Everything is good, just keep breathing: A long scuba weekend

I had an educational and fun dive trip last this weekend! I signed up for the Advanced Open Water certification course, and after we did the book-work last week we went out to a quarry a few hours away to do the corresponding dives. People who were not gluttons for punishment stayed at nearby hotels; I camped at the quarry, and dragged my fiancee along (who was not at all excited to be stranded all weekend at a rainy campsite by himself, with nothing to do). Sleep was hard to come by, and it was a long and very strenuous weekend for me so I am exhausted on this Monday morning. But it was worth it, I think!

Just to sketch out the weekend and the conditions: it was a ~65′ deep rain-fed quarry, air temps were in the 50-60F range, water temps were high 60s above the thermocline and a brisk 59F near the bottom. Visibility was really good, surprisingly. It rained all weekend, but divers don’t care– we’re already wet. We had 5 dives scheduled, with one bonus third dive on Sunday that I wound up taking a pass on. With the chilly water, I dove in a rented 7mm wetsuit that was super squirrely to fine-tune buoyancy in; if I wasn’t careful and drifted too high without venting air from my BCD, the air in the suit expanded and I would cork right to the surface. Eventually I got that sorted; I basically kept one hand on my inflator hose the whole damn time. After a chilling 2nd dive, I added hood and gloves and that helped me stay toasty. The buoyant wetsuit meant I dove with 20lb of lead on me; that and the weight of my gear meant getting to and from the water was very strenuous; our pavilion was a long walk from the quarry. And just getting the wetsuit on was a workout; it was thick and too long and not as flexible as I’d like and quite snug, and I’ve worn the skin off my knuckles and fingertips wrestling with it. Dry suit diving looks really good right now.

During the class sessions I met my classmates/diving companions, and diving with them was fun. Two of the four of us were very experienced, and me and the other guy were a little less so (okay, I’m super noob). The two of us with less experience were buddies. I’ll refer to my buddy as Bob from here on out (names have been changed).

The quarry was a big dive park– there were probably 10-15 different groups/dive shops/clubs there, hanging out and diving and doing training and testing out gear. Just being around all the divers was really educational– there was a lot to soak up, and people are happy to share the wealth of their knowledge. It’s a great community. Bob and I were unfamiliar with our rental BCDs, and folks were good about stopping us and showing us what we missed (neither of us had gone over our BCDs ahead of time, very poor form– it was a totally new style to me, I’d never used integrated weight pockets before).

Anyway, on to the dives! Each one went along with a chapter in the PADI book. First dive was Peak Performance Buoyancy, which was basically "Figure out how much weight you need, do your trim, and sort out buoyancy control". Which was brilliant, because I was less than useless in that damn wetsuit. I started out overweighted; the instructor (we’ll call her Carrie, she was wonderful) swapped out for a little less weight, and then we got to toodle around. Bob (who was also in a rented 7mm) and I corked over and over. It was maddening. "Where’d my buddy go? Oh, there he is, on the surface. Oh, I looked up and now I’m on the surface too."

Next dive was everyone’s favorite: Navigation. Lots of setting headings and swimming squares and checking kick cycles and times. Bob and I finally got our buoyancy about sorted here, at least. It was a long dive and there was a lot of stuff to do, and Bob wound up low on air, so we surfaced and chilled out waiting for the other 2 students to get their squares right– literally chilled for me, I floated and shivered.

Saturday’s last dive was the Night dive, so we had a long surface interval where I went and spent some time with my wet, grumpy partner and cooked a couple hot dogs on the campfire, taking care not to toast my wetsuit. Then as twilight fell, we geared up, me with gloves and a hood to keep from getting more chilled, and entered the water. Obviously night diving requires a light; I’d bought one at the shop last week. But my giant gloved hands kept hitting the switch and the light kept turning off– so in Carrie’s eyes I kept disappearing in the darkness. Eventually she came and clipped her spare light to me, so I used that one. I didn’t particularly care for the night dive; there wasn’t much to see in the quarry at night aside from a few sleepy bluegill. I had a hard time figuring out where my inflator hose was in the dark so buoyancy was a pain again– that reaction had to be done very quickly and it took me too long, plus the other hand was always occupied with my light. (I’m glad I didn’t put my light on my left hand, in retrospect.)

