Friday, July 31, 2015

Swimmers Must Read

I almost never do it, but this time I had to make an exception, I could not remain silent, I had to stand up for world peace. 

July 25 was like any other day of 2015's hot summer only this Saturday morning I was standing in line at Lake Tiak-O'Khata waiting for my turn to enter the water and begin my 35-mile odyssey called the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon. 

Then I heard it.

He wasn't talking to me, so maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. But world peace demands voices, action, engagement. He said something about drafting while swimming. 

I wanted to scream.

The last time I entered this debate, I was sent a link to a "scientific study" that allegedly proved the value of swim drafting. I know what you are thinking, and it will do little good for me to protest by saying I am not anti-science. But there is science and there is science. 

And then there is the myth of swim drafting. 

How can people be so simple?

It starts with anecdotal evidence which i know is enough to further brand me as anti-scientific. But here is goes anyway. During one of my swims in this same lake, I once got bunched up with a wad of fast swimmers and was having difficulty keeping pace. I feared the swim-over-the-back maneuver which can cause discomfort even death, so I shifted left, got out of the group, and then proceeded to out swim then all once I got into the calm water. 

That is not the only experience that caused me to rethink the whole concept of drafting while swimming. Logic alone should be sufficient to dispel this error, but alas, the human race is far from logical. Think about it. In cycling we draft because it works. We power off the road and the cyclist ahead of us moves air out of his way. In swimming we power not off the road or the bottom but off the water. Big difference. Huge difference. We move the water we power off behind us so that the water is moving not in our direction, as in cycling, but in the opposite direction, into the face of the oncoming swimmer, if there is one delusional enough to be back there.

Think of this: one of the most effective and exhilarating workouts on a bicycle is motor pacing, drafting a car at speeds far beyond what can be achieved in a traditional pace line. The thrill of going so fast gets the cyclist so fired up that he cycles harder than he could in any other circumstance. Try it, but you have to have a smooth road and a trusty driver.

How many times have you seen swimmers in the lake motor boat pacing? I know the answer to that; you tell me the reason. It really doesn't take a socket rientist to figure out that motor boat pacing could never work because of all the turbulence and water coming back behind the boat and into the face and body of the trailing swimmer. Cycling and swimming are different sports that take their thrust from different sources. 

So how did this erroneous concept of swim drafting get s tarted? Somebody thought it up that because you can draft on a bicycle, you can draft while swimming. The error is repeated over and over until everyone believes it despite the fact that you only have to think about it for almost two seconds to see the fallacy of it all.

I do admit that there is some potential for a swim draft IF you get very close to the swimmer in front AND to the side of that swimmer. The swimmer does produce a small slipstream which may be beneficial if one can avoid the turbulence necessarily produced to provide propulsion. But if you get directly behind a swimmer, you are NOT drafting but you are getting rough water thrown at you. 

Stop being a warmongerer. Kill the idea of swim drafting. Do it for world peace.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


I have a lot to learn about all this fundraising and sponsorship stuff. Recently I contacted John Pace about sponsorship and he gave me some good and valuable information. Thank you, John. On the fundraising side, I was disappointed with the Chicot Challenge total this year which, at just over $1,700, was about $100 shy of last year's total. But I have a new plan.
Six dimes, four pennies, and a button

Part one of the new plan involves picking up pennies from the bottom of the pool. During Tuesday's training session at Twin Rivers Rec Center, I scored 64 cents which is one of my largest hauls ever. I always swim in lane four, the center lane of the 50 meter pool. But if I am the only one there, or if it is only John and me, I swim every lane at least once. John asked one time, "What are you doing swimming all over the pool like that?"

"Well, duh, I'm looking for money."

My all time highest haul was 76 cents a couple of years ago, three quarters and a penny. Tuesday's score consisted of six dimes, four pennies, and a button. I took the coins home and put them in a bag. Fundraising for the 2016 Chicot Challenge has begun already. I normally take in between two and three dollars per year on pool coins. Pray that a lot of kids get careless with Dad's change. They didn't need those nachos anyway. My cause is better than theirs.

Another part of the new plan involves picking up change I find when out running. My wife got me started on this a few years ago, and we always gave the change we found to a pastor/evangelist in Kenya. But now that we no longer have our church, all my change is going to the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. I find around three to four cents per week while out running. Multiply that by fifty and you get a buck and a half. The problem is, however, for the past several years I have not run fifty weeks per year. If I can stay healthy and run more miles, I can get the coin total up. Also, I have plans to run some parking lots this winter when I do much of my training at night.

A third part of the plan involves my school parking lot. For some reason, students will not pick a penny off the pavement. They won't do it. I will. I estimate my take per semester from this source is around four to five cents. Per year that comes out to almost a dime. But wait, there's more.

If you are adding up the numbers, you can easily see I need that fourth prong. I have one: loose change around the house. The problem with this is I don't have much loose change anymore. While I once had heaps of coins at all times, with the advent of the debit card, I almost never spend cash anymore. According to my calculations, my yearly change now amounts to somewhere around five bucks per year. Ah, you say, but that leaves more in your bank account so you can give more. The problem with that is I am on a fixed income. Each year there is less and less in the account. 

Whenever I hear someone say something about being on a "fixed income," I always ask, "What subject and what school?" They never answer. If you are on Social Security, DO NOT say you are one a fixed income because you get a cost of living adjustment each year. I DO NOT. I now make LESS than I made eleven years ago. This upcoming school year makes twelve years. Since the K-12 teachers did not get a raise this year, we will not get one next year because the K-12 teaches always get one or two or six raises before the community colleges are at the front of the line. Sorry, I just needed to rant.

The fifth part of my new plan is to clean out my truck console. That should easily come up to fifty cents per year. Like the loose change at home, this source has dried up also due to the rise in debit card usage.

That leaves me looking for number six in the new plan which I have not yet nailed down. I thought about selling sunglasses on Facebook. You've seen all the adds? Open a Group Page and see how many people want to join your group. I get dozens of request to join my Vicarious Butt Beets group by people wanting to sell sunglasses. Really? Can there me that much money in selling sunglasses on Facebook?

Another thing I thought about was that wrap stuff. You know, that plastic wrap you put on your body to make yourself lose weight and become beautiful. I'm giving that a real think up. What are your thoughts? Would you buy from me if I go into the business? Would you be a repeat customer? 

