Friday, May 31, 2013

Taper Terrors

For me, at least, tapers are always weird. Tuesday I swam the exact same thing I did last year before the Challenge:

6 X 50 @ 1:30
100 easy
Total: 1,600 meters.

I also did a little 3.26 mile run. The plan then, like last year, was for no more swimming until the big day Saturday. By Wednesday afternoon, while out on a run, I was already feeling like it had been a long, long time since I had been in the water. I got home and checked my training diary. DUDE, I just swam yesterday! It is like reality warps once a taper starts. I get to feeling like I am losing fitness, and I become nervous, antsy. I know with my mind that is not true. But I feel a different way. My run that day was 7.36 miles and then Thursday I ran another 2.42. This extra running was a departure from last year's training when I neither swam nor ran after Tuesday. And by Thursday afternoon, I was beginning to question the wisdom of the extra running. I know my swimming muscles are getting a rest, but my overall fatigue level is still too high and that also can play a role in my success Saturday.
Me an' the crew

It is now Friday morning and I am trying to rest, pack, and hydrate with the breakfast of champions, coffee. I just checked the Weather Channel App on my phone for the eighty-seventh time. The forecast shows only a 20% chance of rain. Good. The forecast also calls for a south wind at 15 MPH. Not good. I am now considering changing the direction of the swim and starting at the County Park and swimming to the State Park instead of the other way around. The new direction would put a lot of that wind to my back, making it not only easier for me, but easier for my kayakers.

Well, this is the last time I will post until after the swim. In the picture above is Robin Bonds on the left. She will be in charge of my nutrition. The tall guy is Randy Beets. He will be the route guy and will scout ahead for snags and alligators and trot lines. I am the one with the closed eyes. My son, Forrest Zane Hodge, is on the far right. He will protect my back side, take pictures, and post updates on Facebook.

If you read this blog and have not done so, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. Go to and give under the name Chicot Challenge. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

PR Harvest

The countdown to the Chicot Challenge has begun. As I write this, the swim is five days away, and I must confess that I'm getting a little nervous. I woke last morning around 2:00 am and failed to go back to sleep. That is a pretty unusual for me. My mind kept going over and over the things I may face Saturday. The training is done, and all is left is to rest, get my gear together, and show up and swim.

I finished last week with a six mile run Wednesday and another three miles of shuffling Thursday with 3,200 meters of swimming at Twin Rivers. I swam 500 for time and got a PR of 8:07.86. Tuesday at DSU, I turned in a PR at 50 meters long course with a :38 second effort. Friday I went back to Twin Rivers for a short 1600. I swam 300 for time and that produced a PR of 4:41.8. Since I was on a PR roll, Saturday I went after my 250 time and bested it with a 3:55.7. That makes makes four PRs in one week. No doubt I am swimming my fastest ever. I just hope my endurance is at the highest ever. 

For the week, I
swam 24,158.43 meters
ran 22.19 miles
walked 6.04 miles and
lifted weights two times,

which puts me for the year at
348,253.01 meters swimming (+22,483) and
469.12 miles running (+282.96).

That was a bit of a drop down after Monday when I had my big swim. This Monday I swam a mere 1,800 meters at a relaxed pace and ran seven miles. My plans are to do an even shorter swim tonight and take the rest of the week off.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


After tiring and getting tight shoulders on a 6.6 mile swim scarcely a week ago, I was a bit worried about my Chicot Challenge which is now less than a fortnight away. Monday, however, I went to Austin 58 early, and started what I hoped would be my long sought after monster swim. When the fish slime cleared, I had swum 8.27 and run 2.26 miles. I could have done more, but May 20th is my wife and my wedding anniversary, and this one was number thirty-six. I didn't want to be late getting home. Although we didn't do anything special, it was nice being in the house together. During the school semester, I teach two nights per week and swim two, so I am gone a lot in the evening. The weenie dog and my cat miss me. I think my wife does too.

