Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hodge Humbled in Recent Training Swim

Hodge Humbled in Training Swim

By Jay Unver

I was standing at water’s edge when they came out, first Beets and then, several minutes later, Hodge. The tall guy emerged from the pond wearing a grin and gloating like a new Poppa; Hodge dragged out looking frustrated, fatigued, finally old. I knew better than to say a word, although I wanted desperately to know what Hodge was thinking, feeling.
This was a Saturday morning, August 17, 2013. The place was a new body of water on Tackett Fish Farm, still being pumped up with cool liquid from the subterranean aquifer and still devoid of fish. The occasion was a training session, a rare get together of these two intense rivals. Randy Beets and Zane Hodge have emerged as Big ASS Endurance’s top athletes. For the uninitiated, Big ASS Endurance is the umbrella organization made up of the Association of Sports Swimmers, the Association of Sports Shufflers, and the Association of Sports Syclists. World championships in these organizations almost always come down to a battle between the tall Randy Beets and the ageing Zane Hodge.
"Odd" is the only way I know how to describe the relationship between these two endurance beasts. Part-time friends and full-time rivals, their attitude towards each other changes with the seasons. They act like friends when working together on the Chicot Challenge with Hodge swimming and Beets forming an integral part of the crew. And about this time of the year, there is usually, at worst, an easy co-existence between them as they train together beginning their ramp up for one of their big competitions, Swim the Suck, held each October, a ten-mile open water swim in Chattanooga for the Big ASS World Championship. As the Suck draws near, however, their interactions typically become strained, testy, sometimes hostile.
This day started as they usually do this time of year. Both men arrived at the new pond at daybreak. They exited their vehicles, faces covered in smiles and eyes gleaming with excitement. Niceties were exchanged and from what I could tell, there seemed to be genuine good will between them.
Before long the rivals were in the water starting their first set and, as usual, Hodge spotted Beets about 100 meters. They swam in a counter clock wise direction in the 78 degree water. I watched intensely as they completed one lap of a planned two. Normally, Hodge would have at least closed the distance by now, but on this day that was not to be. Not only had he failed to close the gap, Beets widened it.

After the first set, neither man spoke to the other for the rest of the day. You could have cut the tension with a plastic knife. Hodge sat in the chair at the edge of his truck’s tailgate with a sullen look on his face.  took his nutrition, drank liquids, and slowly changing into his running attire. Beets pranced a little, but to his credit, he seemed to try to remain low key. After changing they began running in lock step. Oddly, there seemed to be no competition between them as they ran. But the silence remained as far as I could tell. I stayed at the vehicles while they shuffled, but I observed them closely through a pair of binoculars, trying to stay out of their way but ready to drive over and break up a fistfight if need be.
They took more nutrition after their run and waded back into the water for two more 1,000 meter laps of the pond. This time Beets beat Hodge worse than in the first set. Hodge looked totally deflated while he sat in his chair and drank water from a Gatorade bottle. Beets, instead of speaking, showed Hodge a text from fellow Fattie Robin Bond. She was driving out. The two ran again without speaking.
Bond was there for round three in the pond. Both men seemed in a lighter mood after Robin arrived. They spoke to her readily and she to them. But the silence between the two men continued. The third set, another two laps, was another display of Beets dominance. Beets finished a couple of minutes ahead of Hodge who finished a couple of minutes ahead of Bond. Never had this happened. In the past, things got testy when Hodge had difficulty swimming down and passing the younger Beets. Was I witnessing the passing of the torch?
Hodge and Beets did another run while Bond rested. When the two guys started set number four, Bonds joined in for another lap. They swam three laps and this time Hodge kept pace with Beets but the two finished in a virtual dead heat. Their totals for the day were 6.22 miles of swimming and 7.5 miles of running. Once more, neither man spoke to the other but they both chatted with Bond and invited her to swim with them in the future.
Bond and Beats drove away. I waited to catch Hodge before he could get gone. As he turned his truck around to drive off, I watched. He stopped and for the first time all day we spoke.
“OK, Beets had a good day. Is that what you want me to say?” he snapped with a scowl.
“What I want you to say is how you are feeling. What is going on inside your mind right now?”
“I’m embarrassed. I’m not used to being handled like that. I’m frustrated. And I am a little bit worried. But this ain’t the competition. There is still time for me to regain my form.”
“So was that you looking . . . off, or was that Beets looking good?” I asked.
“Say it,” he snapped back angrily. “You almost asked if that was me looking OLD.”
“Well. Are you going to answer the question?”
He held up his Garmin GPS watch for me to see. “Look at the average pace. What does it say?”
“Thirty-three minutes per mile,” I answered.
“OK what?” I pleaded for clarity.
“There is your answer,” he responded a little testily.
“Not it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
“So you ARE too old now and can no longer swim the times you swam last year. Is that what you’re saying?”
Now he was furious and not just at Beets but at me. He slammed his idling truck in gear and spun off in the soft dirt of the levee almost running my feet over in the process, disappearing into a moving cloud of dust. Though he was gone for the day, I knew he was not gone for the summer. Our paths would cross again, experience had taught me, and the final answer to my question was still not clear.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rest of the Week