It may be going slowly, but it is going. Bethany Theilman, I am working on the "boat bag" as I call it, for next year's swim. One way or the other, I am handing off a heavy bag to the DFM representative who shows up at next year's Chicot Challenge. You can take that bag to the bank.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big Hill Failure

I bombed. Totally. Not since I was a B 17 pilot have I bombed like that.

Yes, I made that up, the part about being a B 17 pilot. But if I had have been pilot on a bomber flying missions during war, I could not have bombed any more than I did Wednesday morning when I parked at Hill View Baptist Church to train for my Big Hill Challenge (see "The Big Hill Challenge" 7/16/2015). Two weeks ago, I make it up the tall monster twice in 11:37 and 11:52. Wednesday morning I hoped to go up another two repeats maybe even three and beat my times from before. I made one summit in 13:10. I attempted a second and stopped half way up at a 16:04 pace. I found a little patch of shade and tried not to die. Seriously.

The heat index was 102, but I have been running in that climate for weeks on end now. This morning, however, I knew I was on the edge of boiling my blood. I sat, panted, and wondered. What happened?

Was it

   a) the temperature

   b) the fact that I completed the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon less than a week ago

   c) the fact that I squatted four sets at Plate City only one day before

   d) all of the above

   e) I am going backwards?

Part of the Big Hill
Over the years, I have noticed I always assign causation to multiple variables when I try to solve a riddle like this. I wish I could point to one thing and say that is it. Once more, I can't. The heat definitely was a factor. I should have been able to handle it better, but for whatever reason, I couldn't deal with it Wednesday. Also, there is no doubt I was not well recovered from the squat session the day before. Ordinarily I would not attempt a difficult workout following a difficult workout. But as they saw, nothing ventured nothing gained. Or maybe in this case, nothing ventured nothing lost.

I don't look at it as a total loss. I deposited another Big Hill into the bank account of my legs and lungs. Eventually I will make a withdrawal. I also learned a couple of things. First, I will not attempt this workout again until it either cools down some or I can get there earlier in the morning. Second, I won't try this after a leg-lifting day. Third, I still need to lose some weight. Fourth, I am still in the hope business. I fail but find a way to look on the bright side. I am not getting older, I just don't have my training dialed in yet. One day. 

One day I'll get it right and run that hill like a child on the playground and ride that bike at the Heart O' Dixie like Lance Armstrong on steroids and EPO. 

One day.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Luvie's Post

The week of 7/20 - 7/26 was a decent but not big training block. I treated it as a recovery week since I was trying to taper for my 17th Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, which I wrote about in the last post. Monday I was pretty much overwhelmed with the heat and only managed to shuffle 5.36 miles by breaking the run with some cool down walking between each jog. I also managed a 3,000 meter swim at Twin Rivers.

Tuesday I ran with Andrea, (see "Run in the Sun") and swam 2,400 at DSU, and Wednesday I shuffled 3.22 miles and hit the squat rack pretty hard as well and did some upper body weights. Then I went out for an tippy 2.45 miler early Thursday morning. After that it was all rest as I tried to get fresh for the HOD.

For the week, I

ran 20.13 miles,
swam 6,500 meters,
rode 27.5 miles,
lifted weights two times, and 
walked 3.94 miles.

Next up is Bikes, Blues, and Bayous for 62 miles on the bicycle. No pressure for I will just ride this for fun probably do it with my daughter.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Heart O' Dixie Triathlon 2015

The 2015 Heart O' Dixie Triathlon has come and gone and once more I was near the bottom of my age group. Several things were different about my training this year. I swam less but biked a little more and ran a lot more. The results reflected that.

We left Greenwood, Penny and I, about mid-afternoon Friday. The sun was bright, the humidity oppressive, and the temperature outrageously hot, but on the north and eastern horizon dark clouds were building in a threatening fashion. Not long after driving out of delta and into the hills, the storm hit with a uncommon fury. The rain came down gently, then hard, and the intensity continued to build. Traffic slowed until by necessity we were all creeping along at just a few miles per hour. Somebody stopped dead in the highway and we all had to follow suit. I saw a little side road and decided to ease off the four lane. The rain was coming sideways and it looked like clouds blowing across the road. As I was pulling off, the truck moved, was blown a few feet sideways across the pavement. "You need to pray right now," I told my wife. She did and we sat there and watched the wind for maybe two or three minutes until it slacked up some and we were able to resume our journey.

When we got to Louisville it was still dry but looking more and more like rain. We stopped at Lake Tiak-O'Khata and picked up my packet then resumed our journey to Noxapater where we had reservations with Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul. Mary Darby is the sole survivor of my paternal grandmother's nine children and is always happy to see us and us her. She cooked fried chicken and butter beans and squash and fried corn bread. I ate too much and resented it the next day. What else is new?

That storm that hit us Friday afternoon came through in the night and cooled things off. The water in the lake was far from cool but it felt better than usual. Despite having swum 19 miles in June, I was not in top form on race morning because I just have not swum much of late. I did swim well, however, and knocked off a 12:37 which was actually a few seconds faster than last year's 12:52 and good enough for top spot in my age group. My T1 was even a few seconds faster as I decided to forgo wearing a shirt for the bike leg.

On the bicycle, the temp was comfortable and I quickly found a rhythm and felt confident on two wheels. Nevertheless, I was passed over and over just like a year ago. Once, some guy passed who had the biggest snot bubble on the end of his nose that I have ever seen in my life. It was flapping in the wind, hitting his cheek and upper lip. I was shocked, amazed, and sickened. After he passed, I alternated between gagging and laughing out loud. Later I saw a large woman crash and all her gels and bottles scattered across the highway. Since there was a firetruck, several firemen and some other race volunteers on site (there is warn people about the pavement), I didn't stop. I finished the 27.5-miles bike leg in 1:34:10 compared to 1:40:50 in 2014. A little more riding this year, a little faster time in the race.

The cool temps we had on the bike quickly left us as the sky cleared and the heat built just in time for the run. It always does, and that is one of the memories that has enabled much of my training in the heat this year. Every day I went out to suffer in the 105 and over heat indexes, I reminded myself that I would have to run in similar conditions at the HOD.

