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Gaining new respect for Ironman in Puerto Rico

The island is home to one of the highest ziplines in the Western world

"You are going to fly," the park guide says with a grin.

I enthusiastically raise one arm high in the air. "Yes! Like Superman!"

"No. More like Ironman - arms by your side, head first like a human missile at 120 kilometers per hour!"

I gulp, hesitate for a second, then smile and say, "Okay, let's do it."

This zipline has been affectionately named The Beast, as it is one of the highest ziplines in the Western world.

At 260 meters high and 1446 meters long, this sport is definitely not for anyone who fears speed or heights.

Located only an hour from San Juan, the Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park in Puerto Rico offers a variety of heart-pounding aerial adventure activities. The large ecotourism park is 316 acres in size and has challenges for all levels of fitness: zip-lining, traditional rappelling and open-air rappelling, a series of hanging bridges, and mountain biking.

Visitors seeking an extreme adventure will not be disappointed.

To begin with, the guides introduce me and a group of travel writing colleagues to three ziplines and a series of wobbly suspension bridges.

With each plank hung individually from a cable, at a height of approximately 40 metres, these bridges that criss-cross the nature park are tricky.

Hesitant and cautious, I step onto the first board as it swings beneath me. Sweat streams down my face, and I frantically grab the safety line to balance myself while swinging in the air.

I had no idea that I would be trying out for a Cirque du Soleil gig on this extreme sport adventure trip in Puerto Rico.

The second bridge is made up of narrow moving planks that are half the width of my foot; I find it surprisingly easy despite the fact that the boards are swaying.

When I arrive on the third, my heart really begins to race as I approach our guide who is standing next to a hole in the middle of the bridge.

I look at him and then through the hole to the forest canopy, far, far below.

"Oh, no!" "Oh yes! Here is where you go down. Welcome to open-air rappelling!"

"Open-air rappelling?" In an attempt to stall the inevitable I ask, "How high are we?"

"About 40 metres up." Even though I know there is no turning back, I try again.

"Seriously? You are going to drop me through this hole to the ground?"

"Yes, here is where you go down," he says, and hooks me onto the safety line as I hold onto the rope with a death grip.

Now dangling through the hole in the bridge, I look up at him pleadingly.

"Don't worry," he says shaking his head. "Trust me, we can't afford to lose a journalist, it is bad press!"

Looking down, he smiles at me and adds, "Let go."

Reluctantly, I do and begin my rapid descent. The ride is invigorating. I break through the opening in the trees, and a series of small waterfalls welcome me as I approach the ground.

I land on the mossy forest floor unharmed. After surviving this thrilling challenge, I figure I am ready for The Beast.

It is a misty, overcast day in Puerto Rico by the time we reach the top of the park. As the guide checks my safety gear, the cloud cover is just beginning to dissipate and the scene before me unfolds. Surrounded by the beauty of nature and a copper-coloured river flowing below, the view is stunning.

Propelled in a horizontal position, this zipline is unlike any I have tried before.

After the guide confirms I am secure, he lets go. I pierce the misty fog as the wind rips through my hair.

The carabiner whistles along the cable at lightning speed as I glide effortlessly downward. Like an exuberant child, I shriek with joy. From peak to peak, the ride is not long enough!

By the time I approach the landing platform, I know what it feels like to be a human missile.

I have converted: forget Superman. Ironman is who I want to be!

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- Toro Verde Nature Adventure Park Tel: 787-867-7020 / 787-867-6606

- Where to stay: The Verdanza Hotel Tel: 787-253-9000

- Getting there: WestJet offers weekly non-stop service from Toronto to San Juan, with two trips per week from November to April.

- Sightseeing information: Puerto Rico Tourism Company http: //