As I was standing in line at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex, waiting to sign in for my Public Luge Clinic, I started chatting with the woman behind me. She told me that she’d taken the same luge lesson with her family the year before and had won a silver medal during the small ceremony they have at the end of each session.
“The bigger you are, the better,” she said, pointing to her own sturdy girth, and explaining that gravity works in your favor, making you go faster down the track.
You guys! It was like I had been training for this sport MY ENTIRE LIFE!
Confident that I had size on my side, I handed over my health insurance card and signed a waiver that I’m pretty sure told me I was going to die, but I didn’t bother reading because sometimes I’d just rather not know.
Then I was told to head outside to our luge classroom. Which just so happened to be a yurt. Because, of course, it was.
In the yurt, we were handed helmets and elbow pads and given a short tutorial on luging. Our instructor first demonstrated how to lie down on the luge, and explained the importance of relaxing. This seemed like yet another sign that I’d finally found a sport I might actually be good at. I mean, not to brag or anything, but I’m really awesome at lying down on stuff and relaxing. I’ve been doing that on my sofa for years!
But then she got to the part about how we needed to steer. Steering? Wait. What? That sounded like it required some actual thinking. And motor skills. Thinking and motor skills have never been my strong suit– especially when I’m facing down death. (Did I ever tell you about the time I laughed hysterically while sliding down the side of a mountain in Japan? Yeah, I am not one of those people who thinks well while under pressure. Instead, I giggle like a maniac until I pee my pants.)
At the end of the tutorial, the instructor wished us well and informed us that they’d had more injuries on the ice rink than they’d ever had on the luge track. I guess we were supposed to find this fact comforting, but it just cemented my decision to never, ever go ice skating again.
My classmates and I each grabbed a luge and made our way towards a set of wooden stairs that led to the top of the track. At the top, I watched the people before me hurtling themselves toward the bottom, and that’s when I realized how eminent my death was. I made sure to have the guy behind me take a picture of me with my luge, so there’d be a photo for my obituary. I imagined the photo running above the lines: “She died doing what she loved — scaring the shit out of herself, so she’d have something to write for a blog post.”
When it came my turn, I tried to remember everything our instructor had said about relaxing, but, as good as I am at relaxing, it’s really hard to feel all Zen about things when you’re hurtling down an icy track at thirty miles per hour.
It’s also really hard to hold on. I flipped off the sled three times. I also hit the walls more times than I care to remember, causing bruises up and down my arms despite my elbow pads and abundant bodily padding. In the four times I went down, I only made it to the finish line once.
I didn’t even bother sticking around for the awards ceremony at the end of my lesson. Instead, I handed in my luge and my helmet, and headed to downtown Muskegon where I drank microbrew beer and ate a pizza the size of the universe.
Because, sure, I may not have been good at luging this year. But there’s always next year to start training for. And, in the words of my new silver medalist friend, “The bigger, the better.” (I’m pretty sure this applies to both the person luging and the pizza that’s being eaten, by the way.)
What’s the scariest sport you’ve ever tried?