Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Winter training

Winter was approaching fast, and with visions of endless paper bags to stamp and gifts to wrap during the Christmas-Bookshop-Madness, I escaped for a last dose of freediving in November. Three weeks! I even had a terribly clever plan: I was going to be on a freediving HOLIDAY! No records, no stress, just enjoying the blue, as my angel coach Marco would say.

Well. On day two, I woke up at FIVE in the morning, to be in the water at six! The sunrise at the center is spectacular, and the water was still warm, so I kind of enjoyed this, thinking: brilliant, training will be done by 8am, then: holiday.  Somehow, though, evil coach was not in tune with my plans - getting up at five simply meant more training could be fit into the day.

To make things even more efficient, evil coach had me train tandem with his new pet project, Max Musella, an Italian Apnea Academy Instructor, who is naturally also charming and handsome (see above) and did his best to look after me on all our dives, since I made him be the driver - having quickly discovered the beauty of this set up: evil coach had someone else to tell off! Sometimes, it was not me who hit the break, so I was then able to pretend that everything on my dive had been just perfect, leaving Max to face the music. Wonderful! The diving was excellent, and very good training – on one occasion, I even focused and reached 80m head down, mask equalized, no packing, still with some air left to equalize deeper. Success!

Since there have been lots of discussions about no limits diving and it appears likely that Aida Germany will follow the Aida International trend and not accept no limits records any more, I partially came out of the holiday zone on the last day and set a German no limits record with 110m. It took me three training dives to reach that depth properly, meaning my coach was underwhelmed and finally had a bit of a talk with me – along the lines of: get your brain out of vacation – and I arrived at 110m with air to spare, which was rather fun. Here's little video:

Now I have bags to stamp and customers to scare off. I have firm plans to avoid getting fat and unfit over Christmas, which will come to nothing, as every year, so I’ll have some explaining to do when I get back to my coach at the end of January. Suggestions for good excuses are welcome!

Hmmm...I am forced to exist on a diet of chocolate and coffee during the Christmas season because – because - it’s the only food they sell near the bookshop in December.



Tuesday, 9 October 2012

TV star! Hurrah!

First things first: my mum is much better, she came out of the clinic a few days ago and is already tidying up the rubbish from the street outside the bookshop if I turn my back on her for a second, so thanks everyone for all the good wishes!

In the meantime, I have been terribly well behaved and spent endless hours in the bookshop, trying not to scare away too many of the customers. I was just about to forget that I am a freediver, when I got an invitation to come onto "Sport and Talk from Hangar 7" a talkshow on Austrian TV channel Servus TV. The guy in charge is clearly a man who knows how to sweet-talk a potential visitor - after enticing me with the promise of funky fellow guests such as extreme climber Thomas Huber and old school adventurer RĂ¼diger Nehberg, he delivered the final blow with outrageous flattery! Having been complimented on my looks, cleverness and, not to forget, heaps of charm, I couldn't help believing the hype and agreed to provide the female element in a chat about extreme sports with a bunch of alpha males.

I was instantly struck by a new problem: TV outfit anxiety! What on earth does one wear to such a thing? Sporty yet smart? Sporty yet sexy? Full on outrageous glamour? A great excuse to spend hours on London's Kings Road, where I was quite distracted by the current trend for extremely high heeled shoes, meaning that the TV outfit project fell by the wayside - and no, those shoes are not appropriate sports talk attire - and I ended up forced to dig through my wardrobe instead. Boring, I know.

Arriving at hangar seven in the evening, I realized that I was in man-heaven! This is lost on the likes of me, but the place is full of every driveable or flyable man-toy on the planet, including formula one cars, helicopters and aeroplanes! I'm surprised any of the male guests were at all able to concentrate. The crew were in good spirits, with a down to earth approach to the guests/stories - I had the first ever stylist who did not try to give me some sort of bizarre TV hairdo, which was refreshing to say the least. The last time a crazed Cruella-Deville-type (in her sixties) make-up artist produced random ringlets sticking out in a weird manner from my head, and for the first time in my (very minor and limited) TV career I let out the diva and promptly went on sporting a pony tail, which I have adopted as my TV-hairdo-avoidance-strategy for the future. This time, I was allowed to look like myself though, which was a pleasure!