The week began well and it ended well. Thursday I ran 4.58 miles and instead of driving to DSU, I went to Twin Rivers in order to save the time so I could swim more. I did

4 X 300 pull, medium paddles, :30 rest
500 easy
4 X 200 pull, small paddles, :20 rest
Total: 5,200 meters.

Friday I was off so I loaded my stuff and went to the new pond. I alternated swimming and running. I did

swim 1.99 miles
run 2.25
swim 1.21
run 2.35
Total: 3.2 miles of swimming and 4.6 miles of running.

I intended to and needed to do more swimming, but I was tired and lost both Mo and Jo so I went home.

My grandson, Zane, had his eighth birthday party Saturday so we went to Skene. They have a new above ground pool that is 41 feet long. I did some laps and playing. I really don't know how far I swam, but I put 250 meters in my training diary. We drove home via Monday Road, and I got out at Craigside and ran 5.6 miles home. It was a breakthrough run for me. I had no plan other than to run home. Most of my runs this week have been dreadfully slow. I let the legs find their own pace and before I know it I was at a low 10:00. The low 10:00 turned into a high 9:00 which turned into a low 9:00 and then a high 8:00. Unless I do multipacing, most of my training runs or at a 10:30 pace or slower, sometimes much slower. My second miles was an 8:12. Not bad for an old man, alone, and at the end of the week, which means less than fresh legs. I hope this equals a minute per mile faster come Oaks day when I take on Randy Beets.

Sunday I did an easy 40:00 on the bike trainer and lifted some weights. The shoulder is better and I managed three sets  of 75 pounds on the bench press. I used to start at 115 and work up, but I was pleased with the 75 since that is the most I've been able to do after hurting the shoulder.

For the week, I

swam 16,317.7 meters
walked 3.63 miles
spun 40:00 minutes
lifted weights two times and
ran 37.72 miles.

It was a good week running, and I am finally coming around to good form. I also feel like I'm on pace for The Great Noxapater Journey Run. Lately, I've been able to do something after my hard workouts. Right now, I think I am fit enough to do the first two days. Thus the excitement is starting to build. I have wanted to do this for years, and finally it looks like it might come to pass. Also, the shoulder, while not 100% yet, is coming along well enough that I am sure I will fully recover. At one point, I thought my marathon swimming days might be over, but now I have hope.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Day Off? Thank You God!

I'm spoiled; I know it. We have been on a four-day work week since 2006. If we ever go off it, I will  cry like a baby. There were at least two decades when I had no time, no money, and no fitness. I worked and went to school and studied. My weight got all the way to 198 pounds on a very light 5'10" frame. I looked pregnant; I felt terrible; God told me I was going to die. I took the warning and slowly I began to walk a little, then jog a little, then do triathlons, and then . . .  Well, you get the picture.

Last Friday I had to work. It made me feel bad. It messed up my exercise. The Fall semester started Monday and we are still registering students, so I am wrorking all the time. Wednesday morning, however, I drove to work only to find a parking lot devoid of cars, but my boss there announcing the Center closed due to a plumbing leak. What!?!? Thank you God for giving me my day back!

I drove home, loaded up my coffee cup, and hung out with my cat, Luvie, for awhile. Then I got my Nathan hydration pack out and dressed for a run. I went 11.31 miles my longest since the half marathon I ran in June when I beat both Beets' butts. After lunch, I mowed the lawn and weed-eated some. Then I went to the pool. With school back in swing, I teach on Wednesday night. I actually hated to miss that class because it is my Film as Literature, my all time favorite course to teach. But being off meant I had access to the pool. I wanted to swim 5,000 or more. What I actually did was

4 X 250 pull with small paddles
100 easy

I was too tired to care at this point, so I stopped with only 2,200.

