Paragliding in BC

Paragliding in BC

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aug 11: Final Day & Revelations

Back home with some time to reflect on the past week, and I've found a few answers to my question of why I was not flying with the ability I know I possess.

I wasn't going to talk about it on this blog, but it's been in some media already and around Facebook a bit, so I'll mention it now since it really affected me.  A pilot landed in the river on the 2nd day of the competition and lost his life.  After it happened we had a day off to talk about it and deal with it and frankly I thought I was okay.  From the stories I'd heard (I didn't see the incident) I could justify that he'd had enough warning to get out of the air earlier and avoid the developing weather conditions that led to this awful event.  I told myself that I'd never push that hard to keep flying if it wasn't safe, and through that built enough protection around me that I felt fine to continue on with the competition.

Problem was, the river is between the mountain and the landing fields.  You have to overfly it, and it's right there if you get low after take-off and end up at the lower launch.  I remember looking down at it our first flying day after the accident and feeling a moment of fear and overwhelming sadness thinking about what it must have felt like for him, and quickly began flying around aimlessly, looking for any lift to hang onto to get out of there.  I didn't find anything immediately so flew out much higher than I needed to and held my breath until I got to the (easily reachable from my point) bomb out landing field.

I just remembered that part now.  That was my food poisoning day, so I told everyone I couldn't concentrate (which was true) and convinced myself that's why I flew poorly.  But the next day I did the same thing.  I caught a thermal, climbed up nicely in it, my wing pointed me downrange but my brain wouldn't let me go.  I sabotaged my flying until I had to land in the bomb out again and then went through all those feelings from my previous post, wondering where my confidence had gone.

Funny how the brain can block things out.  I knew there was something else besides low confidence going on and went to talk to Sam.  He's a pro-athlete (X Games, etc) so I figured he knew a thing or 2 about sport psychology.  We had a fantastic talk and he gave me some great questions to ask myself and through talking to him and some other patient pilots (thank you for know who you are!) I simply said on the morning of the last task, "Maybe I'm more affected by that accident than I thought."  And that was it.

I didn't fly to goal, or even make the first turn point, but I dug into the thermals when my Microvario beeped, and I followed along when my Cayenne 4 said, "hey, let's go!" and I remembered how I got here, why Skywalk and Flyte Park believed in me enough to sponsor me, and more than anything why I love to fly.  I'll admit I was scared, but it was the good kind of fear - the kind that helps you grow - and I bobbed along 10-15 km downrange and landed with a grin at a field nowhere near adjacent to the bomb out.

I'm back baby!

photo by Veronica :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aug 10: 4th task

I have no idea why this is happening, but I am having the worst flights here.  Are curses real?  I've been skunked every time I've come to Pemberton, and I was hoping that since I would be here a whole week that I would get at least one XC flight in.  Tomorrow looks like the last day of the competition and I have yet to fly farther than the bail out field below launch!

This is obviously not how I imagined the Nationals going.  I'm pretty sure I'm in last place (!) and absolutely devastated.  I know I'm a much better pilot than this, and can't understand why I'm flying so poorly.  I can find excuses if I want.  There were about a dozen of us who took off at the same time today and we all landed at the same bomb-out field so I could blame bad timing and conditions.  I'd wanted to launch earlier but got stuck behind a pilot on a competition wing who was having trouble launching, then switched lines but just like at the supermarket now the pilot in front blew their launch, so "maybe" if I'd launched earlier I could have stuck it.  I could blame yesterday on the food poisoning but Matty had been sick too and he won the day!

So I'm back to blaming the Pemberton curse.  Seriously though, I'm frustrated and angry and a whole lot of other things right now.  Rationally I can see that it's not a big deal, and as one of my new friends explained tonight it doesn't change anything about my abilities as a pilot...I'm still the girl who reached goal in other competitions, and who flew over 100 tandems last summer, and the fact that I'm in some kind of slump doesn't take away the fact that I am a good pilot.  It just sucks that my "slump" had to happen here at the Nationals, on my only vacation this year, at an event I was really excited about and where I had so many people supporting and believing in me.

Challenges make you stronger.   Sayings like this and more (the kinds that friends post on their Facebook walls about overcoming hard times that you click "like" for) are running around my head tonight.  Trying to see the bright side and hoping tomorrow I can fly at least 10 km somewhere.  Oh!  There is one awesome thing that happened today.  One of the pilots I've been coaching did make it 10-15 km (he thinks) which is his personal best!  I am so proud of him and stoked that he did it, I'm sure he'll fly even farther tomorrow after tasting the sweetness of an XC flight.  Living vicariously through someone you've helped is pretty cool, and I hope he'll let me follow him around the sky now :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Aug 9: 3rd task

Today was not a great one for me.  Last night as I was falling asleep my tummy started grumbling, and I spent all night coping with my dinner trying to escape from my body.  Needless to say I woke up sleepy and "off".  