I have no idea what I did/said in the show, only that I got out of the proposed breath-hold competition between myself and some hapless members of the audience by forgetting to bring along my noseclips. Since I most likely would have performed an embarassing static of 27seconds, this turned out to be a good thing and I have been able to keep up the appearance of being vaguely talented at freediving. Phew!

Drinks afterwards lasted until 2am, my alarm went off at 04:50, and I arrived back in Berlin in a daze. Having unpacked my suitcase, I have now realized that I have not the smallest idea where the noseclips may be. I did put them in a bag, ready to be used on telly, and then...well....


They are gone. I guess it means I can't go pool training! Hurrah!

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Having rushed back to Berlin from Sharm, I found my mum in intensive care, which was not fun at all. Any freediving was instantly out of the question, and the world record attempt in variable weight I had announced for the beginning of October is suddenly a long way off.  Although my mum is getting much better, it will take her time to be fully recovered and traveling far away does not feel like a good idea over the next few months, meaning I have bailed out of Vertical Blue, too – seems like I am simply not meant to make it to the Bahamas!

While my mum is having fun exercising in the clinic all day every day, I am twiddling my thumbs and feeling restless. What to do with all that focused world-record-energy? I was so desperate to fill the void, I started to go pool training - imagine! Me! In the pool! Coach Martin, who kicked me into shape for the 2009 indoor world championships, is laid up with a bad back, so coach and training partner Elisabeth had to step in to help out. She was always the sweet one, and she still is, only she said to me the other day, when I was feeling especially awful and unmotivated: “I had a nasty CO2 table planned for you, but I would accept a long dynamic instead – that might be less painful over all…”  Lovely! I was thinking more along the lines of: let’s quit this nonsense, and have some coffee!

With no daily regime of breathing, stretching and training to keep me in check, there was nothing to stop me from going out to have my nails painted in the brightest pink available, which had my male friends recoil with horror, claiming I had blinded them, and my female friends shrieking with delight, which just goes to prove that most of the time a girl dresses for the other girls – sorry, boys!
None of this quite serves to get my restless mind off the fact that freediving seems far away. It’s hard to just drop something you have focused on so long. Sniff.
Then again, I believe it may be snowboarding season soon - which means I get to drink lots of beer! Hurrah!

Friday, 17 August 2012

World record: who cares

Having grumpily spent three days without putting my head underwater, I returned to the doctor only to be told that I was still not allowed to leave the surface. My confinement lasted eigth days in total, and did not put me in a good mood, to say the least. I got myself some blisters from swimming in the pool with long fins for hours, but this did not stop me from feeling like a tourist on a VERY boring holiday. At least I got a good tan!

I was finally back in the water on Tuesday. With no more time to waste I did a 60m and 65m dive, and was ready to rest and then go for 70m tomorrow, feeling almost back on track, when I got a phone call from Germany last night: someone has gone and hit my lovely mum with a car, so she is in hospital with bones broken and not at all well. Fortunately, the Egypt Air office is open until late at night, so I got myself onto the first flight out of Sharm and am currently at the airport, waiting imaptiently to connect to Berlin.

Meanwhile, all thoughts of world records have gone straight out of my head. Who cares about such things? The sea in Sharm was beautiful, and it will be there next time.

World records will wait, mothers in hospital: no way.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Ear problems? Why? Why?

I spent a good part of July fending off colds from various attackers such as bookshop customers, and much in the spirit of the Olymics, I beat them all, feeling mightily pleased with myself. A bit of occasional sneezing has never been a problem when diving, after all! Yet another flight got me away from the flu infested climates, to find summer in Egypt, where - bad news - I have been swimming instead of diving the last few days.

I felt quite nice in the water intially - the sea was blue and turtles were around at Only One, and I was getting acclimatized quickly. Until, that is, one ear suddenly blocked in around eight meters as I was pulling slowly down to a warm up. Stopping to clear it gently, I was surprised at squeaking and gurgling sounds inside, but since everything was as normal afterwards, I did not think much of it and continued with the planned session of 5x40m constant weight. A few hours later, pain and a feeling of fullness in the ear announced the problem to come. Being an optimist and a typical athlete, I guess, I decided a bit of rest would cure it. A day later, just as I was convincing myself that all was fine, evil coach forced me to go to the doctor, who took one look and pronounced the verdict: barotrauma. Out of the water for at least three days.

