Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dive #6 and #7, first dives with Kevin

This weekend Kevin and I went up to Turkey Ridge Quarry in Cedar Falls. This is the same place we both did our checkout dives, but our first time diving together in open water, and our first time diving without an instructor with us.  Yep, as certified divers, we were on our own.
                We almost didn’t get to dive, as we got to the shop to rent equipment (they won’t reserve it- they told us to just come in in the morning) and there was a HUGE beginning class, and we were told there were no regulators left.
                Well, we had drive all the way to the shop (it’s about 20 minutes), so we figured we’d use the time wisely and try on wetsuits. They had a sale last weekend (when I got my computer) but we decided not to get wetsuits, got home and immediately regretted the decision.  We would have saved about $30. Oops.  So we spend a good amount of time trying on wetsuits and Kevin and I both find a suit that fits us. I was quite pleased as the one I got was a size  8  J  In the pool class they had me in a size 13/14 (huge!) based on my weight. No idea what they were thinking.  There were two styles, and both of us preferred the less expensive style, which was a nice savings.  I think the prices must have gone up recently, because the price on the wall was $15 more than the price on the tag of my suit, so that was disappointing to have to pay the higher price (though it was clearly marked).  The shop was really helpful, and we spent quite a lot of time there.  We also bought a little beanie hood for me, a dive flag and line, as we’ll need to tow it next week in Wisconsin.
                As we were checking out we said something about how they must have hid all their regulators to trick us into shopping more. The store owner’s wife (also an owner?), said “we should have regulators” (it was a sales associate who said they were out) and went back to look.  Sure enough, all the regs were rented, but there were two on the workbench.  She texted a bit with the owner, and determined there wasn’t really anything wrong with them; one had a console that was different from others so he wanted it separate from the class’s regs (but no big deal, as Kevin disconnects the console for his air integrated computer), and we never heard what was wrong with the other one.  So we were able to get rental equipment after all!  Kevin rented a Halcyon Backplate and Wing BC to try, I just went with the standard stuff. It cost less than $100 for us to both rent gear and one tank each, so not too bad.
                Then we drove up to Turkey Ridge, stopping at ScubaToo to get the gate code and register our C-cards. (And eat at Panera!)
                 When we got to the quarry we went to the dock that Kevin did his certification dives from, not the one I dove from. That really doesn’t make a difference, but we found 1) it is easier to drive down to his dock, 2)there is a little platform to stand on while getting in/out of the water, and 3) that side of the quarry is deeper.  I’ll bring up 2 and 3 again, briefly.  We got our gear together, and put on and MAN it was hot in 90+ degree weather wearing wetsuits while Kevin fiddled with getting the harness of his BC just right.  I ended up standing waist deep in the water waiting for him.
                To get in the water, Kevin climbed down the ladder and then stood on the platform mentioned as #2 and put his fins on.  That looked like the easiest way to do it, but I knew I needed to practice my water entries. When we go to Cozumel, I’m going to have to jump off a boat!  So I did a giant stride into the water. Like my first dive during certifications, my mask flooded. I really hate that, but handled it okay this time. I still hate entering the water though.  Really, I understand why you do it the way you do (in case you –are- negative), but I feel like just getting to hold my breath like a normal person and jumping in the water like I was swimming would make me a lot more comfortable.
                Once in the water, we set to swim out towards the middle and start our dive.  About halfway to the middle Kevin realizes his straps are too loose. We turn around and swim back to shore…  I wait in the water, he gets everything fixed, and we swim out again.  This is just surface swimming, but with fins on (and heavy gear), it is exhausting.   
                Once everything gets adjusted we go back in again. As much as I’ve had to say about getting ready to dive, there isn’t much to say about the dive.  Kevin and I planned to dive 30 minutes, and didn’t really have much else in the plan. The quarry is only 25 feet or so…  So we swam around, saw some fish. Visibility seemed decent, maybe 7 to 10 feet at times, but then just as I’d be thinking that, we’d run right into a fallen tree branch, and I realized I didn’t see it until we almost hit it.  Kevin and I didn’t really hold hands, but I held onto his arm the whole time. It seemed to work very well for the low vis, and I kind of ‘steered’ him, trying to keep us out of weeds (he said I pushed him into them, oops. Well, I stayed out of weeds.)  No crashing down into the ground like on my first dive after checkout. I think it went really well.  We practiced hovering a bit, and that went well near the ground, but our safety stop was pretty awful bouncing up and down… Need to work on buoyancy a lot more!
                After about 28 minutes we got out of the water and took a short break. The second dive (also 30 minutes, we just had one tank) we practiced towing a dive flag (Kevin towed) and I took the camera.  My giant stride in went much better.  The flag is apparently a lot of work.  This time we stayed on the deeper end of the quarry (got down to 25 feet- brr cold! We mostly stayed at about 17 ft where it was warm) so there was nothing to see, since we weren’t near the ground. Saw a very few fish, but mostly just swam while Kevin wrestled with the flag and I took a few pictures.  It wasn’t even windy, so I think the dive flag could potentially be very difficult.  We are going to Wisconsin this weekend to dive again- and a flag is required, thus, why we practiced with it.  At the end of this dive we flooded our masks and cleared them. Kevin made me do it twice because he said I barely go any water in my mask. Well, I got it up my nose, that should have been enough. The second time I fully flooded it. I did make him hold onto my BCD while we did it, but we did it neutral, not kneeling.  I did notice I’m breathing out my nose more when I swim, so I think that is progress. Next time we dive I might want to practice taking my mask off. We also should practice an air share.  
Underwater self portraits are hard.
Overall, a pretty good day of dives.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Certified! Dive #5

Picture on the dock after the day was over
My first dive as a certified diver was dive #5 in my log book.  The instructors told us to go have fun and surface when we hit 800 psi (we ended up surfacing at 1000 psi and were the last group to come up...)

We were told to plan a dive, and then go do it.  Well, there isn't much to see in the quarry, the deepest we ever got in the class was 25 feet, and we mostly stayed around 15 (so the whole checkout dive was just a safety stop!) and the quarry isn't really even big enough that you can get lost; you might just surface a good swim away from the dock. So we set the following plan: let's dive for 20 minutes, and then we'll check in and see if we want to keep diving longer.

So Anna and I go down to dive and swim around a bit.  But at one point, after about 5 minutes, we float up and find ourselves on the surface. Oops. Anyhow, we kind of mention to each other that we felt like we weren't getting anywhere (we started in really shallow water) and because it was so shallow (5-10 feet deep) we were just mucking up the bottom and the visibility was like 1 foot...  So we agree to snorkel out to the platform, descend next to it (not on it), so we are at least 15 feet deep, and try again.

This time, we descend (free descent, not on the line, but next to the platform) and go under water. We notice the computers start adding time to the previous dive, not logging a new one (but also didn't count the time on the surface- nifty).  We just swim around, trying to turn right every once in a while, since we noticed we both tend to vear left.  We tried to stay around 15-20 feet, and I know this is going to sound stupid, but it was really hard- because we kept running into little hills in the ground.  You'd be floating along with good buoyancy and then all the sudden the ground was there and you'd be in the grass kicking up much.  Needless to say, despite our best efforts, if we didn't want to dive at 5-10 feet (and end up floating to the surface)  our visibility sucked because we couldn't stay out of the mud.  I tried the little ankle circle frog kicks the DM told me about the day before, but those sure didn't get me anywhere.