It was a pretty good day, however, especially running considering that Monday I ran 4.36 miles and Tuesday I hit 6.77. The Tuesday run was dreadfully slow so when I left the house Wednesday morning it was with a bit of trepidation not knowing if I would actually need the hydration pack. But I knocked off some nice miles without much effort on my unexpected day off. Tuesday I made it to DSU and got to see the Mad Swimming Scientist for a little bit before he left. He is going back to Turkey, his native land, for about a month. He left us, his swimmers, under the tutelage of someone named Emir. We swam

8 X 50 @ 1:15
100 all on :15 rest. I swam this set pretty hard and found it challenging.
50 easy
8 X 40 @ 1:30 alternating breathing 3 and 5
100 easy
Total: 3,850 yards = 3,518.9 meters.

So the week has started well, especially the running. I hope to get back to the pond maybe Friday. Meanwhile, I am kind of dreading Jay Unver's next article. It should come out soon and I will post it here, although I don't think it will be very flattering to me.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pond Swim and Weekly Wrap Up

Robin and I in the new pond
Since I only posted once last week, I want to apologize to all two of my readers. With registration at school and trying to get my miles in, it was a pretty busy week. Saturday, Randy Beets and I met up on the fish farm for the first time in a couple of months. Our new pond was still being pumped up and the water was a cool 78 degrees when we waded in a little before 7:00 am. The goal was to swim at least 10 kilometers. Both of us needed some endurance work since the Dual 10K Championship is coming up in September as well as Swim the Suck in October. We started with two laps for 1.33 miles of swimming and then got out for nutrition and a run. We swam and ran in this manner for a total of 6.22 miles in the water and 7.5 miles on the road. Randy was kicking butt and taking names. He really hurt my feelings. Jay Unver was there to observe and, I presume, shortly to write an article. I can't say I was much of a help to his journalistic efforts since I was little mood to talk and sort of gave him the silent treatment. My bad. Robin Bond came out and joined us for her first catfish pond swim. I think she'll be back. She brought me a book: Against The Odds, by and about John Pendergrass. Robin has always been good to me that way. She has worked, and worked well, both of my Chicot Challenges and this is the fifth book she has gifted me. God bless you, Robin.

The week started Monday with a 4.35 mile run and a core workout that involves setups and deadlifts. Following that, I swam 5,300 meters at the local pool. Tuesday, since I worked registration until late in the afternoon, I didn't make the trip to DSU, but instead I ran a 4.67 miles at home and then went to Twin Rivers for 3,500 meters of long course swimming.

The little fellow was starving.
Wednesday I managed to get in 9.09 miles on the road and 4,200 meters in the pool. Thursday, however, proved to be an eventful day. Since my shoes are getting a little worn, I drove over the Tallahatchie bridge and parked on Wade Road so I could run the turnrows and save myself some pounding. I did 4.15 miles and was walking back to my truck when I hear a mewing. Someone had dumped a little kitty at my truck. I'm a sucker for a cat so I scooped him up and took him home. I carried the little fellow home, fed him, and put him on the floor. Jeff, our weenie dog, went crazy. He loves cats, and he licked and rolled and tried to play with the little fellow. I was trying to get to the pool so I left the tiny feline in the house with Jeff after posting a pic on Facebook trying to find the baby a home.
When I came back to the house after only 1,600 meters in the pool, Jeff, my wife, and the kitty were all comfortably relaxing on the couch. Penny said, "He's sweet and Jeff loves him. He's licked him clean." I could tell she had developed a soft spot for the cat. When I told her someone had asked for the cat, she was a little disappointed but noted that she really wasn't ready to raise another another one after just now getting Luvie settled down. Within an hour, Hart Weldon, a student of mine, picked him up. I felt a little sad seeing him go, but was glad he had a home. After she left, Jeff went through the house looking for the kitty. That made me cry.

Jeff  loves cats and he fell hard for this one.
I'm usually off on Friday, but I worked until 3:00 this one and that meant I had no time to swim and run. Since Randy and I were scheduled to do a big swim Saturday, I opted to run and got in an easy 5.37 miles. Once more, I did a little bit on Sunday. I rode the trainer for 38 minutes and did  some upper body weight lifting. I still can't bench press much because of my shoulder, but I did do two very light sets.

