This blog is what happens when I drink too much coffee, hang out with my cats, and have access to a computer. EndangeredSwimmer is primarily an athletic journal about an endangered species: open water swimmers in Mississippi. Occasionally, however, I pen some essays and even a piece of fiction from time to time. And just in case you are wondering, yes, Poot is a real person, and Randy Beets and I really do hate each other.
For someone who deliberately tries to fly under the
radar at work, some pretty surprising things have been happening to me lately.
First, I was named Faculty Liaison for The Greenwood Center. Next, I was
notified yesterday that I am the Humanities Teacher of the Year at MDCC.
What?!? Surprise doesn’t come close to describing my reaction.
It seems I have a John the Baptist, someone who
has been promoting me, preaching my virtues, mentioning my name. I think I know
who it is. I’m sure I do. I would fight a circle saw for this person.
Anyway, enough of that. This is a training blog
and primarily that is what I will stick to. I did run, uh, shuffle yesterday. I’ve
been taking Wednesdays off but I did an easy 1.51 miles before going to the
pool at Twin Rivers. There I did
1,200 300 back kick/swim with
fins 400 large paddles 600 medium paddles 800 small paddles 1,200 Total: 4,500 LCM
Tuesday has become my tempo day if you can really call it that. I'm trying not to do any fast running now because of the risks of injury, but I can't help but throw in a multi-paced effort every now and then. For the last two weeks, I have done some squats before my Tuesday run. It makes a huge difference, and I am thinking I should get a good training effect from it because I'm running on tired legs from the outset. I did 15 X 0 and 9 X 50 and then immediately left shuffling towards the Tallahatchie Bridge. My first leg was 2.51 at a miserable 11:15 pace. Leg two was .75 miles at a 9:17 pace, which for me right now is almost a true tempo. Leg three was a shuffling 1.8 at 12:27. It's hard to admit that I ambulated that slow but that was what my Garmin said. The last leg was a gentle .74 walk for a total run of 5.06 miles and running and .74 miles of walking.
I didn't make it to the grandchildren's house. At DSU, I swam 5,100 SCYs which converts to 4,661.4 meters. There is no way I can remember everything Cagri made us do. His practices are long and convoluted and most of the time I just have to keep a running total in my head. I do remember a 4 X 300 pull set where we descended by 100s. Folowing that was a 4 X 200 swim set on :20 rest that descended by 200s. I recorded my 200s at: 3:03, 2:58, 2:59, and 2:52.
I’m not a morning person. Lately, however, I’ve been trying to get up early at least once per week and get in some exercise. Monday has been my chosen day because I do a lot of napping on Sunday afternoons and I’m more rested then than ever. Still, dragging myself out of bed is never easy. To make things more difficult, I had to spend the night with my mom last night. Not that that is a great burden or anything, it just throws my routine off. I suppose the most profound sign of my age, besides my blond hair, is my abhorrence of anything that messes with my routine. I am a creature of habit and anything that changes my daily order is met with extreme displeasure.
I did get up after a severe struggle between my lazy-self and my industrious-self. As usual, I didn’t feel like doing anything and even walked a bit before I started shuffling. I went straight to the boulevard and headed north. It was still dark at a quarter of six when I crossed over the Tallahatchie Bridge. I even had some apprehension as I topped the crown of the bridge and peered into the darkness below. My mind went back to my experiences last fall on those turnrows just over the bridge. I am entering the coyote domain, I thought. But I won’t be going in far.
Just over the bridge, I noticed the splash of orange in the eastern sky. It’s been awhile since I saw that. The sight, the orange that is, took my mind back to years of old, back to that big box of crayons I had as a child. The sky was the same color as the orange crayon I used to decorate so many coloring books or sometimes blank sheets of notebook paper.The sight of the sky brought back the smell of the colors, and I even had visions of some of my early artwork. There was the sun colored in that orange the eastern sky was showing me at the time. And the birds in the sky, those flattened out ems. And ships on the sea and airplanes attacking them. It’s amazing how much violence dominated my adolescent imagination.
I stayed on Money Road and although my legs didn’t feel strong, I began to enjoy my run. It is that time of year when it is still warm but not hot this time of morning. Sweat filled my shirt but it didn’t run off me like a car driving out of a rainstorm.
Then my mind went to water temperature because once more I’m training for the Suck. I swam pools last week. The fish ponds are more volatile as concerns temperature. What will the water temperature be Saturday? How much will it heat up through the day? How will the coming rain affect it?
