Let it begin
Skeleton athlete Chris Soule, 28, is training for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Soule, who won the first round of U.S. national team selection races back in October, is a two-time national champion (1997, 2000) and finished second on the 2000 World Cup circuit. The 6-foot native of Trumbull, Conn., spent time as a stunt player on the film G.I. Jane and currently works as a research assistant. Check out Soule's diary on CNNSI.com as he trains for the Olympics.
September 12, 2001
The season is getting closer. Only one month to go until the skeleton sliding season begins. People usually don't understand how skeleton can be a year-round sport, but there are key parts of the sport that I train for during the months that are too warm to hold ice on a track.
My summer has been full of push camps in Lake Placid, N.Y., camps at the new indoor, "Ice House" in Calgary, Canada and I recently spent time in a wind tunnel to work on body position and to test different pieces of equipment.
The push is a key part of sliding and is based on speed and explosive power, so that is the main part of my training during the summer months. It is one of those things that is tough to catch up on once the sliding season begins. Our camps usually end up being pretty full and action packed. Just to give you a taste of what it is like to train for skeleton during the offseason, I will describe my last push camp Lake Placid.
My training partner Rob and I headed up Wednesday afternoon from Connecticut to the Olympic Training Center in Placid and arrive just in time to catch last call in the dining room where I ran into most everyone staying in the Olympic Training Center. It's almost a ritual for people to stop in at the dining room at 8:40 p.m. for their last snack of the night.
After the five-hour drive, I am pretty beat so it's time to head to bed. The next morning I wake at 7 a.m. to get started early for the 9 a.m. push training. I eat breakfast and go to sports medicine to get rehab on a couple little injuries and then jump on a stationary bike to start my warm-up.
Off the bike and onto the mat to begin stretching with some of the cool stretching/rehab gadgets that they have in the Sports Med room. I finish up stretching and head out to the push track.
The push track in Lake Placid is basically two hills with a valley in the middle that has rails on it to guide the wheeled skeleton sled. I would compare it to a mini roller coaster that just goes down a hill and up another hill and then rolls back to the start.
Sarah Smith leads the USOC Sports Science group that has been able to help us through the years. They have been able to help us break down the push by attaching an acceleration wheel to the sled that determines velocity during each 5 meters of the push. Video is set up with graphs that reflect our velocity and time (splits) so we can compare each push, or part of a push with a time. This has been a key part of my training this year.
I have been putting a lot of emphasis on the push during the offseason and have made a lot of progress by using Sports Science's technology. The beauty of video is that you can go back and review and pick out little technique flaws and have them to work on in training. Our push coach, Bob King, helps us with push technique and parts of the push that may contribute to gain or loss of velocity on the push by watching us and then showing us in video review sessions. In his first year with the team he has helped make big improvements with a lot of the athletes.
In a race you aren't able to take practice runs beforehand, so you have to be ready to go all out once you get to the line. I keep this in mind and try to prepare myself like I would for competition during the week of the camp. I jog a bit, do a bunch of speed drills and then get used to exploding off the block with short bursting sprints.
I started out having problems with foot placement, so I adjusted how I was taking off with my lead leg, and then began working on the other things that Bob picked up on right away or that I had noted to work on. It could be anything from bringing one of my legs through while running to picking my head up a little.
I head back to the OTC and grab a quick bite to eat. When 1 p.m. rolls around, and we do video review with Bob and head coach Ryan Davenport. I always bring my notebook with me, so that when I get feedback I can note it and then set up the parts of the push that I am going to concentrated on the following day.
After video review, I head to the weight room for a weight workout and then straight to the track to do a short sprint program. Back to the OTC for my post-workout rehab in the Sports Med. ice pool, which is a waist-deep mini-pool where the water is kept at around 50 degrees. I try to ice down as often as I need. The ice bath is your friend. Fifteen minutes in the pool and off to the shower to warm up and then it is time for dinner.
I am hungry once again, so the all-you-can-eat food line comes in really handy. My day wouldn't be complete without checking my e-mail and then translating my daily notes into my laptop and reviewing my notes to set up the next day's training.
After that it is time to sleep and start over again the next day. The week included an end-of-week push competition on Sunday and interviews with NBC, CBS and my friends from Mayslees Films who are doing a documentary on skeleton.
One more month until the season begins, and I am starting to button things up so that I am as prepared as I can be for the upcoming race season. The camps have been a big part of it.