the Rat Race.

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Chasing the gaggle over Ruch, Oregon. Photo by TJ Sopher.

I decided to (finally) go to the Rat Race. It’s an annual paragliding competition held in Ruch, Oregon, and friends have been trying to get me to go since I started paragliding. Sometimes work has gotten in the way, sometimes money (or lack of), but this year, it all worked out. It was my first competition as a paying competitor (I went to one in California last fall and one in Mexico last winter). I’d always just ‘wind tech-ed’ before, which is code for launch early to allow the actual racers to see if the thermals are working yet. My previous experiences mostly resulted in me standing on the ground looking up at the racers flying over my head. I was pretty nervous headed to the Rat Race because I had no idea what it would be like, and was worried that the same scenario would repeat itself, except that I would have paid $600 for the privilege of short flights followed by standing on the ground watching racers fly overhead. In short, I shouldn’t have worried. There were two VERY windy days which resulted in short flights for me, but I also was able to make it to goal on three days!!!!! And, got within 2km of goal on one of the longer tasks, flying 73km, besting my own personal distance by one or two km. A week of flying every day is tougher than it sounds–being alert and focused mentally for one to four hours in the air every day is draining. Overall, I was very happy with the experience, which included 26 hours of flight time, 2nd place in the women’s class and 9th in the sport class! Here are some more pictures from the week:

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Morning hammock time before heading up to launch.
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Sunset from my tent in Ruch at the Crash Pad.
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Flying in to goal at Longsword Vineyard on the last day!
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Local flora.
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Pre-competition rain day made the old trees shine with all kinds of colors!
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Bianca (1st), me (2nd), and Lisa (3rd)! Photo from TJ Sopher, wine from Longsword Vineyard. 🙂
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