Saturday, May 30, 2015

2014 Chicot Challenge 010

With Chicot Challenge IV being only one week away, I am getting a bit nervous. Here is another short clip from last year's swim. I will post the rest of my clips in the coming days.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Diabetes Awareness

The term "awareness" is constantly associated with fundraising efforts for charities that address certain health issues or societal problems. Sometimes it is linked to seasons, or days, or months even. For instance, October, if I am not mistaken, is known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In a few days, I will attempt the fourth edition of the Chicot Challenge in part for diabetes awareness. What do I mean by "awareness?" Aren't people already aware of diabetes? Is there anyone who has not heard of this disease?

The simple answer to the questions just posed are "yes" people know that this condition exists and "no" there is no one above the age of six who has not heard of diabetes. But unfortunately things are really not that simple. In the following few paragraphs, I propose to set forth what I mean by diabetes awareness and ask you for your input on the topic.

First, I think we should all be aware that Type 2 Diabetes is becoming a worldwide epidemic. Unlike other diseases, however, this one is not contagious. We do not "catch" diabetes like we do the flu or a common cold. We develop diabetes and it seems that contemporary humans are becoming more adapt at developing this one. Some health care officials say diabetes is not a disease at all but a metabolic condition that happens to us because of a number of environmental factors and some non-environmental ones. But more on that later. 

Second, we all are at risk. Not a one of us can assume he or she will never become a diabetic. In fact, the prognosis is that a full third of the people born in America from the year 2000 and on will become diabetic. The implications for our nation and for our quality of life are enormous if that prediction comes to pass. In my opinion, diabetes is the biggest national security threat our nation faces, bigger than ISIS, more menacing than North Korea.

Diabetes, Type 2, is normally looked at as an inconvenience, as a small irritant where the doctor tells you to watch what you eat because your blood sugar is a bit high. I have lived long enough to say without qualification that far too often Type 2 diabetics don't take care of themselves. "Just a little sugar" is what some people call it, but believe you me, there is nothing sweet about this disease. Here is irony in its worst form, because we can't live without blood glucose so how could it being just a little high be a big deal? It is a big deal. The sugar molecule is sharp, like broken pieces of glass, and when there is too much of it in the bloodstream, like a crowded hallway some of it is forced against the walls of the vessels creating damage. This damage is particularly more pronounced and particularly more problematic in the tiny capillaries that feed all the organs of the body. This is just ONE way that diabetes slowly damages all the organs of the human machine. The diabetic rarely feels bad, but little by little, like termites, the health is being eaten away. By the time the diabetic realizes how bad "a little sugar is," it is too late. People need to be aware of diabetes devastating effects on the human body.

There is good news, however. According to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, 90% of Type 2 Diabetes is preventable. We need to be aware of this. If we are not diabetic and we start taking action now, the odds are in our favor that we can avoid the sinister health issue. What to do? Exercise plays a huge role in our health not only in preventing diabetes but other bad things as well such as high blood pressure and heart disease. And you don't have to be a fanatic about it like me and swim for miles and miles. A brisk walk five times per week can have a major impact on how we feel and how our body resists diseases. A good diet is another step in prevention as is losing a little weight. 

Finally, by awareness I mean knowledge. What are the risk factor for developing diabetes? How does it impact health? (I only touched on this a little) What are the proper ways to care for oneself if one does become a diabetic. We should all educate ourselves on these subtopics. If you are diagnosed as a Type 2 Diabetic, your physician will spend three or four minutes talking to you and hand you a couple of pamphlets. then you are on your own. Unless you go into nursing, you will not study diabetes in school. Until I took it upon myself to learn on my own,  I knew next to nothing on this subject. How to learn without a teacher you ask. Read everything you run across on the subject. When an article appears in the newspaper or a magazine, read it. When a link to one is posted on Facebook, read it. Go to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's website and began reading. Check out WebMD. 

I created a little acronym for diabetes awareness: GADCE. Diabetes is a Growing problem, All of us are at risk, the disease is Devastating in its impact on our health, but we Can do something about it, and we must Educate ourselves on this and all health issues. 

What are your ideas on the topic? How much do you know about diabetes? What can we do to raise awareness of this and other health problems? Do you have any advice on how I can make the Chicot Challenge more effective as a fundraiser and as an awareness raiser?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Old Friends

Old friends. 

My wife and I are now aged enough to have old friends as well as friends who are old. I'm not sure how I got to musing over this, but the topic has intruded upon my thoughts more than twice. Once it hit me so forcefully that I sat down and wrote a long boyhood story about the topic.  

