Saturday, January 31, 2015

Me n Poot Go Fishing

In all my days, I ain’t never seen nobody who could catch fish like my friend Poot. The first summer we got our mopeds, we swam the river, fished, and smoked cigarettes like we was trying to set a world record. To make things even better, our dads didn’t care how much we stayed gone as long as we kept up with yard cutting and brought home fish at the end of the day.
We started that summer with a big argument over where to set up fish camp. I wanted to go to the swing over the Tallahatchie bridge where me n Poot hung out the whole summer before. But Poot said too many people came down there and it would mess up the fishing and the quiet. And besides that, they would bum cigarettes and chewing tobacco from us and we would wind up poor. I wasn’t famous anymore and folks had stopped giving me stuff like they did when they heard how Mrs. Sylvanus had grabbed my goober when we was in the sixth grade. I was just another guy now.
Next, I suggested we go to the Yazoo across from downtown, between the two bridges but on our side of the river. Nobody ever went down there. But he said that was too visible and we couldn’t smoke cigarettes without somebody telling on us. Seems like all my ideas was bad.
He wanted to go to the Yalobusha River off old Highway 7. His dad had taken him camping there and they set out lines and caught fish and cooked hotdogs on a fire. So I said that sounded pretty good and that’s what we done.
We made plans for the first Wednesday morning of our summer break. The reason we had to wait till Wednesday was I had to mow a yard and get my five bucks so I could buy cigarettes and sardines at Jacks’ Store. Not only that, but I bought some candy and a quart of beer, Schlitz. In those days I could buy beer and cigarettes at Jack’s store. The cashier always asked, “For your parents?” All I had to do was nod ‘yes.’ We already had fishing stuff, hooks and line and bobbers, and I could always get all I needed out of my dad’s tackle box. We would take stuff with us and then rig up poles and throw lines after we got there. That way we could travel light.
Both of us loaded our Boy Scout packs the night before, so we was ready to head out at daylight that Wednesday morning. We met up at Little Red School House, headed out Grenada Blvd, and then north on Highway 7. When we turned off the highway onto the gravel road that I now know is the old highway, we stopped at that little lake to smoke a cigarette. Already my white T-shirt was sticking to my sides and you could tell it was going to be one of those delta summer days when the wind refused to blow and the air was so hot birds wouldn’t even fly. We didn’t care. We was free for a whole day.
We started back up and got on the river levee. Huge cotton fields were on our right and even the cotton looked hot and sad. We motored along until we came to some swampy looking water on our left that was covered in lily pads. We went around the side of that to the woods behind the swamp. When Poot stopped and got off, I could see we were on the river bank.
First thing we did was clear sticks off the bank so we could sit down and watch the water flow by. And that’s what we did for a long time. We just smoked and watched the water. Me n Poot didn’t have to say words to be happy. Then we got all the stuff out of our packs. We wasn’t in no hurry. We laid out our tobacco in one pile, food and drink in another, and fishing equipment in a third. We was well supplied.
I asked Poot whose land this was. He said it was somebody’s cousin’s grandmother’s. We could camp and fish as long as we didn’t hurt nothing. Heck, there wasn’t nothing around there to hurt unless we set the woods on fire. We did that somewhere one time. Maybe I’ll tell you about that one day. Anyway, we didn’t even have our guns and the closest house was over a mile away. When me n Poot carried our .22s, chances were pretty high we was going to shoot something we wasn’t supposed to. That’s one of the things I like about Poot. Besides fishing, he liked to shoot stuff just like I did. One time we shot a car. Well, I better tell you about that one later.
Poot pointed across a little ditch that ran into the river and said there was some canes on the other side and if I’d cut some poles, he’d rig them up. I found the canes and cut five. I figgerd if I didn’t cut a bunch, he’d want more. So I come back with five and he rigs them all. That’s when we realized we didn’t have no bait.
We had line, hooks, sinkers, bobbers, and stringers but no bait. We got in a yelling fuss about whose fault that was. I said it was his because he was the best fisherman. If we took our guns out and didn’t have no bullets that would be my fault because I was the one who always wanted to shoot something. Poot said since he got the place, I could have got the bait.
After a bit we give up on fussing and took our knives and went out to dig worms. We poked around and dug holes until it looked like a heard of gofers had come through. We finally found a few beetles and some skinny worms in a rotten log.
Then we set the poles to fishing while me n Poot had fun. We started with throwing rocks. We was about a hundred yards from the road but we walked back and forth picking up rocks and toting them to the river bank where we threw and threw and threw. Then we searched the woods until we found good sticks and we started hitting rocks. I always liked to hit rocks and when I finally won the world series, it was time to hit some grub.
We ate sardines and moon pies and crackers and drank pops. We had Sweet Tarts for dessert and smoked another cigarette. We each had brought one Swisher Sweet Cigar that we vowed not to smoke until we caught a fish.
The fish weren’t biting and we were thrown out, hit out, and smoked out so we started swimming. First we raced across the river. Then we tried to swim upstream. I could do it, but Poot couldn’t. Next, we swam down the river a long way and walked back. Since we were barefoot and had walked back and forth to get rocks, our feet were getting sore so when we got back we was pretty much tuckered out with everything.
It was still another two hours before we started catching fish and we only got a few mud cat then. We strung then and put them in the water. It started getting late in the day and we hadn’t drunk no beer so we hid the quart of Schlitz in the rotten log where we dug the worms. Nobody would ever find it there. Then we built a fire and soaked our shirts in river water. We dried our wet shirts over the fire so they would smell so strong of fire smoke that our parents would never suspicion us of smoking cigarettes. And we had a few Sweet Tarts left for our breath.
We rode home when the sun was low but there was still plenty of light. We each had a little mud cat tied to the rear fender of our moped. All the way back, I was thinking about me n Poot yelling at each other and how it didn’t even make me mad, just mad that we didn’t have no bait. That was the first time Poot had ever raised his voice at me, just as if I had never whupped him when we were in the sixth grade. I guess that’s a good thing because I always felt a little bad about smacking his head the way I did. Maybe that’s why some cats won’t beat your hand up when you try to play with them. But if you hang out with a cat long enough, they will always beat up on your hand and your whole arm even if you don’t want them to.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Pushing It Real Good

