Thursday, September 27, 2012

The adrenaline rush

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
When the bus driver unloaded our bicycles in a parking lot at the very top of the mountain just outside Vale, Colorado, I could feel the rush.  I felt addicted to excitement, to the adrenaline rush, to the danger inevitably and invariably involved.   At that point, we were on our own, and although I was with a friend, we had no intention of going down the mountain together (we never discussed it).  The trail was narrow, steep, with numerous curves, other riders traveling in the same direction, and, for me, totally unpredictable.  The adrenaline rush of the ride was there for the taking, and I reached out, seized it, took hold of it, and rode it with all the speed my body could deliver.  It was a highlight of my life, and the memory is clear, vivid, and energizing to this day.  (Thank goodness I didn’t crash!)
It was a double, open cockpit, biplane on a remote, unused runway, surrounded by dense forest, just outside of Dacca, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).  I had studied the instruction material, completed the hours of practice, and it was time (my instructor told me) to fly the plane solo.  There was no wind, the sky was blue, and although it was hot and humid, the air provided a natural air conditioning that was invigorating.  The idling engine started the rush, but when the wheels left the runway, and I continued to edge the nose up, I felt the full rush.  I was on my own, and I was more than just thrilled, I was electrified.
I left the salesroom with a brand new Italian Lambretta motor scooter, and just feeling the power I was sitting on was nearly sufficient, but when I turned up the accelerator with my right hand, and slowly let out the clutch with my left hand and felt the surge, it fired my enthusiasm, and the adrenaline rush was almost incomprehensible.  It wasn’t just the power of the motor scooter itself but the control I had over this instrument.  I had to take the scooter outside the city limits on a paved, rural, country road to test its power and exert my control.  There was no doubt about the power, the control, and the rush.
I had just gotten off the ski lift at one of the ski resorts outside of Vale, Colorado, and I looked down the mountain I was about to ski.  Not having skied much in my life, the excitement shook my whole body, but before spending any time appreciating the thrill, I was off down the mountain.  No, it wasn’t a black diamond nor was it a ski trail.  This was skiing as fast as you wanted to make it.  I controlled my speed — knowing that if I was going to fall, a slower speed would better protect my life! — but, at the bottom of the hill I noticed I was very near the lift that would take me back to the top.  The adrenaline rush was such that I skied that same hill at least a half-dozen more times.
I experienced nearly the same level of thrill riding the roller coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park.  For me, the roller coasters were the only rides that offered the adrenaline rush I needed.  I tried the Demon Drop one time.  That so turned my stomach (upside down!), that I could not handle it.  It took me at least an hour and maybe more just to recover from one 2-minute (or less!) experience.  But the roller coasters, no matter how many times I rode them (I especially enjoyed the duel coasters of the Gemini ride) delivered a sufficient rush that I would finish and get in line again immediately.
White-water rafting on the New River in West Virginia provided a charge.  I remember, especially, the “Z” where the white water was at its peak, and the raft banged off the rocks at the sides of the gorge.  That experience reminded me of tubing in Zion National park.  In one particular area of the river that ran through our campground, the tightness of the opening to get down the river and the speed of the water combined to make the ride the exhilarating effort it was.  At the bottom of this rapids area, I would take the rubber tube to the side of the river, quickly disengage myself, and walk rapidly back up the trail along the river to do it all again.
There has been yet another area where an adrenaline rush occurred and that is dancing.  My sister taught me how to rock-‘n-roll, and we would do it for audiences at the main hotel in downtown Karachi, West Pakistan, and in Dacca, East Pakistan, as well.  Dancing rock-‘n-roll is how my wife and I got to know each other.  We do it on every cruise we take, at my son’s annual Barn Jam, at every New Year’s Eve dance, and at parties and wedding receptions.  It has been a regular, satisfying, and even gratifying rush.
Now you see the pattern.  Whenever there has been an opportunity, the proper set of circumstances, an option, or opening, I would jump in with both feet — even if it meant floundering a bit — accept whatever risk necessary, and seize the moment.  It was that willingness to leap, that inclination to pounce that produced the adrenaline rush.  Often, I didn’t even know what the driving force was!  In retrospect, it was pure adrenaline!
It was these experiences — along with a number of others, to be sure — that led me to make one of the most adrenaline-laden decisions of my life.  I’m not totally sure why I applied for the job as basic speech-communication course director (actually, I know exactly why!), but when I discovered that I would be lecturing to 1,000+ students each week for 15 weeks in a row, I felt a rush.  But that rush was nothing when compared with the rush I experienced every time I walked into the lecture hall and prepared myself both physically and psychologically to give a 50-minute lecture.  To hold the attention of 300+ freshmen and sophomore university students (no venue on campus was large enough to hold all 1,000 students) for 50 uninterrupted minutes was one of the biggest challenges, responsibilities, and power-trips of my professional life.
When you realize that having to give a public speech is one of the most fearful, adrenaline producing activities that humans engage in, just imagine doing it five times a week for 22 years!  It is true that I asked for it, but asking for it does not mean that the fear doesn’t or won’t exist — or even that it will eventually go away.  It was as if I chose a job where I could ride a bicycle at top speed down a small mountain pathway, fly a small open-cockpit biplane solo, or drive a powerful, luxury Italian motor scooter at top speed every week for over twenty years.  The rush was unimaginable to this day!
There are, of course, many ways to get a similar adrenaline rush, but for me these have been some of the most impressive.  Hey, when you know how to get it, enjoy getting it, then who needs drugs or alcohol?  I’m not an addict, I have never been one, and I don’t intend to become one, but the adrenaline rush provides a great natural high that is truly fulfilling.
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At wikiHow, in the essay, “How to Get an Adrenaline Rush,” Sharon, Derrick Hensley, Carolyn Barratt, Teresa, and many others, offer six methods.  As part of their first paragraph, they write, “Nothing can beat the thrill and excitement experienced when faced with highly stressful and dangerous situations and adrenaline is what causes the excitement.Adrenaline,also termed as the fight or flight hormone, is responsible for the elevated heart rate,dilated blood vessels and increased glucose levels,its that which gives us the temporary feeling of being high.”

At Health QA, the article is titled, “Is an adrenaline rush good?”  The most important finding at this web site is this: “Researchers at Texas A&M University found that adventure sports such as rock climbing and white-water canoeing call up more cortisol and epinephrine -- more commonly known as adrenaline -- than public speaking, the acknowledged champion of redline stress reactions. And in this case, that's a good thing. That's because activities that are physically and mentally stressful help your body react better to stress in everyday life -- if they meet three qualifications:They're dangerous, involving the risk of death.They're unpredictable, requiring your brain to adjust to changing conditions.And they're social, increasing the pressure to perform well, whether it's for teammates or spectators.”
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Copyright September, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.


1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIISeptember 27, 2012 at 10:50 AM

    It is amazing how many places I can find that "adrenaline rush." Be it a new job, a new activity, even a new friendship (especially with someone who disagrees with me) - they all can provide that feeling of walking on a wire far above where we ever dreamed we could go!


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