Both the fatigue and tightness in my shoulders on my earlier monster attempt were highly troubling. If I get tired at six miles on the Chicot Challenge, I will never make it. Also, I had that same tightness in my shoulders once before which led to an injury that kept me out of the water for awhile. But Monday I was loose and strong all the way through. True enough, 8 miles is only half of my scheduled 16, but still it was encouraging. It seems that the 6.6 miler and the 32,000 meter week put something in the tank for me. This is one reason I love swimming so much. The results of endurance work seem to show up almost instantly. With running, it would be two weeks before a simialr workout manifested itself on the road. Now I am confident that with a taper, I have a good chance at pulling off the Challenge.

Tuesday I ran a terrible 4.24 miles. I still flet the affects of leaving my nutrition at home this past weekend. My wife and I went to Carroll County Saturday. I got out and tried to run the six miles in. My legs were already shot from kicking with Zoomers and I think from dropping my energy gel before my protein shake. Now I am convinced that the insulin spike from the energy gel before the protein is worth the expense. I got to Hillbilly Heaven only to discover I forgot my bag with my post-workout nutrition. My legs are still paying for that mistake. That may sound trivial to some of you, but I am only a couple of weeks short of being fifty-seven years old, and the older I get the more important the little things become. Nutrition, rest, stretching, and easy days are all now a necessity not a luxury.

I did finally make it back to Masters Tuesday night. It was nice to see the Mad Swimming Scientist and to swim with someone else. Mark and I were the only ones there. All the lanes were full of age group teams when I arrived so I started warming up behind the bulkhead which has one short course lane. I did

850 yards short course before Cagri moved me and I continued my warmup with
300 meters long course. Then Mark and I swam
16 X 50 @ 1:30 (odd all out, even easy; I did one :38, one :40, and six :39s)
400 pull breathing 3, 5, 7, and choice by 25s
Total 2,276 meters.

It felt really good to do that sprinting despite having swum 8 miles the day before, which is something else to recommend swimming. If I had run 8 miles one day and tried to sprint the next, the results would have been disaterous. Oh well, the taper began Tuesday. Probably I won't even swim today but will try to finish the week with a couple of moderate pool swims. Then next week, I . . . oh heck, I go back to work next week! Well, at least it's an easy week as far as physical activity goes.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Monster Week

I didn't accomplish the monster swim I sought the last six days, but I did find a monster. For the week, it was one of my all-time best when you add swimming and running together. Still, I feel like I need another really long swim, longer than my best this year of 6.6 miles. Although I am inside the two week window before the event, there is plenty of time for recovery, and I think a long swim would add some to my fitness even at this late date. Even if it didn't, a long successful swim would do wonders for my confidence. Looking at my training diary from last year, I saw that on Tuesday the second week before the first Chicot Challenge, I did a 10,000 meter pool swim. So tomorrow I plan to search for the monster one last time.

Friday I went to the pool and swam

500 stiff (8:27)
Total: 2,600 meters (recovery day)

Saturday I once again chose the pool over the pond because we planned to go to Penny's mom's Saturday afternoon to help her out. Her health has been failing for several years, and increasingly we are having to care for aged parents. Thank God we still have them. Overall I was pretty much shot which is anotherr reason I picked pool over pond. All I did was

10 X 150 medium paddles R:15
600 small paddles
Total: 3,300

After lunch we headed to Carroll County to help take care of Penny's mom. I got out in the delta and ambulated for 4.22 miles of shuffling and 2.53 miles of walking. As you can probably tell, my legs were shot. I'm not recovering very well right now. I think it is the total volume of training  I've been doing that has pretty much overwhelmed my entire system. Next week, I will run a little less and swim a little less but still do a substantial  amount of training. Then the next week will be a radical drop off that should leave me with fresh muscles and bundles of energy for June 1. That's the plan any way.

For the week, I
The shores of Austin 58
where I plan to be Monday morning.
swam 32,410.4 meters
ran 24.37 miles
walked 8.02 miles
lifted weights 1 X.

For the year, I am at
324,094.58 meters swimming (+18,324.48 meters over last year)
446.48 miles running (+275.84 over last year).

