Monday, June 30, 2014

Hodge Suspended

Hodge Suspended
By Jay Unver
(Lehrton, MS) Despite a hush, hush approach-- there was never an official announcement of the charges or the date of the hearing-- Zane Hodge appeared before an Association of Sports Swimmers Disciplinary Board Monday morning in the presence of local citizens of a spate of news reporters. Noticeably absent were rival Randy Beets and legal counsel for the accused. The normally upbeat Hodge looked somber, tense, and tight lipped as he entered the Big ASS Endurance Training Center in downtown Lehrton wearing his best blue suit and sporting shined shoes. Once inside, Hodge ignored reporters’ questions and made his way to the conference hall.
Inside the Hall, things moved quickly. After spitting out his snuff, Jim Bob Dugan sang the national anthem, Barney Bob Smutt said a prayer, and Dr. Timothy Nomann called the Board to order.
“The charges,” Nomann read between swigs of an unknown liquid, “are charge one: one count of use of an illegal substance in a Big ASS swim, and charge two: one count of breaking pool rules by taking a photograph inside the Biloxi Natatorium. These offenses allegedly occurred on the respective dates of June 14, during the Chicot Challenge, and June 24 at a training session in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi. How do you plead. Mr. Hodge?”
Hodge responded: “Charge one, not guilty, and charge two, guilty.”
There was a minor buzz that wafted through the room when Hodge said, “Guilty.”
The illegal substance charge stemmed from an allegation by Randy Beets that during the Chicot Challenge Hodge was consuming a drink he called “Rocket Fuel,” a mixture of Gatorade, Red Bull, and a white powder that Hodge refused to identify. Nomann then called for the lab report and the bailiff handed him a large, sealed, manila envelope.
“According to the lab report,” Nomann said after opening the envelope and extracting the paper work inside, “the white powdery substance seized from Mr. Hodge’s home by Lehrton County sheriff deputies on the morning of June 16 is creatine. Since creatine is a legal supplement in all Big ASS Endurance events, I find you not-guilty on charge one, and I ratify your world record swim at the Chicot Challenge.”
“Concerning charge two, you plead guilty. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“Heck yeah I have something to say for myself,” a now animated Hodge responded. “It was Randy Beets who told me about the Biloxi Natatorium. I should have known there was a catch. He never said anything about rules. The woman who checked me in at the pool never said anything about rules. While I swam, the bleachers filled with women who all had visible cell phones. You know cell phones all have cameras. What was to make me think I was doing anything wrong by taking a picture of the pool. There was nobody in the photo I snapped, only the pool. Heck, they ought to reward me for giving them free publicity. This whole thing is nothing but sour grapes from Randy Beets because I broke all his pool records there.”
Nomann paused and seemed to ponder the merits of Hodge’s arguments. After a few seconds he said, “Rules are rules and though no harm may have been done, ASS athletes are expected to maintain the highest moral standards. You are a representative of Big ASS Endurance everywhere you go and at all times. I hereby find you guilty and sentence you to a two week competition suspension. Your pool records at the Biloxi Natatorium will stand, however. This hearing is adjourned.”
With that, Nomann struck the gavel and slowly the crowd began to filter out of the building, a red-faced Hodge among them. I caught up with stunned swimmer just before he made his way out the building entrance door.
“What do you have to say?” I shouted, sticking a microphone in his face. Slowly his eyes refocused and he looked at me with a mien that can only be described as murderous.
“I’ll get that Beets if it’s the last thing I do!” a furious Hodge exploded.
“A two week suspension now is really not a big deal. I mean, there are no major competitions this knocks you out of, so it’s really just symbolic,” I offered trying to calm him down.
“Symbolic!?!? I was set to go the UK and race Annabel Lavers! This stupid revenge stuff of Beets just cost me a trip to England. I’ll get that Beets if it’s the last thing I do. I will!!!”
And with that, Hodge made his way out the door, to his truck, and like so many before him, he burned a tire while pulling out of the parking lot.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Biloxi Week

A few posts back, I recorded Monday through Wednesday of the post Chicot week. Thursday I swam alone at Twin Rivers because John was still sick. Friday I worked in the yard and lifted weights for the first time in months. Saturday I did another short run and short swim with some more weightlifting. For the week (6/23-6/29), I swam 9,250 meters, ran 9.02 and walked 4.56 miles. That's not a lot of work, but I was recovering from the Challenge, and I needed some rest.
My run route along the beach

Sunday morning (6/22) Penny and I left for Biloxi for the MML (Mississippi Municipal League)Convention where we stayed at the Beau Rivage. My main goals for the trip were to exercise as much as possible and to control my eating. It seems that the whole thing was about food. All the way down my sweet wife was telling me where we had to eat on this night and that night and that lunch and . . . . And I was just getting my appetite back under control and had lost a few pounds.

