Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Week Four: Mixed Bag

It was an up and down week four as I'm still trying to ramp up for The Great Noxapater Journey Run. Monday's little shuffle caused another flareup in my Achilles. I only did 4.21 miles, followed by core work and then 1,000 meters of swimming at Twin Rivers. Why so much swimming you ask? Lightening ran me out for the second time this year.

With the Achilles acting up, I didn't run Tuesday, but at DSU I swam

8 X 50 build @ 1:15
8 X 50 @ 1:15
6 X 50 @ 1:15
4 X 50 @ 1:15
2 X 50 @ 1:15
100 easy
Total: 3,000 meters.

Wednesday was an easy 3.15 mile shuffle and some yard work. Late evening I went to Twin Rivers and swam 4,600 straight. My time was very slow, but the shoulder felt good and was not sore the next morning. That was huge for my confidence. For a while, I was beginning to wonder if I could pull off Swim the Suck this year. I am way behind in training for that and I may perform below last year's effort, but it's ultimately all about health and fun anyway.

Thursday I ran 4.45 miles and swam 3,000 at Twin Rivers, and Friday I did 3.27 miles of road work before packing up and heading out for the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, which I did Saturday. At the HOD, my time was 3:09:46, about a minute and a half faster than last year. As usual, I found myself regretting that I had not actually triathlon trained. I ran a lot more than last year, but didn't do much on the bike and held back on the swim because of my shoulder. Still I did the .5 miles open water swim in 13:14 and passed maybe thirty people or more in the water. That was fun. On the bike, however, I got my butt handed to me as I always do. I ran better this time, but only held up for three miles (one mile last year) before the wheels came off the bus and I was reduceed to a shuffle.

A good thing about the HOD is I get a great workout, have some fun, and get to see some of my relatives. I stopped in and visited with two of my cousins when I got to Noxapater and spent the night with my aunt and uncle. I also got an invite to go by the cabin of another cousin at the Neshoba County Fair, but since I was alone with my truck in Louisville, my bike in Philadelphia, and myself at the Neshoba County Fair, I had to take a ride offered me and couldn't do any extra visiting.

The best thing about the HOD is I beat Randy Beets who brought a whole team out against me this year. Dude, it made my day, my year, to be at the finish line and get to take Randy's picture as he came in after me. The picture to the right is Randy finishing with a stunned look on his face when he saw me. Priceless!

Due to the mini-taper and the Achilles issues, my numbers were down. I didn't fret it too much because it was time for a drop back week anyway. For the week, I

swam 12, 600 meters
ran 21.58  and walked 4.12 miles
lifted weights once and
cycled 27.5 miles.

Next Saturday is Bikes, Blues, and Bayous, a local biking event that I promised to do with my son, so once more my running numbers are going to be down a bit. But it's a fun ride and like the HOD, is a really good workout.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jay Unver Interview

Jay Unver is a reporter with the Lehrton Gazette who, for the last two years, has covered my ongoing feud with Randy Beets. Following is his most recent article on the upcoming clashes between me and the tall guy.