I'm doing it. I'm relaxing. I slept in this morning until 8:19 which is as late as I can remember in years. Why I was so tired is a mystery because all I did yesterday was nothing. I had thought about going to Twin Rivers and lifting weights, but I talked myself out of it. Rest is a good thing. Even God took a day off after working for six.

I've also been thinking about my shoulders. They are pretty good, as far as I know, but I have hurt one of them several times though it has never bothered me in the water. Twice I injured my left shoulder lifting weights and recently- a few weeks back now -I took a spill while running the river trail and landed on that same shoulder. It hurt me a bit for a few days.

Also I sleep on my side, usually my left, and I have always had to position just right or it causes me some discomfort. My shoulders are a little wide and sleeping on them has always been problematic. Even on the right side, I have to pull my clavicle up and roll the shoulder in and do some pillow propping or they will feel very ungood.

In addition to all of that, reading about Gordon Grindly and his recent second surgery has flung a bit of caution into my mind. Not that I am swimming that much right now, only twice a week, but with the lifting added in I am hitting them pretty hard. So wisdom tells me to give them some occasional rest. The cats appreciate that as does Juan Valdez.

Speaking of Gordon, he has long been one of the swimmers I much admire. For several years now I have read his blog with delight. The volume of his swimming coupled with the quality of it is impressive to say the least. His sense of adventure is something else that appeals to me. Not only that, but his love of and attempted promotion of the Great Salt Lake reminds me of my love of and attempted promotion of catfish pond swimming. I think, however, he is have far more success with his promotion than I am with mine.

So I took a day off yesterday and am starting a slow one today. I am also giving some serious thought on how to approach lifting over the next several months. I believe in periodization but actually putting that into practice has always been difficult for me. I not only want to keep pushing, but to "push it real good." (See what I did there?)

For the week (1/19-1/25),  I

swam 11,698 meters and
lifted weights four times.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Taking My Own Advice

A cold rain is dripping on the awning outside my bedroom window creating a soothing sound that I, the cats, and Jeff find deliciously calming. Jeff is is napping and passing gas, Luvie is napping and snoring, while Baby Kitty refuses to nap and is tearing the house apart. What else is new?

I took my own advice and relaxed. I'm relaxing now, drinking coffee and not fretting over the pond being too cold or DSU closed to outsiders due to a college swim meet that starts today. I am not upset at the blustery, wet, weather that would stop me from running even if I could. I am not even experiencing angst over being kept out of the back yard gym where I spend many a lovely hour lifting and dreaming of swims to come. I may, however, go to Twin Rivers later today if I get caught up on my writing, napping, and coffee sipping. Maybe.

It does help, of course, that I got in a good one last night at DSU where I swam

1,200 warm up
300 (I swam 350) medium paddles, breathing 3/5 by 25s
6 X 50 @ 1:00
2 X 150 medium paddles, breathing 3/5 by 25s
6 X 50 @ 1:00, decline 1-3
3 X 100 medium paddles, breathing 3/5 by 25s
6 X 50 @ 1:00, decline 1-3
8 X 50 kick with fins
End of Masters
200 back kick/swim with fins by 25s
1,200 small paddles (20:29 = 1:42 per)
12 X 100 @ 2:00 hitting 1:31-1:32
400 easy swim
Total: 6,450 yards.