Monday (6/23), while Penny was in a class at the Convention Center, I parked on the beach, somewhere beside Highway 90 and did a little run/walk. It was hot and I shuffled like an old man. I think  I ran 3.52 and walked 1.04 While I immitated a runner, I kept eying the water, wondering if anyone swims out there. I sent Randy Beets a text and asked him (he used to live on the coast) if he ever swam the sound. His reaction was basically, "%$@)! no. Don't do it!" He did put me on to the Biloxi Natatorium, so Tuesday morning while my wife was once more in class, I swam in what started out as a long course pool. After 1,500 meters, all swimming was stopped to convert the pool to short course. So in one swim, I did long and short course, a fist for me. I ended up with 3,967 meters.

Wednesday morning, the MML had their won 5K run/walk on the bridge that goes to Ocean Springs. I flet really bad after we started because I realized if I had been in running shape, I might could have won the whole thing. Nevertheless, I got a good workout on a long course (3.23 miles).

I had intended to go back to the Natatorium Thursday morning, but due to some unexpected issues at home, we left early driving north. After taking care of the business, I took a 2.11 mile run and then met John at Twin Rivers for the first time in over two weeks.He has been ill, and it was good to see him well and back at the pool. I swam

4 X 200 medium paddles @ 4:25
100 easy
6 X 50 @ 1:00
200 small paddles
Total: 3,200 meters

Friday, my wife was off work and we both did a slow start day. When I finally started moving, I went out for a 4.35 mile shuffle, and then met John at Twin Rivers where I swam

5 X 200 medium paddles @ 4:25 with 2nd 50 hard
6 X 50 @ 1:15
300 small paddles
Total: 3,400 meters.

Friday, June 27, 2014


I started to include this in my last post, but that one was getting a bit long so I chopped it off. Also, I have been offline for a while because of a trip my wife and I made to the coast. More about that in a later writing. Now, I want to set down in words some things I learned in our recent Chicot Challenge.

1. It is worth it. I have invested a huge amount of time and energy into training for the Challenge each of the last three years. It was all worth it. Training for this swim is now an integral part of my  yearly athletic cycle. It is also part of my personal program, I hope, to prevent myself from becoming a Type 2 Diabetic (it runs in my family). If this training and effort prevent me from becoming diabetic, it is and will be more than worth it. Also, I wound up putting a bit of money into this year's swim. For Chicot III, I rented a pontoon boat and a room from South Shore Cottages. That also was worth it. In addition to the training, time, and finances, last year he swim itself became a sufferfest. That was even worth it. Randy Beets recently posted on Facebook some pics from 2013, photos I had not seen. Every view I made of every shot gave me that sense of satisfaction one gets after a long, hard endurance effort. It was indeed worth it. This year's swim was a much easier effort and, consequently, I found myself thinking about the 2015 swim almost immediately after I crawled out of the water. It was worth it. I am as excited now as I was in the weeks leading up to the swim.

2. My nutritional strategy worked; my nutritional strategy had problems. For this swim, I incorporated everything I had learned over the years about what powers the body in an ultra marathon event. That was part of the problem. Although my strategy worked in that it provided me with the needed energy, the same strategy was way too complex and some of the substances I ingested didn't tank mix with other foods. For example, the drink I called "Rocket Fuel" (there is a commercially produced liquid by that name, but this was my own concoction) didn't mix well with the ice-cream. My rocket fuel is a mixture of Red Bull, Gatorade, and creatine. It is powerful stuff, but highly acidic, and it clashed with the ice-cream making me feel a bit queasy. Also, the Peanut Butter Cream Pie was too difficult to eat in the water. I managed to get only half of one down and going into the pit with it was at least eight ounces of lake water. Yuk! Thankfully, I didn't suffer any repercussions from the lake water. None of which I am aware.

One more note about food. The foods I ate for the swim are not foods I normally consume or recommend to others. In short, I ate a lot of junk, but during intense and prolonged exercise, the body is limited to what it can digest, and what it needs at that particular time. In short, bad carbs (high glycemic) are good carbs during a marathon swim but not for everyday life. I repeat, for any diabetics who may read this: I drink Red Bull once per year and consume Peanut Butter Cream Pies and ice-cream, well, not too often.