I knew I did not want to go the doctor, I knew it, I knew it!

At least my Danish friends are here, having a small competition, distracting me from my grumpiness. Jesper went and did a 100m dive, with current, and in a ridiculously short divetime. And all that after only a week of training! It proves once again that training for freediving is totally overrated. He is the first Danish man to reach the 100m mark, and well deserved it is, too - the guys are looking strong and are ready to defend their title at the team world championships in Nice.

Since the doctor forbid me to even put my head 20cm under water, I have been busy swimming in the pool and working on my tan. If you can't dive deep, you have to at least look good, after all.

I want to go diving I want to go diving I WANT to go DIVING! Sniff.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Temperature shock

Having started this months’ training quite well, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. A feeling that did not last, as progress ground to a halt in week three. In one of our sessions I created such a mess that evil coach switched on his bossy self and told me to go stand in the corner for an hour, facing the wall and contemplating my deeds. Not for the first time, I was considering alternative sports, the current favorite being ping pong.

The good thing about my coaches is, they sometimes know me better than I know myself, which is their job, I suppose. They took me off the variable sled and let me play with no limits, and – hurrah! – all was well in an instant, ending in a beautiful dive checking out the reef in 103m. Hope has returned!

Feeling motivated and on a roll, it was time to go home. I spent an entire night in my own bed, before packing my ski underwear, woolly hat, rain coat, down jacket, fur boots and various other items normally associated with snowboarding season and heading to the Apnoe Happening in Hemmoor, a beautiful lake in the north of Germany. This event is organized by Curt and Sharanne every two years, and it sold out in three hours! Crazy northern freedivers, all of you.

In a moment of outdoorsiness, I had decided to take my chances with the German summer and opted for camping. Considering I was in 42°C the day before, and I arrived to less than 10°C to sleep on the ground, in a TENT, I felt quite brave. Then I ripped my 5mm pants putting on my wetsuit in the morning and ended up diving to 32m – which is well below the thermocline, I might add – in my 3mm bottoms! After that, I went from feeling brave to feeling badass. Later I was on to give a talk about motivation and training surrounding a world record attempt, as well as what it means to fail. As always, I was surprised by the turn out, especially since there was yoga, meditation, breathing and deep diving as well as Stig Severinsen with Breatheology on offer. Fact is, a curiously interested audience had the presentation tent bursting at the seams – thanks everyone, it was fun to share my ideas with such an appreciative crowd – you’re all mad! Go do something important like Yoga next time!

Here is a weekend detail some of you athletes might appreciate: when I am in full on I-am-a-serious-freediver-training-properly- mode, I have a diet that looks like this:

After diving in a pair of 3mm pants (which are leaking from an unfixable hole left from the dolphin-pedalo-attack at the worlds in Kalamata) in 6°C, I swiftly switched to an entirely different kind of food group:

I wonder what bossy coach will say…

I’ll be good from now on, I will, I will! Promise!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Clean water, clean oceans

Last October I had the good fortune to be invited to the watermen event at Six Senses Lamuu, Maldives, where I came across a bunch of windsurfers from Hawaii, who, apart from spending their lives surfing waves as big as houses - they are all nuts, they are - got together to see what they could do to protect the environment they love. The result of this is positiveH2O, an organisation promoting clean water and awareness of the challenges our oceans face.

As it happens, I returned from a stunning dive to 90m the other day, having taken a look around at the dark blue down there, and picked up a plastic bag on the way back to shore, only to find an invitation to join the +H2O team riders. Needless to say, I'm thrilled - this is an organization with almost no overhead, run by people who spend their lives around water. Although our sports are very different (mine is harmless compared to theirs), we found that we just fit well together in our passion for what we do and the oceans around us.

