Jump 29

Saturday morning I looked at the weather and it was not good. There was a good chance of rain, it was overcast, and the ceiling in Ritzville was 7500-9000 feet. My friend and I were supposed to go skydiving, but the weather made it seem like it might not happen. She called and they said it was still on, so we got in the car and drove up there. Once we arrived, I suited up and barely made the next load, and I’m glad I did. We went through some clouds on the ride up, but directly over the drop zone there wasn’t anything, so that was good. It was getting a little cold, but I was also at the door the whole ride. I was the first one out, and it was a great jump. This time I tried a few things; I tried going feet first, but immediately flipped and was on my head, starting to spin. Then I tried doing a couple cannonballs, which is fun because you go faster and you have no control over how you spin. I also played with some flips and turns and generally doing acrobatics and getting back under control, as well as looking around for other divers and getting awareness. My chute opened fine and I turned to watch the others, who were some still falling for quite a ways, which was cool to watch.

I practiced some riser turns before I unstowed the brakes and made a regular landing, this time standing up and on the grass. I was very happy.

I had some help packing my chute, but I wasn’t fast enough to get on the next load, which was unfortunate because that’s the one my friend was on. I watched her get on the plane and take off. Unfortunately for her, the clouds had rolled in overhead and they could only make it up to 7500 feet before they had to get out.

That was the end of the day, and they rolled the plane in to the hangar. I asked the instructor what he wanted me to do before he felt comfortable stamping my license card, and he was ok with it, so now I officially have an A license for skydiving. woo!

Jumps 26-28

It’s been three years since I’ve been skydiving. Once Richland Skysports closed, I no longer had a local place to dive. It took the desire of a coworker to jump to motivate me to get back into it. I went the weekend before she was supposed to go so that I could take care of all the things I needed to to be able to jump with her the next weekend. After talking to the instructors and getting a refresher quiz, they let me do a hop and pop, jumping at 7000 and freefalling for ten seconds before pulling. It wasn’t the cleanest exit, but I didn’t hesitate to do it. I had no problem jumping out, but I didn’t have the best posture and struggled for a few seconds to get right. It happened quickly enough, though. I had no problem pulling my chute, and was happy playing around under canopy. I was a little high on the approach but still landed on the grass a very happy guy. They showed me a photo of me exiting the plane, and it was very embarrassing how bad my body position was on exit. It was no wonder I struggled on the first jump.

That was enough to satisfy the instructors, though, and they let me jump at 12500 for my next jump. I was excited to practice freefalling, and took the opportunity to do flips forward and backward, a barrel roll, turning, and some tracking. I had good altitude awareness and didn’t have any problem pulling at the right altitude. I landed on the grass again.

I had some help packing my own chute this time, and got back on the plane for the next ride. This time I played around some more with flips, adjusting my fall rate, tracking, and heading control. I had no problem with my opening. The wind changed, and the landing pattern was different; we were going left handed turns, which brought us over the top of the building. I was a little nervous about that and ended up going over the building a little high and overshooting the grass by a few feet. I landed on the dirt and slid to a stop.

There weren’t going to be any more loads, so I paid and came home, ultimately very satisfied with my day.

2009 Polar Plunge

This weekend I participated in a charity event called a polar plunge. The idea is simple. I get people to contribute money towards me doing something crazy, then I go do the crazy thing. Then Special Olympics Washington gets some money. I tried not to campaign too hard around my friends. I dropped a few hints, I mentioned it a few times. I sent out an email to some friends and family, I posted on a bulletin board at work, and the last day I kicked it up a notch and emailed a few people I knew would donate. On my web page for giving the money, I set up a bit of an incentive; the last digit of the amount I raise would be the way I entered, from cannonball to flip to backflip, and even including bellyflop. Of course, everybody tried to keep it at bellyflop, and I was least excited about that one. But at 10am the day of the event, I checked the site one more time and saw that it was at 817, so I had to do a bellyflop.