There is a hurricane or a tropical storm on its way here. They call it Isaac and he’s destined to deluge us with heavy rain and that always means lower water temperatures.Will I even get to swim outdoors this week? One thing is for sure: there is nothing anyone can do about the weather except respond. I can swim in rain and cold, but I fear to swim in lightning.
I hear only my footfalls as I make my way south back over the bridge. Several people are jogging or walking. I see Tod Fincher, and he speaks. I see someone on a bicycle. I see two young women running up the center of the roadway. Someone else walks a dog.
My pace is horrendous. It always is in the morning. But still, I feel better than when I stumbled out the door, and I’m encouraged by all the others I see who did the same thing. The space around me is beginning to lighten. In town now, I cannot see the eastern horizon.
I’m glad I got up.
I ran 2.52 miles and walked .4. After work, I wanted to swim, but with the storm coming I stayed home and mowed the lawn. Like usual, I lifted weights between circuits of mowing. I wore my Garmin and recorded an additional 1.59 miles of walking.
I was just going over some numbers in my training diary and discovered that I literally have swum more miles this year than I have run. My running total for the year comes to a paltry 367 miles. On the other hand, this has been the most prolific year of my life in the water having logged 618,853 meters, which translates to 384 miles. The bike has been such a non-event that I haven't even run the numbers. Probably I've biked less than 200 miles. Some change.
Somehow another week has gotten by without any weightlifting. Although I never train on Sundays, I was planning on it today, but a visitation and the care of my mother has even taken the possibility of sinning away from me.
I don't think I've written about my plans for next year's birthday swim. I want to do it again, but go farther and raise more money than this year. The plan that was forming in my mind was to do it at Ross Barnett Reservoir. The RezUltra Swim for Diabetes was the name I had come up with and 16-miles was the distance. I've even been talking to another charity, The Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, I've come up with a T-shirt design, and I've dreamed a host of other plans. Last week, however, a chat with a friend threw all of that into disarray. Wilson Carroll, formerly of Greenwood, is training for Big Shoulders in Chicago. He told me of a couple of swims he did at Old Trace Park which is where I was planning on starting my swim. He was swimming there one morning when some runners on shore became hysterical and started yelling at him to "Get the #@%* out of the water!" He complied only to discover a large alligator was trailing him about forty feet to his rear. Going back the next day, the same thing happened again. He no longer swims there. Jeez Louise.
Scrap Ross Barnett. Now I'm thinking about going back to Chicot. I still have some other ideas and nothing is firm yet other than I want to swim really long again, and I want to raise more funds for diabetes. Lake Chicot solves a host of logistical problems, but I was wanting the excitement of swimming another body of water. Anyway, I'm still thinking, and I'm open to suggestions.
For the week I
Swam 21,805.9 meters
Ran 18.32 miles
Walked 2.31 miles
but did not weightlifting or biking. I hope to pile on some mega yardage next week. The countdown for The Swim the Suck started two weeks ago. I need volume, long swims, strenght work, and even speed work. Unfortunately I have to work and help take care of my mom, so I just do what I can.
Thursday I ran 2.53 miles before driving to Skene to hug my grandchildren. Then it was off to DSU. I did
2 X 100 fast
2 X 50 kick all four times through
100 easy 8 X 50 DPS
4 X 25 DPS with fins
750 small paddles
Total: 4350 SCY = 3,975.9 meters
Friday I drove to Carroll County and ran 7.01 miles followed by a 1.1 mile walk. I intended to swim and lift weights that afternoon, but I got lazy and did neither. Instead I took a nap and watched a movie, Sunset Blvd, one of my all-time favorites.
Saturday I went to Twin Rivers instead of the pond trying to save some time. Our grandson's birthday party was today so I had to cut some time corners where I could. I did
200 kick with fins
200 kick with fins
200 kick with fins
Total: 10,600 long course meters
We went to the birthday party. When we got home, I took a little 1.45 mile shuffle and a .31 mile walk.
Before I ran, I did two sets of squats. One was a set of air squats, only 13 reps. The second set was 8 X 50. Not much for most people, but for me enough to get me seriously week-kneed. I really felt it when I ran immediately afterwards. On the run, I did 4.8 with a .65 tempo embedded. Then I drove to Skene and hugged my granddaughter before going to Masters at DSU. Since Cagri doesn't write the practices out the way Petya did, I usually can't remember everything we did. I can remember
500 all @ 2:00
400 with fins all @ 1:45
I had trouble with the math on the 1:45s so I don't know if I made the intervals or not, but I had not problem with the 2:00 ones
10 X 50 as 25 all out/25 back
300 small paddles
Total: 4,300 scys = 3,930.2 meters
I wanted to swim Wednesday, but it took the whole afternoon to close the deal on a new Nissan Frontier. No, not for me. My wife Penny now has a new vehicle. Our driveway really looks nice with two good-looking trucks in it.
