Increase Your Bump Tolerance
Thought I was going to die last week . . .
Seriously. Have you ever been “that guy,” dry-heaving over the toilet (or next to a tree) late at night, swearing that, if you make it through just this one time, you’ll never touch alcohol again?
Well, that was me. Except I was suspended 2,000 feet above the ground.
One week ago was my first opportunity this year to get back into the skies with my paraglider. Early Friday morning, I got bundled up, loaded up the wing, harness and radio, and headed east of Portland on I-84. Reaching the town of White Salmon, I cross the bridge into Bingen, Washington and meet my flight instructor, Dan, at our LZ (landing zone) along the Columbia River.
After a pre-flight equipment check and a bit of review, we’re on our way up a nearby mountain. We throw on our packs and hike out to the launch site.
I lay my glider in a clearing, wait for an acceptable puff of wind, pull the wing overhead, and I’m off! I run down the hillside until the air being forced into the canopy pulls me away from the ground. Ahhh . . . it’s been months, but I’m flying again! It’s been a while since I’ve hung under this nylon and kevlar aircraft. I definitely noticed my hands shaking a little as they held onto the brakes. But those nerves disappeared as I got comfortable, nestles into my harness, crossed my legs, and began admiring the unbelievably beautiful Columbia River Gorge a couple thousand feet below me. The flight . . . this flight . . . was fantastic. Smooth air and a decent landing, right near the center of the LZ. Awesome!
On to flight #2 . . . Not so good. Back up the mountain, hiked in, all set to go.
A little wind and I’m in the air again. However, not so smooth this time. What we call “ratty” air. Unpredictable. Bumpy. Providing the kind of ride that makes you sick to your stomach. Which I might have felt, had I not been more consumed with thoughts of sheer and utter death. As I got away from the mountain, the ride got worse and worse. It felt like God was using me as a yo-yo, throwing me around from side to side. One second, I see my canopy shooting straight out to my left (rather than staying above me). The next second, it’s headed the other direction. Meanwhile, I’m hanging on for dear life, probably overcompensating on one brake to the next the entire time.
No amount of reading proper techniques and troubleshooting in a textbook can ever prepare you for an “oh s#!t” moment like this. Let me please get both feet safely on the ground and I will never do this again.
Nearby in the sky is Dan, calmly radioing instructions- most of which went misunderstood or completely ignored by me in my current state. It seemed like getting out of that turbulent air took an eternity. But we did eventually get out of it. Dan raced ahead, beat me to the LZ and talked me through my approach and landing.
Still feeling like my heart was ready to blast through my chest, I shoved the glider into its stuffsack and walked over to meet up again with Dan. I spoke the only thought that was in my head. “Dude, for a little bit, I thought I was gonna die up there.” His response: “Yeah . . . you could’ve.” And that’s the number one thing I love about Dan- he’s just a no-s#!t sort of guy.
He went on to explain that situations like this (and my landing in powerlines last year) are giving me the experience so that I will be able to think clearly during similar scenarios in the future. “You’ve got to increase your bump tolerance,” he said. “You’ll get used to being tossed around. Even my pucker factor was high.” [Pucker factor I take as how tightly the fear makes you tense up and squeeze your butt cheeks together 🙂 ] “I was just glad I wasn’t you up there. You were probably scared to death.” Thanks, Dan . . . yes, yes, I was.
Hmm. Increasing your Bump Tolerance. Oh, man- how that applies to other areas of life. We all hit so many bumps, roadblocks and obstacles in our paths as we pursue goals we’d like to accomplish. How many times have you (or someone you know) run into one of those . . . and quit? And why do we quit when that bump is actually just our first opportunity to learn and gain valuable experience? Experience that the next guy/girl doesn’t have. Because they did quit.
All of our goals are different. I’m not saying that you need to go build your Bump Tolerance by jumping off mountaintops. But I am encouraging you to stick it out, especially when the going gets tough. Well, unless that’s you heaving over the toilet. Then maybe you should let that one go. Put the money from those fourth, fifth and seventeen beers toward that trip you’ve always wanted to go on!
As I’ve said before, and regularly preach to my drumming students: If you do now what other people won’t do, you’ll be able to do (for the rest of your life) what other people can’t do.
How can this concept of increasing your Bump Tolerance be applied to your life?
Share your thoughts in a comment below!
(photo by Andrew Rivett)