Monday, November 30, 2015

Day Four: Personal Encounters

"Ok.. I'm here I think," the text said.

I went out the back door, placed my Garmin on the porch rail so it could pick up the satellites, and waved to the young man in the car. When he exited the auto I said, "I'll be right out," and went back inside, put on my pack, and rejoined my companion for the day.

Yes, I made it to French Camp on day three and was able to rent a room. Even though I had partly hoped to be homeless, when I crawled into the soft, warm bed inside the log cabin and heard the strong, cold wind howling outside the window, I was awfully relieved not to have to sleep in the woods.

Then the Facebook messages started. To make a short story long, somebody had seen me running on Highway 407. Somebody's fiancee saw a Facebook post. Somebody wanted to run with me, so the fiancee contacted me via Facebook on behalf of her boyfriend and here we were, two strangers about to spend the day together running from French Camp to Ackerman. 

We left at exactly 9:00 am. I had set the time that late to allow for the sun to penetrate the cold air with some warmth. In addition to the cold (26 degree low), I was worried our paces might not be compatible. I had been going for three days, and I'm not that fast when fresh. But right away he didn't seem to be bothered by my slow shuffle.

I could tell in nothing flat that he, James Bevis, was an introvert like me. You know what happens when two introverts get together. We talked each others ears off. I haven't said that many words in the last three years all combined. 

I was first surprised that he could run that slow and then surprised that he could run that far. James is a football player from Jackson, Tennessee who recently inked a scholarship with Mississippi State University. He's a big guy and big guys don't normally do distance running, but James does and like me he does it primarily for fun.

Unlike past starts, I did not walk a long way to slowly warm up but began shuffling as soon as our shoes hit Highway 413. We ran the flats and downhills and walked the uphills while quickly becoming proficient at working together to avoid traffic. Since 413 has no shoulder, one of us, James, would run ahead so we could shuffle the white line single file until the car passed.

I was surprised at how quickly we made it to Highway 12 where we turned north-east toward Ackerman. A couple of miles later, we stopped at the Dollar General Store in Weir. I needed Gatorade, had forgotten to pack a razor, and had lost my toothbrush. After purchasing the three needed items, we were back on the road.
James Bevis and me at the Ackerman sign.

Working with a partner made the time and distance pass much faster and easier than it does when one is alone. Not only that, but I actually ran a little faster and ran a lot more. My legs were feeling the best they had for the whole trip. Day three had been a 27.46 mile effort with the most running of the journey thus far. Yet the old legs still had some juice in them, not a lot but some.

We made it to Ackerman at 12:30 after covering 14.6 miles, much earlier and shorter than expected. We stopped at the intersection of Highways 12 and 15 to eat lunch. I didn't even get the name of the place, but I acquired a plate lunch there of turkey and dressing, butter beans, and mashed potatoes. Jame's fiancee, Samantha Leeanne, arrived to pick up my partner. He was apologetic about leaving, but it was OK. I had made a new friend under the most unlikeliest of circumstances, had enjoyed our run, and we agreed to get together during the Christmas holidays to do some seriously long ambulations.

Originally, I had planned to overnight in Ackerman, but since the day was so young and my legs still workable, I gave thoughtful consideration to going on to Louisville. That would cut day five down to about ten miles and get me home a day earlier which would make my wife happy. Besides all that, I had long recoiled over the idea of staying at the Ackerman Inn.

While I finished my lunch, I made the decision. I am going on, I thought. Then I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned to see who touched me.

"I'm sorry," an elderly lady who walked with a cane in her right hand said. "I have to be very careful. I broke my hip. If I fall again, I don't know what will happen to me."

She then proceeded to tell me how active she had been and how she was attempting to come back from her injury and surgery. I had heard it all before; life has been putting this story before me over and over: the aged struggling with advancing years and the numerous challenges that presents. I saw it with my grandmother. I saw it with church members. I saw it with Dad. I see it with Mom and with current friends. Getting old is a difficult deal that being young does not prepare us for.