For the first time all year, I got up before work and did some training. I ran 2.1 and walked .15 before bathing and going off to school. After work I had some things to check on and didn't get into the pool until 3:00 0'clock. I did
200 kick with fins
2 X 400 small paddles
200 kick with fins
2 X 400 small paddles
Total: 3,300 meters.
Naturally, I would like to have been able to put in more yardage, but I suffered from low energy and other chores that needed attendance.
Although I didn't get in any weightlifting or any biking, it was a pretty good training week. I got in 28,615 meters of swimming with a long swim of 8 miles and some quality interval training in the first three days of the week in the pool. Running wise, I managed 17.5 miles which is pretty good for me right now. I am looking forward to knocking off more next week.
I started the week with a strong push to put in some mega swimming distance. Thursday's mishaps, however, started putting the breaks on my well-laid plans. I visited my grandchildren and then drove to the DSU pool only to discover that I had left my swimming equipment at home. What?! Who does that? I drove back to Greenwood and went to Twin Rivers only to be frightened out of the pool by lightening after only 1,600 meters.
Friday, I went to the cabin. Like last week, the sky was overcast and the weather cool. I ran 6.37 miles and walked 1.04. The running, finally, is starting to come around. I had planned to go to the pool, but somehow I never made it.
Saturday morning I met Randy at PD. We swam 8.06 miles and ran 2.1. We intended to ride our mountain bikes on the gravel roads around the ponds, but it rained a lot and was so sloppy we gave up on that idea. This was my twelfth 10K+ swim this year. Last year, including the Suck, I only did eleven.
I went back to work this week so it's been a little harder to get to the blog. Also, I have experienced computer issues at work. But I have managed some pretty nice pool practices. Monday I did
10 X 100 @ 2:30
8 X 100 @ 2:15
6 X 100 @ 2:00
Total: 5,100 LC meters
Tuesday I went to Masters at DSU. We did
800 by 200 SKPS (swim, kick, pull, swim)
3 X 500
16 X 25
400 no wall (flip just before the wall)
400 kick with fins
Total: 4,100 SC yards = 3,747 meters
Wednesday I went back to Twin Rivers
400 (forgot a chore and had to leave but came back)
15 X 200 @ 4:15 (every other one with paddles)
100 experimenting with Tempo Trainerr
100 experimenting with Tempo Trainer
300 small paddles
Total: 5,200 meters
It was a pretty good week of training, but tomorrow I go back to work and face the difficulty of getting everything done. Some of my classes are full and some are empty. I am both excited and dreadful. The only thing that bothers me about teaching is students who are there for some reason other than education. Below are my totals for the week.
I swam so far at the pond, even the catfish got tired
Run - 15.79
Swim - 42,564 meters
walk - 3.57
bike - none
weights - 1X UB
For swimming, that represents my all time high by a little over 2,000 meters with my previous best being 40,200. I hope this gives me a fitness boost. Usually when I do something really crazy, it makes a difference. Also I got in two practices of 10,000 meters or more, making 11 so far since I opened serious training after January 1st. For the year, I am 149,000 meters (92 miles) over last year, and last year was the biggest swim year of my life. I hope to get in around 35,000 next week. We (Randy and I) are now in the critical countdown in our Swim the Suck training. The event, Oct. 6, is about eight weeks out. Saving for a two week taper, that leaves us with only six weeks to train. I am fit enough to do the swim today, but I want to break my last year's time be several minutes. I should be on track to do that. This year, Besides doing the most swimming of my life, I have done the longest swim of my life (13.94 miles), the biggest training week (this week with 42,564 meters), broken several of my pool records, and taken my weight lifting to new heights. My running is even ahead of last year. I short, I am gunning for a good swim at this year's Suck.
I had to work Friday morning, but as soon as I shook free, I headed to Twin Riviers. I was planning about 4,000 meters, but my left shoulder was feeling funny so I cut it short. I've injured that shoulder twice lifting weights and once in a ladder accident. I would up doing
6 X 100 back kick/swim with fins
I was a bit insecure about Saturday, but I got up early (for a Saturday morning) and was in the pond at 7:21 a.m. I wound up swimming 7.2 miles and ran 2.18.
The Chicot Challenge Part IV
At Lake Village, I sat
on the sidewalk and consumed a Cliff bar, some potato chips, and two Reese’s.
