Wednesday, 7 July 2010

More diving in Okinawa

After two days of weather-enforced rest the second constant weight competition day finally kicked off. It started badly for Guillaume, who went down happy as you like to do an easy (!) 102m dive, when he encountered a rope wrapped around the main line at ninety. Faced with this kind of problem at this kind of depth, most divers would have turned. He thought, oh well, I’ll just take the whole thing down to the plate with me, so he pushed the rope all the way to 98m, where it finally got properly stuck, so he went up. We are all very happy he did not get tangled down there. He then got offered to do the dive again at the end of the day, which is in the rules, of course, but may not be a very sensible thing to do considering such minor details as risk of DCS. In the end, all the team captains signed a petition to award Guillaume the full points for his dive, since we are all simply glad that he is unharmed and fully recognise that he would have done the dive easily. The decision went through, and the French team are now in third place, seven points behind team Denmark, who in turn are four points behind the Japanese.

My training buddy Elisabeth has been unlucky with an ear infection, so could not start, but was there to coach me and Martin. I felt quite bad, dizzy and light headed on the boat, but was instantly happy as soon as I did my duck dive. Until a cramp hit me at ten meters, that is. I still carried on swimming, trying to wiggle my foot at the same time, and even managed to take the first proper huge mouthfill of the season. Annoyingly, the cramp just got worse and worse, so at 40m I finally had enough and swam back up going au-au-au-au the whole way. There is only one thing I have to say about this: grrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Fortunately our Danish friends were there to distract me, taking Martin and myself on an outing to do some snorkelling around some cliffs and a cave. The spot was beautiful, with lots of little holes to swim through and even a fair amount of fish to look at, especially some very tame batfish, which I just love. There was also an amazing amount of beginner divers being carried around by their guides, which gave me flashes of memory from my previous life as a dive guide in Thailand. Let’s just say I was glad it wasn’t me. On the surface, we had what felt like thousands of snorkelers - Linda would have had a field day. Having said that, I noticed that the snorkelers here are exceedingly well behaved, all with lifejackets or giant pink inflatable rings to support them, and all in an orderly group, hanging on to each other and being pulled about by a commando guide at the front. The cave was beautiful, you could swim over 50m into it and then back out against the light, past schooling fish along the way. We played around for two hours, freaking out hapless scuba divers and filming each other. Lovely.

Next, it was back to static training. Spending the day in the hotel before it was time to go to the pool did not help, and I could feel myself getting grumpier and more miserable by the hour. Sure enough, what followed was a new personal worst, as Jesper calls it, in training. I quit at three minutes. Elisabeth spoke to me sternly and made me go again, so I quit at 3:15 the next time, feeling amazingly miserable. This meant that I had to have another session yesterday morning, of course, and after a lot of struggling I have finally made it past five minutes for the first time this year, so am feeling a little better about the static competition this afternoon.

We have had a bit of a spontaneous party, too, organized by team Denmark, who went out and bought some bottles of wine, invited anyone they came across, and went to climb off their balcony and onto the flat concrete roof that their room opens onto. Now this is hardly a glamorous place, but we stole the chairs and a couple of tables from the rooms around and ended up with about fifteen people, having a rather good time, extremely pleased with the fact that we could feel the breeze blowing on our faces. Doesn’t take a lot to make us happy. The highlight of the party came when Jakob shot up a couple of rockets and firecrackers he had bought earlier in the supermarket. We’re an easy enough bunch to please, really. Give us some wine from some toothbrush mugs, a firecracker, and some silly jokes, and all is well.

Now then. Must rest for static. Urgh.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Team world championships in Okinawa

Team Holiday germany - the photo was taken by Canadian team member Kevin

Having made my way across a couple of time zones, I climbed onto the hotel shuttle bus at Naha airport a week ago, feeling weird and spaced out. The hour drive did not present me with lush green tropical gardens, as I had hoped, but with a city that blends into city that borders onto a city. Continue in this fashion and you have it. Since the entire island got destroyed during the war, it seems that things have been built up again quickly and randomly afterwards, covering most of the available space in the south with buildings and paved things.