The difference in my training this year and last year has been a lot more running and a slight increase in volume swimming. However, I am a bit insecure about my endurance because last year I did more long swims. At this time a year ago, I had done three 10,000 meter or longer swims with a longest of 8.5 miles. This year I have only two 10,000 meter swims with a longest of 6.6 miles. Last year in one week, I did two swims of over seven miles. Time has run out. If I don't get it done tomorrow, it's not going to happen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Finding Something

It is Friday morning, the coffee is good, and the rain falls lightly outside my window. The two sandwich thieves, Luvie and Jeff, are napping on the bed with me. I could stay here all day. Earlier I heard some thunder. Scratch that, I just heard some more thunder. Not good. Not good for swimming.

I've been on a quest to get in that really long swim. This training cycle will conclude exactly two weeks before the big charity swim, and I think this is the last one that can substantially affect my fitness for a watery marathon. Monday I got in 6.6 miles, which is very good, but not quite the monster I want and feel I need. That effort was aborted by a family emergency. Tuesday I got a good pool session at Twin Rivers and did 5,400. Maybe I should have taken some off that effort and put it into the next day, but the one thought that always runs through my mind when I train is, You're not going to get this one back. So I normally do more instead of less. An easier effort now and then would allow myself better recovery and thus a greater chance at having the juice, so to speak, for the monster.

Wednesday found me back in the pool where I swam

2,600 (50:18)
100 kick with Zoomers
10 X 50 @ 1:15 with small paddles
100 kick with Zoomers
400 strong (7:06)
100 kick with Zoomers
400 strong (7:05)
100 kick with Zoomers
1,700 (33:31)
Total: 6,000 LCM.

Not exactly a recovery day. That afternoon I did a 4.94 mile run, planted some flowers, and did my first upper body weight lifting session in about ten days. How did that happen? The weights are important.

Thursday morning I dragged into Twin Rivers at about 10 am. This peak training cycle is starting to wear me down. I did

4,100 (1:20:42)
200 kick with Zoomers
200 easy
Total: 4,500

After lunch I took a nap with Luvie and Jeff then started working in the yard. Later in the afternoon, I took some food my wife had prepared to my in-laws in Carroll County, thus knocking me out of Masters once again. But who needs a double dip when one is swimming big meters every day? Since my in-laws live in the hills, I had my running shoes on when I got  there and after delivering the food, I shuffled 5.39 miles. I've noticed that kicking with the Zoomers is wearing my legs down. I think the overall effort is probably affecting my recovery some. But there is no doubt that the Zoomers hit the legs hard.This really has me in a conundrum. When it comes to kicking, I'm like a yo yo. I make a commitment to it, then decide it's useless for me only to regain my enthusiasm so I can lose it again. My legs undoubtedly have all the fitness they need to swim 16 miles, especially when you consider my kick, or lack thereof. It's the shoulders that need the work.

At any rate, what I had planned for today was a really easy, short pool swim with the hopes of a long pond effort tomorrow. But I just heard some thunder outside. What to do? I really don't know, but there are several more cups of coffee in the pot. I could go to DSU although that is a long drive for a short swim.

Although I haven't found my monster swim yet, I am finding something: a monster week. What will I find today? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Still Searching

All alone with no one to push me. Randy has a job.
Monday morning, after a copious amount of coffee drinking and cat petting, I decided to get off my hinder parts and head to the pond. My dilemma had been between pool and pond. Pond won.

The water was a brisk 71 and my running shoes were at home since I had decided to focus only on swimming. I did 3+ laps (2.58 miles) before crawling out the first time for nutrition. Surprisingly, with the wind, I was a bit chilled in the open air while I ate a banana, nibbled on some nabs, and slurped some water. That awful smell of old but still rotting flesh, from a big fish die off a month ago, was semi-nauseating. The commercial fish pond of the Mississippi delta is a bundle of contradictions, a liquid oxymoron. Their beauty and ugliness, their tameness and wildness, their safeness and danger serve to give them a strange attraction to me and maybe one other person on earth. That would be the very tall Randal Beets, adventurer extraordinaire. He is the only person I know whom I can call and say, "Let's go swim a fish pond," and instead of saying, "Are you crazy?" he will simply ask, "What time?"