I didn't even get her name. She made her way to her table, and I got up to pay my bill and leave. On the way to the counter, an elderly man sitting in a booth with his wife looked me in the eye and said, "You understand."


"You understand life."

"Yeah?" I answered with a strong question mark in my voice.

"Struggle. Life is struggle." He then proceeded to tell me how he had recently cleaned a yard, roofed a house, climbed a tree and sawed off a limb with a bucksaw. He is eighty-three years old and told me, "I don't want to live forever, but I want to live while I am alive." 

There was a passion in his eyes as well as his voice. I was beginning to understand what he was talking about.

"Are you on a bicycle?" he asked.

"On foot," I answered.

He asked the usual questions about when and where and then, "You're doing this for your health?" Everybody wants to know why. 

"My health. Adventure. Fitness. Goal setting. My great-grandfather." Then I told him about George Henry Quinton. His deep blue eyes filled with tears.

He shook my hand and said, "You call me if you need anything. Anything. Call me in the middle of the night if you have trouble."

"Thank you," I answered and walked away surprised once more by the power of that story.

After paying my tab, I went out into the sunshine and began a slow walk down Highway 15. I was alone again, and since I moved slowly to let my food digest, I had time and energy to think. Struggle. That's what I thought about.

I think the old man was right. Life is struggle. Even in the garden of Eden, Adam had a job. He worked. The Bible says, "And the LORD took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15). I don't know how hard Adam's work was. I do know it became much more difficult after the Fall when God cursed the ground and told Adam that "By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food" (Genesis 3:19).

Whether we like it or not, life is filled with struggle. We try to avoid it; we try to prepare for a life without it. Could it be that much of mankind's battles with depression, aimlessness, and anxiety have to do with a contemporary world that has removed too much struggle from our existence? Yes, I understand that sometimes depression is caused by those chemical things, neurotransmitters, in the brain. Or the lack thereof. Some would say it is always caused by those chemical things in the brain. But maybe the chemical things in the brain are the symptom or results of something else, some stress or distress, or something not in line with the way God made us.

Although I have had real struggle in my years and much of it, life is pretty easy right now. The most difficult thing I have to do is try to teach students of English to begin a paragraph with a topic sentence rather than a supporting one. I look at myself as blessed because now I am in a stage of life where I can create my own struggles and make those struggles my play instead of a necessity for my survival.

I stopped on the south side of Ackerman and took a picture in front of the sign to Louisville. Then I began to shuffle some. The legs were tired, and the play had turned into a struggle. But it was a struggle I chose and created. It was still play.

I played for a long time that afternoon. It was only 15 miles from south Ackerman to my destination, but I was moving pretty slowly. Despite my best efforts, darkness caught me some miles north of town. Finally, I came to the place where the old highway-- the one that we always drove in on when I was a kid-- parted from the new bypass, and I had to make a decision. Do I go the bypass route where the newer motels are, or do I go downtown and stay in an older place but one that puts me closer to my great-grandfather's grave? I chose the latter.

The temps fell with the setting of the sun and being reduced to a walk, I was having trouble generating enough body heat. I added clothes, zipped zippers higher, and wondered where downtown Louisville was.The road had no shoulder and when my flashlight went out, I found myself having to step off the pavement onto the ditch bank whenever a car passed to keep from being run over. With my feet being terribly sore, standing on the incline of the ditch was terribly uncomfortable. Where was town? I should be there already. Finally, I approached some stores and the road now had a sidewalk. I walked past a service station and then the Village Inn, an older motel on the south side of town, came into view. There was a Mexican restaurant at the motel, El Rodeo, and I thought, this is everything I need: a bath, a bed, and a meal. So I stopped and rented a room.

Then things got interesting.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Day Three: An Uncertain Conclusion

I woke, dressed, and limped to the motel office so I could check out. Then I limped to the Exxon Station next door, bought Gatorade, and poured it into my hydration bladder. After that, I limped to Huddle House for breakfast. It was 6:50 am when I sat in a booth facing east and looked out the window the direction I had planned to go. I pondered the impending doom and conclusion of my journey. My feet were terribly painful, but worse than that, my lower right calf was sore in a frightening way. There was no way I could make it to French Camp. The human body can't limp all day without something else breaking. I would call John Misterfeldt to pick me up, but before I did, I would walk a mile or two. I would cover some distance before I threw in the towel.

