Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Guide to worldchampionships

Take a look at this very nice video the guys from Aarhus made about the worlds. It shows the facilities, the divers, the competition. Right at the end, the girl nearly leaping straight out of the pool during the static competition, that is me, having just been told by Giota that I did 6:12...:-)

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Record, then party

Yesterday we had the pleasure to sleep in, since the dynamic finals were not until four in the afternoon. Having woken up early anyway, I came across Japanese freediver Hanaka wandering around aimlessly on the way to the supermarket – she was in the B-final with me, and couldn’t sit still anymore, either. To give my head something to focus on other than yet another official top, I went over to the pool to watch the end of the CMAS competition. They have been running their world championships alongside ours, which has been very interesting. I arrived in time to see Stig, who has not trained for two years (information confirmed by fellow Aarhus freedivers), do a 238m dive, followed by the surface protocol in less than five seconds. I wonder what he eats for breakfast. He got disqualified, though, because he forgot to drop the little marker CMAS use to check the distance achieved.

As the B-final was approaching, I was feeling less and less like diving, and more and more like having a party. Danish Maria was in a similar state. We both just wanted to have beer, without the diving. We spent the last half hour psyching each other up: Just two more minutes. Then beer. Have to beat x by at least ten meters. Then beer. Or: beer at two minutes to official top? This passed the time until Johan arrived to coach me, and took care to calm down my nerves just the right amount. As soon as I was swimming, I felt good, and even though the noseclip came off again, I swam 164m, beating my record from the day before by ten meters. Even surfacing to see judge Linda, again, with the piss-off card, didn’t bother me anymore. I was at the party.

There was just one small detail to take care of: coaching my training buddy Elisabeth in the A-final. She just swam and swam, towards the end mostly with her arms. Then she came up totally clean at more than 180m, which was amazing and got her into fourth place over all. The atmosphere during the finals was fantastic, everyone cheering and shouting as the eight divers were heading towards the medals. Now that it is all over, I can honestly say that as much as I did not like freediving in the pool, I have enjoyed these world championships enormously. We had some more suffering to go through at a slightly endless awards ceremony, with flags rising to the ceiling while hymns were being played. Since Natalia won three gold medals, we heard the Russian one three times, and it is loooooong! All very moving, but torture for a bunch of freedivers who had not eaten anything since breakfast. This we need to work on next time. Just throw us the medals, then give us food, then beer. This did fortunately follow eventually, and we spent the rest of the night dancing around in gym hall much in the fashion of a school disco, which was kind of cool. In the end, the security guard kicked us out.

A lack of Raki at the party means that I am feeling fine this morning, and will go off in search of the beach in a second. I heard that the sea is around here, somewhere.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Two new records in one day. What? How? What happened?

It has been a strange day. Linda would be pleased to hear that I am lost for words, which must mean that her “cut down on talking time” program is working, as was kind of proven this morning in static. Johan arrived to coach and spotted me right away sitting on my towel in a far corner of the pool. “You look terrified” were his exact words, which summed up the situation pretty accurately. I guess I was tired of being stressed, so when it was time to hold my breath, I relinquished all responsibility to Johan and simply trusted him to take good care of me. This meant that I was ready to just listen to whatever he said, so I relaxed again at around five minutes instead of fighting the dive. Somehow I heard him say something about six minutes, and he got me up at the perfect time with a pb, a ninth place over all, and a new German record (old one was 6:07) of 6:12.

This used to be the one I thought was unbeatable. All it took were two great coaches! Thank you so much, Jesper and Johan. I am definitely blaming this one you guys.

Done with static, Elisabeth and I went out in search for food, where we ate as much pasta as we could possibly fit in, hoping to get energy for the dynamic qualifying some seven hours later. Elisabeth was up first, and proved that our training had been working by going all out to do very clean dive of more than 170m. She was back in time to help calm down my nerves, and when I pushed off the wall I felt strong and ready for a good performance. I was just swimming along happily when (don’t ask me how) my googles and my noseclip came off at the 100m turn and were dangling around my neck. It took me a second to work out why there was water up my nose and I could not see anything. Then I thought, oh no, I have to come up early, then I thought, no way, I am swimming to the end. The interesting bit was turning at 150m not being able to see the wall, and although I still felt good I decided to be safe and came up with a new German record of 154m.