But I was alone as I sat in my little folding chair and breathed in the fresh air tinged with the odor of decaying flesh. Death and life were everywhere. Pelicans soured high in the sky above while their dead brothers decorated the sides of the ponds. Buzzards circled above and beautful doves darted through the air at amazing speeds as if dodging a hunter's aim. Live fish turned the water, but when I walked I carefully pranced around the ubiquitous bones of dead ones.

I crawled back in for another 3+ laps and climbed out an hour and twenty minutes later with 5.1 miles showing on my Garmin GPS watch. This time I ate a Cliff's Bar and a handful of peanuts because it was past lunch time and my stomach was beginning to feel like it was eating itself. For swim number three, I did two of a planned three laps and got out because of a growing tightness in my shoulders, especially the right one. I did some stretching and was trying to screw up my nerve to get back in the water when I checked my phone and saw an email from my wife. She was at the ER with her mom. Swim over.

For the day I got in 6.6 miles (10,619.4 meters). Not bad, but still not the monster I have been seeking. Although I tired some, I did have some muscular endurance left, but the shoulder tightness was troubling. Maybe I am overly pessimistic about injury. One reason I am primarily a swimmer today instead of a runner is I stay healthy as a swimmer but I'm always injured as a runner. And the only swimming injury I ever had was to the right shoulder in the exact spot I felt the growing tightness. I know if I get hit with that again, it is game up. When I got home, my wife texted me not to come to the hospital so I did a little run, 2.56 miles, and then worked in the yard for a couple of hours. I had little trouble sleeping that  night.

Tuesday morning I started slowly once more, but I was in the water at Twin Rivers by 9:30. I swam

2,100 straight and easy in 40:15
100 kick with Zoomers
5 X 200 @ 4:00
100 kick with Zoomers
6 X 150 @ 3:00
100 kick with Zoomers
8 X 100 @ 2:00 with medium paddles
300 easy
Total: 5,400 meters.

I was amazingly strong considering I swam 6.6 miles the day before and was troubled that day over shoulder tightness. Tuesday I was troubled over nothing. Everything was strong and healthy feeling and I was able to pretend speed, at least in my own mind. After lunch, I ran a bunch of errands and followed them up with a 3.05 mile run. Now I ponder tomorrow. Pond of pool? That is the question. If I know me, I'll answer my conundrum over a cup of coffee or three with Luvie purring softly against my leg. I can't wait.

Monday, May 13, 2013

In Search of a Monster

Randy wanted to train Saturday so we went to Austin 58 for the tall man's first swim there. I had planned to stay in the pond until my arms fell off, but it was cold when we arrived, the wind was blowing like an angry hurricane, and the water was a chilly 70 degrees. So we took a run first doing an easy 3.03 miles.Then we got into the water.
Randy Beets pacing me around the pond.

We did a relaxed two laps (1.55 miles), and then crawled out for some more running. Randy felt like running. Randy felt like running a lot. We did another 4.6 miles before the big guy was ready to get back into the water. After one more lap, Randy had to get out to leave for some meeting with his brothers in Starkville. That left me with the choice to swim alone or go home. I went home.

The residual fatigue from Wednesday was still with me, and I was so tired after 7.6 miles of running and just three laps around the pond that I just wanted to go to sleep on the spot. Really. I barely stayed awake on the drive back to Greenwood, immediately took a bath upon arriving home, and was asleep with Luvie as soon as I crawled into bed. I napped about three hours and only got out of bed the rest of the day and night long enough to use the bathroom and visit the kitchen for snacks. I turned the lights off early Saturday evening and had no problem drifting off for a great night of sleep.

For the week, I
swam 26,633.24 meters
ran 25.48 miles and
walked 3.1 miles.

For the year I have
run 422.56 miles (+266.19) and
swum 291,675.18 meters (+16,981.58 over last year).