Hoping that I'd feel better as the day went on, I headed up to launch prepared to fly today.  The weather conditions were perfect - no strong winds predicted and no big cumulous clouds building into thunder clouds like we had before.  My plan was to launch before priority launching started (which is where the top 20 pilots from the day before are allowed to budge in front of the line), get up and glide as far as possible down the course line.  My body had other plans, and after the 10th run to the out house and someone commenting that my skin looked green I had to concede that I'd be lucky just to launch.

The real kicker was the conditions.  I had been joking that if we had really light conditions that I would kick butt since it seems all of my solo flights this year have been like that.  And that's exactly what the sky looked like!  Pilots were scratching away, not getting super high and it even looked smooth for the first time this week.  I couldn't do anything about it the time my body let me launch I was  last of the mountain (so late that the sign-in guy thought I was a volunteer) and although I did catch one decent thermal I couldn't concentrate at all so made the decision to land instead of push on.  

So that's why I left HQ early and hid out in my room all night - I want to be back to normal tomorrow and to fly my best over these last few days.  Here's hoping that the rest of this week goes smoothly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aug 8: no task

The forecast for today showed wind and low clouds, so the organizers called the day early for us and about half the pilots scattered to go hiking, swimming, kayaking, mountain biking...this really is an outdoor playground.

The rest of us stuck around to hang out with Dennis Cortella who set up a simulator and showed us all some new tricks on how to react in turbulence and more effective body positions while flying in general.  He also helped pilots adjust their harnesses nice to have an actual harness designer tweaking your gear for you!

Having two days off from the competition has definitely given me a new perspective on my flying here.  I found the practice day turbulent, but probably since I hadn't done much flying in strong conditions this year.  Then during first two tasks I thermalled well but am still doubting myself so turned and landed back at the main landing zone that I knew rather than go explore the "unknown".  Having a couple of days off to reflect on why and talk to some of the more experienced competition pilots about self-confidence and the mental aspect of flying has been great, and I am really excited about competing again tomorrow.  Hoping for no wind, blue skies and happy thermals for the rest of the week!

Clouds hugging the mountain today

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Aug 7: no task

It's late so just a quick post.  Dennis Cortella (of Kortel harnesses) gave a fantastic speech tonight on glider and harness design and how they work together.  He's offered to let pilots sit in his simulator and show us what different harness adjustments will do to affect our flying style, and as the thunder roars & rain hits my window right now I'm sure tomorrow will be a great day to do just that.

More updates tomorrow, and maybe a goofy picture if it surfaces.  A bunch of us took advantage of our day off to do some "recon" and drive to all of the potential goal fields to get ourselves familiar with the area, and there may or may not be incriminating photo evidence of this. Hilarious photo evidence in fact.  But for now...good night all!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Aug 6 - Day 2

Ah...the Whistler Express.  It's become a legend to those who travel here - a strong wind that pops up suddenly and lasts until after dark, so no hope for pilots stuck in the air in front of launch to wait it out until "later".  The only option is to run away downwind, but landing options are dicey with the reachable fields being too close, middle distance away fields mostly taken up by a no-land horse acreage and the good LZs past that.

On launch we started hearing rumours of a possible Whistler Express later in the day.  The task committee called a task and landing field further down the valley where it would be safe, but the start time was still a bit late at 2:45 for those without speedy wings to get high and down the valley before the projected arrival.  But this is a National competition, so of course the race is going to be geared more toward those who are top pilots on fast wings.  

I launched a bit earlier today and the conditions still looked ok.  Big clouds forming but I thought that could help me get high and downrange to where all the safe LZ's were in case the winds hit.  Unfortunately I got low in front of launch, and the winds had already started picking up from the north so the bowl in front was a rotor pit and I got worked a bit.  Got too low for my liking and pushed out front, where I found a scary thermal but turned tight in it anyway and went skyward as long as I dared.  I knew if the winds increased as fast as I'd heard that I would need a lot of extra height just to push out to the usual landing field.  My ground speed showed a 15 km/hr wind (still manageable) and since wind tends to increase with height I was hoping for a lighter wind at the bottom.  The air was pretty active, but I figured that was from the growing cumulous clouds (oh, did I mention the chance of thunderstorms in the forecast?) so I just hung on as I went through some rough bits and flew to areas that would be calmer. 

After getting upwind of the landing field I found some smooth air and initiated a spiral dive.  After a few turns I started picking up G's (good) and saw I wasn't drifting (good) and then something hit me (bad).  At first I thought I just hit a thermal but this was more violent than when I've done that in the past.  I wish I'd had my GoPro on my helmet because I can't tell you exactly what happened except I saw more bits of my wing in varying combinations than I generally like to see when flying.  As my wing settled happily over my head again I heard someone directly below me call on the radio that there were dust devils going off.

Holy Moly.  I just spiralled into a dust devil.

So that would explain how something was strong enough to bust up my spirals on my heavily loaded wing.  Interesting.

