Friday, February 28, 2014

Detective Hodge Solves the Mystery of Cooling Water Temperatures

I posted last on Friday morning a week ago and it is Friday morning now. Then, I was planning another trip to the Pond of Perpetual Pumpitude. Friday last, I did indeed go back for my third swim of that week and the water had warmed all the way to 64 degrees. I got in with my wetsuit but without the hood and the extra duct tape on my face. I even tossed my gloves onto the bank after wading into the water. I swam nonstop for one hour and thirty-seven minutes. That came out to 3.21 miles at a 30:18 pace per mile. That's a pretty good tempo for me, but it is suit-aided, so I don't know if I should be happy or not. OK, I'll be happy.

I even came back Saturday, but to my dismay, despite a warm and sunny day, the water had cooled a full two degrees rather than warming as I had expected. I only did 1.34 miles because my mojo had blown away in the blustery day, and I swear it felt like the water was getting colder as I stroked along. While swimming, I also noticed that there was no warm side/cold side as there usually is when the sun shines and the wind blows on these ponds. The air temp was 65 and the sky was as clear as a new pair of goggles, so the water should have warmed. But it didn't. When I tapped out and checked my thermometer, it read 61!!! Dude, it dropped a degree in twenty-eight minutes, and I could feel that degree while I was out there in it. How is that possible? *Rubs head and debates with self. Shall I write this?*

When I was a non-traditional student driving a $200 pickup truck and writing papers as well as tuition checks, I became an expert on cheap motor oil. I would mix 99 cent transmission fluid with cheap non-detergent oil to create an inexpensive but good tank mix designed to keep my 1971 GMC pickup truck from locking its engine. It worked. It worked for thirteen years. I did this so often and for so long that eventually when I lost my funnel, I became proficient at puring in the oil without the funnel. Then, when I lost my oil cap-- you know that thing on the valve cover that keeps the oil in the engine-- I discovered that I got better oil mileage without the cap, so I never bought another one. And finally, I added oil so often that I got where I no longer needed to wait for the valves to start clacking to signal me that I was two and a half quarts low before stopping to add oil; I just intuitively knew when to pull over and do a tank mix. I was proud of my hard earned oil knowledge, but I am grateful that I no longer have to use those hard won facts.

Since I have grown up and gotten a job and now have time to play, I have become an expert on catfish pond water temperatures. A few facts: 1) When the sun shines and the wind blows, normally a fish pond will develop a warm side and a cold side. 2) This warm side can be very warm as in hot. 3) This warm side will steadily get warmer as the day wears on. 4) The sunshine has as much, sometimes more, effect on the water temp than does the air temp. 5) The water temp can be higher than the air temp, even when the air temp is rising, not falling. 6) If the wind is blowing across the short side of the pond, the water can cool on a warm and sunny day.

Number six is what I learned last Saturday. Think of the ponds as large rectangles. Either by design or accident, the wind normally blows the length of a pond not across its width. The sun warms the surface water and on a typical day, the sun-warmed water is blown to one end where is continues to heat. The greater pond height on that end causes upwelling on the other end. The water coming from the bottom, especially in the winter and spring, is cold. Hence, a warm side and a cold side develop. One day last spring while I practiced in a pond, the wind changed directions by 180 degrees. As I swam lap after lap, the warm side and cold side slowly swapped with the change of wind direction. On the formerly warm side, there would be painfully cold spots as the water was pushed up from the bottom to the surface. The formerly cold side, where I climbed in and where my thermometer was, warmed up by twelve degrees while I swam. Twelve degrees!

Saturday, the wind blew across the width not the length of the pond, and while I expected one side to warm and one to cool, they both seemed to cool. My thermometer confirmed my sensation that the pond was cooling while I swam on that warm, sunny afternoon. Why? I surmise that with a cross wind, the surface water didn't have sufficient time to warm before being forced under. Thus, the upwelling was effecting both sides of the pond, cooling the entire surface to my dismay and discomfort.

