Airman chutes for Olympic Bobsled Team

Air Force Capt. David Simon is second behind the driver during the U.S. Bobsled Team Trials in Park City, Utah, Nov. 2, 2016

Each year, as the day of my birth approaches, I try to think of some way to celebrate that is different and unique, yet somehow implies that I’m not really aging. Some years I come up with a pretty good game plan. This was not one of those years. 

It’s possible that my desire to make such a big deal out of my birthday stems from the time I was a school-aged kid and received my school clothes cleverly wrapped up in celebratory birthday paper. Ironically, my sister received her school clothes disguised as birthday gifts also. Or perhaps it was the fact that the whole nation would celebrate my birthday one out of every seven years when it landed on Labor Day. It was a great shock and disappointment when I finally learned that everyone was not just taking the day off to celebrate my birthday. Go figure.

Either way, this year I had the brilliant idea that we should take “the ride of a lifetime” down the very track that was used in the 2002 Olympics in a real-life bobsled. What could be more thrilling than that? My adorable husband, who only wants to please his adrenaline junkie wife on her birthday, agreed to come along. We scrolled thru the waiver, skipping through the fine print; something about minimum weight, which I almost met, and minimum age, which I definitely met, and no neck, back, shoulder injuries or pregnancies, up to 5 g-forces, etc., etc., etc., and we signed on the dotted line.

We hopped on a shuttle which took us to the top, while being educated about the ride by our Yugoslavian driver. I couldn’t make out much of what he said, but I did pick up the words, “16 turns,” and “one-minute to the bottom.”

When we got to the top, we jumped out, took 15 minutes trying to find a helmet small enough for my pea-sized head, and got ready to rock ‘n’ roll. As we approached the sled, the driver asked which spot I would like to sit in. He explained that the back is more intense. I immediately volunteered for that position. He then checked our helmets, tightened our seatbelts, and told us to slip our hands through the handgrips and then wrap it around our wrists, and “don’t let go.” Yahoo! Bring it on!

It’s been five days since the “ride.” I’m still taking 800 mg of Advil every four hours, and I’m not really able to turn my head more than 10 degrees, nor do I have full mobility in my left arm. I’ll be seeing my chiropractor, again, in a couple of hours.

When I signed up for that ride, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought I did. After all, I have bungee jumped off a bridge, free-climbed, ziplined, rafted the rapids, waterfall rappelled, jumped out of a plane, had two of my three children naturally and raised three hormonal teenage daughters. Yet, after the very first of the 16 “turns,” I knew I was in trouble. My pea-head fell forward and I couldn’t pull it back up again. I panicked and let go of my handgrip to use my hand to push my head back into place. Bad idea. My arm started flailing all over the place. It was then that I started holding my breath. It was the longest minute of my life. I did, somehow, get my arm back into place, I just don’t remember doing it. When we arrived at the end, someone asked, “how was it?” I couldn’t respond.

Sometime later, perhaps while riding the ski lift up to our next adventure, “extreme tubing,” the analogy came to me. Why in this world would I sled down a mountain at 5 g’s and take my hand out of the safety grip? Your professional, licensed Realtor is your safety grip. Take it from me, flailing around can have some fairly lasting consequences — painful ones.

On a different note, I highly recommend the extreme tubing down the ski jump.My husband, however, does not.

Jen Kirchhoefer is an associate broker and Realtor with Ascent Real Estate. She can be reached at 801-645-2134

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