That was it for Saturday, I peeled off my wetsuit wondering if I was going to be able to get it back on the next day. (I did, much more easily, thank goodness.) Then I had a brief, tired fireside chat with my partner before climbing into my hammock to try to sleep. I was not happy after that night dive; I was overtired and questioning my life choices and wondering if I actually enjoyed diving enough to keep on going. I slept very poorly– I don’t think I got any solid sleep until just before sunrise, and shortly thereafter I was awakened by the sound of tent zippers.

Thankfully, after how badly Sunday started out, it got better. I had some lukewarm coffee, tried to eat some protes oats (100% unappealing) and mustered and geared up for dive #4, the exciting Deep dive. Now, the quarry isn’t all that deep; we went down to 60′, saw the sights in the deepest part of the quarry (they sunk a bunch of random stuff in there, like planes and helicopters and school buses) and kneeled and did a couple skills tests on the bottom and checked our air consumption and the bottom times on our dive computers. I had a scary minute as we kneeled on the bottom– my mask was leaking a little and I got water up my nose and panicked and spit my regulator out. I shoved the reg back in with my hand and willed myself to breathe, coughing, and cleared my mask, then tried to settle myself. I was surprised at how strong my first reaction of swim to the surface to breathe was– you can’t do that from 60′ though, it’s dangerous! I had to stay down and sort it out. I clung to Bob for a bit after that on the bottom; it was reassuring to keep hold of him with one hand while calming myself down. The rest of the dive was good (though I was quite low on air, having wasted a lot of it sputtering, and a little worried) and when we surfaced I decided maybe diving was still fun.

My last dive of the weekend was the Wreck dive with a bit of leftover Navigation thrown in, since we didn’t get to finish it all. That was the most enjoyable dive– we descended and swam to our "wreck", a sunken school bus. We practiced our buoyancy control (I was a pro at buoyancy now, it was much better) as we swam through the bus, and then used natural navigation to find our way back to where we started. At the end of that dive, I was finally excited about diving again. We finished up our paperwork, cheered at our new cert, and then Bob and I peeled off those squirrely rental suits and called it– we both had fiancees sitting around waiting, and we were tired– but my other 2 classmates headed out for one more dive while we packed up.

I helped my partner pack up camp, loaded up my scuba gear, and then it was time for the 4+ hour drive home. (I’m glad I didn’t do the 6th dive; as it was, we didn’t get home until 8, which was enough time to hang up the soaked camping gear and collapse into bed.) Today, I’m sore and tired– but I’m looking forward to diving again next weekend in Florida (goliath groupers, I am finally coming for you!!)

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20 May, 2016 11:19

Somehow this always happens: everything piles up at once– the fun stuff and the not-so-fun stuff– and I wind up feeling overwhelmed. Then I go long stretches where things are slow and boring, and I start over-scheduling things again…

Yesterday I headed downtown after my workday for the scuba class review. Right after I found a close parking spot and was feeling pretty good about life, I dropped my phone and the glass shattered. So that meant that the first order of business was finding a drugstore so I could buy packing tape to keep the shards in place until it could get repaired. After that I found something to eat, did some last-minute studying, and headed to the class, which turned out to be made of… rather quirky people. Gotta dive with ’em all weekend…

I’m renting some gear for the weekend, including a 7mm wetsuit with hood and gloves because it’s cold, and I had to try on the wetsuit to ensure it was the right size. Putting on a really thick, dry wetsuit in a tiny bathroom by oneself is a great time. I think it’ll work. I didn’t pull it up all the way but it seemed to just about go over my thighs and hips with a little stretch left in it, so here’s to hoping I can wriggle into it with it wet. It needs to be snug to keep the water out, too. I suppose I can rent a different size at the quarry if it just doesn’t work. (Oh, the joys of having an unusually-proportioned body.)

My partner, who is wonderful, dragged all the camping gear out of storage and started sifting through it. I got home at 9:30 and there was a neat pile of stuff and not having to worry about that was great. I hope everything fits in the car– I also have my scuba kit, rented gear, and an empty tank to cart along. Originally I had wanted to go in my partner’s Miata rather than my car– yeah, no, there’s no way, not in that tiny trunk.

