Sunday, 31 May 2009

Hemmoor no fins comp - a laugh

I know I am a little late in reporting from Hemmoor. My excuse is that I am back to the chaotic travel lifestyle, and have been sidetracked by a myriad of things such as motorways and airports. Anyway, Hemmoor was wonderful. First of all Martin, Elisabeth and I arrived quite tired at 2am, having been bossed around all day by the demanding Planetopia TV crew (they were actually very nice), who were in Berlin to film me training in the pool and gym. I definetely owe a big dinner to Elisabeth, who ended up having to jump trough hoops all day without breakfast, just so she could be my coach and safety for telly. If ever she has a TV shoot, I promise to be at her disposal. We drew the line at filming human interest at around five, since we had not eaten, or packed, and I still had to drive us to Hemmoor, a mere four to five hour trip. Finally ready to set off, I turned up to pick up Martin and Elisabeth, only to find that Elisabeth had brought the entire library from her university and Martin had countless things that were all indispensable for our competition. Now I do have a nice car, but it does not magically turn itself into a truck when I snip my fingers! I think I packed and repacked the entire load three times, until we squashed in Elisabeth behind her monofin and books and got on our way.

In Hemmoor we had some changeable weather to begin with – blustery and cloudy, and fairly cold. Elisabeth and I got into the water on Thursday afternoon to check weighting and see if we could find a good rythm for swimming down and equalizing, or if the water (in your dreams) might be warm enough to go with just a noseclip. Rarely have I laughed so much in freediving. All I can say is that I am very glad that no one saw us – it was the most ridicoulous performance of my career so far. I know I mentioned in the last post how I was hoping that on the way up, I would not fall down anymore between strokes. Surprisingly, this did not prove to be an issue, largerly because I could not get down past ten meters in the first place. In fact, I had the reverse problem: I was bobbing back up between strokes, much in the manner of a cork. After wondering for a moment how she could help me, Elisabeth simply gave in to a fit of the giggles. There was not much else to say. I had my share of fun when she ended up with her legs sticking out of the water after the duck dive, waving her feet in the air helplessly, while trying to swim down. At this rate, it was not looking good for star performances only two days later, and I was not sure how I would get myself down to 35m and back up again without at least a week of training. As if to agree with our dire performance, the weather unleashed an almighty thunderstorm with floodlike rain and hail on us as soon as we got out of the water.

The next day I went back in with Elisabeth and Chris Ernest, ready and determined to do a deepish dive and do it well. 27m certainly felt deep, but unfortunately did not feel well, making me wonder if it would be ok to announce 35m, or if this would set me up for my first real problem in competition. A lot of deliberating over a barbecue cooked mostly by Chris and Elisabeth later, I did what I always do, and just announced the dive anyway. After some discussion with Elisabeth, I made a little pact with myself, that meant that if anything should go wrong during the dive, I would bail and pull up. Elisabeth’s ears had not been playing along so she was free to coach me, which was wonderful. First of all she made me eat a huge portion of porridge, which had me feeling like I was going to sink extra fast until 45min before the dive, when I just felt like I had energy. It did not help to calm the nerves, though, which were in overdrive, made worse by the arrival of the Planetopia TV crew, who were all excited to see record performances. As always, the nerves were gone the instant my face was underwater, so I swam down fine, turned, and got my lanyard caught after two strokes. I took a moment to free myself, but decided to stick with the pact and pull up, as I really was not sure how this dive woud go otherwise. In two years of freediving I have never been stuck – trust this to happen the one time you have a TV camera there! Fortunately, I had another chance the next day and made it easily enough, bothered only by contractions that started shortly after the duck dive and lasted all the way down and back up again. I was extremely pleased to see Daan (Verhoven) who was on safety duty, at what I thought was 20m – only he did not meet me at 20m, but at 25. I did wonder why I just wouldn’t start floating...aparently, he got bored, because I was soooo slow. „There is room for improvement“ are not quite the words he used, but he suggested something along those lines. Me, I am glad this is over, and I am more than ever determined not to do no fins again until I have had some tuition from someone who knows how to swim, like Will Winram. Help!!

