Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rat Race Finale

Was I just paragliding all week? Looking out my living room window & seeing nothing but grey clouds & rain it's hard to believe I was just cruising around the sky a few days ago.

Quick version of the Days 6 & 7 - Friday was blown out so the task was cancelled, Saturday was flyable and final results are in. In Sport class I was 53 out of 75, a bit better than last year's 35 out of 44. Yay for me.

I wish I would have written about both days immediately as there were so many good jokes & stories to share. This has probably been the funnest Rat Race yet, I think I laughed until I cried almost every day. We also ended up having really long days, between flights (& relaunches) and mentoring sessions & dinner afterwards I probably didn't get home til 11 most nights, which is why I missed a couple of days blogging.

Lessons learned? Sit at the back of the bus so you don't get prank'd, watch Talladega Nights before the comp so you get more of the jokes, and get high high high. Not the wacky-tabakky kind of high (for shame!) but the altitude kind. My impatience was really a factor in me sinking out early in the tasks each day. I have this fear that once I'm barely high enough I might not ever get that high again & just start flying to the next point. For example, look at the above photo taken when I looked back over my shoulder while gliding across the valley - I'm ahead of the paragliding armada even though I'm lower. With a hundred other pilots in the air it's easy to see that you CAN get higher, and there's no reason I wouldn't be able to get there when they're all a hundred feet above me. So my personal task this year is to milk every thermal for what it's worth, impatience be damned!

I'm gonna go all spider-monkey on those thermals. Because if you're not first, you're last. (Thanks Ricky Bobby)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Redemption! Rat Race Day 5

Wow - it was a close one today. It was another good-lookin' day, clouds everywhere & excitement in the air. Everyone was eager to fly & we were all in line ready to go when the launch window opened. I had a great launch & went up right away...for about 15 seconds. Then it was nothing but sink, sink, sink all the way to the landing. Since I wasn't the only one and we still had plenty of time to get back up for a re-launch, I didn't lose it completely. Only a little. But some other good pilots landed with me so we put on brave faces & drove back up.

It had gotten a lot stronger but the mood was a lot more relaxed. No stress about start windows & racing, and we agreed to all help each other. Sure enough...up we all went! I took a thermal up as close to the clouds as I dared, then mashed my speed bar like Jeff taught us at the mentoring session. Funnily enough, today the bumps didn't bother me. I lead out with one other pilot & we easily tagged the first 2 points at Rabies. The rest of the gang came over & we searched around for the next thermal further west, then back to Rabies & past the start to Burnt.

There were still lots of clouds & wispies showing the way and it was definitely rough in spots. Today I really made sure to override my natural impatience and not head out unless there was a climbing glider or growing cloud at the destination. I still left lower than most people, but if I had made it to goal I might have gotten extra points for being the leader, but since I landed sooner it doesn't matter. Guess I still need more patience (sigh).

Good news - I got 4 turnpoints plus the start cylinder across the valley (half the route) and I landed at Longsword! Longsword is a vineyard where the tasting room is outside, spectators applaud when you land & the owners walk out to you in the landing field with a free glass of wine. It's the happiest landing zone on earth! About a dozen of us landed there, and to top off the fun we invented some new yoga positions getting everyone & their gliders in the retrieve van. Needless to say we were all close, personal friends after arriving at headquarters.

Funny how intensely us pilots attach our moods to our recent flying performance. After my first flight today I wanted to hop in the car & drive home. Now, it's 11pm & I'm still bouncing off the walls from excitement.

Hi...My name's Martina and I'm a paraglide-oholic.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rat Race Day 4

I can't believe there are only 3 days left! Maybe it seems quick since 2 days were kind of a washout - Monday & Tuesday were both really windy & I didn't make it further than the main landing zone. I'm super bummed about it, but not as upset as I am about today.

