Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Wait, Wait, Let Me!"

You're not going to believe this. Really, you're not. I can hear your thoughts now even before you think them. Zane Hodge tells lies. Or, Hodge stretches the truth, but at least he tells a good story. However, this one, . . . well, . . . uh, . . . just let me tell you about it, but remember: I tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You can't make this stuff up.

As you may know by now, I have managed to stress fracture my right tibia. If you want to know how I accomplished such a noble feat, read my last blog post. The result of having this fracture is I have to wear a clunky prosthetic boot and hobble around on crutches. My family knows this.

Christmas morning, my wife and I were on our way to Carroll County. Our children come to our house and we open presents; then we all go to my wife's mom's in Carroll County where we open presents; and after that we go to Mom's where we eat, fuss, and open presents. We were a little ways out of town when I received a text message from my older sister, Helen. She lives in Florida, but each major holiday she and my other siblings, their children, pets, and grandchildren, luggage, and cars invade Mom's for a week or two. Great. We eat, visit, and love each other between bouts of violent argumentation and fighting. My sister's text went like this (only slightly modified for clarity's sake):

Helen: Where are you? We got everything we need but coffee!! and oil to bake the cornbread? Will you bring!

Zane: (after a long irritated pause) On way to Carroll County.

As I thought about my sister's request, my reaction went from irritation to incredulity to anger. Are you kidding me? They have a house full of people over there with numerous late model vehicles out front and nobody is on crutches. I simmered awhile but then I got over it, or at least forced it out of my mind for a bit. After all, 'tis the season to be jolly.'

About the time we were leaving the in-laws' over two hours later, however, I received another text from my sweet sister.

Helen: Need you to bring me oil from your house or wherever before you come over here- K?

Zane: Is not the hand of Daniel in this?

My response may need some clarification. First, this is a vague biblical allusion to "Is not the hand of Joab in this?" Second, Daniel is Helen's son and hence my nephew. Third, he and his girl friend, Janice, had driven me to the doctor when I stress fractured my leg, and Daniel was present when I pranked my younger sister, Carol, with a series of text messages after my doctor visit. We got a big laugh out of it and I thought, Daniel is coaching his mom on giving me a dose of my own medicine. Or maybe he has her phone himself and he's writing this. I mean, this is crazy. I can't carry anything and walk on crutches. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was stupid enough to be true. Then came another text.

Helen: Zane, no coffee but 10+ yr old expresso- can you bring some? Daniel left for Florida Monday.

By this time, I was pretty well pissed. If this is a joke, they got me. They're sitting over there on their butts waiting on me to come from out of county and save the day on my crutches. Someone needs to be smitten about the head and shoulders! But I took a deep breath and prayed. Then we, my wife and I, pulled up at 422 West Harding and found a parking space in the front yard behind several of my siblings' cars. Did I mention the house was full of able bodied relatives who were waiting on me to bring oil and coffee?

I hobbled up the steps and into the living room where my son-in-law, Paul Turner, who is a better man than I, met me and placed a bag of coffee and oil in my hand. He, privy to my frustration, had stopped at a store on the way back from the country and purchased the indispensable items that no one at Mom's had the wherewithall to secure. I hobbled into the den with my left had clutching the sack and my crutch and handed the items to my sister. Then I sat down in the sole remaining chair and surveyed to room.

My fully clothed baby brother, Quinton, was asleep in the recliner just across from me. He owns a late-model pickup truck that was parked out front. Behind him was his delightful wife, Rebecca, also fully clothed. Her late-model SUV was also out front (yes, they come from South Mississippi in two vehicles). To my right were two of my nephews, Quinton's teenage boys, either of whom would have paid money just to get the chance to drive to the store to pick up oil and coffee. To my left was another nephew and wife. They own a late-model vehicle which was also in front of Mom's house. Somewhere inside Mom's was my other sister and her husband. They had a vehicle out front. My older sister was in the room and she had a car parked out front that was able to make it here all the way from Florida. Also, in the driveway sat my late dad's truck and Mom's car both of which are in excellent shape. I think that adds up to nine able-bodied drivers and seven well conditioned automobiles. With of all these resources, you would think someone could get coffee and oil. Not only that, but I found out after I got there that they had THREE GALLONS of oil in the house but they were afraid that might not be enough. Certainly you think I exaggerate, but God and my wife both can tell you they had three full gallons of cooking oil in the house,  !!!    and all nine of them had waited over THREE HOURS for me to bring oil and coffee while scarcely four tenths of a mile from Mom's was an open store. My brain was about to short circuit at the insanity of all this.

I sat there and and fumed and waited, waited for someone to spring the trap, for someone to say, "We got ya!" But it didn't happen. Instead, my sweet sister, Helen, while sitting on her amply padded posterior said, "Someone needs to work on the fire." So I loudly said, "Wait, wait, let me!" and began to rise to my foot and get my crutches under me when my son-in-law beat me to it. Did I mention that he's a better man than I?

I sat back down and wondered if anyone would get it. While I looked around the room at my clueless family, my granddaughter walked over to me and said, "I love you so much, Poppie." She hugged me and added, "I'm sorry your leg is hurt." And with that, all was well. I no longer wanted to smite, strike, and injure. I no longer marvelled at the absurdity of the situation. I no longer wondered why they didn't get it, but instead I melted inside and thanked God for His loving touch.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

And Shooting Myself in the Leg

I pulled the trigger on The Great Noxapater Journey Run and shot myself in the leg. I didn't make it. I'll start at the beginning and tell the whole story.

I left the house at 8:30 am, Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, full of energy, excitement, and expectation. With a blue sky overhead and a weather forecast of 60 degrees, what was not to be excited about? But almost instantly I was a little surprised, shocked, stunned even. The foreshadowing of trouble was the total weight of my packs that surprised me and tossed a little caution into my consciousness. I had packed and repacked and the final packing included only the very necessary items in an attempt to save every possible ounce. But I was heavy from the first step, and I knew the weight was going to effect my journey. But still, I thought, everything will be OK, maybe a little slow but OK.

I made my way to Grand Blvd and across, over the new bridge (Veterans Memorial), and out Grenada Blvd, which is always busy and everyone drives that road like they are auditioning for NASCAR. Soon I found myself on Browning Road where I finally got out of the traffic, into a more rural setting, and into an environment where I could hear the birds sing. That's when I started having fun. Eventually, however, Browning Road forced me to either dead end or go out to Highway 82.

It always amazes me as to how much I love running a rural road and how much I detest running a busy highway. To me, heavy and fast traffic is something to be avoided at all cost. I didn't have to run 82 very far, however, maybe two miles, before I was able to cross over to the old highway and once more be out of swift and heavy traffic.
One of the neat roads I ran in Carroll County

The plan was to make it to Winona on day one and overnight there. My original idea was to check myself into a motel, but since my funds were limited I tried to secure cheaper lodging. I thought I had that worked out, but my free lodging fell through. I left the house Tuesday morning not knowing where I would lay my head that night. Believe it or not, I kind of liked that, the uncertainty, being out there having to figure it out and make something happen. I fortuitously saw a Facebook post where someone mentioned the pastor of the Winona Church of God. Since I pastor in that denomination, I thought, Cha-ching. I sent Pastor Brian Wells a Facebook message asking him to call me. To make a short story long, I was on old 82 when my phone rang. I told him my story and asked if he knew someone who could put me up. He answered, "We have evangelist quarters in the church. I will be glad to let you stay there." One problem solved. Thanks, Brian.

I knew my fitness was a little suspect with a few minor injuries, business, and bad weather taking a toll on my training. But I could handle the first day. I knew that. In the last few months, I had done a several one day journey runs one of which was longer than Greenwood to Winona. Day two, I thought, would be crucial. If I could get through day two, I should be able to make it. So I paced myself, running slowly and walking a lot. Ten miles of actual running per day was my self imposed limit.

A mile and a half or so on old 82 brought me to Skating Rink Road, which I promptly headed onto and back into real country. The road is paved for a mile or two then turns gravel. Once on the gravel, I felt a million miles from home and all alone. I loved it.

People in Carroll County can be kind of funny. They often give you hostile looks like, "What are you doing here invading my country?" This can happen even when you are on a public road. I came upon a few folks in a cattle gap. As I approached, I wondered if I would get "the look." Not only did I not get "the look," I got a smile, a wave, and as I drew closer, one man came to the roadside and gave me a hand shake. Wow! Then another young man got out of an off-road vehicle, came to me, and shook my hand also. "Hi Dr. Hodge," one of my former students said. By gosh they're everywhere. I asked directions just to ease my mind. I thought I knew where I was and where I was going but wasn't totally sure.

A few miles later and I was crossing Highway 82 onto Providence Road, which is gravel and runs into Carrollton. I was hungry now and eager to sit down for a meal. I made it into Carrollton, out onto the main road, and then headed for North Carrollton. As I ran down the steep incline towards the creek which separates the two towns, I felt a little soreness and discomfort in the lower shin of my right leg. Not good, I thought. Too early to have problems.

At North Carrollton, I stopped at 4K Food Mart, took off my packs and shoes, and plugged my Garmin watch and phone up to their chargers. Then I bought some chicken and potato logs and ate that stuff like I was angry at it. I didn't tarry long, but reloaded and headed out the door. I had only made a step or two before I knew I was in trouble.

