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.