Day 18 – All prerequisites are complete. Let the games begin

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It’s the last training day of the cycle and all we can think about is hunkerin’ down at the Cobalt Coast to watch DVDs in air-conditioned comfort tomorrow. But before this oasis of recovery presents itself, Mandy and Martin have one last chance to make their variable ballast prerequisites. If they don’t make it we’ll have to organize for another attempt on our day off.

Mandy’s saddling up for a 118m / 387ft drop. It’s getting harder and harder every day as training takes its toll. As much as we nap and rest, we don’t seem to catch up. Now the rodeo chute is opening up and the bull and cowgirl head into the arena. Mandy rides to depth like a pro’, working on body positioning and relaxation. She touches down at 118m / 387ft, which I can feel through the lines. Soon I’m meeting her at 40m / 132ft. She’s looking very comfortable. After doing her recovery breathing on making the surface, I can see that all’s good even though it wasn’t necessarily the easiest dive.

Mandy’s had one week less training and two seasickness days so she’s having to play catch-up quite aggressively. We’re not completely happy with the performance, but it makes the prerequisite. There are another 7 – 13 days (we can make attempts until April 14th) to work on variable ballast. We’ll slow it down, ease back a little and make another set of runs.

With the bull back in the chute and the next rider ready, we set-up for Martin’s 131m / 430ft variable ballast attempt. It takes a little over ten minutes to retrieve the sled from 118m / 387ft, adjust the counterbalance line and ready for another drop. This whole time the safety team remains at depth while we feverishly re-rig and go through safety checks. All’s set and ready to roll. Martin finishes his last preparation breathe-up.

Our safety divers are at 110m / 360ft armed with quick lift bags. Video cameras are rolling as Martin zips down past them at almost 1.6m/s or 5ft/s. Bill can see Martin make his depth, dismount the sled and start his calculated pulls to the surface. The safetys know to give the athletes no more than 10 seconds at the bottom before they deploy the safety ascent bags. Bags which would lift the whole system and the athlete to the surface in case of an emergency.

At 40m /132ft I meet up with Martin and we make our way to the surface. Martin’s breathing is easy after just completing 131m / 430ft. There’s a big sigh of relief now that both Mandy and Martin have made their prerequisites. Now it’s Doc’s turn to continue his journey downward.

It isn’t an easy day for Doc. Although our videos may show the lightheartedness, fun and frivolity at the beginning of training, things are becoming more serious. The calculated execution of the dives is hard work, regardless of the depth. Each of us has our own real and imaginary barriers that we need to chip away at piece by piece. Freediving may seem extreme, but we don’t see it that way. Sure, there are calculated risks which we constantly work to evaluate, minimize and/or correct so that in the end we create the most comfortable training environment with the best safety procedures. This is what enables the athletes to perform at their best.

Doc’s first dive is to 55m / 164ft run. Unfortunately, he bails at 50m / 164ft and returns to the surface. It’s up to each athlete to monitor their internal environment and, if need be to end their performance if they feel they’ve reached their maximum for that session.

The next two dives pan out in the same way. He hits 48m / 157ft, then 30m / 99ft. Each day of training Doc makes three dives. However, when it comes to the record attempts this won’t be the rule — only one attempt per day will be the rule. So far he’s been pretty consistent in making his target the first time. But, as the coach, I have to wonder whether that’s because he knows he’ll get another attempt. In the next three day training cycle I’ll adjust the attempts to more closely simulate actual record-making conditions.

Doc’s not very happy with his performances today, and the calculating mind is already working on what needs to be corrected. I think that the multiple dives, multi-day training is taking its toll and by day three there’s not much juice left. During the next cycle, with just one attempt a day, I believe he’ll do better.

So, with this cycle finished we take an early lunch, a nap, get ready for dinner, and prepare ourselves for a much needed day of rest. No Island touring. No waterpark surfing. No nothin’!! Just groceries and DVDs in the air-conditioned comfort of unit #29 at Cobalt Coast.

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