This puts me ahead of last year at this same time by a few thousand yards. One goal I have this time is to build a bigger base and a higher peak before the big June swim with the hopes that I can have a better performance than the last one when I swam pretty well, but had a bad patch where I swam heads up  breaststroke for more than thirty minutes straight. Hope to avoid that this time around.

The foot is better but I am still unable to run. I have now re-diagnosed myself with a stress fracture of the fourth metatarsal of the left foot. Lovely. Believe it or not, I am not pulling my hair out, not fretting, not even grieving over not being able to run though I do want to very much. I am taking my own advice and relaxing.

*Breathe deep. Do it again. That's right. No, don't throw that coffee cup! Don't weep. Relax. Breathe deep.*

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Failed, Failed, and Gave Up

I attempted my first open water swim of the year this past Tuesday. I took all my cold water play toys and went to the pond knowing the temperature, both ambient and water, were as high as they were likely to be for awhile. It was a colossal failure. Or more accurately, I managed to stay in the water for a whopping 304 feet. No, that is not a typo: 304 feet, according to my Garmin who may have tried to flatter me.

The water was a warm 56 degrees, warm for a real cold water swimmer. I have never qualified in my own mind as a real cold water swimmer. In my defense, this was my first cold water exposure since late last winter and spring. Not only that, but I have spent some time in the Endless Fool where the water has been as high as 110 degrees. No, that is not a typo either. However you slice it, I just couldn't take it. Despite a wetsuit and a copious amount of duct tape on my face, the cold was more than I could endure. It made my bones hurt.

The good news is I got to swim at DSU that night after hugging my daughter and granddaughter. I did

4 X 500 1st small paddles, 3rd medium paddles
7 X 100 as 50 kick (with fins) and 50 swim
750 small paddles
16 X 100 @ 2:00 holding 1:30 and slowing to 1:35 at the end
4 X 50 @ 1:00 holding :45
Total: 6,350 yards.

Wednesday I went back to the farm. The temps were a little higher than predicted and I have now more time than in the past, so I headed for the pond. I failed once more. Royally.

The weather has been pretty nice for the last week, about as good as it is likely to be for some time with another cold front on the way. I remember when Southern winters were a thing of delight, mild and warm with only an occasional cold front to make things interesting. People were always fussing about how hot it was, but you never heard me complain. This, however, is the fifth year in a row where warm is the occasional and cold is the norm.

So I went to the pond Wednesday afternoon. With no night class, I am eager to use my new found freedom to advance my training for the Chicot Challenge. I can't currently run so that leaves swimming, weight lifting, and biking. I'm just not in the mood for biking. So back to the pond.

Tuesday when the water was 56, I bombed out after 304 feet. With the warm days and one exposure under my belt, I figured I just might pull it off. I tapped out after only 120 feet. The water was 52 at my first check, but before I left it measured 50. WHAT?!?!?!?

I think I wrote about this once in the past, the unexpected phenomena of the pond cooling when it logically should warm or at least hold its on. It has to do with upwelling and which way the wind blows. When the wind is out of the north, the ponds, or the one I am swimming now, cools rather than warms. It's not that the wind is cold, it's the way it turns the water over and pushes up cold water from the bottom with insufficient time to warm the surface water.

Maybe I should relax. All I need in January is two swims per week anyway. February I plan to go to three, making an extra trip to DSU on Fridays. By March I should be able to start sneaking in a fourth swim in the pond. Usually March offers me at least some short swims in my wetsuit. The main thing now is to work on strength, swim longer at DSU, and stay healthy. By April the ponds are warming enough to stay in for longer swims and last year Twin Rivers was pumped up by then.   

Monday, January 19, 2015

Week of 1/11-1/17

I had a pretty good training week considering I'm still going around like Hopalong Cassidy. Did he limp? The name suggests he did, but I think maybe he didn't. I do, however, and I am beginning to feel a little dangerous. I lifted weights four times last week and that helped keep me from going totally crazy. I pumped iron until my arms fell off and then I picked them off the ground and put them back on with duct tape. I even managed three swims, though one of them was a little suspect. Once I went to the Endless Fool and lasted thirty-three in the 96 degree water.

I already wrote about Tuesday at DSU. Thursday I swam

400 small paddles
400 swim
400 medium paddles
400 swim r :20 for all

Then I started back while Mark was finishing and kept on until Ricky finished his 400 and consequently I got another 500 in. That was the end of Masters for Mark and me, but Ricky, who got there late, had another 400 to go. I swam with him and lapped him once for an additional 450. Ricky left but I stayed and did 12 X 150 @ 3:15 and then finished with an easy 50.

I left thinking I had done 5,250 yards. I even had a note pad on deck and wrote everything down so I would not get confused. Usually I keep the numbers in my head,  and I go home and write it all down and do the math only to discover my running total in my head was off by 100 meters or yards. Almost always, I am off by 100. So I wrote everything down because I wanted to beat last year's swim at this time, and I didn't want to discover too late that I was off by 100. When I did the math at home, guess what? No, I was not off by 100. I was off by 1,000!!! Dude, who does that? At least I was over and not under, finishing with 6,250. For the week, I swam 12,021 meters.