The shin was worse and every step hurt. Once I got out on Winona Road, I stopped and sat on my feet in an attempt to stretch and loosen the shin muscle. That helped a little, but only for a few minutes. The journey towards McCarley was slow and miserable. I had to face the idea that I might actually fail, and even worse, fail on the first day. With every bend or rise in the road, I hoped the little community would be the first thing I saw, but over and over I was disappointed.

I texted my wife, told her I was having difficulty, and asked her to check on me after she got out of her exercise class at 6:30. This was around 4:00 in the afternoon and it was apparent by now that I was going to get caught in the dark. I wasn't even sure that Penny could find me on that road, so I wanted to get to McCarley and then on the Highway 82 where I could be found if I needed rescuing.

By the time I finally entered McCarley, I was barely able to walk. It was no longer a question of if I could make it or not. I could not. I texted my wife and told her where I was and that after a rest I would walk towards 82. It was about 5:00, and since my phone was almost decharged, I stopped at McAnerney's Resturant. They were closed, but some Christmas lights on the front gave me a chance to get my charger out and plug the phone up. I took my packs off, sat in a chair, and felt the fatigue and frustration slowly seep over me while the December sun sunk below the western horizon. After darkness was fully come, I got up once to use the bathroom, hiding myself behind a cattle trailer. It was then that I realized I could walk even less well than when I first arrived. The leg has stiffened and become more sore. There was no way I could get to the highway. I would have to wait for at least two hours, and Penny would have to find me here. I texted her and told her I was staying put.

I was no longer generating much body heat and the temperature was dropping as fast as my spirits were sinking due to my epic failure. At least MaCarley has a few old majestic houses with tall steep roofs. Not too long after I sat in the chair, a truck pulled up in the parking lot. A young man climbed out and asked how he could help me. I held up my phone and confessed to stealing electricity and told him I couldn't walk so well anymore. He said it was OK about the electricity and then he went inside. When he came out he asked me if I needed anything and then he told me he would be up and down the road and in and out of the building several times, so if I needed anything to just let him know.
He came back a little later and asked if I needed a ride. I introduced myself and told him I'd just wait for my wife. He left and came back again and once more offered me a ride. Our conversation went something like this:

"Really, I'll be glad to take you to Greenwood."

"Will you let me pay you?"

"No."

"Well, I'll wait for my wife."

"You can pay me."

"OK, let's go."

And with that, Kelly Welch, owner of McAnerney's Restaurant drove me home. He's a super nice guy who besides running an eatery, raises cattle and a daughter, and has been married fifteen years. He called me "Brother" when I stepped out of his truck.

I learned several lessons on this failed run:

1. There are still good people in this world who will help you if you have a problem. Thank you, Kelly Welch.

2. I need to be better trained for my next outing of this type, and that means not only more miles but more strength training. My lack of leg strength was apparent from the start.

3. I should never run downhill wearing a heavy pack.

4. Life is unpredictable and there are no guarantees. We do the best we can, and the best we can is all we can do.

5. Failure is not really failure but an opportunity to learn, reassess, and gain motivation.

6. I want a rematch with The Great Noxapater Journey Run. But first there must be some tune up matches.

7. I'm gald I didn't figure everything out because I still have a reason to go back and try it again.



Monday, December 16, 2013

Pulling the Trigger

I'm gunna do it. At least I'm going to try. Tomorrow morning I shall leave 333 West Monroe Ave shuffling to the east, beginning The Great Noxapater Journey Run that I've dreamed and schemed about for over four years now. I'm not especially fit, and I've gained weight over the past few weeks, so my prospects for success really aren't that good. If I were a betting man, I would bet against me. Nevertheless, I am going to take a swing at the journey, and maybe if I manage my body right I will make it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As early as this morning, my prospects for leaving the house for this run were slim and none and slim had left town. At issue were:

  1. My fitness or lack thereof. I've had a few injuries, the weather has been incredibly bad, my dad died throwing the whole family into stress and turmoil, Mom has been sick, and I've been unusually busy at work.

  2. My shoes were totally worn out. If I attempted the run in my worn out shoes, they are so worn in the heel area that I may well rupture my achilles.

  3. My wife didn't even know yet.

  4. My finances were a little low.

  5. My wife didn't even know yet.

  6. I hadn't had time to pack.

  7. My wife didn't know yet.

  8. There were (still are) some issues with where I will overnight.

  9. My wife didn't know yet.

  10. Sunday morning I was groaning, suffering, trying to pass a kidney stone. I still have it.

  11. I hadn't found the right time to tell my wife my plans to take the run sometimes over the holidays.

  12. Did I mention that I hadn't even told my wife?

I had to take my bride's phone to the store for possible repairs. She was adamant that I could do nothing, not eat, not sleep, nor drink, or pet the cat even until she had a working phone. Monday morning I left Mom's, where I had been most of the weekend, picked up Penny's phone, and went to C Spire. To make a short story long, I was driving to her job after only a matter of minutes with her phone in perfect operating condition. Aha, I thought. I can pull the old "good news, bad news" ploy. I did. "The good news," I told her with a huge grin on my face, "is here's your phone, and it is flawlessly operating. The bad news is, I'm leaving on a journey run in the morning. I'll be gone three or four days." She only offered a small protest. I love this woman.

I walked out of the Greenwood City Hall fist pumping, saying "Heck yeah," and getting thoroughly worked up. Hot dog, it's finally going to happen. It's really going to come to pass.

I went home and started washing running clothes, packing nutrition, and gathering dollar bills and coins from old coffee cans buried in the back yard. Then UPS drove up with my shoes. By golly, I'm not even going to be able to sleep tonight. I was jumping up and down. I peed in my pants. Really. Thank you God.

The weather forecast looks good, my two packs are loaded, and I'm as giddy as a kid on Christmas Eve. I just want to feel free, get really tired, and test myself. This is play for me, fun, an adventure. I plan to take lots of pictures, eat lots of food, and of course, post a write up here. But in the meantime, if you care to follow along, I will post real time updates and maybe some photos on Facebook.

Last week was pretty light. I

ran 17.22 miles
walked 2.54 miles
swam 7,814.7 meters, but for the first time in several weeks, I
lifted weights not once, but two times. That felt really good.

The highlight of my week was running a 5K Saturday with my daughter. It was her first, and I am immensely proud of her. I hope we do many more as a father/daughter duo.

Friday, December 13, 2013

End of Semester Blues and The Hypoxic Henchman

I finally made it to the end of the fall semester at MDCC. Allegedly. My job is really pretty easy. My job is really difficult. The truth is, my job is pretty easy until the end of the semester rolls around and then it is just unbelievable. Some of the strain is my fault, and I plan on making some adjustments next semester. I've said that before. This time, however, I will make the changes. One thing I have always done that makes life almost unbearable at the end of a school term is to show mercy to the students and allow their last papers to be turned in on exam day. That makes things easy for them but unbearable for me because I have two papers to grade for every student and a very short time in which to do it. To further complicate matters, when I allow final papers on exam day, about twenty percent of the students fail to turn one in. Huh?

I know what you are thinking: there's an easy solution to that: just give them an F. I do that if efforts to track them down prove unsuccessful. But for some reason I can't explain, I care more about student's grades than they do. I am the only teacher at our campus on Thursday every end of term sitting around, making calls, and waiting on students to bring in work. Not next time. I do them no favor by allowing them to be irresponsible.

Anyway, it's over for a little while. I hope. I never feel like I'm off for several days after school is out because you never know when the administration is going to call -- they ALWAYS call -- and say I didn't turn in grades for students x, y, and z. I go over and over those rolls and submit the grades multiple times. It ain't socket rience. Still, they ALWAYS call. But only after they send out an email to every instructor, administrator, secretary, cafeteria worker, and janitor with my name (and others) displaying our alleged failure for all the world to see. I think their names should be sent out to everyone and how much money they have spent on a software package that does not work, that does not do as much as the software it replaced.

OK, I am exhausted, fat, and pitching a fit. What to do when exhausted, fat, and pitching a fit? Go to Masters swim, of course, which is exactly what I did Tuesday and Thursday. First, Monday I ran 2.03 miles, and Tuesday I swam

The Mad Swimming Scientist, AKA the Hypoxic Henchman
1,000
350
4 X 75 build @1:30
300 pull, medium paddles
4 X 75 build @ 1:30
300 pull, medium paddles
4 X 75 build @ 1:30
300 pull, medium paddles (end of Masters)
150 small paddles
150 medium paddles
150 large paddles
150 extra large paddles
Total: 3,750 yards = 3,427.5 meters.

Wednesday I got out in the Eskimo weather and ran 9.38 miles. God, how I long for our old warm winters.

