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Mark Atwood

I went skydiving today, continuing my AFF course.

I think that I have thought too much this past week about how afraid I am when the door opens, because, when the door opened, I had a total anxiety meltdown. I refused and refused and refused. We were to be the last ones out, so only my JMs and the pilot had to deal with me, which was good. Steve had hold of my helmet, shouting over the wind "You can trust me! I will not let go of you! Nothing can hurt you! All you have to do is arch! Nothing else!" I walked half way, and then refused again. But finally broke out of the mindlock, trusted him, and did a great door exit.

I did probably 8 PRCPs on the way down. Very fast ones, but correct ones. My body form wasn't perfect, but I did see and react to their position handsignals correctly. I locked on right, pulled right, and watched them fall away, subjectively slower than last time.

The canopy ride was uneventful with two exceptions. Important exceptions. I couldn't find the landing zone! These was my first time at altitude over the main zone, and I couldn't find it. Finally I stopped, remembered the pea gravel target, remembered that the field was mowed in circles around it, and looked down for a bullseye in the green, and found it. Problem solved.

Then just at landing, I flared too hard too fast. In a high performance canopy, that would have thrown me 40 feet back up, and then stalled and deflated the wing. Bam! Lethal error. With this big student canopy however, it just pulled me back up 6 feet or so, and then fast landed me. I was unhurt. Glad for my boots.

When my JM came running up to see if I was ok and unhurt, I gave him a big hug and thanked him for making me jump. I really don't want to think about how miserable and self-loathing I would be right now if I had aborted. In the debrief, we talked a lot about it. Just about any other JM there, would have let me abort, and I was really close with him too, mainly because he was afraid I would faint under the canopy when he did have to let go. But the canopy ride has never been anxious for me. Most of it is pretty boring, in fact.

And he wants me to think some more about "Why do I want to skydive?". I have to want to do this, to come do this.

So I munch some lunch, and hang out with other jumpers and students and tandem tourist while my JMs run some other AFF students. It was fun to watch the comings and goings and chat with people. There aren't a shortage of "start a conversation" hooks either.

A few hours later, we're riding the Otter up to the top again. Packed in with a number of the tandems that I had chatted with earlier, which was fun. We weren't the last ones out this time, and I was a lot less anxious.

Again the exit was good. And this time, no sensory overloads, and no memory blackouts! This is my first dive that I was all there for every foot and every second of the descent. A few PRCPs, then a decent right turn. But no left turn, it just wasn't happening. (On the ground at debrief, I learned it was probably my legs.)

While trying to force that turn to happen, I lost altitude awareness, until I got an "check altitude" hand symbol in my face. I looked at the altimeter, saw that 5500ft was almost on me, waved, and pulled.

And watched the JMs fall away even more slowly than before.


And I discovered that I had not cinched up my harness as well as I should have, as the shoulder straps tried to yank out my right arm, and the chest strap came up to my neck. (I pulled something in my back behind my shoulderblade, I can feel it right now even.)

But after that, again the ride down was mostly pretty boring. Until the landing. I flared too late, and landed really hard. And didn't get into a good PLF position (pulling your legs together is surprisingly hard when so much of your weight is on leg straps). I did a "PFL" instead, but was able to stand right back up. The JM was afraid I might have turned my knee, but it seems to be almost completely ok.

In the debrief I mentioned how much more slowly the people falling with me fall away each time. In my tandem jump, the video guy fall like a shot, and now in each AFF the JMs fall slower and slower. He said they are falling just as fast, it's that I'm "seeing faster".

And I was, once I knew to look for it. Things on the ground, people walking around, seemed to be... slower. It was true while driving too. The speedometer was saying a given speed, but it just looked around, I would have guessed at 2/3s the value, both for me and for all the other traffic.

I decided to test this out, and instead of going immediately home, stopped at my range. It was really weird. I could watch the fireball form, and see the puff of smoke, and even watch the casing flip out and fly slowly over my shoulder.

Then I went to the gym, and discovered the downside. An hour on the EC machine slowly crawled along.

The effect is mostly gone.

I think this is going to be my addiction. Not for the adrenaline, for this SPEED of seeing.

It. Is. Just. So. Cool.

After finally getting home, I gave Birki her fluids, for the first time by myself. She pulled the needle out twice, but didn't run away, and we finally probably finished up. She also got her last Bayril pill. A few days, she goes back to the vet for another check to make sure that we've zapped this URI, and that her new diet and LRS has brought her kidney chemistry back.
2 comments or Leave a comment
tugrik From: tugrik Date: July 20th, 2003 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Skydiving is something I long to try... but at my physical body size it's a commercial impossibility. Definately not a technical one: hell, they pitch tanks out of planes. But there's no real school that's going to have a 4x-capacity chute and an instructor crazy enough. Not to mention my ankles would hate me. Still, it's a goal for when the weight loss is further on.

I know exactly what you mean about the 'speed of seeing'. One can get that affect from getting into the groove of performance motorcycle riding, though I'm pretty sure it's less pronounced than what you're experiencing. Flinging yerself out of a perfectly good airplane is definitely a few notches higher!

The sensation fades all too quickly. But, for that brief period after a daylong canyon blaster ride (or a day at the track), it's a too-damn-cool sense of time.

As you noted with the speedo -- you have to be careful of it when using a vehicle afterwards. It's way too easy to do 120 on the freeway when your bike can handle it and it just feels right. This can happen when I get out of a spirited technical section and suddenly find myself on a straight superslab of asphalt. Unsafe as hell and definately not a good idea. It took some maturing on my part to be able to identify and avoid that situation.
From: missdimple Date: July 20th, 2003 08:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you should keep doing because it seems to be doing much for your confidence and social comfort level. :)
2 comments or Leave a comment