"They Are at it Again"
By Jay Unver
A trio of upcoming events pitting Randy Beets against Zane Hodge has at least one of the Mississippi Delta endurance athletes on edge. Hodge, who turned fifty-seven in June, appeared antsy, nervous, unsure of himself in a recent interview I conducted with him at his residence in Greenwood.
“These are big deals,” Hodge said when I asked him about the Fasttrack Fatties Athletic Club and the Association of Sports Swimmers sponsored events the two will face each other in. “The winner between Randy and me will be the Fattie-ASS champion of the world.” 
We were in his backyard and Hodge paced and sipped coffee while we chatted. His mood swung from anxiety to sadness, despondency even, as we talked about the unusual challenges he has faced this athletic year. He recounted last year’s results: Beats came out on top in the Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon and the 300 Oaks 10K in 2012. Hodge won at Swim the Suck (a ten-mile open water swim) and the Dual 10K Championship (a combination of the 300 Oaks and a 10K pool swim on the same day).
“I want to win again in those events I came out on top in last year. And I think I have a good shot at the Oaks. I even had some hopes for the Heart O’ Dixie this time, but Beets had a clue I might win and ducked me by signing up on a relay team instead of facing me mano a mano. What a wuss!”
”He doesn’t yet know about my shoulder,” Hodge added discussing his latest injury, one that has the potential of tipping the balance in Beets' favor. “When he finds out about that, he’ll go crazy training. He’ll have hope. That’s why I’ve tried to keep it a secret.”
Hodge showed me his backyard gym, a collection of home-made exercise machines, free weights and benches. “All of this is to beat Beets’ butt. Really, that’s why it’s here. You wouldn’t believe how hard I work out on this stuff.” He paused then added, “Ironic that this could be my downfall,” he added referring to the shoulder injuring he received lifting weights in his gym.
“It’s really important to you isn’t it, beating Beets?” I asked making reference to his ongoing battle with his nemesis.
“It’s everything. If I lose . . . ,” his voice trailed off and his head bowed. He didn’t speak for several moments and when he did, he softly said, “I’m not really suicidal. But if I were . . . .” He never finished that thought.
The interview was over.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Week Three Training for TGNJR

I have gotten into the enjoyable habit lately of having my coffee on the back patio wbere I can hang out with Jeff, read Die Bibel, and listen to the birds. I'm going to miss this when school starts back. I could do this "off" thing year round. Monday, I shuffled 4.2 miles after I finished off the coffee pot and then I did my core routine which consists primarily of deadlifts and setups. Late afternoon I went to Twin Rivers and  3,100 meters. The shoulder felt OK, but I swam easily.

Tuesday I ran 7.31 miles with three .8 mile intervals at tempo pace, which for me right now is around 8:30. Last week I failed to make all three. but this week I hit them all. At Masters I swam

4 X 100 breathing 3, 5, 7, 9 by 25s
4 X 100 9, 7, 5, 3
8 X 50
4 X 100 add 25 fast to each
8 X 50 easy/hard (holding back-averaged :41-:44)
Total: 2,900

Wednesday I did another 4.2 mile shuffle and went to Twin Rivers in the afternoon where I swam 3,500. Thursday I ran 7.3 and hit 4,100 at the pool. However, my shoulder was a little gimpy the next day. [Sigh. Cry. Wring hands.]

Friday was an easy day with only a 1.81 mile shuffle and Saturday was a fun day with a run/hike to Hodge Ski Lodge going up Steen Hill Road. I am just now getting fit enough to do the kind of runs that I love: long, really go somewhere, see something new or something I haven't viewed in a long time. This was one of those. The Steen Hill route gets me off the highway several miles earlier. The gravel road there is just right: not too many big rocks and enough sand to be soft but not mushy. And Steen Hill, well just look for yourself.

Steen Hill Road: 3.2 miles of woods, dirt, and solitude.

For the week, I

swam 13,600 meters
ran 35.76 and
walked 10.55 miles.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Final 2013 Chicot Challenge Writeup

I was only about three miles into the swim when I realized it was going to be a long, long day at the office. The wind was quartering from my rear-left producing an annoying chop. I felt like a fishing cork bobbing in the bouncing water, and my shoulders already protested the strain. Three miles down, thirteen to go. WHAT?!? The day was June 1, the event The Chicot Challenge 2013.
Randy getting things ready just before the start.

