Friday, October 31, 2014

New Study

I just read an interesting scientific study that said people who sleep in on Friday morning, drink lots of coffee and hang out with cats and a weenie dog before going out on an adventure run are more likely to, 1) beat Randy Beets' butt whenever they compete, 2) irritate Randy Beets' mom, and 3) drive Randy Beets into Beetsdown Syndrome. Who knew?

Today's adventure run involves a bunch of Carroll County hills but no mystery roads. One hill is the upgrade I marked with paint a couple of months back. I painted a number every 100 meters from the bottom to the pinnacle. I run this one periodically. Usually, however, I turn off onto a gravel road at the crest of the long incline. My mind has been going up that same paved road, which if one were to continue past the gravel road, then begins a long, long descend to another creek bottom before beginning another climb to Mount Olive Baptist Church. 

After cresting the Mount Olive hill, I plan to turn around and run back to the gravel road where I will exit off the pavement and become more involved with nature. This trek will give me lots of long inclines and declines both of which put lots of unique stresses on the legs. I have the scientific study to fuel my imagination and fire my synapses as I shuffle for miles and miles and miles. I think Randy Beets will be at work. I may be just a teacher and make just a teacher's pay, but I have time to go out and play.

The week has been a good one thus far. My swimming has almost dropped by the wayside, though I did get in the pool Tuesday without a wetsuit. I didn’t take a reading, but I estimate the temp was 68. My swimming slowdown is OK because my athletic years have a structure to them and part of the plan is a rise and fall of water distance. The current focus is to work on strength and running.
On the cat front, Luvie has been extremely affectionate since I came back from Tennessee. I like that. Whenever I recline on the bed, he hops up and gets close. After he does, it is extremely difficult for me to disturb him, and sometimes he holds me hostage for hours. Life is tough.
On the dog front, Lucky has been doing well considering all that is wrong with her. She has cancer and at one point it looked like she might not survive the week. Dr. Andy has her on some steroids, vitamins, and anti-inflammatories. She has bounced back a bit, but her age and disease has left her a shell of what she once was. John has been coming over twice a week and working out with me in the backyard gym. She loves him because he pets her and talks to her and makes her feel special.
Monday I lifted with John and then did a ten-mile run after work. Tuesday I was in the cool pool water for 2,500 meters straight. I also ran 4.25 miles after drying off and changing clothes. Wednesday I once more lifted with John and ran after night class. This week my night run was 5.33 miles and included some multi-pacing. Thursday it was a short run on turn rows north of town.
I spent a good bit of the week trying to come up with a Friday adventure run. I had several ideas, but I was searching for one that made me nervous, excited, that kept me awake at night. I didn't find that one. What my mind kept coming back to, however, was those hills over on the highway. I have never run all of them. Today is the day. Now my coffee cup is almost empty. If I could just get this cat to wake up.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Oct 19-25

It was a good week improved by Mississippi State beating Kentucky on the road to retain it's number one ranking in the AP college football poll. The Bulldogs now sit all alone atop the national standings as well as the SEC West Division. Almost every time I think about State's football season, I cry. I wonder what Dad knows. Does he get to watch from heaven? What a treat it would be if God allowed me to sit down and talk to him and break the news, to tell him about the season, to tell him about whipping three straight top ten teams like they were ugly red-headed step children. I would love to see his face when I told him we are ranked number one in the nation and have been for three straight weeks.

I have written already about parts of last week. Monday and Wednesday afternoons I lifted weights with Big John in the back yard gym. Monday night ran 9.6 miles after work and Wednesday I ran 5.22 in the dark after class. My swimming fell off the charts with only 4,232 total meters in two short swims, one in the pool and one in the pond. The pond swim was in a wetsuit with the water all the way down to 68 degrees. For me, that temperature is life threatening. For Shawn C. Turner that temperature is a life threatening, but for a different reason. It threatens to freeze me and fry Shawn. What can I say? I am no longer delusional about my cold water abilities.

Friday I slipped out for a 16.38 miles run/walk, and Saturday I had a lot of things planned but all I did was a short run. There was simply too much football on TV to be very productive.

For the week, I
ran 33.4 miles.
swam 4,232 meters,
rode six miles on the bike,
walked 5.74 miles, and
lifted weights two times.

I am thinking very seriously about the Mississippi Trail 50. If I am going to do this, I need to pull it off before I get too much older. The last time I was there, in 2009, I tapped out after only 33.4 of a possible 50 miles. I didn't get my belt buckle. I want that buckle. I want to wear it to work, to church, to eat with my wife. OK, that does it. I'm in. Tonight, after class, I officially open my training camp for the Trail 50. My wardrobe needs an upgrade and a buckle is the kind of accessorizing that could make my wife proud.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Friday Run

Occasionally one of you will comment on a blog post of mine. I always try to respond but guess what? I can't do it. I can't comment on my own blog What?!?!? Something weird happens when I make the attempt. A pop-up box fills the computer screen and then disappears. Just thought I would let you know.

Friday I took my wife's dad to the VA in Jackson, so that knocked me out of an adventure run. I did, however, have time after I arrived home to do a long one out Money Road. Since Money Road is always there and since it becomes a little boring sometimes, of late I have been driving to roads I haven't been on in years and taking some nice ambles, enjoying myself wonderfully. To my surprise, my Friday afternoon run was a real treat.

The delta can be a dreary depressing piece of real estate that can try one's ability to have a positive outlook on life. It is pancake flat, mostly agricultural, and totally lacking in outstanding features. During the winter, the few trees are dead and the fields, devoid of their crops are just vast stretches of mud. Add to that an overcast sky, I often become moody, emotional, disturbed even.

The delta is, however, pretty two times per year. I find it has a visceral charm in the spring and again in the fall. In the spring, the freshly green trees on the horizon frame a flurry of activity in the unplanted fields as tractors are breaking fresh ground, fertilizing, pulling planters. I always want to take my shoes off and run in the newly turned dirt. In the fall, there once more is a furious frenzy as tractors, combines, and big trucks race to harvest the corn, soybeans, and cotton and transport the crops to market before the rains begin. The wide open spaces of freshly harvested fields surrounded by patches of wood displaying the first hints of autumn color always transport me back, back to my youth, to hunting with my dad, to football season, to steaks cooked on a grill in the backyard. At times like this I don't think, I just let that mood wash over me, and I try to let it totally engulf me like water does when I swim.