During the visitation at a funeral I preached, I overheard some conversations between old boyhood friends who had not seen one another in many years. Their fond recollection of old times reminded me of something I am sure most of us have experienced a time or two: growing up with friends, suffering a long separation, then having a glad reunion. Upon seeing a childhood buddy, it is as if that huge chasm of time collapses in a moment and you and your friend have never been apart. That is a special moment, an enriching experience, something everyone should have at least a few times in their life.

When I wrote "My Friend Poot" (published in this blog on 4/13/14), that is exactly what I had in mind. I tried to end the story in a way that showed the reader without telling the him that these two boys, though they had fist-fought in an elementary school bathroom, would now be friends forever. That is precisely how it is with Poot and me. He lives in Tennessee and we see one another very infrequently. But when we do, the span of time between our last meetings is no distance at all.

I suppose some people miss out on that. Military brats, as they are sometimes called, could fall into a group who move too often to continue those early friendships long enough to experience the "old friend phenomena." The children of pastors is another group who might move frequently enough to miss this blessing in life. When God called me into the ministry, I noticed a stress in our daughter although she never verbalized it, and to my discredit, neither did I. I did, however, sense that our children, especially our daughter, needed stability. Looking back I can now see how God built into me certain traits that caused and enabled me to stay in one small church for twenty-three years. I am proud of that record even though it eventually cost me my ministry (see "Transition" 9/14/2014).

Our daughter was the chief beneficiary of our ministerial endurance. I have no doubt that our son, Forrest, would have adjusted quickly and well to any move we may have made. But our daughter, Andrea, was different and God gave me the sense to see that. And today I am proud of the fact that Andrea is still friends with several people she grew up with but one in particular rivals anything I have experienced myself. Mary Katherine lived one street over from us, they attended the same school, and were buddies from the beginning. MK once went to Florida with us. I called her out rental child, and a few years back she was instrumental in my daughter getting a job. When MK was planning her wedding, Andrea suggested she get me to perform the ceremony. 

"Do you think he will?" her friend anxiously asked.

"Mary Katherine," Andrea pleaded, "he's known you your whole life."

It was my honor.

Recently my wife received a friend request on Facebook from someone we used to run around with way back in the day when Penny and I were first married. The old friend was going to be in Greenwood for a short while. Could they get together? the message asked. They got together and had lunch before the old friend moved on to another state.

"It was like we were never apart," my wife blurted out after coming home from work the day she and Kay Kay had lunch. "It was amazing."

Yeah, I thought. I know something about that.

We were having dinner with John and Patsy, our old friends who are old. I call them old only because I can because neither of them will ever read this blog. I used to call John, "Sir" until he finally broke me of that with the offense he took at every instance of said respect. "I'm only fourteen years older than you," he scolded me more than once. Sorry. That's how Momma raised me.

I guess part of the problem there is I never viewed myself as an adult. I have been a late bloomer at everything. I graduated college at the age of thirty-five, ran my first marathon at the age of fifty, swam my first marathon at the age of fifty-one. Now only days away from my fifty-ninth birthday, I am just hitting my stride as a swimmer, about to take on my fourth Chicot Challenge.

In my mind I am still a youth. The difference between the boy that was and the boy that is lies only in the fact that I now have vastly more experience at playing games and those games have changed a bit. So have my chores. But I digress. The old saying, "The only difference between men and boys is the price of the toys," is certainly true with. My toys now are a carbon fiber bicycle, an expensive GPS watch, some high priced running shoes, and swim paddles. I have a nice collection of swim paddles. One exception, to the price of toys is goggles. Even though swimming is now my number one sport game, I will swim Chicot Challenge IV in the same pair of $6.00 Walmart goggles that I swam Chicot I in. Not the same model, the same pair. But that is another issue, another post.

This inner view of myself, this late-bloomer life I've led has caused me some conflicts along the way. Besides offending my old friend John, when I came on staff at MDCC, I was suddenly colleagues with people who only a few years before had been my teachers. For me this was weird in a major way. I didn't know how to act. One co-worker once told me, "If you call me that [Ma'am] one more time, we are going to have a problem." Sorry. It's Momma's fault. And can't you see, I'm just a boy, and I want to go outside and play.

So my wife and I now have old friends, and friends who are old, and friends who are old and old friends. Already we've lived long enough to have seen some of these friends remanded to the Mississippi Delta soil. A little over a year ago, I preached the funeral of one we grew up with, a good guy named Gary Minyard who was everybody's friend. There have been others also, gone too soon in an uncertain life that promises none of us another day. I can now see growing on the horizon like a building thunderstorm a time coming that if our hearts keep beating we will have only old friends and then no friends or only young friends. I saw this happen to my dad.