Today I’m working a half day and then I have to go to the Apple Store to get my damn phone fixed ($$$) and to the grocery store to buy hot dogs and marshmallows and whatever else we’ll eat while camping. (Partner has requested cans of beef stew. Whatever floats his boat.) Then everything should get put in the car, because we gotta leave early tomorrow (it’s like a 3.5hr drive).

Oh yeah, and I went to the gym today too! 30 minutes on the elliptical because I’m afraid of being sore.

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Technical work

Today started early. I have to lug a pile of scuba gear home from the dive shop tonight, so I drove in to work (ugh) and, to avoid traffic, I had to leave by 5:30am, and arrived shortly after 6 (it’s not a long trip, but traffic is awful later in the morning). On the other hand, this means I got a nice early start on my day so I can bug out early too (and then drive downtown, find a parking spot, and find a coffee shop to camp out at for a few hours until my class…)
I promised myself some technical work on squats yesterday, and made good on that today with 5×5 sets of box squats: 1 at 135lb, 3 at 155lb and 1 more at 165lb. I worked hard on keeping my back up while just gently brushing the box with my bottom. My form actually felt really good and I didn’t have any problems. The bottom-brushing should’ve gotten me just to parallel, though it felt like a much shallower squat than normal. I also worked on keeping engaged at the bottom of the squat; I’m always tempted to release at the bottom to get a little more depth which causes a lot of instability.

After that I played with the leg press again– 3 sets at 200lb and another 2 at 250lb. That took some work, but it’s really amusing to push all that weight around.

Finally, deadlifts: I was tired and only did 3 reps at 205lb. It was plenty. Maybe tomorrow I’ll hit DL again before I do whatever else I’m planning on doing.

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So much hustle

The volume, intensity and urgency of my work has increased 10x in the last few days– my job is not the kind of job where I get phone calls at 9pm, and yet these are things that have been happening. I don’t like it, not one bit.

I carved out exactly 45 minutes to get my butt to the gym. I did some experimental squats– sets at 115lb, 135lb, and two at 145lb desperately trying to hold my form together. I’m still not feeling great about them, and tomorrow I’m going to work on some technical details– time permitting, of course. After that, it was all upper body all day– 3 sets of bench at 120lb, then accessory sets of OHP, YTWLs (omg my delts whyyyyy) and biceps. Fun times– and then I went to shower only to find there was no hot water in the locker room. Refreshing! At least I wasn’t tempted to linger.

Adding to the level of wtf this week is trying to prep for camping-diving this weekend. As of this moment, my partner is joining me; his work hasn’t tried to call him in so far. All our camping kit is stowed away so we need to dig that out, and just to add more wtf it’s supposed to rain all weekend. On top of that, I need to learn several chapters of material for my dive classwork for the review session tomorrow.

All right, that’s enough blog post– back to work!

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Spotty squats

Today’s Friday the 13th curse is… leaky yogurt. My container (topped with cilantro-and-vinegar chili sauce, natch) leaked all over my gym bag… hopefully I don’t smell too much like salad. My coworker had a leaky carton, too. I’ll be happy if that’s the worst thing that happens all day. (I’m just joking– I’m not really superstitious.)

Squats are the bane of my existence right now. I’m making great progress with bench, deadlift is going okay… but not so much squats.I started with bench, had 4 nice sets of 5 at 120lb and another 4 at 125 (got a spot, thankfully).

Then I headed to the squat rack, loaded it up with 165lb, and made one rep that felt really weird. Not painful, just weird and my body said "let’s not do that again". So I took off 10lb, tried again, still not right… another 10lb off, did 4, and decided today was not a good day for squats. (Maybe my small leg muscles are still wiped out from the heavy singles on Wednesday?) Instead I put 200lb on the leg press and did some sets. Shitty leg day.

The 5x205lb deadlifts went all right. My hands are chewed up, but my grip feels fine on these heavier DLs so that’s a win. It was a little hard to tell if I was getting my shoulders all the way back; I could probably use some upper back accessory work.

Speaking of accessory work, I added in biceps and back extensions. Then I went straight to the locker room without stretching, because I forgot.