At least I had coffee, and I drank three cups to go along with the three over easy eggs I ate with the grits, sausage, and toast. I finished my meal, paid my bill, and went outside to face my failure. "Lord," I prayed, "at least help me get to Highway 407. Get me there, please." 

I then began to limp down the shoulder of the highway until I was able to turn onto the old 82, a less traveled road. Slowly, my body warmed and my pace improved. I was watching with interest the numbers on the Garmin and noticed the tempo, very slow at first, become quicker and quicker. A little over two miles later, I was at the intersection of Highways 51 and 407. "Thank you, Lord. Help me to get out of town, to the airport road. That won't be as embarrassing if I can make it out of town."

Amazingly, my feet didn't hurt anymore. I found that to be the pattern of the trip. Each day started with sore, painful feet, but a mile or two in and they felt OK. My calf, however, was still sore, worrisome. When I made it to the airport road, I prayed for God to help me make it to Vaiden Road. If I can get there, that will be some sort of victory. I shot a short video as I continued to walk along saying that The Great Noxapater Journey Run as turning into The Great Noxapater Journey Walk. 

But the calf was loosening, my limp was disappearing, and my confidence was starting to rise like the day's temperature. I topped a hill and thought, I can shuffle to the bottom. I did and when I got to the bottom I kept going. My legs felt fine, and I thought, I'm OK; I began to have fun again like I did on the first day. I made it to Vaiden Road, and then I prayed to get to Community Baptist Church which is on the west side of the Big Black River bottom. 

I got to the church at 11.53 miles, and since I had many more miles to go, I decided to take a break there. I stopped under their breezeway, hooked my phone to its charger, and plugged it in. I stretched my calves on the edge of the concrete slab then I lay down and ate a Cliff Bar.

When I left twenty minutes later, I was running and praying to get across the Big Black River bottom, which I did. The next goal was to stride into Poplar Creek. First, I had to climb the 1.1 mile hill that rises out of the river bottom back into the hills. I walked that whole thing. Although I was feeling confident now, I feared a run up that incline would put way too much pressure on my plantar fascia and calf. Not only that, but with all the miles I had come and still had to go, running up hills didn't make much sense.

Poplar Creek is a community, not an actual town. But is was a nice milestone for me, and I knew when I passed through it there would be precious few humans until I came to French Camp.

I made it several miles past Poplar Creek when I took a pull on my hydration tube and got only bubbles. I was out of Gatorade and had a long way to go before the day was done. I heard a four wheeler and some voices. Off the road to the right, I could see some campers on the other side of a line of trees. Deer camp, I thought.

"Hey," I hollered and crossed the road.

"Hey," someone yelled back.

"Can I have some water?"

"Yeah. Come on up."

I met Phil Lekner from Biloxi who was very interested in my journey. He was even more interested in how many deer I had seen, which I told him consisted only of a dead one strapped to the back of a four wheeler which was strapped to a utility trailer which was pulled by a truck. To make a short story long, I left with water in my hydration pack, a cold bottle of water in my hand, and a cold coke stuffed into my pack. 

Despite a chilly start, the day had been sunny and warm. But a cold front was moving in and the sky began to darken while the wind rose blowing the fall leaves over the road and into my face. I decided to drink the water and the coke before I resumed running, and while I walked along, I tried again to call the bed and breakfast at French Camp. I had been calling all morning and could not get them on the phone. I was beginning to think I might be homeless for the night. I know what you're thinking: why did you not have reservations already? Shoot me; I'm a procrastinator. 