Planning and training for this ultra marathon had started early, almost immediately after the Chicot Challenge 2012, a 13-mile birthday swim that I turned into a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. For that day, June 2, I had announced a 13-mile swim but actually swam 13.94 miles on my fifty-sixth birthday in beautiful Lake Chicot at Lake Village, Arkansas accompanied by my crew of Randy Beets and Robin Bond. On the first Challenge the weather was glorious, the mood adventurous, and the swim a success. I did tire in the latter miles and suffered from hand pain early on, but I was strong for a solid ten miles, made the distance, and raised $1252.00 for the diabetes charity.
Two of my goals for the 2013 swim were to swim farther and come up with a new course that avoided the terrible-for-me mental challenge of an out-and-back event. To accomplish these ends, I started by exploring the idea of swimming in a different lake. At the top of the list was Ross Barnett in Jackson. I did some Internet research, made some phone calls, and took a day trip to the lake to look, to measure, to scheme.
My measurements were disappointing and the lake looked way too swampy on the upper end. It just looked like alligators, and I later got reports from one of my friends, Wilson Carroll, who had a couple of bad encounters with a huge reptile at the exact spot, Old Trace Park, I was thinking of starting a swim. Consequently, Ross Barnett fell out of the running.
I ended up making a day trip back to Chicot to measure and come up with another route. I hatched the idea of a course that would start at the State Park, go down lake to Ditch Bayou, then dip below the bayou a mile or so before crossing the lake then heading back up lake to the County Park finishing there.
Early in the Challenge
On the training front, I was determined that I needed to solve the hand pain issue. I diagnosed myself as having a strength imbalance between the muscles on top of my wrists and the muscles on bottom of my forearms. To rectify the problem, I began to stretch the top of the wrist muscles and work on strengthening them with reverse wrist curls. I spent a year doing that. It worked. Although I did have some pain in my left hand, it started much later on the 2013 swim, and the right hand was pain free for the entire event. Success!
Another thing with my body I wanted to fix was some muscular pain adjoining and just under my right scapula. For a whole year I made sure that for every set of bench presses I did, I also worked the opposite side with the main exercise being one-armed bent rows. I purchased heavier dumbbells every time my wife and I made a day trip to Jackson. No muscular issues on, in, or around my scapula. Success!
As swim day approached, I eagerly checked the weather forecast. I don’t much trust a weather prediction beyond five days, but once within that window, the Weather Channel was calling for no rain but a bit of wind. Because of the predicted stiff winds out of the south, I decided the day before to reverse the route and swim from the County Park. This decision involved some logistical issues of transporting kayaks, (one of which I owned and the other two were property of the State Park), and having at least one vehicle at each park. Saturday morning, just before start, Randy and Robin returned from the State Park and said the water was like glass on the other side of the causeway and that we should go straight uplake and make the distance up in the smooth water north of the bridge. I was OK with that so at about 8:40 am, I waded into the lake and started stroking that direction. Besides Randy and Robin, I was also accompanied by my son, Forrest, who crewed me twice at Swim the Suck and on numerous training swims. An experienced crew had I.
Knowing early in the year that I would be swimming 16-miles in 2013, I tried every time I got into the water to swim at least a little farther than the same time last year. I ended the year of 2012 with 521 miles. From January 1, I was looking at last year’s training diary every week, sometimes every day, and trying to beat the previous year’s total for that week. Most of the time I did.
Randy and I even took to swimming outdoors in the winter. We swam outside in every month of the year. These winter swims were normally short affairs that involved a lot of shock getting in and even more shivering getting out of our favorite catfish pond. Despite our cold-water swimming, the spring was almost more than I could endure and it affected my preparation severely. At one point in March, the water temperatures were twenty-five degrees colder than the same time the year before. I could and did get in the water and swim, but I was not able to stay in long enough to build endurance I needed.