Thursday I went back to DSU. Note the picture on the right. On deck is Cagri, the Mad Swimming Scientist, AKA the Hypoxic Henchman. Look at his hands. He has a short cord which he's about to use to strangle the swimmer, Ricky Smith. Ricky's sin? He miscounted and breathed after six strokes instead of seven. Notice Ricky fisting up in an attempt to defend himself, all to no avail I can attest. Sometimes the Henchman has us counting three and even four things at once. Example: we swim 800 (16 50s) descending 1-4 (that is first 50, fast; second 50, faster; third 50 faster; fourth 50, all out; then without stopping we start 1-4 again. Do that four times meaning we have to count to sixteen and one to four four times, AND count breaths, breathing on 3, 5, 7, 9 by 50s (sometimes by 25s which makes it really fun). Did I mention that we also count strokes by 50s or 25s? This is no joke. So poor Ricky miscounted one time and got strangled and beaten for his error. We swam

1,500
800 medium paddles
850 large paddles (supposed to be 800, but I lapped Ricky, who was still suffering from strangulation and a beating, and I didn't want him to get beaten again)
900 swim (I lapped Ricky twice who had to be defibrillated after the second 800)
(End of Masters)
400 extra large paddles
400 small paddles
Total: 4,800 yards = 4,287.2 meters.

Now, with school out and no Masters next Tuedsay (swim meet), maybe I can start thinking about The Great Noxapater Journey Run.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Slow Week

Overall it was a pretty slow week exercise wise, but food wise I think I may have set a world record. If eating in a reasonable way is being on the wagon, I not only fell off the wagon, but I crashed that sucker into a ditch and left it there to rot. Jeez Louise, I just can't help myself. My students have been bringing me Snickers Bars, co-workers have been hauling in food everyday, and every time I go to Mom's my sister has cooked something else that needs eating. I've been trying to run these calories off, but it's been like chasing a slow moving pickup truck that keeps pulling away as you run hard and reach for the tailgate. I know what that is like because Dad did that to me once. He was supposed to pick me up while I ran to Greenwood from Carroll County. He passed me while I was crossing the overpass on Highway 82 coming into town, and he exited the highway onto the frontage road. I was sure he saw me, so I crossed the highway, shuffled through the ditch, and sprinted for his truck just as he pulled away from the stop sign. He was going so slow that I almost caught him. But I didn't catch him, and eventually he drove out of sight leaving me breathless, exhausted, and a little ticked off. Why did he do that? He called a few minutes later and yelled, "WHERE THE @^**  #%@^^ ))@ ARE YOU?" I'll spare you the rest, but it's one of those memories of Dad that I laugh out loud when it pops into my mind.

Monday, I ran 3.52 miles, and Tuesday I did 8.3 with some multi-pacing thrown in. I also went to DSU where I swan

3 X 500
4 X 200 with medium paddles as 50 fast/50 easy
8 X 100 @ 1:45 with medium paddles as 50 fast/50 easy
16 X 50 @ 1:15 as 25 easy/25 fast 1-4; 25 fast/25 easy 1-4 all 2 X through
100 easy
Total: 4,000 yards = 3,656 meters.

Wednesday I ran 2.31, and Thursday I both ran and swam. On the road I did 2.07 and in the pool I swam

1,000
850
600 as 75 build, 25 back kick,
100 easy
600 as 25 hard/25 back kick
100 easy
600 as 75 build/25 back
100 easy (end of practice).
Then I swam
15 X 100 @ 2:00 with various paddles,
50 back
Total: 5,500 yards = 5,027 meters.
This was my longest swim since the Suck in October.
  
Friday was cold and rainy so I went to Twin Rivers and ran 2.5 miles on the treadmill. Saturday, Penny and I spent the day in Jackson shopping. When we got home, the weather was still inclement, so I went back to the treadmill and ran 3.5.

For the week, I ran 22.2 and walked 2.73 miles. I swam 8,683 meters but I failed again to lift any weights.

My totals for the year are now

1,209 miles running and
735,443.39 meters swimming (457 miles).

I'm still hoping to make the journey run. Since I'm still experiencing mild achilles issues,  I haven't been able to get excited about it. Anyway, I am almost off work. A few more days of agony and I'll have some time to scheme and dream and maybe make something come to pass.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It Will Be a Great Time

It's Friday morning, the air is cold out, and the rain is peppering the awnings on my house. I love this  kind of day. It's Friday morning, very cold outside and raining pretty hard. I hate this kind of day.

This kind of weather forces me slow down. I love that. This kind of weather forces me slow down. I hate that. Truth be told, I really need the reduced pace. Fatigue has been my constant companion of late, mostly, I think, from the severe emotion I have dealt with -- and still am -- over the last month. I have learned from personal experience that strong emotion, even joy, to me is exhausting, and sometimes even leads to illness. Enough of the mushy stuff.

I never did the recap of last week's training, so here it goes. For Thanksgiving week, I

ran 11.74 miles,
swam 3,427.6 meters, and
walked .8 miles.

That's it. Pretty pathetic. I know. However, you could consider this my off season, so it's not really a total disaster. Oh yeah, I also gained nine pounds.

One thing I have noticed over the last year, though, is that whereas a few days off used to lead to recovery, strength, and freshness, now a few days off leads to a rapid erosion of fitness. I suppose that's a product of my age. I suppose.

Be that as it may, I am attempting to rebuild my condition -- not that it's that bad -- and possible do The Great Noxapater Journey Run in December and well as the Mississippi River Marathon in February. Not only that, but it's not too early to be thinking about the Chicot Challenge 2014. For a while, I wasn't sure I would be able to pull it off again. Some of my concerns were the school I work for hinting at a return to a five-day work schedule, and the uncertainty of my mom's well being. With Dad's passing and Mom's recent health issues, everything was sort of up in the air. Now, I feel more secure about the work situation, at least for next semester, and with Mom home I now have a better picture of what her care will entail. In short, it looks like the Challenge for 2014 is doable. Of course things can change in a moment, but that's always the case, and when I did the first one I was spending major time with Mom in hospitals. Then, when I had a chance, I just kept going out and training as much as I could, and I made it happen. I think I can pull it off again.

There are a number of issues, however, I still have to work out for next year's big swim. One is the distance. For the 2012 edition, I announced 13 miles but wound up swimming 13.94. In 2013, I announced 16 miles and swam 16 miles but not one stroke more. Right now I am thinking of 17 miles, but I've toyed with the idea of 18. Already I have the route settled, although I know from last year that it could change at the last moment depending of the weather conditions of the day. I have my crew in place, and they are more experienced than ever. And I have purchased a pontoon boat, which will make the swim safer and the crew more comfortable. Another issue is publicity. I think I will not do much in that regard. Last year, I worked incessantly to publicize the swim, as did the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. I am still baffled that our efforts in that regard so poorly produced results, and I am still pissed off at the Greenwood Commonwealth for not covering the swim.

Concerning The Great Noxapater Journey Run, not only is my fitness a little suspect, but I've had issues recently with a nagging gimpy knee and another Achilles tendon flareup. On the other hand, I now know I could make the run happen in terms of time. My sister has worked out a schedule for Mom's care, and I can get off a few days. Physically, however, I'm just not so sure. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Still, knowing myself, I am certain that the temptation will be more than I can bear, and when I get my chance I will be shuffling east, trying to make my way across several counties and through Louisville, MS and on to the great metropolis of Noxapater. It will be a great time to contemplate my great grandfather, George Henry Quinton, who walked from Utah to Louisville, MS when he was only twelve years old, having been abandoned there by his family. It will be a great time to contemplate my great, great grandfather, Stephen Krebbs, who walked from Oklahoma to Louisville, MS. It will be a great time to contemplate my Uncle Bo who walked out of Louisville, MS when he was seventeen and right into WWII. His journey took him to the Pacific Theater where he was taken prisoner and survived the Bataan Death March. His bones now lie somewhere on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. It will also be a great time to contemplate my late father who ran countless miles, caught countless fish, who walked miles and miles hunting quail, who played tennis, cut wood, gardened, and went and did and did and never stopping for anything but death itself. I am my father's son and that means there are some of my impulses I can not or will not control. Recently, of this run, I told my sister, "I have to do this, this run, I have to." Her response was, "My God, I never realized how much like Daddy you are." It will be a great time to contemplate that, how much like Daddy I am.

It will be a great time.

I hope.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Still I Dream

It's been the best of times and the worst of times. I refer to my week off. It's been off.

Monday started with me lounging around the house, sore and exhausted from Sunday's journey run, and getting absolutely nothing done. I felt like a bum. But I did need some rest. I got it.

Tuesday, however, started with a kidney stone attack which kept me in bed most of the day. I did feel better in the afternoon and went to DSU that night where I swam

1,450
800 decline 1-4 by 25s
4 X 50 @ 1:00 all out
600 breathing 3, 5, 7 by 50s
8 X 50 @ 1:00 all out
150
Total: 3,750 yards = 3,427.5 meters.

Wednesday was more kidney stone agony. I have had many of these over the years and consider myself an expert at passing them. This one, however, was worrying me. I was trying to avoid a trip to the emergency room which carries a price tag of over $10,000. Yes, I have insurance, but I know from the experience of my wife how expensive that still is and how aggravating it is trying to find out what you really owe. One group threatened to turn us over to a collection agency. We paid then several hundred dollars only to find out the insurance company had paid them in full. Now they "don't do refunds." I could go on and on. It's a living nightmare. So are kidney stones.