The temps were predicted to make a major dip in the night,  to below freezing, and for a bit I became frightened at the prospects of being without shelter. Then I thought about my great-grand father. He was homeless for six months; I could survive being homeless for one night. The more I thought about it, however, the more exciting the idea of sleeping in the woods became. I could put on all the clothes I had packed and make my way to one of those pine thickets beside Highway 413 where I would get out of the wind. I'd gather a mound of pine straw and dig myself into the center of it. If I could get even a few hours of sleep, I should be able to move on in the night and generate enough body heat to stay warm.

As the sky continued to darken and the air began to chill, my spirits soared to their loftiest highs of the journey. A line from a movie came to mind which reminded me of another reason I do this sort of thing. In The Shawshank Redemption, when Morgan Freeman's character boards the bus for Mexico at the end of the film, he says, "I felt the excitement that only a free man can feel at the beginning of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain."

As I ran along towards French Camp, I felt the freedom of a little boy turned loose to play for the day. I was excited. I was happy.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The GNJR Day Two: Tears in my Chicken

The pole barn at Seldom Seen
I woke around 6:30 Friday morning to a cold house and an empty stomach. I had ferried some supplies out here Monday afternoon, and now I made my way downstairs to devour part of them and the others I would later load into my pack. I fixed breakfast, two sliced bananas mixed with a can of sardines in oil, and no I did not drain the oil but sopped it all up with the bananas. I then ate a Moon Pie and washed the dishes I used before going upstairs to get ready for the morning's launch. 

The first thing I did was work on my feet, applying tape, duct and kenisio, to critical areas. Then I begin to dress a little at a time. There was in no hurry since I was waiting for the sun to warm things some before I left. I wore my tights for the first time on the trip and put a couple of more layers on up top. I loaded the thirty-two ounces of Gatorade into my pack's hydration bladder and packed the extra Gu gels, Moon Pies, and protein bars I had stashed here for the remainder of the trip. That added probably three pounds to my load. Not good. That was one of the problems I had in 2013: my pack was way too heavy. Although I did not weigh my pack then, I did weigh it Thursday before I left: 11.4 pounds. Not too bad for a five day run. But now it was heavier. My appetite should remedy that, however.

I waited a while longer for the weather to warm, and then left Seldom Seen at a quarter till eight, on my journey for Winona. After making it to McCarley Road, I walked the first long hill leaving Wilson's place and then began my first run of the day going down the other side. I could tell right away it was going to be a tough day. My legs were spent from the start, and things would only get worse as the day progressed.

Fortunately, McCarley was much closer than I thought, and after only four miles, I was downtown, such as downtown is. Although my body felt bad, my brain felt good that I had reached the scene of my 2013 surrender when I was forced to take a ride back to Greenwood, unable to continue my journey. This time I was still in the game. I took a few photos and then headed onto the gravel road that leads eastward out of town.

Those roads between McCarley and Winona were the best ones I encountered on the whole trip. They are almost uninhabited, pretty flat with a hill thrown in here and there, and for several miles one follows the old abandoned C&G Railway line. This was only the second time I had been through here, the only other time being in my truck while scouting out a route to keep me off Highway 82.

One of the neat roads beside the
old C&G Railroad.

I saw precious little wildlife, but I did feel the solace of the silent woods as I wondered the road-trails among the trees which were awash with their fall colors. As the morning wore on, however, I became weary, very weary, maybe a result of a less than stellar night's sleep, or possibly the consequence of a lack of coffee. I normally drink a quart of the liquid bean per day. Seldom Seen had a coffee maker, filters, and coffee, but I didn't want to open a package of someone else's bean so I went without. I should have taken some out there with my groceries.

Two and a half hours into the morning, I checked my Garmin to discover I was walking along at 25:00 minutes per mile! That's grocery shopping pace, but it was all I could do. My feet were sore, my legs were dead, and my energy was low. A nap was all I wanted, fantasized about. 

I found a place in the road where the shade hit and some leaves lay making me think cars rarely rode over that spot. A good place to sleep, I thought, so I stopped and began to take off my pack. Then I had a faint inkling of how stupid it would appear to anyone who heard of me getting run over because I was asleep on the road. 

I should have opened that coffee.

