Letting Go: Not Just an Expression

It’s Saturday again.  We decided to return to the training hills this Saturday in the hope of making more progress by going back at the earliest possible time that we can.  However, we also decided to only plan on one day of hang gliding this weekend and to only try to add on Sunday once we see how we feel after Saturday.  We don’t want to be as sore as we were the last few times we went hang gliding.

We get up early–I get up at 5:30AM, to be exact.  Pat sleeps for another hour.  I take some time to write this morning since I am not taking as much stuff today.  I have decided to leave my camera behind since, well, let’s face it, grab shots of hang gliding start really looking pretty much the same after a few times.  Also, since we’ve not scheduled an afternoon tandem flight, there is no need to take a bunch of stuff to do during the time between the training hills and the tandem.

Once I’ve done my writing, had my coffee, and gotten dressed, I begin repeating my new mantra:  “Eyes on Target.  Light Hands.”  I try to visualize this in my mind.  I stand in the kitchen with my hands lightly placed on my imaginary control frame, my eyes locked on the top of the cabinets.  “Eyes on Target.  Light Hands.”  I even practice correcting the glider by pushing myself in my imagination left and right.  I realize that as my body shifts with the image in my mind, I am cross-controlling even in my kitchen.  This surprises me and I try again, this time shifting like I’m swinging on a pendulum as much as possible while standing in the kitchen.  I notice my eyes are on the kitchen floor.  Raising them back to the top of the cabinets, I abandon steering practice and say, “Eyes on Target.  Light Hands.”  Then, Pat is ready to go and I give up on my visualization.

We get to the training hills plenty early.  Mike still beats us there.  He advises us on which hang gliders to assemble and I am back in the smaller Falcon that gave me so many fits the last time.  I talk to Mike about whether it’s a good idea for me to go with that one or not and he assures me that it will pick me up just like a too-big one would.  I flash back to my 10 trips down the hill without feeling any lift, but decide that there is some wind today and that I might as well give it a try since I’m not going to make it off the bunny hill until I can fly in the correct sized glider.

8 people have signed up for the bunny hill.  A crowd like that can make it tough to get a lot of flights in, especially if the wind starts kicking up early and we have to call it a day.  But, we get out to the hills as quickly as possible and start getting flights in.  I am relieved that I manage to launch on the first try, although I went into a dive immediately and realized I’d taken my eyes off target.  When my glider lands, my legs are smacked on the ground and my right quadricep hyper-extends slightly, just enough to give me a slight pull.  When I get to the top of the hill, I stretch before taking my next turn in the hope of preventing injury.  I launch successfully again and am happy with the launch, although I still go into a state of mental confusion and have difficulty correcting in the air.  When I launch the third time, Lauren tells me that my launch is 95% of the way there, but I need to focus on keeping my posture upright so that I leave the hill in an upright position.  As soon as I start thinking about my posture, my eyes drop and my hands tighten and I fail to launch and end up running down the damn hill again.

Now I am starting to limp.  At the top of the hill, I stretch thoroughly again before attempting to launch.  I suspect it will be my last time.  Lauren stands behind me this time and tells me when to let go completely.  She has me just release my hands on the control frame and do jazz-hands so that they’re there, but not grabbing at the frame.  I launch perfectly even though a cross-wind has me going crooked while I’m still running down the hill.  Lauren yells, “Run to your target!” at just the right time and I get my eyes back to where they should be, drag the glider back to straight, and launch into the air.  I even manage to correct in the air and do it correctly, although I don’t do it consciously, I just remember the feeling of swinging like a pendulum after I land.

We do a repeat the next time around, although now I am barely walking and I’m thinking this should be my last flight.  Now I’m having fun again and I’m willing to suffer through the pain of pulled muscles a couple more times.  I launch again even better this time by having Lauren yell at me and doing jazz-hands again.  Lauren tells me that she’s not really yelling at me, she’s yelling at my neurons.  She is right–I don’t have the right neuro-pathways yet.

I manage to get in one final flight, ending strong on 3 really great flights, but now my neck is going into spasms, I’ve pulled my quads, my inner thighs, and my groin.  I am walking like a cowboy once again.  But I hobble away happy, noting that letting go is ultimately what allows me to fly.  Who knew that when people say things like that they’re really referring to hang gliding?