Dive finished*
We muddle around, see a fish or 5 or 6, and are just aimless.  Quite honestly- this dive was horrible. There was nothing to see, and dirt and grass everywhere.  When our clocks read 20 minutes, we agreed to swim a bit more, at 25 minutes, I thumbed up and she said okay.  We went to 13 feet and did a 3 minute safety stop.  I was somewhat impressed with us, as this was with no line, and I managed to stay between 11 and 15 feet (bottom was probably 20), with probably 80% of the time at 13 feet.  3 minutes feels like a long time when you are trying to stay in one place.

We surfaced, found out we were nearly at the dock (um, I think we had intended to go the other way...) but also we were the last group in the water!  We were at 1000 psi, so I think everyone quit early? No one else really seemed to be an air hog, and I think Anna thought they really expected us to dive until we had 800 left, so she was a little worried about surfacing early.

So the dive sucked, but it was kind of fun we got to do it on our own.  Kevin had originally planned that we'd try to go up 2-3 times a month until the quarry gets too cold, just to practice; but having done that, I don't think so.  It's like $50 in gas, $120 in rental gear for the both of us, and 30 minutes under water seems like a lifetime.  Once a month is probably going to be enough for me... (but I do think it is important to keep we definitely have to go.) There are a few other places to dive around here, one that is a lot closer- but when we asked the instructors they told us this was definitely the best.  EEK!

Now we just have to wait until December.  Cozumel here we come!

*Notice the backwards mask. I HATE having my mask on when I'm in the air. I feel like I am suffocating. But they have this ridiculous thing about your mask being on your forehead meaning you are a panicked diver, and give you a really hard time about it, so I turn it around instead.  I actually read about it on scubaboard and started doing it my second pool session, and then at OW I noticed a few of the instructors do it too, and by the end of the weekend, almost all of the divers were. I've been a panicked diver multiple times in the pool and my mask was never neatly placed on my forehead with me floating calmly waiting for what comes next! I tossed that thing off my face as fast as I could.  Also, the thrashing to stay above water (because in irrational panic you forget about the handy inflator button), and hyperventilating were probably better clues that I was panicking...

OW Checkout dives day 2: Dives 3 and 4

So today was Day 2 of certification dives.  How do people do this for a week vacation? I woke up EXHAUSTED.

Today we left the shop at 8:00 and drove up to the quarry. Different people in the van, and mostly tired ones, so no conversation today, just napping.

Get to the quarry and we got our gear unloaded and then put together, and then we went to the parking lot to learn about using a compass.  What I learned was that there is a 'lumber line' (it's called a lubber line) and that once you set your course you NEVER move the bezzle (which would make it impossible to following a course other than a straight line. I think he meant 'today, never move the bezzle...) Also, when you follow a course to someone's car that you can see, pretty much anyone can get there.  They should have put little Xs on the ground or something that you can't just visually walk to.  Still, it was a nice flashback to orienteering in Girl Scouts (before they kicked our troop out of the Camporee for being too good- true story- they told us it wasn't fair we always won.)

So then we put our gear on and do a giant stride into the water. I seriously have an issue.  I jumped in, my mask didn't flood, I didn't tip over, nothing. The regulator is in my mouth, I can breathe, the BCD is inflated- I can float.  I signal OK to the instructor, swim to the DM to get a weight check and break down.  WTH? It wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday- no almost crying, just a feeling of panic and stress. But while I'm having this sort-of panic attack I'm also thinking "why are you doing this, nothing is wrong!"  I don't understand. This alone makes me think I should get a private DM the first day we dive in Cozumel, just because I need a moment to calm down in the water before descending, and I don't think you usually do that.  So he does my weight check and tells me I'm fine.

Today's dives only had a few skills, so they were really short- like 10 minutes under water. The water was MUCH warmer, maybe 70 degrees, and on the platform visibility might have been 5-7 feet; it was better conditions than yesterday.

We started with some surface exercises. We swam a straightline with our compass.  I vear left when I swim, so you really have to watch the compass! And then we removed and replaced our weight pockets.

Dive 1:
To start we did the fin tip bouyancy exercise by orally inflating the BCD (so you take your regulator out of your mouth, breath air into the BCD, put the regulator back in- a few times). Again I had the weight issue that I couldn't stay down, so after two breaths I actually flipped over sideways and my fins went above my head. Not really a big deal, as you just turn over, but not really what the skill is supposed to be.  I think maybe my BCD was slightly off centered on my tank so my trim was bad. I put the equipment together, so that's my fault.

Then we flooded and cleared our mask. That was fine, but the instructor signaled OK at me (meaning he thought I was done) way before I thought I was done. I just get a bit of water under my nose and think I'm still filled with water. It takes forever of me blowing really hard out of my nose to move it out of my airway...

Then we did a CESA (controlled emergency swimming ascent).  Kevin got yelled at for swimming too fast, so I made sure not to rise too fast- but I went too slow. I took a breath about 4 inches before I got to the surface (my hand was above water).  That meant I had to do it again, and the instructor told me I wasn't kicking at all (not true).  So the second time I did it just fine. We did these from like 20 feet. I'm pretty sure I'd die if I had to do it from 60 feet. Note to self: don't run out of air.

Dive 2:
We descended this time without using the line, just to the middle of the platform, where we hovered, not landed on the platform.  Since my biggest problem has been getting down and staying on the platform, I killed this one! Woo! Hovering!

Second skill was to kneel on the platform and remove our mask and put it back on and clear it.  I did this in the pool with NO issues at all. Confident.  My buddy took a long time to clear her mask, and again, I was having trouble staying on the platform. I think these two things (but probably more the fact I couldn't kneel) gave me a lot of anxiety. The kneeling thing is stupid, because if your mask ever came off you wouldn't be kneeling, but I've never had to deal with water in my nose because of the weird way I hold my breath when I swim, but I can't do that with a regulator in my mouth. Since I kept tipping over I was really really worried it would happen when my mask was off. Again, stupid since the instructor is holding onto you (due to horrible visibility we did almost every skill with them holding us).  So the instructor comes over and tells me to take my mask off.  I take a deep breath, put my hand on my mask and mask strap. And don't take it off.  I shake my head, and give him a 'hold on' signal, take a deep breath, get ready to do it- and don't.  After about 5 tries, just shaking my head no, he points at my compass and we do the next skill.

The next skill is to swim a straight line under water. I don't do great at it, but the whole time I can tell I am off course and trying to get back on, so at least I know where I'm supposed to be going- I just can't seem to swim straight, so it takes a lot of adjustment. I do manage to find my way back to the platform though.  Navigation was a good skill to do in the quarry, because if the water was Carribean clear, wouldn't you just look and say 'hey- there's the platform, swim that way" where here, you can't see it until you are like 5 feet from it.

So we get back to the platform and he gives me the thumbs up symbol to finish the dive.  I point at my mask, knowing if I don't do that skill, I won't pass the class (I think they would have just taken me back down and tried again).  So this time. I take a deep breath, take the mask off, put the mask on, check that my nose is in the right place (mistake I made once in class), and clear it.  No problem at all. (In fact, when we get to the surface the instructor was wondering what the heck was wrong with me, as when I did the skill he said I was one of the fastest to do it; so why would I refuse to do a skill I'm good at?  Yeah, I'd like to know that answer...)