This has put me into the B-final. I am planning to keep my goggles on and see what that will feel like. Whish me luck!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Murphy’s law

When we arrived at the pool this morning we were faced with some shocking news. Here we were, thinking that we were in Denmark, a lovely place with a kind and welcoming population throughout. Turns out was is not quite true, after all, and we had somehow been transported to a far rougher climate, where people break into places and steel 50 000 Euros worth of equipment over night. All the cameras were gone, the big TV screens where results were posted, every computer in the place, everything. What amazed all of the competitors was the level of calm kept by the organizers in this situation, and the competition got under way with only one hour delay, so no good excuse material there, really.

Now I know how I have been going on and on about how I don’t like static. Although I have been busy convincing myself that I feel the love, this is still not quite the case. My cunning plan (my friend Roland might have called it wishful thinking) was to make it to the final in dynamic no fins, thus to have a perfectly good reason to ditch the static, thus getting out of doing any nasty statics during this event. As things go, it all turned out differently, and I ended up holding my breath for 5:40 this morning, much helped by Jesper, who calmed down the rushes of nerves that were hitting me while I was having my contractions. I had asked him to also protect me from judge Linda, who, as Murphy’s law would have it, actually ended up in my lane this time. She is wearing a card around her neck that says “piss off” on it, which she shows to the athlete when she simply cannot find any reason to give him a red card. This I can live with.

Next, I went on to coach my training buddy Elisabeth, who has had her brother on her heels with 5:19, so my mission was to make sure that she would beat him. This was easily accomplished, so I was telling her that she should beat me, next, and she went on to do 6:02, thus pushing me out of the A final into the B final. Oh well. Bad news is, I will have to do static again, tomorrow morning. Oh no!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A new experience

Here is a photo of Daan, who is on safety duty, and me. I have been busy over the last couple of days making sure I was good friends with any safety diver I came across, which turned out to have been more important than I bargained for at around 17:23.

I woke up with a case of nerves so bad that I found it hard to actually eat breakfast and had to force down every bit of porridge. I spent the whole morning going round saying “I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous” to random people, from whom I got varying degrees of sympathy, probably depending on how busy they were being nervous themselves. It was very nice to come across former (trying to get him to un-retire, but no luck so far) top freediver Peter Peterson, who gave me some good advice, although it didn’t help in the end, since as any other stupid athlete (believe me, there a lot of us, just ask judge Linda) I decided not to take it. As I was breathing up for my dive, I started to feel better, though, and as soon as I pushed off the wall the dive was running as smooth as you like. It all felt just as it did two weeks ago, when I did a nice and clean 127m in training. I was kind of aiming for something along those lines, especially since it was looking like 125m was possibly going to get me into the A final. Well. Which self respecting (and blond) athlete would not go for it under those circumstances. Not many, as the many black outs and LMC’s today prove.

Anyway, so there I was, thinking I am still nice and strong when I came up to do the 100m turn. A few meters later, I started feeling a bit odd, but decided (blond) that I was just imagining this and everything just had to be fine. At 115m I changed my mind and came up – about five meters too late. Apparently I reached the surface, took a look and put my face back in the water. It seems that I can’t even blame that one on coach Jesper - I made a crucial mistake by not having a copout ready before the dive. If Linda had been judging me I could have blamed her, since she has been stressing me out by threatening me with red cards, but I had Panagiota, who is one of my favourite judges ever, and was genuinely upset to have to show me anything but a white card.

The positive side to all this is, since I am now not in any final, I will have tomorrow evening off, and don’t have to do this whole no fins thing again. The bad part is that now I have to do a really good static. If anything goes wrong with that, it will definitely be Jesper’s fault, who has been kind enough to offer to coach me and take the blame. Unless I have Linda as my judge, that is, in which case it will all be down to her.