I shuffled north Firday afternoon over the Tallahatchie Bridge and onto that road I run and write about so often. Immediately I left the pavement and ran the turnrow where the footing was soft but smooth and I was safely out of the traffic. When a ditch forced me to abandon the dirt and return to the asphalt, I heard an automobile slowing drastically as it approached from my rear. Remember how nervous that makes me?

"Excuse me, Sir," I heard a female voice say. "Can you tell us how to get back to Highway 35?"

Pilgrims I presumed, though I asked no questions. I meet them often on this road. Two middle-aged women, this time, needed directions.

"Straight," I pointed north. This road goes to Highway 8. Turn right on 8 and about ten miles later you will come to Highway 35."

I ran a little over three miles (3.07 to be exact) and walked a little over one (1.01) for each cycle. The goal was to go a bit over eight miles out and then back. Now, I am starting to build some distance. Something new happened on this shuffle, something that I don't remember happening before. It happens in the water often but never on the road. My legs felt tired and sluggish on the first cycle. I wondered if I should not turn around and try again the next day. On the second cycle, however, my paced dropped, my energy soared, and my enjoyment went off the charts. I can't explain that.

I turned around after two cycles, the second being a great one, the third a good one, and the fourth was not miserable. I never bonked although I drank only water and consumed a mere two gels. I did slow on cycle four but finished with 16.38 miles, tired but feeling good. I went inside, took a bath and petted the cats. Then I waited for my sweet wife to come home.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Gaining Belly, Losing Mind

Restaurant food is designed to kill you. Slowly. It makes you fat and slowly destroys you. It is simply impossible to eat out often and keep your weight under control. I can’t at least, and I have proved that over and over, but my latest episode with this phenomenon has me really rattled.

I weigh every morning so I can detect patterns between what I eat and what I weigh. Last night my wife and I met some friends at the Crystal Grill one of Greenwood’s landmark eateries. I swam first to create a calorie deficit. The water at Twin Rivers was 72 degrees. That is starting to get a little chilly for me. Then at the Crystal, I ordered a grilled salmon salad and drank water. After I got home, knowing how restaurant food is, I went out for a 4.2 mile run followed by a .25 mile walk to try to burn off some of that salad. Did I mention the dressing was a light vinaigrette sort of thing? Did I mention I ate a salad? Did I mention the salmon was grilled?
This morning my weight was:

a)   The same as the day before

b)   Less than the day before

c)   More than the day before by just a little bit
The answer is

d) more than the day before by 1.4 pounds!

I have conducted similar experiments dozens of times in the past. The scales always the scream the same song the next morning. If I eat at a restaurant, no matter how much I exercise and no matter what I eat or how little of it, the result is always the same: I gain weight and it takes several days for that weight to leave my body.

Several days of hard work.
Just thought I’d let you know why you’re fat. You’re welcome.

Back to the training front. Monday I rode my bicycle to work, lifted weights in the afternoon and after night class I ran 9.6 miles. Tuesday I swam 2,800 meters, ran 4.2 miles, rode my bike to school, walked .26 miles, ate a salad, and gained 1.4 pounds. Congratulations to myself.

Wednesday was not one of my better ones at work. My frustration with one of my Comp II class has been growing. They are struggling to write one paragraph every three and a half days. Most of them are. Others are bored out of their minds. It seems like I have two extremes of students: bright and not so much.

I lifted weights in the afternoon and went out for a 5.22 mile run after night class. By Thursday morning I had only lost .8 of the weight gain from Tuesday night. To say I am a little pissed would be a huge understatement. I need my long adventure run which I probably can’t do Friday because I have to take a family member for a surgery in Jackson. Maybe I can do it that afternoon. If not, I will have to settle for an out-and-back Saturday on Money Road.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


by Jay Unver
Promising “swift and decisive action” in the latest Zane Hodge/Randy Beets controversy, Dr. Timothy Nomann, President of Big ASS Endurance, delivered on his vow this morning. At a press conference held in the Big ASS Training Center in downtown Lehrton, Mississippi, Nomann announced his findings and decision following the recent controversial world championship swim at Chattanooga, Tennessee won by Hodge against a no-show Beets.
Beets, through his lawyer Dave Elmore, had accused Hodge of poisoning the tall guy who claimed to be unable to swim because of illness the morning of the event. Hodge had in turn asked the Association to discipline Beets due to “breach of competition.” For the past week, Nomann has investigated the matter by conducting interviews, reviewing security footage from a Chattanooga ice-cream shop, and taking sworn testimony from a sports psychologist and a prominent MD.
In view of the facts uncovered, Nomann precluded the necessity of a trial for either swimmer. He found there was “no credible evidence to support the contention that Hodge poisoned Beets.” Further, he added, “Beets was obviously sick according to the testimony of a leading sports psychologist and a well-respected MD.” Both Drs. Johnny Duggan, the sports psychologist, and Tory Nemo, a local physician, agreed the Randy Beets is suffering from a condition known as “Beetsdown Syndrome.”
Reporters immediately seized upon the Beetsdown Syndrome diagnosis. “Is this a new disease?” one reporter asked.

