I was determined to figure out why I sucked as much as I did the last two weekends. Did I forget how to dive a drysuit or did I just not have it down to the degree I needed in the first place? My money was on the latter. I wanted to give myself the time and freedom to figure this out on my own so I headed to the Breakwater solo. I had also switched to my more normal sized 100 doubles and ditched the Thinsulate socks.
The first hour in the water, I was making the exact same mistakes as before and almost threw in the towel right there. Almost as a last ditch effort, I decided to throw caution to the wind and force myself to not be afraid of a fast ascent (JR told me this last week but I didn't believe him). I mean, I was already doing really bad and wasn't really concerned about popping up. Maybe it was knowing that or this new approach being actually what was needed, I'm not sure but something finally clicked in my brain and I was actually able to manage a half decent stop. Another thing I did was take a cue from watching D'Or's videos from last week - a foot from the target stop, I threw myself rather violently into a sprawl and that brought me almost to a complete halt. D'Or had told me about his experience with this (I didn't believe him either). I'm sure he was doing it a lot more gracefully than I was - at this point, I'm totes OK with not being graceful. I was just happy I could manage it at all without reaching for my inflator. I did a couple more attempts of this to make sure it wasn't a fluke and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized it wasn't.
-> 107min, 39ft, 54F
I'll be honest, that took some doing. I might have to do another solo session to reinforce some of the new things I'm doing but I feel cautiously optimistic about where I am now.
I went into the second weekend with an inordinate amount of confidence that I would be able improve on the previous weekends' performance. I mean, I couldn't possibly do any worse, right? Right? Why is everyone quiet all of a sudden?
JR joined us to take over video duties so Beto could focus on the total clusterfuck I had become. He made a couple of casual comments about my tank selection and my newly-beloved Thinsulate socks. I got this vague sense of deja vu because Beto had said something similar to me a while back as well but it didn't raise any red flags.
JR got amazing video on this day and I was able to see how badly I sucked. To say I regressed in all my skills would be a massive understatement. We didn't get to doing any of the Rec 3 specific tasks as I couldn't even manage one stop on the ascent up from 30ft. I was totally shattered, mentally and physically, an hour or so into trying to figure out what was going on - including Beto trying to bodily force my legs into the right position - but nothing seemed to be working. In the interest of letting D'Or move forward, I called it for myself at that point and got out of the water.
-> 44min, 33ft, 56F
Considering how terrible I did, the video debrief was actually something I was looking forward to and was able to see exactly what I was doing (or not doing). The tanks and thick socks were definitely making things harder for me but it came down to me not trusting in my ability to stop an ascent. I had gotten my butt kicked six ways from Sunday. Beto didn't need to tell me that I had a lot of work to do on my own before I could move forward to the deeper phase of the class.
"The only new thing in Rec 3 is the stage bottle."
Technically, that's an accurate statement.
D'Or and I started the first of what was to be back-to-back 3-day-weekends of diving - the plan was to dive at Pt Lobos the first weekend and then hop on a boat for the next, with an extra day left open in case more work was needed. I'd decided to use my Big Bertha double 120s for this class as I felt they were easier to trim out and maybe get me closer to that tech pass I was now coveting. Another piece of gear I had become a fan of was the pair of DUI Thinsulate socks that I scored from AWS during their Halloween sale last year - these are generally not recommended by most people I spoke to because they make your feet way too floaty in the drysuit but I always felt my legs were heavier than most people and the extra floatiness actually worked in my favor.
Day 1 started off much like any other GUE class - usual lecture, land drills and making sure all our gear was squared away. The plan was to basically do all the Fundies skills with the stage bottle hanging on our side to see how it affected us in the water. My initial thought was the extra weight on my left side would unbalance me enough that I would have to make physical adjustments for it but that turned out not to be the case. What I did notice was my light cord repeatedly getting tangled up in the stage bottle's valve which annoyed the fuck out of me. The solution ended up being something I should have been doing anyway - arms stretched out in front of me, not dangling. This made my trim a lot better and forced me to keep my head in the correct position.
-> 85min, 34ft, 55F
Day 2 was when we got into actually switching on and off the stage. There's a bunch of steps in the process but everything is designed to make sure you switch to the right bottle at the right depth and have it all verified by yourself and your team. Breathing the wrong gas is one of the primary causes of accidents in technical diving and this process all but eliminates it. We went through the switches a few times at the bottom as well as at 20ft to get a feel for what it's like doing tasks in midwater. I didn't do so great with managing my ascents as I was overcompensating with my wing and kicking like a lunatic to get to the right depth in the water column. I just wasn't able to muster any confidence in my ability to control or even stop my ascent and this caused a ton of problems. Beto gave me a few suggestions - my brain understood them, my brain was trying to get my body to do certain things but that's where the connection ended.
-> 103min, 34ft, 52F
Day 3 introduced problem solving underwater. Rec 3 doesn't have the same standards as Tech 1 so these problems don't surprise you when they occur - this is one of the highly criticized aspects of Rec 3 as it doesn't reflect how real problems occur. I tend to agree with this even though it was a good introduction to the steps the team needs to follow to identify and resolve a failure. The plan was also to try and refine ascents a little more before we went into deeper water. Again, adding task loading with visual reference came pretty easily to me but the moment we started moving up, a crazy amount of anxiety kicked in and everything went to hell in a handbasket. Basically, I was struggling to manage my drysuit and the crappy ascents from the last couple of days added even more stress, compounding the problem more and more. Post dive debrief was rough - I was nowhere near being able to go deeper and perform faster/longer ascents and we decided to hold off on the boat dives until that was remedied. What sucked was it looked like D'Or was ready to move into the next part of the class and I was holding him back :/
-> 122min, 51ft, 51F
That was a humbling weekend. We got some video at the end of day 3 which makes me look a lot better than I felt. The conditions were really nice though.