Thursday, Thanksgiving, we always go to the in-laws in Carroll County. I had planned to run all the way, about 15 miles. Unfortunately, I was on the bathroom floor most of the morning, dry heaving over the commode. I missed my run. I missed the Thanksgiving meal. I missed my grandchildren. I was all alone except for Jeff and Luvie who both knew something was wrong with me. Luvie followed me everywhere I went and rubbed his head against me incessantly. It made me cry, and I thanked God for his affection.

That night I did feel good enough to go to Mom's and watch the Egg Bowl with my brother, his family, and my children. We won! For four of the past five years, Mississippi State has beaten Ole Miss. Let me honestly report that Ole Miss fans are the worst losers on earth. Really they are. Maybe it's just that State fans have more experience at getting beat than our instate rivals do. Long-time Mississippi State fans are not fair weather cheerers and are unusually humble. Ole Miss fans, on the other hand, are often obnoxious, arrogant, and sore losers. I'm sure this offends some genuinely good people who cheer for Ole Miss. If you are one of those rare Rebels, I sincerely apologize to you, but not to those whom this description accurately summarizes.

By Friday I had gained weight and could feel myself growing soft. But since I had no symptoms, I went out for a little run in the evening and shuffled 3.13 miles. Once again, I was amazed at how much fitness I had lost. I still have a shot, however, at The Great Noxapater Journey Run during the Christmas break. If I can find a span of warm weather, I will take a stab at it. I wish I could nail down a date, but this time of year that is an impossibility for me. Sunday's run left me with a sore patella in my left knee. It wasn't the distance (a few weeks back I did a 30-miler with no problem) so much as the weather. My body does not like cold weather and my knees absolutley hate it. I wore a pair of tights that day and a pair of leg warmers over that, not to stay warm but in an attempt to keep the knees protected from the chill. It wasn't enough. There is simply no way I could do a multi-day journey run in cold weather with cold weather being defined as anything 50 or below. It won't work.

But still I dream.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mom Is Home

Thursday I ran 5.15 miles and made it to Masters where I swam

1,650
8 X 50
4 X 200 breathing 3 odd, 5 even
8 X 100 pull with medium paddles @ 1:45 breathing 3 odd, 5 even
8 X 50 @ 1:00 decline 1-4
1,000
Total: 5,050 yards = 4,615.7 meters.

Friday we got Mom out of the hospital. We were a bit apprehensive about her emotional response to entering the house for the first time since Dad passed, but she seemed OK and was happy to be home and happy to see her birds. I stayed around with my sister at Mom's all day and did nothing on the exercise front. Saturday I hung out with my wife. The weather was bad, cold and raining, and I just stayed in all day and watched some football.
I saw this cross in the woods just off
the road while I ran beside the
 Tallahatchie River.

Sunday, however, we were off church and the weather turned out cold but sunny, so I packed my Camelbak Mule and hit the road for a journey/adventrure run. I went west from home to Highway 49, then turned north and ran to Bledsoe Plantation where I got off the highway and followed the river along a gravel road until I got to Money. I crossed the bridge at Money where I stopped and had my sit down meal. Then I headed south down Money Road towards home. The trip was 24 miles of which I ran 15.9 and walked 8.1. I had a good time and got to be alone and think and sometimes not think which is something I enjoy about endurance athletics. I laughed a few times but never cried. I think this means I'm coming to terms with Dad's death.

One thing I did figure out on this journey was the reason his death was so shocking to me. Part of the reason I already knew. His health and acitivity level did not nothing to signal his mortality. But I came to realize it just seemed self-evident that he would outlive mother. Therefore, in my mind, as long as we had Mom, Dad's death was somewhere off in the distant future, something we wouldn't even have to ponder until she passed. I guess this is almost too obvious and cliche sounding to write, but we really can't take anything or anybody for granted.

For the week, I
ran 37.25 miles,
swam 9,048.6 meters, and
walked 10.12 miles.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mom Set to Come Home

Mom is supposed to get out of the hospital Friday, which is very good news, and I am not nearly as nervous about her homecoming as I was. I do worry about her emotional reaction. Every time I go into their house, I feel shocked, sad, and something else, I'm not sure what. It is still hard for me to believe he's gone, that he's not there, that he won't be coming back. But though I worry about her emotional reaction, I am not as concerned as I was about her physicality. Tuesday afternoon she was able to stand easily and walk herself, using her walker of course, to the bathroom. Amazing. I have a resounding respect for physical therapists. I have now seen them twice do this for Mom, seen them take her from nothing back to standing, walking, and more.

Work has been crazy. I have had to stay all afternoon for registration, even though it is an established fact that students don't register until the week before and the week that classes resume. Besides registration, when you add in my night classes, I have been here ten plus hours per day. This is ruining my credit, my physical health, and my emotional well-being. My bills aren't paid, my lawn in not mowed, and my swimming is rusting out once again. The only way I have been able to run is to do it when I would be sleeping. Seriously, I feel like I am becoming dangerous, like I might snap and shoot a road sign or something. But relief is on the way. Next week I am off. Yeehaaa!

Monday I ran 4.51 miles but missed lifting weights because I couldn't work it in. In fact, I did the running after my night class. Actually, I am enjoying my late night running. I feel totally anonymous out there in the dark with very little car traffic, and the run doubles as some alone time which I have always needed in copious doses. My mind doesn't idle as much as it used to, however, as I am constantly thinking of Dad often chuckling out loud when I remember something he did, something that has made the list of Do Not Forget moments. I have a lot of those.

Tuesday I went out for a mid-long run and ran it multi-paced fashion. After a slow 2.6 miles and inserted 3 X 1 mile at a 9:30 pace with a .2 mile shuffle between. Then I finished the run with a mile and a half of easy tipping along. In short, I got in 7.55 miles with three miles of almost tempo pace. I'm thinking a 9:30 would be a nice pace to try to hold for a marathon. If I did, it would in fact be a PR for me which currently stands at 4:11 set at St Jude in 2008. I haven't run an official marathon in since that year. I hope to do the Mississippi River this February. Last year I did the half and am hoping to beat Randy Beets in the full.

I made it to DSU, Tuesday, where the Mad swimming Scientist had us swim

2,050
6 X 150 as 50 easy, 50 kick on back, 50 fast
2 X 100 easy
12 X 50 @ 1:30 as 2 fast, 1 drill, 1 fast, 3 X through
400 easy
700 pull with small paddles
Total: 4,850 yards = 4,432.9 meters.

Wednesday I worked again all day and into the night. We watched Unforgiven in Film as Lit and it was a big hit with the students, especially the resurrection scene. After class I shuffled 4.12 miles. Since I did pace work the day before, and since it is dark out when I run now, I felt comfortable shuffling as slow as needed in order to get in some volume and recover at the same time. Right now that means I just tipped around at slower than an 11:00 pace but that's OK. It's work, it's gentle, and I do need some safe miles to achieve the goals I've set for myself.

One of those goals was The Great Noxapater Journey Run which I had hoped to do this weekend and into next week. With Mother just getting out of the hospital, however, and with the amount of care she will need still undetermined, it is most likely not going to happen. I may try for an intermediary run, something shorter, maybe to the in-laws' and back. This would only have me gone two days instead of four and also I would be much closer to home if I need to abandon the run. Since I'm not as fit as I wanted to be, a two day journey run would be a good trainer for Noxapater which I still hope to do maybe during the Christmas break. With the next break coming up in only a few weeks, I don't really feel like I'm sacrificing anything by not tackling Noxapater now. The chief problem with waiting, however, is the weather. The later we get into the year, the colder it is likely to be which requires more clothing and makes staying dry a necessity.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Last Week

I tried to maintain some training last week despite the fact that the craziness of my Dad's death and my Mom's hospitalization has shifted the whole world off kilter. Monday after work, I waded into the Twin Rivers pool wearing a cheap shorty I bought several years ago. It was better than a poke in the eye but not much. Mostly it just made starting a little easier, less shocking to go flat into the water. I swam 1,200 meters in 62 degree chlorine, and then decided I wanted to be somewhere else. After my night class, I shuffled 4.36 miles alone under the cover of darkness. More and more I have been enjoying the dark, the anonymity, the touch of a wilderness experience that I get even in town.

Tuesday I ran 7.07 miles and then drove my poorly repaired truck to DSU for Masters Swim with the Mad Swimming Scientist, the first time in months. There I stroked

1,550
800 breathing 3, 5, 7, choice by 50s four times through
50 easy
4 X 100 @ 3:00
50 easy
4 X 100 @ 3:00
4 X 125 medium paddles
100 easy
Total: 3,850 yards = 3,518.9 meters.
I was pretty gassed. It's amazing how much fitness I lost in the last two weeks.

Wednesday I ran 3.51 miles, and Thursday it was back to DSU for

2,000
8 X 100 @ 2:00 middle 50 fast
100 easy
6 X 100 @ 2:00 last 50 fast
4 X 100 @ 2:00 fist 50 fast
300 easy
Total: 4,200 yards = 3,838.8 meters.

Friday I had to attend a conference in Goodman, MS at Holmes Community College. I carpooled with Anita Horn and Emily Riser. The campus I found to be surprisingly really pretty, and to borrow a phrase from Jerry Clower, it "flung a cravin' on me." I thought how wonderful it would be to work in such an atmosphere. While I waited for Niter Horn to finish her session, I walked around and got in 3.24 miles. That's all I did exercise-wise that day.

