Dropping the Bar

Posted May 2015

(Note:  When I originally posted this, some guys saw the title and were concerned that really bad things had happened.  Don't worry....)

Fifty years ago, if you'd told me that one of my pastimes as a senior citizen would be "pumping iron"... I would have sniffed suspiciously at your "Steve Zodiac" thermos bottle.

FIVE years ago, I would have made a comment like "That wacky tobbacy isn't legal, yet."

But... here I am, sixty years old, and twice a week I do dead lifts, cleans, presses, squats, and jerks, all the stuff I used to tune past during the Olympics.  I finally got tired of being creaky, of having no range of motion.  Of having to kick a dropped pencil somewhere near a table or wall so I could crawl down and drag myself back up again.

It's done wonders.  I can now squat down like a big league catcher...holding a 150-pound barbell.  My knees hardly ever hurt anymore.  I can trot up stairs without having to hoist myself up using the handrail.  Even better, knee pain used to make sitting in the cockpit excruciatingly painful.  No more...building up my leg muscles took care of that.

Lifting weights is a lot like flying an airplane.  It's easy to do...anyone can lift a few pounds, and it takes but a few hours of instruction to solo.  But you spend hours, years even, mastering the techniques.  You train yourself to fire a sequence of muscles in a very precise order.  It seems hard, the bar is heavy, until one lift it all "clicks" and the damn thing seems to float up before your eyes.  Like flying, the joy is in doing it *right*.

There's something else similar to flying:  You can hurt yourself pretty bad.  Sure, you probably won't *die* from weight lifting, but you could cripple yourself for life with bad technique or not stopping when your instincts tell you to.

The saving maneuver is called "dropping the bar"... basically, no matter where you are in the lift, you do whatever it takes to escape, NOW, without harm.  Generally, you just push the bar away and let it fall. The barbell is five feet long, the weights on the ends are well clear of your body.  The floor is covered with dense rubber.  The only thing that can get hurt is *you*, so the main goal is to ensure your safety; separating you and the barbell as much as possible despite how embarrassing it might look.

I've done it about three times in 30 months of training.  Generally, in mid-lift, I've realized I've lost my concentration or one of my limbs isn't positioned properly.  Stop, drop the bar, step back, and re-address the bar for a repeat try.

Today I "dropped the bar" with the Fly Baby.

Beautiful day...mid 70s, no wind.  I've put about five hours on the plane in the ~3 weeks since the condition inspection, and everything is working perfectly.

Today was actually the first time I ran a sequence of touch-and-goes...all the previous flight had fairly strong crosswinds and I was just satisfied with landing safely.  The first two touch-and-goes went smoothly.

The third? Sitting here, now, I *still* don't know what went wrong.  I seem to recall thinking I was getting too slow on short final.  I was coming in pretty steep, so eased back the stick and prepared to add a burst of power.

But...unexpectedly, the plane ballooned.  I remember thinking, "How can we be ballooning if I'm so slow?"  The nose rose higher.  I was disoriented, plain and simple.  I had lost situational awareness.

So I "dropped the bar," aircraft-style:  Firewalled the throttle and went around.  I could have blipped the power, caught the balloon, and salvaged the landing.  But my mind was just not there, I was way behind the airplane, and instinct called for speed and altitude.

Didn't even touch the ground.  Don't know how it looked to a observer, but I Got Out of Dodge in a hurry.

Around the pattern we went...me fretting, a bit, that I'd somehow lost "the knack."  Disproved that with a good three-pointer, followed the next time around with a smooth tail-low wheel landing for a full stop.

During training, we've all learned about doing a go-around with necessary.  But most of us fight it...thinking, probably, how bad it'll look to anyone watching.  It's like dropping the bar when weight-lifting; it's an admission that, right then, you weren't ready for the task.  It probably looked ugly, and some observers might have snickered.

But... then again, TOMORROW is going to be a nice day here, too. "Dropping the bar" today assured an intact plane and pilot for new fun-and-games for the next session at the airport.

Seems reasonable to me....

Ron Wanttaja

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