Thursday, 2 July 2009
90m! A new German variable weight record at the MFM
Sorry, I have been offline for a while, too busy sunbathing, drinking orange juice and talking about freediving. Oh, and training a little, occasionally. We’ve had mixed days out here, with some pretty rough weather making things complicated, mostly for organiser Stavros who was faced with 32 athletes all wanting to train at 10am sharp. Meanwhile, I still got to go out early to do my sled dive, but felt the pressure with a line up of freedivers behind me foaming at the mouth, ready to go. As bossy boss Stavros had forced me to put the rope to 90m, and I always do what men tell me, I was headed down there when I got hit by a nasty cramp in my calf at around ten meters. My first idea was to stop and try again, but I realized that I would end up at the back of the grid, so I took my cramp all the way down to 87m, where messy equalisation finally stopped me. The next day all sled people got banished to the afternoon. I woke up tired, and kind of knew I should rest, but was so annoyed with having missed the target the day before, I couldn’t get myself to do it. I was sort of hoping the weather would turn bad and take matters out of my hands, but no such thing. Warm-ups were terrible and had me considering such options as a shallow dive, or, even better, bed, when I heard myself say: “90m” to Stavros. There are some lessons my brain just refuses to learn, as I quickly found out when I was distracted by a strange gurgling noise on the way down. It took me 35m to realize that my noseclip wasn’t on properly, and the bubbling sound was the air escaping with each equalization. Needless to say, there was not much left, and I stopped at 53m, fully aware that I should have stayed in my room, asleep, all morning. Having learned this lesson the hard way, I decided to take two days off, which left me free to coach people on the first competition day.
As I mentioned earlier, I have been hanging out with the Danish team. Now they used to always strike me as kind of quiet, but excellent divers, very focused on their training and all annoyingly good at dynamic. Saturday night taught me not to assume anything anymore. After dragging me off to a new restaurant where they proceeded to order two bottles of wine in quick succession, they made me drink the free Raki that came with the meal and then, to round off all the things you should not do in the middle of training, took me back via the Lotos bar. Here Jesper and Jakob ordered Mojitos, Maria a Cuba Libre, while I stuck to a beer. Rune was the only one who stayed sober, no idea what he must have been thinking about us lot. Things got worse when the waitress came over with some free shots, followed by another round, followed by some beers on the house. I crawled into bed at three thirty in the morning, and am still trying to work out how they managed to get me involved in this kind of shocking behaviour. One would have thought that I had learned to be wary of all Nordic people by now, but a suggestion by said Danish team to head for the beach on our rest day seemed like a good plan. Unbeknown to me, they had gathered information from fellow Dane Sofus, about a very beautiful, secluded beach that we should visit. After wading around some rocks, we found ourselves in a pristine cove, surrounded by picturesque cliffs, and – here we go – a whole load of naked people! Needless to say, we kept our bikinis and swimming trunks on, but Maria and I were treated to a charming display of the local wildlife strutting up and down in front of us suggestively when our good-for-nothing-men went off hunting for some caves instead of looking after us.
Come Monday, I was impressed with the overall Danish stamina when I went out to coach Christian to his first no fins competition dive with 50m, Maria to a great 65m and Jesper to 75. Jakob also did 75m, and you should have seen their smiles. We stayed out to watch the exciting dive of the day: Johan had gone all out to beat the 100m curse and announced 101m constant weight, a dive we were all sure he could do having seen him come up clean from 97 in training. Things turned out differently this time and he treated us to a good Viking show after returning to the surface – he took two breaths, kind of realized it wasn’t going his way, starting cursing, and blacked out. As soon as the safety divers picked him up, he came round and cursed some more! I saw Per Westin do something similar later on, so they seem to have some kind of Swedish-man-thing going there, I’ll find out some details if I can. After a days’ rest Johan went for it again, although he made the critical mistake of reducing from 101m to 100m, which he should have known would be bad luck since he was aware (I didn’t even know it myself, I swear, I just have “the room at the end”...) that 101 was my room number. Don’t ask how he knew, he just did, and it’s all innocent, in case you were wondering. Anyway, back to the mistake, a meter less didn’t help, and where he was too slow on the ascent on the first try, he was too slow on the descent the second time round, and the lights went out at 7m. Now we are waiting for the final try on Saturday, when, provided he announces 101, I am confident that he will make it.
In the middle of all this, Stavros has been up to his tricks from last year, showing us what a bunch of pussies we are, by managing an entire competition plus training for a bunch of annoying athletes, safety diving, filming, and quickly popping down to 111m in record time when there is a break , to set a new Greek record in variable weight. Here is a picture of him breathing up on the boat. I didn’t take that charming shot, you have to blame his safety divers.