3. Get somebody to grease my shoulders before the swim. Duh! I have never had chafing problems except on a very small scale, so for a long swim, I normally just use a little BodyGlide under my arms and around my upper lats. On this swim, I started getting raw on the top of my left shoulder where my beard was making contact with the skin. I called for Vaseline and rubbed my shoulders down only to create a nightmare with my goggles for the next hour. This is marathon swimming 101, but it just has never been a problem, so I didn't grease down the top of my shoulders ahead of time. Live and learn.

4. Having the larger crew was a help. When it came to actually looking out for me, Robin Bond and Randy Beets were my primary caregivers. In fact, Robin was never out of her kayak for over eleven hours. Incredible. However, having the pontoon with my son and Paul and my wife and Justin was energizing, motivating. Maybe that's vanity, but it is still the way it works. Having more eyes on me drew out a better performance. When the pontoon temporarily left to ferry Forrest and Paul back to South Shore Cottages, I went through patch of bad swimming and sagging motivation. When the pontoon returned, so did my mojo.

5. Nothing succeeds like success. With a good swim and a great start on fundraising, I already have setup a ring binder, and I'm writing notes and ideas about how to do things better next year. Some of the sections in the notebook are: training, publicity, goals, T-shirts, nutrition, weight, and sponsors. I have never sought sponsors, but with a little help, I could do a lot more. For example, my primary way personally to raise funds for the DFM has been through selling T-shirts, and I have been limited to how many shirts I sell through what I could afford to buy. With a sponsor or two, I could purchase and sell a lot more shirts. Live and learn.

I still have a bit of catching up to do so most likely I will post every day for the next few. Good swimming or running or walking or whatever you do to care for your body. Remember, your health is a gift from God, and you are the only one who can care for it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Chicot Challenge III

Friday, June 14, I left Greenwood about 3:30 in the afternoon with goggles and jammer in the backseat. As I drove west toward Greenville, MS, I tried to go over in my mind what WXVT might ask me. I still didn't know if the interview would be live or taped. Turns out when I got to the station, someone led me into the studio and sat me in a chair on the set. The news anchor came in, asked me a couple of questions, and suddenly said, "Here we go." Just like that the broadcast was live. I was onstage but not in the frame. Wow! That was fast.

During one of the commercial breaks we chatted a little and she said, "I'll just ask you some questions. You'll scoot your chair over when it's time." The broadcast came back on, and then during the next commercial break she said, "You're up next."

She asked me something about my interest in diabetes. She asked me something about training for such a long swim. She asked me about the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. And then it was over, the fastest three minutes of my life.

Steve Schill, anchor and meteorologist, led me to the office of Kelly Ritenour and introduced us. She told him we (the Chicot Challenge and team) were on the docket for Saturday. We spoke a bit and she committed to being at the start at 6:30.

Swimming out Ditch Bayou towards the big lake
I left and made my way to Lake Village and South Shore Cottages where I checked in. The little house, a former Katrina Cottage, was clean, nice, and a lot larger than it appeared from the outside. Then I texted Robin Bond and told her I was in. She was anxious to unloaded the kayaks, which belonged to Lake Chicot State Park, and get the borrowed trailer home. The swim would end at the Park so there was no further need of the trailer after dropping the boats off at the cottages.

When Robin drove up, Randy Beets was with her. Talk about a sight for sore eyes. His move from Greenville, Mississippi to North Carolina- I am happy for him- was quite a jolt to me. We shook hands. I think I may have hugged him even. We unloaded the kayaks and then chatted while Robin left to take the trailer back. When she returned, we went to Fox's Pizza.

Oh. My. God.

I ate the whole thing. And more.

I had difficulty going to sleep that night, in part because I kept thinking about the wind forecast Steve Schill, WXVT's meteorologist, showed me that afternoon. It was supposed to be calm early and build to ten miles per hour out of the east by midday. Terrible. Before tuning in, I checked my phone and Steve Schill had left a message saying Kelly would not be at the landing the following morning, but they wanted cell phone video of the start, somewhere along the way, and the finish. No problem, I thought.

When morning came, sure enough all was quiet and the lake looked like a pane of glass in its smooth calmness. Forrest, Paul, and my wife arrived. Justin arrived. Randy and Robin arrived. Then there was a flurry of activity as we started getting everything in place to begin our journey.