Although my grand totals are over last year's, I am losing ground in my swim numbers and it is the wrong time of year to lose ground. Essentially I have one more week to affect my condition before the Chicot Challenge. This week needs to be one of the biggest training cycles of my life before I enter into a two week taper for the big swim. Right now, I am pondering going back to Austin 58 for a monster swim. Frankly, however, my energy feels a little low. I am afraid if I go, I will tap out early. I may go to Twin Rivers for three or four thousand meters and then bust out my big swim tomorrow. I'll let you know. One way or the other, I need a monster swim before the week passes by.

Friday, May 10, 2013

That's What I'm Talkin' About

If you read this blog, you know that Monday I was as low as a pygmy's toenail. A bad week of training and a couple of months of strangely cold weather and water, had left me woefully short on long swims despite the fact that I had accumulated a fair amount of swimming. But my fair amount of swimming was built on frequency. Now frequency is important, but for a long swim, one has to do some long swimming. Duh. Tuesday proved to be a good day with 4.05 miles of running and 5,700 meters of swimming. But 5,700 meters (again acquired by double dipping) is still a long way short of what I need in order to swim 16-miles.

Then came Wednesday.

I arrived at the pond around 12 noon and took a water reading: 68 degrees, cool but doable. To make a short story long, I swam and ran and swam and ran. I like this kind of training. I swim a few laps, get out, put on running shoes, and run. Then I eat and repeat until I have that Forrest gump moment and just decide to go home. It's a proven fitness builder.
I love the smell of fish slime in the morning.

I wound up running 5.21 and swimming 6.36 miles. Now that's what I'm talking about. That is the kind of work I've been needing, but until now I have not had the time, the weather, or the water temperature to pull  it off. When the water is in the low sixties, even with a wetsuit, I have proved to be too much of a cold-water sissy to be able to stay in long enough before fear of hypothermia would drive me out of the water. The indoor pool at DSU you ask? Well, let's just say they have their schedule and I don't have a key. I swim until they ask me to leave.

After Wednesday's epic training, I ran and easy 3.54 miles Thursday morning before making my way to Twin Rivers for an afternoon swim. Normally I go to Masters on Thursday nights, but the mad Swimming Scientist is out of town and practice is cancelled. The 10,233 meters from the day before were very much with me as a did a long slow warmup and followed that with some 100s on 2:00. It wasn't long before I couldn't make 2:00 anymore (normally 2:00 is a piece of cake) so I went to 2:10. A half a dozen 100s later and I changed to 2:15. I quit the pool after 4,100 slow meters. I may have been tired and sluggish, but I didn't fret being tired and sluggish because that's part of the price one must pay to build endurance.

Friday morning I went back to Twin Rivers and swam 2,000 straight followed by 100 kick with Zoomers before starting another long set. I was only few hundred into that set when I knew if I was to have anything for Saturday, I had to tap out. So I stopped after only 2,600 meters. Still, and despite not training at all on Monday, my total for the week is 22,633 meters swimming. This is a pretty decent total with one long swim in the bag and a day left to train. So gassing two days in a row was no big deal.

Tomorrow, Randy and I plan on going back to Austin where we have access to the biggest pond on the biggest fish farm in the world. I don't know how much I'll be able to get in, but I'll do all I can.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Good Day

It's amazing what a little sunshine will do for my soul. Tuesday morning the sun burst out early and began to warm our world as well as my heart. Although I received a phone call (while I was still in bed) from the fish farm informing me that water in the ponds was averaging 61 degrees, I decided to get up and take a run while Ole King Sol did his thing. I shuffled an easy 4.05 miles before having lunch with my wife.

