I am a shaker. No. I am the little balls inside the shaker. An eager toddler picks it up and starts banging it against the furniture. I have no control. I cannot make it stop. The toddler happily bangs on, eager to hear the curious sounds it produces.
Once you start trying adventure sports, you really never stop. So one day I find myself stepping into a bobsled with Olympian Helen Upperton, who won silver in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Living so close to the Whistler sliding centre, it would be a crime not to just give it a go. And even though my insurance wouldn’t cover any injuries or damages from bobsledding, I guessed I could put my faith into the hands of an Olympic pilot.
We were divided into teams according to height and weight and after a hilarious introduction, I found myself standing next to the track where the first team was already racing past. I just saw a flash from the corner of my eye and then I was loaded into a van to drive to the start of the track. We started at corner seven, a place that was considered a safe starting point for non-athletes. From here you could reach a top speed of 125 km/h, which is the top speed athletes reach in most tracks in the world. Not in Whistler however. The fastest track in the world is a little bit too fast, reaching top speeds of 150km/h. The track is so fast, small mistakes can mean rolling over.
At the top we had to decide where to put everyone. The tallest person was meant to be in the back, but I turned out to be just as tall as the one guy in our sled. Instead of offering to take the back like a gentleman, he suggested to rock, paper, scissors for it. Of course I lost and the guy giving us instructions reassured me that it was really the best place to sit, because I got to experience the real deal, with a force of 4G pushing on my body, instead of the 3G the others would get.
I just tried to remember our instructions. Don’t lean back, because there is not back in a sled. Brace yourself, hold on to the ropes, keep your head hidden in your shoulders. “Are you ready?” We didn’t have to run ourselves, but we were pushed down the track. Just sit and enjoy the ride. The ride wasn’t so bad really, until we picked up speed… I couldn’t control my body. My head was shaking from left to right and there was no way I could keep it steady. My bottom occasionally left the sled and my hands squeezed the rope just a little tighter. Just as I got used to the sensation it was over.
We did the 938m in just over 40 seconds, reaching a top speed of 124km/h. I want to go again! It was over before I could really experience it! But going again would mean so many G forces that people would get back problems. Even the athletes don’t do the whole track more than 3 times in their training sessions. I’m a bit shaken when I step out of the sled, but a massive smile is plastered on my face. Now I’m trying to remember the exact sensation, but all I can think of is a shaker and the fact that I need to go again.