Saturday started with breakfast at Huddle House with my old friend, Daniel Collins. We do this about once per month, and he was the first person I told about the insecurity I experienced at my dad's death. I left home thirty-six years ago and was unaware that his mere presence in my life made me feel safe, surrounded, protected. He understood, having lost his parents a few years ago, and said he felt the same way when his dad died. It's nice to have someone knows what you are going through.

Later that morning, I took my new wetsuit to Twin Rivers and swam 3,600 meters in 56 degree water. Afterwards I felt sick, nauseous, shaky. I don't know why, but often I feel ill after a wetsuit swim. That night, in the dark I went out for a run and didn't stop until I had done 9.35 miles with three tempo intervals thrown in (1.02, .63, and .52). I am enjoying running in the dark and for the first time in a long time I felt fit despite having put on a few pounds of late.

For the week, I

ran 24.29 miles
lifted weights two times
walked 4.84 miles, and
swam 12,154.7 meters.

For the year, I have
swum 714,284.29 meters and
run 1,138.17 miles.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Little Catch Up

Endangeredswimmer hasn't been updated much lately due to some pretty severe events in my family. This is my attempt at a catchup. I did post a couple of days ago, a piece about my dad, but I never did my totals for the week of 10/28-11/4, and I wrote nothing about the following week. Now I will attempt to document my training or lack thereof. For two weeks ago, my totals were:

swim - 6,500 meters
walk - 2.08
weights - one time
run - 21.43

For the year that brought me to

702,129.59 meters of swimming and
1,085.28 miles of running.

We had both parents in the hospital that weekend, and then Dad died unexpectedly the following Monday, Nov. 4, wiping out swimming for that week. I never knew so much was involved in burying someone. I did, however, run everyday, or every night to be precise. I put my shoes on each night after work or whatever and went out for a run thinking about my dad with each step. For the week  of 11/4-11/10, I

ran - 28.6 miles,
lifted weights once,
walked - 5.63 miles, but for the first time this year I
swam - nothing.

Now a new week and a new life has started. It is still hard for me to believe he is gone. A void exists in my heart now, a place that only he filled, and anytime I have done anything physical since his passing, he has been constantly in my thoughts. Usually I break out in laughter more often than tears when I remember him, his life, his stories, his fits. My dad pitched the biggest fits of anybody who ever lived, but he was not mean, he never directed his anger towards us only towards the things that irritated him. Once when I was a boy, he was in the backyard and a blue jay flew down and pecked him on top of his head causing some pretty amazing wounds. He became so enraged that he went inside, retrieved his shotgun, and began to shoot up the back yard, the trees, the sky. Really, you can't make this stuff up. The police came out and had a little discussion with Pop, but he didn't go to jail. There was nobody like him, ever, and I am full of those kinds of stories, stories of him going ballistic over the minutest of aggravations. Those kind of things bothered my mother and my sister, but I enjoyed them, especially as I got older. Now I can pull up his memory any time, any place and get a chuckle, even a deep belly laugh by rembering one of his tantrums. God bless you, Roger Hodge.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

AquaMan Runs into the Night and Remembers His Dad


Although he was very old, his passing was as big a shock to me as the bombing of the World Trade Center and the collapse of the Berlin Wall all rolled into one. How could he die? How could he? He was too tough, too stubborn, too busy.
My younger sister, Carol, called me just as I was departing my Comp II class at MDCC’s Greenwood Center. In fact, a couple of my students had asked about him shortly before, and we spent a few minutes chatting about Roger Hodge. When I answered my phone, I heard my sister, hysterical and unintelligible, trying to say something. After several attempts to speak, someone else talked over her phone: “Come to your mom’s house right now!”
I was frightened and confused. Why was she there and not at the hospital? Mom must have died and they called the house. When I got to Harding Street, I saw an ambulance in front of Mom's and my confusion deepened. I walked, ran through the front door and someone I didn’t know pointed towards the den. “He’s back there.”
I remember the paramedics working on him, and I’m not sure how I feel about that, about seeing it. He lay on the floor while strangers did chest compressions. It was not a pleasant sight, and I am thankful to God my mother did not witness that. I was in a bit of a shock while my sister wept hysterically in another room. I dropped to my knees beginning to pray but was interrupted by someone asking for help, for another entrance or exit from the house. They put him on a spine board and carried him out to a gurney.
I remember the doctor at the hospital coming into the room where my sister and I and Mom and Dad’s next door neighbors sat in anxiety. We were joined at some point by Bro. Brad Hodges but I don’t remember when. Neither do I remember what the doctor said, but whatever the words may have been, his meaning was unmistakable. Dad was gone. In a moment, without warning, the man who took life by the throat, turned it upside down, and shook it until the pennies fell out of its pockets was dead.
I had to notify our siblings, an older sister, Helen, and a younger brother, Quinton. Words were hard to come by and get out and for my brother, difficult to process. “What do you mean he didn’t make it?” he asked in confusion or disbelief. “He’s gone, Quinton.” “What do you mean he’s gone? I just talked to him.” My silence and soft sobbing finally cleared his confusion.
I had to tell Mom, who lay ill in a hospital room upstairs, unaware that her husband of sixty-one years had departed for the other side ahead of her. I had to comfort my sister, or try to. I had to tell a nurse downstairs what funeral home to take the body. I had to call some of Dad’s friends, some of whom I didn’t want to hear this news from a second or third hand source. I had to find a way to wrap my head around his passing.
Later that evening, I went to work, to teach my night class because I thought I would manage better there, busy, not just sitting at home being sad. I also thought it was what my dad would have wanted. He was kind of big on work. Back when Mom was so sick and my sister and I spent a few months in hospitals, he told us both that he appreciated everything we had done, but we needed to go to work. “Work is important,” he said. Those weren’t hollow words, but actions he had modeled for us our entire lives. He modeled a lot of things for me, for us, and he left a legacy I will always cherish, a legacy of health, activity, and work that I hope in some way to emulate.  
People didn’t run in those days. Not many people, but Dad did. By “those days,” I haven’t even done the math, but I’m fifty-seven and when I was eight years old Dad got me up every morning and we ran. He would spot me to the stop sign at Harding and Taylor Drive, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. He always caught me, passed me, but finished only a little before me. He had it worked out that way. Someone may have called the police one time after becoming alarmed at a little boy running from a grown man early in the morning. Like I said, people didn’t run in those days. Not around Greenwood, Mississippi anyway.
I thought about that when I got off work from my night class, changed into my running shoes, booted my Garmin watch and headed out the door after first hugging my forlorn wife. I crossed over to Cherokee Street, ran up Cleveland, then over to Taylor Drive. Taylor ends in a cul-de-sac so the traffic is always light there and in the dark I was free to be taken captive by my thoughts. The anonymity the darkness provided made me feel free to tear up, wipe my face, sob if need be.

He was always fit and when people did run, when the running boom hit in the 80s, he was ready. We, my brother, my dad, and I, ran road races all over the northern and central part of the state. Dad dominated his age division for about a decade and a half. When he was fifty-five years old, he ran a 38:55 10K, a time I have never approached. He was just tough, fit, and unafraid to leave it all on the road.
He also skipped rope, but not the store bought kind with handles on it but the sort you tie something up with. I remember him carrying that rope sometimes when we ran at night. We usually ran in the morning, but for some reason when we ran at night he had the rope.
He played tennis for years and years and years. I used to tease him that he and his buddies would be out on the tennis court one day with their rackets duct taped to their walkers. That almost came to pass. His group played at least twice per week until they weren’t a group anymore, until death took them one by one, until they were all gone. Dad was the last one alive, and through this process of dealing with my emotions after his passing, I came to realize that deep down I believed he would never die, that he would live forever.
He hunted quail, “birds” around here, always having well-trained dogs, and he killed around 250 to 300 a year for decades until the declining bird population and the affects of age gradually took their toll. But he kept going. He just kept going. Somewhere along the way, I quit asking him how many he killed. The question became first, “How many did you see?” and then, “Did you see one?” Eventually, his yearly harvest of birds came down to single digits, to being countable on one hand. But he kept loading his dog in his truck and going. He just kept going. He hunted so often and walked so much that he wore the toes out of RedWing boots and his dogs looked like starving strays, their tails bloody from wagging through the bush.