I had a friend once who confided in me that the evidence was mounting that he was a lazy person but he just couldn't accept that judgment of himself. In my mind, I silently agreed that the evidence was correct. Be that as it may, there is a mounting body of evidence that I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer. Besides bad head math and horrendous paper math, I do a lot of things most average-intelligence people consider stupid. For one, I will try a swim at any water temperature from 50-110 Fahrenheit, although I fail frequently in the lower range. For another, I hang out with a skeleton, Buddy Bones, and talk out loud to him and myself. Just one more example. I have over 1,000 photographs on my phone. Over 950 of them are of cats. Here's one: (This blog is not doing pictures today).

Have a nice MLK Day. And be nice to a cat.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Last Year, This Year

I feel like in some ways I have turned a corner. Emotionally I have gotten over the big disappointment of the school semester. Not only have I gotten over it, I have embraced it and I'm convinced my life will be different from now on in a positive way. Physically, although I can't run now, last year at this time I was on crutches. I also feel pretty good about my training which is still in its infancy. Normally January is a very tough time for me. I don't like cold weather, I don't have much access to swimmable water this month, and I don't have much patience. The Challenge is still a long way off, but now is the time to build the base.

I did not store away my 2014 training diary but have it with this year's so I can compare my preparation this time and last time. Yes, I know I have this blog as a permanent record. But it is quicker to flip a few pages and read the shorthand version. I hope to swim many more meters in the build up and avoid some of the pitfalls that got me a year ago. Overall, my 2014 preparation was a success. It worked. But I learned some things that I want to do differently this time.

Last year, I did a big 10,000 meter swim the first day Twin Rivers pumped their pool up, (April 1st) and that started some pectoral issues that irritated and slowed me the rest of the spring. This time I need a bigger base and an intermediary swim before going all the way to 10,000 meters. Then, I had done several three and four mile swims in the pond before jumping all the way to six.

I also think I have learned something about the way to eat the night before. In 2013, my son and I went to The Cow Pen the night before and had a large and delicious steak. We didn't plan it that way, but in the process of moving kayaks we wound up in that neighborhood late in the evening and we were hungry. So we stopped and my son picked up the tab. You know you are old when your son picks up the tab. The next morning I felt bloated, heavy, and sluggish. Last year, we went to a pizza house in Lake Village where I gorged on lots of sodium, fat, and carbohydrates. Not the best everyday food, but I think it was the perfect night before meal for an ultra-endurance event.

Besides the evening before meal, I am making considerable changes to my swim feedings. Last year, I tried to incorporate everything I ate in training. That was way too complicated and some of it just didn't work. This year, I plan to feed exclusively on ice-cream and have some other things on the boat in case I run into flavor fatigue, although I can't imagine that happening. Ice-cream is the food that goes down easiest and makes me feel good. It has everything I need to fuel my body. It hydrates, has all the electrolytes, and is loaded with calories containing copious amounts of protein, fat, and, carbohydrates. I used it exclusively during the Swim the Suck Ten-miler and swam my fastest time ever there shaving some nineteen minutes off my personal best. 

It is impossible to know how much difference the feeds made as opposed to the training, which I felt was very thorough that fall. But I felt good, never became week, and didn't even get close to being hungry. In fact, after swimming the ten miles, I had to force-feed myself after the race. They provided us with all sorts of food. I got a small plate and just assumed I would regain my appetite once I started eating. Didn't happen. I think that means that despite my enormous physical output, I was well-fed and my body didn't need anything else. Still not convinced? I have done some research of the Hebrew Scriptures and found the work "ice-cream" if you pick out one letter per chapter in the Book of Genesis and transliterate it into English. What more proof do you need?

This week, I have had some good weight training and two pretty nice swims. Monday I did 5,700 yards at DSU. Last night, I hit 6,250. Wednesday I went to the Endless Fool and swam thirty-three minutes. I rated that as 1,100 meters. Normally I would swim 1,800 to 2,000 during that amount of time. But in that thing, I have to swim very slow because the motor is worn out and the current is too pedestrian. Also, I plan to make a third trip per week to DSU starting in February. Last year, my truck was not in good repair so I just didn't drive over. This year, gas is cheaper and my truck is fine. A third swim at DSU will give me a huge fitness boost and should have me ready for some big yards when the ponds warm up enough to swim outdoors.

Today (Friday) I am gearing up to drive over to Grenada and talk to the T-shirt girl about the Chicot shirts for this year's Challenge. Last year they were good. This year they are going to be great. Selling T-shirts is how I personally raise the funds I donate to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. If you are reading this and think you may want a shirt, check out the event page on Facebook. As soon as the shirt is finalized, I will be posting photos there and maybe here also.