Will Winram and Rob King both had a bad moment when they were glad to hear their alarm as they were freefalling towards the bottom, which apparently means that they are not far from the plate and can stop equalizing, only it didn’t mean this at all in this case, since it was some random alarm set on the official gauge. They both had to turn early, which should teach the officials to check gauges for alarms, and possibly teach athletes not to rely on such things. After a brief moment of “I quit”, Will has recovered his competitive spirit and announced 77m no fins for tomorrow, closely followed by Guillaume Nery who has been breezing down to depths such as 90m constant weight and is having a go at 75 no fins. Jesper and Jakob have been having some fun agreeing on the depth they will do and then announcing the same thing – yesterday the y both did fantastic 80m dives, easy as you like, and the smiles have been growing by the day. They look like a couple of ten-year old boys with a new toy, who are generally up to no good.
In the midst of all this, I had a go at 90m in a record attempt. This took place on Stavros’ new über-sled, which, since I am diving variable, was missing the tank and liftbag that normally creates a nice bit of drag, slowing the monster down somewhat. Add to this that unlike Stavros and Will, I cannot fit 9 litres of air into my lungs, (3.6, actually) and was wearing a 3mm suit, and you can see where this is going. Shortly after I released the break, I had already shot past photographer Fred Buyle and was out of sight before he could take a picture. I was going so fast, my noseclip was flying off, so I had to hold it on, which got me very distracted and before I knew it, I was well behind with equalization and stuck at 73m. Grrrrrrrrrr. I decided to go back to wearing the mask and give it one more training dive, which I had yesterday after the competition. This time, Stavros took some weight of the rocket sled, so I a bit more time to think on the way down. I still ran out of air for my ears, though, and, thinking I was somewhere around seventy, hit the brake. Back at the surface, I saw that I had been at 86, and could have pushed it to the bottom! This at least gave me the confidence to have another go today, early in the morning, especially since I realized that my mask was equalized at the bottom, instead of my ears. Mantra: pinch the nose, pinch the nose...
By now I was starting to get annoyed with missing my depth, so as the day progressed, I steadily got more nervous. Fortunately, I had the Danish team to distract me, who made me go back to the naked beach, and took me out to dinner in the evening. This had been part of a plan they made to thank me for lending Maria my wetsuit. I was presented with the following choice: one: drinks, two: dinner, or three: a massage by Jesper and Jakob. Hmmmmm. I was still considering my options when they took matters out of my hands by feeding me, making me drink some wine, and then taking me down to the moonlit beach, where we (and I would like to state clearly at this point that Rune and Maria were present at all times) sat on some blankets with a candle and takeaway peppermint tea, listening to the waves and some music from Jakob’s eclectic collection. Before I could protest, I was treated to the third option, with Jesper massaging my head and Jakob my feet. Once we overcame a fit of the giggles at the all around cheesiness of this situation, it actually turned into the most relaxing preparation for a record dive I have had so far. How could I possibly fail to go to 90m after so much tlc?
This morning I woke up at five, with the usual fit of nerves. This seems to be good for me, though, as it really gets me focused. There is no more messing around. Conditions were just beautiful, calm, no waves, fantastic visibility. I had Jesper with me to coach, and the other Danes for moral support and to take pictures. Just before I got onto the sled, I had a brief moment of nerves over the amount of people around just for me. All this vanished, as usual, in time for official top, and as I released the brake I was concentrating on my new mantra: do not put air in the mask. I was keeping my nose firmly pinched, while still going well fast. Somewhere around seventy I decided it was time to slow down, so I stuck my elbows out create a bit of drag, and was just running out air for the ears when I heard the 80m alarm and was at 90m seconds later, with a squeezing mask but room left for another five or six meters. The whole way up, I was grinning to myself, pleased as punch. I just saw the surface video: I come up, do the surface protocol in four seconds, then break into a huge smile and start laughing, then finally remember to take a breath. Oh well, who needs to breathe when they have made it to ninety meters!
Tomorrow I am having a day off, which leaves me free to coach five people. Exciting will be Jesper and Jakob again, who are sticking to their gentleman’s agreement and have both announced 85m. Maria is going for it big time with 70, as is young Rune with 63. I am hoping to see a load of white cards. Now, I am off to bed, to contemplate what to do on the last day of competition. As usual, I have the odd funky idea in my head, and will soon let you know which devil is winning.