Would you leap off of a 22-storey building?
I did. Specifically, the building in the center of this picture…
Here’s How It Happened…
A few years ago, when I lived in Winnipeg Manitoba, I heard about an event where people raised funds for charity and, as part of the fundraising, they could rappel down one of the skyscrapers downtown. It sounded like SO MUCH FUN!
Unfortunately, I heard about it too late to participate that year. In the years to come I wanted to do it but never had the time or the money or the desire to raise funds all at the same time… then over the years I forgot about it.
Then I moved to Regina Saskatchewan. While searching for fun things to do in the city, and for ways to get involved in a good cause, I stumbled over a website for The Dropzone — the exact event that I had wanted to do in Winnipeg… and it was happening here in Regina too.
The Dropzone is an annual event hosted collaboratively between Easter Seals and the Saskatchewan Abilities Council. Both groups work to help people with disabilities live full and active lives. The Dropzone event happens every year across Canada since 2005 and has raised more than $15 million for this cause.
I signed up and committed to raise the funds to rappel. I was SO excited! Rappelling has been on my bucket list for many years.
As a requirement of participating in this event, I had to take some training (makes sense!) and I went in late July. It was held at a safety training company; we learned about the equipment and then rappelled off of a simple 2-storey structure inside a warehouse.
I felt comfortable with the process and the equipment, although the harness was excruciatingly painful and left two very big bruises on my stomach. (I was worried that, if I felt that way during the 2-storey drop, what would it be like during a 22-storey drop! Fortunately, someone identified the problem — the shoulder straps were too loose — and it was fixed for the main drop).
Then, it was a waiting game during which I raised money, waited for the day to come, and took silly pictures like this one…
August 19, 2017
The day of the event finally arrived. I was so excited!
Here I am leaving the house. My game-face is already on!
One disappointment from earlier in the week was that my rappel time was scheduled for between 7:45 and 8:15 in the morning. The whole event is supposed to be a fun and party-like atmosphere that happens in Regina’s bustling downtown core at the same time as a nearby farmers market. I thought the atmosphere would have been very fun but doubted that anyone would be there at 7:45! (Although the early drop time turned out to be a good thing… more on that in a moment).
When I arrived, it was SO quiet downtown. Here’s a picture of me failing to get the perfect selfie in front of the building.
Then I entered the lobby of the building, signed a waiver, and started getting suited up with the harness and helmet and gear. Yes, it’s not lost on me that the helmet would serve no useful purpose if the equipment failed. But safety first, I guess!
Then I took the LOOOOOONG elevator ride up to the 21st floor, signed another waiver (!?!) and then had to climb a ladder onto the roof.
The view was incredible. The building I was on is the tallest in Regina (I think!) so I could see all around. Here’s a selfie of the view. I am excited in this picture but also look silly because the helmet is squeezing my cheeks out to make them look really chubby! haha.
Then, it was time to wait my turn and I got super-focused. Here I am, all ready to go in my gear, with full focus. A couple people tried to talk to me and I probably came across as rude and cold but I was really just getting into the zone.
Finally it was my turn to rappel I approached the edge of the building and my safety rope was tied to the tripod.
Once my safety rope was tied, I had to climb up onto the ledge of the building and then lean out into my harness. The ground below was SO FAR DOWN.
It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
I can’t describe how challenging it was to grab hold of the tripod, stand on the edge of the roof, and stick my feet over the building to feel around blindly until I found the ledge… and then I had to lean backward into my harness and trust a rope to hold me.
Here’s a screenshot from the Global News report about the event. I actually look surprisingly calm here but I cannot describe how insanely scary it was to see all those tiny people below!
I leaned back, gave the photographer a thumb’s up (I’ll post that picture here when they send it to me) and started my descent.
… And it was awesome! :)
As soon as I started, the initial fear vanished and was replaced by a rush of adrenaline as I got into the groove. The day was perfect, the view was amazing, and I was doing something that I’d always wanted to do.
Here’s a picture of me very early into my descent. There were two rappellers going at once and I was on the right…
I tried to pause on my descent from time to time to get a good view but that was harder than I thought. I even brought my phone along to get some pictures or do a Facebook Live video but there was no way I could do that because I was wearing gloves and my phone had been tethered to me but was not easy to get to, and I was too busy concentrating on everything.
The thing with rappelling is, it’s trickier than I would have guessed: Your arms and legs are doing 4 things independently of each other, all at the same time. Your right arm is under your butt trying to keep you from getting rope burn, your left hand is up by your chest working with a special lever that controls the speed of your descent, and with your legs you are periodically bouncing off the building and also adjusting for wind.
You’re doing this in windy conditions. In gloves. In the most uncomfortable harness you can imagine. While swallowing your fear. And somewhere in there you need to pause and drink in the experience!
I did stop a couple of times on my descent to enjoy the view but it was harder than expected so I just stuck with maintaining a good descent.
The wind was crazy, actually. It was fine until about halfway down, and then a big gust blew me off course and almost sent me spiralling out of control (which did happen to a couple other rappellers after me). Fortunately I was able to put out my one foot to catch myself against a window to keep from spinning. I believe that’s what the picture below shows: me with my right foot out as I tried to catch myself in a gust of wind.
(Side note: I mentioned earlier that I was disappointed that I had to go so early in the day. However, later that afternoon the wind picked up considerably and they had to postpone the rest of the event so it turned out to be a good thing that I went so early!)
And, as I neared the bottom, I could hear the cheers of a crowd that had gathered, and that was an amazing feeling. And by the time I got to the bottom and got untied, I felt like some kind of rockstar, as evidenced by this hilariously confident swagger…
And here I am after the event. The descent only took about 15 minutes but I was sweating and tired!
After The Event
I was surprised at how exhausted I was after the event. It’s a fast descent but also extremely active the whole time.
Immediately after the event I walked through the farmers market and then took a nearby walking tour of some historical buildings… and then went home and slept.
And then the next day I slept again.
And by the afternoon of the second day I felt stiff in my legs, arms, and back from a combination of the unusual activity and the tension of contorting against the wind in that harness.
But it was fun and I would do it again!
It was amazing!
A big theme in my life lately is breaking out of my comfort zone to discover new challenges and opportunities. Once you enjoy a bit of business success, it’s easy to get complacent in business and life, and to expect things to continue on in the same way. And this is one way that I push myself just a bit (even while doing something I’ve always wanted to do) to get momentarily uncomfortable and discover new experiences.
On August 19 2017 I raised $1065 for charity, crossed an item off my bucket list, and had a memorable experience that I would do again in a heartbeat!
Thank you to everyone who supported and encouraged me! It was something I’ll never forget.