Thursday, October 22, 2020

World Record Diary — Part I

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Friday, June 20th 2003

1pm. The countdown is officially on – we are here at Beaches Resort and Spa in Provodenciales, Turks & Caicos in the final stages of my bid for an eighth Freediving World Record.  I will attempt to set a new World Record depth in the Variable Weight category which means riding my sled (weighing about 40kg/90lbs) to the bottom of a rope and then swimming (kicking and pulling up the rope) back to the surface.  A little more than 2 months of physical training is behind me and all that lies ahead are dives that will get deeper and deeper as the official attempt date of July 19th gets closer.  I have a vague idea of how deep I will go that day, but it all depends on the next 16 training dives.  The Women’s World Record is currently 95m/312ft and held by Deborah Andollo of Cuba.  Patrick Musimu of Belgium holds the Men’s World Record at 120m/394ft.  My personal best lies somewhere between those depths, at 106m/348ft, which I achieved in Austria 2 years ago.  The crystal clear warm water around these islands is a far cry from the pitch-black 38 degree Fahrenheit lake where I hit 106m, so I hope to at least achieve my personal best again.  But a lot of time has passed, so we’ll just have to wait and see.  That being said, I have (as always) set out a very ambitious dive schedule which dictates how deep I’ll go on every training dive leading up to record day.  A dive that is too easy or too difficult and bad weather are the only factors that will influence any change to the schedule.  For example, if equalization difficulties force me to stop my descent before I hit the target depth or if I surface from a dive with anything other than a completely clear head, the schedule will become shallower.  If I surface from a dive, find it easy and think I should be taking a bigger increment than the schedule dictates or my computer reads more than 2m deeper than I should have gone, the schedule will be adjusted to send me deeper.  In both cases, the end result – the record attempt depth – will be affected.  And in any case, under the AIDA rules I will only be allowed to attempt 6m more than the deepest I will have achieved in training.   (I doubt I would attempt a depth I have not accomplished in training.)   Anyway, as you can see below, the deepest I would be allowed to attempt if all goes to plan is 114m/373ft.  That has great personal significance because my first ever World Record was to 113m/370ft – in No Limits!! 

 

DATE OF TRAINING DIVES

(with a day off in-between)

 

 

DEPTH I PLAN TO ATTEMPT

(for depth in feet multiply by 3.28)

June 19th

June 20th

50m

&

60m

June 21st

65m

June 22nd

 

June 23rd

70m

June 24th

 

June 25th

75m

June 26th

 

June 27th

80m

June 28th

 

June 29th

83m

June 30th

 

July 1st

86m

July 2nd

 

July 3rd

89m

July 4th

 

July 5th

92m

July 6th

 

July 7th

95m

July 8th

 

July 9th

98m

July 10th

 

July 11th

101m

July 12th

 

July 13th

104m

July 14th

 

July 15th

106m

July 16th

 

July 17th

108m

July 18th

 

July 19th

WR attempt

July 20th

 

July 21st

 

July 22nd

 

July 23rd

 

July 24th

 

July 25th

 

Like I said, it’s pretty ambitious!!  I don’t think Patrick has to worry about losing his World Record….

My husband Paul and I arrived here last night after what seems to be an exhausting week of preparations where I was too busy even to train in the pool or gym.  Last Sunday morning a crew from Good Morning America arrived at our home at 7am to film a short segment about the record attempt.   My mother, who had been visiting for 10 days, had to leave the house at 8am to catch her plane home, but the producer of the show said he wanted to interview her before we left, so we all got up before the sun.  After a long morning of interviews and filming at the pool and Gold’s Gym where I do my physical training, I actually slept for 5 hours!  Between then and when we arrived here it seems the first thing I have done each morning is give a phone interview (London’s Daily Telegraph called at 5:30am the morning we left Texas!) and the last thing I have done at night is answer emailed interview questions.  And between all that had another TV crew at the house and work on a story and photos for the Associated Press.   At the very least, my fantastic sponsors should be getting some great exposure, so I don’t mind that I didn’t have time to train.