He bought land in Carroll County when I was just a little boy and built a cabin. Before that we camped, but with the cabin we spent the night under a roof and then got up early to squirrel hunt before cutting firewood after the hunt and listening to Jack Cristil call the Mississippi State games over the radio. He never lost his passion for State, and I really thought that if he ever did die it would happen while watching one of those games. I’ve never seen anyone get so wound up over football. The passing of years following his graduation from State in 1950 and season after season of losing did little, nothing, to quell his passion for his school.
I shuffled my way down and back on Taylor Drive and then to Grand Blvd. I turned left on “the boulevard,” as we call it here, and headed north. Usually I can’t think very well when I run. This night was different and my mind never idled but kept pace with my feet as I ran the road’s median.
He planted gardens, way more than needed to supplement his family’s food. He was the last of a generation of people who farmed with mules and picked cotton by hand and lived the old way. That never left him and the acreage in Carroll County provided him the opportunity to extend his youth and expose his children to the rigors of his boyhood. I hated the hoeing and picking and shelling, but he seemed to revel in it. As he got older, he kept doing that too, planting way more than needed and then calling his family in to help him put up corn “to get ready for winter.” Last year, he bought another freezer to have more room to put up more corn and peas that he and Mom could never eat. There was plenty of corn already in the freezer, but he had to “get ready for winter.” He just kept doing it.
At the north end of the boulevard, I turned east and then zigged and zagged through the dark streets of North Greenwood. I heard a few crickets chirping and occasionally a dog barked, but mostly I heard voices, or a voice, my father’s.
He loved to fish but when I was a little, a fishing trip was always preceded by a trip to the place to “check on the garden.” Only after a good dose of hand blisters, sunburn, and dehydration did he feel free to have some fun. Then we would go to a hill pond and fly fish or bass fish for the rest of the day. Although those trips were grand fun and made great memories, I always wondered why we couldn’t just fish. Maybe he was trying to teach me the valuable lesson of 'duty before pleasure,’ but in that regard I am poorly learned.
When I grew up and left home, fishing became trips to Louisiana where he eventually kept a little camper and fished the surf and marshes and blessed his family and friends with the harvest of his hobby, with speckled trout. He kept a record of every fish he ever caught except for the rare occasion when someone caught more than he. Once, I got lucky and beat him at Grand Isle, and he never could remember how many fish we took that day. He was competitive like that. He got old, but he just kept going. He kept making trips to Louisiana well into his 80s. I think it was just two years ago that he decided that was no longer a part of his life. I remember thinking how mature and sensible that was of him.
Still the shadow of his legacy began to cast its shade over me long before he left us. Like him, I am no good with moderation: too much is not enough. When it comes to athletics, unlike him, I am a poor performer, but like him I am driven to try and try and try. I can’t seem to slow down even when it is in my best interest to do so. I battled Achilles tendon problems for a little over four years, but like him I kept heading out the door, I just kept doing it.
I inherited not only his desire for life but also his insatiable appetite for food. Unlike him, however, my metabolism eventually slowed enough that I could no longer eat whatever whenever and not suffer the consequences. If he ever slowed in that regard, I failed to notice. He just kept doing it. He was a snacker always munching on something: peanuts, chips, cheese and crackers, smoked sardines, something. But if he ever failed to eat a big meal after snacking, I didn’t notice. Once he had an ulcer and the doctors scoped his digestive tract. They were shocked to find the largest stomach they had ever examined housed within that small-statured, aging man. Didn’t surprise me at all.
Not only did he work hard, play hard, eat hard, but he cooked hard as well. Like many men, he loved to grill, to cook outdoors. Fish, steaks, ribs, and chicken were his specialties, but I think chicken was his best. No fancy grill for him, though. He laid out a little rectangle of 8 X 8 X 16 inch concrete blocks, draped a piece of dog wire over it and cooked on the ground using a #2 wash tub as a covering. No joke, I not only have the memories, but photographic evidence exists that this is actually true.
He did everything in huge measure and squeezed every day for all the experience he could ring from it. He hunted and gardened and fished and cooked and ate. He also loved. I think that part of him gets overlooked, overshadowed by his tremendous temper which was never turned towards people but only towards inanimate objects and situations. Like his mother, he was not affectionate, but he loved. He loved to cook for his family. He loved to have us around. He loved to help us anyway he could. He just loved.

And then he died. I really didn’t believe it would ever happen, but I guess as someone said, “God is right nine times out of ten.” The Bible says, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.” To my surprise, I see now that applies even to Roger Hodge.
I made my way back across the boulevard to West Monroe Street and slowed to a walk when I got within a quarter of a mile from the house. It was quiet out, besides the chirping crickets and barking dogs, but I’m not sure I could have heard much else anyway. My heart rate and respiration steadily dropped as I slowly strolled towards home. My run was over, but my thoughts were not. I realized my memories and meditation on his life, on life, were not over but just beginning. That, I think, is a good thing.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Strange Week

The week started with, "Are you kidding me?" It was a strange seven days.

My light last couple of weeks has resulted not in a fresher, stronger body, but rather in the disappearance of my hard-fought-for fitness. Where did it go? It hasn't had time to wander away too far. Monday I went out for a little shuffle. I did 2.24 miles and was shocked at my pace (or lack thereof) and huffing and weakness of the thigh. *Sighs with tear filled eyes. It was not much better at the pool where I swam 1,800 in 64 degree water, but was sucking air the whole way. *Sighs more and contemplates bodily harm to self.

I guess I've reached the advanced age where I have to keep this body in perpetual motion or my fitness evaporates like the morning dew.

Tuesday I shuffled 3.39 miles and my legs were pretty much toast. At the pool, the water had warmed to 66, so I was able to stay in long enough for 3,200 straight. The pace, though, was horrendous. It was only a few weeks ago that I set a PR at 400 meters, and a little before that, I destroyed my adversary, Randy Beets, at Swim the Suck Ten Miler. *Sighs and contemplates shooting road signs.

Wednesday, I shuffled another 2.28 miles and met Big John at the pool. Although the water was still 66, I got cold quickly and got out after only 1,500 meters. *Sighs and considers life in a mental institution.

Thursday morning while I as at work, Dad called and told me Mom had fallen the night before. She broke her hip, and was scheduled for surgery that day. A few minutes later, my sister called. Both of us teach for MDCC, and both of us were in class at that time. She wanted someone at the hospital because Mom has lots of chronic health problems and narrowly survived several repeated mal-practices two years ago (long, long story that must sounds too shocking to be true to anyone who had the patience to listen or read). I gave my class their marching orders and left.

To make a short story long, I was at the hospital all day until my sister, who is a real American hero, relieved me sometimes that night. I really can't remember what time. It is amazing how cloudy my thinking becomes and how large my belly gets while hanging out at hospitals. I have learned to write down everything. I also have learned that I lose all control over what I shove into my mouth, and I gain weight by the minute. Anyway, when I went home, I put on shoes, fired up the Garmin watch, and headed my recently acquired huge belly out the door not for fitness but for stress relief.

I made it 5.05 very slow miles before my legs tapped out. It looked like just a little bit of my long lost fitness was starting to coming back to me. Just a little bit. Then I fixed up a day bag and went to bed because I had to have Dad at the same hospital at 6:30 am Friday morning for his TURP. That's right, we had Mom and Dad both in the hospital at the same time. Luckily, Mom was in 470, and Dad was straight across the hall in 471. My sister and I were both there until I went to Mom's house for lunch. Dad had bought and cooked food for us before he went in, and I could tell it made him happy when I said I was going there to eat. Before eating, however, I took a little 3.12 mile shuffle

Saturday, I relieved my sister at 8:00 am and was there until about 6:30 pm. Dad got to go home, and Mom was moved upstairs to 5th floor for rehab. I must say they both have received good care at the Greenwood Leflore Hospital. Our bad experiences with health care two years ago occurred in the LTAC unit within the Greenwood Hospital. There they seem to manage death not life. I have had three church members die there and despite having someone in the room 24/7, writing down everything, and asking questions and challenging things like the cessation of necessary-for-life medications, my mom almost didn't survive her stay in what I call the Death Ward. The way she survived is she had an appointment with a specialist in Jackson. He was horrified at what he saw and immediately admitted her to St. Dominic where they saved her life.

Once home, I went out for a run with no plan. I just started running and slowed to a walk after 5.35 miles. Although the run was slow, it was quicker that Thursday's shuffle. If I were in good form now, I might have gone for twenty miles, but that presently is not within my reach.

I will post again soon, like tomorrow.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Tanglefoot Trail

Saturday, my wife and I made a trip to Houston, Mississippi to ride bicycles on the Tanglefoot Trail, a Rails-to-Trails project recently opened which offers riders 43 miles of safe cycling. I haven't ridden much this year, and Penny hasn't been on her bike for two full years, but we have been yearning for the Tanglefoot to open and give it a whirl. It was great.

Cycling is dangerous and right here in our state, several adults are killed on Mississippi roads every year. Not only that, but at home on one of our main riding roads we often face a hostile group of car drivers who become enraged by our mere presence. All over America, abandoned railroads are being turned into trails and they are extremely popular everywhere they come into being. They offer the rider, runner, walker a safe place to get out of traffic, exercise, and commune with nature. This particular one runs from Houston to New Albany, Mississippi.

We parked at the trail head in Houston and headed north. Since Penny isn't that fit right now, we rode to the first rest stop at New Houlka. That's another feature of these sorts of trails. Approximately every 10 miles are the rest stops that offer clean bathrooms, water, some shade and shelter, and even some power outlets to charge your cell phone.
Penny taking a break at the whistle stop in New Houlka.

On the way we saw cyclists of all sorts. A group of six serious dudes from Memphis all wearing a team jersey passed like they were riding the Tour de France. We spotted an old man wearing bib overalls and riding a balloon tire bike. He had a huge smile on his face, and a woman, I presumed to be his wife, followed closely behind. Several times we sighted what I thought were dads out with a brood of kids on small bicycles. We spotted some Menonite women with their long dresses. Everyone we met looked happy.

