Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Big ASS Awards Banquet

Most of the major athletes of Big ASS Endurance met recently for the annual awards banquet. World renown reporter Jay Unver was there covering the event for the Lehrton Gazette. He was kind enough to send an electronic edition for me to post here, so below is Unver's article.

2013 Big ASS Awards Banquet
By Jay Unver
This past January 24, on National Anna Vanwinkle Day, Big ASS Endurance held its Fourth Annual Awards Banquet at the beautiful, scenic opera house in downtown Brazil, Mississippi. Not surprisingly, Zane Hodge walked away with the lion’s share of hardware, awards, and prizes. But first, there was a ton of interesting events leading up to Hodge’s coronation.

For the uninitiated, Big ASS Endurance is the umbrella organization comprised of the Association of Sports Swimmers, the Association of Sports Shufflers, and the Association of Sports Syclists. Big ASS Endurance oversees the three sports associations as well as sanctions triathlons and ratifies world records set in the various endurance sports. Once every January, the group meets to socialize, recognize its stars from the previous year, and emphasize its events on the upcoming calendar.

The athletes began arriving around 6:00 pm and were promptly greeted at the door and then seated by seven nubile young ladies who wore form fitting swim attire, pink nose tape, and color coordinated high heel sandals, pink of course. Several of the male athletes, after taking their seats, were caught sneaking peeks at the young ladies. Some even slyly snapped photographs with their phones.

The three long lumber tables, which seated the athletes and their families, were neatly covered with newspaper--The Lehrton Gazette-- and adorned with place settings of heavy duty paper plates surrounded by salvaged silverware plucked from various roadsides by Big ASS runners on their training and journey runs. The rustic nature of the bent and scarred spoons, forks, and knives lent a masculine quality to the atmosphere which went nicely with the theme of “Athletic Excellence for a Better Life.”

Complementary snuff adorned the outside end of each table, nestled against imitation copper cuspidors which were formed in the shape of upside down swim caps. Swim goggles with straps removed, also upside down, were filled with various sauces into which the athletes dipped their hors d’oeuvres. These pre-meal snacks included mustard sardines, Vienna sausages, and carrot sticks.

Security was high primarily to prevent Randal Beets, who was seated with his mother and brother Andrew, and Zane Hodge, who was seated with his wife, from fighting, which they have done in the past. Three armed police officers kept themselves positioned between Hodge and Beets ensuring an absence of fisticuffs.

At their own table on the dais sat the dignitaries the Rev. Jim Bob Dugan, a local pastor, Dr. Timothy Nomann, President of Big ASS Endurance, and Robin Bond, Big ASS athlete and the night’s featured speaker. After a prayer by Rev, Dugan and while the latest country music played over the sound system, the attendees feasted on deer steak, baked beans, and polk salad. Near the end of their meal, Bond took the podium.

For thirty-minutes, an emotional Bond recounted her experience crewing for Randy Beets at the 2013 Swim the Suck Ten Miler near Chattanooga, TN, a popular race that serves as the Association’s Open Water World Championship and for the third year in a row pitted Hodge vs Beets in an epic swim off. “We were ahead in the race for four miles,” Bond said several times during her presentation which included numerous photographs she took from her kayak. “They even swam side by side for a few minutes after Hodge caught us,” she recounted with tears trickling down her cheeks. “After he passed us, we almost caught back up to him. We almost caught him,” she repeated and then broke down into utter weeping and had to be ushered back to her seat.

Beets sat on the edge of his chair while Bonds spoke, and he also teared up as heard his partner describe how the world championship slipped away from him for the third year in a row. Just as Bond broke down, Beets’ mother, who also sat with wet eyes, cried aloud and fainted, causing a stir among the congregation. Beets jumped to his feet to come to his mom’s aid and tripped on a table leg and fell on his long face. Someone said Hodge snickered at Beets’ misfortune.

After composure was regained among the athletes and guests, Dr. Nomann ascended the podium and began presenting trophies and titles. Hodge was awarded the World Open Water Championship, for his defeat of Beets at the Suck; the Catfish Pond Swimming Championship, for his numerous defeats of Beets in the ponds; the World Triathlon Championship, for his defeat of Beets’ relay team at the Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon; the Half-Marathon Running Championship, for his defeat of Beets at the Hotter Than Hades Half; the new Anna Vanwinkle Award, for the totality of his victories over Randy Beets; and in addition, he was named Big ASS Swimmer of the Year, Big ASS Runner of the Year, and the Big ASS Athlete of the Year.

Beets, on the other hand, won his third straight Big ASS Loser of the Year award as well the Cold Water Swimmer of the Year award. In addition, Beets won the first annual Tallest Momma’s Boy trophy. Hodge was all smiles as the ceremony came to an end, and he was overheard saying to Beets, “Congratulations, big ass loser.”