You always wondered about that didn't you? I thought so. Anyway, for the week of 2/17-2/23, I

swam 14,170.84 meters,
ran 15.8 miles,
lifted weights two times, and
walked 4.44 miles.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Pond of Perpetual Pumpitude

I was just checking the blog and realized that I haven't updated since Thursday the 13th. Something like that. Anyway I need to finish that week and record what I've been doing this one. Friday the 14th I took a little run and did another one that Saturday. We went to Hillbilly Heaven, and I got out of the truck on the highway a mile or so from the gravel road. I shuffled in a pathetic 14:00 minutes per mile. There was a time when I would have been suicidal at a 14:00 pace, but I've been off a couple of months, gained a lot of weight, and continued to age in the meantime. That is the biggest difference in getting older: if injury strikes, I fall farther and I fall faster than I did when I was younger, and a comeback takes longer and more work. At least I'm still out there shuffling along.

For that week (2/10-2/16), I
swam 4,844.2 meters,
ran 9.73 miles,
lifted weights three times, and
walked 12.19 miles.

This week has been kind of nice. Finally, we received some warm weather and just in time. Masters practice was cancelled for the whole week due to a swim meet at DSU. We are at that time of year when I have to start building some swim endurance if I am going to pull off another Chicot Challenge. With the warm weather, I had the courage to go to the pond. I have always been a little too delicate of mind and resolve to swim when both water and air are cold. I can handle one at a time but not both. So Monday I did a little 1.79 mile run and Tuesday I was off to the fish farm.

Surprisingly, when I got there I found they were still pumping that pond Randy and I started swimming last June. They've been pumping it nonstop. In the summer, that was nice because it cooled the water off. In the winter, it is nice because it warms the water up. I ran for 3.5 miles to warm my body up and then checked my thermometer which read 56 degrees. I put on everything I owned: full wetsuit, hood, gloves, booties, and even extra duct tape on my face. Remember, I came out one day in January and swam about 100 meters before tapping out. I was determined not to tap out today. I didn't. It was a little tough starting out, but I was pretty comfortable for a while. I swam 1.46 miles, my first open water swim of 2014.

Selfie on the shore of the pond of perpetual pumpitude
Wednesday was wild, but I got in a 4.04 mile run before my night class. The mid-week day is normally my favorite one of the week because I teach Film as Literature that evening. However, the class has been sitting on their brains, and it has distressed me to the extent that after our last meeting I never was able to sleep that night. Finally, they starting talking to me a bit Wednesday, and I was tremendously relieved, overjoyed even. One student  brought me candy, Snickers and Reese's, and that always helps my mood. We watched The Journey of August King, a quest movie that has the most fully developed Christ-figure I have ever seen in a film or piece of literature. That's why this one makes my list. I know they missed a lot, but I hit the pause button a dozen or more times and pointed things out.

Thursday I was back at the pond. This time I used a little less tape, entered the water with a little less trepidation, and was comfortable for the entire swim. According to my reading, the water had warmed to 62 degrees, and I even began to enjoy the cool liquid of life flowing over my lips and face cooling my body. Nice. This time I ran after the swim and did 4.5 miles, my longest run since the injury.

It is now Friday morning and as I type this, my wife's little baby, Jeff, and my little baby, Luvie, are both in bed with me. I am very comfortable; nevertheless, I'm planning today another trip to the pond of perpetual pumpitude where my gps watch said I swam 2.92 miles yesterday. I hope to do a full 5K today.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Catching Up

I am way behind on posting my workouts. One of the reasons is I left my computer at work the day before we got our snow days, so I missed a good opportunity to catch up. My last workout recorded on this blog ends with the week of 1/20-1/26. So in this post, I hope to come up to date.

For the week of 1/27-2-2, I swam 8,545.9 meters, lifted weights four times, and walked 3.32 miles. Note that I am starting to rehab the leg.

Due to weather, and a death in the family, I did no swimming for the week of 2/3-2/9. I did, however, lift weights three times, walk 6.2 miles, and run .75 miles. Note, I ran for the first time since December 17th when I messed myself up pretty bad. That was not one run but two. This shuffling was very slow, very shrot, and on a treadmill, which I feel helps me with the shock absorption. I'll stay it for several more weeks, I think. I am doing a lot of lower body work to rehab the injured leg and to make both lower limbs stronger than they were before.

