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.