For the week, I
swam 24,607.98 miles,
pedalled 38 minutes,
walked 6.25 miles,
lifted weights two times, and
ran 35.13 miles.

I'm feeling pretty good about the shoulder, but I still have some concern over my inability to bench press. The running is going well as far as distance goes, but my speed leaves a lot to be desired. For several years now I've been in denial about slowing down due to my age. Part of what has enabled my denial has been my lack of quantity and quality in my running due to some nagging injuries. This year I have been healthy and even doing some speed work of late. The Oaks, on September 21, will tell the truth on me. If I can't get my 10K time back under 50:00, then I will know it's just not going to happen. My swim times, on the other hand, are the best ever all the way from 25 meters to 13 miles. This also has helped me tell myself that I'm not over the hill. If my time at the Oaks is over 50 minutes, I think I will be able to admit that age has bested me there, and then move on to ultra running, which is what old 10Kers often do when they can no longer achieve PRs but can't bring themselves to give up running.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Short Report

Finally, my numbers started getting where they need to be to do the things I have planned over the next few months. Monday, I started week six of my Great Noxapater Journey Run training with a short trainer ride (16:45) followed by an easy 2.36 mile run. After the run, I did my deadlift routine and then went to Twin Rivers for 4,300 meters of swimming. Tuesday, I did a multi-paced run of 7.56 miles. The multi-pacing included a tempo rep (1.19 miles) and three fast (for me) quarter mile intervals. I was pretty trashed when it was over, but it felt good. I drove over to DSU. They moved the bulkheads back to short course. I really dislike short course, but it's water and it's better than a poke in the eye. We swam

400 easy
50 fast
300 easy
50 fast
250 easy
50 fast
200 easy
50 fast
150 easy
50 fast
100 easy
50 fast
50 easy
50 fast
400 easy
Total: 3,050 yards = 2,787 meters.

Wednesday I went to the fish farm for the first time since May, I think it was. Randy is ready to start training again since the Suck is coming up in October so I called David to see how the water temps are running. He told me they were pumping up a couple of new ponds. This means no weeds, no fish, and cool water. Yehaa! I had to check them out. I drove out and David showed me the new swimming holes. Despite the fact I had a new pond with cool, clean water, I had little energy and tapped out after only 2.88 miles (4,633 meters). I did some running and posted a pic on Facebook. Randy saw the picture and went crazy. We made plans to swim long Saturday.

Thursday I ran 6.27 miles and swam 4500 meters at Twin Rivers. I also did a very light upper body weight lifting session. This was the fist time since I injured my shoulder. I couldn't do much, but I did a little and that was encouraging. Friday I swam another 2,300 meters and ran 3.79 miles.

Randy and I didn't swim Saturday because I got the call to preach the funeral of a guy I grew up with. It was a great honor for me to do the service. Gary Minyard was a super guy, and he died way too young. He left a lot of friends and many broken hearts. That afternoon, I went out for a run. I had no plan when I went out the door; I just needed a run, and I wanted to think about Gary. When it was over, I had covered 6.53 miles, most of it easy, but I did throw in three hard quarter miles.

I almost never do anything other than preach and rest on Sunday, but after church at Moorhead, I preached the Gary's graveside service at 2:00 pm. The Saturday service was in Ridgeland. The Sunday service was in Greenwood. After the sun got low, I took a long walk with a some short jogging (1.63 miles) thrown in.

I finished the week with

17,102.7 meters of swimming,
7.9 miles of walking,
16:45 minutes of biking,
a little weight lifting,
and 31.02 miles of running.

The swimming is still a little light. I need to be hitting 20-25,000 per week. But the running is going pretty well. If I can hold 30+ miles per week until the Oaks, then increase some after the Suck, I should be able to pull off the journey run. I want to do this so bad, I will attempt it even if my fitness is suspect. I could handle day one now. It is day two and following I would have trouble with. But if push comes to shove, I could always walk days two through four. That's not how I want to do it, but after four frustrating years, I'll take what I can get.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Week Five

Week five was another cycle of less than stellar numbers; however, I believe it was a solid brick in my overall prep for the Great Noxapater Journey Run. Looking back, I have realized of late that my easy days, one of which was Monday, have been overly difficult leaving me too fatigued to hit my intervals on the hard days. Monday, I watched one of John Wayne's 1930s movies while I pedalled my bike for 51 minutes. When the movie ended, I immediately hopped off, donned running shoes, and hit the road for 4.32 miles. The run felt good but it was a little too much. That evening I swam 5,200 straight at Twin Rivers. When my shoulder was not sore the next morning, my confidence soared. I think I'm going to be able to pull off Swim the Suck after all.