Roger Hodge had the most eclectic band of buddies one could ever imagine. On the one hand, he kept company with several millionaires. On the other hand, he ran with folks that his wife and children thought were a bit scandalous. Not that we judged the latter group for their lack of finances, but one went to prison and and least one more should have been locked up for crimes committed if not for mental issues he consistently displayed, and one proved himself to be a prolific and competent thief. And that is not all, but I will spare you. It was like he was drawn to the extremes, the poles, the best and the worst. Maybe he found the middle boring. Sometimes I do.  

One group of his friends was his tennis playing partners. I remember as a very young child watching them play at Whittington Park. They played before I started first grade. They played while I was allegedly growing up. They played after I left home and got married. I used to tease Dad that one day he and his pals would have their tennis rackets duct-taped to their walkers. It almost happened that way. They grew old together then started dying. In their final years, they played on Bill Brown's court in Schlater, MS where Mrs. Brown would roll Bill out in a wheelchair so he could watch the action. Finally, one too many died, and they could no longer get up a game. An era ended.

Dad outlived most of his friends, but he still had a few. He had old friends and friends who were old at the CPA firm where he worked for over forty years. When he died, I called Bob Knight at the firm because I didn't want Bob to hear about Dad's passing secondhand; I thought he deserved better than that. And I wanted him to tell the other folks there, folks like David Lott who was Dad's fishing partner for several decades. Dad always said David Lott was the best fishing scout he ever knew. David could go to a new lake or new part of the marsh or gulf in Louisiana and learn how to fish the new territory faster than anyone he had ever seen. That's what Dad said, and Dad was usually right.

After he left us, his children were going through drawers at the house. I noticed a small bulletin board in the den above a desk we were cleaning out. Pinned to the board was a note, a list, of people Dad had met and friends he had made at the gym he worked out at in his final years, Advanced Rehab. On the list was a name I had begun to hear from Dad's lips. A new friend who was old. He was there when Dad died.

There's nothing like old friends. If you have one or two or more of them, place a phone call, say a pray, cherish memories. Get together and do something.

You'll miss them when they're gone. 

Or they will miss you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Luvie's Long Report

Luvie was finger-licking happy with all my numbers except one: 168.4. Dude, how did I gain four pounds? Last week, I ran 27.13 to give me ten straight cycles of 20+ miles of running. That is setting a base for what I hope is some fun adventure running the winter. The swimming was pretty good too with 25,477 meters which includes a four hour and forty minute session at the catfish pond.

Besides running and swimming, I also began to climb aboard my bicycle with some very short trainer rides. I started Monday with an easy ten minutes. In all I did four rides for 42:45. That's not much but it's a start. Maybe I can stay in the saddle and get back under three hours at this year's Heart O' Dixie Triathlon.

In addition to running, swimming, and biking, I lifted weights one time and walked 5.06 miles. That is a pretty good week any time of year and my excitement is beginning to rebuild for the upcoming Chicot Challenge which is now under two weeks away. It is time to start getting bottles together, making lists, and gathering suppies.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Big One before Chicot

The video above was the last thing I did Saturday. First I went to the pond and swam 8.19 miles. I could tell that the pond has still not been stocked although some grass is beginning to grow up on the levees. The water quality is still good and the feeder was out and about doing his thing, but he never made it to my pool. I took it easy while swimming, trying not to aggravate the shoulder. I think I was successful in that regard. I did feel some strain and tightness in both shoulders which concerns me a bit. Muscularly, however, I felt as if I could have swum for several more hours. Did you see what I did there? I think maybe one swimmer in 190 can conjugate the verb "swim." Do NOT say, write, or think "I have swam." If you do, be prepared to be deported due to treasonous abuses of the English language: swim/swam/swum. What's difficult about that?

After I had swum, I shuffled two miles and did a short walk, then I went home. But when I arrived at the house and saw Jeff giving me the eye, I knew the day was not over yet. So we loaded up the recycle stuff and went to the trail to finish off the legs. Jeff and I worked legs and then drove around looking for cats. We saw one and Jeff cried like a little baby. He wanted to be friends.

We got home and both of us crashed. Jeff went to sleep on the couch, and after getting a meal and a bath (my wife said I stank mightily) I crashed on the bed while watching some quality TV. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

2014 Chicot Challenge 009

Thursday was another example of climate change. Springs have become very cool and long here in Mississippi. Only a few years ago, May was summer. Temps in the 90s were the norm by mid-month. The growing season has shifted by two weeks (maybe more by now since I never talk to farmers anymore). Yesterday the temps were in the 50s. I am sure some of you are thinking I don't know the difference between climate and weather. What is climate but long term patterns of weather. We have had five straight cold winters with as many unseasonably cool springs. It looks like that is not weather but our new climate.

I don't like it.

I want the old weather back.