Monday, January 12, 2015


The trying times I wrote about in my last post have not confined themselves to training but have spilled over into my work also. In short, the spring semester is starting with several of my classes not having made. I stand to lose a sizable amount of cash which I can ill afford to do. I know it sounds like I am always poor mouthing, but I am.

If I could console myself with training, at least that would be something. But alas, the foot is no better and the Endless Fool is still hot. This afternoon I think I will lift weights until my arms fall off. I was looking back at last year's training diary, and at least I am ahead in that regard, the weights. My upper body is way stronger than it was at this time one year ago. That's something.

Last week, 1/5-1/11 , I

ran 7.65 miles,
swam 6,375 meters,
walked 2.65 miles, and
lifted weights three times.

This week I can only hope to do all I am able at DSU, lift a lot, and maybe get another heat treatment at the Endless Fool.

The above was written Monday. Update: the classes didn't make. I was pretty despondent for a while. Financially, things will be tough, but already (Wednesday morning) I have become dizzy with the thrill of not having to work on Wednesday nights. I will never again go back to two night classes per semester. Never.

The foot is getting a little better, so I have diagnosed myself with having some sort of soft tissue issue, not a stress fracture. I think I will be able to run maybe late next week. Most likely, however, the Mississippi River Marathon is out.

Monday, I did a monster session on the weights which included thirteen sets of bench presses. Tuesday, I went to DSU where with sore muscles I swam

500 as 50 easy/50 fast
400 as 25 easy/75 fast
300 as 50 easy/50 fast
200 as 25 easy/75 fast
100 all out (1:18)
100 easy
8 X 50 breathing 3/5
6 X 50 5/7
4 X 50 9/9
end of Masters. Then I swan 3 X 600 with small paddles for a total of 5,700 short course yards.

Wednesday I did some more weights then went in for a heat treatment. The temp was down to 96. Believe you me, 96 is way way better than 100, but still hot. I made it for 33:46, stopping periodically to cool down. I even got the motor up to 4.5 miles per hour. Now I am home, relaxed, and typing this with Luvie curled up between my legs. The cats are happy, and Penny has a big grin on her face. Life is good.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Trying Times

I started 2015 with so much enthusiam. Now, like a boat on a dark lake, I have hit a stump and the hull is damaged. I began 2014 with a stress fracture. Luckily, I think I have another. Maybe.


Maybe it's not that bad. Maybe it will pass. Maybe. No, I am not going to a doctor. I still have the pleasure of writing monthly checks from December of 2013. I'm not starting that again. All was well until I did a seven mile run on a treadmill at Twin Rivers. It was colder out than I wanted to deal with, so I went there and lifted and ran. All still seemed well when I left and went home. Then walking from the bedroom to the kitchen, my left foot started to hurt. It's still hurting three days later.

Maybe it was a sign from God: Stay away from the kitchen! Maybe it was a sign to stay away from treadmills. Maybe it is a necessary readjustment of my goals and focus. Maybe it was just another example of what I have suffered for years now. My body just can't stand as much fun as my mind wants to have. I'm full of maybes, and I don't like maybes.

So instead of being ahead of last year, I am actually behind. Behind that is if I have to hobble for six weeks or more. The depressing thing about it is that I can't up my swimming. We were off almost a month at DSU and although we got to swim again this week, since classes haven't started there were no lifeguards on duty which meant we had to leave after practice. Normally, I stay and swim after the Masters group leaves.

I thought maybe I had struck gold with the Endless Pool thing, but that hasn't panned out. I went back Friday afternoon. The water temperature was down to 100 degrees. Seriously. I bet you think I'm exagerrating but I'm not. I swam for three and a half minutes, a week or so ago, at 110. I lasted fifteen minutes and twenty four seconds at 100. And the motor is still not fixed either. At four miles per hour, I can just barely swim without crashing the front wall.

To the pond you say. Yeah, right. They are frozen solid right now. Here in the Deep South we are experiencing temps that we see about three days every four years. I bet the fish are even freezing. So I am unable to do anything, and that drives me crazy.

I envy those people who have ample access to water. I have plenty of access during the warmer months. But the winter weeks, . . . they are trying times. Trying times indeed.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Stupid Is, Stupid Does

For the week of 12/29-1/4, I did some of the stupidest training imaginable. I started on Monday by attempting to swim in 110 degree water at the Greenwood Leflore Hospital Wellness Center's Endless Pool. I thought about writing a blog post titled "Endless Fool" because that is how I felt when I crawled out after only three and a half mintues, exhautsed and beet red. One of the nurses told me I was being cooked alive.