Besides his trophies, Hodge was given prizes that included a cooler containing six ice-cream sandwiches, four cans of potted meat, and a line of credit with Johnny’s Used Jammers.

When asked for a word on the night, a jubilant Hodge hoisted one of his trophies overhead and yelled, “Life is good as long as I’m beating Beets’ butt! Yehaaa!”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The New Normal is Unknown

My last post went through Tuesday the 14th. Things have been a little hectic since then. You've read that before, right? Well, let me finish last week and then I'll tell you about it.

Wednesday I lifted weights, worked on rehabbing my right leg, and had my first Film as Literature class of 2014. In the past, I have taken the students on a field trip the first night of the course. This time we watched our first movie instead. The selection for the night was, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a 1962 western starring John Wayne and James Stewart. This offering is not as high on the cinema scale as the films we usually watch, however, it was chosen for historical and artistic reasons to lead off our discussions.

While at work Thursday morning, I got a text from my wife informing me that my mother-in-law was in the emergency room. Life has not been the same since, for her or us. More about that later. That night, however, I went to DSU and swam

20 X 100 @ 3:00 (heart rate set)
end of Masters. Alone I swam
5 X 100 @ 2:00 pull
10 X 100 @ 2:00 pull and paddles of various sizes
Total: 5,000 scy = 4,570 meters.

Friday I lifted weights (chest and back) and did 14:00 minutes on the bike trainer. I am so out of shape that I was sucking air while pulling 60 watts on my bicycle.

Saturday I spent 16:00 on the bike trainer and did some rehab work on the right leg. Back to my mother-in-law.

She had a stroke, is paralyzed on one side, and is in severe pain. She moans, she screams, she fights, attempting to pull out her IVs and feeding tube. She can't talk or eat. Staying with her is stressful and emotionally wrecking.

Already, I spend two nights a week with my mom and do other things for her. With my job and Mom, I still had time to train for the Chicot Challenge. Now I am staying an additional night at the hospital with my mother-in-law and making other trips up there. We are still in the early stages of learning to cope with our new situation. I don't know what the future holds. I suppose that is always true, but at times like this, you know with a whole new clarity.

I'm not complaining, I'm just explaining that the Chicot Challenge is challenged and I probably won't know for some time if I will be able to pull it off. That, however, was the case with the very first one I did in 2012. Mom was in the hospital in Jackson much of the early months of that year. I just went out and trained as much as I could when I had the chance. It worked out and my guess is it will work out this year also, but I won't know until the time draws much closer. I am scheduled to stay at the hospital tonight, but I still am going to squeeze in a trip to the pool first. I think that's what the Brits on Did You Swim Today? (a Facebook site for swimmers) call a "cheeky" swim.

For the week of 1/13 to 1/19, I

swam 8,408.8 meters,
pedalled 55:00 minutes on the bike trainer, and
lifted weights three times.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Way Too

It has been almost two weeks since I posted. Sorry. We have had registration at work, and that is enough to keep me way too busy, way too tired, and way too frustrated. Not only that, but I've been on crutches until recently (I'm still in a walking boot) so my training has been way too light. All I have been able to do is lift weights (upper body) in the back yard gym and swim but not enough of that.

For the first full week of 2014, all I did was

swim twice at DSU for a total of 4,661.4 meters, and 
lift weights four times.

I am now splitting my lifting routine between chest and back/biceps and shoulders, and I'm wondering why I didn't do this long ago. In the past, I have tried to do the entire upper body in one workout. Due to fatigue, something always got shorted, whatever came at the end.

The leg is improving, but the tendon on the lower part of my shin is still sore, and if I can't flex my foot up all the way. I have regained full range of motion downward but not upward. I can now hobble to the poolside without crutches and hurl myself into the water. Also, this week I have hobbled into my little study where I have my bicycle hooked to the trainer, and I've taken the boot off and spent some time on the bike. No pain. It's not much, but it is a start.

This week, I lifted weights Monday, and Tuesday I made it to DSU where I swam

8 X 50 @ 1:00 progressive by 12.5 1-4
8 X 100 @ 2:00 progressive by 25 breathing 3, 5, 5, 3 by 25s
900 pull medium paddles
300 small paddles
Total: 4,200 scy = 3,338.8 meters.

My weight is at its highest point in the last nine years (171.8!!! Monday morning), but I feel confident I will get it down and swim myself into condition as soon as I muster the courage to start back crawling into catfish ponds. My leg has been a hindrance, but I am well enough now to wiggle in and out of my wetsuit. I think. I had planned to go to the pond last Saturday. That morning I had breakfast with my old friend Danny Collins. We did some serious chowing on some waffles and guzzling of coffee. I left the local Waffle House full of excitement and promise. The morning was sunny and warming, and I had planned to drive out to a pond that afternoon. But after I checked with the fishpond man and discovered the water temp was 46 degrees, I began to question just how bad I really wanted to swim. I know many of you, like Shawn C. Turner and others, routinely swim water that cold. But as I lay at home and thought about things, I lost all my motivation. Maybe next Saturday.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Slow Start to a New Year

The year 2014 is here, and I am off at a snail's pace. A slow snail. Who can't crawl well.