The day was beautiful and the landscape was lovely. For a mile in Houston, we were in what seemed to be an old industrial park. We quickly reached the country, however, and rode through dark flat woods, pastures, and bean fields. We crossed over creeks, and hills, but as a former rail line the hills weren't really hills but only long grades. We heard jay birds and crickets and crows. We were alone much, but saw many other riders. We got a good workout and enjoyed ourselves without fear of being killed or harrassed. It was great. We plan to go again as soon as possible.

For the week, I only
ran 5.7 and walked .68 miles,
swam 7,300 meters, and
cycled 22.4 miles.

It was a very light week of training, but I've had some knee issues not to mention a lot of papers to grade at work.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

That's How I See It

I spoke too soon. About the perpetual beating of Beets' hinder parts. With the pool being open all winter, I thought my swimming fitness would soar over the top. What I had forgotten is that though I have a more convenient access to the water, I'm still a cold water sissy and can't stay in long enough now to get a real workout.

Tuesday I ran 3.1 miles and went to Twin Rivers. The water was 66 degrees, and I only lasted 1,600 meter before I couldn't take it anymore. Wednesday I didn't do anything physical. My knee was sore, I was tired, and I had a night class. Besides that, my cool water partner, Big John Misterfeld, canceled on me. So I got to thinking about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, our selection for the evening, and I would up re-watching the movie not once but twice. That's right, I watched the film two times that afternoon, went to class and we watched there, then I went home and re-watched the ending. That's three full viewings and one partial for the day.

I got it!

Finally, I got it!

I have long been fascinated by this piece of cinema, and it is the only one I am showing this semester that I don't hold the analytical key to. But on my drive home from class Wednesday night, a light bulb went off in my head.

It's a love story.

If you have ever watched this movie, you no doubt think I am seriously misguided, but I'm not. It's a love story. George and Martha fight like enraged MMA combatants. They fight verbally. They fight physically. They fight drunkenly. She flirts with another man, belittles George (skillfully, brutally, constantly), and even commits adultery on him all in one inebriated night. He dishes out to her in return. In one scene, he pulls a rifle on her; in another he begins to strangle her and has to be physically restrained by another man. They fight in a parking lot. She almost runs him over with a car.

It's a love story. That's all I'm going to say about that for now. If you want to know more, you will have to meet me for coffee, and we can discuss it.

Thursday, Big John and I met up at the pool. This was the first time he had been in the water in about a week, and the temps had fallen a lot. I thought, he's not going to be able to handle this. The water was 65. I had to get out after only 1,600. He got out because I did. Geez, anybody can beat me at this. I guess I really am a cold water sissy.

We were back Friday. The air was 56, the water 64. I wore a rash guard and a pair of socks, but I only managed 2,000 before I crawled out because I was losing my right leg. Really, it was going away on me. Oddly, my hands were still good. Last year, it was always the hands that went away. But the water is still 60-something. It seems that at 60 and below, the water is a different animal. It is. My body reacts differently. I'm also beginning to think that a pool is more difficult to swim cold that open water. The reason being that the walls cause a cessation (however momentarily) of stroking, hence heat production, and the push off the wall blasts one with a tremendous flow of water over the body. Moving water takes heat away very efficiently. Think of your car engine. If the water quits circulating from the radiator through the engine block, what happens? But flowing water pulls heat out of the engine so that you can drive and drive and drive. When you flip and come off the wall, you are going as fast as you ever will in water under your own power. Heat goes away.

Those are my thoughts on it. I am still very inexperienced at this stuff so my views may change, but that's how I see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and cold water swimming, pool vs open water. I'll be getting back in the water next week. I will also be discussing the movie with my class. Can't wait.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Shakin' But Not Bakin'

I thought I was doing well, I really did. I swam 19,000 meters last week all of it outdoors in progressively cooler water. I thought, I'm kicking butt compared to a year ago. Then I looked in my 2012 training diary. This week a year ago I swam 19,000 and one swim was in 60 degree water for 1.13 miles. DO WHAT!?!

Today, Monday, after my 2.6 mile shuffle, I went to Twin Rivers. Big John and I had planned to meet, but he had to cancel, so I was all alone. The water was 67.5, the sky was overcast, but the air temp was warm, around 70. Although I did swim and it didn't take me minutes to get started, I was never comfortable and only managed 2,100 meters before I crawled out. I was cold the whole time, felt every variation in the water temperature, and even noticed that the top three inches were warmer than the deeper water. I had never experienced that before in a pool although it is common in the fish ponds. I didn't get the shakes until I went home and was there for a few minutes. Odd how that works. They weren't bad, but still to real cold water swimmers 67 is pretty warm. Not for me.

I wonder if I will ever be able to just handle it the way so many people do. On the bright side, if I will/can develop the ability, this is the year to do it because I have an outdoor long course pool not a mile from my house that is scheduled to stay open all winter. I hate to admit it, but this cold water stuff is one area where Randal Beets gets the best of me. He is "the man" when it comes to ice swimming or any swimming below indoor pool temps. Around here anyway. Not only can he endure colder water and endure it longer, he has always beaten me back to the truck when we swam a pond last winter. Not this year. By golly, if I have to get up every morning and go soak in the pool, so be it. Randy Beets cannot win. He just can't. It ain't right for AquaMan to lose to Spongeboy. Good must prevail in the end. If it does not, people lose hope, the earth is off kilter, the universe is not right. I can't let that happen. It's beneath the dignity of a superhero.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Sum Up

I went back to Twin Rivers Saturday and Brent Baily was getting out when I walked up. I had my rash guard in my swimming bag since it has a tad of neoprene on it and offers some protection against the cold. But when I saw Brent without a wetsuit, I knew I had to go skin.

Although Brent told me the water was 72, it felt colder to me, more like 70 or less. I threw my thermometer in and started warming up. I swam

1,300
4 X 300 @ 6:00
100 easy
2 X 250 @ 5:00
100 easy
200 medium paddle
200 small paddle right arm only
Total: 3,600 meters.

I checked my thermometer and it said 69.5. I knew it.

I've been doing some thinking on my training. Basically, I have been doing a lot of low intensity endurance work when I train alone and a lot of short sprint work when I go to Delta State (where I have not been in a while). I think I need a lot more of the kind of sets I did this week if I am to swim the Suck faster next year than I just did. When I push those 250s and 300s, after several reps I get the same burn in my rear deltoids and triceps muscles that I get when I hammer at the Suck. This year, it was so bad I had to roll over on my back, stretch, and pray. I really wondered at one point if I would be able to complete the swim because my right rear delt almost went on total strike. There is nothing wrong with doing sprints. There is nothing wrong with doing long endurance work. But I need to add something in between, the higher intensities in the longer pool sets. Those things hurt, but I am convinced they will pay off if I don't wimp out and go the easy route.

Later in the afternoon, Penny wanted to go to her mom's to help out some there. I got out at the Pelucia Creek bridge and shuffled the 6.22 miles in. I was shocked at how much running fitness I have lost in the short time I have taken off. I am even questioning if I can continue to run. With the issues I am having, it looks like swimming is the only sport in which I can maintain any real quantity and quality.

For the week, I

ran only 10.52 and walked 4.03 miles, and
swam 19,775.44 meters. This is a pretty good swim total for me this time of year.

For the year, I have

swum 688,329.59 meters, and
run 1,058.15 miles.

Despite all the miles, my running is not good but my swimming is. Consequently, I am scheming on the Chicot Challenge and the Swim the Suck although these events are a long way off. The Great Noxapater Journey Run is in real jeopardy.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Beets' Butt Is Forever Beaten Now

The water was 72 at Twin Rivers again Thursday when Big John and I met up there. But it was sunny and the air temp was a nice 71. I swam

1,200
10 X 250 @ 5:00
100 easy
600 medium paddles
400 pull, small paddle right hand only
Total: 4,800 meters.

By the time John and I were getting out, Brent Baily had come, swum, and was getting out also. He said to me, "You know MS Debbie is keeping the pool up this year?"

My response was, "For how long?" Usually they drain it about this time. Last year, I drove up on a sunny, warm October day only to find half the water gone and the other half going.

His answer was, "All winter."

WHAT!?!?!?!?!

Are you kidding me? I thought I was going to launch into orbit. Dude, Beets' butt is forever beat now.
Getting ready for a cool dip.

She had told me earlier that she was keeping the pool up this year, but in my mind that meant 'up a little longer.' I never dreamed she would leave it up all winter. I thought we would be lucky to have the whole month of October. Ideas have been exploding in my brain since I received the news.

Friday I decided it was time to go back to the fish farm for some wall-less swimming. The water there was 69.5 and the well was dumping 65 degree fresh water into the still not fully filled pond.