The things I really enjoyed about Hemmoor are some of my favorites in freediving: the companionable atmosphere, and the great people. A thank you to Martin for organising this, and a big thank you especially to Daan, for being the knight in shining armour and rescuing me and Maria from the monster spider in our bedroom. Diving down to 80m does not scare us, but an insect big enough to have a face is enough to have us run shrieking from the room. Don’t ask me to explain.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Remember deep diving

Since I have been moaning about the pool for months now, I am glad to report that the first deep diving is coming up in eight days’ time. This year, I am starting the depth season not in the warm, blue waters of Egypt, but in Hemmoor. Hemmoor is a lake in the very north of Germany. Now “lake” and “north” do not normally describe my natural habitat, but I have been talked into going there by Martin, who is organising a small competition with only one choice: constant weight no fins. Those who have dived with me will now that no fins is not my best discipline. I am hoping that when I turn at 30+ meters, all the swimming I have done in the pool over the last few weeks will turn out to have had a positive effect and I will not fall back down between strokes anymore.

I am also hoping (good luck, says a diving friend of mine) that the weather will be sunny and hot, as I have a tendency to freeze in places that are called “lake” and “northern”. Granted that we will have a few days of early summer, I am actually looking forward to the weekend. It will be great to get in the water with other freedivers and see if my body can remember such things as a bloodshift. Hemmoor is an especially beautiful lake, with good visibility and lots of things to look at, such as a sunken forest, which is quite magical, with pike and carp hanging out between the trees as the sun filters in. There is a competitive element to the whole endeavour, too – Aida Germany still separates records set in the lake and in the sea, so although I have the record in constant weight no fins with 40m, in the sea, the record in the lake with 33m remains to be broken and will provide me with some motivation to do something other than sunbathe and swim around in mystical sunken forests. To make things more exciting, I have yet another TV crew in tow, who are doing a story for the science program “Planetopia”. As TV crews do, they are likely to expect me to break a record, and bingo! I have provided myself with pressure again. It will all be fun…pictures and videos to follow.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

113m! Relief is the word of the day.

I had a much better night this time, feeling content and pleased with myself over the fact that I swam 150m on one breath, sleeping happily and deeply until 6am, when I woke up to a brief "oh shit" moment. I managed to recover quickly though, and stayed pretty relaxed unitl I started my warm-up. A brief rush of nerves during the first dry static was supressed, and I felt confident and a lot happier than yesterday until about one minute to official top, when the stray thought of "...125m?" passed through my mind, which instantly got me back to the 200bpm heartrate. This is something I need to learn to avoid somehow, seconds before it's time to start a dive. Suggestions are welcome. I pushed off the wall thinking about not tensing my feet to prevent cramp - I have managed to get cramps in my feet in no fins before, which is not conducive to a good performance. Feeling nice and relaxed, I got to the end perfectly with four and a half strokes, quite pleased with myself.

All was well until the 50m turn, when a new sensation set in: terribly heavy arms and legs! This threw me a bit, since I had not experienced this in no fins, and certainly not half way through the dive. I briefly wondered if I was going to make it like this, and started telling myself that it was definitely ok to come up early, that one record was respectable enough after only six weeks of training. This kept me distracted till I touched the wall at 75m, and got spurred on by Matthias banging on the ladder, which made me realise that all I had to do was swim to the end and pop up! As it goes, once you get to the end, you think, ok, just the turn, then you think, ok, one more stroke, then one more, then I was thinking: arms and legs are feeling bad, who knows what this means, so lets be safe here and come up. This time I was samba-free, very clean, and very happy, with a new pb and new German record of 113m! I don't know why we do these things, I mostly did it because there were so many people watching, it would have been embarrassing to pop up at fifty. Well, and maybe a tiny bit because I am stubborn. Still, the relief when I realised that I wouldn't have to do any more of this was quite enormous, to say the least. Standing under the shower ten minutes later, it slowly dawned on me that the pool world championships in Aarhus are not that far away, and that to prevent being embarassed there, I would have to continue training pretty much right away, so rather than having this seemingly endless pool-training-free strech ahead of me, it is more in the vicinity of a couple of days. "Oh shit" springs to mind.

Here is video of the performance. We did film the 150m, too, or at least we tried, but Steffen had a bad day and alternated between filming the lane markers and the tiles on the bottom - don't ask. He did a great job today though, and since stylewise I made a bit of a mess of yesterday's dive, I am actually quite grateful to him for not having recorded my nasty turns. Check out today's slow, but clean, record dive here:

Now static remains for me to work on, which will most likely take a couple of years. Never mind, it's good to have something to look forward to. Thanks for all the crossed fingers, everyone!