This week, I lifted weights Monday, and walked 1.48 and ran .5 on the hamster runner. Tuesday, Masters didn't meet because DSU was closed so I worked the leg some more and did 1.98 of walking and 1.0 of shuffling. Wednesday was more treadmill work with 1.85 of walking and 1.3 of shuffling. Thursday I did a major leg session that included nine sets of squats and a whole bunch of extensions. Not only that, but I walked 1.4 miles and ran 1.5. My confidence is slowly coming back, and I am trying very hard to be patient. The new people I met at the pool are big runners and are posting constantly on Facebook about their races. I'm missing a lot, and the temptation to put it into high gear is almost overbearing. But restraint is a virtue right now, and if I am to enjoy running in the future, I must rehab the leg properly and increase my total lower body strength.

Thursday at DSU, my first time in the water in a week and a half, I swam

1,800 warm up (most of the guys do 500)
2 X 4 X 100 @ 3:00 as 25 fast and add 25 each rep 1-4
400 medium paddles breathing 3, 5, 5, 3 per 25
300 medium paddles breathing 3, 5
200 medium paddles breathing 3, 5
100 easy (end of Masters)
8 X 200 small paddles r :30
100 easy
Total: 5,300 yards = 4,844.2 meters.

I am way behind on training for the Chicot Challenge. I'm overweight and, due to not being able to run, not even in basic condition. To make matters worse, there is no Masters next week due to a college swim meet. !!! I am starting to get real antsy. The weather is supposed to warm so maybe I can make it to the pond and do some steady stroking there.

I have set the date for the 2014 Chicot Challenge for June 14th and the distance at 17 miles. The charity is again the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

R.I.P. Louise Roberts

I can’t imagine a better mother-in-law and her passing, especially so soon on the heels of my father’s death, was a tremendous blow to me as it was to her entire family. My emotions have been like a roller coaster as I laugh at past memories, grieve her loss, and feel relief for her release from suffering. My wife is in a similar emotional turmoil, only more so. I’ve lost a father, but I haven’t lost a mother. The experience may be similar, but I’m sure they can’t be the same.
Maybe it’s because no one loves you like your mother does. I’m certain of that. Momma’s just love on a different level. I’m a slow learner, so only of late have I come to see that mothers never stop being mothers no matter how old their children become. I picked this up attempting to care for my own mom. Recently, while I was staying with her, she shuffled, on her walker, into the room where I was watching TV and handed me a bell. I look at her in confusion. “If you need something,” she said, “ring the bell.”
“Momma!” I protested.
“YOU ring the bell!”
“Oh,” she said and left pushing her walker back down the hall.
They never stop being mothers.
Louise Roberts was a mother. She bore two sons and the woman I wed long ago, and for the thirty-six years I’ve been married to her daughter, she never treated me like a son-in-law but always like a son. We never had a cross word. She never hurt my feelings. She never forgot my birthday.
It was my honor to preach her funeral Tuesday, February 4, 2014, on a cold and rainy day. It was as if heaven itself was weeping with us at our loss and its gain. Preaching funerals is one of the things I dislike most in life, but strangely it is the thing I seem to do best. I started with a verse of Scripture I am sure God put in His book just for me: Ecclesiastes 12:10 which reads, “The preacher sought to find out acceptable words” (KJV). For every funeral, I seek words. Sometimes the word search is difficult. Sometimes that search is easy. For Louise Roberts’ funeral, the words dropped onto the page like snowflakes falling from a Montana sky.
I wrote them down, the words, in a notebook and looked at them, then began to make notes by each one. The problem I had was with their number and kind. There were too many words and they were of an odd mixture of nouns and adjectives. Parallel structure just couldn’t work and describe my wife’s mom at the same time.
One of the words I put down for her was “work.” Louise Roberts was of that generation and of that socio-economic group that knew what it was like to labor in the field. Her father, George Leonard, a huge Irishman who in his younger days had a penchant for fighting, was a sharecropper most of his adult life. Working all day in the hot sun was just what people in their time and place and condition did. A forty hour workweek and an eight hour day was not even a part of their thoughts, their world. And like many of that generation, her habits of labor never left her even when her condition changed, even when she no longer had to rise with the sun and take to the field.
When her children, Penny, Hank, and Danny, were school kids, she raised a large garden on their farm in Carroll County and sold her excess produce to grocery stores in Greenwood in order to buy her brood new clothes for school each year. Some people would call that “sacrifice,” but for Louise Roberts, it was not something that called for commendation, it was just what you did, what she did, what a mother did.
Inheriting her father’s bone structure, she was muscularly strong but my wife assures me her strength went far beyond the physical. “She was,” my wife told me shortly after her passing, “the strongest woman I have ever known.” I didn’t need my mate to tell me that. Again, I am a slow learner, but I had thirty-six years to observe her strength.
Endurance also made my list, but I’m not speaking of the athletic kind but the survivor type. She endured, survived polio, skin cancer, two brain surgeries, strokes, three aneurysms, one ruptured brain aneurysm, and a host of other physical maladies not to mention the emotional blows that come with all human life that lasts for a few decades. Like the energizer bunny, however, she just kept going.

