The journey to that nail biting finish started long before that chilly November evening though, on a sunny summer day in July. The many years of track & field, weight lifting, skiing, snowboarding, and skeleton training had taken its toll on my knee, and I needed to go under the knife to get it repaired. A slow recovery put my entire season in doubt, and I didn't decide to compete in US NTT until October, a mere week before I was supposed to fly out to Lake Placid to start the season. I hadn't been able to jog until 9 weeks out of my surgery, and I knew I would be going into the month-long race series a step behind in terms of my fitness. But after consulting with my doctor, physical therapist, coaches, and some close teammates, I decided to roll the proverbial dice and compete. Perhaps I could nab a top 10 finish, and if I got lucky perhaps I could replicate my 5th place finish from the previous year.
The two weeks in mid-October leading up to the first NTT race proved to be the swiftest period of recovery for my knee, and on good days I could generate nearly even strength from each leg, despite my overall fitness still lagging considerably. But how would it hold up under race conditions?
The first race proved a shocker: I finished in a personal best 3rd place, behind Olympians Matt Antoine and Kyle Tress. Even more shocking was the fact that I had the fastest 50m push times of anyone on the team.
The second race was humbling, as I made some costly mistakes and wound up in 8th place. My knee had swollen considerably from the first race and I was struggling to keep up, both physically and mentally. Between the first two races, I was sitting in a combined 5th place going into the final two races in Park City, Utah.
I consider Park City my "home track," as I have more experience sliding there than anywhere else, and that extra practice proved to be the difference maker, as I finished both the third and fourth races in second place, and thereby secured the overall position of USA-2 on the team. Perhaps there were some celestial karmic forces at work during that final race, as it was a year ago that Steve actually beat me for the fourth place position on the team by a mere four hundredths of a second.
So to the karmic overlords of skeleton racing, I say "Thank you," and I look forward to embarking on the new adventure on The World Cup.