This morning I felt overwhelmed before the task was even called. I guess 2 days of not tagging any waypoints made me question what I was even doing here. But I found a quiet place to sit & give myself a short pep talk and felt a little better. The sky today was showing promise of lots of lift from the big clouds everywhere and we were getting excited about the potential of the day. I launched a little later than I'd wanted to since there is a system where the top pilots get to officially "butt in" and launch whenever they want, and that happened when I was about 5 spots away from launching. The pilot in my line attempted to launch his competition wing numerous times without success and the rest of us in line were starting to get frustrated. Thankfully he finally stepped aside and let us minions huck ourselves off the mountain.

The task started out well, I tagged the start cylinder & first turnpoint and headed across the valley for the second one. I got there too low & it was rough, so I flew back & forth to the hill 2 more times til I got the height I needed. It was important to get high today because along with all the lift there was a lot rough air. People's gliders were collapsing all around-I saw someone get worked below me just before I got the 2nd turnpoint & then another pilot impacted the hill beside launch after losing half his wing. Even without seeing everyone else getting tossed around I was spooked today, I just felt nervous & couldn't shake it. Still I talked myself into attempting the third turnpoint but after a few tries I admitted defeat & skulked down to the same landing zone I've landed in every day this week. Grrr.

I was actually ok with my decision until everyone started the post-flight "How far did you fly today?" discussion at HQ. I realized that after all my hard work & tagging 2 turnpoints I got the same amount of points that I would have got if I'd flown straight down & done nothing. Of course good lessons were learned and hopefully my bump tolerance increased but part of me cares that this is a competition and sitting in last place in the women's division isn't the confidence boost I was hoping for when I signed up a few months ago & was imagining all that I'd learn.

But...tomorrow's another day - and 2 more after that to redeem myself. It's time to put together all the puzzle pieces of what I've learned so far this week. No more little miss scaredy-pants!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Rat Race Day 2

Just a quick post today - almost everyone sunk out! Out of over 100 competitors, only 11 made goal. Most pilots ended up in the main landing zone but because so many of us were there the mood was pretty fun. I really enjoyed my flight today - caught a great thermal right off launch and then a beautiful one that took me right to cloudbase! I took it up just high enough that when I reached the top of the thermal my wing sliced through the bottom of the cloud as I went on glide across the valley. I sunk out on the other side along with almost everyone else, and after touching down it seemed as if the sky was raining down gliders. If it wasn't such a bummer that we all sunk out it would have been quite stunning. I think there were over 50 of us in there at one point!

Tomorrow's forecast looks similar, but it's supposed to improve as the week goes on. I'm definitely learning a lot this year - the mentorship programs kick butt and the pilots are so much fun. I can't wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rat Race-Day 1

Today was awesome. The weather was perfect, I had a great time flying plus I didn't come in last! Ok, I do have grander goals than that, and there were some hiccups today, and...I'll just start over.

The weather really was perfect today. My strategy was to launch early after being one of the last ones off the hill yesterday and then having such a short flight. As I merrily started setting up my gear and grabbed my flight deck I noticed that my gps was missing. The one piece of equipment that is VITAL to competing. I looked everywhere...then saw a mental image of it sitting in my laptop bag back in the rental house.

After calmly walking away to a quiet spot and hyperventilating for a couple of minutes to avoid a complete meltdown, I returned to my gear and found Derek had gotten a loaner GPS for me from one of the other pilots who had an extra as a backup. Gratitude is too small a word to describe my feelings for Chris, and happily karma prevailed & it looks like he came in 2nd place for the day!

So with the little voice in my head berating me constantly for such a stupid mistake I didn't hold much hope for a good flight. Beating yourself up is tiring and I was exhausted before I even launched! In spite of it all I ended up having a really nice launch and caught a great thermal right away. I flew around and just mellowed out for half an hour clearing my head before the race started. I got about half way through the course before landing, which is a personal best for me (not even counting the fact that the gps wasn't the same model as mine & I had to figure it out in the air!). With everyone else flying in the same great conditions my score ended up being 49 out of 68 in my glider class. That might not sound terribly impressive until you realize that my first year's overall score was second to dead last. Things are definitely improving.