“Condition,” Dr. Nemo answered. “No, the condition has been observable for decades. What is new is the name. For the first time, this condition has been named. Dr. Duggan and I are co-authoring an article on this that will appear in next month’s Journal of Big ASS Athletics.”
“This name, obviously it comes from Randy Beets,” another reported piped in.
“Yes,” Dr. Duggan responded. “Randy Beets is the quintessential example of a constellation of symptoms that have been observable in athletics for decades.”
“And these are?”
“Tightness in the muscles of the neck, trapezius, and deltoids, nausea, vomiting, Mesenteric adentis, performance anxiety, depression, bed-wetting, chapped hinder parts, hemorrhoids, and general wimpiness,” Dr. Nemo answered.
“You called this a ‘condition.’ Is this a real illness or is it all in Randy’s head?” a reporter in the back yelled out.
“It is psychosomatic in origin, but real in the body. In other words, though it begins with the mind, the stress is so great that the body really becomes sick.”
“So how did Randy get this?” another reporter yelled out.
“Competition with Zane Hodge. Being hag-prone. Having 110 Beetsdown pictures posted on the Facebook page ‘Vicarious Butt Beets.’ Getting his butt kicked at Swim the Suck three years in a row. We think the tipping point came at the 2013 Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon when Hodge defeated Randy Beets’ entire relay team. Then the twenty-five Beetsdown pictures posted on Facebook the day before the swim was overwhelming. Beets just couldn’t endure.”
“Is there hope for Randy Beets, or is he finished as a Big ASS athlete?” I asked knowing the readers of the Lehrton Gazette would want to know this.
“Absolutely not. He is finished,” Dr. Nemo said with conviction.
“This is where Dr. Nemo and I disagree,” Dr. Duggan interrupted. “I think there is some hope. Mississippi State football had the then unnamed Beetsdown Syndrome for decades. Today they are the number one ranked team in college football. They have been cured.”
“Should Zane Hodge feel responsible for Randy’s reduced health? Can and should Big ASS Endurance discipline Hodge for his role in destroying Beets?” a fat reporter with coffee stains on his yellow shirt asked.
“As health care professionals, discipline is beyond our purview,” Nemo responded. “That is for Dr. Nomann to decide. Our responsibility here was simply to examine Beets and diagnose his condition. We have done that. As for how Mr. Hodge feels or should feel, he is here, why not ask him.”
At this point, all eyes in the room shifted to Hodge who sat on the back row with a huge grin on his face.
“Obviously you think this is funny,” the reporter nearest him blurted out.
“No,” Hodge answered. “I don’t. Really I feel very bad for Beets.” But at that precise moment he broke into laughter, and not just any laughter but a deep belly laugh that had him doubled over, holding his midsection, and unable to breath. Red-faced he stomped the floor with his right foot and almost fell out of his chair. “It’s not funny,” he gasped and then laughed so hard he almost passed out.
The room slowly emptied of reporters leaving Hodge alone in his laughter. “It’s not funny,” he kept saying while stomping his foot and laughing and laughing and laughing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Week of 10/13-10/19

For a week following a big race, the last seven days were really nice. I only swam two times for a total of 7,300 meters, but the outdoor pool is still open and Ms Debbie says she is leaving up until November 1. Yehaa. John has dropped out of the swimming, but that is OK. We, John and I, start lifting weights today at Plate City Gym. Speaking of Plate City, sometime back I promised a blog post on it. I keep forgetting. With company coming, however, I will snap some photos and write a post on what I think is the best backyard gym in the country.

With the cooling weather and the open water season over, I plan on ramping up my running. I am getting the itch for the Mississippi Trail 50, since we have some unfinished business together, me and that race. A few years back, I registered for the 50-miler but had to tap out after only 33.4 due to going in injured. I did get credit for a 50K finish, but I want that belt buckle all 50-mile finishers get. All I have to do is pay an entry fee, train like an Olympian for several months, travel to south Mississippi, and run 50 miles. If I do all that, I can get a belt buckle. Sure beats shopping at Walmart.

As stated earlier, today I resume my weight training, the major goal of which is to prepare for next year's Beetsdown. I work yearound to defeat Randy Beets, and I am refusing to let his no-show at the Suck take the shine off my win. I did a little weight work last week just to get my body ready to go. Besides the weights, I hope to get in the water at least three times, run a lot, and eat better. I am still a bit overweight from my disastrous journey run of last December. But now I have some goals and I am as excited about training as I have ever been. Bad news for Randy Beets.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Friday Adventure Run

I took my Friday adventure run. After driving a few miles from home, I parked at the conjuncture of two gravel paths known as Top of the Hill Road and Bottom of the Hill Road. As their names indicate, one climbs out of the Delta and follows the ridge line on the edge of the Loess Bluffs. The other winds around the foot of the hills. They not only connect where I parked but on the other end as well making a loop if I followed them all the way around.

The plan was to start up the hill and since I didn't know how long the loop was, I would turn back after around seven and a half miles if I hadn't made it to Bottom of the Hill Road, fifteen being my limit for the day. I hadn't been out here in over a decade so I was pretty excited as I started my sweaty ascent into the past. I always feel like I am running out of one world into another and out of the present into the past when I run from the Delta into the hills. I can't escape that feeling nor do I want to.
That little flat line on the horizon is the delta.
I seemed to climb forever, the hill proper being about three-fourths of a mile but after each peak the road would flatten only to begin another rise. I stopped from time to time just to look at some of the overviews of the flat land below. I never stop when I run the delta unless it is to pee or to pick something up like a rock or a spoon or a penny.

There was no traffic, few house, and after the hard climb the October nip kept me comfortable and happy. I settled into a run three miles/walk one cycle. I had made one three mile run and was walking when I saw the road barricaded up ahead.

I saw a man outside his trailer house, on his little piece of heaven on earth.

"Hey. Can I get through on foot?" I asked.

"Yeah," he responded. "Just be careful where you step."

One of the headstones in the cemeatry in the woods.
I interpreted that to mean the road was washed out. What I found instead was a road being paved and it had a lot of oil on it. It was not only "a road" but was indeed "the road," valley hill, the name we give to every single street that rises from the delta into the hills. This was valley hill on the other side of the one I had run up earlier, and I could remember from days past that at the foot of this monster I would find Bottom of the Hill Road. The monster was .8 miles long and I can't wait till they finish paving it because I am coming back to run up it.

Down below I did indeed find my road and started the direct jog back towards the truck. But I now knew the loop was not going to be long enough. I wanted fifteen. Where would I find the difference? As I pondered this, I stumbled upon an old cemetery at the foot of the hills. Maybe there was once grass there but now there is only old tombstones in the leaves and trees.

Trotting along the Bottom of the Hill Road I realized I am going to have to start eating a second breakfast. The bowl of cereal I had was long gone and what replaced it was weakness and hunger. I had two Honey Buns in my pack, and on my second walk break I ate one. "More calories," my body was screaming. "More calories," but I saved one snack for later.