After a little over two hours of swimming, Randy asked if I was ready to cross over. We had been on the east side of the lake and now we could see downtown Lake Village. At that point, I knew they wanted to stop on the other side. I didn’t mind. We stopped there last year at the little water from in downtown Lake Village. It is a neat spot with two piers, a swimming area and an amphitheater.
Randy paddled ahead and was on the pier taking pictures when I swam up just behind Robin and Forrest. Surprisingly, Paul and Penny were there having ridden by at the right moment and spotted the bright yellow T-shirts the crew was clad in. It was nice to see them. We ate and just relaxed for about thirty-minutes. The bad news is I was a bit tired and we were only at 5.45 miles which put us two miles behind this spot last year when we had come from the State Park. We had some serious making up to do on the other side of the causeway.
When we started back, I was feeling it in the bad way almost instantly. Somewhere around mile seven, Randy asked me how I felt, and I confessed that I was struggling. Last year I remember being very strong for the first ten miles. Unlike last year, I didn’t look at the causeway often because I remember thinking then that it was like a picture painted on a wall: it seemed stationary, never to draw closer. Just before we got to the bridge, the weather shifted in a moment. The sky grew black, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees in a literal minute. The crew made their way for the bridge just as it began to rain, and they all wedged their kayaks between the bank and the pilings. Tying to follow them, I came to the realization that I was almost stationary despite that I was swimming fiercely. The wind had not only picked up but shifted and was blowing a current through the small channel under the bridge.
Finally, I grabbed somebody’s kayak and pulled myself out of the current and climbed onto the bank. A glance uplake revealed an angry looking body of water inhospitable to swimmers and kayakers. Randy and Robin started checking their phones and making calls to try to get some clear and accurate Intel on the weather. Robin pulled up a weather radar map that showed a tough-looking storm hovering directly over the State Park. We debated what to do. At first, I suggested we forge ahead to the park, although it would be a tough go. We are only four miles from the landing, I said, and frankly I was looking for a way out. Robin, however, responded that I couldn’t quit until I got 16 miles and if I tried to touch her boat while I was swimming, she assured me that she would hit me with her paddle. She meant it. If we go uplake, she added, we might get caught in hail or lightening and have to pull you from the water. At the time, that didn’t sound like a bad outcome to me, but she was having none of it. I was tired, a bit discouraged, and daunted at the prospect of swimming almost another eight miles.
Robin suggested we go back to the County Park. That meant the full 16 miles plus, but I wasn’t sure I could do it. Furthermore, it meant ending with the kayaks, two of which belonged to the State Park, on the wrong end of the lake. We sat, watched, and thought. Finally, Robin said, “It’s your call, Zane.” I pondered a few more moments and then chose to turn back.
When we resumed our journey down lake, it was raining but no lightening was evident and the water was pancake flat. For the first time all day, I found my rhythm and felt strong in the water. The rain, which didn’t last long, was kind of neat to swim in. I remembered thinking of a book Robin gave me, Young Woman of the Sea, about Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to successfully swim the English Channel. Ederle's favorite weather was rain and her favorite activity in her favorite weather was swimming. I could see why.
My strength only lasted a couple of miles before I began once more to fade like a flashlight with a weak battery. At this point my mental strategy was just to make it to the next mile. “How far are we now?” I asked Robin every few minutes. My pace was fading with my energy, the swim had become a grind, and I just wanted to be done. I had been here before; I knew it would happen; I just didn’t know it would happen so soon.
For gels, I used mostly PowerBar  because of their viscosity, or lack thereof. I have a few five-ounce squeeze bottles and I fill them with gels which makes feeding easy and fast. For me, Gu tastes much better but is too thick to come easily out of the little squeezes. I also had in my bag of calories a few packets of Cliff Shot gels which I packed in case of flavor fatigue. I asked Robin for one at around mile twelve, I think it was. I felt a kick from it and swam harder for a little while. Robin told me a few days after the swim (with no prompting on my part) that she could tell a difference in my body when I took the gel from the packet. Cha-ching!
Now I am rethinking my whole nutritional strategy. Randy has gone on a pizza kick and swears by the stuff. So does Robin who did a full ironman on the delicacy. I plan to experiment with that some but it strikes me as being a bit chewy for the water. One thing I did pull out of my bag of tricks learned on the bike was a mixture of Red Bull and Gatorade. I only brought one bottle of the rocket fuel, however, and that was a mistake.
I was desperate to make it past the 13.94 miles of last year. Robin asked me, as we neared that mark, what last year’s time was. When I told her, she replied that I was going to beat that. When the 13.94 milestone passed, I felt both relieved and aggrieved. I was relieved to have made my longest ever swim. I was aggrieved, however, to be moving at what was by then a snail’s pace. I was too close to quit. I was too far from the finish to enjoy it. Slowly it began to dawn on me that when I made sixteen-miles, I was still going to be a mile or more from the landing.