Still, I had high hopes for the “Tokio Dai-ichi Grand Mer Resort”. It turned out to be a concrete high rise. Rooms are spacious, though, and the staff friendly, so I thought I would be fine if I could just go and find the pool, have a swim and then sleep for a couple of hours under a sunshade. Book and towel in hand, I set off. I should have been suspicious when I was told that the pool was on the second floor. It is indoors. There is no beach nearby. On top of my jetlag, I instantly began to feel very claustrophobic.

So far, this has been relieved somewhat by the presence of my teammate Martin, Norwegian Elisabeth, the Danish team and my favourite Kiwi divers Guy and Kerian. It’s all ok when you have people to have fun with. Sure enough, I went out to train at the dynamic pool with the Danish crew, and did my first fifty meter swim in eight months. The result was predictable: it felt awful. The most worrying bit is having lactic legs before hitting the wall. Fortunately, I am on “team holiday Germany”, so I was about to quit and go home when Jakob and Jesper caught sight of me and simply made me do a proper(ish) dive. After the fifty meter turn, I could not swim in a straight line for some unknown reason, but decided to ignore this since oxygen felt fine, so I came up at 100m, actually feeling alright. Damn. Now I will have to think about pushing a bit after all.

It was a day for sorting out technical bits, so I asked Danish alternate Henning to help me check if my neckweight was right. He held me in place just where I would like to be neutral (turns out my weighting is perfect) and then popped up to say: listen, don’t get offended, I promise you what I am about to say is a good thing, honest, it does not mean you’re fat, it’s just, I meant to say – here goes – you have heavy legs. Why, thank you, Henning! This is the first time a guy has apologized to me before paying me a compliment. I guess it takes a diver to understand that a compliment is what it is. He says he got a very defensive, if not outraged, reaction when he said this to a girl before, hence the apology, in case I might get all upset with him. It was very entertaining, and quite charming.

My favorite Kiwi divers Guy and Kerian (background) waiting to dive, sheltering from the rain

Deep diving training itself is complicated by a few factors: one, it takes 45min to drive us athletes there in the hotel shuttle bus, two, the conditions are volatile to say the least. It appears that there are very strong tidal currents, so there is a small window in which things are ok, and then the lines and divers go flying sideways. I pulled down to do a hang for my warm-up, and started contractions after 28sec! Did I mention things don’t feel quite right? On the official training day we were greeted by a rainstorm with thunder and lightning and large waves. After helping the Danish team with countdowns and manning the counterballast, I managed to ignore the fact that I was having contractions on the way down and swam to 50m, not a happy dive, but one that was ok, in any case. A devil has made me announce 56m for the competition, which means I do have to concentrate more than I had planned. Team holiday? What? Where?

Most of us have been in the very warm hotel pool daily, doing statics. I am still just beyond 4min, with a big struggle, which is simply wrong, if you ask me. I have observed a couple of very funky sambas from athletes that shall remain nameless, but who are clearly struggling with the temperature. My favourites for the moment are team New Zealand and team Denmark. They all seem to be pretty together, training well and having a good time, too. The French team is the most professional looking, with Sony Ericson written all over there various bits of matching outfits. Problem there is, the spirit seems a bit low, because they made their final selection only a couple of days ago, so Christian got kicked out. We’ll see how they do, but they collected a yellow card for Morgan on the first constant weight day, which was yesterday. We have been split into two lots of divers, and as always, I have ended up with the day I did not want, namely day two. Getting restless with me are Jakob and Rune, Jesper and Kerian got lucky and have collected their white cards for a 90m and an 88m dive.
The rest of us decided to leave the hotel and make our way downtown for a bit of sightseeing, led by Martin, who is turning out to be even more useful than normally, because he speaks Japanese. It was good to be out and about, but also turned out to be rather hot, so we felt cooked after about twenty minutes. We were contemplating whether it would be rude to go for a swim in the wishing well, but decided against it and went in search for a taxi and a beach instead. This is where we were taken:

I promise I have never seen anything like it. A beach under
neath a motorway bridge. It was only topped by an experience the Danish team had earlier in the week: they arrived on a beach, hot and sweaty, looking forward to a dip, to find that there was no water! The tide was out. All the way out. Apparently, the lifeguards were still on duty, though.

Our constant weight competition day was cancelled due very strong winds. I am now back in restless claustrophobia mode, and really wish I could have done my dive yesterday. Going to do another static. It is WRONG.