So then he makes the "pair up with buddy" signal, but since she did her compass nav with a different instructor, she is nowhere to be seen.  I shrug my shoulders and he makes a "look around" sign.  Um, if she isn't within 5 feet of me, there is nowhere to look!  So I look around for awhile, then I look at my computer for the dive time, look some more, and then signal to him that I've looked for 1 minute and can't find her and thumb to go up.  He agrees, we go up, do a 3 minute safety stop, while holding the line (what's the point of that as a skill? Anyone can do a stop holding a line!) and surface.

I think it was a surprise to both of us that my buddy was not on the surface either...  After a few minutes she and the other instructor surface like 50 yards away.  Apparently her first compass swim didn't go so well. So they were surfacing to take a new heading, and then went back underwater and she was able to navigate to the platform.

After that- we're certified divers!!!!  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scuba checkout dives: Day 1: Dive 2

After dive 1 was complete we waited on the surface for all the other groups to do their first dive. We didn't actually get out of the water between dives.   Even though the water was very warm up there, it got quite cold on the surface with the wind blowing.  It almost would have been better to just wait 3 feet under water.  It was probably a 40 minute wait, since multiple other groups had to go down.  And I don't think ANY of the groups managed to stay together as a group of 6. That made us feel a little better.

Dive 2 is the first dive to test skills.
We did fin pivot, a partial mask flood, a full mask flood, regulator recovery, and air sharing.

I couldn't do the fin pivot. In fact, at this point, when I got down to the platform, I couldn't get myself to stay kneeling on the platform, I just kept floating.  They kept telling me to dump air from my BCD, but there was none in it.  I'm going to add 4 pounds of weight tomorrow, I clearly didn't have enough.  So I do a BS little hover in front of them, he gives me a so-so sign, and I'm cleared on the skill.  I think the fact that I was able to hover in the same position is actually a bit better than planting my fins onto the platform and going up and I'm not too bothered that I didn't do the actual skill...  We do it again tomorrow with oral inflate, so hopefully with proper weighting, I'll be fine.

The partial mask flood was the skill I had problems on. Ridiculous. I never had problems with these mask skills in the pool.  I flooded my mask, and immediately got a nose full. I must have been inhaling when I did it and am still inhaling a bit through my nose without realizing.  I put my mask back on, get it cleared, but still have too much water in my nose.  I thumb up at my instructor and he holds my shoulders and shakes his head no. I blow out my nose a million times, I cough like crazy, and I'm able to get a good clean breath and signal ok.  I really did want to go up when I thumbed the dive, but unlike in the pool, I didn't start kicking in panic to get there.  It was more of a "I have a problem and would like to surface" and he said no, and I solved the problem.  That was good and productive.

Full mask flood was no problem at all.

I misunderstood the instruction for the regulator recovery, because the kept talking about regulator clearing, so I thought we were supposed to take it out, put in our mouth, clear it, and then do the other skills separately.  So I take the regulator out of my mouth, breath for a second, and put it back in. The instructor looks at me like I'm an idiot, takes it out of my mouth (this caught me off guard! Thankfully, I wasn't inhaling when he did it) and tosses it away, and I recover it. No problem at all.  I was pleased to see my buddy did the exact same thing as me, so the instructions weren't clear :) it wasn't just me.

Air sharing was happily no problem at all.  I still don't like doing it. By the time I take the octo out of the holder, I've taken a second breath. It seems like that won't really be an option if I'm out of air...  Buddy and I surfaced swimming together no problem.  Kevin's buddy nearly pulled the octo out of his mouth with a quick ascent, so I'm glad I didn't have that problem.

On the surface we did some skills: tired diver tow, BCD doff/don, snorkel/regulator exchange.  I can take the snorkel out of my mouth and put the regulator in, but regulator out and snorkel in took me 3 tries to be able to breath, despite blowing hard to clear the snorkel. And I supposedly have a dump valve in the snorkel.  Bah.  I hate snorkels.  Also, I'm not clear why I can't just pull my head out of the water- even if there are waves, I can hold my breath while I take the regulator out and shove the snorkel in, and it won't get flooded...  But I did it, so it's all good.

I now have a post dive headache and jaw pain.  Oh fun.  But I am happy today went well. I think tomorrow should too- and then I'll be certified.

Scuba Checkout dives: Day 1: Dive 1

So today started with an early morning at Seatasea to catch the van to the quarry. It was mostly DMs and Instructors, just two other students. I was surprised that in a class of 13 most people drove. It's a pretty long drive- almost 100 miles from Iowa City.  I know not everyone lives in IC, but a number of other people did, and most people live somewhere close to Cedar Rapids (or else they wouldn't have gone with Seatasea for open water...).  So yeah, I took the free ride and didn't pay gas. Figured my course fee was going for that.

It was a LONG ride, where I learned a lot about how tough the Marines are, about being in the Army reserves, about how the government is trying to take away our guns, and how the Instructor who held me down two weeks ago (today they actually told us they'd do that...but being warned kind of makes it different!) thought Perry should be President.  I joked with him that I'm now not sure I can trust him with my safety....

So we got to the quarry, unloaded stuff and got geared up.  It was a chilly 60 degrees with wind blowing.  Most of us put on our 7 mm wetsuits to get our gear together- I didn't pull mine up, just on the legs, but it was worth it for the extra warmth.

We got our stuff on, buddy checked, and jumped into the water (giant stride).  And this was where my freak-out of the day happened.  I hit the water, my mask flooded, I pulled the mask off, put it back on, and started crying.  WTF?  Absolutely no reason for this. I'm floating safely on the surface, BCD inflated, and freaking out.  My breathing is fine, but I'm literally fighting back tears. I was terrified, anxious, and panicked. The water was warm-ish, I wasn't UNDER water, it was absolutely ridiculous.  I have no explanation, and it took me longer than it should have to calm down. I'm embarrassed, but except the DM who was doing the weight check, I don't think anyone really noticed.

After everyone was weight checked (mine was wrong- I needed more...) we went over to the platform.  The quarry has two platforms that float about 15 feet under water.  There are lines on them that go from buoys so you can follow the line down under water.  Because of a storm, the visibility was terrible (estimated at 3-5 feet), so the 2 instructors and 2 DMs decided that it was not a good idea to take 13 people underwater. The original plan was for 1 instructor to lead, 2 buddy teams to follow, and 1 DM to be the caboose for Dive 1.  Dive 1 of checkout is just 'explore the dive site'.  We were briefed that if we lost site of our instructor to immediately surface (standard rule is search for 1 minute than surface. They decided that once someone was lost there was no way they'd be found, so just go up.)

So my buddy Anna (whose stated goal of the day was "do not drown") and I volunteer to go in the first group.  We get down on the platform, and I can't see the instructor, but can see the buddy team in front of us. They take two kicks, and I can no longer see her white fins.  We lost our group within 5-10 seconds.  Anna and I are looking at each other like "uh? Go up?" We swim a bit further, and look at each other, not sure what to do. Then the DM behind us taps us on the shoulder. Oh yeah! Him! Thank goodness.  So we gone on with our dive.  At the 15 foot mark, the water is relatively warm (we're in 7mm suits). I think it was maybe 66 degrees.  We hit a thermocline at 17 feet, the water is about 60 degrees. At 20 feet there is another- down to around 56 degrees.  60 degrees is cold. Under 60 is VERY cold.  VERY cold.

After the near lost experience of losing our group, Anna and I are holding hands.  I'm doing fine- but honestly it was really stressful. I was so worried about losing her. (Losing the DM was a bit of a concern too, but if he disappears we surface. If the girl who tells me her only goal was to not drown disappears and then something happens to her- OMG. Thankfully, that didn't happen.)  Since our DM kept us around the 20-25 mark, the water was very cold. I kept looking at my computer to see how many minutes would pass hoping it would be over. (We were told it would be about 15 minutes long.)

