Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The old in-out

HELLCAB publicity photo
The 5K on Roosevelt Island is coming up this Saturday (at the crack of dawn - ugh - what is up with these runner types?) and I have been very bad about training. I have been training - but that means running a few miles once a week.

So I decided that dammit I was going to run home from work every day this week (except for Monday.) I often walk home from work, so why not just run? So that's what I did today and it cut my commuting time in half (walk-commuting, not subway commuting - the N/Q train gets me home in 10 minutes.)

And while I was running I was thinking about my breathing and from there, in my usual morbid way, to poor Nick Mevoli and how he couldn't catch his breath. I blogged about Mevoli eight years ago, when he was the lead in HELLCAB produced by Rising Sun Performance Company. My friend Reagan was in the cast of HELLCAB and invited me to come and see her. As you can see in the blog post, I was very impressed with the production.

Why couldn't Mevoli have stuck to acting? Isn't that scary enough? It sure would be for me.

Instead he decided to try to set the world free-diving record. Free-diving is when fools try to see how deep down into the water they can swim without any underwater breathing  or swimming equipment. His last dive was November 17, 2013, the day before my big operation (yes you can blog from your hospital bed, once the morphine wears off.) According to the NYTimes.
At 12:25 p.m. Sunday, surrounded by 15 other athletes and observers, as well as five safety divers, he turned and submerged, face first and looking like a human arrow shooting into the darkness on what would be the last dive of his life. 
Officials for Vertical Blue, a championship event in the sport of free diving, monitored and announced Mevoli’s progress by sonar, and all was progressing smoothly until he had trouble at 68 meters, or about 223 feet, and seemed to turn back. Yet instead of heading to the surface, he decided to dive down again in an attempt to reach his goal and achieve his second American record. A few of his fellow athletes squirmed with discomfort, recognizing that his decision was a dangerous one. 
“Diving to that depth with no fins, that’s a hard, physical dive,” said Mike Board, the British record-holder. “I was thinking, O.K., he’s going to have a hard time getting up.” 
Still, Mevoli shot to the surface under his own power, after a dive of 3 minutes 38 seconds. That’s when the scene turned nightmarish. 
Mevoli ripped off his goggles, flashed the O.K. sign and attempted to complete the surface protocol that would make his attempt official by saying, “I am O.K.” But he wasn’t. His words were garbled, his eyes wide and blank. He tipped backward into the ocean and lost consciousness, which, while alarming, is not unheard-of in a sport in which almost all the top athletes have lost consciousness at one time or another, though usually for only a few seconds. Mevoli was not so fortunate.
The Times has the gory details of what happened after that, which you can go and read. Basically Mevoli's lungs were too fucked up from the dive to let him breathe properly.

There was a controversy about the story because they ran a photo of Mevoli right after he surfaced, which was just moments before he died and you can see from his face that he is clearly in distress. You can Google for that image if you want, I'm not going to post it.

Mevoli was 32 and was handsome and talented and in great shape. Why was he compelled to risk his life on a regular basis like that? He was the same age as my dear Earl, who was also handsome (well beautiful, really) and talented and in great shape and who also died foolishly - but at least a motorcycle, as dangerous as it is, has a practical purpose of transportation. Free diving has no purpose other than so you can say "hey I dove really deep into the water and I lived to tell about it." If you live to tell about it.

In... out... in... out...