We stayed about ten minutes and then started back. I was eager to get going
because every stroke now would be taking us closer instead of farther from the
finish. Also, we now had the wind to our backs which, as with a bicycle, means
For the return trip, Robin
had the Garmin on her boat so she could tell me exactly how far I had swum. On
the swim in, I had the Garmin under my swim cap. That assured my distance was
exact, but I didn’t know how far I had swum while the swim was in progress.
With the wind at my
back and some food in my belly, I made a full mile before each of my first two
feedings. These two miles were the fastest of the entire swim.
Like coming under the
causeway and being able to see Lake Village during the first half of the swim,
headed the other way from Lake Village we could see the causeway from the
beginning. Once again, this was at first encouraging but then discouraging as
the roadway and bridge seemed to be permanently painted on the horizon far up
ahead. Eventually, however, we did get there.
As we drew near the causeway,
we noticed someone standing on the bridge. The closer we got, the more it
seemed he was interested in what we were doing. When we got really close, I
noticed Robin and Randy were talking with him. Turns out it was Matt Goddard, a
swimmer and triathlete who trains with the Greenville Masters. We passed under
the bridge and I looked back and saw he had switched sides and was watching us
swim away. I waved at him, appreciating and taking encouragement at his
Then the tough part of
the swim was underway. We were over ten-miles now and physically I was
beginning to feel it. A muscle I didn’t know I had, one under my right scapula,
started to scream at me. The hands had been hurting since mile 4.5, and the
mental monotony was taking its toll.
Robin kept me updated
on the distance as well as posting updates on Facebook for those who were
interested. Later, it was touching to read all the comments and encouragements
posted in response to Robin’s updates. During one feeding, she told me Bob
Darden had called my phone. He is the reporter who did the write up for the Greenwood Commonwealth. His article
proved to play a major role in the fundraising department. He asked how the
swim was going and when I would finish. He wanted me to call him after I got in.
Eleven miles passed, and
then twelve, and I was in new territory surpassing my lifetime best. At 12.4, I
began just to want the swim to be over. First there was that inlet of water on
our right that never seemed to pass. Then it was a water tower on our left that
seemed to move with us. I tried not to look at it, but it’s kind of large and
impossible not to see. Mind games is a whole lot of what endurance athletics is
all about, and I was digging deep for every trick I had ever learned. I counted
strokes, tried to play music in my mind, even tried all sorts of daydreams.
Nothing worked.Although I knew that despite cutting through
the center of the lake for a more direct course, the swim was going to be on
the long side of thirteen miles. I began to think Randy Beats was playing a
huge ruse on me.
Randy sent me a text
one day telling me about a kayak trip he made on Lake Chicot. He started at the
state park, went to downtown Lake Village and came back. When he told me it was
a thirteen-mile round trip, something inside me clicked. I immediately texted
him back to the effect that it sounded like he had the discovered the route to
a really interesting marathon swim. That’s when he offered to crew me if I
wanted to do the swim. And that’s why I say the whole thing is Randy’s fault.
Or maybe I should say his credit.
When Robin announced
thirteen miles, she followed it with a question: “You need anything?”
“Yeah,” I answered.
“The finish. Where is that boat ramp?” I asked in desperation.
“Right up there,” Randy
pointed. I saw it. I thought maybe it was a half mile away. What was that
compared to the thirteen I had already swum? But at that moment, the short
distance seemed like a world away.
The water was rough now
and the chop was in our face. It had been at our backs only a mile or so ago,
but now it slapped me on the top of the head and caused me to have to be very
particular about breathing to keep from inhaling liquid instead of air.
Ever so slowly we drew closer
to the ramp. But the closer we came, the slower we seemed to go. It was as if
time was standing still.
And then we were there.
The concrete under the water was slick with
algae. I stood up, removed my goggles, and carefully made my way out of the
water, almost falling several times.
When Robin told me the
Garmin read 13.94, I briefly considered getting back in to make it fourteen. She
even offered to go back out with me. But it didn’t take long to put that
thought to bed. Like a well-cooked hamburger patty, I was done.
Robin and Randy refused
to let me carry anything, so I went to the truck, dried off, and put on some
clothes. We went to the porch of the store where I returned Bob Darden’s call.
He asked some questions about the swim which he used to write a follow up article
for Sunday’s Commonwealth.
Robin then hauled out a
birthday cake. She and Randy gave me a cup purchased from the landing store that
they wrote my distance and time on with a black sharpie. To me it looked then
and it looks now like a gold medal from the Olympics. We ate cake and I gazed
at my cup.
Physically, I felt
pretty good. I was a little tired but my shoulders felt solid. My hands,
however, which hurt me from mile 4.5, were already sore, and my wrists had
tender tendons on top.