(Photo by Wendy Andres)

The day of the event I wasn’t feeling too good, so I was really concerned about the flop. Further, the event coordinators really wanted people to just jump straight in. At about 10 minutes before the event, I went into the tent to change clothes. For the last few minutes I wore a bathrobe over my bathing suit. There were a lot of people there, and they were being marched out onto the docks in groups of about 20-25. Then everybody would count down from three, and they’d all jump in, swim back to the boat ramp, and walk up, then get their towels and go back to the tents or the hot tubs that had been set up. The event was hosted by the police and fire departments, and they had all volunteered their time to be there. There were guys in dry suits in the water, ambulances nearby, and lots of people around in case anything went bad. There really wasn’t any danger with so many emergency people there; well, maybe to the rest of the tri-cities.

It came to our turn, and I took off my robe and set it on the hood of an ambulance. Then we all walked down there. I had a hard time finding a place along the dock and ended up towards the end behind someone. They counted down, and everybody jumped. I had to hang back a little because there was a guy directly in front of me, but I jumped as soon as I could:

(photo by Wendy Andres)

(photo by Ian Roberts)

(photo by Ian Roberts)

(photo by Ian Roberts)

(photo by Doug Love)

The jump started off perfect. I got spread eagle and was looking forward to the belly flop, but the person in front of me hadn’t gotten out of the way yet, and I barely avoided him. The water was indeed cold, but it was a different sensation than I had experienced during my practice run in the shower the day before. It didn’t feel like cold, but instead felt like my skin was discovering the sense of touch and all of my skin was yelling at me at once. I started to swim immediately for the shore and could only think of how interesting the feeling on my skin was. It was something very new to me. I kept swimming until I noticed that people were wading in thigh-deep water next to me, so I stood up and walked out of the water smiling. I went to my robe, put on my glasses, and walked towards the tent, giving Erin a very cold kiss on the way. There I changed and came back out. I chatted with some friends for a little bit, then headed home.

Overall, it was a lot of fun, and I’m very glad I did it. I got a few contributions afterward, and as of this entry raised $967, which is just a few dollars short of my goal. I’ll definitely do it again next year if I get the chance, but I may have to pretend I didn’t like it so much.

Softball Tournament 2008

Once again, I was pitcher for our PNNL league team the Plutonium Pirates (arrrrr). This is the third year of the team, and this year we were really good. I had to miss a few games, but the team did great and we had a lot more fun than we had in years past. The softball tournament was probably the least fun part of the whole season, though, partly because I was so busy with work, and partly because it was cutting into other extracurricular activities, and partly because I was just tired of it.

It should come as no surprise, then, that we made it all the way to the final game. It was double elimination, and we were in the losing bracket all the way through to the end. There were some rough spots, and a very confusing game where I was absolutely convinced we had lost until the other team had accounting problems and despite our own accounting to the contrary, they said they had lost and we were not about to argue. Another team was ridiculously unsportsmanlike with a team of ringers that ended up all muscle and no strategy. We managed to finesse a win out of them, but they did their best to hit as hard as they could as straight as they could, and I was victim to more than one direct shot.

We ended up squared against what was clearly the better team. They were the best team for years, they had always managed to kick our butts, and though we put up a fight, they pulled out the win and deserved it. Still, that we’ve come from a brand new team to taking second out of fourteen teams shows that we’ve made a lot of improvements. Plus, this year we had cool shirts.

Double Header

Wednesday night we had two softball games. Leaving work, the wind was howling and it was sprinkling rain. The rain stopped by the time I drove the two minutes to the field, but the wind hadn’t. We warmed up and started the game. It took a while for me to adjust to the wind (it was bad enough that it was throwing off my pitches. Seriously).

The first game didn’t go so well. We started off ok, but they had a couple innings where they scored a lot, and by the 7th inning we couldn’t win. I had some clumsy moves, and my glove wasn’t performing well at all. It’s not a new glove; I’ve had it since elementary school, and it wasn’t new then, either. The leather holding it together kept breaking. After a couple powerful line drives that I was able to stop, two fingers were disconnected.