As usual, the run was a little less than I hoped for. I did it in 1:13:18 as compared to 1:16:40 of a year ago. I fell off pace after that hill at mile four, like I always do, and I even fell off more on the dirt horse track at the finish on the Neshoba County Fairgrounds. The heat had gotten dangerous by then. I dropped my overall time from 3:17:08 to 3:05:15. That was a nice improvement, but still short of the sub-three hour time I was shooting for. 

Maybe next year.

When we got home, I was flipping through an old notebook and found where I had written out a strategy for achieving my time goal at the 2015 tri. Here is what I wrote down a year ago:

1. Ride the bicycle every week of the year.

2. Squat every week of the year.

3. Sign up as early as possible.

4. Work on my weight every week of the year.

5. Do transition work on the trainer and treadmill.

6. Get some new biking shoes.

7. Get running shoes I can wear without socks.

8. Build long bricks.

9. Commit to stretching.

The only one of those I did was number seven, buy new biking shoes. So to achieve a sub-three hour HOD in 2016, I am writing down one step.

10. Do the above.

This year's Heart O' Dixie Triathlon is another illustration of a biblical truth: You reap what you sow. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. I hope to sow a little more for next year's race when I will be in a new age group. Maybe then I can climb off the bottom.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Little Red

It’s been a tough summer, and I told myself I had to stop falling in love; I’m tired of having a broken heart. Most people would think it’s silly, juvenile, and even unmanly that I keep falling for creatures, however lovely, that I hardly know. And then the disappointment always comes like the oppressive Mississippi heat with the month of June. I seem never to learn.

The first heartbreak of 2011 came with a routine bike ride I and a few buddies took out Money Road. As I rode up the ramp of the Tallahatchie Bridge going back into Greenwood at the end of our ride, I saw a cat. It is an odd place to see a cat, and I had never seen one there before. What struck me most about this feline, however, was his resemblance to a real-man tomcat named Tiger I knew from Webster County.

Tiger is a yellow tabby who works for Payne’s Country Store near the border of Montgomery and Webster Counties on Highway 404. Chris and Sheila Payne opened the store in the late summer of 2010. While remodeling prior to their grand opening, they were routinely visited by a muscular, scar-faced tom whom they eventually hired to serve as their store’s mascot. On my frequent Webster County rides, I always stopped at Payne’s store and never left until I had eaten, used the bathroom, and spent some time with Tiger.

Yellow tabbies aren’t that rare, but Tiger was a dark, dark yellow, a bit unlike any I had ever seen before. The cat on the bridge was dark like that, and I immediately thought of Tiger. I turned around that day and went back to take a second look. A walker was making his way over the bridge at the same time.

“Did you see that cat?” I asked. The cat by this time was gone, already only a memory.

“Yeah,” he answered.

“Is he yours?” I eagerly inquired.

“No,” was all he said as he power-walked up the bridge not missing a stride.

After a ride, we always stop at Bankston School just on the south side of the bridge. At Bankston, I asked my buddies if they had seen the cat. No one had and no one was even slightly interested in my concern. I felt a million miles from them all, like I was a totally different kind of person than them.

I was teaching summer school at the time, and the next day during break I dialed up Payne’s Country Store.

“Chris,” I said. “This is Zane, the bike rider. How is Tiger?” There was a slight pause before he answered, and I knew something was wrong.

“We haven’t seen him in a long time,” he responded.

I don’t remember anything either of us said after that, and I had great difficulty functioning the rest of the day. I just wanted to mourn, and I felt all alone, like no one would or could understand or care about the way I felt.

My second heartbreak of the year came after the Dragonfly Triathlon on June 18th. Young Marcus and I got up early and rode to the lower lake at Sardis. I call him Young Marcus because he is young, twenty-three, the son of one of my good friends, Brian Waldrop. While Brian has turned into a P 90 Ex-triathlete, Young Marcus has become one of my chief training partners.

On the way up, I promised him a tour of some of my northern riding territory on our trip home, and I also told him about Barney the tomcat who works security at a little store on the south side of the hamlet named Pope.

When we got to Pope, I checked the steps and not seeing Barney, I went inside to ask some questions. The girl behind the counter recognized me and quipped, “Long time no see,” she said.

“My buddy and I did a triathlon in Sardis,” I answered while I pulled a Diet Sprite out of the cooler. “Stopped by to check on Barney.” The look in her eyes said it all before she opened her mouth.

“We haven’t seen him in about four months,” she said. Then lowering her voice she whispered, “I think the new owner,” she cut her eyes hard to her right, “hauled in off.”

I was stunned and followed the line of her eyes to the back side of a fat man who was cooking on the griddle. After that I really don’t remember much. I do remember vacillating between rage and sadness. Luckily, after that Young Marcus went to sleep and never knew I cried all the way home. I have to quit falling in love with cats I told myself over and over.

My wife called him Little Red, and we saw him for the first time a couple of years ago. He lived in a ghost town, Money, Mississippi about ten miles north of Greenwood. We had driven to Money and ridden our bikes in the area. When we were leaving, she shouted out, “There’s a fox back there!”

I backed up and there he was sitting on an old concrete tire pit in front of what once was Ben Roy’s Service in downtown Money. He was grooming himself like a cat and his beauty lit up the landscape. When we got too close, he jumped down and just seemed to disappear into the earth. I stopped the truck and walked over to where he had vanished. There in the lawn of Ben Roy’s Service was an old culvert, going where I suppose only God and Little Red knew.

A week or two later, Brian Waldrop and I were riding our bikes through Money and Little Red came running across the road moving as fast as anything I’d ever seen. He was glorious in his speed, his long thin legs eating up the ground and road like a cheetah on the plains of Africa and his tail following behind like flames coming from a jet engine. I yelled out in surprise and delight, and even Brian did a double take.

I drive Money Road every Tuesday and Thursday night coming home from Masters Swim Practice at DSU in Cleveland. One night I saw Little Red’s eyes just barely in the light of my headlamps as he crossed the road right there at Ben Roy’s Service. Another night, I caught him on the first bridge north of Money. He must have been going forty-miles per hour by the time he made it off the bridge.

Then I didn’t see him anymore for a long time, maybe a year or more. Really, I thought he was dead. But one Tuesday night in June, the twenty-eighth to be exact, I was returning from Masters Swim and just when I was right there at Ben Roy’s, I saw a flash to my left and then there was a thud as my truck struck something.