After about 7 minutes we were feeling more comfortable and let go of each others hands, still just half a foot between each other.  We tried to practice our buoyancy with hands in front of us. Anna and I have opposite problems, I crash into the ground, she floats up to the surface.  She would go floating and get about 2 feet away and start getting blurry, so I'd reach up and hold her hand while she came back down.  The DM would turn around and OK every minute or two, but I don't think he saw any of this...  The quarry was very grassy, and we saw 3 fish.  After 17 minutes we swam up, did a 3 minute "safety stop" and ended the dive.

We talked with other groups and none of them went below 20 feet, so they didn't hit the really cold water, and their DM kept them above the thermocline so they all go to stay in the really warm water!  No fair. Still, the depth was kind of nice, because I guess it makes it a bit more of a real dive.

Also, the buddy pair in front of us went to the surface probably about the time we lost them. They said they were under for less than a minute; they lost the instructor too (he took off into the thermocline, which has the worst visibility- less than a foot) and then the guy went to let air out of his BC to surface and pressed the wrong button and shot to the surface. He said he probably caught air upon hitting the surface- kind of scary. Rapid ascent isn't good!

And while I was anxious and ready to be done the whole time, I made the whole 20 minutes with really no problems at all. This does make me wonder if I'm going to be able to handle a whole hour (well 45 minutes, maybe, with my crappy breathing...) underwater when we go to Cozumel.  Maybe with things to look at time will pass faster?

The most amazing thing was the visibility.  It was literally 5 feet at its best, and in the theromcline where it was so silted up (where we lost the instructor).  When I've heard about poor visibilty I always thought about like dusk, when it is hard to see around you.  But it isn't like that at all. What you can see, you can see perfectly clearly. You hold your hand in front of your face, and it is clear as day. But then 3-5 feet out it is like there is a wall. You can see absolutely nothing.  So you can either see, or you can't. It isn't like some stuff gets blurry.  I actually think, for me, that made it less claustrophobic, but I could see how for other people, it might be worse.  I'm happy that claustrophobia hasn't been an issue for me in the diving.  I just wish I knew why I freaked out jumping into the water. That was just ridiculous. I think all my other panics have been somewhat justified, but that was not.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Back to SCUBA

But first:  If you are a skater still reading this blog, I have a pair of Jackson Competitors (older style), size 3D with pink Paramount Blades, signed by Alissa Czisny, for sale.  They are scuffed up, but in skateable condition. Life left in blades, though used.  I'm asking $125 shipped ($25 of that is likely the shipping.)  Please let me know if you know anyone with small feet looking for skates!

So today I went back to the pool to re-take the second day of the SCUBA class.  I passed last time, but not without major panic, so I wanted to try again.  Today went MUCH better. There were two instances of minor panic, but I think I handled it mostly okay, and overall things went MUCH better.

The first thing we did was the snorkel skills. This time, I actually did the whole snorkel swim!  Last time I barely made it 10 meters and did the regular swim instead to pass the skill (you can do 300 m snorkel or 200 m swim).  I was very proud of myself for doing this- but I still do not like snorkeling. I feel like I hyperventilate the whole time, no matter what I do- I cannot get a good deep breath.  The fins also hurt my ankles kicking for so long (and I was doing good from the hip kicks, not bicycle kicks).  But I am SO proud of myself for doing this.   Then we did the tired diver tows, and that was no problem, again. (Though my buddy was harder to tow than Kevin, because he was a much larger man.)

I skipped the float to get my gear together (I'm a master of floating, sadly.  We found out that Kevin, who is absolute non-floatable deadweight, can float if he puts his ankles on top of mine.  That' how buoyant I am.  I need to work to get rid of some of this buoyancy!)  I remembered how all the gear got together and me and my buddy were the first ready and the first to hit the water.

The giant stride into the water was no problem at all.  This pool had a much steeper drop off (like 2 feet) from the edge to the water, so it was a long fall. I'm glad I was able to practice that, since I don't know what the boat will be like.

Then my buddy and I swam around a bit, practice regulator in/out, I did the oral inflate of the BCD- it was going well. I was pretty happy, though honestly, still not REAL comfortable underwater, but doing fine.

When the class got together, since I was buddied up with someone, I just stayed as a normal participant in the class (my original plan was to do the oral inflate of the BCD, then just practice regulator skills- I think this worked better.)  We started with the fin pivot using oral inflate of the BCD, and I had NO PROBLEMS!!! I was so proud of myself.  Then we did the hover and I think I did better than last time (when I kept crashing to the ground).  They didn't have me take off my BCD and put it back on, but that isn't something you do much of- it likely would have taken me forever. The final skill on this time down was to take the weights out of your pockets and put them back in. I wasn't able to do it last time, and then had no trouble at all this time. In fact, I was the first one done.  YAY! Things were looking good.

After this, we surfaced for more instructions and then went back down.  This was where my first freak out happened, on the same skill as last time. No mask swim- I swam just fine, and then I went to put my mask back on. I couldn't get it to clear. After about 8 tries, I now had so much water up my nose I couldn't get breaths anymore. I thumbed up, and needed to get to the surface to breathe.  The effing instructor HELD ME DOWN and wouldn't let me surface.  I think he wanted to encourage me to give it another try, but no, I had tried enough, and I wanted to breathe without water in my throat. I fought him a bit (this is all like 2 seconds) and he let me surface, where I was choking water and gasping for air.  It only took a few seconds to regain breath, he told me the problem was that my nose piece wasn't correctly over my nose, and then stayed with me to let me calm down.  I told him he could go back underwater to keep the class moving, and when I was ready I would just get in the back of the line and go again.  I'm again proud of myself for this- because I was able to calm myself down quickly and go back and do it again with no anxiety.  The second time, I again had no problem with the swim, and then couldn't get the mask to clear. This time, after 2 tries clearing, I calmly checked the position of the nose, and then all around the mask. On one side, the plastic skirt was tucked under itself, so not sealed. I straightened that out, cleared the mask and signaled OK, so I did it, and I know more things to check if it doesn't go smoothly the first time next time.  But I really do feel like I did my best to spend time trying before freaking out the first time, but there is a point where I think it is normal to say "I'm not getting it, I'd like to breathe."  Overall, I was MUCH calmer than last time.

The next skill is where my second freakout occurred- out of air swim on the alternate.  My buddy and I had practiced me switching my regulator in and out, and also taking his alternate. I had noticed his alternate was breathing in a bit of water, but didn't think it was much of a problem.  Well, here, it turned out to be a problem.  I took his alternate, and four or five breaths I still couldn't get one that didn't have water in it; everytime more and more water was getting in my mouth. I was blowing out, I was using the purge valve, I couldn't get it clear.  So I put back my primary in, but by then I had a lot of water in my windpipe and couldn't get a clear breath. I thumbed up, and AGAIN the guy held me down for a second, and I kicked against him and surfaced.  This was much worse than the last surfacing- because I was seriously gasping for air and choking on water.  This is when I realized how easily it is for a panicked diver to down on the surface (no, I was not in danger here)- I was so busy gasping, and trying to tread water to fight against my weights and my tank, it never occurred to me to press the power inflator for buoyancy.  In a real emergency, I might not think to ditch weights. When you are panicked, thought doesn't happen.  The instructor had come up with me, pressed my power inflator for me, I threw my mask off (I did NOT put it calmly on my forehead where I like to rest it but can't due to "panicked diver" BS- that thing flew off so I could breathe!) and got some breaths.  The instructor asked me if I was okay and I said "no, I can't breathe" and then immediately said "oh, wait- I'm talking, I'm okay, give me a second".  So it took a bit longer, but I was able to gain my rational behavior back, and explained to the instructor how much water I was getting in my mouth, even with cautious breaths.  He went down and checked the guys octo and came back and told me I wasn't crazy- it was leaking a bit, you just have to use your tongue as a splash guard and breathe carefully... UH, Kevin is getting a high quality octo, or I'm stealing his primary, because if I'm ever truly out of air, there is no way "breathe carefully" is going to be happening... 