We were late starting, about 7:07 according to my Garmin, but still that was the earliest we ever got off by a long way. Justin suggested we pray before commencing, so we all held hands while he led us in taking our request to the Lord. Then I waded into the water on the boat ramp. Someone recommended I say something. I made a plug for the DFM, lost my footing, and fell when I slipped off the edge of the boat ramp. It was all caught on tape. Sunday night on WXVT, Kelly Ritinour would edit that out and say I "dove gracefully into Lake Chicot." Bless her. She was being very nice. I wouldn't have minded them showing me slip. It was OK. And then I turned and started swimming out of Ditch Bayou and towards the big lake.

I was out there several minutes before Robin and Randy got into their kayaks and caught up with me. A few minutes later, I looked over my shoulder and saw the pontoon piloted my Justin Nunnery and carrying my son, Forrest, Paul Brown, and my wife who was with me on the water for the first time during one of my marathon swims. Having her there gave me energy.

I cruised along and found a nice rhythm. The first goal I had was to make it to the Visitor's Center, which is on the lake about three miles from South Shore towards town. It took a while, but when I made that goal, I set my sights on downtown Lake Village about another three miles north and highly visible with a boat landing, a statue, and an amphitheater. When I made that, over three hours in, Robin asked if I wanted to stop. On the last two challenges, we stopped at Lake Village. I just kept swimming. For this one, it was English Channel Rules all the way.

Somewhere shortly after passing downtown, I started having issues with my goggles. My old Walmart specials, were a little tight and they were bothering me. I had three other pair in a plastic bag and I swapped out at my next feed. That was after I had asked for Vaseline. I had applied Bodyglide and Vaseline to my underarms but not to my shoulders. Normally I don't have any problems with that, but my left shoulder felt like my beard was rubbing the skin off it. After the swim, I found it wasn't that bad, but at the time, I thought I was going to be bleeding with the skin worn off. Maybe you can guess. I rubbed my shoulder down with Vaseline and tried my best not to get it on my goggles. But that is like eating fried chicken and driving: no matter how careful, the steering wheel always gets greasy.

For the next hour or so, I was constantly going blind with fogged and greasy goggles, swapping them out, and begging Robin to fix the problem. Finally, she cleaned the old Walmart specials and let the strap out just a little. When I put them back on, they were clear and comfortable. Problem solved. For the rest of the swim, I never touched them (after carefully putting them on) or let my hands get anywhere near my face, except to feed.

From downtown to Connerly Bayou was, in my mind, the next leg of the journey. That has long been one of my mental strategies during long endurance events, to break things down into sections and then sections within sections, achieve one goal at a time. When we got to the mouth of the river-looking water, I asked Robin how far we had come. She said, "A little over nine miles." That fired me up.

The reason we went up the bayou was to get the needed distance. A straight shot from Ditch Bayou to the State Park would be in the thirteen to fourteen mile range. From the causeway, just above the bayou, it is about four miles to the park. I had told Robin that she needed to do the math when we got there to figure how far up we needed to go. A few strokes up and she said Randy said we needed to go about a mile and a half up.

Connerly Bayou was adventurous, different, sort of neat, and a bit creepy all at the same time. I was not as comfortable in there as in the big lake. The water is darker, the trees grow down to the water's edge, and snags jut up here and there. I am sure it is absolutely gorgeous from a boat, but from the water, in the water, it looked like alligators, snakes, and primeval monsters.

Not long after we started up the bayou, Justin had to ferry Paul and Forrest back to the landing at Ditch Bayou because Paul had an engagement he couldn't get out of. After the pontoon left, I went into a mental funk. I pulled my head up and started a slow heads-up breastroke.

"What's wrong, Zane?" Robin asked.

"I'm resting," was all I said in return.

Maybe it was the out-and-back aspect of heading up the bayou that caused me to slow. I have always found out-and-backs to be difficult. On a point-to-point course, you are always getting closer to your destination. Now I was getting farther away and tiring at the same time. When Robin announced feeding time, I asked for ice-cream only to be told we didn't have any, that the little we had left had departed with Justin on the pontoon.


I want my ice-cream and I want it now! I asked what we did have. She told me a couple of gels and just a little bit of Gatorade. That got me to thinking what happens if Justin can't get back. How could I ever make it without calories? I decided to do what I usually do and not to worry about what I have no control over. That thought, plus the fact that Robin finally announced it was time to turn around, got me in a better frame of mind, and I put my head down and started swimming steadily if not strongly.

Along the way back down the bayou, Robin told me she had talked with Justin over the phone. He and Penny were on the way back, and they had procured some more ice-cream. Hot dog! I knew then I was going to make it.