“No, please no,” I cried out as I turned around and rode back to see what had happened.

But I already knew and when I got out of the truck I saw Little Red lying in the road. I put my left hand on his side and told him over and over how sorry I was. The only sign of life was a slight twitching in his back muscles. I am sure he did not suffer nor fear me, but that was little consolation. Not being able to bear the thought of other automobiles or animals mutilating his body, I took him home with me. Once there, I chose an appropriate T-shirt, my Eagleman Triathlon shirt, to wrap him in. I buried him in my wife’s flower garden. Then I went to bed and cried myself to sleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Run in the Sun

Besides serving as a tour guide for the personable and charming Anna VanWinkle, Tuesday was special for another reason. I took a run with my daughter, which is always memorable. The run itself wasn't fun much, but that we did it together was. 

It was hot. 

It was very hot. 

It was dangerously hot. 

I rarely complain about high temperatures, but I made an exception this time because the afternoon was so blazing that I even got a little worried I might die out there. Seriously. 

It was a spur of the moment sort of thing. "Let's take a run," I chipped in, and she was all for it. We did a quick change and were headed west on Laughlin Road in no time flat. Not too far down the gravel path, less than half a mile, we found a little entrance into a soybean field and we took it enjoying the soft dirt turnrow under our feet. But the farmer was irrigating and the 107 heat index the Weather Channel App on my phone proclaimed was most likely far short of the actual conditions we faced. It got so bad that Andrea walked several times, crying at her inability to run, while I barely kept a shuffle and doubled back from time to time. 

We made a big rectangle around the bean field, and when we came upon a little patch of trees in the ditch that bordered the field, we stopped to avail ourselves of the only shade in sight. Lucky, Andrea's moose-sized rescue dog, was with us and he caught a mockingbird but was too lethargic to keep it, and the bird luckily lept back into the bush. The birds, which filled the trees and bush in that little oasis of cover, like us, didn't want to move. They too were suffering in the oppressive heat.

Before it was over, I shuffle 2.5 miles at lawn mower speed, and we both had to walk in. I loved on Smu, Buttons, and Caitlin, and then was off the DSU and masters swim for the first time in what seemed like forever. I saw Ricky Smith, Mark Blackwood, Manuella, and a couple of other people I did not know. I only did 2,400 was done, worn out from a long day of stimulation and exercise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Tour Guide

I had my first gig as a tour guide Tuesday morning when I received a delightful visit from the irrepressible Anna VanWinkle who came all the way from Las Vegas, Nevada, or was it Seattle, Washington? to see me and visit my catfish swimming pond. Well, that's the truth and if you don't believe it you can ask my momma.

Actually, I had given up on her after we corresponded via Facebook several times but she failed to show. I first expected her last week and then I expected her yesterday. When she didn't show Monday, I thought she decided to pass through without stopping. But Tuesday morning out of the blue while I was drinking coffee and trying to hatch a plot for some sort of fun, a new message from my DYST? friend came through. "I am finally in your area," she said. "Are you swimming or running or drinking coffee?"

To make a short story long, I tracked her down (it took some real detective work) and led her and her long truck and longer trailer back to Mom's house where there was room to park. After a quick greeting and a basic question, "How long do you have?" we were off in my old and dirty truck.

"You rode her in that truck?" my wife exclaimed the next morning. "I will never be able to look at her in the face!"

It's not that bad is it Anna? In my defense, I'd rather train than to clean a ten year old truck. At my age you have to make choices. I choose training.
Anna with her tour guide at Steven's

I thought better of my initial offer to take her to Waffle House and chose Steven's Barbecue instead where she ate breakfast, I had more coffee, and I told her a couple of the lurid local lawyer tales that I still can't believe haven't been made into movies.

Be that as it may, we left Steven's and rode down Howard Street, Greenwood's "most urbane" as I described it before crossing the bridge and taking a tour of houses and streets that appear in "The Help." Then it was out Money Road for a stop at Robert Johnson's grave and my commentary on how I wanted to get T-shirts made up that say, "Sell your soul to the devil and be somebody!" Next we went to downtown Money and saw Ben Roy's Service and the Emmett Till store and marker.

If you read this blog or posts in DYST? you should be able to guess what comes next. Drum roll. Yes, we rode over to the fish farm and she got to see first hand a Mississippi Delta catfish pond. And not just any pond, mind you, but the one I actually swim in. To celebrate, we both taped our noses, like I do when I swim any open water, and took a plethora of selfies on the banks of the warm commercial waters. How could it get any batter? Well, we could have swum, but she said, "No," and being a gentleman, I didn't protest.
Double selfie at the pond

After all the farm fun, we drove back to town, to Mom's, where she met my sisters, Mom, and Nancy Webb Phillips and we feasted on leftovers and banana pudding. We chatted, Anna played the piano, and then she left. Her visit was nice, too brief, but a nice relief from the ordinary.

So to all you people I know through Facebook but have never met in person, do like Anna and drive your truck or car to Mississippi and give me a call. I'll show you the sights and take you swimming if you are not too particular about your hair. I'll even feed you and take you to meet my mom. 

And I always supply the tape. Always.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Luvie's Report

Luvie said I had a good week running  but a poor one swimming for 7/13 - 7/19. Monday I lifted weights and ran 5.34 miles in the heat. Finally it is like a real summer around here. Almost too hot for me even. We have had mid 90s with high dew points for some really challenging weather.

Tuesday I went out Humphrey Highway and parked at Hill View Baptist Church so I could do some work on the big hill. I went up it two times (see "Big Hill Challenge" 7/16). It was brutal in the heat, and I managed 9.3 miles before I tapped out. I went to Twin Rivers that afternoon for a 3,800 meter straight swim, my only dip of the week. There were pool parties and weather issues. 


Wednesday I did a dri-tri circuit of weights, squats, and bike trainer work. In all I lifted, shuffled 5.42 miles, and spun for 41:00.

By Thursday I was beginning to feel beaten down by the heat and all I did was shuffle 3.3 miles. Friday, however, I went out for another nine-miler, this time 9.04. Saturday, Penny and I went to Jackson so I could get some bike shoes and also have my power meter worked on. When we got home I did another dri-tri of weightlifting, 51:00 on the trainer, and a paltry 2.05 on foot. 