So the instructor did the exercise with the other guy and then had me do it again. Again, I was getting water in, so I switched back to my primary. I just shook my head that I couldn't do it.  So he had me do it with HIS octo, which didn't leak at all, but I really had to bite down on to get it to stay in my mouth when we were swimming, but the skill was no problem.  So to any future buddies- please have very well maintained equipment!!! 

It was around this point that I had to get extra weights because I just could NOT stay down. Turned out my tank was leaking a bit (they decided to not replace the o-ring because I didn't really need much air for the class anyway) and was down to about 800 PSI- and it is amazing how much difference not having the air is. I sunk like crazy and he called me "maybe a bit overweighted" during the check.

Afterwards we came to the surface and did BCD off/on, and weight removal (harder on the surface because of the inflated BCD).

Then we just swam around with our buddies. My buddy was excellent and practiced out of air drills with me again, and I was able to breathe around the water a bit better (though we did it in the shallow end).

I'm going to do the open water checkout in two weeks. Here's hoping it goes well. Today was not perfect, but it was definitely much better than last week, and I think overall I was rational and didn't have freakouts over nothing like last time, and for the most part my regulator in/out was much better. (I do want to look for a smaller mouthpiece before we go to Cozumel- my jaw is killing me; it's like going to the dentist having to hold my mouth open to fit the regulator in.)

The only thing I had a real hard time with that we didn't practice again was the breathing from a free flowing regulator, but I don't think you do that for checkout. I'll just have to make sure to practice it again sometime on a dive, since I'm sure it is a good skill to have.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

SCUBA- Day 2

So today, was Day 2 of confined water (and then afterwards the last few classroom lectures and the final).

The skills today went much much better. I kind of ended up having a private lesson, because I got behind on the first scuba skill, and didn't really catch up.

To start, we did some free diving skills, just in swim suits.  The first thing we did was the 300 m snorkel/fin swim, and I couldn't do it. The snorkel freaks me out if I have to use it continuously like that- stopping was not allowed (though I saw another woman stop a number of times, and they didn't make her restart, still I suck at swimming above water in fins, and I just can't snorkel continuously) Apparently the shop does not normally offer it, but they let me do the 200 m swim, that PADI training standards allows.  No fins, no snorkel, just normal swimming. That was no problem.

Then we did the snorkel dive skills (dive under, blow out water, dive under, etc). That was okay, but after a few dives I'd have to stop, lift my mask up, breathe a second, then start again.   I plan to go to the city pool and try to snorkel practice a bit. I thought getting more comfortable in the mask would help my snorkeling, as I've always blamed that for my crappy snorkeling, but I'm not sure that is the issue. I am much more comfortable in my mask than I used to be, I still don't like it on at the surface, but I can breathe through my mouth now. Just can't see anything because the nose exhaling fogs it up (can see underwater though).

Next we did the 10 minute float, and that is my one A+ skill. I float so well I probably could have taken a nap, just closed my eyes and relaxed. I had to do a 30 minute tread for rowing, so this was nothing.

So then we got all our gear on, I was nervous about the giant stride (giant step off the side of the boat/pool, apparently the rolling off is just for Navy SEALS and television shows), but when I did it did fine. We checked weights, they said since I was anxious and breathing a bit heavy, to go with about 2 lbs more than I needed, and I was good to go.

We did two different type of "tired diver tows" and I'm able to pull Kevin on the surface. No problem there.

So the first SCUBA skill was to manually inflate the BCD. I got a really good breath in it, switched to my regulator well, switched again, got a good breath into the BCD, then couldn't get the regulator in. I blew into it, but it still felt full of water. I purged it but still couldn't take a deep breathe. I thumbed it, and went up, exhaling. So I "bolted", but did it at the "safe rate", guess that isn't really bolting, just giving up. When I got up there one of the instructors talked to me for awhile, asked me if I was doing this because my husband wanted me too (good question, but no- it was my idea), asked me if I've always dealt with a fear of water (nope, no fear of water, fear of not breathing...), asked about claustrophobia (little of that), and took me over the shallow end. This is where we then took a lot of time, and why I got so far behind the class. He had me put my reg in, breathe, take it out- exhale slowly (slower, slower...), put it in, probably 10 times. All above the water. Then we did it below the water. Then we moved over to the deep end and did it again.

So that got me a lot more comfortable with it. Then I went down, did the BCD manual inflation, did the fin tip exercise, hovered, etc. My boyancy isn't great, but it is improving. By the end of the class I swam across the bottom of the pool only killing one tiny patch of "coral", didn't annihilate the entire reef like yesterday.

Then I did the BCD off and back on underwater. This had the instructor laughing at me. I could not get the darn thing back on. It was major underwater acrobatics. He said he was about to thumb me up to talk about it, but I didn't look like I was panicing and kept going, so he let me. I finally got the stupid thing on, probably head over heals 3 times. But like I said, I'm not scared of water, my regulator was in my mouth and no one was making me take it out, so it was just a matter of time, trial and error, and feet floating over my head (my legs are "light", that means fat...)

Taking the weights out of my weight belt was fine, getting them back in was a bit tough. BCD removal/put back on on the surface was fine.
Out of air exercise in the deep end went just fine. By this point we'd done regulator in and out a million times and I got it in one try. I also got to experience a slightly different thing from yesterday because this instructor had his octo around his neck and donated his primary. It also had a 7 foot hose, so I swam next to him, instead of holding on.

The only other thing I had a little trouble with was the no mask swim. But I shouldn't have. The swim was absolutely okay. It was getting the mask back on, but not really. I was wearing a hood (just to get that variable out of the way before the quarry dive) and when I put the mask back on, I couldn't find the hood. So I couldn't figure out how to make sure the hood was clear of the mask, and since I felt water under my nose, I thought I couldn't clear it. I wear contacts so I couldn't open my eyes, so I didn't know how to ask what I should try to do (I was breathing okay). I thumbed it, so I could go up to talk to him. The instructor was wondering what the heck was wrong. Apparently my mask WAS clear (I almost always breathe out through my nose, mask clear is not an issue- if this happens during checkout, he told me just to open my eyes a little to check if they are dry, because I'm probably done with the skill) , I just had some water under my nose so it didn't feel clear. Dumb. He just had me go under water, take it off and on again, and it was fine.

At this point the rest of the class was in 20 minutes free time, so I got 10 minutes free time. I did regulator in/out of my mouth about 20 times. I swam to work on my buoyancy. While I had a few errors today, there were no major freakouts, no hyperventilating, and the things I couldn't do yesterday I practiced today.