I swam harder and after what seemed like hours we made it back to the lake. Then it was a short swim to the causeway, under the bridge, and into the lake on the other side. There was the pontoon with Justin, Penny, and ice-cream. I had some and told Robin that's all I wanted for the rest of the swim. She said I couldn't have it. I said that's all I want. She said we didn't have enough. I said we did. I then asked how far we had been. When she told me 13+ miles, I told her we were going to be short on distance. She said we were OK. I said we were not. She said we were. I said I have concerns.

She said, "Shut up and swim!"

I did.

This was the last leg of the journey. The weather was good, the wind was still light, and I had ice-cream. Not long after my feed, Justin got in the water with me. He put it into high gear, and I tired to match his pace. My muscles spoke to me forcefully and unambiguously: You can still swim, just not fast. Not now.


Justin swam a mile and a half or more with me. and then Randy replaced him. Ever the gentleman, Randy never pushed the pace or got ahead of me. His presence did give me a boost. But my shoulders started hurting around mile fifteen. The right one started screaming where the long branch of the biceps tendon goes over the humerus. I found nothing comical about it. The left one began to hurt under the deltoid where one of the rotator cuff muscles attaches to the humerus. Just the mention of rotator cuff can cause swimmers to assume the fetal position and wet themselves. I couldn't assume the fetal position and stay afloat. I did wet myself.

Bethany Theilman and the cheering crew at the finish

Randy and I were swimming along when I heard Justin start yoohooing from the boat. I pulled my head up and Robin said, "Seventeen miles." We were within sight of the State Park boat landing. Robin asked, "You want in the boat, or you want to finish?"

I didn't heistate. "I want to finish." I had a clue someone from the DFM might be waiting at the boat ramp. Just a clue. I didn't want to ride up in a boat even if I had swum seventeen miles. Besides, we weren't that far, a half or three quarters of a mile, so I wanted to swim in.

When we started getting really close, Robin asked, "You want eighteen, or you want to finish?"

"I want to finish."

And I did. Finally, after eleven hour and four minutes of non-stop swimming, my feet hit the ramp at the State Park. I tried several times to walk up the algea slick concrete ramp only to fall twice and wind up with two bloody knees. Eventually, I walked up between the ramp and the dock. When I climbed out there was a small group there cheering like rabid fans at a football game. Who are these people? I wondered.

It turns out that Bethany Theilman and her son drove up all the way from Jackson to be there at the end. While waiting for us to get in, she began to talk to some fishermen, their wives and children who then also waited for us to come in. Wow. Thank you, Bethany.

The next day, Kelly Ritenour asked me how I felt when I finished. First, like all my really long events,  I felt relieved it was finally over. Also, I felt an incredible sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, one so strong that right now, a solid week later, it still grips me. This is not something you can buy at a store no matter how much money you may have. It is not something someone can wrap up like a present and hand you. It is something you have to search for and work for until you earn it and then you embrace it and cherish it like newborn child. Maybe that is the real reason I do these sorts of things. No doubt it is at least a large part of it because whenever I have had to plan and train and work long to complete an epic bicycle ride or run or swim, I am always rewarded with this satisfaction. And finally, part of me just wanted to get alone and bury my head in my hands and weep. I don't understand this. Maybe it is just what happens when you empty yourself of all your courage and all your passion and all your energy, then like the last grains of salt from an empty salt shaker, tears are all that is left and they come dribbling out. I don't need to understand this. It is enough to experience it.
The ride back to South Shore Cottages

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Just the Facts

My summer school class just ended yesterday so I will start working on a full writeup of the swim, but for now I thought a simple report would be nice. Saturday, June 14th the big swim went down  without a hitch. Well, without any major hitches, just a few small ones. To make a short story long, I started swimming from the South Shore Cottages boat ramp on Ditch Bayou at 7:07 am and finished up at the Lake Chicot State Park eleven hours and four minutes later. It was a nice swim. I'll give all the details in my next post.

For last week, I swam

Monday 2,200
Tuesday 1,800
Wednesday 1,600
Thursday 1,400
Friday nothing
Saturday 17.7 miles = 28,479.3 meters
Total: 35,479.3 meters.