All in all, I 

ran 34.45 and walked 7.76 miles,
lifted weights four times,
swam 3,800 meters, and
cycled 1:32:00.

Besides the physical stuff, I hatched some plots for having fun later in the  fall and winter. This was a good foundation for those ends.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A New Dream

Besides the Big Hill Challenge, I have other dreams for the fall and winter. Of late I have been pondering a rematch with the Great Noxapater Journey Run (see "Pulling the Trigger" 12/16/13, and "And Shooting Myself in the Leg" 12/19/13 for a write up of my epic failure on my last multi-day attempt). Actually, I am thinking of several journey runs, maybe intermediate steps to the GNJR Part II. Yesterday my wife and I went to Jackson to purchase some biking shoes. It's either that or the Heart O' Dixie is out because my old shoes, and I mean old, locked up on me and I had great difficulty extracting them from my feet from them. Huh? I don't have the word skills to explain what happened, but it really was buy new shoes or be out of the race. So I bought new shoes, a bottom end model. But they will work.

Before we left town, I settled on driving a different route because my brain was already starting to explode with thoughts, dreams. I hatched another possible journey run. I could go out Humphrey Highway to my father-in-laws in Carroll County and overnight with him. Day two would be Highway 430 to Black Hawk and then on the Vaiden via the long, lonely county highway where I could secure lodging for a night. On the third day, I could make my way to Highway 407 via Vaiden Road and then shuffle into Winona for a sleep at a local motel. Day Four could be all the way back to Greenwood, or half way there maybe staying at Seldom Seen if I could secure reservations for a night. So that is either a four or a five day trip of somewhere around 100 miles (I'll go back later and measure). Since it would start and stop at home, that will solve one major logistical problem of having someone pick me up at the end of the journey. The more I think about this, the more excited I become, more so than the thoughts of the GNJR. 

It's on.

Besides the logistical simplicity of starting and ending in the same place, I could take supplies to Carroll County in advance. That will help out on one major problem I had in my earlier failed attempt: my pack was way too heavy. Not only that, but right now I am more fit than then, and I still have training time left. In addition to all that, if I do this during the Thanksgiving Break, the weather will be a bit warmer, so I will need fewer clothes further reducing my pack size and weight. 

It's on.

Training starts Monday.

My recent emphasis on weight training and the Big Hill Challenge do not need to be set aside. They, in fact, will factor nicely into training for a five-day run. I will, however, make a renewed effort at big mileage weeks and long runs. Pace may suffer, but what is that compared to fun? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Big Hill Challenge

I need a picture. I'll take one and post it later, but this winter I plan to summit that thing five times. That's right, five times.

I guess "summit" is too strong of a word. But you have to remember I live in the Mississippi Delta, a pancake flat piece of real estate God created to make every other place on earth look beautiful. Our "little postage stamp of land," or something like that, as William Faulkner described his, lies 130 feet above sea level and the only things remotely resembling hills are a few bridges that contain a slight elevation change.

After fifty-nine years of living here, I am still amazed at the uniqueness of this place that one contemporary writer called "The Most Southern Place on Earth." That uniqueness is geographical, cultural, racial, economic, educational, intellectual, and if I thought a bit I'm sure I could come up with some more -als. As Dorothy said, there really is no place like home here, good and bad.

But I'm thinking now not as a social commentator, because I don't do social commentary, but as an athlete, more specifically a runner. Not far from here the loess bluffs tower over our delta not many miles east and south of the little hamlet of Greenwood where my wife and I and animals live. My family owns land in those hills and often I make a day trip to them to run or ride or fish or hunt. On Humphrey Highway, also known as 430, the hill into the hills is the largest thing I have found in this state. Maybe it would be no big deal somewhere else, but I'm not somewhere else, and here that hill is a virtual mountain.

OK, I'll give you the facts as I know them. According to my Garmin, it rises 264 feet in seven tenths of a mile. I don't know what percent grade that is, but for me it is long and steep and running up it, heck, walking up it, is no easy task. I go up that thing on foot a few times a year. Tuesday-- drum roll-- wait for it-- I went up twice. If you go to the real top which includes a three tenths of a mile incline that seems flat if you are in a car but is far from flat if you are on foot, the hill is a solid and exact mile long and a few more feet above the 264 of the visible hill.

Yes, Tuesday I lapped my watch on the Big Hill Mile as I refer to it. Mile one was done it 11:37 and my watch recorded mile two in 11:52. Somewhere in my journals I have more times for my summits, but for now that's all I can document. Way back in the day, when I wore a young man's clothes, as Billy Joel sang, I ran that thing four times in one session. I don't know what my times were but I am sure all the miles were at least two minutes faster. Well the thing is, I hatched this plot, this goal to run up that thing five times in one day.

I'll do it this fall or winter when the weather cools some. It was unmercifully hot Tuesday adding to the toughness of the climbs. I'll also do it after some specific training to prepare myself for the climbing. As a deltonian, any elevation change is challenging for me. But I have a plan.

I plan on committing to the weights, lower body, which is one thing that has long been absent from my training. This will add needed leg strength as well prepare my muscles to burn some lactic acid (lactic acid is a fuel, not a poison). In addition, I plan some treadmill sessions because that is one way I can get some incline in. I even plan this very day to cut a three quarter inch piece of plywood to go under the front of my treadmill to increase the incline. Also, I plan on dropping a few pounds, which will change my power to weight ratio as well as raise my V02 max. And I aim to put in some big mile weeks to further elevate that V02 max and to increase endurance. 

In short, I plan on getting as fit as possible because I have a goal, a plan, a dream. Those are the things that make me tick, as they say. And if I can pull that off, maybe my rematch with the Great Noxapater Journey Run will come off this year. 

Oh my.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Thinking Mode Again

I've been doing some thinking. Yeah, you've read that sentence before (see "The Thinking Mode" 6/30/15). This time, however, instead of just asking questions, I came up with some answers. 