After our little celebration, Robin had to go home, but Randy took me
to Sherman’s in Greenville and fed me supper. I ate a large catfish fillet and
drank a gallon or two of water. Then I drove home with that tired but satisfied
feeling I love that comes after a long successful endurance effort. I thought
about the swim and my bed. I wanted to go to bed. But my mind wouldn’t stay on
the swim or bed; it kept going back to logs. Why did God create logs to look so
much like part of his animal creation?
When I closed my eyes
to sleep that night, I saw water, water, more water. I saw water on my right,
water on my left. I saw water below me and when I looked ahead, like a partly
submerged periscope, I saw water half way up my goggles.
I felt water. I felt
water flowing down my sides, engulfing my body, washing over my head. I felt
water like a basketball in my hands as I caught and pulled it moving myself
through the unending coolness that was water. I felt it washing in and out of
my mouth, penetrating my ears, swirling around my feet.
Since today was one of my last days off, I decided to make the most of it. I started the day with a trip to Twin Rivers where I swam an easy 2,100 meters. Then I drove to Carroll County and for the first time all summer, I ran some hills. I just haven't been fit enough until now and I'm barely fit enough at this point. I shuffled 5.36 miles before I walked the remaining 1.7 miles. I could have run more, but I am and will most likely remain gun shy for a long time to come. For almost four years now, I have battled constant injuries. I was simply afraid to run farther.
Late in the afternoon, I drove to Skene and spent some time with my grandchildren. It was then off to Delta State University for Masters Swim Practice with our new coach. Cagri, I think, is going to be very good for us. I can't remember everything we did. It was a bunch of sprinting and drills. I do know that I swam 4,700 SCY which equals 4,295 meters. For the day, I finished with 6,395 meters. My goal at the beginning of the week was to establish a new record total for the most meters I've ever swum. I am well on my way to meeting that goal.
The Chicot Challenge Part III
Lake Chicot has a causeway across it about four miles from the state
park. There is a small bridge there and for some reason swimming under bridges has
always given me the creeps. To make matters worse, when we drew near the
causeway, I swear, I could smell fish. Smelling fish gave me a queasy feeling
besides the nervousness I already had about the bridge.
Randy went up ahead to
check on the water conditions at the causeway. Already I had told him I was
worried about getting hooked there. He paddled up ahead and talked to some
fishermen on the bank. They assured him that the water was clear and he came
back and tried to assuage my fears.
When we got to the
mouth of the little chute going under the causeway, I asked Robin to stay
close. A large fish then swirled underwater sending an unexpected blast of
water back into my hand. I screamed like a little girl. It was an unmanly thing
to do, I know, but Robin pulled her kayak very close and kept it near without
ever hitting me. She also talked to me the whole way through. She kept saying,
“You’re doing fine Zane, just keep moving. You’re doing fine.” Once on the
other side, I felt like a major part of the swim had been conquered.
After I began swimming outdoors, the water
warmed up a degree or two every few days, and I began to build up some distance.
By April, I was in full stride. Although I never knew what my schedule was
going to be due to my mother’s frequent hospital stays, when I had a day off, I
always crammed it as full of training as my body could bear. I started going to
the big pond on PD (PD Plantation, a part of Tackett Fish Farm). I would take a
barbell, running shoes, and nutrition and spend the better part of a day swimming,
running, and lifting. Then when Twin Rivers pumped up their pool at the end of
April, my distance went to over 20,000 meters per week, hitting 30,000 plus for
several weeks in a row. On May 14th, I did an 8.5 mile training
swim in the pond and felt good afterwards. I knew then that I had the endurance
for a seriously long swim.
On the other side of
the causeway, a cloud came up and it began to rain. I thought that swimming in
the rain was kind of neat. There was no lightening and I was thankful for that,
but I hoped my crew didn’t mind getting wet. When the rain ended twenty minutes
later, a head wind came up and the lake became a little choppy. This slowed the
pace a bit and made swimming more difficult.
We could see the water
tower in Lake Village once we crossed the causeway. At first, I found the sight
of the water tower to be a source of encouragement. But after a while, it
seemed like that tower never came any closer. My hands had started hurting
around mile 4.5. Now, with the hand pain, the headwind chop, and the ever
distant water tower, I was growing eager to make Lake Village, to get to the turnaround
point. Out and back courses, be they running or swimming, to me at least,
present a certain mental challenge if they are long and difficult. Encountering
pain or fatigue before the turnaround when one is still getting farther from
the finish can be a huge mental hurdle.
Not only did I run and
swim but, as mentioned earlier, weight lifting was a big part of my cross-training.