This week I've been taking it easy. Sunday morning I slept in and then we went to my father-in-law's. I took four naps there, that is four real naps. We went home late afternoon and I would have done some more snoozing but I was consumed with working on some video for WXVT- they ran a nice piece on the 10:00 o'clock news- I never got the video problems worked out. I just can't manipulate GoPro footage other than download it to my computer, watch it, and pull stills from it. I can't do anything else with it. I watch the tutorials and they seem simple enough. I do the same things they do, but my changes never save. I can't post any of it to Facebook and apparently I can't email it either. Now I know why the TV station asked for cell phone video. Even I can handle that. No one shot cell phone video at the end. I have lots of good GoPro stuff, and on it Justin Nunnery is giving Randy Beets a verbal beets down. I love it.

Monday I went to Twin Rivers and swam

4 X 50 @ 1:15
Total: 1,400

Tuesday I went to DSU for the first time in several weeks. I wanted to see my grandchildren. We swan

650 (In a long course pool? Don't ask)
9 X 50 kick with fins
10 X 50 breathing 3/5 by 25
6 X 50 kick with fins
6 X 50 breathing 5/7 by 25
100 easy
Total: 1,450 + 750 kicking

Wednesday it was back to Twin Rivers where I swam

6 X 50 @ 1:15
400 kick with fins
Total: 2,000 + 400 kick

On today's agenda is lots of coffee, lots of Luvie, and some napping with Jeff. Oh yeah, I might work on the swim write up. A little. Between naps. But don't bet on it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ready or Not

"Ready or not, here I come." That's what whoever was "it" used to yell, back in the day, when we played hide-and-seek. Remember? Of course you do. That's what I feel like yelling now. Ready or not, here I come. The Chicot Challenge, like Christmas, has finally arrived. Or in the words of Bruce Buffer, "IT'S TIIIIME!"

I am nervous, excited, apprehensive. I know, Shawn C. Turner, I got this. But I am still a little insecure about my fitness. At twelve pounds heavier than last year, and having swum way, way fewer total yards, I am frightened. Also, I have run way, way fewer miles, and one day last week for the first time ever, my legs became tired while I swam. WHAT?!?!

I did have a good last three weeks, though.

Three weeks?!?! Is that all?

Yeah, pretty much.

Several other things are different this year, but these differences have me excited. The crew is larger and better equipped. In addition to two kayakers, I will be accompanied by a pontoon boat as well. This will increase visibility and thus safety and it should make the kayakers much more comfortable since they can now take breaks and not be derelict at their duties. With the addition of the pontoon boat, my wife will be able to make the trip and that both excites and motivates me. I just can't get pulled out of the water in front of her.

In addition to the safety for me and comfort of the crew, with the pontoon Randy and Justin will be able to swim some with me. This is allowed under English Channel Rules as long as the pace swimmers don't stay in the water for the whole swim. My hope is that they save their efforts for late in the swim when their presence will give me a boost when I need it most.

We have a new route to accommodate the extra distance and that also excites me. Of course, the route can change because of local conditions. Last year, we changed the route three times due to the wind and a storm. But assuming we are able to follow the script, we will be making our (mine at least) first foray into Connerly Bayou. From the water during past Challenges, I have seen the mouth of the bayou. It looks like a nice size river but without the current. On the computer, I have looked at it on Google Earth. It appears pretty, interesting, and long. It goes for miles and miles and there is enough room in it alone to swim for a day maybe two. During the swim, Robin Bond is supposed to do the math. She will have the GPS watch on her boat and it will be her duty to determine how far up the bayou we go before turning around and swimming back to the lake and then heading to the State Park or South Shore Cottages whichever the case may be.

One other thing is different. I have what I think is a better nutritional strategy. I am incorporating everything I have learned about endurance event nutrition over the past few years into this Challenge's feeding schedule. Maybe it is too varied, and that could turn out to be a problem. But I am aiming to avoid flavor fatigue for one thing, and maintain a steady blood sugar level for another. I have not tested the variety I have planned in one swim. I have used the various calorie sources in different swims.

Monday I swam an easy 2,200. Tuesday I cut it to 1,800. Wednesday I only did 1,600. Thursday night I swam a mere 1,400. Right now I am taking a nap with Jeff and Luvie. I have a few more things to do to get ready, but for the most part everything is set. Robin Bond texted me last night that she was on the way to pick up Randy Beets from the airport in Little Rock.


Randy is flying in from North Carolina to work this swim. My Aunt Mary once said of all the Hodge men: "None of those men deserved the wives they got. None of them." That's the way I feel about my family and friends. I don't deserve them, but I thank God for them.