Those last miles seemed to take forever, and it was almost dark when Robin announced the completion of 16 miles. “Grab hold of my kayak,” she added, "and I’ll pull you in.” Randy then volunteered for swimmer-pulling duty and paddled the mile or so to the landing with me in tow hanging on to the back of his boat. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to be done.
All in all, though the swim was difficult, it was a success. This year instead of raising funds for the American Diabetes Association, all donations were, and still are, being given to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. And despite the day being terribly long, the crew is already discussing next year so the plan is to be back with better training, a better nutritional strategy, and a better set up for the crew. The distance and course are undetermined at this point, but anyone interested in keeping up with my training and plans can follow them right here.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Week Two Training for TGNJR

Week two was another pretty good cycle, and the unusually cool summer we have had has been to my advantage. It is still warm enough to be hot weather trained, but with highs in the eighties low humidity, I have run a mid day all spring and summer. Monday I did 4.17 easy and went to Twin Rivers later for a leisurely 1,800 meters. For the week, my swimming goal was simply to swim some and not re injure the shoulder. Tuesday I did 6.8 miles running with three .7 miles 10K pace intervals thrown in. At Twin Rivers I swam 2,200 with no shoulder issues. Finally, I feel a little better about it.

Wednesday was another easy 4.18 miles of shuffling and 2,300 meters of swimming, and Thursday was 6.92 miles with some 5K race-pace intervals interspersed within a lot of slow running. At Twin Rivers I had planned to up my swimming to 3 X 1,000, but a storm drove me from the pool after only 900 meters.

Friday I had planned only to do a little trainer ride, but Randy Beets contacted me and wanted to meet at the pond Saturday. It's been awhile since we swam the pond so I didn't want to say no. But neither did I want to miss my long run which I had scheduled. So I did the long run/walk on Friday despite the fact that I had run hard on Thursday. I actually started Friday's jaunt with a walk and very slowly warmed up my legs. As a result, I got stronger and stronger. I covered 15.72 miles on foot, running 8.06 of them. It was encouraging to do back-to-back hard runs because this is what I will have to do in The Great Noxapater Journey Run.

Randy wound up sick so instead of the pond Saturday, I met my old friend Daniel Collins at Burger King for breakfast and coffee. For the rest of the day, I napped a couple of times, watched two movies, did 48 minutes on the bike trainer, and took a short walk.

For the week, I

swam 7,200 meters
ran 30.13 miles
walked 14.66 miles
and did 48 minutes on the trainer.

This was the first time in over four years that I got back-to-back thirty-mile running weeks. I need at least one more before I take a drop back cycle and then I need to string together a bunch more thirties and maybe a few forties. I'm so excited about the journey run that it's about all I think about. Next week I will probably do some longer run-walk stuff. I have an idea for a new and longer route to the in-laws in Carroll County. I want to do it now.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Week One Training for The Great Noxapater Journey Run

I'm a bit late posting my training for last week (the week of July 4), but here it goes. I started the cycle with a 52 minute trainer ride, a 4.13 mile run, a 2.62 mile walk, and a deadlift workout last Monday. In the afternoon, I went to Twin Rivers and swam 1,200 meters, but I couldn't pull hard. This is the fourth time I have hurt this shoulder. Three times I injured it lifting weights and once it was wounded in a ladder accident. I took about a year and a half to get right after the ladder mishap, so naturally I am a bit worried about my swimming. It is the water activity that has helped me stay somewhat sane during the long ordeal with Achilles tendonosis.

