Jamie Greubel powers up for Sochi run
Late in 2009, when Jamie Greubel, a member of the U.S. bobsled team, moved up from brakeman to the pilot position on a two-woman sled, she felt a sense of calm.
"It all just clicked," says Greubel, a 30-year-old who will pilot USA-2 on the circuit this winter. "It was just me and the sled and the ice. It was a really cool feeling."
The former heptathlete at Cornell is hoping that really cool feeling will persist and land her in Sochi so she can compete in her first Olympics. (She was an alternate in Vancouver.) In order to get there, Gruebel needs to eat, power-clean, and make the most of her blazing-fast runs down the bobsled track.
Three, two, one, blastoff
For bobsled, you really want explosive power, so we train like sprinting weightlifters. On the track, we'll do flying 20s, where you build up to top speed then hold it for 20 meters. In the weight room, we do a ton of squats and power cleans so our bodies learn to move really heavy weight quickly. My best is squatting 127 kilos (280 pounds) three times. But some of my teammates are the strongest women I've ever been around; some can do a single squat with 180 kilos (397 pounds).
You need mass to move mass, so I had to put on about 20 pounds of muscle through diet and exercise when I initially came to the sport. I don't count calories; the main point of my diet is to eat more calories than I burn. I eat a really big breakfast of three eggs, Chobani yogurt, two packets of oatmeal, juice and coffee. Lunch is typically chicken with rice, cottage cheese and a smoothie. And dinner is some beef or fish, a sweet potato and grilled veggies. I'll typically eat another yogurt or protein shake before bed.
Lift and load
During the season, it's a constant challenge to keep my weight on, because I'm not just training; we're in motion all day long. As the pilot, I walk up the track each day to scout it out, so that's a mile uphill right there. Then we move our 400-pound sleds and our runners, which weigh 35 pounds apiece, on and off the trucks and in and out of the garages. Everybody puts a hand on the sleds; we rely on our whole team to get the job done. You rarely get a chance to sit down.
120 seconds of intensity
In one day of training for a World Cup, we get only two practice runs, which is about two minutes of track time. There are six practice runs total before a race. We spend so many hours preparing for those minutes. The most helpful thing is watching video review. Looking at what you did on the track is very different from feeling what you did. We talk about what we did well, and what we can do better.
The first time I was ever in a sled in Lake Placid, I thought I had been put into a tin can and kicked off a cliff; my neck was so sore, I swore I had whiplash. It wasn't something I thought I'd continue to do, but the driver who I rode with invited me to race with her. Once I got to compete, I was hooked.
The right combination
On the World Cup circuit, we take six brakemen for three drivers. We have a consistent starting procedure -- we say the same things and go through the same motion -- so we can switch our teams around with little disruption. Last year we tried a bunch of different combinations, but since we're headed into an Olympic year, the coach wants to see more consistent combinations. All of our brakemen are so strong and fast, I'd be thrilled to have any as a teammate.