So, like I thought, I went for another jump. On Saturday. Though the weather was at first looking iffy, I decided to drive the 1.5 hours.
My day started off with a guy asking me, as I was getting stuff out of my car, if was so-and-so’s mother. I just looked at him and said, no, and you did so NOT make my day. He tried to dig himself out of the hole by saying that she looked really young. I just laughed. The rest of the day any time he would see me he’d kind of look sheepish.
No matter what level of student you are, the first thing they do in the day is have you practice what you do when your chute opens. The people who are newer or haven’t been there in a couple weeks like me go through many scenarios, while the others go through fewer. This was the first time I had done this in a group with higher level students, so I learned quite a few new things about different possible scenarios and what you should do in those situations. Dangers I hadn’t yet thought of… though the instructor said in his thousands of jumps he only had to go to his reserve once, and because he had always practiced what to do, instinctive muscle memory made it all turn out fine.
So since this was a category B jump, I had much much less training to go through, and then I was placed on the second plane load. The difference in the second jump is that you are learning to be aware of your leg position and the impact it has. What you have to do is go through a cycle of looking at your altimeter, then checking your arch, then straightening your legs out, and then bringing them back in.
Fast forward to being on the plane. So, on this second jump you still have a person on either side of you holding on. Did the whole ready, set, arch. And off you go. My problem is that I had (and am getting rid of) the idea that you really need to bring your legs in to have a good arch. That is not the case. I kept getting signals to straighten my legs and never did it quite enough. I also thought one of those signals was telling me to do my practice touches again (I’m not the best at finding the pilot chute pull either), so by the time I started the new exercise it was 9,000 or 8,000 feet.
So I did the straighten legs, and the way cool thing is that when you straighten your legs there’s more force/drag against them, and it makes you fly forward like superman! Dragging along the people holding onto you. Zoom… And the exercises really did the job. When I went back into my arch after the two cycles I was able to do, I was much much better.
So, very quickly it’s 6,000 feet, and I have to pull. One thing I learned in the morning was the concept of staying in your arch after you pull since it takes a little bit for the chute to go up, and that really seemed to make a difference. Another thing that made a huge difference was eating a bunch of ginger chews before I left. I had no nausea when my chute opened. Yay! And this time I saw the landing area, so that was good. And although I had a radio, I never heard my name called, and so I had thought they had forgotten me. It wasn’t until I was about to land that I realized the whole time he had been calling me Denise. But I’ll get back to that.
So, not hearing my name, and being told before I left to only listen when I heard my name, and thinking that noone is talking to me, I tried to figure it out on my own. I knew where I had to go, but misgauged how long it would take me to get there at the right altitude, because the wind was blowing the complete opposite direction from the last time. What was really strange is that I was looking for other jumpers/chutes, and I could only see the shadow of one near the landing area. Not the actual person/chute, perhaps because it was so hazy. And btw, it’s a much better experience when you aren’t feeling queasy. I got to look around and do a few little turns, so that was good.
So, I knew I wasn’t going to make the landing area, and I started looking for where I should land. So, headed towards the soccer field. There are light posts on either side, but enough space to land, as long as you avoid the soccer posts/nets. Once I heard the person say soccer field, I finally figured out he was talking to me, not some other Denise (which is not my name, obviously). So this is like 100 feet off the ground. Thanks bud! But I really only listened to him at the very end (last 10 feet) because he was telling me to go straight down the middle of the field, but I was afraid I’d hit one of the goals. And I landed fine. When I got inside, and handed over my helmet and radio, I said to him, um, my name is X. He said, oh, guess that explains why you weren’t responding. It was fine though. (And one of the instructors later said they never had a radio… so I guess I was learning old school style…)
So, in my debrief, I heard about what comes next. Um, I might need to go one more time. My husband doesn’t really care too much, though he says if I continue I should get a special life insurance policy so he gets some money if I go splat – though he insists that the way it will work is that I’ll bounce and then splat, but I gotta research that.`
It's very strange. I had friends say to me that I am an adrenaline junkie because of this. But I'm not. I just find it really really interesting. I tried to liken it to golf today - where it seems so simple but there's really a lot of complex factors to do it right. Yes, I know there's a major difference between jumping out of a plane and hitting a ball on a golf course. Maybe it is more like climbing - people think adrenaline junkies do that also, but it's really a very peaceful sport - requires focus and knowledge and correct movement. It's fairly zen. I'll think about it and see if I can explain it better later.