I continued on for what seemed like days but in reality was only hours. Finally, I came to the paved road that runs parallel to I 55 and only a little ways north of Highway 82. I was at Winona. I checked my watch. It was only 1:30, too early to check into a motel. I made my way across 82 to Kentucky Fried Chicken where I ordered a three piece meal. The chicken, I surmised, would give me plenty of protein to repair my damaged muscles.

I sat down with my food and the profundity of my fatigue overwhelmed me. I thought about my great-grandfather who walked from Utah to Louisville, Mississippi when he was but a boy. He was a better man than I when he was only twelve years old. I lowered my head and put my left hand on my forehead to cover my eyes so no one would see me cry. I tried not to drip tears onto my chicken which I devoured with relish despite my highly emotional state.

After eating, I wearily wandered next door to the Magnolia Lodge where I checked myself in. Immediately, I removed my shoes, lanced some blisters, and took a long, warm bath. I put on my night-night clothes and crawled into the bed. I was asleep within seconds.
Tears and chicken were my lunch/supper.

I woke up about two and a half hours later. It was 5:00 pm. I spent the next five hours watching TV, taking naps, and eating protein bars one half at a time. The extra protein would help my damaged muscles recover. Eating one half of one every thirty minutes would give my body the ability to uptake all the amino acids. Or so I surmised. Somewhere around 10:00 o'clock, I slipped off into a sleep from which I am sure not even an F 5 tornado could have awakened me.

Distance for the day was 11.54 miles.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The GNJR Day One: Dogs and Bigfoot

The confidence, excitement, and eagerness that had been building inside me for months were all gone smashed like a wrecked ship and sunk by the rocks of pain, fear, and dread. The long-awaited Great Noxapater Journey Run was here, but my prospects for success had vanished like a thief in the night. Monday evening after a short run, I began to feel pain and soreness in my left heel. What?!?! I have had plantar fasciitis before. This meant doom, maybe months of it.
Selfie near the start on the
Yazoo River levee.

I took another short run Tuesday afternoon, felt more pain, and my anxiety level shot to a 15 on a scale of 1 to 10. I wanted to weep, my mood became somber, I became sullen and dark. For years, literally years, I had planned and trained to make this run, but injury almost always prevented me from starting. Finally, I was healthy enough to start in 2013, but went down in flames, failing on the very first day with a stress fracture. Now it was happening all over again: same song, new verse.

Wednesday I went home after work, tried to stay off my feet as much as possible, and pondered and prayed if I should even start the journey. My head told me no, don't do it, put everything on hold; but my heart pushed me out the door and at 11:58 Thursday morning on November 19th I begun what I fully believed would be another ill-fated attempt. I expected to have to be rescued on the first day, but something inside told me I had to try. Since my spirits were so low, I started with a slow walk to let my legs and feet gently warm up. It was a full three and a half miles later before I dared to switch to a slow shuffle. 

Surprisingly, everything felt good when I started running as I shuffled out Browning Road, over to the highway, and then east on the shoulder of 82. I prayed as I pounded the pavement and asked God to at least help me get to bottom of the hill. I ran to Valley Hill and then began a slow walk up the long incline while cars and eighteen wheelers whizzed by. As the mile numbers mounted, my confidence gradually rose like the temperature on a July morning.

As soon as I could, I crossed the four lanes of traffic to get to the old Highway 82, a quieter, gentler road more satisfying to my soul. When the old highway came to an end, just like I did in 2013, I opted to ambulate the longer but safer and more scenic Skating Rink Road. This year I found it just a pretty as I did twenty-three months ago, and I also found myself praying for God to give me day one, all of it.

Somewhere after the road turned gravel, I picked up two dogs who seemed determined to go the distance with me. I did nothing to encourage their company, having learned long ago that canines love to ramble with strangers. As we re-approached 82, which I would cross once more, I prayed the dogs would go home, but they seemed set to stay with me having the time of their lives. One was a large, light-tan cur-looking male of about 60 pounds; the other was a full-sized but smaller black, shaggy female of an estimated 35 pounds.