The flyer photo above is included to give people unfamiliar with Lake Chicot an idea of what the lake is like as well as to provide a map for anyone who may show up for the start. You can see Highway 82 on the bottom, which is the direction from which most people would be arriving. The first bridge one comes to after entering Arkansas is Ditch Bayou. South Shore Cottages is right there at the bayou before you cross the bridge. The body of water near the top of the flyer is Connerly Bayou. It has been re sized to make the route visible. In actual size, it is a little larger and a lot longer than Ditch Bayou.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Winding Down

I finished last week with a couple of short swims Thursday and Friday. I rested Saturday and Sunday, and I mean I rested. Saturday, try as I may, I couldn't quite make myself go out and mow the lawn. Instead, I lounged around in bed the whole day. Sunday, after church, was more of the same. The heavy lifting is done, the fitness is settled, now it only remains to rest and get my mind right. Like Cool Hand Luke, "I gotta get my mind right."

Despite the most serious monsoon season in recent memory, God has continually provided windows of opportunity for me 'n John to swim. Typically it has been storming in the afternoon and quitting just before our scheduled pool time. Yehaa. Monday, John was sick, so I got to swim alone in a pretty good downpour. A strong line of thunderstorms moved through starting around 5:00 pm with lots of rain, wind, and lightning. At 6:00 it was still thundering, but that stopped a few minutes later while the rain continued. I waded in about a quarter till seven and felt the rain coming down, hitting my back while the pool caressed the rest of my tired body. I found it both physically and mentally refreshing. I only swam

1,000 kick with fins
100 easy with fins.

Then I went home to grade papers, another one of my chief pleasures in life. NOT.

WXVT (Greenville, Mississippi) called and they want me to come by the station Friday afternoon a little before 5:00. I don't know if they are going to do a live interview or tape it or how often it will air. My hope is that it will result not only in more donations for the DFM, but maybe someone will be inspired and become more physically active.

Tonight I plan to finish packing up my gear for the weekend. I am getting pretty excited and the weather forecast is looking better and better as the day approaches. Last night, WXVT was predicting a 20% chance of rain Saturday. That sounds good.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Me 'n John One More Time

I went back to Masters at DSU Tuesday night for the first time in weeks. If you want to know exactly how long, read all my posts backwards and you will eventually find out. The pool at Twin Rivers was closed for a private party, so I jumped at the chance to drive west, see my grandchildren, and swim with the crew. My granddaughter gave me a piece of candy and a big hug for my birthday. She is a sweet child and has always been giving and considerate of others.

It was neat to be back at practice and to see Cagri who gave me some advice on my taper. I told him what I've been swimming on my own: last week, 26,000; the week before, 35,000. He said I wasn't swimming enough to taper. Huh? I'm not a twenty-year old college swimmer. I'm a fifty-eight year old adult-onset swimmer. His advice was to keep the volume up but reduce the intensity. I thought a taper went the opposite direction: you reduced volume and upped intensity. Not according to Cagri, not for distance swimmers. I don't call  him the Mad Swimming Scientist for nothing. We did

4 X 100 breathing 3/5
6 X 150 as first 25 of each 50 all out
200 easy
Total: 3,100 meters.

Wednesday afternoon, I picked the pontoon up from Greenwood Nursery. Bert Fleming, the owner, asked me if I was ready for the swim and we chatted about that for a bit. His wife came in and said, "You know he's Allison's teacher," she motioned towards me. Then I connected the dots. Their daughter is in my Comp I class.

"She, they, are writing about diabetes and the Chicot Challenge now," I tried to add to the conversation.

"I know," Bert nodded. "She was just typing her paper back there on my computer."

"I was going to tell you to take $100 off that bill," his wife, Rhonda, chimed in.

"He already wrote the check. Just give him a $100," Bert said, and she did.

Wow! Another donation for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. I had just made my third mail off to them a few minutes before coming over for the boat. In all, I have sent them $625 and have now another $100 to give them. Not bad considering I haven't even done the swim yet. Last year I raised $1426. I hope to raise at least $1500 this year.

John told me if he was late to start without him. John is always late, so I got in and started a little before 6:00 pm. I had swum about twenty minutes when he showed up. There were a few kids in the pool and they would get in my way every now and then. I hate to confess, but I was most disturbed about that, and a little pissy in my mind. Maybe God used them because I did a lot of praying. After I left that night and thought about things, I realized I overreacted a little. A lot. They were just kids, and they were just having fun. When I was their age, I am sure I was no more conscientious than them. Probably I was worse.

