Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Berlin Championships

Back to freediving, which is after all what this blog is supposed to be about. The Berlin Cup was held last Saturday, a week after I arrived back from Aspen. The whole time I was over in Colorado, I was telling myself that I was in fact preparing daily for the competition: it’s called altitude training. Since Aspen town is at 2000m, and most of the skiing around 3000+, I thought it would have some kind of effect. I did try a few breath holds, to maximise the efficiency of the stay. One was a short table, done dry, on my bed. It’s simple: hold for one minute, exhale, take a breath, hold for a minute, see how many you can do. A nice, straightforward CO2 table. Usually I manage between 12-17 of them. So I took a breath, held, and started contractions after about 15seconds on the first hold. It just got worse from there. I think I gave up after a torture of eight. Amazing what 2000m will do to you.

Things improved a little towards the end of the week, when I was clearly getting adapted and managed to do a 2min+ hold on the chairlift at around 3100m, stopped mostly by the guys demanding answers to their intelligent conversation. Just as I was beginning to feel pleased with this result, the low point of my altitude training experiment approached. After the dizzying experience of hiking up the highland bowl, perfectly designed to show you just how un-adapted you really are, we headed straight to the restaurant/bar at the bottom of Highlands for a well earned drink. A couple of beers later, I was in a nice state of intoxication, when the male crowd, led by Dan, decided it would be fun to see an insane freediver hold their breath. The excuse I have for letting them talk me into this is: I was drunk. Timed by Ray, I promised them two minutes, while pinching my nose. Watched by a bunch of beer drinking men. Not the most relaxed dry static, and amazingly unpleasant. Memories of doing a fairly easy pb of 5:08 at the worlds in September seemed distant, to say the least.

Still, I considered myself well prepared for Berlin. My doctor was of a different opinion, though. She forbid the pool for the time being due to an infection of the nasal passages and sinuses, about to be chronic, with said passages being swollen shut. This is the kind of news that makes depth freedivers panic – equalization, goodbye.

Will Winram and his wife Michelle came to stay at my house for the competition, and Will was pleased to hear that I would now be available to coach him. This job started the night before the comp, when he realized he left his wetsuit with Fred Buyle in Brussels. What were those two doing there, apart from eating chocolate and watching movies? We managed to fit him into my 5mm bottoms, but no way were his chest and shoulders going to get into my top. Some searching provided him with a mixed, but full suit, one minute before he had to enter the water for his warm up, which was possibly not the best way to prepare for static. Coaching him, it quickly became clear that his mind wasn’t really on the task at hand, and at three minutes he had enough, disqualified himself, and decided to continue preparation for his upcoming sharkdiving trip (freediving with great whites) with more chocolate.

Meanwhile, I had fun being a safety diver in one of the static competition zones for a change. This was interesting, as I got to see how differently static is approached by various divers. Me, I am still looking for help in this painful discipline. Did I say that? I meant to say: wonderful discipline. I love static. Honest. Love it.

The performance of the day were the dives of Danish man Jesper Stechmann. Jesper has been freediving for quite a while, but recently he has dropped a barrier and now there seems to be no limit in sight. Every time I see him, he does a personal best with enviable ease. After putting some 20sec on his static pb, he went on to do a dynamic of 211m. When he came up, he was still clean enough to wink at coach Elizabeth Kristofferson. I need to find out what his secret is. Special Joghurt? Danish Bananas? Please don’t let it be pooltraining.

It was kind of fun to be at a competition without competing, sort of like a holiday. Still, it was also a bit weird, and as soon as I was there I felt I should be getting ready for something. I am newly motivated now and have asked Martin Müller to buy a stopwatch for me, so static tables are coming up. Since I want to go to the indoor world championships in Aarhus this year, I guess I best start to make friends with chlorine soon. Suggestions for motivation are welcome. Tried chocolate after diving, is not good enough, I just end up eating the chocolate without the diving. Anything else? Anyone?

I promise to update on the training/life chaos situation soon. Thanks to all you guys who rode with me in Aspen, next time I’ll be up to four minutes, drunk in the bar at altitude. Now there’s a goal. Weren’t you supposed to set yourself training targets? We might be onto something here already.

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