Thursday, November 6, 2014

Writes Well, Writes Often, Is Interesting

I have been thinking over my blogging experience and decided I would put some of those cogitations on paper. By "blogging experience" I mean my discovery and reading of blogs, how that has changed over the years, the genesis of my own blog as well as my current favorites and why they make my list.

As recently eleven years ago, I didn't even know what a blog was. Somehow, after I went to work for Mississippi Delta Community College, by happy accident, I stumbled into the blogging world. It didn't take long to learn that every blogger had his or her own list of Favorites, and I spent time surfing from one blog to the next. My first Favorites, the ones I saved on my computer, were triathlon blogs, and once I had over twenty saved. Slowly, I deleted these one at a time until only one of the initial group remains today: Elizabeth Waterstraat. She writes well, she writes often, and she is interesting, three qualities that secure an audience in my world.

Most of my early reads were women triathloners who quickly tired me with their excessive machismo. Really, I kid you not. They all had titles with "tri" in it somewhere (how original), names like, Trimommy, BigGirlsTri, Tri-ingtomakeit, and on and on and on. But the thing that led to my abandonment of this cyber-genre was their constant machoistic referral to pain, and pain, and pain, and pain. Did I mention pain? And suffering and blood and pain, and sweat. And pain. (By the way, the titles I just mentioned are from memory and they may or may not have been offenders in this area.)

I know. Many of these ladies grew up nonathletic girly girls and their transformation into an athlete with goals and blisters and training programs was a whole new exciting way of life for them. Pushing themselves into physical discomfort was exciting, and they wanted to share their experiences with others. I get it. But come on. If you suffer THAT much and go through THAT much pain on every ride and every run and every swim, why do you keep doing it? No sane person would. And don't let one fall off a bicycle because you get pictures of the BLOOD and descriptions of the PAIN and the PAIN and the PAIN and the near-death experience and the PAIN. STOP IT!!! So Phase One of my blogging experience was reading about women triathloners and their pain until I couldn't take it any more. Then came Phase Two.

Phase Two was discovering the vast world of running blogs and stumbling into the neat subculture of ultrarunning. Really, I didn't even know that community existed. I read their blogs with my jaw on my chest and, consequently, I began to push my own running farther and farther. Their exploits fascinated me and fueled my imagination. Also, they seemed different from the tri crowd. They didn't have the aura of elitism that surrounds the triathlon world and they weren't obsessed with writing about their experience with pain, although I can tell you from first hand experience that if you run far enough you will enter the pain cave. Their descriptions were more about the joy and the sights and the sounds and the people and the places and the experiences and pushing personal boundaries and helping others do the same. I liked this community, I still do and consider myself a part of it.

It was during this phase that I discovered "Relentless Forward Motion: Training, racing, and living like an ultrarunner" by Rhonda Sundermeier. She is a petite woman who lives and trains in the Pacific Northwest completing races from the 10K to 100 miles. And the accounts of her races and the pictures of her training in the mountains set my soul on fire. After discovering her site, I daily read her work until I had consumed the whole of her literary output. Her exploits were extreme enough to make me dream but her times (at the shorter distances) were close enough to my own that I could relate and think maybe one day I may be able to emulate her. Like Elizabeth Waterstraat, she wrote well, she wrote often, and I was interested in what she was doing.

Then Rhonda went on a mountain biking craze and although I like biking, I just didn't find that interesting. I wanted to read about running. She conquered the bicycle, but then disappeared from cyber space, and her lack of posts put my reading into a serious crimp. After a long absence (I checked her blog site almost daily) she returned, as if by magic, and told us of falling prey to a mysterious illness and her subsequent recovery. She began once more to post regularly and about running even. Balance was restored to the universe. Then poof-- once more she was gone. Her last post was on February 26, 2013. !!! Her second absence led to Phase Three in my blogging experience.

Phase Three was the discovery of swimming blogs which closely coincided with the start of my own internet writing. Like the other two phases, I saved numerous writers on my Favorites list and developed a real affection for a few. The one I liked most, however, was "Gord's Swim Log." Gordon Grindly was a swimmer who wrote well, wrote often, and was interesting. I checked his site almost daily. Lately, however, he too has almost disappeared. Gord, a triple crowner, has suffered and come back from a serious shoulder injury in the past and is once more facing fierce problems with a swimmers most important joint. From what he has written, his career as an open water swimmer may be over. I hope that is not the case.

In the mean time, I started my own blog which I call EndangeredSwimmer because open water swimmers are an endangered species in the State of Mississippi where I live. I know two, besides myself. Or maybe one and a half. By the way, Shawn C. Turner, one title I seriously considered was ColdWaterSissy. No joke. I tried the cold water stuff with very limited success. I also thought about the name RaceswithFatLadies because so many of my competitions in running and triathlon always wound up as struggles with large women. But I settled on the name EndangeredSwimmer and made my first post on July 21, 2012.

My blog is mostly an athletic journal and mostly about swimming although running is a pretty big part of my life and writing. Though I don't do it often, I sometimes even write essays. For instance, when my dad died, I wrote "AquaMan Runs into the Night and Remembers His Dad" (Nov 9, 2013). When my mother-in-law passed, I wrote a tribute to her life and about the emotional aftermath of losing her ("RIP Louise Roberts," Feb 18, 2014). The one on my mother-in-law is my all time most read post. And sometimes, just sometimes, I even write a little fiction, e.g. "My Friend Poot" (April 13, 2014) and "Me 'N Poot Get Mopeds" (April 18, 2014). Speaking of Poot, I need to revisit him. He is a rich vein of ideas running through my twisted mind.

About the time I started blogging myself, I opened a Facebook account and over a short span made friends with swimmers all over the world. Swimmers are THE friendliest group there is and they genuinely applaud every success of every swimmer they hear about no matter how big or how small that accomplishment may be. I have done triathlons since 1980, and I have never made a single friend in that sport. In a few short months of swimming, I had swimmer friends literally around the globe. But they are not "real" friends, you say. Well, they are really better than my triathlon friends, I answer.

Back to the reading front. With Gord rarely writing now, I have been searching for another blog, another writer who makes me anticipate the next post, who keeps me on the edge of my seat. I searched and searched and searched. Finally I found one. After surfing though dozens of bloggers Favorites Lists, I stumbled upon "Davy Crockett's Running Frontier." Oh. My. Goodness. He writes often, he writes well, and he is interesting.

Davy is an ultrarunner from Utah, a state I find fascinating. I want to visit the West sometimes and that state in particular. I yearn to run and hike and swim maybe in the Great Salt Lake, with Gordon Grindly, I hope. He, Davy, runs mountain trails, canyons, and sometimes even a road. His blog is a rich mine of ultrarunning knowledge and just plain fun. When I found his site I thought, "A man after mine own heart." He does adventure runs and so do I. The difference is his are much longer and in much more interesting places. But, I am where I am, and I remain committed to exploring my little piece of the world no matter how mundane it may appear in comparison to other exotic places of our country.

So to sum up, I intend to keep reading, keep training, and keep writing. I hope, like the others I have read, to write well, write often, and be interesting. Maybe I can inspire others with my simple experiences. Be that as it may, I will keep scribling because ultimately I do it for myself, for my own enjoyment.