Tuesday I ran 6.36 miles and went to DSU. I swam much better, but when I pulled myself out of the pool (the deck is about 12 or 14 inches above the water level), my shoulder hurt terribly. I did another 4.13 miles Wednesday and Thursday, of course, was the Fourth of July. For the first time in months, I was healthy enough to ambulate all the way to the in-laws in Carroll County instead of just getting out of the truck somewhere along the way. I ran and walked a total of 14.45 foot miles with the running portion being 9.93.

Friday I took it easy, mowed my mom's yard, and did another trainer ride while I watched The Sagebrush Trail starring John Wayne. Saturday I ran 6.6 miles on Money Road and did two very light sets of squats.

For the week, I

ran 30.75 miles
spun 106.5 minutes
walked 14.51 miles
swam 4,400 meters and
did some light lower body weight lifting.

This was only my second thirty-mile week of the year, and it puts me ahead of last year's shuffling totals by 352.92 miles. In the swim department, I fell behind last year's pace by 1,135.45 meters. I am really worried about the shoulder. Both the Suck and the Chicot Challenge could be in danger, but at least the running is going well and with the goal of The Great Noxapater Journey Run, I am as excited as I have been in decades. I want to do it now, but I'm not fit enough. I could pull off the first day, but would have dead legs on day two. It takes time, patience, and lots of smart training to pull something like this off, and that is part of the reason it has such a strong appeal to me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Silly Me

Dude, I can't believe how stupid I am. In the last post, I overviewed the other events I have on tap before The Great Noxapater Journey Run. I left one out and gave only partial information on another. This post is an attempt to rectify those mistakes.

Concerning the 300 Oaks, that run serves as the championship race for a small organization Randy Beets and I are members of: The Fasttrack Fatties Athletic Club. This club is comprised of a group of former fat people who control their weight and manage their health through endurance athletics. Not only is the Oaks the Fattie championship 10K, but Randy and I add another event, a 10K pool swim, to it, for the Fasttrack Fattie Dual 10K World Championship. The rules are simple: we add the two times, 10K road race and 10K pool swim, together and the lowest combined time wins. Last year Randy beat me the in road race, but my margin of victory in the pool was enough to secure the overall win for me. Yeehaaa.

I not only forgot the Dual Championship, but I didn't even mention Swim the Suck, a ten-mile marathon down the beautiful Tennessee River near Chattanooga held in early October. STS is an awesome event put on by Karah Nazor, the first woman from Tennessee to swim the English Channel. At the 2012 STS, I got to meet two of my heroes there, Penny Palfry and Martin Strel. For each of the last two years, Randy and I did this event and we're signed up this year also. Although other people are involved, this swim is essentially a match race between Randy and me. Like the Oaks, this one is the Fattie Open Water Championship race. In addition to the Fatties, Randy and I swim for an organization called the Association of Sports Swimmers, and you guessed it, the Suck is that group's championship race for member swimmers. That means that whoever wins between me and Randy is the Fattie-ASS World Champion. Yeehaaa.

One problem though, my shoulder issues have not fully cleared up and although there is still a lot of time between now and October, I have a little nervousness about my ability to rebound enough to be able to once more trounce randy Beets the way he deserves to be trounced.

OK, that's enough for today, I need to get up and start stretching for my run. Tomorrow I will review last week's training, but for now it's time to do some more important things like look at Facebook and drink coffee.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

But Not the Only Thing

I the last post, I wrote about the next big thing on my radar screen, The Great Noxapater Journey Run. But it's not the only athletic thing I have planned. In fact, there are three events on my calendar before TGNJR, and I felt a hankering to say a few words about each.

The Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, July 27. This is the oldest continuous triathlon in the continental United States, and I was there when it started. The year was 1980 and a front page article in the Greenwood Commonwealth announced a strange event involving swimming, cycling, and running. I had never heard of anything like it, and before the sun set the next day my entrance fee was in the mail to the Philadelphia Sertoma Club. Literally, the first triathlon I ever heard of I did. I was so naive that initially I was planning to show up without a bicycle. I assumed the race organizers would supply one. Seriously. I, we, knew nothing. In fact, I didn't even have a bike when I mailed in my registration. I borrowed one to train on from Daniel Collins (Howard's brother whom I mentioned in the last post), and just before the event I bought a Kobe from a now extinct bike shop in Indianola, MS.