Check out the clip from Chicot III. This is the segment where I broke seventeen miles.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

2014 Chicot Challenge 008

Wednesday I took an easy three mile run. Last week I began to enjoy my recovery jogs. This tells me that I am starting to climb the shuffling fitness ladder. After my 5.65 mile run Tuesday, which had a three mile race pace effort embedded in it and a big lower body weight lifting session, I was able to run with pleasure the next day. Yeehaa.

John and I met at Twin Rivers at about 1:00. I swam and easy paced 5,100 meters before the pool was invaded by kids. Our free and easy access to the water is over for the summer. I only felt the shoulder briefly for a time or two. I am pretty sure now that it is more than muscular, but I can swim a relaxed pace. Tuesday I had discomfort only when I pushed it. I've been down this road before.

In short, that swim did a lot towards restoring my confidence, but not fully. In other words, I feel a lot better and could still feel a lot better.

Check out the clip below.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2014 Chicot Challenge 007

Tuesday I met John at Twin Rivers. I swam

1,000 easy
1,100 with the last 50 of each 250 hard
1,200 with the last 50 of each 300 hard
100 easy
3 X 100 @ 2:30
total: 4,100 meters.

Towards the end of the swim I began to feel my shoulder. I was not sure what it was, if it was the deltoid or something under the muscle. Now I am confused again. What else is new.

Below is another clip from Chicot III.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2014 Chicot Challenge 006

I did a test drive on my shoulder Monday afternoon. John was out of pocket due to the rain and the cooler water temperatures. I went in at about 4:00 pm and started swimming as slow as I knew how. Very gradually I warmed up. I felt the shoulder just a little bit a time or two and I'm pretty sure it was the deltoid. You may wonder how I could not be sure if I was having discomfort in the joint or the muscle, but sometimes it just isn't clear. Anyway, the longer I swam, the better I felt. I stopped after an hour and two minutes, doing 3,100 meters. Needless to say, I feel a lot better. I can start getting excited again. 

Above is another clip from Chicot III. Check out my YouTube channel, EndangeredSwimmer and subscribe, please.

Please donate to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi at this Crowdrise link<

Monday, May 18, 2015

Three Weeks Out

Thursday I ran errands most of the morning and made three trips to the laundry before I caught the proprietor on the job. I went to Walmart looking for BodyGlide; I found none. I paid the Utility bill, mailed the truck payment, checked on Mom's lawn mower, made some copies, and took care of some other business over the phone. Geez, I thought I was off work. Then I took an easy 3.11 mile shuffle. At the pool, I swam

8 X 50 @ 1:14
300 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:14
300 easy
1,600 countdown
4 X 100 25 back kick/75 swim with fins
total: 5,500 meters.

Friday morning I went out for a ten-mile run with some surges thrown in. I ran well, but I made a pass through the Yazoo River Trail and took hard fall landing on my left shoulder. Dude, I did the same thing in January or early February. I promise God and all who read this blog that I will not run that trail anymore. It has these little stumps of small trees they cut down in building the trail. It is just way too easy to catch a toe on one of those and then it is, "Down goes Frazier. Down goes Frazier."

When John and I went to the pool that afternoon, I couldn't swim. He prayed for me and then I swam a little, 1,500 slow, slightly uncomfortable meters before I tapped out. I was just afraid. It did not feel good to pull water, so fearing further damage, I just stopped.

When I left the pool, I was about as low as a wiener dog's toenail. The next morning I had planned to swim for three hours, but I cancelled that and went out for a short run. Surprisingly my legs felt good despite the ten miler the day before. I lifted some weights after the run being very careful to move slowly and be easy on the shoulder. The only discomfort I had was in doing lateral raises with a whopping eight pound dumbbell. The deltoid was sore, but that, I thought, was a good thing because a bruised muscle will heal quickly. Damage farther inside could end the swim, could end my swimming forever.

Penny and I left for Pearl around 3:00 pm. I was scheduled to speak at the state meeting of the Legal Professionals. I had spoken to the Greenwood group in February. They, the little Greenwood group, agreed to sponsor my swim-- and I really needed some help-- and invited me to speak at the state meeting. 

We made our way to Jackson and Penny did a little shopping. I dropped her off at TJ Max, or something like that, and I went to Academy Sports where I purchased two sticks of BodyGlide. I will need some for the swim. I need some on the longer training sessions now. Monday's four hours left me chafed under my armpits and made swimming difficult the next day.

We went to the motel and checked in (provided for us by the Greenwood club) and then went to dinner at Cracker Barrel. We had a nice meal, and I sat on the porch and ate candy while Penny shopped. She loves to shop, and I love to see her happy.

