Two years ago triathlete & USAT Coach Lani Diemicke noticed a tiny ad on the fold of Bicycling Magazine’s calendar page.
“The word balloon caught my eye,” says Diemicke. The bicycle and balloon race held as part of the Warren County Farmers’ Fair in
“Once the balloon is laid out, you hold up part of the balloon so the fan can blow air into the balloon to inflate it,” says Diemicke. “Once the balloon has enough air the pilot uses the burner to heat the air and the balloon goes upright,” she says. The entire process takes 20-30 minutes.
In 2008 the teams raced to inflate, launch, land and return via bike. But in 2009, the FAA revised the rules. The new winning time was the shortest amount from launch until return. “This ensured the pilots didn’t rush during the inflation and launch,” says Diemicke.
The teams had to fly past a certain road before landing. And there were red zones that were off limits for landing (farmers who wouldn’t let you land in their land, corn fields, and soy bean fields.) Wind speed, passenger weight and flying height would determine each balloon’s travel speed.
Unfortunately Diemicke set down in a scrub field. “The bushes were up to my armpits and so thick I could barely push through,” she says. “I hoisted my bike up over my head and trudged through the field not unscathed!”
Scrapes, blood & all Diemicke hit the road. For the remaining miles, Diemicke and another athlete played leapfrog while also juggling flats and dropped chains.
But overall, the ride was a blast she says. “It was beautiful not just to be in the air, but to see so many balloons around you at the same time, to see the lake from the air, people, etc.,” she says.
The balloon race taught Diemicke that pushing herself outside her comfort zone isn’t always something intentional, but sometimes it happens. “I thought this race would be fun, not stressful, but it was both!”
You may contact Lani Diemicke at wwlani at hotmail dot com.
Questions for You:
- What's something new you'll try in 2010 (Happy New Year!!)?
- Would you go up in a balloon? Heights = good or bad?
- Have you seen the movie Up in the Air? (hello George Clooney!!)
photo credits: Lani Diemicke