Tuesday the weather was good, so John and I lifted weights. Later I went out for a nice 8.08 multi-paced run. That made sense. Wednesday, we were to celebrate Brice Roberts' birthday, so I did a short adventure run on my less than fresh legs. I went out through the Industrial Park and ran a stretch of the Pelucia Creek Levee I had never been on. I ran 9.89 miles that day and did a lot of walking on lower limbs that were already tired from the day before.

Thursday, New Year's, was rainy, so I got on the treadmill for the first time in months. It's nice to have one to fall back on in times of bad weather, but that is almost the only time I use it. Despite not going anywhere, I stayed on for 5.33 miles. Since I did a hard run Tuesday and another hard run Wednesday, I should have gone much shorter and slower Thursday. But like my first sentence says, I did some stupid training.

Friday the weather was still bad so I went to Twin Rivers to lift weights. Like the running on the treadmill at home, I only come here to lift when the weather is really really bad. I not only did upper body, but I hammered my already tired legs on their leg press and extension machines. Later in the afternoon, however, the rain broke off so I went out for a little shuffle. I kept my stupid pattern up and shuffled for 7.02 miles on totally trashed legs.

Saturday was another day of rain, but late in the afternoon it lightened up enough that I went out back and worked out on my Swim Pull machine. Between each set of the swim pull, I took a run while holding two pound had weights in my hands. I ran 3.51 miles and did a total of 263 reps of the swim pull. I was soaked by the time I stopped but the temp was warm enough that it didn't matter. Although the run numbers were low, that workout sort of finished me off. I woke up Sunday morning with my legs screaming at me.

Sunday is almost always a day of physical rest for me. My legs were so sore and stiff when I got up that I have doubts about my ability to train tomorrow. It was a stupid mistake to run hard five straight days. Sometimes I amaze myself at what a knucklehead I can be. I did preach at Centerville Baptist Sunday morning, filling in for Brother Gary. I felt a little rusty as I haven't spoken much in several months now. But it was nice for me, and I hope for them also.

For the week, I

swam 3:30 (minutes)
ran 33.83 miles
lifted weights three times, and
walked 5.88 miles.

Those numbers aren't that high, but my arraingment of them was all off and my legs are telling my now how stupid I was.

This week marks the end of my vacation. It's been good but a little short. There are still some things on my list that I didn't get around to. Maybe later. We are supposed to have Masters practice Tuesday night and I can hardly wait for that. I feel like I may not even know how to swim now. It is time to begin Chicot training and I am ready to go. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

2015 in Prospect

I look to the upcoming year with a lot of hope. Life is good now and in some ways I feel like I am in my athletic prime. NOT. Actually, I do swim better than ever, and although I don’t run so fast anymore, I've never enjoyed it more. I don’t have a lot of events on the calendar. The ones I do have, however, are important to me.
First up is the Mississippi River Marathon in mid-February. This fourth year race, offers a course from Lake Village, Arkansas (right along my beloved Lake Chicot) to Greenville, Mississippi. I did the half two years ago but missed last year due to a stress fracture. This year I just want to do the full, get my t-shirt, and have some fun. I have no real time goals, but knowing how I usually do, most likely I will run the thing as fast as I can that particular day. But that’s not the plan.

Next up is the Viking Half Marathon in April. Since it is right here in my hometown, I can’t pass it up with a clear conscience. Nor do I want to. Doing just the local Greenwood events is enough to go a long way to keeping me fit and healthy.
The Chicot Challenge has become my main event of the year. It is unique and long enough to require lots of planning and huge amounts of training. Swimming that far is not something you can just go out and do on a splash here and there. Much of my motivation for this ultra-marathon swim is admittedly selfish. I love the feeling I get when I complete a swim that epic. As a fundraiser for a special organization, the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, the swim is important for reasons beyond me. Each year the event gets longer, more complicated, and raises more money. I hope the 2015 edition continues those trends.
On August 2, 1980, I completed the first annual Heart O’ Dixie Triathlon that runs from Louisville to Philadelphia, Mississippi. I don’t think any of us had an idea of what a triathlon was. I didn’t. A front page article in the Greenwood Commonwealth set my soul on fire. It sounded fun. I wanted to do it. That was back in the day when you wrote a check, put it in an envelope, and licked a stamp. I licked a stamp the day after I read the article. I don’t properly train for this race anymore, but it will always be on my list. One goal I have is to one day be the oldest man who ever finished it.
At the Minter City UMC
The Bikes, Blues, and Bayous, Mississippi’s largest bike ride,  is held one week after the Heat O’ Dixie tri, and like the Viking Half Marathon run, it happens right here in my hometown and its surrounding roads. Even though I don’t train much on the bike anymore, I do some real riding on that day, meet some new people, and get to visit the Minter City United Methodist Church. As unlikely as it sounds, when the BBB was set up, someone in the meeting (I was there) suggested a rest stop/aid station at the little church in the almost dead town. The tiny congregation of elderly people embraced the chore with a vigor and pulled off the best aide station I have ever seen or heard of. Every rider who comes through is amazed. Usually I spend way too much time there and eat so much that despite pedaling 65 miles, I weigh several pounds more the next day. Nestled in a patch of huge, aged pecan trees, one can find water, Gatorade, ice, porta-potties, fans, shade, cookies, Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, oranges, bananas, pimento and cheese sandwiches, food for days, and a group of people who want to make you comfortable and happy. What’s not to like?
The 300 Oaks Road Race is a premium 10K run that starts less than a mile from my front door in mid-September. My wife walks the 5K, and our son and daughter run the 10K with me. Last year our granddaughter walked also. The course is flat and fast, if you have trained. Afterwards, you are treated to a live band and free food and drink. My times have been slipping the past few years, but for 2015 I plan a major comeback.