At least twice a week, I did major sessions in my backyard gym. Bench presses
and one-arm-rows form the foundation of my upper body work. But I also did
pull-ups, chin-ups, seated rows, and a sports-specific move I call the swim
pull. I had a special attachment made for my lat pull down machine that allows
me to almost perfectly mimic the catch and pull of the freestyle stroke. When
the yard mowing season started, I would do a circuit on the weights, get out the
mower and cut a round of grass, then do more weights, more yard mowing, more
weight, well, you get the picture. The weight sessions were usually followed by
runs and then walks. After exercise nutrition included an energy gel, to
produce an insulin reaction, and a good whey protein shake to promote recovery
from muscle damage.
Eventually we did make
it to town. Downtown Lake Village has a boat ramp, two piers, and a swimming
area. Although I had planned on English Channel rules, my crew wanted a break and
I was in no mood to argue. Thus we stopped at the steps leading into the water.
Randy got there first and took pictures of me and Robin coming in. Then we got out on the sidewalk. The Garmin
read 7.42 miles and we were only half way. I was mentally prepared for a
thirteen-mile swim; however, the idea of almost fifteen-miles was a daunting
thought. It was Randy who had told me the swim would be thirteen-miles. When I expressed my concern about the
distance, he assured me that we could shave some distance on the return trip by
cutting straight across one of the big bends instead of following the full curve
of the lake. I had my doubts.
Only about three weeks
or so before the swim, I decided to use the event as a fundraiser for diabetes.
It just seemed like a waste of a lot of time and energy to make it only about
my own personal fitness and goals. I chose diabetes because my life experience
has shown me what a heinous disease Type 2 diabetes is. For most of this year,
my life has been turned upside down by my mother’s illness. My sister and I
have spent countless nights in a couple of hospitals and at Mom and Dad’s
taking care of Mother. I didn’t know from day to day if I would even get to
train. I didn’t even attempt to touch my bicycle until a couple of weeks after
the swim. A few times the hassle of trying to squeeze in workouts became so
overwhelming that I seriously contemplated dumping even my swimming.
Not only has diabetes
destroyed Mom’s health, but I have buried several of my church members who died
too young because of this illness. The projection for the growth of this
gateway disease is that by the year 2025 a full third of Americans will be
diabetics. If that happens, America as we know will cease to exist. China does
not have enough money to loan us to pay that tab. Somehow, people must learn
about the seriousness of diabetes and what they can do to prevent it.
contacted the Greenwood Commonwealth
for some hoped for publicity. I also sent out an e-mail to the Money Road
Cycling Club as well as personally talking with my colleagues and students at
work. The first check I received was from Richard Beatty. I was not surprised.
Just before lunch, I ran 2.1 miles and did my setups. Then after work, as soon as Twin Rivers was clear enough of kids for lap swimming, I was in and going up and down my favorite lane. I did
400 kick with fins
100 easy with fins
10 X 100 @ 2:30
400 kick with fins
8 X 100 @ 2:15
400 kick on back/swim with fins
Total: 4,700 meters.
Now for Part II of The Chicot Challenge
The swim started sometime
around 9:50 a.m. on June 2, 2012. That day I celebrated my fifty-sixth birthday
by wading into the water at the boat landing at Lake Chicot State Park and
swimming for almost eight and a half hours. Randy and Robin Bond, both open
water swimmers themselves, had volunteered to crew me, had rented kayaks at the park, and had committed themselves for a day of taking care of me, keeping me safe from boat traffic, and making sure I was fed and hydrated.
I started the swim with the usual nervous energy that comes from months of hard training followed by a radical taper. Several times I had to tell myself to slow down, relax, swim smooth. I was in the water alone for several minutes before my crew got in their boats and caught up with me. Then the fun began.
Training had started in January. I didn’t have this particular swim on my calendar then, but I knew I was doing the Suck again, and I knew I wanted to do a long personal swim on my birthday. My mom’s illness severely limited my training time so I decided to focus everything on swimming. Having access to an indoor pool only twice, sometimes thrice per week meant that big yardage that time of year was not possible for me. But I always did extra swimming after Tuesday and Thursday Masters practice at Delta State University, and I hit the weights with an uncommon vigor in an attempt to toughen my muscles for the larger swim loads to come in the spring and to build sports-specific strength.
February, like January, consisted of Masters Swim Pracitice twice per week. Three thousand yards prescribed by coach Petya Petrova, additional swimming after everyone else had left, tons of weight lifting, and an occasional Friday swim thrown in. In January I logged 45,200 meters of swimming, but in February I managed to get only 33,496 meters.
