The End of the Road is really here!


Well, that’s it, today, we are officially only 2 weeks away from our trip to Turkey, to start the training dives that should culminate, hopefully, with a successful record attempt on May 2nd. It has been a long, long road since we decided to come back to competitive freediving and attempt this record. Yasemin basically had an agreement with the Turkish Prime Minister on January 2009, after he requested her to come back to record setting diving as a way to promote the country and stimulate female achievements.
Soon after that, and while the sponsorship issues were being sorted, we started training in late January. By the time May 2nd, 2010 comes around, it will have been almost 14 months since the start of our training, which is the longest we’ve ever prepared for a record by a long margin. And with that very long time have come many other things, some good, some bad, but we’ve learned from it all and continued moving forward.

First, we’ve learned that having more time to prepare is not necessarily a good thing. I mean, freediving has been our life for a very long time, ever since either of us, Yasemin and myself, can remember. And training for, and attempting a record dive was something we dreamed of doing all the time. The energy, the feeling and the whole vibe that comes with making something so special happen are amazing things to experience. But this intensity is also something that the human body and mind can only withstand for a certain amount of time, and we have now passed the limit of what that time should have been. Hard training, the kind that requires an athlete to basically live for the training and do nothing else, is something that can be endured for periods of 4-6 months at most, but longer than that, it starts having adverse effects. Yasemin has spent these 14 months training hard, eating by following a strict diet, and stopping herself from doing many things that she enjoys, like other sports, because they could put her health and fitness at risk. And this has taken a toll on her. On June last year, when we realized that all the support we needed would not be ready for the summer, I decreased her training load, fearing that she would start suffering from overtraining fatigue syndrome, something that has happened in the past. We decided to attempt the dive in December, so around September, I increased the intensity of the training again, only to have to cancel the record yet again due to projected bad weather in December. We immediately lowered the intensity of the training, but by early February, when we started doing serious training again, Yasemin was showing clear symptoms of fatigue. Even the easiest of workouts would tire her, and she started reacting negatively to many of the things that she usually responds very well to. For example, hypoxic training, where she would train at simulated altitudes of 4500-5000 meters, riding her bike for 30-40 minutes of high intensity intervals at that “altitude” started having adverse effects on her body, instead of the smooth results it had produced just 2 months earlier. And even doing 50 meters underwater with a mono, the easiest of skills, would tire her legs considerably. So I had to basically stop training, and we spent all of February resting, which is not something you want to do when you have a record attempt 45 days away. But without this rest, she would not have been in any shape to dive in April. Even now, we’re only going to the pool 2 times per week, instead of the 4 times we used to go right before the start of dive training. Likewise, I’ve cut down her training to only 1 session per day instead of 2, and that session is never longer than 80 minutes. I cannot force her body to reach what we call “peak condition” so instead, she will arrive at the record at 85% of what her shape should be/could be, if everything had gone as planned. But I still think she can do the dive, even if in her present condition, we probably won’t be able to attempt the depths we originally wanted to. I had performed a parametric test last June, where based on the results, I was certain Yasemin could have reached between 135 meters and 145 meters in this category. Now all that conditioning is gone, and even the original goal of 125 meters will be a tough one, but totally within her reach I feel. I have trained many athletes and I know that one of the biggest nightmares of any sportsman, if not the biggest, is to arrive at the competition over trained, or burned out, so I have to give Yasemin a lot of respect for maintaining her composure during these last few months, when training has not produced the results she was counting on. It is a very tough thing to perform skills that used to be very easy for you and now have them feel very difficult, and even more difficult to keep your calm and motivation when dealing with this. Mentally, she is ready, so let’s hope that physically, she is still strong enough.

Lastly, we’ve also realized that anything, even the thing you love the most, when it becomes the dominant part of your life for too long a time, starts becoming something you hate :-) I mean, we could never hate freediving, but at this point, both of us are just ready to go diving, give it our best, and get this thing over with. There are so many things we enjoy, simple things like eating “forbidden” foods, or sleeping until late, or practicing sports like skiing, roller blading, etc, that we have not done in earnest for the longest time. This year, about 2 months ago, we finally bought a very sea worthy boat that can take us to the Bahamas, those beautiful islands that boast some of the best diving in the world, and we have not been able to dive there yet, even if it is only a 1 hour trip from Miami. Diving for fun, and taking the chance to get dehydrated, tired, or rupturing an eardrum, or having an accident, are risks we cannot take, so we stay at home instead, keeping Yasemin rested and protected. It is important to live a balanced life, doing different things, enjoying different things, channeling our energies into different fields that we enjoy or are good at, and right now, it has been 14 months of doing nothing but 1 thing. And we are feeling it. So, we are coming to this record attempt very tired, and sadly, not as excited and fired up as we have done for every other record. We’re just tired, unmotivated, and even bored. But, I’m sure that when the first day of training comes, and we are standing on the platform of the boat, the incredibly blue Mediterranean all around us, the long descent line disappearing into the clear depths in front of us, I know all of these negatives will just evaporate, and we will be like 2 little kids in a toy store, ready to do the thing we love the most. So, here we come!

4 Responses to “The End of the Road is really here!”

  1. Kars says:

    Go Yasemin!

    Thanks for the nice in depth reporting and incorporated valuable training lessons!

    Love, Courage and Water,


  2. Alixir says:

    How refreshing to read such an honest and sincere piece! Thanks! Hope all goes well for you both: whatever the outcome, every moment of your tough journey will have been worthwhile :)
    Alixir xx

  3. Sanne Buurma says:

    It’s a very inspiring story to read and oh so familiar about the over training part making it tough to keep going for it every day. Much of respect for showing such good composure, faith and persistence!

    The best of luck with the record attempt!

  4. Ian Jones says:

    You’re right- there’s a fine line between training hard and overdoing it and often it’s a difficult balance to negotiate. All athletes are guilty of pushing themselves too hard at times and then having to deal with the consequences. Although this is frustrating at the time it can prove something of a blessing in disguise in the long term- the only way that we can truly learn the limits of our bodies is through trial and error, dictating that most athletes will surpass them at some point. The important thing is to learn from this though, as you have evidently done. I wish you well in the future an hope training is going well!