628743023_n156898_10201311057880237_1212207756_nIf you look at the map of the run I included, you will see at the top of the mountain there is a Men’s and Ladies’ start. Both starts are the same difficulty, so I’m not real sure of the name difference. Our group used the Men’s start. I say our group, but that is only partially correct. Only very experienced drivers start from the top. Speeds of up mapto 90 mph can be reached 1533918_10201311056200195_1488678155_nfrom the top. If you follow the trail down to just above curve #6, you will see the junior start. By Thursday I had passed the therapist’s exams, getting in and out of the sled, and was deemed ready to drive a bobsled from the Junior Start. For those of us who were facing our first driving experience, some of us were a little bit on the nervous side…mainly me. Before the driving experience, the first thing on the agenda of the day was the “track walk.” The able-bodied track crew put crampons on their boots, tied ropes to the back of our wheelchairs, and began walking down the track with us sliding along in front. This was quite the experience in and of itself. Our coach explained each curve in great detail of how we should head into it, when to make slight driving directions to the left or right, or remain in the neutral position. This is where the importance of memorizing the track became very apparent as we would have just mere seconds to make adjustments. I heard the words “slow-rollover” several times which did nothing to improve my jitters.

After the track-walk, a truck took us back to the top and we received our starting number. I was number three to go. I got my helmet, goggles, gloves and courage on as I was assisted into the sled. My break-man climbed in behind me as I heard muffled “good lucks” and “have a great ride” from everyone. The crew pushed us off and after 48 seconds of “ooomphs” and “AAHHHS!” we were sitting at the bottom. If you ever need an adrenaline rush, this should do it for you. I felt horrible for my break-man as I realized my poor driving must have killed him in the back. He was very gracious as he calmly told me “no problem, you just helped me appreciate life more.”  LOL  Me too!

941483_416685865101075_1954001966_nSo that was my very brief moment as a “Paralympian Athlete.” I had a fantastic time, made many new friends, and am very content being home for a while. Maybe I will try origami next.

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There is nothing better after a long day air travel than being met by someone at groupthe airport who is waiting for you. Thankfully that happened to me upon my arrival in Utah. I was met by one of our many volunteers and his family. It was so nice getting to know them and listen to his two young children jabber away about life. Joe became a great friend and earned his keep as a volunteer helping to lift me in and out of numerous vehicles and bobsleds.

They took charge of my luggage at the airport, brought me to my hotel and brought my luggage to my room after check-in. I cleaned a day’s worth of travel grime off me, and then we all left to go to a welcome party at the base of the Olympic Park.

JimmyThe place had video images being shown on the walls of bobsledding, skiing, snowboarding and many other winter sports to wet our appetite for the upcoming events. There was a live band, food, drinks, a local artist with his paintings around,  and best of all, many of the other athletes, friends and volunteers. And a very special guest of honor, JIMMY SHEA 2002 gold medalist winner in the skeleton was there! Everyone was amazing, helpful, friendly and so excited to have us there. The excitement and enthusiasm was a great way to start the week off for me in an arena of so many unknowns.

Cameras were flashing all night and video footage also. I am writing this blog post too early since I do not have any of the professional pics yet. Once I get them, I will do a simple post with nothing but pics and videos.

I went back to the hotel that night eager to face the next day of new challenges. Stephen King said in his 1983 novel, Different Seasons, “Get busy living or get busy dying.” I plan on living.

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cokeIf you take a bottle of soda, shake it up, and then take the cap off, I’m sure that all of you know the end result…a mess. That is how my thoughts are about the recent trip that I took to Utah. I was only gone for five days, but so much happened in that short time span that it is hard to sort out my thoughts.

Breaking things down into topical format will be the easiest way for me to get my thoughts organized. I guess I will start with the traveling aspect. But bare with me, the more exciting piece of this adventure, bobsledding, will eventually hit the paper.

I was injured 14 years ago and this was the first time that I got on a plane and traveled alone. I travel quite a bit by myself with my van, but this trip was really a good test of my mettle. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Wendy spoils me rotten. As a minimalist with a slight case of OCD, traveling alone in a wheelchair really took me outside of my box.

The very start of my trip threw me into a tailspin that took me quite a while to recover from. Since we have flown quite a bit, I know all of the TSA rules about what not to pack. So before leaving home, I went through all of my luggage, back pack, wheelchair pouch, etc., to make sure that I was legal. The last thing I needed was to be tossed off a flight because I was hiding a pair or fingernail clippers. I arrive at the Greenville airport a little after 5:00 AM which was nice to avoid most crowds. Things are going smoothly and the TSA agents are great at helping me get things situated to be scanned and x-rayed. I then go to my little spot to be frisked which is never a big deal. I’m watching my things as they are being looked through when I see one of the TSA personnel motion for the others to come over. There are now about five of them looking into my wheelchair pouch on a table in front of me. They are all looking rather serious, so I casually ask if I forgot to take something out that did not pass. The head security agent takes something in his hand and casually walks over to me and opens hisStupid hand in front of me. I must have turned about 50 shades of white as I was staring at five .38 shells in his hand. My mouth just opened and closed with nothing coming out as I was trying to remember why I even had them on me, and why someone had taken my straight jacket off. Wendy is standing on the outside of a glassed in area watching and wondering what is going on. I won’t bore you with details here or the groveling that I did in the dirt trying to explain why I had them. After several serious chats from the chief TSA agent, he took the shells and brought them outside to Wendy. She turned about as white as I did. Let me just say that the TSA agents handled everything very professionally and with common sense. I was finally allowed to pass on and get to my gate in time to catch my flight. If you look up the word imbecile in the dictionary, you will find my picture along with the description.

From Greenville I flew to Newark, then to Chicago, then to Salt Lake City. Thankfully my ride was waiting for me at the airport who became my first of many new friends, and brought me to my hotel. The mountains and scenery were absolutely amazing, but that will be for another day.

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