Because I am now officially a Tourism Ambassador for the Turks & Caicos Islands, when our plane touched down here we were greeted by officials from the Tourism Department who have been publicizing the event locally for the last few months.  Even the Customs and Immigration officers gave us a warm welcome and wished us luck – it is nice to be among the friendly people of these islands again!  It’s a short ride from the airport to Beaches Resort and Spa who are hosting the event.  A Freediver couldn’t wish for a better host – this is an all-inclusive hotel with 9 restaurants, bars everywhere and pools every time you turn a corner.  And it’s all located on arguably the most beautiful stretch of white sand beach in the Caribbean – it’s miles and miles long!  About 4 miles from Beaches is our dive site, where last year I went to 160m/525ft in the No Limits category (sled down and lift-bag back up).  Our room is on the 3rd floor with a balcony nestled amongst the Royal Palm trees that look towards the dive facility.  We are a short walk to the boat.

It all sounds like a great vacation, I know, but we are here to work.  And work began at 8am this morning with a meeting.  John, Andre, Carol, Ariane and Mike (all members of the safety dive team) joined us for breakfast to go over our plans for the first few dives.  And then we stretched, measured and marked the dive rope.  With one end tied to a palm tree and the other to our Hertz rental car, we used a spring scale to put 55kg of tension on the rope to mimic the weight of the ballast when the whole set-up is in the water.  Once 10m marks were put on the rope the guys got to work getting the sled in place on the boat.

And now it’s time to dive!!!

11pm. The water was beautiful and we feel like it was just last week we were here setting the No Limits World Record.  The dives went very well despite not being able to equalize below 3m during my warm up!  As scheduled we did a 50m dive to ensure the equipment was all OK, with a safety diver at 20m and a pair of mixed gas divers just below the bottom of the rope.  We decided to make the next dive 65m instead of 60m as planned, but for some reason the rope was lowered to 70m.  Rather than go through a lot of hard work to bring it up just 5m, I agreed to go ahead with the large increment and the dive went very well.  Again, the safety divers were at 20m and the bottom.  But this time they were visited by a wahoo measuring more than a meter!  The deep dives actually went better than the 2 shallow (15m & 20m) warm-up dives that I do.  After doing a static apnea at the surface I normally do a 15m dive on an exhale and stay there for between 30-60 seconds before ascending slowly, and then a few minutes later a 20m dive on an inhale with a 60-90 second stop at depth.  Today it took me 3 attempts on the first dive before I could equalize below 3m!   I guess it could just be congestion from the plane, but I have been stuffy for about 6 weeks so I hope it will clear up soon! 

My wetsuit is great and I am glad I decided to go ahead with a 7mm.  The water is warm enough to dive in a bikini, but seeing as the rules allow for me to wear up to 7mm of neoprene, I thought I would take advantage of the added buoyancy to assist in the last few meters of the ascent.  I have used Yamamoto #39 rubber, which is hugely flexible and extremely comfortable.  Paul is diving in a Yamamoto #45 suit and is perfectly warm enough even after 2 hours in the water.  (Our suits were made by Snugg Wetsuits in England, the same company that Howard at Freediver uses for his suits.  They did a great job.)  I am using the same pair of fins as I have done for my last 3 World Records, made by Regis Guidone in France.  Recently, he sent me a new pair which are slightly stiffer, so I will try them soon and decide which ones I will use in the long run.  He also made me a beautiful monofin, which I have not tested yet, but I am looking forward to playing with it soon!

We dive again tomorrow, in the morning, so it’s already past my bedtime!

Saturday, June 21st, 2003

2pm. Today went very well.  We dived in the morning as we intend to for the rest of training, mainly because the weather is better in the mornings most of the time.  We had a small breakfast at 7:30am and were on the boat at 8am.  Another member of the team joined us today, our timekeeper and second surface safety diver Kevin.  He is 18 next week (good excuse for a party!) and still in school until the beginning of July, so he wont be with us every dive until school is out for the summer.