Not much time to think about that.  Flew 2 km away downwind where I saw someone land about 5 minutes before.  Was parked for a few minutes but eventually started moving forward.  The patch of air I chose was calm so I stood on my speedbar and smoothly penetrated to the middle of the field, was dealt five Aces by the hands of Fate and landed perfectly.  The wind stopped the second I touched down so my fear of getting dragged was averted, and I gathered up my wing and plunked it down at the edge of the field so happy to be down and safe.  

Then a 30 km/hr gust blew through and I had to dive on my wing to make sure it didn't blow away. 

So some new items were added to my paragliding toolbox today and I learned a lot.  I don't regret taking off, and on the other hand I'm not so cocky to think I landed safely due only to skill.  Luck was kind to me today, but I'm also proud of myself for sticking with that rough thermal so I was high enough to have more than one landing option when things got uncomfortable.  I'm accomplishing my goal of learning something every day here, growing my skills and discovering my strengths and weaknesses.  The rain from the thunderstorm is still falling but the forecast for tomorrow is still calling for "mainly sunny" so maybe we'll get a nice and happy day of flying and I'll get to expand my tour of this valley.

Looking toward the valley I'd been flying in earlier...

The other direction, darkness over HQ 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Aug 5: Day 1

Got my short flight out of the way today...nowhere to go but up!  It was a really late start and I think I just got minimum points for the day.  I did try to hit the start cylinder which was across the valley, but it doesn't really matter since I ended up at the main landing field.

I launched about 15 minutes before the start.  Most pilots had launched earlier, but I'm not in the flying shape I was last year and my longest flights this year have only been around an hour.  Between the weather and doing mostly tandems I haven't had a chance to do a lot of thermal practice at home.  So I launched later and actually started off really well.  Hit a few good thermals, got to 1900 meters but the thermals started drifting me over the back.  I didn't really want to go back there since we'd been warned about not being able to make it out, and I'm glad I stayed out front even though it meant I didn't get as high.  

There were 2 reserve deployments that I know of, as well as a pilot who landed in a tree.  The winds started picking up quite strongly from the north (forecast was for southwest?) which made the air quite rough.  I'm so glad I got to work on my bump tolerance fact I found today less rough although other pilots said they found it worse today.  I'm really happy with how my wing felt in the air, I feel I'm getting to know it quickly even though I've only had a few flights on it.  The trick today was probably launching earlier and getting high, although by the time I landed I'm not sure pilots on anything less than the "new" EN-D rated wings could get very far.  It will be interesting to hear the stories at the welcome dinner tonight!

I was feeling pretty bummed when I realized I wasn't going to make even the first waypoint today.  Then I decided to just stay in the air for a while and fly around when I saw the 2nd reserve deployment.   After landing I heard about the tree landing, and then some good pilots had come to land at the same LZ, so by the time I'd packed up I didn't feel so bad.  I had a great launch, landing, came home in one piece and had fun in the air.  That's a successful day to me, and I'm learning more about this site every day.  6 more days to try for goal!

Task today: follow the zigzag :)

Aug 4 - Practice Day

Yay for practice days!  They're made for finding out what you need to change before the actual event.

Like when I forgot to ask the owners of my B&B for the wifi password and settled down to write, skype and check emails last night and couldn't get online.  Oops.  So that is why I'm a day off with blogging :)

My test flight was worth it too.  Originally I had planned to take the day off and relax before the week of flying.  But a seat became available for a ride up to launch and I took it, figuring I'd fiddle with my new radio mic arrangement and mini camera boom for my GoPro.  It looked stable, so figured I'd get a 15 minute flight in smooth air to play with my gear.  Wrong!  It was actually kind of rough and I found out pretty quick I'd have to change my radio and camera set up.  

Also found out the brake pressure on my Cayenne 4 is a lot firmer than my Delta in strong thermals, so I got to play with my new flying style for punchy air.  Even though I got a few collapses, I had complete confidence in my wing and soon learned how much brake I needed to keep it happy overhead.  I got about a 40 minute flight around launch which I was happy with, and am excited to fly above these beautiful mountains!

My B&B is wonderful too.  An older couple who used to run a B&B took me in (a pilot joked it was more like billeting).  They take good care of me, including giving me fresh carrots from the garden and filling me full of waffles for breakfast.  Best part mosquitoes!

washing carrots for me fresh from the garden 

Yup!  In the right place!

Mandatory Pilots Meeting, Pemberton Style (yeah, that's hacky-sack)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ready or I go

Everything is packed.  My wing and harness that I'm selling are sitting by the door, waiting to go to the Nationals and find a new home.  My shiny new Cayenne 4 is eager to get chasing thermals.  Oh, and my snazzy new helmet is all decorated with my sponsors stickers!


Flyte Park

Nothing left to do but finish loading my Jeep and hit the road!  I'm really looking forward to a week "off".  No work, no tandems...just flying for myself and seeing how much I can learn.   

Time to get outta here!