The Swim the Suck Ten Miler in the Tennessee River marks the end of my open water season. Held in early October, the only bad thing about this swim is you have to spend so much time with your face in the water. The scenery is so stunningly beautiful it can be difficult to swim. I just want to look. As the Association of Sports Swimmers world championship race, Randy Beets and I usually duke it out for the world title. I have beaten him three or four years in a row, depending on how you count them. He wasn’t in the water for the 2014 race but since I was, in some sense I was the winner.

Throw an odd race in here or there and that pretty much forms my athletic year. I do Adventure running, just me and Buddy Bones out for fun and fitness. Mostly we do this during the winter, building up after the Suck. And of course I train year round, for fun and fitness.

The Great Noxapater Journey Run is still in the back of my mind. I am much more fit now than when I attempted the run in 2014. The big issue is logistics. I don’t want to depend on someone to bring me stuff, and I can’t carry enough on my own. I’ll work it out. Sometimes. There are several reasons I enjoy these types of runs. One is I have to take care of myself. Having to rely on my fitness and wits to get by is something I find exciting. A second reason is the adventure aspect. Having to take care of myself is part of the adventure but only part. Seeing new sights and going new places is just plain fun. Putting myself on the line and pushing myself physically is something I need and it seems to do me good. But mostly I like to be alone and not have to answer to anyone for anything. This is something I crave, and it is one of the reasons I don’t do many formal events. For me, running is an intensely personal experience that I am willing to share with others only infrequently. I know some guys and gals who race almost every weekend. God bless them. If that works for them, great. But for me, the nature of running changes when it is a group event. I enjoy that change now and then, but only now and then. For the most part, I want to be left alone with my thoughts, footfalls, and fatigue. I want to explore my limits on my own, go at my own pace, follow my own path. That’s just the way I am.

Besides the training, I hope to improve in some other areas during the upcoming year. I need to repair a bunch of stuff around the house. I need to lose some weight. I need to read more. For so many years, I craved the time when I would be out of school and could read whatever I wanted. Now I mostly read training books and blogs, nothing intellectual at all. My spiritual life also needs a rebound. Centerville Baptist is a place where that can happen.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in Review

Overall 2014 was a good year, though it was one of loss. My wife and I have had a lot of struggle in our lives, but the last two have brought us something God has mercifully shielded us from for much of our earthly existence: sorrow. Over past year, and a little beyond, we suffered the loss of my dad, her mom, two beloved pets, and one of our old, faithful church members. Also, closing our church and the aftermath of that was a loss unlike anything either of us were familiar. Still, looking back, I call it a good time in our lives. Though we suffered losses, we also were blessed with much gain during the last twelve months.
We have gained some new friends. John and Patsy Misterfeld are people God has graciously placed in our lives. John is my main training partner at Twin Rivers. He is a bit old and arthritic, and while I swim, he treads water in the diving well. But John is serious about his training and mine, and he will stay in the pool as long as I am there. Sometimes he even goads me on to swim longer than I had prepared for. He has a genuine desire to see me succeed. Last fall, we did a four hour swim. He was there until the end. I told him that day that at some point in the future we would look back on these times as “the good old days.”  One thing I have lived long enough to learn is that every season in your life is in some way special. Embrace the present, cherish the past, and look forward to the future. Besides helping my swim training, John makes me pray. We start and end each session in prayer, and if I don’t pray enough, he will jump in and pray some more. I need that influence in my life right now.
We also reconnected with some old friends, Daniel and Mary Jane Collins. Daniel is a lot like that fellow me n Poot met in Carroll County in 1971. He is always pondering some deep intellectual problem. Every now and then he likes to play Socrates on my and lead me into some discussion he is prepared for and I am not. Happily he doesn’t do that too often. But he is a good influence on me. John makes me pray and train. Daniel makes me think.
Another plus for the year is the reemergence of my running. Starting in early 2009, I had four years of bad running. Four years. At my age, I don’t have too many years to lose. I gave up several times during those years because I could no longer bear the emotional turmoil of not being able to run anymore. But out of habit I just kept putting on my shoes and heading out the door. Last year I started coming around just in time to do myself in with my ill-fated attempt at the Great Noxapater Journey Run. This year, however, I am really getting back to the place where I can go out and have fun like when Buddy Bones and I do adventure marathons.  
We found a new church home. Our little church closed in May after twenty-three years of ministry there. Penny and I then set out on a quest to find a new place to worship. We found it the last place we looked. Obviously it would have been the last place we looked because why keep looking if you found it? The point I am not making well is that it was the last place on our list. I got my first teaching job that way. I made a list of twenty-three schools in the order, from one to twenty-three, that I wanted to work for them with one being my first choice. I either talked to or visited the first twenty-two and decided I did not want to work for number twenty-three. I wept, was despondent, and gave up hope of securing employment for the upcoming school year. Then, number twenty-three called me. To make a short story long, I went to work for number twenty-three and it was one of the most enjoyable years of my life. Centerville Baptist Church was like that. It was on our list but the very last one. We visited. We stayed. When a friend of mine recently inquired about the church I said, “They love Jesus and they like to eat. I can get along with that.”
God blessed us with other things in 2014:
  • Our grandchildren get better looking everyday.
  • He gave us Baby Kitty.
  • I am filled with hope and enthusiasm for the Chicot Challenge IV.
  • We still have Momma.
  • We still have Penny’s dad.
  • We still have each other. Thirty-seven years and counting.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Buddy Bones New Year's Eve Fun Run