I'm pleased as anything to join them. I believe this may just be the excellent excuse I needed to visit Hawaii! Check out their website at

Can't wait to see those crazy waves. I'll be watching them with my feet planted safely on the beach!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Dolphins, Russians, World Records

There have been sightings of an incredible ocean species here in Sarm El Sheikh: the mother and son team made up of Natalia and Alexey Molchanov. They were here for world records attempts in variable weight and constant weight, and it has been fun as well as impressive to watch them dive. Let's just say it is ridiculously easy for both of them! Must be something in the Russian breakfast.

When it was time for her to take a day off after training deep for five days straight, Natalia came into the center in the morning and explained to the guys that she wanted to get in the water and do repetitions to 60m in constant weight. On the rest day. When this plan met with some gentle resistance from evil coach and angel coach, she shouted: "Rest! Rest! I tired of rest always! I loosing all my muscles!" and in the water she went. Astonishing. Her son in the meantime has a more modern training concept and took a couple of days off here and there, which he spent reading through an entire volume of "a game of thrones" in two days. I can relate to that!

I had fun in the water and was feeling pretty good, with a 60m constant weight dive at the end of week one and the first couple variable weight sessions to 80 and 90m - it was wonderful to be back on my rocket sled. The water is beautiful at them moment and one day we were out there messing about when a pod of around fifteen dolphins passed by! They turned around and came to play with us and the ropes around our plattforms, rubbing their bellies on the lines and - very interesting - biting into the moorings. This had Marco threatening to poke them with a stick next time, since it may well explain the mystery of mooring lines broken and cut when we have flat seas - little devils!

It was time for the world record attempts on Wednesday, a logistical challenge to say the least - we had half an hour to switch plattforms and set up between the dives, since there was a safety tech diver on trimix in 60m who would not have appreciated an extended bottom time. I was officially on counterballast duty but ended up as general plattform slave, mostly pulling the ropes with the guys - we had to set them and pull them up to and from 125m and more four times - tired arms for everyone around! Both dives went well and judge Ute and judge Robert the King were able to hand out white cards all around. I'm not sure how many world records Natalia has broken in her time - she probably doesn't know herself - and now Alexey is joining the family tradition. Congratulations to both of them, it's a pleasure to watch them dive!

Me, I have long way to go. Evil coach will most likely cancel all my days off, which means I have to go drink coffee. Immediately.

Am considering new sports. Ping Pong? Bowling? Curling? Darts? Suggestions are welcome. As long as they allow rest days!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


I had five weeks back home! It felt like ages. The days streched out before me, and I was certain there was no need to be in a rush about window cleaning, hoovering, washing, ordering books, training or painting the floor. Instead, it was important to drink coffee, let my god daughter eat my dive watch, and pretend to be a grown up, elegant woman (well...see below) at a wedding (coach Martin got married to my training buddy Elisabeth!).

My plenty-of-time-delusion came to an abrupt end when I counted the weekends and found that I had ONE weekened at home before going off to Egypt again. Everything else was fully booked by a barrage of people demanding freediving workshops. With me. Why? Why? You're all crazy, you are.

In any case, the first round took me to Siegburg, where we had an entire day of all things to do with holding your breath, beautifully organized by Doris, followed by a one day workshop I got talked into giving for a group of seven. They were so perfectly matched and so enclined to have a great time, no matter what I did, they ended up founding the "Freedive Group NRW" on Facebook to train regularily together - if you're from the area, do join them, they are safe - promise!

This was followed by a freediving roadtrip which took me from Berlin to Munich to Basel to Munich to Wendelstein and back to Berlin in three days - 2500 kilometers! All to tell a bunch of people in Munich to hold their breath (see above), and to convince some Swiss SSI professionals that freediving has a future in their divecenters. I think most of them are hooked, so watch out for freedivers training in a pool near you and freediving courses available in your dive center - it's not my fault! They made me do it!

Bags are packed, flight is leaving early in the morning. Time to be serious and get back in the water with my (bestest ever, most handsome, most favorite...) evil coach.

Oh dear. I wonder if doing last minute dry statics will help?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Egypt: home of the weird and wonderful

Being finally ready to dive deep, I managed to do one whole 60m constant weight dive before my old friend Mr. Murphy came to visit, who delivered, how could it be any different, a nasty cold/flu to me over night, knocking me out with fever, headache, throat ache, ear ache and any other ache imaginable. After four days locked up in the apartment I had read three books, watched an entire season of "the mentalist" and was going slowly crazy.