So in the end, I passed my "final exam" (I missed a question, out of 50- I'm so mad, because I debated the options for a bit...)  I decided I am not going to go on to the Open Water checkout dives yet, but spend a little more time in the pool practicing skills. Kevin is going to do the checkout dives in June, then I'll go to the pool in July, then hopefully the check out dives in July.  It might be better to do them separate. That way he doesn't have to worry about me, and I don't need to worry about what he thinks about what I'm doing...

SCUBA day 1, part 2

So we moved to the deep end.

After a number of minor panic attacks (mostly during 'remedial' time- where I was starting to feel a lot of pressure about the fact that I couldn't get it, and that I was disappointing Kevin (he never voiced this, but I'm sure it was true) and that I was getting so far behind the class), deep water is where I had my major panic attack.

Oh wait, I remember the thing I forgot from shallow water- disconnect the BCD hose.  I don't know what they'll write on this skill.  With a TON of effort I did it above water, after the instructor did it first on my hose (does that make it easier). I never could underwater, and even later when we were out of the water and the gear was off, I was only able to do it once someone else did, which I think took some of the pressure off it.  To be honest- if my BCD breaks and the button sticks, I think I'm screwed.  It took me so long, even if I'm able to do it- and my hands just may not be strong enough, partially because I'm weak, and partially because my nerve damage is mostly in my fingers, it takes me so long, I'll be on the surface before I'm able to. Being on the surface is what we are trying to prevent.

Anyhow- the deep end.

First, we swim there underwater practicing equalizing our ears.  My ears don't hurt, but I don't feel that nice pop I do when I do the movements we practice above water.  I guess if they don't hurt, I'm okay.  They we ascend, and this is freakout number one: I cannot kick hard enough to get up.  I know if I inflate my BCD, I fail the class- so I don't.  But I can't get up.  I start kind of 'screaming' underwater, but at this point, it's moot, as no one is still underwater and you can't hear much anyway.  Then I realize I have plenty of air, calm down a bit, but I'm still stuck underwater.  An instructor kind of pushes me up.  I think this is the major factor in why I am so scared for the next thing- I know if I want to get out of the water, I am over-weighted, and cannot.  I am stuck underwater.

So here we are told they are going to turn our tank off so we can feel what out of air feels like.  Then turn it back on.  Then, (with the tank on this time), we are going to tell our buddy we are out of air, grab their octo and breathe on it, just like we did in shallow water.  This is where I start telling Kevin I can't do it.  He, in a somewhat annoyed voice, tells me I'm fine.  The class descends.  I don't.

The instructor who helped me before comes over and I tell him I'm not ready for this.  He told me once I had the confidence I did these things fine in the shallow water.  I'm not buying it.  I did them once.  Let me tell you a story:

In driver's ed, we had to get a 4.0 before we could pass a skill.  The first time I went over 40 mph I cried, I got a 1.0, and had to do it again.  It took me like 10 tries before I fully passed highway driving.  I am now a damn good highway driver.  On the other hand, I parallel parked absolutely perfect the first time I tried. I got a 4.0, we moved on.  I have NEVER successfully parallel parked again.  Never.  Even with someone in the car explaining to me how to do it.  I didn't get sufficient practice, and doing something once does NOT show mastery.  That's what I felt about the shallow water skills.  I had in no way mastered them. I did them once.  And now they wanted me to do them somewhere I can't stand up.

To his credit, the instructor is incredibly patient.  He tells me if I "thumbs up" he can have me on the surface in half a second.  Still, I'm hyperventilating, literally.  In a sport of long, slow, shallow breathes, I am on the surface in need of a bag to breathe into. (I don't actually get one, I'm able to calm my breathing after a few minutes, take a few deep breaths and tell them I'll try.)  He promises me, that if I thumb the dive, I will be on the surface right away.

So we go down, the tank turn off exercise goes well.  I forget to look at my pressure gauge (SPG), but it is handed to me, and I see it go down to zero.  As soon as I see that I want to signal for him to turn it back on, but I am still breathing, so I realize I shouldn't yet. I wait until breathing gets hard, and then signal.  That went okay.  

Then it comes time to do the octo exercise.  (Remember, my regulator is fully functioning at this point).  I signal to Kevin. I grab his octo, I take 3 deep breathes (um, that won't be something I can do if I'm really out), I take my reg out, and try to get his in. I press the purge and I still have water in my mouth, I thumb, and true to his word, the instructor lifts me up to the surface, very quickly.  He asks me what went wrong, I had it.  I did, but again, I couldn't breathe on it.

We go back down again, and this time I think I do it with one try (I don't remember for sure).  But again, he and Kevin signal OK? to me when it is in my mouth, but it takes me a good 3 breaths before I can say OK back.  I just don't trust that I'm breathing.

So next, I think, we did what is called "fin pivot". This is supposed to be an exercise in neutral buoyancy. I totally don't understand what we were supposed to do here.  All I know is I just wiped out a thousand years of coral growth.  Hurricanes have nothing on the level of destruction my buoyancy causes.

Then came our CESA. This is a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent.  So you do NOT use the inflator on your BCD- you swim to the surface.  The pool is too shallow for this, so we swim horizontally.  You have to swim 30 feet while exhaling.  If the instructor sees you inhale, you don't pass this.  While waiting for my turn, I think about exhaling as slow as possible (i'm a fast breather, even relaxed). I practice the long slow a-hhhh sound.  Then he signals for me to go. I take my last breath (our regulators are still on) and well crap. I'm standing and stuck. I can barely even start swimming before I run out of air.  I take 2 really small breaths over the course of the 30 feet, but decide it is best to keep going, to at least practice swimming.  I get to the end and stand up and tell the instructor "well, I just drowned twice" and he says "what are you talking about? You did it!"  Um, no I didn't? I took breaths. Apparently, they were so small, it didn't count?  I know on a real CESA, you get more exhale power as you go up, and sometimes you get more air in your tank. Maybe I'll be okay?  I mentioned this to the other instructor, and he told me "if he says you did it, you're fine", so I don't feel like I cheated.  But Kevin and I plan to go to the pool and (without scuba on) practice me swimming while exhaling.  Maybe more cardio too.

At some point we also practiced manually inflating our BCDs (while above water), and this was no problem.

The final thing we did was breathe off a free flowing (purging) regulator. This took me three tries, and I wasn't able to breathe well (Kevin said it was 'easy') but three small breathes before I started choking on water. But enough to probably be able to switch to his alternate, and I know it is possible. The third try, the instructor (Kevin?) actually lightly held my head down in the water (no resistance if I pushed up, but just to encourage me to not give up right away) which got a great laugh from the class.

I think that is everything, except we also practiced taking our fins off while holding a ladder and getting out of the water. We were told since our tanks would be almost empty, they would be much lighter. Well maybe a bit, but holy crap- those suckers weigh alot out of water!

So all in all- lots of little panic, 1 major panic attack, and two skills that I don't think I did.

But here is my final problem- I now feel like I have strep throat.  My throat is so dry and scratchy.  I had a lot of mucus in my throat during the diving, and kept coughing, a lot, underwater. I just couldn't swallow to clear it where I felt I could  breathe well. We were probably never underwater for more than 15 minutes, if even that.  How do people stay under for an hour?  Kevin says his throat doesn't hurt at all, so I think it is from all the coughing while breathing such dry air.

And I'm awake at 3:00 in the morning typing this because I am really worried about the water work today. I'm pretty certain we have to do all the mask off skills in the deep water.  And while I did them fine in the shallow water, again, doing something once doesn't mean I'm ready to do it without a safety net of being able to stand up.

