To be a forerunner is a big honor, especially for a new slider. It gives the athlete the chance to slide in front of spectators, as well as in front of athletes and coaches. While the forerunners don't have an official time, it's a great opportunity.
The job of a forerunner is to slide the track before the competing athletes. Contrary to popular belief, forefunners are not the "guinea pigs" of the race. They don't slide to check the safety of the track. They slide to test the timing eyes that are set up throughout the track, making sure the computer and timing systems are up and running correctly.
Actually, the only job of a forerunner is not to steer into Curve 1. This allows the competing athletes to see the line that the sled takes into the first curve, so allows them to decide which groove to use.
For an international race, women race their first heat, and the men follow with their first. Then there is a 25ish minute break, before the women do their second and final heat and finally, the men complete their second heat.
I foreran in between the women's and men's first heats, and then was the "after-burner", the final athlete on the track to close it out.
Getting prepared to run (I did a full warmup because my hamstring has been tight the last two days), Don was holding my sled for me while I stripped out of my warmups. He was examining my sled and before he gave it back he said, "This is a fast sled." I replied, "Well, I like it!" and he said again, "Yep, this is a fast sled." That's always good to hear!
I've heard that it's a great rush when you sprint down the start ramp and have cowbells ringing in your ears and dozens of people yelling at you. But I wouldn't know. I didn't hear anyone. Leisl says it's because I'm so focused. I volunteered that it might be that I hear the bells and yells, but I don't remember after the run. This is also highly possible, considering a hell of a lot goes on between the start ramp and the out-run.
On my first run, I did hear the spectators standing at the beginning of the out-run. I came around Curve 20, and heard a big "Wooeeehhooo!" and saw a line of red out of the corner of my eye. It was a great feeling being cheered on, even though I wasn't competing.
I had to wait about an hour and a half until I slid again. I warmed up a bit before my second slide. I think they forgot I was forerunning, because when I went there with Savannah (another development athlete who also foreran), a track worker saw me and said, "Oh! There's one more!!"
It was also really cool that I was the last sled. I don't mind coming down last, and had a great time listening to our commentator make some comments about the "afterburners" being new sliders who are working their way up the ranks.
My second run was pretty good. Not quite consistent with my first, faster run, but the track was slowing down, and I had tripped a little bit on my start. I actually laughed out loud when I was clumsily loading on my sled because the start was so bad. Several of my development teammates were on hand to cheer us all on, and they managed to get some video of me through our "straightaway", the Chicane.
I'm glad I got the two runs in, even if they weren't quite as fast or clean as I thought they would be. Any ride on the track is a learning experience, and each ride brings me closer to gaining the confidence and precision I need to move up in this sport.
On another note, we had our second Lake Placid Cup Series race yesterday (Thursday). While I didn't slide very consistently, I placed fourth. There were more sliders this week than there had been last week, but still placing that close within the top three was great. I finished the first heat in sixth of seven sliders, and made up a little bit of time with a faster run on the second to jump two places. I'm excited as anything to slide next week! I just need to get through two days of work (uug).