Scores are here for those who like to follow along:
- open class is all paragliders, even the fast & shiny competition wings.
- sport is DHV 2 & lower (me)

For pilots who know the area the task was Woodrat LZ (exit start) - Rabies - Burnt - Woodrat - Rabies Peak (I sunk out trying to get this one) - Ruch - Purcell.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Yahoo for Practice Days!

Well well well.

So there I the end of the comp pilot launch line on practice day. It was hot. I'd waited too long. Winds were switchy. Pilots were duffing launches as cycles switched their mind as they came up the north launch. I said to myself, "All I want is a good launch". I should have added something along the lines of "...and have a long flight".

I did have a super launch...and I'm also pretty sure I had the shortest flight ever. In fact, I did such a good job of finding that sweet, sweet sink that I began laughing out loud on my way in to land because of the ridiculously short time it took me to get from launch to landing. People were asking if I'd flown really well because of the big smile on my face while packing up, but really, I couldn't stop laughing about the abruptness of my flight!

But it's not funny enough to repeat. Not at all. Tomorrow I'll make sure to make a more specific wish in the launch line, and I'll have a better reason for having a huge grin on my face.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tandem Training

After two days at Woodrat I wonder how I stayed away for a whole year. I love this place more & more each time I come. And it seemed like every few hours today someone else I knew showed up for the Rat Race, and we'd laugh & hug & tell stories about the last time we flew together. It's no wonder that this spot is so popular for flying, there's really a fantastic energy here.

The tandem training was a blast too. Jeff from Superfly (aka Turbo...or was it Viper? heh heh) conducted a fantastic clinic. Locals Paul, Hayden & Scott were in my course, as well as visiting pilot Israel. Day one the weather wasn't conducive to flying, so it was ground school all day & practicing PLFs while attached to each other. A PLF is a Parachute Landing Fall and is used if you know you're going to have a hard landing, like when the wind switches just as you come in and now you're going to land downwind fast. So we put on our harnesses & clipped in to each other & ran and just hucked ourselves at the ground. I was paired up with Paul, and afterwards it looked like we had a grass-stain competition with the Hayden/Scott duo. I think they won, if won means the knees on their jeans were greener :)

Today the weather was fantastic so at 10:30 I took Paul tandem & we thermalled up almost to cloudbase! It was especially sweet as I didn't have my vario on, it's nice to know I can still fly without instruments. Paul took me flying next, then I took Hayden at glass-off for the last flight of the day.

After flying we hit HQ for early registration where we got to see more friends & get our loot bags! I think that's my favourite part of the whole comp. Free stuff rocks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Competition Time!

It's that time of year again! It's so exciting to be going to Oregon again for my 3rd "Rat Race". The Rat Race is a paragliding competition that combines mentorship, learning and actual competing. It's like a week-long stint at Paragliding University. Wouldn't it be awesome if that was a real thing? "Yes, I attend the University of Paragliding. I'm taking a double major in Thermals and Cross-Country, all though my prof says if I sink out one more time I'm off the XC team." Uh...where was I? Oh yeah. The Rat Race.

A few days before the race one of the instructors is putting on a Tandem Clinic which I'm going to attend. It's a mandatory step to receiving my US Tandem rating which I'd like to have in addition to my Canadian one, so I'm looking forward to that too. More knowledge is good!

I'll try to keep posting daily updates since the house we're renting with our friends is supposed to have wifi. Wish me luck for my best standing yet!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Newest Tandem Pilot - yours truly!

The video above denotes my entry into the world of rated tandem pilots! Basically that means I'm allowed to take anyone up in the air now (in Canada at least). It's been a fun learning experience, and I've been blessed by some great pilots offering to go with me as guinea pigs throughout my training. Besides doing 20 flights with rated pilots I've had to do instruction as well, which included teaching brand new students how to inflate their wings for the first time, and also guide them in to land via radio. It's amazing to share the passion that I have for flying with others, and I'm even more hooked on flying now...if that's possible. :)

This will be a short post tonight, I'm tired & happy & reliving that last flight over and over again. Thanks to everyone who helped me out, from driving to flying with me. You all rock!