I'm really worried that even if I can get out of this pool session, I'm not ready for open water check out. And even if I can pass that- I'm not ready for real life without an instructor.  I feel so bad that I'm not good at this, because I really want to be able to do something with Kevin that he'll really enjoy. And to be honest, except for all the emergency scenarios, I'm way better at this than snorkeling.  I suck at snorkeling.

The only thing I take small solace in, is the instructor told Kevin my freak outs were not even close to the worse he's seen.  Since I was full on hyperventilating, wow.  Kevin says the guy told him he doesn't tell people who freak out that- likely because it doesn't help them and it kind of trivializes how they're feeling, but it would have kind of made me feel better to hear "I know you are feeling like you aren't doing well at this, but this is somewhat normal to freak out like this."  Although I still wish this was a little more time to master a skill, rather than just demonstrate it.

SCUBA day 1, part 1

So I haven't been skating this year (this weekend was when I would have taken my dance tests if I hadn't stopped. I was kind of sad, but honestly- I don't really miss skating.)  I also haven't been rowing- our city has been flooding, and we can't use the river.  The club has almost secured the rights to use a local resevior, but the times are all in the morning, and after I'm at work.

So I needed a new hobby.  After getting away from the expense of skating, I was thinking something affordable.  I picked SCUBA.  Oops.

The benefit is that Kevin and I can do this together.  He is a fish in water.  I am not, but I do enjoy being in the water.

About two weeks ago we picked up a DVD and a classwork book.  The DVD mostly emphasized the importance of high-fiving while diving.  Also, that diver's are fun people.  The book was a little more serious, but for all the ways to kill yourself while diving, I worried there wasn't enough information in it!  Yesterday (Saturday) we did 4 hours of a classroom session, reviewing the book - still very basic- and having a very enthusiastic instructor tell us how fun this is, how rare problems are, etc.

Then, we went to the pool for about 5-6 hours.  We have an in-joke in my family, after my Mom was absolutely hysterical (not funny) on a Carnival ride, and she came off and said "I think I did rather well" (she did not).  At the end of the day in the pool session, I told Kevin "I think I did rather well".  Um, in fairness, I probably did better than my Mom did on that ride, but it wasn't a pretty day for me.

I had a few minor freak outs and one big freak out.  I had to be taken aside for remedial instruction.  I'm up at 2:30 today because I can't sleep since I'm worried about the pool dives tomorrow.

I'm sure I'll leave a few things out, but here's what we did:
-Put together gear. I can do this okay.  Problem is, I absolutely cannot lift the air tank, which is kind of an integral part of the gear.  That might be a problem, though Kevin can probably help me quite a bit. I mean, I'm never going to dive without him.

- Wear a wetsuit.  First- I never saw myself in it, so I have no idea how unflattering it was, but man, I am going to need custom made.  Surprisingly, the one I had the knee pads actually hit my knees, but the crotch was insanely baggy, and the arms were so long it was like wearing an elphant skin.  I probably could have had 8" longer arms and still fit this thing, I think when you have baggy folds you lose some of the insulating properties!  That said- this was very cool.  It was like being a trainer at sea world.

- Get in the water, breathe underwater:  Okay, I am just very tentative every time I have to go underwater. It's like I don't trust the regulator will work.  It does.  I also find that I tip over insanely and my feet try to fly above my head. The instructor puts more weights on me, but I'm not sure that is a real world solution.

- Take regulator out of mouth, put it back in.  Surprisingly- I did this fine.  Surprisingly, because later it doesn't go well.  We did this using the purge button and blowing it out with our mouth.  I do fine on both, and we are told to start blowing out with our mouth because it is easier. Later in the class, I always use the purge button, because this is a major source of freak outs.

- Show two different ways of recovering the regulator when it is out of your mouth.  This is where things start going badly for me.  I can "recover" the regulator with my hand, but by the time I am able to get it into my mouth and attempt to purge it, I've usually run out of bubbles to blow out ("never stop breathing") and take on a mouthful of water. I stand up a number of times (we are on the shallow end) and can't do this.  The instructor tells me to just move on, we'll try again later.

- Signal buddy out of air, take their back-up (octo) and breathe off of it.  Same problem with the previous one, by the time I get it in my mouth, I'm having mouthfuls of water and freaking out.  This is when I get told I have to go work one on one with an instructor, Kevin, my buddy, gets relegated to remedial instruction with me.

So over in remedial instruction, I freak out a number of times.  I just cannot get the damn octo in my mouth and breathing before I take on so much water (up my nose too) that I freak out. A few times I stand up out of water with both the instructor and Kevin going "what the hell, you had it, why aren't you underwater breathing?" but it's just like I can't fit the thing in my mouth, and even when I do, and purge it, I still can't breathe. Finally, I do it, but when the instructor signals okay  (they do that a lot! Okay is the only option, things are okay or things are going to hell in a handbasket- there is no signal for "no, not really, but don't worry, I'm not dying) it takes me like 5 breathes before I can signal okay back, because I'm just not confident in my breathe. 

So then we do the hose recovery, and I do it the first way, and he signals OK, and to go up, and I signal back the 2nd way, so we do that first.  That was my mini moment of being proud of myself, because I could have stood up, which would have been kind of nice.

During my remedial instruction, the class had moved on ahead of us.  They had practiced clearing their mask, breathing underwater without their masks, and taking their mask and putting it back on underwater.  These are skills that I think a few people actually had to do a few times, because it took them quite awhile.  I, however, actually did really well here. The reason- I think my mask may be a tad too big (we might get a new one), and I had been exhaling through my nose a number of times, so I can clear my mask without a problem, both partial and full flood.  It was hard for me to get underwater without my nose covered, but once the instructor told me I could hold my nose, I could get underwater, stop holding my nose and did fine.   In theory, if my mask is kicked off underwater, I'm not sure how it will go.  But I was able to take it off and put it back on okay.  I want to get a neoprene strap for my mask, as the plastic one was tearing my hair to shreds.

I think this is the point where we put our fins on and then had to swim on the surface (with BCD inflated- so like a life vest) with our snorkel.  This was SO HARD. You tip over while you try to swim.  We also had to take the snorkel out of our mouth, and put the regulator in, which I did fine, and then put the snorkel back in, which I did not. No matter how many times I blew air to clear it (and I have a purge valve on it) I couldn't get a strong breathe. Being at the surface though, was it really cheating to stick my head out of water and breathe?

I feel like we did something else next, but I can't remember what.

At this point, we moved our class over to the deep end. This post is getting really long, so I'm going to start another.

Friday, May 24, 2013

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Saturday, May 4, 2013


Today the RPM instructor had a sub who just does 'Spin' (meaning a freestyle class, not a structured program).  It was definitely a different experience.  One thing I've really taken for granted is how much the music in RPM is carefully chosen to enhance the ride.  RPM the sprints top out at the speed of the music, so to get 135 RPMs, you count the music and really try to fight to get to it (or in Kevin's case, ride with the music).  In this class, we sprinted only at 110 (woo! I can actually do that...) but the music playing was often much slower than the sprint, which made it hard to sustain, because you had to watch the number and fight the instinct to drop to the beats you were counting.  Music was just background noise.

My numbers were 83/84 rpm/watts, so interestingly I went faster in this class than RPM (though I did much easier climbs since my knees hurt, and I think that helped with speed) but worked way lower than my last class.  I really want to try to get some higher watts.