In late February, I conjured up the nerve to venture outdoors. I called David Rutherford of Tackett Fish Farms and acquired permission to swim J7, one of my favorites from last year. Even with a wetsuit on, however, the cold penetrated my body like a 30’06 slug penetrating a buck deer. But March was unseasonably warm and by the middle of the month I was open water swimming without a wetsuit. That month I got in 56,238 meters in addition to my cross training.
The fun alluded to earlier began a mere 1200 meters into the all-day swim. We saw something up ahead that looked ominously like a large alligator. Randy peddled up closer while Robin slowed and I swam slowly with head out of water.
“Oh my God!” Randy yelled as he pulled up close. “His whole head came out of the water!”
He paddled back to us in a fury and we started discussing what to do. “Are you sure it’s an alligator?” Robin insistently asked.
“I think so,” was his answer. “You better get out and go around on land,” he advised me.
Robin suggested they take a closer look so they paddled cautiously towards the gator while I nervously treaded water. I was sure we were looking at a real monster since I could see the eyes at the back of the beast head. He was huge and two boats and a swimmer didn’t seem to scare him a bit.
When they got really close, Robin shouted, “Get out of the water, Zane! Get out of the water!” The panic in her voice convinced me to waste no time in scrambling up the nearest pier. Once on top of the pier she calmly said, “You can get back in now.”
It was only a log.
The log moved.
The log looked like an alligator.
That’s when I got to pondering the question of God creating logs to look so much like alligators.
Lake Chicot, located in southeast Arkansas, is really nice. The state’s largest natural lake is a twenty-mile long oxbow of the Mississippi River. It’s a beautiful lake of fairly clear water, georgeous homes, and fishing piers and boats all along its banks. Randal Beets is the one who introduced me to it. The Greenville Masters, coached by Brian Ott, scheduled an open water practice there in 2011, and Randy invited me to join them. We were both training for the Suck at the time so we stayed after the practice and did extra repeats across the lake and back from the downtown boat ramp/swim area. Later that summer, I did a 6.5 mile solo swim there pulling a lime-green spine board that held my nutrition. One week before the Suck, Randy and I did a five-miler in Chicot. Robin crewed for us that day, and we swam from the downtown landing to the Visitor Center and back. I’ve had Chicot on the brain ever since.
After the log-impersonating-an-alligator incident, I settled into a good swimming rhythm, and although I had forgotten to tell Robin how often to feed me, she started me at thirty minutes so we kept that schedule for the entire swim. Robin proved to be an excellent crew member. She fed me promptly, was never more than a few feet away, and she never let me get lazy. If I pulled my head up, even if her boat was ahead of me, she immediately asked what was wrong. When I would tell her I was just looking around, she always ordered me back to swimming.
I had to report to work Monday morning. Summer is always one week too short. I had the afternoon planned since for eight years we have always been off after lunch. David reserved the pond at PD for me so I went. The water was brutally hot and I only managed 4.61 miles before I abandoned the water due to an advancing storm that displayed a lot of lightening.
Being off Tuesday, I called David who suggested another pond for me. At 8:06 a.m., I waded into a 22.2 acre pond just north of Moorhead. For awhile the water was OK, but it quickly heated and swimming became an act of survival. I pulled off 6.44 miles of swimming, and 4.45 miles of running. After all that, I just tossed in the towel. I had hoped for at least seven miles of swimming, but really hot water sucks the energy and will right out of you.
Below is the first installment of my write up of my birthday swim.
The Chicot Challenge Part I
When God Created Logs
By Zane Hodge
When God created logs, he made them look a lot like alligators. This was one of the things going through my mind as I stroked along moving at what seemed like a snail’s pace towards the state park which seemed to be a continent away. Funny what will go through your head when you’re freed from the burden of counting laps. Such is one of the joys of open water swimming: freedom.
But now I didn’t feel so free anymore. I felt like Sisyphus, condemned to swim for eternity towards a destination that could never be reached. I had been almost eight hours in the lake, and the fatigue was as much mental as physical. I was tired of being face down in the water, tired of feeling that pain in my hands, and I was ready to do something else. Anything else. Root canal? Sign me up. Scraping the house for painting? Give me a ladder. Jumping into a pit of snakes? Show me the way.
Then I saw something that I hadn’t seen when we passed that way earlier on our out-and-back course.
“What’s that?” I asked Robin.
“A boat dock,” she answered. I wasn’t referring to the boat dock, but to the inlet of water which surprised me. I was wondering if it had a name, if it was a creek or something, and why I hadn’t noticed it before. “Just keep swimming,” she shot back. That was her manner for the day: professional, curt, whip-cracking.
