Monday, February 8, 2010, Camden, Maine Toboggan Times Archive #80

Liar, Liar, Your Tobogganing Pants Have Burned Up in the Chute.

By Tom Sadowski

At the running of the 20th annual National Toboggan Championships, I found that if you ask a team member about their strategy to be the fastest down the chute, everyone feels compelled to give you an answer. They may be coy, or they may launch into a scientific analysis of what they think makes them go fast, but mostly I think people just lie about it.

Some people are embarrassed that they simply haven’t given it much thought, some haven’t a clue what slows them down or speeds them up and some simply don’t care yet they are all willing to lie to me to make it seem that they have the answer. Some tell what they think is the truth because they think they know something. Some are very bad liars and they don’t know it. Some are very bad liars and they know it. And some have just fallen off their toboggan some time ago, most likely absorbing the blunt force trauma with their head.

Truth tellers are the worst. They talk about the coefficient of kinetic friction, how the sled tracks and how wind resistance works. Words like klister and urethane get mixed in with ski wax and contact area and pretty soon, all the fun of tobogganing is sucked into a big vortex of a daydream. My mind wanders as they talk and I imagine Stewart Young, the guy who pulls the lever that send your toboggan flying down the chute, leaning over to me and in a deep, menacing voice he whispers  “I am your father…” as my toboggan slides toward oblivion.

Very bad liars who don’t know it are mildly amusing. They usually confide that lubricants make or break the race, WD-40, Pledge, silicone spray are perennial favorites. K-Y Gel made it’s debut this year with a Washington DC team (#103) called the Sledglings but its effectiveness on ice is hotly debated.

Bad liars who know they are bad liars are much more interesting. They just make things up and often their strategy has a lot to do with alcohol. Not the kind you rub onto the bottom of your sled to remove the wax, but the kind that lubricates the participants. Coffee flavored brandy is of course a Maine favorite but Schnapps and Southern Comfort are making inroads that should be noted. Beer however is ubiquitous, and is seriously employed to bulk up team members and to prevent dehydration during the race.  This year I caught Tim Flick of the Fat, Bloated Idiots actually rubbing beer onto the bottom of his team toboggan. Being a bad liar he immediately claimed he was just cleaning a beer spill but his aggressive polishing betrayed his purpose.

Finally there are the crazies. Team #108, The Owls Header’s claim “personal body waxing and hair removal” as the only way to salvation while team #198, Harbormen, from Hingham, Mass. Proclaims the best strategy is to “figure it out this year and then come back and kick-ass”.

More passive is the Zen school which maintains “It exists and we go”  while the Connecticut Yankees best effort is to “Go back to our old toboggan”. Stiff Breeze, a team that advocates partying hard in Searsmont as good preparation has a simple strategy where team members “think heavy”.

Of note for 2010 was a fresh strategy from Dave Bryant, a member of the Ancient Ones, who set up camp at the Nationals and hosted a number of teams including The Ancient Big Woody. Bryant decided that soak-run-soak-run was the best approach for this year so he and his crew set up a claw foot bath tub, outside, over a wood fire (a.k.a. hillbilly hot tub) at their camp. Dave would soak between runs for his benefit and the benefit –or horror- of the public who stopped to gawk in their pak-boots and winter parkas.

Dave may be a crazy, but he almost made it to the winner’s circle at the awards ceremony this year. His tem #298 just missed third place in the 4-person division by 8 hundredths of a second.

Toboggan strategy is a personal decision which must be made between God and your conscience. It is discussed extensively but seldom revealed. When trying to coax it out of a winning team remember what was proclaimed in the Toboggan Times years ago “Those who say, don’t know, and those who know, don’t say”.




Team #69, the Ancient Ones Junior Woody, apparent strategy was to have the first person race without his head. At least that is what it looked like every time they hit the chute. Technique aside, the Junior Woody managed to come in 13th at the final 2-person race..

Tim Flick of the team Fat Bloated Idiots (#39) claims to be wiping beer splashed on his toboggan but more than likely, he is using beer to prep the bottom for the next race. In spite of their experience in past Nationals and their many trophies from previous years, the team missed qualifying in the 2-person division by a wide margin. 22 teams, to be exact.

Team #147 Ship on a Shingle, consisting of at lest one yacht captain and one roofer, spun out on the ice after its run down the chute. James Hess, boat mate, 1st class from the Rockland Coast Guard station, offers assistance to Mike Herrmann (the roofer) because of a leg injury. The run was affected due to Herrmann's strategy of getting his snow pants between the toboggan and the chute which resulted in a partial pant meltdown. (see Below). It is unclear if the team continued with this unique strategy but they did qualify for the finals and achieved a ranking of 20th place.

420a Pants

056b Tub

Although there was no award for sheer outrageous strategy, Dave Bryant of the Ancient Ones was the strongest contender for first place. His “soak-run-soak-run” approach had nothing to do with his team’s toboggan but with the fact that he planned to soak himself in the hillbilly hot tub over an open fire that his troupe had assembled at their camp near the bottom of the chute.

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