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The zips don’t lie – Engage Web Team Building Day 2017

Posted on July 31, 2017

 

An action-packed July for the Engage Web team came to an adrenaline-pumping end last Thursday when we made the trip to Snowdonia. After last year’s impressive performance from the team at Escape Rooms, an altogether different team building challenge this year would be whooshing (or dangling) over some breathtaking North Wales landscapes at Zip World.

For most of the week though, the only thing dangling was a big question mark over whether we would be doing any zipping at all. A typical summer week in Britain meant storms, cloudbursts and gusty winds, all of which are not ideal for something that involves hurtling down a zip wire at high altitudes. I had visions of the ride being more like a log flume, or the finale of the obstacle course on 1990s game show The Krypton Factor.

As Thursday neared, an ominous exclamation mark hovered on the Ride Status section of the website, indicating a revised weight restriction that would likely see at least one of us (me) too heavy to ride. With the weather still quintessentially Welsh on Thursday morning, it looked like a no-go. All was not lost though, because a quick phone call from Lianne ended in our team swapping our place on the Velocity ride for one on the Titan. This was smaller and slower than Velocity, but had the advantage of offering three mini rides instead of one long one, and it meant the four of us could go down at the same time, bringing something of a competitive element to the activity.

As we made the car journey deep into rural Wales, the weather continued to vent its wrath, leaving us fearing that the ride would be cancelled altogether by the time we got there. Luckily though, most of the rain fell on the roof of Lianne’s car and by the time we got to Blaenau Ffestiniog, it was quite a pleasant, if chilly, afternoon.

We were a bit early, so a mooch around the gift shop kept us entertained for a while (especially Darren, who said “I haven’t found anything I don’t want to buy here yet!”) and then we went to the ‘mewngofnodi’, which is the brilliant Welsh word for ‘check-in’.

The first scary part of the day was the weigh-in, and I had just snook under the weight limit by one kilogram. Just as well I only had the bacon butty for breakfast rather than the full English! The next challenge was fitting into my suit, which was just about achieved. I think out of politeness, the lady gave me a smaller suit than I really needed, but once I’d got it on I decided to make do with it, even though I feared hearing a loud ripping sound every time I sat down.

As the minibus took us up to our first zip line, Go West’s ‘We Close Our Eyes’ (featuring the refrain “slipping away-ee-ay-ee-ay”) seemed an unfortunate song to be playing on the radio. When we got to the location of the first zip line, Alpha, I was surprised to find that we’d be doing this one in pairs. Alpha is the longest and slowest of the three Titan zip lines, so it can accommodate more weight. This meant Lianne and Darren pairing up, Alan riding with a man from another group, but me going down alone as anyone else joining me would have put us above the maximum weight.

It’s a good job the first ride wasn’t filmed, because I think I would’ve looked a bit green with nerves. When we did abseiling at Peckforton Castle a few years ago, I managed to get through it by not looking down. Here, that wasn’t really an option what with the vast panoramic landscape of the Welsh slate caverns in front of us. It’s not so much that I’m afraid of heights, but afraid of falling from them!

Eventually, on the count of three, I plucked up the courage to let myself go. It was surprisingly enjoyable and felt very secure, although it was a bit unsettling when the wind blew us sideways. On reaching the bottom of the zip, I realised I had finished the ride first out of everybody – a surprise because although I was the heaviest rider, I was going down alone which made me the lightest load.

As we geared up for the medium ride Bravo, I still felt strangely nervous. One of the assistants, noticing the redness of my left hand, assured me that I didn’t need to grip the handles of the ride quite so tightly, or indeed at all, which calmed me down a little. The second ride was noticeably faster, and the wind took effect again, this time twisting us to the right instead of the left. I felt like a plane about to crash land as I hit the brake at the bottom of the ride, and I’m sure the assistant flinched a little as he saw all 119kg of me bombing towards him, but it was another safe landing and, once again, I had ‘won’ the race.

By the time we took on the third and final ride, the short but fast Charlie, my nerves had all but gone and I was enjoying the experience. This one was a bit of a blur to be honest, but it seemed to be over in seconds. Ultra-competitive athlete Alan used his legs to propel himself off to a head start, but once again, as Radiohead sang in the classic ‘Fake Plastic Trees’, gravity always wins! A clean sweep of zip line victories for Engage Web’s resident Barney Gumble lookalike, and it seems like I’ve finally found a kind of race I’m good at.

I think I can share the secret of my zip lining success in three tips:

  • Bring your knees up to your chest
  • Keep your elbows tucked in
  • Be fat. Not so fat that you can’t ride it, but as close to the weight restriction as possible. If you would like some advice on the rigorous weight training diet I embarked on to achieve the optimum experience, by all means drop me a message.

My main learnings from the day were that I can be uncharacteristically competitive at times, and that I’m part of a supportive team. Even the two-hour car journey both ways was a reminder that we don’t often connect with each other in a non-working environment, and occasionally doing so is a good way to build human relationships with your colleagues.

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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