The Greenwood Group: Jennifer Watts, Stephanie Floyd,
Cindy Brown, Penny, Me, and Lisa Roberts.
Photo by Irena McClain.
The Greenwood group really worked hard to organize their part of the meeting and make the event a success for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. They (Stephany Floyd was especially diligent in preparation) had brochures from the DFM and invited Irena McClain of the to be there. Irena spoke for a few minutes, giving an outline of the work our state diabetes charity does. The Greenwood club also held a 50/50 raffle and raised $120 for the DFM. I sold three shirts and took some orders for a few more. I enjoyed making my presentation and felt like it was well received. I hope the information has an impact on some of the ladies.

Penny and I enjoyed ourselves a lot. We needed the time alone and away from home and this fit the bill. Thank you, Greenwood Legal Professionals. Thank you Irena McClain for being there and being enthusiastic about the Chicot Challenge.

Besides a nice time for Penny and me, three weeks out was a nice training block despite the truncated Friday swim and the cancelled Saturday swim. For the week, I 

ran 27.38 miles
swam 27,600 meters
walked 4.64 miles, and 
lifted weights one time.

Now to get back in the water and check out the shoulder.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In the Midst of Three Weeks Out

I rounded a corner today (Wednesday). For the first time in over a year, I swam like a boss with no fear like the water was my oyster. The mental fragility that has plagued me for over fourteen months has passed, as in died. It is past, as in gone. It is gone, as in extinct. Like the Lord's coming, it happened in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Just like that I am whole again, confident and cocky.

I can't explain it. I can't wrap my own head around how a pectoral injury from April of 2014 had continued to hold me under its power even though I had been symptom free for more than a year. For more than a year. Yet with every swim it was in the back of my mind, sometimes in the front of my mind, warning me, frightening me, telling me to slow it down, cut it short, end the swim. And so often I did.

Early this year, I had some real problems, some issues with my left shoulder. Shoulders, now there is something to fear. Shoulders and swimmers can be like a bad marriage. Problems there can lead to counseling, separation, even divorce. With the right shoulder injury, or the wrong one I should say, it is game over. 

But slowly the shoulder has gotten better until it no longer concernes me. The pec, however, asymptomatic as it was, has loomed large in my mind. Maybe it was God's way of holding me back, preventing me from destroying myself. I'm pretty good at that, pretty good at hammering and hammering until something breaks and the something is always my body. It's not like it's a mystery, but when it occurs it always leaves me wondering "What happened?"

Maybe that scenario is not completely true. I mean last October I did Swim the Suck with no fear. I swam hard and I swam fast even though Randy Beets was not in the water. But this past winter and spring has seen me revisited by ghosts of a bygone day. All that changed Wednesday. But maybe I should start at the beginning of the week.

Monday I did a short run and then met John at the pool. The plan was to go three and one half hours. The whole swim was one of trepidation for me. "What's that?" I questioned with every little sensation in my body: shoulders, biceps, triceps, pectoral. Did I feel my pectoral muscle? Did I?

Then at three and a half hours, I flipped on John's end of the pool, surfaced, and pointed with both hands towards the other end. John stayed put. When I got back on that end again, I stopped and said, "Are you coming out?"

"Let's go four," was his reply.

So we did. Four hours and twenty five seconds to be exact. The pace was slow but I swam 11,700 meters straight with no stops, with no water, with no feeds.

Tuesday I ran longer, 5.01 miles, and went to the pool alone because John was all tuckered out from Monday's big four. Naturally I was a bit sluggish and slow and swam

12 X 50 @ 1:14
400 easy
100 kick with fins
100 back/swim by 25s with fins
1,000 countdown
3 X 100 25 back kick/75 swim with fins
total: 4,300 meters.

Wednesday I did another five mile run and met John at the pool around 3:00. I swam

12 X 50 @ 1:14

This is when it happened. During the 2,000 warm up, I felt week, unsure of myself. When I started the sprints, however, something happened unexpectedly. Suddenly and without plan I pulled the water with force and confidence. And just like that all was well, whole again in body and mind. My sprints were two to three seconds faster per rep. Amazing. I finished with

400 easy
1,300 countdown (I attacked this set like I was mad at it)
3 X 100 25 back kick/75 swim with fins
total: 4,600 meters. 

John and I didn't talk about it, but he noticed. He said, "You were swimming hard out there today."

Thank you, God.

2014 Chicot Challenge. A short clip (2/14)

This is another short clip of Chicot III. With Chicot IV on the near horizon, I will be posting several more of these over the next few days.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Four Weeks Out

I have already written about Monday and Tuesday. Monday was a rush day and I didn't run at all and only swam 1,400 meters. Tuesday I won my second 5K of the year and then swam at Twin Rivers. Wednesday I met John at the pool and swam

1,600 warm up 
12 X 50 @ 1:15
100 free/breast by 25s
100 Redneck IM
700 countdown
400 easy
2 X 100 25 breast/25 free
400 easy
total: 4,500 meters.