Much to my chagrin, we, the dogs and I, crossed the busy highway and spilled ourselves out onto Providence Road, a shady stretch of tree-lined gravel that leads to the old town of Carrollton. We were getting a long way from the dogs' home, and I began to worry more about them, if they could get home, would they be safe. I caught the big dog and found a phone number which I promptly called. The man who answered said he was on the other side of Eupora travelling the other way, but he would make a call to a friend in the area who maybe could pick up the dogs. 
Supper at Dixie's Cozy Kitchen.

Just before we came into Carrollton, my canine companions got into a fight with some local dogs. This caused me to worry even more because I wondered how they could possibly have the nerve to come back this way even if they knew the way home and wanted to go there. 

In Carrollton, the traffic was surprisingly heavy and the dogs were constantly in the road coming frighteningly close to being struck several times. We went past my brother-in-law's house where my niece, Cheyenne, a lass about twelve years of age, was outside holding a puppy, and the brown dog acted a little aggressive towards the innocent puppy sending my stress levels even higher. 

When we got a little farther down the road in front of Dixie's Cozy Kitchen, a woman wearing an apron ran out of the cafe and started calling the dogs by name. She was the friend the owner phoned. While we were scrambling about attempting to corral the dogs, a deputy sheriff rode up and stopped in the middle of the busy road.

"What's going on here?" he asked as if he had caught us red-handed committing a crime.

"We need some help," the woman in the apron yelled back at the office who responded by speeding away in his patrol car.

We caught the brown dog and locked him in the woman's SUV. She said she would take him home when she got off work. But the black one was still on the loose when I left about thirty-minutes later. I don't know how that story turned out. I went inside when the apron woman did and ordered a hamburger and fries, and drank three glasses of tea.

When I left the cafe, it was dark and the temperature had fallen from warm to what a Southern boy calls cold. I pulled some clothes out of my pack, put them on and began the last leg of my day's journey, the three miles to Wilson Carroll's Seldom Seen where I would sleep for the night. Since I had just eaten, I didn't attempt to run, but hiked in the dark the two plus miles to the turn and then the almost mile up the gravel road/drive.

Inside the house, I quickly shed my pack and shoes, lanced two blisters-- one on each foot-- and took a bath. I then put on my night-night clothes and went downstairs for some TV time, reflecting on the journey thus far. I left home with zero confidence in my prospects for success, but God gave me the day. I was grateful. Now I was thinking, maybe, just maybe with prayer and effort, I can pull this off.

I became groggy so I went upstairs to turn in for the night. Having come 23.1 miles, sleep should be no problem and I was in the twilight zone, fading fast, when my eyes opened wide at a startling sound.




Over and over and over and over.

It was loud, way too loud for a mouse or rat or whole heard of rats even. Something was downstairs causing chaos. And then while my heartbeat shook the soft bed I lay in, something outside let loose with what sounded like a Bigfoot call, you know how they do on the show Finding Bigfoot. "Are you kidding me?!?!?!" I thought. Then after a few seconds, the yell broke loose again.

I crept out of bed and retrieved the large folding knife I carry on long runs for protection, more concerned about what was inside the house than what was outside it. You know I felt threatened since I had the blade out. I sneaked to the door, down the hall to the stairway, and then nervously reached for the light switch afraid at the sight I was sure to see below. I expected to see something, maybe a cow having crashed through the wall and standing in the middle of the room or Bigfoot himself or a crew of thieves wearing ski masks and black gloves. But when I did flip on the switch what I saw was nothing, or nothing amiss. I could view the entire room except a small area directly under the stairs, and though I hate to admit it, I was too frightened to go down there and look under the stairs

I spent the night with my knife in my hand, the hall light on, and my face pointed towards the bedroom door. Though I yearned to roll over onto my left side, my normal sleeping position, I dared not do it.

Yeah, I'm a fraidy-cat.

The distance for the day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Luvie's Short Report on The GNJR

By Luvie

Today I am writing fat boy's simple report on The Great Noxapater Journey Run. He says he will write a more detailed account later.