But things could be worse. People who know me probably think I am most likely a frustrated and dangerous man right now due to my forced inactivity. Actually, I am a frustrated and dangerous man right now, but not as frustrated or as dangerous as one may have thought. I've surprised myself in that I have taken things in stride and done what I could without pulling out the rest of my hair.

But what I could is not much. I've watched a lot of quality television, like MoonshinersFinding Bigfoot, and Ax Men. And college football. I've watched a ton of bowl games and as a huge SEC chauvinist, it's been pretty nice until last night. DO NOT mention the Alabama game in my presence unless you want to find out what frustration and danger is all about.

I've also read some, which I don't do nearly as much as I once did. My latest book is A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema, by Robert Ray. This is an analysis of the changing cinematic and thematic emphases in the American movie industry from the 1930s until 1980. Pretty good stuff, but it's worn a blister on my brain.

Physically, all I've done is to lift weights a couple of times per week. About all I can manage alone in the back yard gym is bench presses, seated rows, and a move I call the swim pull. That may not be much, but its the core of my upper body work for swimming. Last night, I did make it to the pool for the first time in several weeks. I drove myself and hobbled in on my crutches. The pool was set up for long course!!! I think there was a high school meet there recently. Slim chance it will stay that way, but I love long course because I feel like it's much better training for the kind of swimming I do (triathlons, a long charity swim, and the Suck, a ten-mile race), and for my injured leg, I don't have to do nearly as many flips and pushes off the wall. I fear I will forget and push off with both feet after a flip turn. We swam

8 X 50 as 4 @ 25 fast/25 easy and 4 @ 25 easy/25 fast
8 X 50 as 4 @ breathing 3 and 5 by 25 and 4 @ breathing 5 and 3 by 25
4 X 100 as 2 @ first and third  25 fast and 2 @ second and fourth fast
100 easy
Total: 2,300 meters.

It felt good to be back in the water, and I want more. The leg is improving and the doc wants me to gently ease into putting some weight on it as I walk with the crutches, comfort being my guide. For you who may not know, with a stress fracture the bone is not cracked all the way through. If you don't take care of it, a stress fracture can become a full fracture. But on the flip side, you often can regain your feet much faster than with a total break. His hope is that I can gradually wean myself from the crutches to the walking boot alone by my next appointment a month from now. I've been doing that, and to put even a little weight on the leg makes ambulating a thousand times easier. My hope is that in a week or so the woumded limb will be good enough that I can work my way into my wetsuit. There is a lot of tugging, pulling, and straining involved in getting into a tight neoprene body-wrap, and right now I would not even attempt it. But at the rate the tenderness is disappearing from my lower shin, I feel that it won't be long before suiting up is a possibility. If I can get into my suit, I can crawl from the truck into a fish pond, and crawl out again. Then I will be back in business.

All in all, my prospects for the Chicot Challenge look good. Our four-day work schedule is still in place, and with the tentative schedule my sister has set up for Mom's care, I will have time to train. The stress fracture itself may even be a blessing. I need an off season, and this year I have had one. Another blessing is I have decided to run much less when I am able to resume shuffling. Last year, there was an problem with the two sports due to my volume of swimming and running. The two activities actually complement each other, and they don't present issues with specific muscular recovery. However, my overall fatigue level was way too high for way too long. I shall be much smarter in my training this year with the emphasis, through the completion of the Challenge, on the swim.

Looking back, 2013 was a good year, athletically at least. I

swam 743,258.09 meters = 461 miles, and I
ran 1,236.95 miles.

I set a number of personal records in swimming: longest swim (16 miles), 200 short course, 400 short course, 500 short course, 50 long course, 100 long course, 400 long course, 500 long course. It's nice to still be improving at something at the age of 57. Also, I beat Randy Beats at Swim the Suck Ten Miler for the third straight year. I even beat his whole relay team at the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon. Life is good.

I set no records running; those days may be past, but I was able to be on my feet for more miles last year than in any of the previous four. I did a few one day runs, and I set out on The Great Noxapater Journey Run. Although that effort ended in pain and failure, I had a lot of fun while I was out there. I'll do it again.

Last year was also the year my dad died, and even that should motivate me throughout 2014. Since his passing, whenever I swim or run, he is constantly on my mind. He left me a legacy that goes all the way back to my boyhood. I can't escape it, nor do I desire to.

I don't have any New Year's Resolutions, only some goals: I want to do the Chicot Challenge again and swim even farther this year. I want to set some more personal swimming records. I want to make my Film as Literature class even better than last semester when it was the best course ever taught on a college campus in the history of the world.