Since I have no diving incidents to report from and thinking about the lack of training just makes me depressed, I would love to share this months' Egyptian experience, which never fails to include all manner of weird and wonderful incidents. First of all, it rained four times in one month, and not just the standard few drops that fall from an otherwise blue sky - this downpour came from gloomy darkness (see above) and had me hiding under my yoga mat!

A day later I was by the pool, streching in the shade, when an almighty bang followed by a shockwave had the tourists running about crying and Marco unsure as to what to tell his students who were trying to relax for their first ever static. I saw a massive plume of dust shoot up from one of the roofs and some pieces of hotel flying off somewhere. Closer investiagtion showed that one of the boilers on top of the rooms had exploded, shot down and hit the grass twenty meters away from the center, leaving a large hole. It then bounced up again, took a chunk out of the palm tree (see below), went on across the main path along the edge of the cliff, flew over the side and into the sea. All in all it must have traveled around 200m or more! Amazing!! It brought back fond memories of the exploding toilet in Sara's house and appears to be a uniquely Egyptian specialty.

Meanwhile, there is a weird petrol shortage, so cars and busses line up for hours whenever there is a rumour of any to be had somewhere. Explanations range from Bedouins hijacking the trucks in the desert, to the goverment selling all petrol to Palestinians, to oil tankers burning in Suez. Most likely, all of it is true - in any case, some of the hotels aready have problems supplying hot water, as their pumps are run off a generator - which uses petrol...

Now that I am healthy again, it is time to fly home - perfect timing. I found a taxi with petrol and made it to the airport, where I am looking at another fun phenomenon which has already closed down the harbour and is gearing up to prevent me from getting away: a sandstorm!

Beautiful. Welcome to Egypt!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Sloooooooooow training

I seem to recall the words "winter is over" being mentioned in my previous post. Well, no such thing when I arrived in Sharm El Sheikh! It was simply freezing, 21° in the water, 21° outside the water, watercolour: green, visibility: six meters. I might as well have stayed at home and gone diving in the lake!

The only thing to cheer me up was being back in the water with my Italians. They quickly separated themselves into their designated roles: evil coach and angel coach. Angel coach is always looking to make sure I find "the good feeling" whereas evil coach might say things such as: "This may be uncomfortable. I don't care. It's your problem." Charming! He locked me into the classroom one day and made me do dry equalization and breathing skills. Now we all know that I suck at these, so I had successfully hidden from him up to that point. After ten minutes, he started throwing things at me. The result of the session: yet again it remains a mystery how I ever made it beyond 20m. My excuse is, there is limited space on the blond hard drive and all freediving skills have been replaced by full carving layouts in the winter. Sorry, coach!

Over the next few days we did repetitive sprints to 40m, first wearing 6kg (imagine the beautiful descent, sinking from five meters!) - then wearing no weights at all, which had me bobbing in the green sea like a cork. I was not sure I would leave the surface, but I made it to the bottom with contractions starting in about 25m on the way down, which is simply ugly. Angel coach did not come to my rescue, and I am beginning to suspect they are just doing their good cop - bad cop routine. Thanks to all those spinning classes, I held up fine so far! I have even set up my slingtrainer - see my outdoor gym below:

Training is moving along, but going awfully, terribly, slowly. Today I discovered that my equalization has moved backwards (upwards?) by twenty meters from last year, which is exactly the same as every year but still drives me nuts. Why? Why? I want to dive deep NOW! Sniff. This slow progression business makes me really nervous as I always feel that I don't have enough time! Less than two weeks left now, and then I have to go home and then to Siegburg and then to Munich and then to Zurich and then to London and then it's summer and then it's Christmas...aaaaaargh...

I guess I should go do my mouthfill exercises. And no, boys, it's not what you think - it's perfectly innocent. Promise!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Time to get wet!

Winterbreak is over: Freediving season is here! I have a stupidly early flight tomorrow morning, and have spent the last few hours thinking: don't forget anything, don't forget anything, don't....

