Monday, October 09, 2006

Two Different Ways To Travel And a Brush With Death

This morning, I made the trek out to Ann Arbor's "Arb", or "Arboretum", which is a gigantic forested area with lots of trails and a river for a public running event. Today's run took place in the Arb itself, in the form of a 5-km race (3.13 miles, but yay metric!) to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy research and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my time was a respectable 28:51, which, averaging 9 minutes 13 seconds per mile, was much better than my original expectation which was to not be able to finish. It helped that I was running with and motivated by Sarah, who almost outdid me, although I luckily overtook her in the last 20 seconds of the race with a sprint to the finish! Ann and Scott were also running and everyone had very respectable times, so we all had lunch at Panera to celebrate.

As if that wasn't enough of an adrenaline rush, we both decided to go skydiving, something which I had never done. We learned all about how you have to sign away any and all rights to legal recourse before you start, and that beginners are supposed to jump in tandem, i.e. attached to the instructor via a harness. We were also told there's only a 1 in 3500 chance of your chute failing to open, but my instructor said in all his nearly a thousand tandem jumps, it has never happened to him. Sarah was first to go up and she had a great tandem jump (her second jump ever). Unfortunately we were not able to go up together because the plane was too small to include my videographer, as I sure wasn't going to miss the chance to prove that I did this. So I taped her jump on my little camera, and then the videographer taped my whole experience, including the ascent in the small propeller plane.

Everything was going great until we got to 10000 feet, at which the view is amazing of course. Strapped to my instructor, the guy next to me, who finally got fully certified today opened the door all of a sudden and then did some sort of backflip maneuver out of the plane. At this point my instructor is shimmying toward the door, with me attached to his stomach facing out of the plane, and then my foot is on the step just OUTSIDE the door in the wind, something I don't find enough time to get used to because then we are flying without the plane, twisting and turning in the freefall! The stabilising mini chute pops open and we settle into a fast fall, with the wind flapping my cheeks back and forth at the speed of craziness. Then the instructor deploys the main chute and we get sucked upward relative to the videographer who plummets even further while filming. But something's wrong, and the resistance from the chute disappears as the instructor performs a cut away - the main chute had a line over! This means that the chute deployed and tangled and didn't work! Now we're accelerating downward like before, and I start to sense something is wrong, and before I can really register any of this, the instructor pulls the cord on the emergency chute, and I instinctively reach upward to grab anything to prevent me from falling (not that this would work of course as there's only air everywhere), and then get jerked skyward as the second parachute slows us down to a nice floating gliding descent towards earth (I have harness burns on my shoulders!)

In the distance the videographer films my descent from the ground. It's possible to tell from the video what happened but it is clear that my first chute was green and when I land its all of a sudden yellow. This, of course, is no camera trick... I was just the first ever chute failure for this instructor in a tandem jump. He of course, loved it and couldn't stop yelling about it! I immediately became a hit with the people at the club and we all sat around to have a beer and talk about it, while we waited for the video to be completed. By the time everything was said and done, I spent nearly $300, but it really was worth it, and its something that I've always wanted to say I've done, and now I can! And I can prove it!