First, I plan on continuing the Chicot Challenge. I have spent four years building the name, the brand if you will, and the expectation of this swim. Some people know about it and look forward to it. Many do not. I still am puzzled at the lack of attention the swim receives in some circles. For instance, Lake Village, Arkansas, the site of the swim, has no clue it even takes place. In my attempts to raise funds for the DFM, I have never raised a single penny from that town. The mayor turns a blind eye. The local newspaper turns a blind eye. The populace is clueless. The people I rent a boat from, rent a room from, buy food from, and give free publicity to refused my request for a small (and it would have been financially beneficial for them) sponsorship. I'm just not good at this kind of stuff. The promotion, that is.

My specialty is swimming, and I'd like to stick to just that. But to be a good fundraiser, I need to be better at the other aspects of the event. If someone, anyone, could give me some information on publicity and securing sponsorship, I would be extremely appreciative. Really. Inbox me. Email me. Call me. Meet me for lunch. I will pay for the meal and take notes while I pick your brains. I will then give you all the credit on this blog, on Facebook, and on YouTube that I can.

The ride on the Rez has thrown some serious cravings upon me. I definitely want to swim there. When and how far are still in the thinking mode. One thing is sure: when I get old and decrepit, I don't want to lie languishing in a nursing home wishing I had swum the Rez and the Tenn-Tom and some of the other bodies of water on my bucket list. I am not a young man. It is time to make these things happen while I still can.

And speaking of old and decrepit. I hope I don't get that way. I intend to fight old age every step of the way. My dad did. You've heard the expression, "He died with his boots on." My dad literally died with his running shoes on. I hope to go the same way. But even at that, he had reached a point in his life when he could no longer do a lot of the things he did when he was younger. One thing is for sure, he never looked back and said, "I wish I had fished more in Louisiana, or I had hunted birds more or played more tennis." He went after the things he wanted to do with a vengeance. Everything on his bucket list was crossed off. 

Back to the Rez. Right now I am thinking we might do an exploratory swim this fall and if that goes well come back in 2016 for a DFM fundraiser. I need a name. I need a goal. I need some energy. I am open for suggestions on the name. Message me on Facebook if you have an idea. 


Monday, July 13, 2015

Luvie's Monday Report

Luvie is a little ticked at me, and I can't blame him. I became a bit lazy this past week but not in a disastrous way. Let's just call it a recovery cycle and be done with it. Monday, I lifted weights, upper body, and did a short run of 2.31 miles after which I worked in the yard. For some reason unknown, I failed to muster the umph to drag out my bicycle and take a ride.

Tuesday was only a little better, I did some transition work in a little circuit I call a dryland triathlon. It goes something like this: mimic the swim fatigue and blood distribution of a swim with some weightlifting that ends with a set of swim pulls (my sports specific strength builder on the lat pull down machine), a quick set of squats to pre-exhaust the quadriceps, a turn on the bike trainer, and a run on the treadmill. I did three rounds for a total of 43:00 on the trainer and 2.31 on the treadmill. Did you notice that? I ran the exact distance Tuesday as I did Monday. That wasn't planned or noticed until Luvie crunched the numbers. Later I made it to Twin Rivers where I swam 3,700 as

5 X 100 @ 2:00
400 countdown
2 X 300
1 X 500

Wednesday I ran 5.12, did some more squatting afterwards, and then went to the pool where I swam

6 X 100 @ 2:00
300 small paddles (m first paddle set in months)
200 small paddles
total: 3,700 meters.

Did you notice that? I swam the same distance Wednesday as I did Tuesday, I would never have done that intentionally and didn't know I had until Luvie ran the numbers and pointed it out to me. Shucks!

Thursday I went to Jackson to make an exploratory cruise with Captain Coco and First Mate Larry Green, which I wrote about that already in "Ride on the Rez." Thus, I did no physical exercise that day although I did exercise my imagination. 

Friday I went to Carroll County and ran the hills. When I say I went to Carroll County, unless otherwise noted, that means I went to the cabin, the Hodge Training Center. Every time I go there now, I can see my dad's absence on display. Fields need bush hogging, limbs need moved out of the road (I moved a few), a huge tree down in a field offers firewood for years to anyone who will cut, the garden spots grow only weeds, and the cabin is filthy. That last one is the absence of Mom's health because Dad never cleaned. Like me, he was good at messing up, but his cleaning was restricted to the outdoors.

It was a good day in the country, and I made my way to my favorite hill, a stretch of county road that goes up for a half mile at an incline of three  to seven percent (I am guessing). I pretty much just destroyed myself over there going up and down and down and up. When I couldn't take it anymore, I slowly shuffled back to the cabin for a total of 10.5 miles running.

Saturday morning I spoke at the Greenwood Leflore Public Library on diabetes. My three main points were: Why Diabetes, Why the DFM, and Why the Chicot Challenge. Both of my sisters showed up which was very touching to me. Also, a couple of former students were in the crowd. It was an honor to be asked to speak (Is not the hand of Joab, er Forrest, in this?), and I had the opportunity to pass out some of that literature I had collected from the DFM at the Legal Professionals meeting in Pearl, a while back. 

After the meeting, we, my sisters and I along with Dr. Battman and a friend of hers, went to Veronica's Bakery for lunch. That was nice, my first trip there but certainly not my last. I was smitten with laziness for the rest of the day. I did force myself outdoors for an easy twenty-mile ride to Money and back. I intended to lift some weights a bit later but never found my round-to-it.

For the week, I

ran 21.62 and walked 3.52 miles,
lifted weights three times,
spun forty-three minutes on the trainer and rode 30.4 miles on the road,
and swam 7,400 meters.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ride on the Rez

Through the wonderful agency of Facebook, I contacted Larry Green, my link to Captain Coco, to see if we could secure a ride on the Lera Bea, a spotless pontoon boat named after Larry's mother. The stars were aligned and a day and time were set for Larry and me and the famous captain to make a roundabout on Ross Barnett Reservoir, otherwise known as "the Rez," to scout the possibilities of an open water swim there.

Captain Coco, a lady and a gentlewoman.

We three met Thursday, July 8th, a little before 1:00 pm, at E Pier of Harbor Marina. The sky was clear, the water flat, and my excitement hardly containable as we shook hands and boarded the ship of the able and knowledgeable sea dog.  

After launching, we motored out of the surprisingly large marina, into the main lake, and headed slowly for the west bank. In the marina, I remember thinking, I could swim a couple of miles inside here alone and be protected from boat traffic and high winds.  