Shortly after the cemetery and as I was approaching my truck, I saw it. The levee. A long levee with a gravel road on top left the base of the hills and protected the farmland from the ravages of the creek it inclosed. This is the extra distance I needed. I hopped up on the levee and began shuffling into the unkown. The sense of space was stunning as the land on my right flowed out into an awesome scene of open expanse, of unyeilding distance. Surpisingly, the levee ran a little over two miles and just ended. It just stopped. I stopped, looked, and wondered why. Then I shufffled back to my truck and finished with 14.67 total foot miles: 11.53 running, and 3.14 walking.

Before I had the truck door unlocked, my mind was already searching for the next adventure.
My view form the levee road.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Return to Normalacy

With the Beetsdown campaign over and the Swim the Suck completed, life has started to return to normal.

Sort of.

There is still the little matter of a Big ASS investigation that is ongoing right now. I'm not worried about that, though, because I did not poison Randy Beets so how could anyone prove I did?

By normal, maybe what I really mean is the end of my open water season has come, and my yardage is dropping like the stock market. Furthermore, my yard grass is slowing its growth rate. That means my athletic focus is shifting back to running and weightlifting.

Monday was cool and rainy so I shuffled on the treadmill for 2.54. By the way, that is the only time I run on a treadmill-- when it is raining and too cool to get wet. If it is warm enough I will run in a downpour, but from here to next summer rain means at least some pretty cool wind it you are wet and partially disrobed.

Tuesday I went to Twin Rivers. The water was 75, but John has no will for cool water swimming this fall. Last year I couldn't keep him out of the pool, and we swam down into the 60s before Miss Debbie drained our concrete pond. Seems one of his doctors warned him about cold water swimming and now he just won't do it. I have never been to medical school, but I would bet the house that no physician in the country ever took a course or even had a single lecture on cold water swimming. In short, I am saying doctors weigh in on things they know nothing about. At least this one did. I warmed up with 1,000 and then swam 4 X 600 @ 13:10 on a new countdown pattern of 150/50. This was a nice set that I will use next year in my Beetsdown training. After the pool I ran 2.05 miles and did some light weightlifting, just trying to prepare my body for resuming strength work next week.
David Stroud

Wednesday was the MDCC 5K. I have missed this the last couple of times because of injuries. I recruited some of my students to make the trip from Greenwood to Moorhead. We met at the coliseum and Chief Manuel bused us out Macon Lake Road where he dumped us and we ran back to the flag pole. If I had not twisted my students' arms, I would have won, but instead I came in second behind David Stroud of my Monday/Wednesday Comp I class. My pace dipped from my last 10K tempo that had me a bit disturbed. I know, it was only a 5K, but typically there is only thirty seconds or fewer between 10K and 5K race pace. I averaged 8:10 and that made me feel like at least I am on the road back to better running. At my last 10K, I averaged 9:13 per mile and that had me so upset I had a long sit-down, self-bashing and loathing/planning session.

Thursday I was back in the Twin Rivers pool and the water had only dropped two degrees. I expected a more drastic plument since we had a forty-somthing night. Usually a fifty-something night will take two degrees away so I was expecting three or more. There is a huge differrence between 75 and 73. Seventy-three is still nice, but I can't stand around at all or I get cold quickly. After warming up with 1,200, I did 22 X 100 @ 2:00 and then 10 X 50 @ 1:00 with small paddles.

It is now Friday morning and I have a dog in the bed with me, but Luvie and Baby Kitty are attempting to destroy the house. If they get up here, the day may be lost. But what I am thinking now is a long adventure run in the hills. There is a road not too far from here that I haven't been on in years. Think I'll ride over and park the truck and see what I can find.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Controversy Swirls

Controversy Swirls amid Beetsdown
By Jay Unver
(Lehrton, Mississippi) Accusations flew like bats from an Arizona cave in the aftermath of what many are calling the most bizarre Swim the Suck in history. Some say Zane Hodge cheated; some say Randy Beets “No mas[ed]” in the worst way. Whatever happened, Big ASS Endurance and Dave Elmore, legal counsel for Randy Beets, vow to find “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
“I’m trembling in fear,” a testy Hodge spouted Monday morning as a reporter for the Lehrton Gazette asked him to comment on the controversy. He said nothing else as he walked rapidly into the Greenwood Center of Mississippi Delta Community College where he works. Campus police stopped a bevy of reporters, which included me, from tracking him inside to ask more questions.
This morning also, Dr. Timothy Nomann held a press conference at the Big ASS Training Center in downtown Lehrton, MS and vowed to launch “a full scale investigation. We will,” he added, “leave no piece of pizza unturned.” Some said the pizza reference was an allusion to Beets’ unconventional race feeding habits. Nomann went on the vow to “punish any wrongdoing to the fullest extent of the Association’s power.”
The long awaited rematch between the Association of Sports Swimmers’ two superstars, Zane Hodge and Randy Beets, ended Saturday, October 11th in Chattanooga, Tennessee in a way that left everyone unhappy and some scratching their heads.

A stunned Hodge before the start and
after getting the news of no Beets.

