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.