Good. Now I can go to sleep calmly, having all my excuses well prepared and in place, ready to be used as required.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Training at my first pool worldchampionship

It is time to put all the training I did in chlorinated water to good use, and to make all the beers I did not drink work for me. Martin and I drove to Aarhus on Friday, with a car miraculously filled up to the top with random items. Saturday we went straight to the pool, and I got my first taste of a 50m lane in about two years. It’s a bit odd, like it just seems to go on and on forever, but fortunately for me the middle is marked, so I can work my small blond brain halfway, then to the end, then halfway, and so on. All seems to be well, except my monofin technique, which athletes watching from across the pool could spot as still requiring some work. I’m on it.

Sunday morning we did some static, my favourite. Amazingly, instead of reverse training this (i.e. getting worse by the day) as I usually do, it has actually been improving and I have been consistently over five minutes, which is a nice surprise. Even better, it seems that I have finally found out what the problem with my static has been all along: According to Linda (who is here to judge) what makes me come up is not the urge to breathe, but the urge to talk! So I have been training all these nasty CO2 tables, wondering why nothing was ever getting any better, and it was all a total waste of time. I am very grateful to Linda for finally solving this mystery for me. She (together with Lotta) was my freediving instructor at the very beginning, so she is really the reason why I am here at all, doing horrible statics. She is still the best at spotting anyone’s problems and recently helped me realize that I am a muppet and need to pretend to have a mask on my face in order to equalize with a nose clip, but that is another story. Back to static: it seems that all I need to do is figure out a way to have convincing conversations in my head, thus overcoming the urge to come up to talk to people, thus getting over 6:07 to break the German record. Simple.

The German team of Ilka, Barbara, me, Ulli, and Martin (Legat) has been joined by a new member: Sergio Martinez-Alvarez , who has brought along his lovely wife Olga. She is busy doing safety for all of us, plus a few other athletes, such as Carlos Coste and the rest of the Venezuelan team. Sergio is a bit excited at the moment because there are so many fancy freedivers around everywhere. Unfortunately he will soon realize that we are all no more fancy than he is, and then he will not be impressed anymore by anything I tell him. At the moment, he is still listening to me, so I have had a little talk with him and told him to let go of the brake (advice Stig once gave to Jesper, and look what happened), so he did a pb in static by almost forty seconds right away. I am sure he will have a great competition, and most of all, a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, I have been training with Elisabeth, who has been doing some very nice statics, too. We decided that I would coach her in the competition, since I know exactly how to lie to her convincingly. I still need to figure out who is going to tell me that I am at four minutes when in fact I have gone past five, and will be hunting around for a coach at the athlete’s meeting later on. Performance announcements for dynamic no fins have to be made in a couple of hours. I am going to spend some time on my bed now, figuring out what to put down and quietly getting nervous. I think I will go for 105m, thus forcing myself to turn at hundred.

By the way, I forgot to mention that Linda is of course the best looking judge around, by a long way.

Oh shit. Nervous already.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Turning into a poolrat

Seriously. I think I am growing green hair, produced entirely out of Chlorine. Since I returned from Greece, I have been a very good freediver and followed a well prepared, regular training plan. The only thing wrong with it, to my mind, is the lack of open water. The reason behind it was the brief panic that seized me when I came home and realized there were only five weeks left till the pool world championships in Denmark. Fortunately, Elisabeth Kristoffersen was in Berlin for a whole month, staying with Martin, and ready to get going. We discussed said training plan over dinner, and ended up with the following: Monday rest, Tuesday dynamic, Wednesday static and dynamic no fins, Thursday dynamic, Friday rest, Saturday no fins, Sunday morning static, Sunday evening the evil interval training spinning class, with breath holds on the bike.