I’ve really dialed back a lot of my other activity, but recovery has still been tough. Even sleeping in the spare room, and sleeping like a rock for almost 8 hours, I still feel like I could use a few more hours every morning. Maybe I can sleep in this weekend.

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How subversive is women’s “bulking up”, really?

Today’s workout was another active recovery session– 30 minutes on the elliptical at a light effort. I’ve been thinking that the heart rate monitor on the elliptical was broken, so I brought in my fancy HRM watch– and nope, it’s not broken, my heart rate is just staying that low. Whatevs.

Now, a serious post. I keep writing this post over and over, but hesitating to actually put it up as a "reaction post" because I don’t want to dismiss the feelings of the folks who write this stuff, but it drives me nuts. So I gave it some space, but here it is.

I am tired of hearing from thin ladies who feel like they are challenging beauty ideals when they start lifting and gaining muscle.

Inevitably they talk about how people warn them against "getting big". Don’t be too big, it’s not feminine! Muscle adds bulk you know! And they post pictures of their well-developed backs and arms, flexing their guns, and complain about finding pants to fit their growing quads.

However, as a fat woman, no one ever warned me against "getting big" when I started lifting. It was assumed that I’d get smaller, actually. I lift plenty heavy (see yesterday’s post for my current bragging numbers) yet I’ve never lost my "feminine physique", My guns hardly show much when I flex. The hard ridge of my quads above my knees and the profile of my hamstrings are less noticeable when my thighs are already well-padded. My strength doesn’t "show"; indeed, most people who look at me might think I’ve never set foot in a gym.

Can we talk about the modern feminine ideal for a second? Let’s not pretend that there aren’t a billion fitspo pictures out there that look just like those thin ladies flexing. Googling "Top female weightlifters" returned a bunch of listicles like "The 12 Hottest Women of the 2015 CrossFit Games" and "Hottest Female Weightlifters in the World"– and the same thing happens for "top female athletes", too. And yet the strongest women in the country, the Olympic lifters in the highest weight categories, can’t pay their rent and aren’t offered sponsorships– because women are valuable because of their attractiveness and not their ability.

Anyway, thin ladies, please keep lifting if you enjoy it. Be proud of the muscles and power you’ve earned– and I encourage you to brag about them while being aware that you still fit well within the feminine ideal. Some strong women aren’t so privileged.

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Singles day

Kinda sore today, and in a hurry– so I decided it would be a good day to do some 1RM tests, just so I have a baseline. This gives me a good idea of where to put my opener– if I could lift it in a reasonably comfy fashion 2 weeks before the comp, around there is a good place for a confident first lift.

Bench was first. I couldn’t wrangle the rack into a configuration where the safety bar was the right height– either a failure would still crush me, or the safety bar was like 2" too high. I chose 2" too high (because the plan was to go to failure) and treated them like pauses, bringing the bar to rest on the safety bar before pressing it back up. (Less than ideal– it was a weird stopping place– but whatevs.) After 5x95lb for a warmup, I tried out singles at 125lb and 135lb, which went up okay, but 145lb and then 140lb weren’t happening. So I did a couple more singles at 135lb.

Squats were next, which required a complete reconfiguation of the rack. The weight room was busy this morning, and literally everything was being camped except for this one rack that I claimed for my own. Started at an easy 145lb, then 165lb, then 175lb. At 175 I became a little leaky. I tried 185lb and it went up with effort but I was very leaky, I had to run to the locker room. (Note to self: for comp, wear dark leggings.) I thought about 195lb but figured my pants were probably wet enough already. Gonna have to wear my Depends next time. "The Leaky Squats" might be my new band name.

Finally, deadlift. I’d been lifting way below my max waiting for my back to heal, so I approached this gingerly and braced carefully– and left the bar on the floor when adding weights so I wouldn’t have to risk unracking (it’s always putting the bar down that hurts). 185lb was fine, then 205lb, then 225lb, and finally 235lb, which took some work. I’m still concerned about my thighs, and tried to make a conscious effort to hold the bar a bit forward at the top of the lift. I don’t bring the bar up on my thighs, but once I straighten out it winds up there.

So, that’s where I’m at, T-minus 2 weeks. Heck, if I made these same lifts, I’d feel good about it! But I’m hoping to get another 5lb on bench and 10lb or maybe more on squat and DL…

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