I put my head down and resumed my steady stroking towards the elusive state park. A few minutes later, I picked my head up again when it didn’t seem like we were getting anywhere.
“Are we moving?” I asked.
“We’re moving Zane. Just keep swimming.”
I put my head back down and resumed what had started as a fantastic adventure but what now had become a dull task.
It’s hard to say where all of this started. You could lay the blame with finishing last year’s Swim the Suck Ten-Miler that left me with a hunger to go longer. Or you could go back to 2007 the year I did That Dam Swim, a twelve-miler. Or you could say the real source of my compulsion, my desire to complete a really long swim goes all the way back to my childhood when I was about two years old and I snuck out the back door, lost my diaper on the stoop, and took off up Tenth Street in Greenwood, Mississippi running nekkid and free. This “running free,” in one manner or another, has characterized most of my life and has become something of an obsession in my adulthood. But really, I blame it all on Randal Beets.
Last week, my final seven days of freedom, I managed to pull off 30,345 meters of swimming, 67.18 miles of biking, 14.7 miles of running, 4.92 miles of walking, and one major session of weight lifting session. My weight has started trending downward and the thoughts of next year's birthday swim are as strong to me now as last year's birthday swim was to me last May. I doon't think my motivation will wane, at least not as long as the weather is warm. There are a lot of logistical and organizational issues to work out, but I have started that and everything I am doing physically now is towards the goal of next June's swim.
To the right is a view from the water of my beloved pond. This is where I get in and out. Looks inviting, huh? I plan to spend as much time as possible here for the next couple of months. Maybe, I can adjust to the changes in weather and swim all year outdoors. If I can pull that off, my goals for next summer will change.
Friday I went to Twin Rivers about 8 a.m. and once again I got swarmed by kids and had to cut another swim short. Before the kids invaded, I did:
700 kick with fins
400 swim with fins
2 X 50 @ 1:30 with fins
100 easy with fins
Total: 2,600 meters
I didn't feel to bad about leaving early since I was a bit tired from my back-to-back marathon swims. Before lunch I ran 2.01 miles, and after lunch I did a huge upper body weight session.
Saturday was Greenwood's Bikes, Blues, and Bayous. It's a straight bike ride. Not being in bike shape, I signed up for the 46-mile ride instead of the 58-mile route. While waiting for the start, one of my buddies talked me into the 58. Then he and his son took off and left me. I felt unsure of myself but pretty early in the ride I hooked up with Duke Morgan, Not Wheeler, and Ben Bailey, all from the Cleveland area. These guys are currently just a little stronger than me. I wound up drafting them the whole way. Thanks guys.
Perhaps I need to add a little back story to make some of my future posts a bit more clear. For my birthday, June 2, I did a thirteen-mile swim in Lake Chicot which is located in southeastern Arkansas. My training buddy, Randal Beets, and Arkansas residence Robin Bond crewed me on a great swim which I turned into a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. The swim raised somewhere around $1400. You may wonder how I would not know exactly how much I raised. I mailed in $1250. There were several donations made online which the ADA notified me of but did not reveal to me the amount of these donations. So I only know for a fact that it was several donations over $1250.
Soon, perhaps tomorrow, I will start posting my write up on that swim. I want to note that virtually everything I am doing now is a buildup to my next birthday swim. As of now, I am thinking of swimming Ross Barnett Reservoir. I have tentatively set the date at June 1, and the distance at sixteen-miles. Also, most likely I will change charities. Although diabetes is still the disease I want to fight, I am contemplating changing to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. This would keep all the funds in Mississippi and we certainly need the help here. I have taken a good look at the DFM and I'm convinced they are doing a great work and impacting the lives of people right here where diabetes is at epidemic rates.
Today I pulled off a first for me: back-to-back 10Ks. I did 10,400 in the pool yesterday, and today I went to the pond did another one. I've done two 10Ks in a week before. I've even done it this summer. But in the past, there was always a day or two or three before the second long swim.
I managed 6.43 miles of swimming (10,345 meters) and 4.13 miles of running. For me, just another day at the beach.
I've been trying to get in a really long pool swim all summer. It finally happened today. I got in the Twin Rivers Pool with a simple plan: say in the pool as long as it takes and swim something like 5 X 2,000. I did:
2,100 with small paddles
2,100 with small paddles
Total: 10,400 meters
This was my eighth practice of 10K or more this year. Last year at this time, I only had four.
I did a little light running (1.7 miles) and some light dry-land. The plans for tomorrow are to go to the pond. Yeehah!