She loved flowers and her yard, even as her age advanced and her health declined, was always in bloom, always an array of colors, of unspeakable beauty. She spent long hours pulling weeds both from her flower beds and the lawn. Over the years, the sun took its toll on her Irish skin, and late in life her forearms bloomed with cancers like her lawn bloomed with roses and petunias and zinnias and others, so many others.  

Besides flowers, one of the loves of her life was animals. She raised orphan deer, a hawk, an eagle, squirrels, dogs, cats, a cougar, a bear, several coyotes, three camels, horses, zebras, and cows. I’m sure I left out a lot because there was a time when going to Hillbilly Heaven, the name of the Roberts’ 300 acres of paradise, was like taking a trip to a zoo, a really good zoo.
She was eccentric, stubborn, and loved to fish. Like her dad, she would spend long hours on the bank of a Carroll County pond. If I showed up at Hillbilly Heaven with a pole or a rod-and-reel, I was not going to fish alone. I didn’t mind. She could bait her own hook, string her own fish, and both clean and cook our catch. Not only that but, oddly, she was good at spotting snakes. I say “oddly” because her eyesight was very poor, and one of her eccentricities was she would not wear glasses. She would not. She couldn’t tell the difference between an elephant and a dog, but she could see a snake faster than a snake could see himself. Be that as it may, the Peruvian Army couldn’t make her wear eyeglasses. The North Korean Army couldn’t make her wear eyeglasses. Under the threat of her life, she wouldn’t wear eyeglasses. In fact, no one could make her do anything she didn’t want to do, and one of the things she didn’t want to do was wear eyeglasses. Go figure.
I guess you can tell she was no Southern Belle. She was, in fact, tough, tough as a pulpwood truck. But tough as she may have been, and as competent as she was with a hoe and a fishing pole, she was also caring, and loving, and considerate. She cared for her parents, both when they were healthy and when they declined. After her mother, Mary Bell Leonard, suffered a stroke, she moved Mary Bell into her home and cared for her like nursing an orphan kitten the final months of her life. In fact, she was a caregiver to several family members before their deaths.
She was concerned about everyone around her all the time, and that I think that was her dominate trait. She wanted everyone, primarily her family, around her always. The chief word that made my page and rings in my mind today is “family.” Louise Roberts was all about family.
Every holiday was a gathering at her house. Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Yom Kippur, the Chinese New Year, Memorial Day, Robert E Lee’s birthday, my birthday, her birthday, her sons’ birthdays, her daughter’s birthday, the dogs’ birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, National Bird Day, Houseplant Appreciation Day, National Hat Day, Annna Vanwinkle Day, and Old Rock Day. OK, maybe I exaggerate a little, but not much. The point is, we were always there because she always wanted us there. And when we were there she wanted us to eat and make merry. She knew I liked candy, and there was always candy in that house. She knew that I liked sassafras tea, and there was always sassafras tea in that house if she had roots. She knew I liked water melon so there was always water melon if it was in season. She knew I liked ice-cream, and we always had ice-cream and I didn’t even have to pretend I didn’t want more but could eat freely, and I did.