The second game was much better. I was still having glove problems, and still felt a little clumsy, but I was playing more like myself. I was pitching well, fielding well, and made it across the plate a couple times. I can usually aim when I’m batting, and I was still spot on this night, but only in one degree. I was hitting it straight in the direction I wanted, but without the height. I was getting on top of the ball and hitting strong grounders infield. Sometimes they made it through the infielders, sometimes they didn’t. I’m definitely going to have to work on my batting and getting the ball just over the infielders but not deep enough for the outfielders.

After the games I went to the sporting goods store and got a leather repair kit, and today pulled out a lot of the leather cord and replaced it with the new one. Hopefully now my glove will hold up against the line drives.

Game Three

Yesterday was the third softball game. There wasn’t really anything exciting about it. I scored a couple times, I got out a couple, I  pitched, I got people out. It was a fun game. In the end we won. After the game I headed straight back to work until 11:30, then went home and watched a movie and had some dinner.

Second Softball Game

Today was the second softball game of our work league. I left work at 4:30 so I had plenty of time to warm up, but quickly realized I had left my cleats at home and was wearing my dress shoes. Fortunately, home is only a 5-7 minute drive, so I was able to drive home, change in under a minute, and make it back to the field in plenty of time. Unfortunately, the other team took their sweet time about being ready, and we didn’t start until about 15 minutes late.

It was a good game. Beautiful weather, the other team was fun, we all had our new shirts fresh from the press, and while we did have a couple innings in the field where we were at two outs but they kept scoring, we also had a few innings where we piled on the runs to match. My first at bat I managed a home run. Each time after that I got on base as well and managed to score two more times. I had some good plays as pitcher as well. I’ve been working on a different way of throwing, and when I mixed it up it would throw the batters off. In the last inning the bases were full and there were two outs. The batter hit short and I ran forward, scooped it up, and in the same motion tagged the guy running home. In the end, we won the game, putting us at 1-1 so far for the season.

First softball game of the season

Today we had our first softball game of the season this evening. It started off great. We held them off for a few innings and scored some runs. My first at bat didn’t go well; I hit a line drive straight to second base. Later I did manage to get on base, then another time score. I did have one slick move at bat, though. The rover in the outfield was watching which way I was aiming and going to that part of the field. I caught him going a couple different directions as I moved, so I pointed one way, then as the pitcher threw I moved. The rover almost tripped over himself changing directions as I hit to the other part of the field. I caught a couple pop flies and did a good job pitching. Unfortunately, we had a really bad inning where they were able to get all the way around the lineup and then some. It was very frustrating watching them discover our holes in the field and hit right to them time after time.

In the end, we lost. But it was a fun game and everybody was joking, and we were having a good time with the other team. There weren’t any fights, and we all left happy. It was nice.

I’m the Prince of Ice

Not really, but I was threatened with a showing of the movie Ice Princess today, so I thought it was appropriate.

Today I went ice skating again with some friends. I went a few weeks ago with a larger group, and had a good time, but there were so many things I was doing wrong that I knew I could do better. It was exactly like skydiving; I tried it and got so frustrated with my own incompetence that I wanted to keep doing it until I was at least decent. So I went skating again today, and as soon as my feet heal I’ll probably go skating again.

A few weeks ago I started with hockey skates for the first hour, but they really didn’t work for me. When I was very young, like second or third grade, I took some lessons on figure skates, and they must have stuck because I kept falling on the hockey skates when I would try to toe pick and end up with a smooth blade. I also couldn’t lean back because the hockey skates were rounded on the back, too. So I switched to figure skates for the second hour, and it was a world of difference. I was starting to do turns, and I could go faster and had a lot more control.

Today I had some goals; I wanted to skate backwards and jump. I did that and more. Of course, I had a few falls, but nothing broke. I’m starting to get comfortable on the skates. I still had some flailing (Lyndsey called it choreography), but I’m making progress. I learned a few ways to switch from forward to backward skating, and I worked a lot on skating on a single foot and maintaining balance. I even had some great extensions where I skated on one foot and stuck my arms and free leg way out. Crazy stuff.