I didn't feel very good from the start. My left shoulder was tight, and I was not swimming nearly as fast as Monday. Doubts about swimming 10,000 straight (the plan) weren't creeping into my mind. They were flooding in. I kept plugging away, however, concentrating on finishing a 1,000 at a time. I have found when I am doing something really long that the best way to think about it, for me at least, is to ponder how far I have come, not how far there is to go.

The first 1,000 was dreadful. After the second thousand, my shoulder started loosening up. That never happens in running. Not for me anyway. In running, things go from bad to worse, but with swimming things sometimes go from bad to not too bad. Things never got good, but I just kept cruising along. One thing I did notice that surprised and disturbed me was how fatigued my legs became. I have only a very light two-beat kick. But since I have not run in about three weeks, the lower limbs began to tire to an alarming extent. Wow! I didn't expect that. If 10,000 wears them out, what will 17 miles do? I have just a few days to walk, run, and cycle some to put a little endurance back into them.

Anyway, I did the 10,000 and as I got near the end, I tried motioning to John when I swam by him, holding up fingers to let him know how close I was. He either did not get it, or did not respond. Finally, I didn't flip on what would have been the last turn so I could yell out, "Last one." When I got back to the other end of the pool I decided to do one more. John hadn't moved. I did one final lap, two over 10,000 and then stopped. John still hadn't moved.

"Get a few more while I swim out," he yelled at me.

I appreciate his effort, but this time I didn't respond. You've heard the expression, "You can stick a fork in me"?

I  was done.

Now I am going to back off. I pushed it farther and closer to the event than ever before because Cagri gave me the green light to do so, and I was insecure about my fitness. I don't think I can put anything in the tank between now and then. Maybe I can do a little for my legs, but the swimming muscles are set. I will try to get fresh without de-training and thus swim a bit more next week than I did last year. Also, I am tired, not just my muscles but all of me. I want to go to bed and sleep a week. I plan to meet John at the pool tonight, but the volume will drop, and I will do some kick sets and easy stuff.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Not Another Two?

Friday, I told John after we waded into the pool at Twin Rivers Recreation Center that I was just going to start swimming and see how I felt. After the 8,300 on Thursday, I didn't expect much, but I felt really good and thanks to the big numbers on my Garmin 910XT, a quick peek now and then as I flip-turned revealed that I was swimming faster than the day before. To make a short story long, I swam 7,200 as

6,400 in 2:07:24
600 small paddles
200 easy.

That was an encouraging swim. A few weeks ago, I had outlawed for myself back-to-back long swims because of fear of re injuring my pectoral muscle. Fear dismantled.

Saturday, I went back alone with the same intention to just start swimming and see how I felt. I swam

6,700 in 2:12:25
8 X 50 @ 1:11
600 small paddles
Total: 7,700 meters.

That made not two but three substantial swims in a row, a pretty decent training block of 23,200 meters in three days.

For the week, I got 26,578 meters but no running or walking or weightlifting.

Monday came around leaving only twelve days before Christmas the Chicot Challenge. I actually wrote that, Christmas, I suppose as a Freudian slip. If that is true (Freudian slips), it must mean I am looking forward to my big swim. I am getting a bit giddy from time to time, though I am still somewhat insecure over my fitness. I have done the best I can under the conditions I had to work with. Anyway, I told John the same thing I told him last Friday, that I was just going to listen to my body. I listened for 8,500 meters straight in 2:48:51. It was late, dark, and we were the only ones left in the pool when I stopped.

"How many ya got?" he yelled at me from the deep end.

Did I tell you he is seventy-years old? Did I tell you that he can't raise his arms because his shoulders are so bad? His physician recommends he have both shoulders totally replaced. He has had both knees replaced but refuses to do the shoulders. He is a big guy who once bench pressed 500 pounds back in the day. Now he can't put his shirt on or off by himself. I help him with that. While I swim, he treads water in the deep end, sometimes for three and four hours. I can't imagine.

"Eighty-five," I hollered back.

"Why don't ya do a few more while I swim out."

I stretched a bit but didn't even drink water. No nutrition. If you have been paying attention, over the past few weeks I have been building up the initial swim. This, the thought was, to condition my muscles to burn fat more efficiently. I seems to have been working as my slow down has been progressively getting later and later into the set. I went almost three hours without even a drink of water and felt none the worse for wear.

I put my small paddles on and did an easy 300 while John did his reverse-heads-up breast stroke from the deep end towards the walk in ramp at the shallow end. After 300, he was still only half way back. Slower than usual, I thought.

"How many ya got?" he asked when I stopped.

"Three hundred more."

"Why don't ya do another two?"

Wow. So I did.