Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Little Olympic Spirit

If you’ve followed the blog for any amount of time, you know I live in Salt Lake City. The city is nestled in a valley, surrounded by the stunning Rocky and Oquirrh mountains. Not being a big city, it may surprise you that it has a pollution problem, especially this time of year. In a nutshell, smog gets trapped in between the mountains, with the cold winter air above holding it in a Ric Flair-style headlock... little hope of escape. If you come out to ski, have no fear, as you’ll be at a higher elevation than the pollution. You can literally look down from the slopes and see it hovering there. It clears out with each winter storm that comes through, but in between it accumulates as a disgusting haze. I was stoked to get a long run in late last week, but the morning news kept harping on how bad the air quality was going to be, advising people to drive less and stay inside. I was still leaning towards going for it when they brought out the big guns, showcasing a guy who rides his bike every day to work (these guys have always struck me as having a screw loose… come on, riding in snow and sub-freezing temperatures?). Anyways, he wears a “particulate mask” during times of bad air quality, and was going on about how a few years ago each mask would last him a couple weeks, but now only three days. With this little tidbit I finally relented, accepting the thought of spinning my wheels on the dreadmill later that evening. However, every so often I actually have a decent idea, and fortunately one came to the rescue during my time of need.

As you may recall, SLC and the surrounding area hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. With that came major investments, one such being a speed & short track skating venue (think Apolo Anton Ohno) not far from my home. Nowadays it’s still a major Olympic training facility and hosts a lot of hockey events. In addition, following the Olympics a track was built around the ice. I’d been there once before, but had never run on the track and was excited to check it out. Walking in is an impressive sight… the ice itself is pretty cool, and flags from all the countries who competed in the games hang from the rafters. There are also banners with US Olympians, medals won, and other cool stuff. I’ve always enjoyed track workouts, but this was more inspirational than most. It’s also the only track I’ve ever run on in which I was warned “runners must yield to Zamboni machine.” Roger that. With a lap being 440 meters it was a challenge to know my pace, and I found myself crunching numbers in my head on several occasions. Sometimes it’s more fun to just run by feel anyways. It was also nice to shed my long johns, hat, and gloves for shorts. I’ve always been a fan of the Olympics, and I think having Sochi around the corner made it even more cool. It’s funny how the Olympics span everything from total celebrity rock stars (eg Shaun White) to complete unknowns. Regardless, they're all on the biggest stage for a 2-week span every four years.

So I ask you… who’s your darkhorse for the women’s luge?

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