After the swim I ran 3.5 miles.

Thursday I ran in the late morning for 4.1 miles, and then John and I met up at the pool and went for three hours. I swam 9,100 straight with no  feedings or water consumption. Friday after graduation, I shuffled 2.17 miles and swam

12 X 50 @ 1:14
500 easy
800 countdown
total: 3,600.

Saturday I attended another graduation. Two in two days. Give me a cookie. In the afternoon I ran 10.15 miles and then Jeff and I went to the river trail to work on legs.

For the week, I

ran 22.72 miles,
swam 22,000 meters,
lifted weights once, and
walked 3.69 miles.

This was a pretty good week. Now up is the third week out, the peak week in terms of volume. Time to pour it on.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Won Again

I did it again. I won a 5K. Actually it was an even three miles, but I won my second one this year and I'm as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. A few weeks back when I went to campus and beat all two of the other runners, Dean Rice stopped me after my victory and asked me to send names of participants who might be willing to compete in Greenwood. 

We've never done that at the Greenwood Center, so I tried my best to gather a crowd but was only able to send in five names. I didn't hear anymore from Rice. Until last week. We'll do it next week (this week) Tuesday at 2:00 was his message. 


That's exam week. 

But exam week is better than no week.

So we did it. Only by the time Chief Manuel made it to town, we were down to three and that number included me. Stephen Brunson was the lone walker and Jaleel McCall and I would battle for supremacy between one another in the runner division. 

Since we had never done this before, Chief left it to me to set up the course which I did Tuesday morning before work. I rode out Wade Road and measured a mile and a half from a suitable starting spot that would not need marking. The starting spot that is. The turn around was on an adjoining gravel road. I made a faint green streak on the gravel with some several-years-old spray paint I dug out of the shed out back. I made the mark and hurried off the work. What could possibly go wrong?

I drove my truck so I could get in some water after the run. Chief transported the other participants. We lined up and I pointed out where we were going and told Chief where to find my mark so he could drive ahead and set out a cone. 

I know, you're ahead of me, but let's not be in to big of a hurry to get there. We took off and just like the last run, Jaleel shot out to an early lead. Just like last time I thought, second place is not bad. Just like last time his gap grew, stopped growing, and then slowly began to disappear. 

I caught up with Jaleel about a half mile in and went around. I could hear his footfalls for a while as he ran on my heels for a minute or so before he began to fall back. Up ahead I could see Chief in the white MDCC van as he drove straight by my mark and went way beyond. I had told him it was about a quarter mile after turning onto the gravel, but he must not have looked at his odometer.

He drove back to me and asked again where the mark was. I tried once more to tell him. My instructions were most likely not very clear seeing how I was breathing like a weener dog after chasing a chicken on a hot day. He turned around and drove back out the gravel road about the time I turned onto it. He just kept going. 

When I got to the mark, I tossed my cap in the center of the road and turned around. I yelled at Jaleel as we passed one another and told him to turn at the hat in the road. I guess he did.

Chief came back again and asked once more about the mark. I told him about the hat and he turned around and took off once more. After Jaleel and I finished, we got in my truck and drove back towards Chief who by this time was motoring along behind Stephen. When We drew near he stuck my cap out the window, so I know he finally found the mark. 

I took Jaleel back to the school and then went to Twin Rivers where I swam

4 X 150
4 X 200
400 countdown
100 easy
total:3,400 meters.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Don't even think about telling me you had a hard day. Monday was a long, tough one for me, but through it all I managed to get a little training done. First, Mondays always start a little early with me picking up my Mom's help. That knocks me out of a Monday morning run, which is about the only time I would do one in the morning anyway. But we have help and we need help with Mom. 

Then it was off to school for the last day of classes AND the first day of exams all rolled up into one. It's sort of like two days in one. I think the administration did this just to make life miserable for me, me. It impacts be more than anyone because it means essentially a twelve hour day for me and the one or two others who teach in the day as well as Monday night. 

So I did my morning classes and rushed home to lift weights and mow the back yard so I could then rush back to school and begin administering final exams. After the afternoon exam, I rushed to the grocery store to get some things we needed and rushed home to change clothes so I could rush to the pool for a quicky swim and then rush back home to change and rush back to school to give another exam. 

During the exam I was falling asleep, literally. I had planned to rush home after the night exam so I could rush out and run, but my rush was all rushed out. My eyes closed on their own, and I fell asleep within minutes of rushing home. I rushed to sleep only to wake up and rush asleep all over again. During the night I dreamed I was driving a huge Pacific 16 Logging truck with a v16 Detroit under the hood, and I was loaded with 200,000 pounds of logs. I was running over people, cars, houses, everything. Just running over stuff.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Five Weeks Out

Typing the title to this post made me nervous. "Five Weeks Out" reminds me how little time I have left to get my body ready for an all day swim. I don't have much any wiggle room. The fifth week was a good one, however, and despite my nervousness I am actually in a pretty good place. But I always start getting a bit nervy about this time.