On the big lake, we passed the Cock of the Walk, Madison Landing, and Old Trace Park. I was familiar with that small part of the lake, but soon we were seeing things I didn't know existed. Large homes bordered the water. Decks and boat docks adorned the homes and the manicured yards announced these as people who left more money in their couch cushions than my bank account had ever seen.

First Mate Larry Green and me on the Lera Bea

Slowly we made our way to Brown's Landing a distance of ten miles from Madison Landing. Several years ago I had driven over one day and scouted from the landings, Google Maps, and the roads contemplating a swim in this lake. If I remember correctly, I was looking for a one way swim from landing to landing of a little more than my recently completed 13.94 miles of the Chicot Challenge I. The distance was not long enough for a one way swim, but too long (at the time) for a two way trip to suit me at that time. This time, however, I had an accurate measurement from the water and my desire was for a twenty or more mile swim. Bingo. Madison Landing to Brown Landing and back would me a bit over twenty miles. But the day and the boat trip were far from over.

First Mate Larry at the controls
Captain Coco had graciously allowed Larry to take the helm and pilot the boat even though when we got to Brown's Landing, we were in need of real navigational skills. Stumps and shallow water characterize this part of the lake and the channel from the landing to the river channel is confusingly marked. We made it, however, to the well-marked Pearl River channel and began an enjoyable cruise back south.

Eventually we made it to Fanning Landing, a name I knew from Larry's Facebook posts but I had never seen and had no clue where it was. Now I knew and now fresh thoughts were going off in my mind like popcorn kernels bursting in a microwave.  

First Mate Larry piloted us near the bank and past home after home that he himself said, "Makes you wonder if you're in Mississippi doesn't it?" I'll say. To me it looked like some gated community in Florida. 
The gateway into Pelahatchie Bay

We went under a bridge and into Pelahatchie Bay. Once more fireworks were going off inside my brain. I could swim for miles in here. A long causeway separates the bay from the main lake and gives a measure of protection from wind. 

Leaving the bay, we motored along the dam, a full 3.1 miles before we re-entered Harbor Marina. Inside the marina, we did a relaxing lap behind "the Breakers" as I learned they are called, a string of huge condos on the strip of land that separates the main lake from the marina. We then docked, did the boatman duties, and left the vessel. It was as nice time. I learned a lot about the lake and meeting the venerable Captain Coco was the highlight of my month. Seeing Larry again, for the first time in years, was not bad either.

What now? A lot of thinking. The possibilities are endless. I'll keep you informed as to where my mind lands. Thanks Captain Coco and First Mate Larry Green. It was a pleasure and honor to ride with you aboard the Lera Bea.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Plate City Training Center

This is where the magic happens. Or at least some of it. I spend a lot of time here, especially during the winter when my access to water is limited. Most of the gym is homemade, and I have two projects now that promise to make my backyard even better. If you are ever in the Mississippi Delta, schedule a visit. We can workout and then travel to my favorite catfish pond for a post gym swim.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Unver Interview with Hodge

A Rising Tide

By Jay Unver

Dr. Nomann has done it again. After "the merger" as people call it- the joining of the Associations of Sports Swimmers, the Association of Sports Shufflers, and the Association of Sports Syclists into Big ASS Endurance- Nomann has worked relentlessly to make the three fledgling groups into one athletic powerhouse. He has succeeded beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

From the beginning, Zane Hodge- who recently re-broke his own Big ASS World record for longest swim- has been the dominant athlete. Not any more. Two years ago, the signing of the UK's Anabel Lavers to a multi-year contract added to the international profile and prestige of the Association. The recent signings of Ben Ray and Wilson Carroll has sports fans drooling, Big ASS respect rising, and Zane Hodge reeling.

I sat down with Hodge at the Plate City Training Center and chatted about Anabel Lavers, Randy Beets, and the latest signees. I found some of his answers surprising.

Unver: First of all, congratulations on your fourth Chicot Challenge and the new world record you set. Or maybe I should say, "reset."

Hodge: Thank you. It's always a thrill. 

Unver: You'e taken the world distance record from 13.94 to 16.0 to 17.7 to 19.0. Where does it go from here?

Hodge: I'm afraid it goes away. Bel is scheduled for a shot at the English Channel this month. If she makes it, she will not only be the first Big ASS athlete to complete that famous swim, but her swim will also made her the new world record holder at 21 miles.

Unver: How do you feel about that, and if she is successful, will you try to retake the record at the next Chicot Challenge or swim the channel yourself?

Hodge: Starting with the Channel, the answer is no. I do not plan ever to swim the channel.

Unver: Why?

Hodge: Several reasons. One is the expense. It costs an American about five grand to pull off a crossing. Dr. Nomann a few years back offered me a $100 bonus for successfully doing it. But that leaves $4,900 I don't have. I refuse to go begging for funds so I can achieve a personal goal. If I ask people to give, it will be for a worthy charity like the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi not for myself.

Hodge took a sip of coffee and then seemed to be listening to the birds that sang from the tree limbs overhead.

Unver: You said "several reasons." You only gave me one.

Hodge: Oh. Besides the expense, the channel is a cold water swim. You know I never got very good at that. I made no bones about the fact that Randy Beets was the cold water man around here. I can't imagine being in cold water for hours on end. I just don't have the stuff for it. And training for that around here is impossible. Water temps are averaging in the high 80s, and its a cool year. I asked Karah Nazor, the race director of Swim the Suck, and an English Channel soloist, how she trained for the cold. "Oh, that's easy," she said. "Just go to San Fransisco for six weeks and swim in the bay." Again, making a trip to the west coast and spending weeks out there is not in my range.

Unver: That reminds me. We need to talk about Randy Beets, but before we do that, back to the channel thing. If Anabel makes it, will you immediately attempt to retake the record?

Hodge: I am not sure yet what form my charity swim will take next June. I am rethinking everything from venue to name to distance. My initial thoughts were to go for 20 miles. That would leave me short of the record. One thing to consider is the logistics of a long swim. We are starting to bump up against the upper limits of what we can pull off. Anabel doesn't have to worry about alligators. They are the main reason I don't want to be in the water before or after dark. I think the dangers are very low in the daytime but rise exponentially with darkness.

Unver: Interesting. Back to Beets. What do you have to say about him?

