Winter in Southern California is like a leprechaun, folks know what it is, but no one ever sees it. Thus, my first introduction to winter sports was ‘Cool Runnings’ aptly titled ‘Rasta Rockett’ in France. The movie recounts the tale of the Jamaican bobsled team and introduced us ordinaries to the world of ice tracks & luging where racers are propelled 85mph down a narrow ice slick in multi-colored onesies.
Now imagine instead of four people per luge, you have just one – head-first on a sled the size of your torso. Welcome to Skeleton – the most hardcore of the sliding sports – the whisper of its name strikes fear into the hearts of bobsledders. We mentioned extreme sports previously on this blog:
Extreme sports is a term cultivated in the 90′s by marketing henchmen because they didn’t know what to call emerging activities like skateboarding, snowboarding, waterboarding (too soon?). They could have just defined them under sport but that’s not edgy enough.
Extreme sports eat your heart out. Skeleton predates you by a hundred years. That’s street credibility.
Kyle Tress – World Cup Skeleton Racer
An unconventional activity attracts unconventional competitors, Skeleton is no exception. What Pros Use had the opportunity to interview Kyle Tress, a hardman competing at the top of the sport. Kyle masquerades as a software developer while training as a World Cup-level athlete. Where does the time to compete & make apps come from? He most likely does not sleep.
w: How did you go from techie to World Cup athlete?
k: I’ve always been interested in the Winter Olympics. I remember watching the Lillehammer games in 1994 and telling myself I was going to be an Olympic speed skater. What’s crazy is that I was never really into sports as a kid, although I did play on a few teams. When I learned about skeleton for the first time in 2002, it was from an article on Yahoo.com. Third generation Olympian Jim Shea had just won gold, and the sport was getting a lot of attention. I was working as a freelance web developer at the time, so I had the flexibility to travel to Lake Placid, NY and see if I enjoyed skeleton. I never left.
w: It’s a huge hurdle to go from being interested to actually getting out there and participating. What motivated you to seek out the track, gear, and training for the sport?
k: Skeleton just felt so natural to me. When I saw it for the first time, something clicked. I knew it was the right sport for me. Looking back, I think it was combination of things. Skeleton is under the radar, it’s so unique, and it requires both mental and physical toughness. It’s also a sport that demands a lot of experience and skill. I knew that it would take a commitment of 8-12 years to reach my goal, and that was part of the appeal.
w: Your face is close enough to the ice that you can lick the track, what’s your greatest fear as you are propelled head-first brakeless down the track?
k: I trust myself and my abilities completely, regardless of how difficult or fast the track. What scares me are things outside my control. Are there two sleds in the track at the same time? Did a track worker leave a tool or shovel in the track? These things have actually happened, and I have to remind myself every day that the people who are responsible for my safety are professionals.
w: Aside from the physical gear, are you able to combine digital tools/software to train smarter? If so, what metrics do you track on and off the sled? How have you integrated technology into your training?
k: I use a lot of digital tools to help me succeed. I created a ruby on rails app to track and analyze my runs, and I’m currently building an iPhone app for the same purpose. I use my iPad at the track everyday for video review, taking notes, and killing time during long training sessions. Finally, I’ve experimented with devices that capture speed and acceleration, such as the Ripxx, but I haven’t had a lot of success with them. I’m always looking for new ways to blend my love for skeleton and technology.
w: Is the body suit front zip or back zip?
k: Front zip. Better aerodynamics.
w: Thanks for the insights Kyle.
Checkout all the gear and a piece-by-piece breakdown on Bindle.