This post is very much linked to my previous post and my quest to understand the complexity of physical and mental correlations. It is not really intended as a guide but more as my own online therapy.
The low save is one of the best feelings in free flight. You are almost on the deck, getting ready to land and then … boom, within minutes you are cold, high and the possibilities of where you can go are right there in front of you. When you are low there is no use wishing you were at cloud base, you just have to accept where you are, find a climb and get out of there.
The question ‘How do you think you will go in the X-Alps coming from Australia?’ has been asked of me a lot. Whilst a totally valid question, it was my response to the question that really got me thinking about acceptance. Early on there was definitely an element of ego and defence in my response, ‘Of course I am going to do fine, I have flown in the Alps, I’m a good pilot’. But once I analysed my situation, my response became one of acceptance. I live in Australia, I have flown the Alps a few times, but I don’t live there and will never have the lifetime of experience and knowledge of some of the pilots I compete against.
Acceptance is the real key to progression. Once you accept where you are, I mean by being really honest with yourself, you can start to build on your strengths, work hard on your weaknesses and devise a plan to get you where you want to go. For me, this means a solid month of training in the Alps to get back in tune with alpine flying. More time would be great, of course, but that is where reality comes in to play. Our budget will be stretched with a month of training before the race, so we will do what we can and work as hard as possible with the time we have. This means focusing on the knowledge that I am a good pilot in general and can use my skills well in the mountains.
This acceptance is no one-off event either. In the last few weeks I have barely touched a paraglider nor seen the sun. Where I live, it has been raining solidly for well over two weeks. On social media I am confronted with images of pilots flying around incredible looking snowcapped mountains with captions like ‘spring is here’. Being limited to running and hiking, going to my day job and staying cooped up in the house seems so far removed from the scenes of the these alpine pilots. It can be a battle to regain focus, make my goals clear once again and just accept where I am.
So what is my attitude now? I accept my ‘underdog’ status, which as an Aussie is not so foreign. Culturally we like to think of ourselves as battlers and this can actually be a useful mental tool. If I am honest with myself about my limitations, I know that I won’t have intricate knowledge of alpine conditions, localised weather systems or road and trail networks throughout the Alps. I still think I can do well. Acceptance frees up mental space that can be used for positive purposes and allows you to focus on what is necessary to succeed. And getting to goal after the low save always makes the flight that much sweeter.
Photo: Ben Pearse Photography