I've already posted a couple of times about this week, but to review, Monday I swam 7,100 meters and ran 3.04 miles. Tuesday I swam 3,300 and ran 8.75 miles in a multi-paced fashion. Wednesday I was back in Twin Rivers for 7,400 straight followed by a 2.26 mile shuffle. Thursday it was 3,400 in the pool and 2.31 on the road. 

Friday I did a new set that I think will be a mainstay for the rest of the Chicot training as well as Swim the Suck preparation in the fall. After a 1,400 meter warm up, I did 5 X 600 @ 13:10 with every third 50 being fast. Sometimes a set just gives you that feeling, and you know it's a winner. That's how I felt about this one. An easy 300 at the end gave me 4,700 for the day. Two miles of old man shuffling followed. 

Saturday I went for a long run of 10.07 miles and then did some lower body leg training at Plate City. I intended to do an upper body session in the afternoon, but wasn't able to work it in.

For the week, I

ran 28.46 miles,
swam 25,900 meters, and
walked 10.75 miles.

My legs are way ahead of last year as is my upper body strength. My total swimming is ahead by 34,397 meters, which sounds like a lot until you consider that the swim in back to the first Saturday in June this year, slicing off the extra week I had in 2014. Still I am a bit ahead overall, and I need to be because the swim is longer by over one mile.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


I wonder.

That’s all I can do. Three photographs, a few anecdotes, his father’s death certificate, a tiny New Testament, and a story are all I have. It’s the story that intrigues me, haunts me, drives me even.

Momma remembers him. More than once she has told me that “he was the sweetest, kindest person” she ever knew. Recently, we were in her living room after he had once more taken over my consciousness. He does that from time to time. “Tell me everything you know about him,” I pleaded with her. She did, and I wrote it all down. But it wasn't much.

“We loved him,” she said getting that wistful look in her eyes. “He was very sweet. He paid attention to us, talked to us. And flowers,” she said after a pause. “I remember he always had a beautiful flower garden he took care of himself. One time he gave a bunch of us each a fly swatter and paid us a penny for every fly we killed. He married a Pentecostal lady preacher after Granny died. He was head of the engineering department of something. When he was young. When he got old, he worked on the garbage truck. Granny had five children when he married her. They had two more boys together. He put them all through college except the last one my daddy, Zane. He was too old and made too little money when my daddy came along.” I sat patiently while she searched her memory for any scrap of information. “And the journey,” she started back. “That was something.”

She had told me of the journey before, several times, and it was that which captivated me, caused me at times to lose sleep, to wonder.

But that’s about all she could tell me. And the death certificate and the New Testament. She gave me a copy first of his father’s death certificate. His father, Thomas Napper Quinton, according to the official record, lived to the age of ninety and died at Mill Creek, Oklahoma from some sort of “trauma.” The ancient paper is difficult to decipher. Even then, it seems, doctors didn’t write legibly. Momma said she thought he was injured by an animal.

Long before he died, however, when he was still living in Louisville, Mississippi, Thomas Napper shot a man who, according to Mother, was “trying to court” my great-great-grandmother Liza. My cousin Sylvia, who has taken up the mantle of family historian after her mother’s death, told me the shot man did more than “try to court” her. “Liza was loose,” said Sylvia. “Thomas killed the man and then fled first to Texas and later to Oklahoma to evade the law. About Liza,” she continued while I picked her brains during a phone conversation, “we don’t know what happened to her. She just disappeared and George was basically an orphan.”

George Henry Quinton, the subject of my obsession, was the eldest of Thomas and Liza Quinton’s three children and my mother’s paternal grandfather. Momma and Sylvia both tell me that when he was a little boy the Mormons came through Louisville, MS preaching, telling about the Promised Land in the Utah Territory. The Quintons believed, sold everything, and went west.

Once there, instead of the Promised Land they found a country in the midst of a drought. But still, the Quintons bought land, planted a crop, and managed to get a stand of wheat out of the ground before a locust swarm wiped them out and ended their dream in the Promised Land. Thomas and Liza sold everything, but only money enough to buy four train tickets back to Louisville, Mississippi.

I wonder how it could happen. It couldn’t today, but America, the world, was a much different place in 1895. Did they debate, struggle over what to do? How long did it take to make a decision? A day? Two days? A week? What was Thomas Napper’s attitude? What was George’s? Was he brave, did he tell them it would be OK? Did he try to comfort them or they him? Did he think he had a chance?