Her son, Danny Brice Roberts, lives in Nashville, and she loved to take trips to Danny’s house. I made the trip once in April of 2008 when I ran the Country Music Marathon. My wife took her many times after that, and typically they stayed three to five days at a time. Besides their luggage, they would haul the dogs, three little canines who also loved to go to Danny’s, and make the journey like they were going to heaven itself. Louise always got so excited about going that they, Penny and Danny, wouldn’t tell her until about a week before a trip because she called them both four times a day when a Nashville journey was scheduled. She became like a kid on Christmas Eve and couldn’t even sleep at night. While in Nashville, Danny waited on her hand and foot and treated her like a queen. Like all old people I have known, she loved the attention.
She had a stroke on January 16th. She couldn’t talk, she was paralyzed on one side, but she could look at you and respond to you. She wanted to hold hands. I was with her that afternoon and got to hold her hand for an hour or more and feed her ice-cream before the nurses removed her tray. She knew me then. I am not sure she ever knew me after that. The final couple of weeks were difficult for her and us. I don’t understand suffering. It both puzzles me and troubles me, but I have come to see one purpose in it: suffering brings us to the point of letting go. Though we grieve and miss her terribly, we were willing to let go. She died February 1, 2014, at 3:15 in the afternoon. Her son, Danny, her daughter, Penny, and her fishing buddy, Zane Hodge, shared her final moments on earth.            

In a society that lionizes people who can’t handle life, who can’t obey the rules, who can’t control themselves, she was a marked aberration. The former group is often lifted up as brilliant and brave heroes. Louise Roberts, however, was a real hero. The world might not recognize her as such, but I do, the rest of her family does, and I think God does also.
Her husband, Ellis Henry Roberts, took her home at her death and placed her in a new family cemetery at Hillbilly Heaven. The final resting place for her worn out body is about a hundred and fifty yards west of her house. She faces east from a small rise overlooking her home as if she is looking down on her family. I think that is beautiful.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Anna Vanwinkle Week

I hate to apologize again, but life has been that way. Besides busy, I've trained little. I hope that is about to change. I'm off the crutches, out of the boot, and even walking on the road a little. Soon I will begin to shuffle.

Anna Vanwinkle week was a big success. To celebrate, I went to the pond Monday since we were off work and I had time, motive, and opportunity. With all my gear, I thought I would stay in the water for at least an hour or more. I had my wetsuit, hood, boots, and gloves and fully decked out I crawled into the 54 degree water. For some swimmers (Shawn C. Turner and others) that's summertime swimming. For me, however, that's cold.

I couldn't take it.


I couldn't take it.

My body was comfortable but the pain on my face was more than I wanted to bear at the time. I know, I know- if I had stayed in a while, my face would have numbed out and all would have been OK. But I didn't stay in long enough. I started and stopped saying, "Dang that's cold." Then I started again and stopped again. I started and stopped a third time and then climbed out and walked dejectedly back to my truck. I felt like a failure. Last year I swam in 50 degree water with only a jammer and a cap, but that was last year and now my nemesis, Randy Beets, is not even in the great State of Mississippi anymore. I have to do this stuff all alone. Alone I am a sissy.

Poor me.

Anyway, Tuesday night I was in the pool at DSU where I met a new guy, Felix Shipp from Grenada. It's nice to see new folks and our Masters group needs some. I'll spare the details, but I swam 5,600 yards, my longest of the year thus far.

Wednesday it was weights and Thursday it was back to DSU where I did 3,400. Felix was back and he brought a friend, the very lovely Stacey Hardy also from Grenada. I noticed from  Facebook that she and Felix are big runners. Friday I lifted more weights and Saturday I not only lifted weights but I walked .35 on the road. The comeback has begun. I even went out for a walk Sunday and went .51 miles.

For the week of 1/20-1/26, I
swam 8,326 meters
walked 1.1 miles
spent 10:00 minutes on the bike trainer, and
lifted weights four times.

My mother-in-law died Saturday, Feb 1. I will write about her in a separate post. She was a good and noble woman.