The last four weeks have passed in a haze of interval training and I have discovered the power of the heartrate monitor. Having all this information right there is replacing the usual "I wonder if it's time for a break?" with "I wonder how far I can get this thing to go up?". Answer: much further than I ever thought possible, and for astonishingly long periods of time! Result: pain. Lots of it. Everywhere.

Now. Having spread random items I feel I should/could/must take along around the flat, I have realized that I am facing a new dilemma. Part of the "let's be serious about this" project has been to test some nutritional supplements to get the cramp problem under control and improve the notoriously low iron levels. Problem is, I now don't have room for my dive gear anymore!

Hmmm. Dive gear. Bikinis. Dive gear. Bikinis. Dive gear...

Oh shit.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Winter break

As usual, winter break has been going on for some time and has involved such things as laying down (very few – sniff) carves, the BOOT dive show, Coronas and a recent static that produced contractions after 32sec. Imagine!

I like to try radical new ideas, so I contacted my magic diving/sports doctor for a health check BEFORE starting the freediving/bikini season in March. This was met with instructions to bring along sports clothes for the spiroergometry. Translation: you are going to cycle until you either vomit or fall off the bike. Not at all the nice, simple blood test I had in mind! I tried to get out of this by whining that the only exercise I had done recently involved lying on my sofa. Evil doctor was having none of it and simply told me to bring the sofa along, since they like to test their athletes in their natural environment.

First question he asked was when I was going to Egypt. When I told him I had a whole month, he started laughing. I pointed out to him that at least I came BEFORE diving this time, which, after all, is an improvement of 100%! He looked underwhelmed and was equally unimpressed by my concept of a winter break. Shaking his head, he said: what would happen if you actually trained? I feel it’s best not to go there - training (unless it involves my sofa) is overrated, anyway.

Showing no mercy, evil doctor put me on the bike, with the words: it will all be fine. I’ve heard that one before - usually before they stab you with a needle or some such unpleasant thing! After attacking me with some octopus-like sensors, (he promised the marks would last two weeks) I was made to cycle UPHILL for what felt like ages and ages. I viewed the occasional “very good! This looks VERY good!” with suspicion. After all, I know full well what I tell a student who is looking like he will die at 40sec in static. In the end, my legs gave out before I keeled off the bike, which I felt was a victory. It appears that I am – a miracle – above the general sofa expert fitness level. No one can understand how this is possible, but I was pleased to see that my anaerobic threshold is fairly low, and anaerobic capacity decent, so the occasional breath-holds during my spinning class may have been a good idea after all. Even if all the others in the group think I’m completely weird. Which, I suppose, I am.

Then I learned why it is a good idea to visit evil doctor: he told me how to train in the next four weeks! How useful! I admit that the whole thing was kind of fun. There is just one flaw in the training plan: I have to get off my sofa! Oh no!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New year - again!

How does this happen? Why? Why? It was new year only yesterday, I am sure of it! I am also sure that I did write a blogpost somewhere in between October and Christmas, but apparently, it has gone and hidden itself.
I suppose the same might be said for my powers of freediving. Not that that would take anyone by surprise, least of all, me! I was overwhelmed by the onslaught of the common CC - also know as Christmas Customer - at least that's my excuse for not training and going on a steady regime of choclate and biscuits instead. I might have set a national record in giftwrapping, though - a friend asked me, quiet seriously, if there wasn't a giftwrapping machine? Well here's the news: there is! She's called Anna!
In any case, while I stayed dry, my mobile phone went freediving in a jug of water some time ago, therefore leaving the door wide open for the final attack of my (very manlike in this matter) friend Falk, who somehow talked me into getting i-d up. I have now joined the club of sorry people who slide their fingers across touchscreens, although I still feel kind of embarrassed about this and tend to bury the thing at the bottom of my bag. I will, however, confess to buying my first "app" (hideous term!), and no, it is nothing to do with shoes! It is - sigh - "iholdbreath". Now. There is something distinctly weird going on in my psyche. Somehow, the stopwatch that I have kept on my bedside table for over six months now has completely failed to entice me to do a single one of the CO2 tables I had planned on. I cannot do it, I cannot, I cannot....but: if the i-thingy tells me to hold my breath, dry - urgh - in the morning - urgh - I get right to it! Amazing!
It speaks with a man's voice. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?