I got my bike shorts in.  Bike shorts are not good for the ego. Mine are an XL. I will be so happy the day that I grow out of them and have to buy a new pair! (I think L would have been fine, but the size chart made me worry.)  They definitely helped though. My butt wasn't sore until about 20 minutes in, and then only on the left side.

Still need to figure out how to adjust my bike 'just right'. My right shoulder hurts quite bad during class, and that doesn't make sense.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


RPM went much better today.  I decided to not pay too much attention to my revolutions (because I can't come close to the numbers the instructor calls) but instead try to work the hardest I can in higher gears and pay attention to my watts.  Watts are what burns calories (though I don't even burn off 3 slices of bread in the class!

So today my RPM/Watt average was 73/95.  I worked a heck of a lot harder, and only a little slower than the last class.

I also got a much better bike with a seat that didn't slope.  I think that made a huge difference because I didn't feel like I was going to fall off the bike.  Kevin got a sloped seat and he did NOT like it.  He moved two bikes so hopefully if we get "our" spot, we'll get good bikes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Skipping class.

I skipped ballet yesterday. I feel very guilty about this because ballet is pre-paid for.  But I don't enjoy it. The class is not what I was hoping for. So I kind of dread going. There are 3 more left, including one that is combined with kids classes. I don't want to go to those either, but I'm going to make myself.  It's paid for.

Anyhow- since I skipped ballet, I went to RPM (which is going to be my replacement once ballet is over). It went really well.  My physical therapist told me no standing on the bike, so I stayed seated during climbs, but my knee also didn't hurt nearly as badly as on Saturday (when it hurt during the climbs).  It hurt a teeny bit while on the bike, but I'm not sure if that was the bike set up, the class, or the fact that this was the end of the day and my knees always hurt.

 It was a really good class- I worked at higher gears than on Saturday (my first class ever). During the quick sprints, she wants us at 130 rpm, and I can only hit about 100- there just isn't enough time to make my legs get that fast, but at the sustained sprints, I hit 115, which I thought was decent.  At one point, I had my watts (which hover around 95-100) at a sustained 130 and hitting 150. That was a really good sprint (I love the sprints in the class, on a real bike, not so much).

Since I thought I was doing better to keep my RPMs and Watts high I was a little disappointed to see my averages after class were 75/78- but it is something to work to improve on (it also contains the super lows that we do in between sets, but still- the wattage especially should go up).

My only complaint- the bike that I was on, the seat was really tilted (that's not adjustable). I kept literally sliding off. Not feeling like I was tilted, but when we'd sit up, I'd slide.  That was super annoying.

I've also made the decision not to row seriously this year.  There is a punch card per row you can get and it is more expensive per row, but will allow me to just row Sunday (when Kevin can paddle). If I paid per month, I'd feel like I should go 2-3 times per week to make it 'worth it'. I really enjoy rowing, but with the gym already paid for, there are only so many days of the week to fit it all in!

Monday, April 22, 2013


My husband really loves to bike, so when we joined the gym I encouraged him to try some spinning classes (it was winter, so biking was off limits).  He resisted for awhile, telling me indoor bikes were too different from normal bikes, but finally he went.  Turns out he LOVES spinning (but not as much as outdoor bicycling) and goes multiple times a week.

Part of working out in the gym rather than skating is that I spend more time with him and less with elementary schoolers.  Of course, this doesn't work if we are always doing seperate classes, so I tried a spin class called RPM (rotation/revolution per minute).

The class was good- with RPM as the focus I expected more sprints and fewer climbs, but they were about even.  The climbing (high resistance, standing on the pedals) really hurt my knees, but when we were seated I did okay.

My "numbers" (RPMs and gear) are lower than what the instructor suggests for the class, but considering I really don't care for cycling, I think I did an okay job of keeping up with the class.  Kevin is a freaking rockstar and outdoes everyone in there (there are other men too)- the instructor seems to have a goal to beat Kevin in wattage. She would ask him what he was at, and he'd say like 420 or something and I'd have to try not to laugh because I'd be working my butt off and be at like 93.

So this is definetly something that I think I'm going to keep trying to do.  I will definetly need to get some bike shorts though.  My behind is SORE!!! 

(Also went to PT today and she told me not to stand when I climb...)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

It's been awhile.

So I had high hopes of a comeback, at least to Saturday skating. Sadly, I haven't been back to the rink in a long time. Without a lesson to get me there, 8:00 is really early on a Saturday! I've been going to the gym now, and go 4-5 times a week, plus ballet on Thursday.  I'm enjoying working out with my husband, skating was very solitary. (Though I do aerobics classes while he does spin on some days.)  I hurt my knee again, working out with a trainer.  It didn't hurt while I was doing things (I am assuming it was squats and running stairs) but it has been two weeks and I'm still waking up in pain from kicking the comforter on my bed, needless to say, I didn't even think about going skating this weekend.

Adult Nationals was this weekend.  For so long my goal was to pass the Bronze test and get there.  I am a little sad that I'm not there.  I decided not to go long before I stopped lessons- it was just way too much money between a flight, hotels, entry fees, etc.  Kevin and I could go on a vacation together for that amount (we really want to go on another cruise- but OMG airfare is insane! The cost of a 6 hour flight is more than an 8 day cruise!)  Reading about it on icenetwork was sad.  And seeing that Adam Rippon was wandering around there- that made me even sadder! 

Once the knee heals, I'm going to think about getting back on the ice.  However, with warm weather approaching, I think it is time to start rowing again.  So that might make even less time for ice!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Every other week

So I seem to have an every other week thing going.  I didn't skate this weekend (I meant to, but then we stayed out late at a basketball game, and I slept again)- but I did skate last week.

It was not as good as my previous time back.  The rink was CROWDED- insanely so.  The Cedar Rapids skaters had all come down because their rink was shut down for a wrestling tournament (yeah, wrestling).  So the ice was very crowded, with fast movers, and a coach giving a group class.  Groups are tough, because it is hard to skate when  people are moving as a pack.  Ice times like this make me wish I didn't skate CW, it was very very hard to set up jumps.

It was also not a good session to not be able to stop on!  So the fall out of the blades- the sharpening was good. It was nice to have good bite on the ice and my skating was pretty good.  I CAN tell he moved the blade- I'm kicking up a lot of snow near the front of my blade (not the back, like I sometimes do on sit spins) when I spin.  However, I centered 3 or 4 really excellent scratch spins (and did 3 or 4 awful ones) so I can't really blame the blade for things being off, I think I just need to get used to it.

So no harm, no foul I guess.

Just need to make it back to the rink... My schedule really just doesn't let it fit in much anymore.  I was kind of thinking about doing the club show next month, but the rate I'm training, it just isn't going to happen!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


This is just an FYI for me.  I got my blades sharpened.
It had been quite awhile since I got them done, so I expect a bit of an adjustment period.

I didn't want to drive to Cedar Rapids to have them done, so I had Burton sharpen them for me. He's done a nice job in the past.

He said the right blade was off centered so he moved it (?!!!) for me.  Since I've been skating on these skates since June 2011 with the blades where they were, I'm a bit terrified of this.  I wish he would have asked me first.   I'm going to give them a try and see what I think before taking them to my regular sharpener and having her move them back, but it seems like if they were as bad as he said I would have noticed by now (he suggested I'd have a hard time holding outside edges.)  Maybe they will be a huge fix and I'll be able to mohawk or something better than before.  It isn't my landing leg, so at least that shouldn't be different.