Hodge: It was really nice that he made to the Challenge all the way from North Carolina. I liked that he was the one left in the kayak at the end. Everybody else had gone in the pontoon boat to the finish at the landing and was waiting on us. It was just him and me. I knew we were going to be a little short on distance, so I gave him my Garmin and trusted him to get me 19 miles. He came through like I knew he would. We have both always been adult enough to put our differences aside and work together on the Challenge once a year. I cherish that.

Unver: And what about the rivalry? It continues?

Hodge: I'm afraid I have destroyed Beets. It's a shame really. I think the pressure of losing to me year after year topped off with the injuries and my relentless harassment campaign last fall did him in. That's why he didn't show up at the Suck. He was overwhelmed with performance anxiety. 

Unver: You know this?

Hodge: It's my opinion, but I'm right. Then he got beat in Chattanooga by Ben Ray, one of Nomann's latest signees. Sad. For me very sad. A great athlete who is now a shadow of himself and losing to a Johnny-come-lately.

Unver: So you don't think much of Mr. Ray.

Hodge: Oh, contrair. I think he is a real talent and will be in the Association for many years. But he IS a come-lately. And to beat Randy Beets like that. Good for him. Bad for Randy Beets.

Unver: And what do you think of Wilson Carroll, another recent Nomann addition.

Hodge: I have actually trained with Wilson a couple of times. He invited me to Seldom Seen Training Center for swims in his famous lake.

Unver: And?
Carroll and Hodge after a training swim at
the Seldom Seen Training Center.

Hodge: He dragged me around the lake pretty rudely. But I'm not in top form right now. But neither is he. It remains to be seen what will happen when we have a showdown. It seems like we are pretty close to the same speed, though. 

Unver: And Nunnery? He crewed you at the last Suck. Now he's in the race.

At this point, Hodge, who had been relaxed and jovial, suddenly became intense and energized. He leaned forward towards me and with a growl in his voice barked

Hodge: I tell you what about that Nunnery. He should have stuck to being a pontoon boat captain and TV commentator. I'm going to whip his hinder parts at this year's Swim the Suck. Write that in your article. I'm going to whip his hinder parts.

I didn't ask any more questions. Hodge was agitated enough.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Luvie's Report with a few Words

It was a different training week as I made myself do some things I really didn't want to. That's what good training is, I suppose, making yourself do the undesirable that you know is good for you. And that is a pretty accurate definition of discipline. I don't have a lot of that, discipline, so usually I do stuff I want to do like swim and run at an easy pace and lift weights for upper body while neglecting things like interval training, long bike rides, lower body weight lifting, and bricks, those off the bike runs that feel so bad but are necessary for good triathlon performance.

I did bricks last week. 

I squatted three times.

I rode long.

I am sore.

I am very sore.

The week went like this:

Monday I drank extra coffee and updated this blog before heading out for my longest bike ride of the year to date. I did 40.12 miles and then shuffled 2.67 off the bike before cooling down with a .27 mile walk. Later I went to Twin Rivers alone and swan 2,300 meters.

Tuesday I did a transition workout at the Plate City Training Center which consisted of some upper body weightlifting, followed immediately by a set of squats, then to the bike trainer and then to the treadmill. I went two times through but not for big numbers. I totaled 21 minutes on the trainer and 1.1 miles on the treadmill. That was in the morning. After lunch, I did another 1.7 miles of running on the road for a total of 2.7 miles shuffling before I added some upper body weightlifting. Once more I went to the pool without my buddy, John, and swam 3,200 as 

5 X 300 @ 6:30
200 easy.

Under the influence of some videos I watched on YouTube, I did something Wednesday that I had never done before. I squatted for the second day in a row. Not only did I squat, but I got on the bike and rode a long way, longer than Monday's outing by a little. I could tell very early, however, that the squats and Monday's ride had put a hit on my legs. The plan was to go over the three hour threshold which puts one into that fat burning mode that is so important for crazy endurance. In the pool, I do it with long straight swims that contain no feeds. On the bike, three hours is the threshold. On the feet, two hours is the magic mark. Exceed those without feeds and the body responds by drastically improving its ability to burn fat as fuel.

The ride was slow and the 41.8 bike miles left me ill prepared for the 2.7 mile shuffle that followed. It was a case of total bonkitude, which feels terrible to the mind and body but yields almost magical fitness results. Despite the power of these workouts, I can't endure a bonk session very often. Not on the feet, but I love them in the water. If only one in ten of my runs felt like that, I would stop running forever. 

By Thursday my legs were protesting the two bricks, the two squat session, and the bonk, so I did another round of squats. Isn't that brilliant? I watch too much YouTube. The guys who squat everyday are bodybuilders, but they put a seed in my mind and it has begun to grow. This time, however, I followed the leg work with a short, easy trainer spin and then a short, easy shuffle of 2.17 miles on the road. After nutrition and rest, I hit the pool for

8 X 50 @ 1:15
10 X 100 @ 2:00
400 easy
total- 3,400 meters.

This, the 100s, was the first quality swimming I have done since long before Chicot, and my body has lost its fitness for that. It will come back, though.

Friday I did something I rarely do anymore. I got up early and made my way to Seldom Seen to join Wilson Carroll for an early morning swim in his lovely lake. Wilson was gracious enough to invite me for the swim so I was grateful enough to get out of bed early. We did two laps in the surprisingly cool water. A couple of cloudy days and some rain has the water feeling like fall. Later at home, I did some work on the Plate City Training Center, lifted weights, and tipped around the block for a weeny 1.62 miles.

With Saturday being the 4th, we were naturally scheduled to go the Hill Billy Heaven. For the first time since last winter, I ran all the way. The weather was perfect. With an overcast sky and a light falling rain, I never got hot, my fluids never gave out, and I never got tired of the rain. My total for the day was a slow 15.77 miles of shuffling and I walked a total of 1.47 miles between naps and feedings. The day was nice as the cool weather was delightful and everyone seemed relaxed and happy.

For the week, I

ran 27.63 miles,
lifted weights five times,
walked 3.33 miles,
swam 12,900 meters, and 
rode 81.92 miles on the bike and cycled 33:30 minutes on the trainer.

Up next is the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon on July 25th where I hope this time around to be able to hold off the fat ladies. That is what the bike riding and the bonk workout is for. If a large lady tries to pass me this year, I may kick her off her bicycle. Anybody out there willing to go my bail?