July 31, 2011
Another tough stage in Morocco! Lot’s of people commented on how beautiful the waterfall was at the beginning of the show, but I didn’t have a second to take in the beauty. Jeff and I were running down steep, broken, uneven stairs, crossing the river and scrambling along a narrow trail. Plenty of times a misstep to the left would have sent me plunging 50 feet off a cliff or tumbling down a rocky slope into the river.
It took focus to get through these sketchy sections. We were proud that we could at least keep pace with the other teams, though it was demoralizing to get passed at times.
As for the infamous “leap of faith,” I’ll admit I was just a little nervous. I had jumped off taller cliffs at Devil’s Glen when I was a kid growing up in Connecticut. On that childhood cliff, you had to be pretty careful where you landed to avoid hitting rocks. I would point my cane and my friends would tell me “yep, right there” “not there” until I had it wired. Typically I’d be the first one in our group to jump so I guess my adventurous streak goes back a ways.
The two big differences here were 1) I could hear whitewater below me, which sometimes means there are rocks. That upped the ante a bit. And 2) since we were racing, Jeff didn’t have time to give me the full beta. But I knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong and it was just a matter of getting into position.
As always, Jeff did an amazing job helping me get ready for the jump. In fact, as you saw, we held hands and jumped together. That’s more than a friend. That’s a bro! In fact, he was so focused on getting me in position, he forgot about his own form and when we jumped, I dragged him back a bit so that he landed off-kilter in the water. Fortunately it was a relatively soft landing because the waterfall aerated the water.
When we got to the zip line, I had significant concerns. The previous summer, I was in an adventure race where the zip line was rigged improperly. I picked up way too much speed—a terrifying prospect since there is absolutely nothing you can do to slow down—and went crashing into rocks, nearly breaking my leg.
So it was with great trepidation that I hooked onto this zip line. Before launching into space, I even double checked and asked one of the judges if they were sure it was safe. I still wasn’t totally convinced so if you watch the re-run, you’ll notice I’m swinging my cane in front of me to feel for an impending collision.
The whitewater section was potentially dangerous. Before we launched, the safety team had told Jeff there were a lot of hazards on this section and that there was a chance I could be in trouble. I learned later that some of the water safety crew were even taking bets whether I’d swim or not. You might have noticed that I’m the only contestant with a big white cross on my helmet. That’s so the safety teams will know which is the blind guy flailing in the water.
This section of river had Class 3 rapids with narrow passages in a tight canyon. Some gauntlets were only two widths of a kayak wide with precise zigs and zags. A screw-up meant a hard collision into an overhanging boulder. Eyeballs would have been a nice luxury!
While Jeff and Ike have done a lot with me in the mountains, they aren’t my usual river partners. As much as possible, we had Ike out front calling big directions and Jeff in back providing micro adjustments to my course. Jeff and Ike aren’t big kayakers themselves, so they had the huge pressure of guiding me, while trying not to flip or get pinned themselves.
Running rapids blind is exciting enough but it gets downright scary when I can’t hear the commands from my team. The rapids themselves are plenty loud. However, at one point a film helicopter got so close overhead that the rotor wash drowned out communication and caused me to flip. Let’s just say that I was not amused and let them know it by furiously waving them off; later the pilot came over and apologized. No hard feelings. Can you imagine the challenges of filming this over-the-top adventure?
Without question, Jeff and Ike have gone above and beyond for me and I definitely appreciate it. When you surround yourself with good people, anything is possible! Although I took a beating, It felt pretty good finishing in third place this time.
Several people have asked me why we don’t hear more from Ike during the episodes. One friend who happened to know Ike is an injured soldier even asked me if he’s a deaf mute! The only “problem” with Ike is he’s just a down-to-earth understated Kansas boy. He’s a total gentleman and always there when you need him. But that doesn’t necessarily translate well to television.
Remember last week when we all got to talk to our family back home? Ike actually proposed to his girlfriend, Sarah, while we were in the car and she accepted! Jeff and I were stunned. I think I elbowed him and whispered, “not on national TV.” Ike just chuckled. Somehow that didn’t make the final cut. But I assure you’ll hear more from Ike shortly!
Regarding ratings - This week, things are looking up as the ratings surged 23% with 5.13 million viewers. I hope you’ll stay tuned in for as long as Team No Limits hangs in there! I really appreciate your comments—keep them coming.
Erik “Super Blind” Weihenmayer
PS if you like what we’re doing and feel inspired, please consider making a donation to my charity, No Barriers. And please tell them Team No Limits sent you!
Jeff’s blog: http://mountain-vision.blogspot.com/
Gypsies' blog: http://www.themoderngypsies.com/blog/