And since I’m pretty much ambidextrous, I only had to think a little before I’d try doing the mirror on the other foot. When it came time to do the jumps, I would jump on one foot, then switch and jump on the other almost immediately.

I’m nowhere near Nationals or the Olympics, and I know I have a lot of practicing to do before I feel like I can move on to the next hobby. At least I know what I’m doing wrong and I have someone who can tell me what to do to get better.

There was a bit during the free skate where the little kids in hockey skates thought they could bully us. I was told by one of them that I should play hockey because it’s a man’s sport and figure skating is gay. Since he was there with his guy friends, I shot back with “Who did you come here with? I came with three ladies.” Shut him up pretty quick. When you grow up, you are around people who are more mature and don’t say stupid things like these kids were. In middle school I just endured it, and I hated those bullies who had to pick on people; now I’m a completely different person. I won’t tolerate it at all, and it surprised me that they had the balls to try to bully an adult. Oh well, they probably don’t have a very bright future ahead of them, but I feel bad for the kids they’ll pick on.

Back on topic, I’m on a steep slope of progress with the ice skating, so it’s pretty exciting. I know eventually it’ll plateau and I’ll have to work hard to make incremental improvement, but I’m not yet there, so I’ll enjoy learning the new skills and the rapid progress.

Thumbs up at White Pass

Well, it wasn’t so much thumbs plural as it was just the one thumb. And it wasn’t up so much as it was down, caught in the snow, and quickly swelling and bruising. I’ll start at the beginning.

Saturday was a day for skiing up at White Pass. Someone at work had organized a bunch of people to go, and we all met at a parking lot early in the morning. There weren’t as many as I had hoped, and I only ended up with one other person in my car. Fortunately, he planned to ski, and he was experienced, so I would likely have a ski partner. Once we all got up there, we split apart immediately. Some went off to do cross-country skiing, some were doing snowboarding, and Jesper (from Denmark) and I got in the rental line for skis. The line was longer than I had ever seen, and after 1/2 an hour we finally got to the front. Shortly after, we had our skis and were on the slopes.

The snow was less than ideal. In fact, it pretty much sucked. There was a hard icy crust on top and no powder. Even the moguls were hard bumps with slippery tops that didn’t slow the skis down. It was challenging, but not in a good way. Fortunately, on the straight parts I could just tuck and go extremely fast. Jesper wasn’t the type to go fast; he liked to take long curves. I didn’t have to wait for him for long, though. We skied through the day. He stopped for a quick lunch and I ate from my pockets and continued to ski. I typically carry string cheese, fruit snacks, pepperoni or beef jerky, and a bottle of water in my jacket, so I’m fine to just munch on the lift. After my third run alone we met up again at the lift.

There was one run that he liked a lot that included taking the ridge as far as possible, going down a bit and skating up to the peak. We could see all around from there. It’s not a friendly start, though, with a small area only a few feet wide that you have to slide down sideways before it opens up. The tricky part was that with the hard icy snow and no way to turn, I got going pretty quickly and didn’t have any way to stop. The first time I did this part I put my hand on the slope as I was going and put my hand through the crust. It’s disturbing enough that the slope is such that you can put your hand against it while still standing. The second time down the run I touched the slope again, but this time it bit back; I hit something that bent my thumb in ways unintended. I was still going, though, so I came to a stop and took off my glove to inspect and check for breaks. Fortunately, there were none, but it hurt a lot.

I was good for a few more runs but had an occasional pain as I used my injured hand. I stopped about fifteen minutes before closing time, and Jesper went on one last run. I returned my skis and waited. The rest of the caravan had already left for home, so it was just the two of us again. We drove home, stopping at Miner’s for the caloric Miner burger.

My thumb has since swelled a bit, and there is obvious bruising at the joints. I can’t quite move it as much, but it seems to be healing fine. The lesson is to keep your hands and feet inside at all times.