Me n Buddy left the house at 2:38 pm heading out into a clear but cold New Year’s Eve Day. We crossed the Yazoo River on the Highway 82 bridge, the first leg of a circuitous journey to Penny’s dad’s where we had an appointment with a steak and a movie. Over the bridge and down the highway a bit, we turned south headed out into what was once the Industrial Park. There are still some nice roads out that way but no industry as far as I can tell. Hey, you know I don’t talk politics and I thought Ross Perot was a kook, but nobody ever did admit he was right about that “giant sucking sound heading south.” Maybe it would have happened anyway, but he said it would happen if . . . and if happened and so did the sucking sound. I heard it right here in Greenwood, Mississippi.
We walked early because yesterday we did leg presses and ran 8.08 miles. Like usual, we shuffled and walked our way to Highway 49 south of Greenwood, but this time instead of continuing our southward journey, we hopped atop the Pelucua Creek Levee where it crosses 49. Just recently, we ran Pelucia Creek from the hills west to Humphrey Highway. Now we were running east from 49 to Humphrey Highway and like last time, we were in new territory. I had never been here; I’m not sure about Buddy ’cause he don’t talk much.
A few miles out the levee and we saw at least seven deer and they played like rabbits in the spring time. I thought about how pretty they were and how they add beauty and wonder to the earth. We saw woods. We saw water. We saw fields. It was all lovely.

Deer on the levee
When we made our way to Humphrey Highway, we were 10.75 miles into our journey. It is eight miles to the same spot coming a more direct route from town. It was also getting pretty late in the day and my slow pace was getting slower. Once more, we were going to get caught in the dark. I debated long about which road to take into the hills. Up the paved hill feels safer in the dark but adds about two miles to the journey. At my fatigue level that wasn’t appealing. Up the gravel hill is more direct but takes us through some spooky woods where I saw a large cougar in April of 2008. I can’t get that out of my mind and when it gets dark it’s like I feel his eyes on the back of my neck. We aren’t supposed to have cougars here, and if you report one you will be treated with the same kind of contempt you get for sighting a Bigfoot. So I don’t say much about it. I told it to a fellow teacher once, and he went ballistic on me. Wow!! Like I make stuff up.
Me n Buddy turned onto the gravel road and headed for the cougar woods. I was not afraid while we shuffled along in the dark, but I figured I would become so as we closed the distance. What happened instead was a text from my wife asking me if I wanted her to come get me. “Darn tootin!” was my reply. She picked us up at 14.46 miles before we got to the spooky part. Crises averted. One crises.
Just before we got to Hillbilly Heaven, we were forced to stop due to a truck parked dead in the road. Penny said, “What’s going on here.” Then she saw it, a deer lying in the gravel, and when the animal moved she burst into tears. I got out and the young woman, whom we knew, asked me to finish the deer off. All I had was my folding knife that I carry to protect myself from coyotes. I managed to get Penny’s truck around the poor creature so she wouldn’t see what came next.
I know three men, lifelong hunters, who stopped hunting after they had to kill a deer with a knife. I stopped hunting several years ago, in part, because I just didn’t want to hurt things anymore. Let me tell you, killing a deer with a knife is not easy, physically or emotionally. It was not the most unpleasant thing I ever did but it ranks in the top two.
Then we went to the house and tried to make merry when all I wanted to do was go alone into the woods and weep.