Linda Salamone's Blog

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Quest Task 4 Friday

All I can say is WOW.

No, not really. I can say a lot more!!!!!
When the task committee didn’t come up with this 127 mile task yesterday, I was surprised. When they put it up on the board today I was pretty psyched. I had seen the forecast and it did indeed look pretty stellar, but we would have to get up early to get that far. I was praying not to do anything spectacularly stupid to blow this one. I know how it feels to get to goal, and I know even more intimately how it feels NOT to get to goal. When I was in the launch line Lauren told me that she had wanted to do this for a long time- it would break Kari’s Florida record- and although she wasn’t flying, she wished me luck. The first climb off tow ( I got behind the Greybird tug for a wild ride) was sweet- 6000’ and above the clouds on the horizon. I was on the radio today with Mark, Paul Tjaden, and Peter Kelley. I was asked to keep off the freq we used the day before- I guess we were a little chatty…But Paul was great reading off his position throughout the flight, and it really helped get me moving along. Mark’s mic even worked the whole time, and his input was really helpful. Right in the start gaggle, the view was so spectacular and I knew EVERYONE was up there seeing it as well. I just had to make note to my flying buddies today to just say WOW! All those gliders, that blue blue sky above the inversion, the clouds on the horizon- we were so stinking HIGH!!! And driving around with impunity waiting for the start of the race.
The first few thermals I did near Mark and Rob Clarkson. His maple leaf glider is very easy to identify. I saw the only other woman in the meet-Maki? Myuaki?- during the early part of the flight too. Each climb was pretty decent once you found the middle and we just raced along from cloud to cloud. Rob kept heading to the right of courseline, where the clouds were thinner, I stayed to the center of the line- ready to race to the edge if it OD’ed. The first 30 miles- all good. The next 30, all good. Then I got to thinking while I was all out there on my own now- what if I made it? Oh no, don’t start thinking that yet- too early. I still had 67 miles left to go. What am I doing counting my chickens??? But the lowest I got was 3300’ and since the whole flight was spent at 5-7K, it felt scary low. Once I got back into the freezing 7K altitude, I vowed to not get that low again. 3300’. Treating THAT as the bottom! Funny that it was 4000’ later!!!! It started to get really thick now- center of courseline. I was worried that the overdevelopment would shut down lift- it it’s not a true convergence, then it could happen, I guess. So I stayed by the edge of it and flew over all those towns and airports that I have driven by a million times on rte 27. Mark and Paul were 20 and 30 miles ahead, so I pushed some more. Then Zippy (Zac) came by and we climbed together once- then he went on a glide that never ended. I watched as I followed and he just dolphin flew for miles. I stopped a couple times in the really screaming stuff to stay at 7K but it was incredible to eat up the miles that way. But when Paul thought it might be getting “soft” 30 miles out from goal, I got more conservative. At this point I knew for sure I had my own personal best beat so I was pretty psyched about that. I kept thinking about Kari’s record. And then told myself to stop that and keep flying smart. Through the shivering and numb body parts, I just kept trying to stay as high as possible. I started to see a few more gliders here and there behind me. Mark started calling out his final glide and how low he got before the Florida Ridge. I started to look at my final glide numbers and they started getting positive. But not enough- especially if there was sink before goal. When it finally said I had it by 2K, I went on glide. I had 13 miles to go, a canal to cross, and still I had no visual. But I know the field well so I wasn’t worried about landing there. Except I did start to worry about the goal line I had to cross. I had a used the GPS coordinates that were in my vario, not the new ones Davis gave us this morning. Ah well, I hope I cross it okay. When I crossed the canal, I saw that Mark hadn’t landed yet- too much lift over the field. My first pass overhead I failed to get the cylinder and went looking for the line way down t here. I crossed it just when I tried to lose some altitude to land and watched Jack come screaming in underneath. So there was a point when I wondered if I should keep going. It was still soarable- we’d been flying since 1:30, it was 6pm now, and there was that convergence line of clouds (much much thinner now) extending past the Ridge. But exhaustion and the lure of the easy retrieve and all my friends on the ground….. I landed. Jeff OB grabbed my glider and I just laid down. EVERYONE was at goal! I called Raean Permenter and Todd and we all celebrated at the Gator Bait Pub (Karaoke night on Fridays, you know) when our driver Shannon arrived. Long drive home! I was really hoping I had the record for Florida (women’s flex, obviously) but I wouldn’t know for sure for a while. It was pretty cool to see Cheryl and Steve again, too.
Back at Quest, I felt like someone had been punching my shoulder blades for hours, and we didn’t even shower- we just hit the hay. I’ll write about the last task later….


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