Thinking that I was well trained and adapted after all, and expecting to be pretty much where I left off after my record attempt, I hit the pool with Elisabeth for our first session. It was a shock. It appears that deep diving broke my pool diving. My body didn’t remember a thing. Swimming with the fin felt awful, being in the pool felt awful, holding my breath felt awful, doing a decent turn was impossible. Five weeks seemed like a very short time. The week did not improve, in fact the low point was yet to come when I came up at barely four minutes in the first static session, having started contractions at around two minutes. I blame it on Jesper. While I was floating there, trying to drift off and relax, I was suddenly thinking about his advice for static: that you have to love the horrible feeling and welcome the fight. Merely thinking about the horrible feeling obviously ended any ideas of relaxation for me. At least things were not much better for Elisabeth either, so we had the comfort of moaning together afterwards in the showers, which is the real reason why Martin has to wait so long for us girls to be ready.

My initial plan had been to start off with a max in each discipline, but considering my disastrous performances, I decided to leave it be and focus on doing several long, but sub-max dives, trying to recover a shred of technique. In DNF I was sometimes using 3.5 strokes, sometimes four, sometimes 4.5, sometimes five! It was chaos, to say the least. As we got into the second week, both Elisabeth and I decided that the time for messing around was now over and we would focus properly. To do this, we got into the habit of telling each other what our minimum dive was going to be that day. This seems to work very well, at least for me. As soon as I have announced to someone that I am going to do, say two times 100m, I then feel embarrassed enough not to quit. I surprised Martin, who was on safety duty, when we went to train no fins one day: I had told Elisabeth in the changing room that the target was to turn at 75m. Martin was expecting me to do a shortish warm-up dive, but when I was swimming along, I just wanted it all to be over so badly, I went to 84m straight away. This was interesting in some way, as I realized that I could do a fairly long dive without warm-up.

Having got our heads back together, training progressed a lot better into the third week, with some tough cycling on Sunday evenings thrown in – lots of contractions included. The guys in the spinning class are used to us by know, and ignore us when we shout “five, four, three, two, one...!” at each other. Both of us have found that we get extremely lactic on the bike, but it has been getting better every session, so we hope it is good for something. It has to be. Right?

In the pool I was focusing on doing longer and longer dives with no warm up. I am finding that this is building my confidence very much: if I can do 100m no fins after swimming, with no count down or proper breathe-up (and a pb of 113m), it seems to me that more must be possible with good preparation. Meanwhile, Elisabeth was working on her main problem: she lets herself quit sometimes. I think she has definitely fixed this, and did some beautiful dynamics, very much ready for more in Aarhus. It was her final week here last week, and I had planned to go for maxes in DYN and DNF. We took proper rest and set out to do the dives on Tuesday. Waking up in the morning, I had one feeling: I don’t want to go. This was a lot worse than usual, and when we arrived at the pool, I decided not to dive for the first time. It felt strange. I was feeling physically weak, and neither physically or mentally ready to do anything. The plan was to rest for a day and try again on Thursday. Thursday morning came along, I pushed off the wall and immediately felt stressed and tense. Without even realizing it, I was swimming faster than usual, which probably didn’t help matters, as I got lactic legs at 50m and quit at 90m. This was a new and depressing experience for me: so far, I had never quit before reaching the minimum goal I had set myself, no matter how hard it was. This time, though, there was no way I was going to go to 125m and turn. I guess sometimes it is important to know when not to push it, bad as it may feel.

Things have been going surprisingly well in static, of all things. This is mostly due to Martin, who took a new approach to coaching one day and simply tricked me to a pb of 5:27, making me realize that I could fight for over three minutes in the process. Frustrated by my dynamic disaster, I went on to do another pb of 5:41, which pushed Elisabeth to do 5:47, the longest static she has done in a long time. After all, she had to beat me, which just shows that it is great to have a muppet on your heels, chasing you. After some rest over the weekend, I have beaten the dynamic devil and feel that I am back on track. A last max in DNF tomorrow, plus a bit of static training, and I am ready for Aarhus.

I hope.