I can only wonder.

They left him.

When George Henry Quinton was twelve years old, his parents abandoned him in a strange and struggling land, a land that couldn't even support its own.

Momma says he walked. Walked. Twelve years old and he walked from Utah to Louisville, Mississippi. “It took him six months, and when he showed up, his mother was shocked. She thought he was dead,” Momma said.

Shortly after George made his epic journey, Thomas shot Liza’s lover and ran off. About the same time Liza disappeared. Did Thomas kill her? Did she die of natural causes? Or did she run off with a man? My aunts for years tried to find out, but inquiries to other family members were always met with silence. No one would say a word about her. Now both the aunts and the other family members are all dead, and Liza’s fate remains shrouded in silence, lost to the past.

But it’s the journey I want to know more about. I want to know how he did it, what it was like. Did he get cold, hot, wet? Did he sleep outdoors any or did he always make it to a town, a farm? How many miles did he walk per day? How many pair of shoes did he wear out? How did he get new ones or his old ones repaired? How did he know which way to go? Did he ever cry, was he frightened at night, did he have encounters with dangerous animals, dangerous men? Why did he come all the way back? Surely people along the way helped him. Why not stop somewhere and make a new way for himself among people who hadn’t left him to die? How did he cross rivers? Was he hungry often? Did he catch fish, kill animals, pick berries? Was walking into Louisville a joyous event? Was he glad to see his mother? Did he dread to see Thomas Napper?

I can only wonder.

He survived his journey and then he was alone again. Sylvia says his grandparents, Liza’s folks, took him up after Thomas and Liza vanished. They were named McGee, and that is why he went by the nickname Mac. His grandchildren called him Daddy Mac.

I also wonder, but I think I know, why when he was still a very young man, he married my great-grandmother, a woman eleven years his senior, a widow with five children the eldest almost as old as he. I wonder, but I think I know, why he was “the sweetest, kindest person” my mother ever knew. I wonder, but I also think I know, why he grew flowers, why he talked to his grandchildren, why he remarried after my great-grandmother died. I asked Mother if he liked cats. She couldn’t remember. I wonder, but I think I know.

It is a typical Friday morning and while my wife is preparing to go to work, she notices me pulling on my biking shorts. “I guess you’re going to get on that bike and stay gone all day,” she snaps.

“I reckon so,” is all I mumble in return. And I wonder. Of all the things men do that piss off women, how does riding a bicycle make the list?

“One of these days you’re going to get hurt, and I won’t be able to find you,” she starts back on me. I say nothing. “You shouldn't be out there all alone.”

But she doesn't know. I ride out Money Road, into Tallahatchie County, up Cascilla Hill. I am not alone; I never am. As the crank turns and the sweat drips off the tip of my nose, someone is there keeping me company. He walks, sometimes trots beside my bicycle, but he never says a word. When I look at his face, the sadness in his eyes makes me cry. I want to hug him, to tell him I love him, but he is always just out of my reach. His jet black hair blows in the breeze and his dark eyes gaze up the road looking east. His eyes always look east. The road we travel is lonely, rocky, and dry. He is hungry and very tired. How far to the next creek, the next town, the next farm?

I wonder.

[To the reader: This is a posting of something I wrote a couple of years ago. It is a true story and something I really want to research if I can every make out to Utah. My computer file has a picture of my great-grandfather, George. I wrestled mightily but was unable to get the picture into  the blog. He has such sad-looking eyes. Often I look at his photo and cry. Also, sorry about the initial line. ??? I couldn't fix that.]

Friday, May 1, 2015


I went to the pool Wednesday thinking of another straight swim. Believe it or not, I am still paranoid about my right pec although I have had no issues, no soreness, no twinges. Nothing. But I thought about it a lot as I got above 4,000 meters. The water was down to 70, and I felt a little cool but continued until I bested Monday's 7,100 with a 7,400 meter straight swim. The pace was not as good as Monday and it took me 2:31 (2:03 pace per hundred). But I am starting to wrack up some real distance which is exactly what I need and when I need it. Chicot is rapidly approaching with this week being five out from the event. After the pool work I did some road work for 2.26 miles.

Thursday afternoon I was back in the Twin Rivers pool for some sprint work. The water was back up to just a hair under 72. I swam

1,300 25:23
10 X 50 @ 1:15
300 easy 5:40
8 X 50 @ 1:15
300 easy 5:42
6 X 50 @ 1:15
300 easy 5:49
total: 3,400 meters.

I was slow on the sprints but so what. I don't have to swim fast in June; I have to swim far. In July I have to swim fast (Heart O' Dixie Triathlon). In October I have to swim far AND fast (Swim the Suck). But on June 6th, I simply need to be able to swim all day. 

I'm getting there.