After a slight delay at the beginning while the mooring line was organized, we were in the water by 9:30am and ready to go.  Well, everything except for my ears were ready!  This time I could not put my head more than a meter deep before my left ear locked up completely.  I tried 3 times before deciding to lay on my back in the water to help drain my sinuses.  I guess it worked because my warm-up dives went fine.  But it is making me a bit nervous!  Anyway, the deep dive (75m) went very well and took 2 minutes which is fine by me!  Divers were at 20m, 40m and the bottom and they all enjoyed their dives.  The deep divers sent the sled up by itself and forgot to attach the liftbag to the ballast as well, so Paul, Kevin and I did some reverse Variable Ballast dives.  We pulled down the rope with a liftbag, attached it to the rope and inflated the liftbag, then rode it back to the surface like in No Limits.  Maybe one day there will be a discipline like this — it’s fun!

The team ate lunch together as we plan to each day after diving, and then Paul and I found an office to check our email in.  I hope I will figure out a way to check mail via my laptop soon…..and a way to go online and update my website!  Stay tuned!

10pm. Last night we were invited to eat at the home of the Resident Manager together with some other VIP guests (one of whom is an actress from American Soap Opera "The Bold & The Beautiful") and we were completely spoilt with sushi, crabs legs, conch salad and wonderful company.  This evening we went to the resort’s oriental restaurant "Kimono’s" where chef’s prepare different dishes in front of guests.  It was a great meal and we followed it with desert at the café in the FrenchVillage.

Earlier in the evening I went down to the beach to watch the sunset and met a couple riding their horses on the beach.  I used to ride my pony on the beach as a child so of course I was very jealous.  Hopefully I will be able to join them one day after a dive — I can’t wait!!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2003

The alarm went off at 7am again — no lie-in today, even though I didn’t do a dive — and by 7:45am I was in the pool to begin some static apnea training.   I chose the pool at the Dive Centre because it is deeper than the other pools on the property and therefore a bit cooler.  With a 7mm suit I need the pool as cool as possible in this heat!  Even so, I trained with the zip on my suit open to let water in.  Back hone in Austin, I did a few static sessions, never pushing much over 5 minutes, and this morning was a real training session so I achieved over 5:30 to give myself a good starting point to go from.  My personal best in static apnea was more than 2 years ago when I did 6:08.  At the time it was more than the existing world record for women, but since then the record was set at 6:16.  To be honest, I have no idea what I can do these days in static apnea because I rarely train for it.  But I think it will help me to stay in a good routine if I can motivate myself to train in static every non-diving day, adding a few seconds each time.  I believe static is all training, and I have time to train here!  So we will see….

After breakfast and a photoshoot on the beach, I finally managed to get online to upload to my website.  Now if I can just figure out how to get some images up there!  Check back on previous diary pages to see if I managed to do it….

After an early dinner at one of the smarter restaurants here, Paul and I took a beautiful walk along the beach as the sun went down.  Once again, the horses were there and I promised myself that I will get in touch with the owner next week to take up his offer of a ride while we are here.  As we watched the sky go from blue to orange to gray, I must admit to feeling guilty and spoilt rotten, because the conditions here are so fantastic.  In a way it puts tremendous additional pressure on me because I feel like I have so much more to live up to!  My sponsors, hosts, dive team —   and even the sea — have been so supportive and welcoming and I feel totally committed to doing the best possible performances I can do.

We stayed up late gluing my new fins from Guidone in France, and it was pretty funny to watch Paul superglue the fins to………himself!   If all I tell you is that he was sitting on the bed gluing the fins in his lap, with no clothes on, you will see why it made me laugh!  Anyway, no amputations were required (phew!) and the fins look great.  They are the "D3" model and slightly stiffer then my first pair from Guidone (D2’s) so I will try them in a couple of days.

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