By the way, the HOD starts at Louisville and passes through Noxapater on the way to Philadelphia ending on the horse track at the Neshoba County Fair. I don't do many triathlons anymore, the HOD being the only one I don't want to miss. I'm not very good at the sport. I swim well, run OK, but ride poorly. I can, and often have literally ridden a bicycle all day long. But triathlons are not about riding all day long, but about riding a set distance very quickly. I don't ride quickly. I've never placed at the HOD. This is the state championship race and draws a huge crowd of top athletes and some Athenas who always have a go at me. It can be pretty indimidating, but I keep showing up. I cherish my T-shirts, the nostalgia of my long gone youth, and the time I get to spend with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul. The course is a point-to-point (I love point-to-points), it's hilly, and it's hot. If you do this one, you are sure to suffer. But you'll be proud of yourself the next day for having completed Mississippi's longest (.5 x 27.5 x 7 = 35 miles) and most difficult tri.

Emily Riser, my son, Forrest, and me
 at the MCUMC during the BBB.
Bikes, Blues, and Bayous, August 3. Just one week after the HOD is my hometown's hit ride the BBB. Not a race, our ride has quickly developed into Mississippi's largest bike event drawing over 600 cyclists to a hot, flat, windy course that leaves riders exhausted but exhilarated. Starting and ending in downtown Greenwood before snaking its way through rural Leflore and Tallahatchie Counties, the rolling party offers three distances (20, 46, and 58 miles) and tons of support. It's a perfect destination ride to see the birthplace of the blues and experience the real delta. The highlight of the ride, for me at least, has always been the rest stop at the Minter City United Methodist Church. This tiny delta church prides themselves in hosting the best rest stop anyone has ever seen. Really, I don't want to leave each year. The food is plentiful and good, the shade is soothing, and riders relax and make new friends. If you ride a bike, you need to come to this event.

300 Oaks 10 K, Sept 21. Another hometown event, "the Oaks" is flat, fast, and at the time of year when we usually get that first cool spell. If you have been training in the heat all summer, the third weekend of September normally offers a welcome releave. It can still be hot, and usually is by the time the race is over, but at 8:00 am that time of year, it's never bad. Besides an excellent course, this event offers live entertainement, free food, and another shot to see the Mississippi Delta and place that is both famous and infamous.

These three events may or may not be augmented by others along the way, but these are ones I do every year. They will be fun training adventures on what I hope is a path to a successful Great Noxapater Journey Run.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Next Big Thing

Yesterday I mentioned that I have the next big thing on the radar screen. I started to call it a new dream, but I've had the dream for years, maybe five. A little background may be in order.

When I was fourteen years old, I rode a 90cc motorcycle, with a clothes bag tied to the handlebars, from home in Greenwood, MS to Louisville, MS, a distance of approximately eighty-five miles. Many of my family members live in that area, and I stayed with my late grandmother by night and during the day I explored the countryside and visited relatives. It was grand adventure.

A few years later as a young man, I and a now deceased friend, Howard Collins, made the same trip via bicycle. We turned the outing into a back to back century rides, and we had a blast being out on the road dependent upon our fitness to complete a long, difficult journey. In 2009 and 2010 I made the same trip by bicycle, this time alone. I enjoyed it even more as I explored a new route, ran from a storm, and looked for lodging places along the way.

Lodging places along the way? you ask. Pray tell.

Since at least 2008, my goal, my dream, my fantasy has been to run the route. And this time not just to Louisville, but past to the neighboring town of Noxapater, a trip of about 100 miles, where my Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul reside. I have established the roads I'll travel, bought supplies, and yearned to make this journey run. I'm thinking it to be either a three or four day event, covering around twenty-five miles each day. But each year for the last four, my leg health has not been sufficient to make the run, and it has been with tremendous disappointment each fall that I've had to think, Maybe next year. I am now fifty-seven years old. I need to do this while I still have enough strength and health and the mental attitude.

