Listening to your Body, Greek World Championships 2011

I left Dahab last week feeling nervous,excited and a little nostalgic. My time there had been so rewarding in so many shades of blue, and challenging beyond what I expected. But Greece is beautiful! The Mediterranean is blue and warm and inviting, the people friendly and the trees..!! On our short walk from our hotel to the launch site I pick pomegranates, figs, small plums… there are old old olive trees and flowering jasmine everywhere.

The diving here is very different to Dahab where we just walk to the water, swim fifty meters and have depth. Here we have training times and boat launch times, 3 people to a training buoy, waiting fora deep line to train, waves picking up, getting cold and over 150 athletes around. Our first day here I went out on the boat just to do a few pull downs, check my weights (the salinity is different from the Med to the Red Sea) to see if I need less or more and also get used to the thermoclines. The Red Sea has the same temperature all the way down, here it gets chilly at 20 and then another drop at 50 and deeper and colder… I felt okay in the water the first day, throat and coughing still not good, but the water is beautiful so I enjoyed the dives.

Day 2 was D-day. I wanted to do one more deep dive without fins to see that my health was 100% again, then rest two days and go for the world record. My mind was focused, I felt calm and ready,excited for depth. I couldn’t do it. As ready as I am in my heart, my head, my technique and experience. I am not healthy enough to do this dive. I couldn’t hold the air in my mouth. I gave myself one more day.Yesterday. If I did the dive, I would have one day left to rest, then go for it. A good nights sleep, a good coach at the surface taking care of me. Everything in place. One two three four five six seven arm strokes, strong and calm, fluid kicks in between. It feels perfect. I take the mouthfill, I am born to do this. Then the most terrible pain in my throat, the urge to cough and I can’t hold it. I stop, swim up. A few deep breaths. Look at my watch. 43meters. Not enough, not at all. The rope was on 60, to do 63 (new WR) on Monday. And then I cough, my throat feels like it’s tearing and I spit in my hand. I have not healed. The illness and subsequent injury to my trachea is worse than before.

Did you ever build puzzles as a kid? I started when I was living in Sweden, quiet rainy days around the puzzle table.The last few days I have been thinking of a puzzle. For over ten years I have been collecting pieces of this puzzle that is deep freediving. Technique, mental strength, relaxation, meditation, equipment, focus…piece by piece I have assembled all I need to do this one dive. But you know what? When your body is hurt, injured, ill…  it is like putting this puzzle together without the table to lay them on. I am balancing them precariously on my fingertips, on my hands… holding pieces with nowhere to lay them…I woke up this morning hoarse and sore.

My throat is not good at all. I have decided not to dive tomorrow. I considered doing a much shallower dive, but the hurt only 43 meters caused me is not worth worsening for a dive so far below my goals. I am resting my body and my mind today, dealing with the disappointment and reassessing what to do with my othe two dives. These are disciplines I have not been training to really compete in for medals etc, so I will rest today and tomorrow, do a training dive with my monofin on Tuesday, rest Wednesday and see if I dive deep on Thursday with the monofin. Using only legs and not arms at depth puts less strain on the thoracic area and the throat, so maybe… but I am not sure what my body will tell me. But I will listen.The lessons I have learned about myself,about performance… and the taste I have had of my own potential is the greatest reward, and I know that Freediving is more than a sport for me. It is my lifestyle, my love and my lessons.

DeeperBlue readers can follow Hanli on twitter @hanliprinsloo and learn more about her adventures and conservation efforts at  www.hanliprinsloo.com and www.iamwater.co.za.

Photos courtesy of Linda Paganelli and Grant Graves.