After a short nap I decided on Twin Rivers instead of a fish pond. The water was 67 in the pool, but I did 2,900 nonstop meters before I tapped out because I felt a tightness in my right shoulder. Because of all my running injuries, I am hyper conservative, jumpy, pessimistic even when something doesn't feel right. I went home, took nutrition, stretched, and packed for Masters and swim number two. At DSU, I warmed up with 800 meters, and then the Mad Swimming Scientist had us do

Usually the Mad Swimming Scientist keeps a lane between
me and Randy to prevent us from fighting.
10 X 50 @ 1:30 breathing every 9
8 X 50 @ 1:30 breathing every 7
6 X 50 @ 1:00 breathing every 5
4 X 50 @ 1:00 breathing every 3
1:00 rest
2 X 50 @ 1:00 all out
8 X 50 @ 1:30 as
  2 25 fast/25 easy
  2 25 easy/25 fast
  2 all fast
  2 all easy
100 easy cool down
Total: 2,800 meters

My total for the day was 5,700 meters. That, coupled with my running, made for a pretty good training day. Yeehaa!

Monday, May 6, 2013

All I Can Do Is All I Can Do

I can't believe my ears. While I sit here and type this, the cold rain is falling through the cold air outside my cold window. Are you kidding me? It it still winter here in the deep South, winter in May, and I am losing my mind. My charity swim is less than a month away and the water is colder now than it was in January. Unbelievable.

Back when it was warm enough to swim in a wetsuit.
I've been running a lot (for me) and that is keeping my cardio up, but running is running and swimming is swimming. I am trying to relax, and a couple of comments from other people have helped. I went in to Twin Rivers Friday after lunch to run on the treadmill and lift weights. I get on a treadmill only when the weather is inclement for an Eskimo. It was too cold to swim in a wetsuit and the rain was falling like Noah's Flood.

I saw Tom Flanagan there and was complaining to him. His response was, "All you can do is all you can do." I suppose he is right, and that helped me feel a little better. I guess no one who has or will donate is going to ask for a refund if I can't swim the full sixteen-miles. All I can do is all I can do. Not only am I missing a lot of training, but the water temp most likely will be a factor. I want to do this English Channel rules, but I may have to buy a new wetsuit and just swim until they have to pull me out of the water. All I can do is all I can do.

Saturday morning I drove over to Greenville to run the Cotton Classic 10K. I saw one of my crew members there, Robin Bond, and I also did some venting on her. I told her the swim might get ugly in the latter miles. She said that was OK, and she didn't mind being out there all day. That made me feel a little bit better.

I ran pretty well considering I didn't taper. Friday at Twin Rivers, I ran 4.5 miles on the treadmill and Thursday I ran 6.15 with two hard quarters mile surges thrown in. Still I managed  to run 52:35 which was good enough for first place in my age group. One of the good things about getting old is if you can shuffle across the finish line at my age, you have a good shot at placing. The bad news is Randal Beets beat me. Ouch!

For the week I
ran 31.45 miles
walked 7.66 miles
spent 40: on the bike trainer
lifted weights one time, but
swam only 2,100 meters.

For the year I have
run 397.08 miles (+253.87 over last year)
and swum 265,376.38 metes (+21,000 over last year).

Last week I lost a lot of ground to the previous year's swimming total. I got 30,000 meters then and this week last year, I also swam 30,000 meters. This week last year, I did two swims of over seven miles. There is no way I can stay in the water that long now and we don't even have Masters this Thursday.


All I can do is all I can do.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dry too Long

I still haven't swum since I got out of the water last Saturday morning at Twin Rivers. After a bit of poking, prodding, and YouTube video watching, I decided that I flared up the very back strand of my right rear deltoid where it attaches to the scapula. In short, I think I'm going to be alright. I have been taking NSAIDs, which I hate to do, and running a bit but no swimming or weightlifting. I do plan on going to Masters tomorrow night.
I need to get back to this kind of exhaustion.

Monday I did an easy bike trainer ride and an easy 3.21 mile shuffle, and Tuesday I did a multi paced 6.8 mile run. Since we are in exam week here at MDCC, life has been pretty hectic to the point that I haven't had time to worry to much. But I am about to have some time to run, lift, and swim all my body can handle. I hope I can handle something.

Wednesday I did another gentle trainer ride and ran 3.05 miles in a light rain after giving exams all day. Tomorrow I should get all my grades entered and then head to Skene, Mississippi to have fun with my grandchildren and do some swimming. Then I'm going to sleep late Friday morning. Yeehaa.