I got in, alone, and made one lap and kept swimming. However, this time when I got to the far end, I turned around and headed back up the side I had just swum down. One side was colder that the other, and I just didn't feel like freezing. It has always amazed me at how much the temp varies in a twenty-acre pond. I made 2.16 miles in 1:06 before I crawled out. I didn't go into the shakes afterwards although I was cold for a long time.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

DOA

Light rain fell from an overcast sky as I stepped out of the 60 degree air and into the clear, crisp 72 degree water. I can remember when this was torture. Now I find it strangely delightful. Funny how things change. I don't know for how much longer Twin Rivers will keep the pool open, but I intend to avail myself of it every opportunity I get.

This was Wednesday, and I had time to go long, so I thought I would. After a 2,100 meter warm up, I swam 300 with medium paddles and then decided to try out some 100s on 1:57 since I had just put that workout into my watch. That set was Dead On Arrival. I had trouble making the interval. WHAT ?!?!?! I don't know why, but I couldn't swing it, so I ended the set and put on my small paddles. I only swam 300 with the small paddles and by then I was beginning to get cold. I got my pull buoy and took the paddle off my left hand. I am determined at next year's Suck I won't have the same arm/shoulder issues that could get me beaten by Beets. After only 300, however, I was tired and more cold, so I did 100 easy and got out. My total for the day was 3,400 meters, and I shivered a little as I dried off under the outdoor canopy and put my damp clothes on.

At school for my night class, we discussed Whatever Happend to Baby Jane?  The film, which we watched the Wednesday before, delivered a huge emotional impact to the entire class. We discussed why it hit hard the way it did. More than one student said it is a WOW! film.

We watched DOA (1950), and although it is an interesting movie, a film noir classic, and a quest of an interesting kind, it was Dead on Arrival. I exaggerate, but I could tell the impact that Baby Jane had was absent, although one student had red, teary eyes. But she always does. I think I could show the local weather and she would cry. I can't wait, though, for next week. On tap is Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I have almost nothing analytically to say about this one, but it hits as hard a Baby Jane does and always leaves me in stunned silence.

Today, I plan on meeting Big John at the pool. My guess is the water will be 71 or lower, but it is supposed to be sunny and 71, so I should be able to last for maybe 4,000. That's the goal anyway.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mo Is Back and so Is Joe

The Suck is only a few days old, and already I am thinking about next year. Earlier, Randy and I had been considering an Ironman for next fall. A new one is opening in Chattanooga of all places. Several things have transpired that are making that less and less of a probability. One is the incredible fact that the Chattanooga race sold out in three minutes. No, that is not a typo. THREE minutes and two thousand spots are gone. How is that possible when our govenment can't operate a website they had years to prepare for?

Another factor is the return of my swimming partners Mo and Joe. For a while, they were out of town, and the prospects of cold water swimming this winter were more than I could bear even to think about. Lately, however, the slowly cooling outdoor pool coupled with spending almost five hours in 75 degree water Saturday has helped me get my mind right. Now I have the proper attitude and am actually looking forward to some colder water.

Monday I spent the afternoon mowing the back lawn and lifting weights. I really hammered my upper body, and the shoulder I injured in June gave nary a trace of any lingering affects. I also managed to shuffle 2.15 miles. Since MDCC is holding a 5K this Wednesday, I am tapering for what I hope is a good time.

Tuesday I did a little 2.16 mile shuffle and then got back in the water. Big John and I met at Twin Rivers. The water was 74 and it never felt better. I swam

2,000
6 X 200 @ 4:00
200 easy
200 medium paddles
300 pull with small paddle on right hand only
Total: 3,900 meters.

Paddle on right hand only? you ask. Yep. Seems I have a strength imbalance between my left and right sides and this is a major limiter in my ability to knock off a long swim in a really good time. It has surfaced in all three Sucks and it must be fixed if I'm going to beat Beets a fourth year in a row. I have a year to get it rectified and the process has already begun.

Now I am scheming on the Chicot Challenge and the Swim the Suck. I think I am going to try to slip away and get into the water today for a cool swim. But before I can get back to the Challenge and the Suck, there is still The Great Noxapater Journey Run that I have dreamed about for the last five years.
One problem looms on the horizon, however. Lately both my right knee and hip have been gimpy. I took Friday off. I took Saturday off. I took Sunday off. I ran short and easy on Monday with no issues. I ran short and easy on Tuesday with no issues. Today I am hobbling. What the heck?

Despite the fact that until lately my running has been almost back to normal, I realized again this week that my athletic identity has forever changed. I used to be a runner who swam some and did triathlons. Now I am a swimmer who runs some and does one thriathlon per year. Quite a shift.

I really do want the journey run in the worst way, and as I type this I am agonizing on whether or not to run today. Will the knee get worse if I do? Will I detrain if I don't? Decisions, decisions. Hey Mo, what do you think?


Monday, October 14, 2013

Suck Week

I really don't know why I didn't post much last week because I certainly intended to. I did write already about what I did last Monday which included 2,800 meters of swimming as I began the final taper week for the Suck. Tuesday I ran more, 6.21 miles but swam less, 2,400 meters as

1,300
6 X 50 @ 1:00
400 as 75 easy/25 hard
400 as 25 hard/75 easy
I like the hard/easy swimming as it makes my rear deltoids burn for 50 meters after slowing down. This is the kind of thing the Mad Swimming Scientist has us do, and I find that his influence is ever with me even when I swim alone.

Wednesday I only shuffled 4.12 miles and swam a mere 2,000 as

1,400
600 as 25 hard/75 easy

Thursday I ran another 7.05 miles on a knee that has been getting increasingly sore and then went to Twin Rivers for my final pre-race swim, and easy 1,000 meters. Then I went home and packed for the trip to Tennessee.

Forrest and I left Friday morning at 7:00 am, and for the first time we had time to find our motel and rest a little before the pre-race meeting. The swim was great and I finished in my best time. I plan a full write up on the race. Let me now just say, if you are looking for a destination marathon swim, Swim the Suck is a good choice. Chattanooga is surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery  on earth, the city is big enough to have loads of things to do but small enough not to overwhelm a small town Mississippi boy, and the swim down the Tennessee River is awesome, literally awesome. Karah Nazor and company do a first class job in organizing one of the greatest events I've ever been a part of.

For the week, I swam 24,290 meters, and
ran 21.49 miles.

Because my knee was sore, I decided against running Friday and Saturday. Last year after the Suck, I ran from the finish to the after race party, about four and a half miles. This year I took the shuttle like everyone else. It was a glorious swim, I got to spend some quality time with my son and some good friends, and I beat Beets' butt. Yeehaa!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Race Week Has Arrived

Finally, the Swim the Suck race week has arrived and with it my long lost excitement has returned. Admittedly, my training has fallen off over the last month in large part due to some declining motivation. I think, in part, the motivational issues have been related to my increase in running which has left me with little energy to attack the water as I needed to. Also, Randy Beets has been unavailable much of the time as a training partner, so I have just been floundering of late. Now, the training is done, the taper has begun, and the packing is starts soon.

Today, Monday, I ran 4.11 miles, cleaned my truck out some, and made it to the pool for what will be my longest swim of the week, not counting Saturday. I took my thermometer and guessed the water to be 75 when I waded in. I took a reading and it said 76. Later, I looked again and the temp was 75. I've gotten pretty good at being able to tell the temp by the feel and if the thermometer had said anything else, I would have thrown it away and bought another one. While there, I swam

2 X 500
10 X 100 @ 2:00
200 easy
2 X 75 @ 1:30
300 easy
Total: 2,800 meters.

Last year, I swam on Tuesday and was not in the water at all until Saturday. At the race, I didn't perform the way I thought I should have been able to. My Coach, the Mad Swimming Scientist, said I was out of the water too much. So this year I am going to swim through Thursday, maybe Friday, but a little less each day. Tomorrow I will shoot for 2,400.

Yeehaa.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Friday Hill Run and More

Thursday I did a little 4.21 mile run and met Big John at Twin Rivers where I swam

1,200
6 X 50 @ 1:15
300 easy
400 for time (6:23)- raced Brent Bailey. He beat me about two seconds, but it got me a PR,
11 X 100 @ 2:00 pull with small paddles
Total: 3,300 meters.

Friday I did a hill run. I went to the cabin and ran one of my old loops. On the long hill on the highway, I pushed it just a little, and I tried to maintain a decent pace which I did for about six miles and then I began to fall off. Anyway, I did a straight 11.01 miles with a little quality in there on the first big hill. In the afternoon, I went to Twin Rivers but only did 2,100 straight and went home. I was just tired. I'm finding that pushing the running and the swimming at the same time is just a bit too much for me. They work different muscles, except one: the heart.

Saturday, I only did 2,500 meters at the pool, and later I ran to Mom's to watch MSU play LSU. My dad is 84, but he is still passionate about MSU football. It's almost hard to fathom when you consider how much losing our Bulldogs have done and how old and declining he is in so many ways. Yet he still pitches fits, yells, curses, and second guesses every coaching decision. Saturday night he threw more fits than a dump dog has flees despite that for three quarters State played pretty well. Finally, I decided to record some of his antics. I only got a little, but here is one of his lesser ones before my phone lost power.

[I tried to upload the sixteen second video, but for some reason, it never works for me. If you really want to see it, however, you can find it on my facebook page.]

For the week, I
ran 29.74 miles and
swam 15,500 meters.

For the year, I am at
1,026.18 miles running and
644,864.15 miles swimming.