“Bizarre,” was all Justine Nunnery, an ASS Swimmer himself and pilot for Hodge during the world championship swim, would say.
This year’s Suck featured a hundred swimmers, including several national champions, one Olympian, and the extremely talented and attractive Lexie Kelly. But it was the Hodge/Beets rivalry that had the Friday night pre-race banquet buzzing with excitement.
Beets and his pilot Robin Bond arrived first at Chattanooga Outdoors in downtown Chattanooga and when Hodge and Nunnery appeared, a palpable tension filled the already bustling room. The two glowered at one another throughout the program and supper. The presentation from Race Director Karah Nazor, featured Hodge’s and Beets’ profile pictures, their athletic resumes, and a word about the rivalry.
Friday night was stormy and race morning arrived with rain and a threat that the swim might be cancelled. However, after the athletes were bused to the start at Suck Creek Boat Ramp, the skies cleared, the sun came out, and a festive mood struck the athletes and their pilots.
Hodge prepared for battle by taping his nose, spitting down his goggles, and adjusting his jammer while keeping one eye out for Beets.
“Where is he?” I overheard him asking Nunnery.
“I haven’t seen him,” Justin answered.
A few minutes later, Justin texted the rival only to receive word that the tall guy would be a no show.
“Are you %@#*ing kidding me?!” Hodge screamed when given the news. “He can’t do that to me! That @!$# @$$ &!^@ !**@($*$!!!”
A furious red-faced Hodge waded into the water to cool off.
“You can’t blame him if he’s sick,” I heard Nunnery say to Hodge.
“YReally? You think he’s sick?” Hodge yelled back. “He’s sick of getting beat.”
Hodge’s wrath was unspent four hours and twenty minutes later when he climbed out of the river at Living Waters. “That #@$%^ *!#@ ^&$# Beets!! I hope he gets suspended for live!”
Race Director, Karah Nazor, approached Hodge at the finish.
“Where is Randy?” she asked.
“I don’t *@#$ing know. But if you find him, tell me because I want to whip his @$$!”
Upon returning to Mississippi, Hodge immediately filed formal charges with Big ASS Endurance against Beets for “breach of competition.” Elmore, on behalf of Beets, filed counter charges of cheating and tampering, claiming Hodge “Poisoned Beets the night before.”
At stake for the two swimmers are a world title for Hodge and another possible suspension for the embattled Beets.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Short Report

I plan a more full write up about my experience at the 2014 Swim the Suck. For now I will only give a summary treatment of the week and the race. For the week, I

biked 5 miles
swam 27,625 meters,
and ran 21.08 miles.

With Lexie Kelly, the women's winner,
just before the start at the
Suck Creek Boat Ramp.
The Suck was great, and every year it is bigger and better. Karah Nazor, the Race Director, has become a star in the sport, and gaining a spot in her race has become a coveted goal of open water swimmers everywhere. As usual, I met some cool people, saw some gorgeous country, and had a wild swim in a cold river turning in my best time by 19 minutes. Wow. All that training paid off. At fifty-eight years of age, I set yet another athletic personal best. Justin Nunnery did a extraordinary job as my pilot, and he even managed to push me over the final few miles.

I had epic battles with swimmers I didn't know. The one battle I wanted, I sought, I prepared for, however, didn't materialize because Randy Beets was a no show, and I still don't know the whole story on that. I even wondered how I could or would swim when I found out only minutes before the start that Randy wasn't coming. My uncertainties, however, disappeared early in the race when a young woman swam up and challenged me. She came up on my left and seemed very determined to pass. I resisted. Maybe she could see the gray beard and that drove her. I don't know, but the water was clear enough that I could look at her underwater, and I noticed she was kicking very hard, like sprinting fast in the pool. Who does that?

Eventually she did pull ahead when I had to slow down due to pee problems. I had never had trouble peeing on a long swim. I do have to slow down and relax, but for some reason my bladder began to fill to the point of pain, and I just couldn't get it out. Finally, I stopped completely and treaded water. When that didn't work, I rolled over on my back and then I started having some success. After that I peed another five times during the swim but never had an issue and was able to do the deed while continuing my stroke.

I fed only on ice-cream, and I fed fast. Afterward, I asked Justin if anyone fed as quickly as me. I think he would tell me if someone did. He said no one was as fast. He even related to me that he delayed one feeding by three minutes so I wouldn't be stopping when everyone else was. Most swimmers feed every thirty minutes. For this race, I went forty-five because I thought that was sufficient and on that schedule I would reduce one feed for every two I took. The idea was to beat Randy Beets, and I was looking for any edge I could get.

Randy weeping in fear the night before
our scheduled battle. It was all
too much for him.
Late in the race I was swum down and challeged by some guy who looked me in the eye every time he breathed to the right and I to the left. Another swimmer caught us both and for a while the three of us duked it out. One would pull ahead and I would push and pull even. This happened over and over and over. Justin was on my right, one of the other swimmer's pilot was on our left and another pilot was behind us. We battled for maybe a mile. I remember thinking, "This guy won't give up." I almost capitulated. Why suffer like this? I thought. Then I noticed Justin watching with interest when I breathed his direction. I pushed a little harder breathing on every stroke and even kicking a little. I began to pull away from the other guys, first a half body length, then a full body length. Encouraged, I swam harder than I thought I could without totally blowing up. Eventually they weren't in my sight anymore.

That's when Justin started challening me. "I need you to pick it up, Zane."

"What?" I thought incredulously. I had just emptied the tank.

But I gave it the old college try only to be stopped and told, "There are four swimmers up there. Catch them. Pass them."

At the Suck, you can see the finish for about a mile and a half. The four swimmers were about two hundred meters away between me and the finish. "Are you crazy?" was what I thought but didn't say. I pushed the best I could, and this was the part that wasn't fun anymore. I wanted it to be over. That big red buoy that marked the finish was only a little red dot forever and a day it seemed. I did catch one of the swimmers about a half mile from the end and then had to fight him all the way in. I got him by a second or two. The other three got away. At that point I didn't care.

I swear, endurance events make me temporarily stupid. When I climbed out, I kept looking at my watch trying to figure what my time was. I went through all the screens and couldn't understand why I couldn't find my time. Later, I suppose when some blood made it back to my brain, I saw the time in the big numbers I love my Garmin 910XT for. There the time was big as day  where it had been all along, but I hadn't recognized it. Four hours and twenty minutes, nineteen better than my best set last year. Nice.

Justin and I didn't hang around too long but headed to town to find a television. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings where we were able to munch on chicken and watch Mississippi State put a Beetsdown on Auburn. With a double Beetsdown day, we were both happy and slept well before rising the next morning to make our journey back to the flat land of Mississippi.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Suck Week

It's not that the week sucks but it's Suck week. Finally, our big event has arrived. Saturday, October 11th at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Randy Beets and I once more will battle for ten miles in the cold Tennessee River. At stake is more than bragging rights. The governing body of the Association of Sports Swimmers, Big ASS Endurance, has again named Swim the Suck as its world championship race for member swimmers. This means that by noon this Saturday, either Randy Beets or I will be a world champion.