Despite a minor Achilles flareup last week, I am busting out with confidence that this is the year I'm finally going to pull it off. I am 330 miles ahead of 2012 in my running, and the idea of a long, long run just won't let me rest at night. I want to do this. I need to do this. I have to do this.

As of July 1, I am officially training for The Great Noxapater Journey Run (TGNJR) to be held the week of Thanksgiving Break 2013. I'll be shifting my training to long runs/hikes with a lot lower body weight training. Raw endurance is what is called for, and I know how to build that. But I must stay healthy.

Come along for the journey if you like. It promises to be a challenge, an adventure, and grand fun, for me at least. I'll write about my training, my thoughts, and when I do the run, I'll post real time photos and updates on Facebook. Yeehaaa!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Trouble in Paradise

It was almost a great week of training, but you know what they say about "almost": it only counts with horseshoes and hand grenades. Monday I had to make a trip to Carroll County so I did a 4.1 mile run on a wild, dirt road that I seldom see anymore. I also did a deadlifting/core session. Late that afternoon, I went to Twin 
All I could capture of the backyard gym in one photo.
Rivers and knocked out 3,000 meters in the pool. Three workouts in one day. Paradise.

This was the week I planned to start some new dryland strategies. The back yard gym just keeps getting better and my imagination, which has been both a blessing and a curse to me throughout the years, has been in overdrive since I've been off work. Some days I just go out there and stare until  new ideas invade my thinking. I've been trying to improve the gym and make myself a better swimmer, get more fit for next year's Chicot Challenge. Tuesday I put one of those ideas into practice with a tire slam/wall ball workout. The idea was to work the fast twitch muscle fibers of my swimming movers by hitting an eighteen-wheeler tire with a sledge hammer and tossing a medicine ball against an overhead platform with the idea of targeting the antagonistics of my swimming muscles. Great workout, but I thought I felt a little twinge in my left shoulder. For the rest of the day, I ran 2.43 miles and went to DSU where I swam one of the Mad Swimming Scientist's complicated 3,200 meter practices.

Tuesday's toys. Not as harmless as they seem.
Wednesday I ran 3.51 miles, worked in the yard, and did a bicep/deltoid workout (another new idea). I drove over to Twin Rivers only to discover a private party had taken over the pool. AGAIN?!?!?

Thursday was the only day I got on the bike trainer. While I sit in one place and spin, I've been watching Alfred Hitchcock movies. The first six were great. Now, I need a new director. I ordered some 1930's John Wayne movies from Oldies.com. Can't wait. I did 42 minutes on the trainer, some squats, and ran 3.27 miles. I didn't go the DSU because my wife wanted to attend a festival here in town. She doesn't often ask me to break a workout, so I stayed in town and took my bride of thirty-six years to the river park to eat junk food, gaze at hordes of ugly people, and watch a firework show. It was nice.

Friday morning I went to Twin Rivers and hammered it pretty hard to make up for missing Masters. I swam

150 for time
50 easy
100 drill
200 small paddles
200 medium paddles
300 large paddles (miscounted)
200 extra large paddles
200 large paddles
200 medium paddles
200 small paddles
Total: 3,400 meters.

In the afternoon I ran 3.67 miles and started a swim specific strength training session at the backyard gym. While doing a set of chins, something hurt in my left shoulder. Trouble in paradise. I tried to swim Saturday morning but tapped out after 500 meters. I couldn't pull water with the left hand.

For the week, I
swam 10,100 meters (+19,497 over last year)
walked 9.94 miles
lifted weights three times
pedalled 42 minutes on the bike trainer, and
ran 21.98 miles (+338.88 over 2012).

Despite the shoulder and some Achilles issues, I am beaming with hope and scheming on the future. In the next post, I'll reveal my next big thing. It's big, it's crazy, and it's all mine.