After drinking coffee and hanging out with Jeff on the patio, Tuesday I went out for 7.55 on foot. The weather was hot, my legs were tired, and I ran like a drunken fat man. But I ran. At DSU, I swam

8 X 100 @ 2:30 breathing 3, 5, 5, 3 by 25s
4 X 100 pull
8 X 50 @ 1:15 breathing 5 and 7 by 25s
200 easy
Total: 3,000 meters.

Wednesday I got back on the bike trainer, but I only did 16 minutes. When I got off, however, I immediately started my run and did the first .11 at a quick pace before slowing for a plodding 4.32 miles. At the local pool, I swam

5 X 100 pull with small paddles
5 X 100 pull with small paddles
Total: 4,000 meters.

I did another bike trainer/run Thursday with 16:15 on the pedals and 5.1 miles running before I experienced the worst bonk of my life. Monday morning I weighed 164 pounds. Thursday morning I had dropped to 155.8. You don't loose that much weight. This drastic difference in weight means I wasn't refueled and probably partly dehydrated, hence the recipe for a perfect storm if by perfect storm you mean major bonk. I had planned to run another 7.55 miles, but at 5.1 I started walking and slowly strolled the 2.57 miles home. I regrouped enough to hit the pool later in the day for 2,200 meters.

The super bonk left me so exhausted that I did nothing physical Friday. I napped. I snacked. I watched TV. But that was about all.

Saturday was the sixth Bikes, Blues, and Bayous, the rolling cycling party that wends its way through my part of the Mississippi Delta. We are the largest bike event in the state, and we take great pride in our ride. This year we had 707 participants from across the South show up to rumble along otherwise lonely roads in the heat, the sun, and the interminable wind with the promise they would get hot and tired but also experience some of the best rest stops ever dreamed by an halucinating cyclist.

I promised my son we would do the ride together. He hadn't ridden his bike since BBB a year ago so I knew we were in for a slow, lonely journey. But I was OK with that.

We quickly became the very last riders on the course, Forrest and I, which meant, among other things, that a motorcyclist and a SWAG truck were tailing us for miles. Occasionally I would ride ahead for a kilometer or more and turn and ride back at a speed that gave me a workout. This way I was able to get the work I wanted and stay with my son at the same time. On one such ride-ahead-turn-around, I drew closer to the SWAG vehicle only to look in vain for my son. When I turned around behind the truck, I saw Forrest sitting on the tailgate, his bike in the bed of the truck. He had dropped and now I was all alone in last place still eight miles from Minter City, the best rest stop ever. I rode hard, made it to the Church and chowed down on some unbelievably good food. To my surprise there were still some cyclist there so I had hope of not riding alone all the way back to Greenwood. 

On the trip from Minter City, I passed a lot of the slower riders and looked for someone to team up with. I made it onto Money Road and slowly started reeling in two riders. When I approached to within thirty yards or so, I saw one of the riders get sideways and go down in a fearsome crash. Before I closed the gap and got off my bike, her partner was already standing over her repeating, "Amy, Amy." She didn't move for a minute or so and then she was groggy, confused. Pieces of her broken helmet littered theroad. After a couple of SWAG vehicles and the ambulence got there, I decided they could make it without me so I left.

A few minutes later I was in the ghost town of Money where there was another great reststop and I had the pleasure of finding Robin Bond and Randy Beets. They were riding with a girl named Claire. Now I was not alone, and I got to enjoy the company of my friends. We rode easily the final ten miles to Greenwood.

All in all it was a good day. I spent some time with my son, rode alone for several miles, ate some good food, and spent time with some of my friends. The weather, although hot, was much cooler than forecast, and the wind was at our backs much of the day.

For the week, I

swam 14,400 meters
walked 5.51 and
ran 21.29 miles
lifted weights one time (lower body)
and spun 1:23:15 and rode 63.9 miles.

Although the numbers weren't big, I percieved a fitness boost from completing the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon the week before. Also the increase in cycling coupled with a fair amount of running but with numbers low enough to give some rest, equals, in my mind at least, the foundation for some good training in the upcoming weeks. The Oaks (10 K) is coming up in six weeks so I plan to focus on the run and the swim. I hope to string together several 20/20 weeks, or better yet some 30/20 weeks.