Located in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Swim the Suck (named after Suck Creek) has become a destination event for people from around the country and world even. Two years ago Martin Strel and Penny Palfry made the trip to Tennessee. Strel, "The Big River Man," is from Slovenia, and Palfry hails from Australian. This year more celebrities will be in attendance. The lovely Lexie Kelly, a professional marathon swimmer from California, will swim as will Alex Myer, a 2012 Olympian.

The real race, however, will be between Randy Beets and me since we are fighting each other for a world title. I have beaten Beets' butt three years in a row. I am on a quest for my fourth straight Beetsdown. The pressure has grown so great that the tall Randy Beets has resorted to visiting  physicians, chiropractors, his mamma, and even church in an attempt to deal with his impending doom.

This year for the first time my son, Forrest, will not serve as my pilot. Justin Nunnery, another tall Fasttrack Fattie, who is also an athlete under contract with Big ASS Endurance, has graciously agreed to step in and pilot me. We plan to drive out of Greenwood this evening at around 6:00 p.m. and spend the night in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on the banks of the Tennessee where we will swim Friday morning. At worst, the swim will be a cool water exposure. I can use one.

With September being unusually warm, our water temps have remained high until only recently. Last week they dipped down into the low eighties. I thought that was very cold. This week they are in the 70s. Monday I recorded 73 and Wednesday my thermometer said 75. I can handle that. I expect a water temp of around 70-72. Any cooler and I could have a problem.

Monday I swam for a bit over two hours and ran for 9.55 miles. Tuesday I never made it to the pool but I did run four miles with Justin who was in town for the birth of his first grandchild. Wednesday I swam a slow and steady 1:25 and ran five miles after work. Today I have to pack and I hope take a short swim, maybe 1500 or so. I'm looking forward to the trip but I hate to leave my wife and our miss our little church Sunday. Maybe one day Penny can pilot me. That would be nice.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Penultimate Week

OK, last week I fell prey to the lies coming out of the Beets camp and let up on my training. On my swimming anyway. Running wise I had my best week of the year this last one before the big race. Beets has been cryng like a little girl about how he has an infection how his neck hurts how his shoulder locked up. I got lazy a few times and didn't swim at all. Then I thouught, "I've been played." You can't trust anyone who is over seven feet tall. That's a fact.

For some reason I don't remember, Monday I only swan 1,900. I did, however, take a 9.51 run after work and in the dark. I am still loving the darkness. I remember from years past that I always tire of it late in the winter and rejoice in the lengthening of the days. Now I am rejoicing in the lengthening of the nights.

Tuesday I took a four mile run and then went to Lake Ferguson to do a practice swim with Justin Nunnery who is replacing my son, Forrest, as my pilot for the Suck. I hate Forrest can't make the trip because for the past three years this has been a father/son thing. But Justin is a good guy and it will be nice to hang out with him. The water was warm and Justin borrowed a kayak on the lake. We only did 1.04 miles, just far enough for us to get the feel of how to work together. I think it will be OK. He knows what the goal is: Beat Randy Beets! I hope he has my back because I know Robin Bond has Randy's.

I can't remember why but my training diary says I didn't swim at all Wednesday, but I did run 4.06 miles. Thursday I swan 4,500 then got lazy and did not run after the swim. Friday I just wanted to run a road I hadn't seen in a while (See "Boys Just Want to Have Fun") so I skipped swimming altogether. I explored a Carroll County road on foot and ran 11.11 miles in addition to some walking.

Saturday was the big day with some HUGE SEC matchups in Mississippi. At half time of the State/A&M game I went out for a 3.57 mile run. Surprisingly, I had some pep in my legs and did a little over a half at my goal 10K pace for the next year's Oaks.

Normally I don't do anything on Sundays but go to church, take naps, and grade papers. However, I was feeling so bloated from way too much forced eating that I went out for a 5.36 mile shuffle in an effort to burn some calories off.

For the week,

walked 4.1 miles
rode my bike 5.0 miles
swam only 8,074 meters, and
ran 37.64 miles.

That is way too little swimming even though it is time to start backing off. The race is October 11th. It's gunna be a Beetsdown! Then I want to start training for a mrathon run and maybe an ultra.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy as a Dead Pig in the Sunshine

Darn tootin’! How can I not be? Happy. Ecstatic. Walking on air. Fist pumping.
You need some background to understand.
I got my college degree from Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi, but from the time of my youth I was raised to pull for Mississippi State. My dad graduated there in 1950 and as recently as last September—he passed in November—we watched a State game together, and he pitched fits of unbelievable violence and ferocity as State went down to LSU. Again. I have video evidence of this. He never got used to it. He never quite believing. He never stopped watching. His passion for his school never dimmed in the least, age and time, and losing seasons could not rust it out. My mother never got used to it either. She would lock herself in her bedroom when a State game was on TV to get away from Dad’s outbursts.
In Mississippi, we are taught from our youths about the age of accountability, that age, around twelve, when allegedly you become mature enough to answer to God. We also have the age of decision. If you are from out of state, or if your parents didn’t go to college, you have to make a decision to pull Mississippi State (State) or the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss, aka “the school up North”). That’s just the way things are around here. In Mississippi a mixed marriage is when a State and Ole Miss fan marry. It is very rare, extremely shocking, and it almost never works.
I can remember as a boy when my dad and I would squirrel hunt in Carroll County and then cut wood afterwards. The pickup truck would be parked on a ridge and a radio was always on a stump tuned in to Mississippi State playing whomever. While Dad cut I loaded. Dad would fit and cuss and throw things, and when I wasn’t terrified, I tried hard not to laugh. We, State, almost always lost. It was tough but somehow he engrained it into me that my lot in life was to suffer vicariously for Mississippi State, to be faithful, to hope against hope that we could win a game.
As a program in a big time conference, we have had little success. As a young boy, I didn’t know anyone at school who was a State fan. The biggest game of the year, the Egg Bowl, was between Mississippi’s two SEC schools, and Ole Miss always won. Their fans learned early how to be obnoxious. I always said, “Wait till next year.” Next year only started coming with the arrival of Dan Mullin as our football coach. Since Mullin’s arrival, we have won four of the last five Egg Bowls.
Not only has everyone we ever played beaten us like a drum, but even when we had a little talent, we refused to win football games. We beat ourselves and that is the part that was the toughest to take as a fan. Once, on national TV, we marched to ball backwards the length of the field. I exaggerate not. We went from first and goal to punting out of our own endzone in one wrong-way drive. That was typical. We did stuff like that with personal fouls and fumbles and negative plays. For half a decade, we were the most penalized team in the nation and our coach, Jackie Sherrill, said, “It’s not a problem.” It was sickening and the after effects linger years later. Whenever we get a lead I think, where are the personal fouls? Why don’t we throw the ball to the defense and then not tackle him so he can run it back for a touchdown? Like Pavlov’s dog, we have been conditioned for defeat.
I became so disgusted so many times that I vowed to divorce myself from them, to pull for anyone but them. But it was just too deeply seeped inside me from a lifetime of rooting for a loser, of being in a State family.
That is one reason why, when someone on Facebook recently called State supporters “fair weather fans,” I was literally mad enough to fight. I would have struck and punched and kicked if the opportunity had arisen. No one my age who is a State fan can possibly be a fair weather fan. That is an utter impossibility. We who pull for State are loyal. We have suffered. We have endured.
Saturday, October 4, 2014, was the biggest football day in our State’s illustrious history. That was not my assessment but the judgment of countless people whose job it is to cover college football. Undefeated and nationally ranked Alabama, (number three) was coming to Oxford (the school up North) to face undefeated and 11th ranked Ole Miss. College Game Day was in Oxford for its first trip ever to the Magnolia State. Also SEC Nation was in Starkville, the home of the Dogs, to cover undefeated Texas A & M’s (ranked 6th) showdown with undefeated and 12th ranked Mississippi State.
The whole week not only SEC fans and commentators but the national sports media was calling it the biggest football weekend in the state’s history. These four teams, all nationally ranked, all compete in what undoubtably is the nation’s toughest division of its toughest conference, the SEC West. This was the weekend that would tell if Ole Miss (who has had some success in the past) and State (who has had very limited football success) were for real or just hype.
Also, you need to keep in mind that State and Ole Miss are in a state that has a total population of only two and a half million people. We compete against Alabama who has a much larger population and has won numerous national championships, and LSU who has won a few titles themselves. These high profile programs recruit in our state for a limited talent pool and can get virtually whomever they want from their own states. Alabama’s football budget is larger than State’s and Ole Miss’ combined. Their facilities are better, their reputations are better, their appeal to young players is better. Although Mississippi’s SEC schools have been trending upward, to break through and become real contenders in the SEC, we have to beat people like Alabama, LSU, A & M, Auburn, and Georgia, all historically football powerhouses.
We did it.
First, State put a beatdown on A & M just one week after going to Shreveport and whuppin LSU. They call LSU’s stadium “Death Valley” because, as they say, “It is the place where dreams come to die.” Usually dreams do die there. Very, very few teams go in there and win. State did it, and we did it big time. Then we whupped them Aggies like they stole our bulldog or something. It was an impressive victory, a dominant one.
After State did its thing, Ole Miss hosted Alabama and whipped them. The game was close and came down to the wire, but they won. Wow. It has never been like this before. Now Ole Miss and Mississippi State are tied for the number three ranking in the AP Poll. Awesome.
Last week, College Game Day made its first ever trip to Mississippi by going to Oxford to cover the Alabama game. Next week they make their second trip to Mississippi. Guess where? You got it. They are going to Starkville the home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Auburn Tigers, rated number two in the AP, are coming to town. I am nervous; Auburn is good; but we are good enough to win.
It is a good time for Mississippi football, and it’s finally fun to be a Bulldog fan. I wish Dad was here to see this. He would be so happy. He would have pitched some fits but not out of anger and frustration but out of joy and elation.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sometimes I Wonder

The climb up Malmaison Road
It was a perfect day for running or at least as perfect as a day can get this time of year. The clouds that brought last night's rain were clearing fast and although the air was still humid, the forecast and expectation were of dryer, runner-friendlier air moving in before the run would end.
I locked my truck on Malmaison Road and began shuffling towards the Carroll County Hills at an embarrassingly lazy 10:38 that morning. Within twenty minutes I was climbing out of the flat delta into the loess bluffs of what we here call "the hills." The plan was far from ambitious. I just wanted to go a bit over ten miles, and since "long" and "fast" and "hard" and "easy" are relative terms, this would be my first "long" run in a long time, since last December when I stress-fractured myself in a foolish but fun effort to run from home to Winona. Fun it was before the pain started.

The road bed was damp but not wet and the moisture made for softer footfalls. Perfect. My legs felt flat, however, and I seemed unfit as my already turtle pace slowed to a pathetic 12:00 minute mile while I climbed the big hill, the one that runs out of the flatlands and into the bluffs above. Stopping a couple of times, I snapped pictures of the view from my lofty position overlooking the flat farmland below. Soon the delta was gone, and all that was left was a lonely gravel road. The best kind. The kind I like.

My company for the run.
I drove away from home that morning wondering what sights and sounds would great me, accompany me on my journey. All I heard, however, were crickets and tree frogs. Although it was daytime and sunny, it sounded like a Southern summer night. Not a problem. I never heard a bird, a chattering squirrel, or a hawk that whole day. Not a crow or a dog or a deer, though I did once see two deer slink silently across the road ahead of me.
I took walk breaks approximately after every 2.5 miles of shuffling. There was almost no traffic out and the farther I went up the road the fewer the houses were. My only company, besides the trees and my thoughts, were some horses who seemed to find me a curiosity.

If those walls could talk.
It had been several years since I went this far up this road and it was almost as good as seeing it for the first time. I ran and walked a bit over six miles one way. Not knowing how far it was to Highway 35, I decided to turn around and head back. There were a couple of side roads I was interested in possibly shuffling on a bit on the way back. On one of the side roads I stumbled upon an old home place. I couldn't help but wonder about the lives lived there. We are only a generation away from people who won a living off the land in these hills. My dad was one of those and any hint of the old way reminds me of him.

A glimpse of the delta below.
At that old home place, I stopped and snapped a photo and became reflective. I wanted to walk up on the property and look around, but people don't take to kindly to trespassers anymore. I can still remember, when I was a young man, talking to old timers who made their living on small farms in these hills. I ran across these people on my job, back when I was a termite man and went everywhere checking and treating houses. That's the one thing I miss about that job: I rambled and met people and found roads. I have always loved roads. One house I went to was built by its inhabitants. The foundation was a series of stones quarried off the land and the beams under the house were ax-hewn, cut off the land by the old man back in the day. Their water came from a well he dug himself, with a shovel on top of a hill behind their house. They raised kids who got educated and moved to town. We call it progress. Sometimes I wonder.

When I made my way down the big hill, I got a glimpse of the delta below. It was impressive from my height and the picture here doesn't do it justice. I wondered also about the people who came here, to the delta when it was in its primeval state. What mosquitoes and snakes they must have found. What trees. What game. Now the land is tame and safe and sometimes dull.

I made it back to the truck with a little over 13 total miles on my legs. The running portion was 11.11. I fixed a recovery shake and drove away. But I didn't go home until I had driven up the hill I had just run and motored a few miles more down one of those side roads. I had to. They make me wonder.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Boys Just Wanna Have Fun

This morning I did something I never do anymore. I slept in. Until 7:00 o'clock.

No, I'm not a morning person. Far from it. But Fri day is My day and I tend to rise with my wife, who has to work- hee hee- and begin the joys of playing with the cats, drinking coffee, and planning the day. And blog. Often I blog.

2w3eghtf9oi0p  Baby Kitty just walked across my key pad.

I need another cup of coffee. Hydration. I  have plans, big plans.

I made them last night, the plans, and they perfectly illustrate the tension I have been living with for years now. Remember my sob story after the Oaks? I need to work on speed all year and come back next time with a faster 10K. I also need to be working on my bike because I have the same kind of come-to-Jesus meeting with myself after the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon every year. But what I almost always do is capitulate to pleasure in place of interval training.

I would be well served to go out and hammer myself with a vV02 max session. Instead, I hatched the plot to drive my truck to Malaison Road and take a long, slow, run just for fun. No time or distance goals just shuffle along and listen to the birds sing if I can hear over the huffs and pantings of my middle-aged lungs. Malmaison Road is a gravel thing that peels off Highway 7 just north of Greenwood and runs into Carroll County, up the hill, and on to Highway 35. Once it was the address of Greenwood Leflore's home, Malmaison, hence the name. Leflore was the last chief of the Choctaws, my people, who, after selling his people off to Oklahoma and a little stroll called the Trail of Tears, bequethed to the town and county its name .

Allegedly I had an ancestor who was a beneficiary of Leflore's treaty making and took the trip out West. He, I am told, could pass, and after surviving the Trail walked back to Mississippi and married a white woman. I also had a great-great grandfather who was abandoned in Utah, and although he was only a boy of twelve, he walked back to Mississippi only to be abandoned again. An uncle of mine did the Bataan Death March. This long slow distance stuff is in my genes. Literally.

The amazing thing is how little I have used this road. It is a jewel and only seven miles from my driveway. A couple of years back, I started driving out there, parking by a church, and running the road on afternoons after school. Then, for reasons unknown to myself even, I stopped. Last night, I had that restlessness inside. It strikes every now and then and when it does, I have to do something. I have to come up with a plan. I thought and thought and thought trying to come up with some kind of mildly adventurous run. Several possibilities passed through my thoughts, but I settled on Malaison. I want to shuffle out of Leflore County, up the hill and just go until I get tired. Then I will turn around and shuffle back to my truck.

What this run will accomplish is to add a little to my low-end endurance but it will do nothing to add the my 5K or 10 K speed. Neither will it aid my efforts at next year's Heart O' Dixie Triathlon or even help me in my Swim the Suck race against Randy Beets, which is coming up in only a week. It will, however, help me have fun, and I think that is important. I suppose that is my philosophy of exercise: fun. If one is having fun, one is continuing. If one is to achieve health, in part through exercise, one must have continue. I will only torture myself for so long before I find a way to have some fun.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Three Pool PRs

I finished out the week of 9/21-9/27 with some major Beetsdown training that included three pool PRs. Remember just a few posts ago I was lamenting my lost youth when it comes to running. Probably one reason I focus on swimming so much now is I am still improving at it. At my age, to get better at anything athletic gives me a real charge. Bad news for Randy Beets. But since it is so late in the week, let me begin at the beginning.

Monday, John and I went to Twin Rivers. The water has begun its Fall cool down and was 84 degrees, warm enough most likely to kill Shawn C. Turner but decidedly cooler for us. I swam

5 X 400 @ 9:00
3 X 300 @ 6:45
2 X 150 @ 3:1total: 4,200 meters.

Tuesday I arrived at the pool after a 9.22 mile run and the water was 82. I struggled through 4,800 meters. That much running always kills my swim. I cramp and have low energy. Wednesday the water was even cooler at 81 and for some reason, which I have already forgotten, I only swam 2,500.

Thursday, however, the water was still 81 and fireworks began. They went like this:

400 FT 6:44.31
200 easy
300 FT 4:55.83 (a PR!)
200 easy
200 FT 3:14.91
200 easy
150 FT 2:26.51
200 easy
100 FT 1:34.31
200 easy
50 FT 44.56
500 easy
total: 4,100

Friday, after a day of quality, I went back with the idea of going long and easy. The water was all the way down to 80. John and I waded in about 12:00 pm, and I started a straight swim that lasted four hours and twelve minutes. I did 13,000 meters with no nutrition, not even water. This was my longest pool swim ever, hence a second PR. The first 10,000 also was a personal best at 3:12:26. I didn't get my 5K split, which no doubt would have resulted in a fourth PR.

Saturday I ran 6.16 miles in the morning and lifted weights in the afternoon. For the week, I

ran 23.42 miles,
biked to work and home five times (5.0),
swam 28,600 meters,
walked 3.38 miles, and
lifted weights one time.