Day One: 23.1 miles from Greenwood to a little east of Carrollton

Day Two: 11.54 miles from a little east of Carrollton to Winona

Day Three: 27.46 miles from Winona to French Camp

Day Four: 30.52 miles from French Camp to Louisville

Day Five: 10.16 miles from Louisville to Noxapater

Total: 102.78.

Zane says he will compose a write up of each day's run. Not only that, but he says there will be a separate post about what he learned on this journey. Really? He vows it's true, that he made a new friend, had some personal encounters with strangers, did some deep thinking, and learned a lot about himself and life. I think he's just trying to justify his indulgence, but he promises it's true that he has some real lessons everyone needs to think about. He even says he now has something to say that no one has ever said before. Boy, what a boast. We'll see about that.

Meanwhile, since he came home he's been waddling around like a penguin claiming his feet are sore, and says his goal for the next twenty-four hours is to wear no shoes. He also promises to see how much coffee he can drink, how many naps he can take, and how much cat petting he can do in one day. We'll see about that too.
I am Luvie, and I wrote and approve of this blog post.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Some Days Are Tough

I have nothing to say. That makes writing a bit difficult, but "nothing great is easy" (see what I did there?). I think I'll try to come up with a strategy for making it through the afternoon. 

Today, after lunch, I will be imprisoned until 4:00 pm waiting on students who will not come by to have schedules made. What's the rush? Wait until school actually starts. With teachers in the room teaching, students show up at the counselor's office wanting to sign up for classes. "A dillar a dollar a ten o'clock scholar/what makes you come so soon/You used to come at ten o'clock/Now you come at noon."

My plan is to eat lunch and then lie on the floor for thirty minutes or so. OK, forty minutes. After that, I hope to walk up and down the halls and drink a couple of Coke Zeros. Next, I have some Snickers Bars in a filing cabinet in my office. Although I will hate myself tomorrow (see what I did there?), I'll eat at least one candy bar. OK, two. Then I will check the weather several times and stretch my calf muscles on the steps out front. 

When I finish stretching my calf muscles, I will check Facebook. Then I will sit before a blank sheet of paper and attempt to write some video ideas, you know, Marcus videos. Marcus is a big hit with my grandchildren. My grandson last week asked my, "How is Marcus?" Marcus is a star.

Although he is a star, he is a reluctant one. I have to beg and bribe him to shoot the videos. "I don't have time today, Doc," he will tell me when I ask him if we can shoot today.

"Come on, Marcus," I respond. "I'll give you a Snickers Bar."

"No, I really can't do it today. I have a lot to do."

So Marcus makes us beg and then wait a week for every video we shoot. Maybe his reluctance is a power play. Maybe he is flexing his influence, learning how to say "No," which is not a bad thing because that is a grace I never learned.

Anyway, I have said nothing for long enough. I think I'll post this and then go check the refrigerator in the teacher's lounge. Oh, I forgot, we don't have a teacher's lounge only a general purpose break room/copy room. Then I can walk out in the parking lot and look for loose change. 

Samuel Lott, Poet

Please take the time to familiarize yourself with a new and original poet, Samuel Lott. He writes three to eighteen poems per day. You can find his poetry on my YouTube channel under the playlist, Samuel Lott, Poet. Here is his first public reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Luvie's Post

I let fat boy take it easy last week. He ran 3.09 Monday (see what I did there? I did not say "on Monday." Don't do that). Tuesday he ran 4.05 and Wednesday he ran 4.03 and swapped his work computer from his backpack to his computer case. That was so he could start getting his stuff together and loading up for the journey run. 

Thursday he did not run but instead went to see his grandchildren and swam at DSU where is stroked 

8 X 50
800 breathing 3,5,7, fast by 25s
50 easy
4 X 100 middle 50 fast
50 easy
8 X 25
total: 3,400

Friday was his long run, the last one to stop the decline of endurance before the biggie. He shuffled 9.01 miles and walked .19. Saturday he did lots of lounging and watching of college football. He did shuffle 2.05 miles and lifted weights at Plate City Gym. 

Sunday was a day of Sabbath, as always. Now the time is almost here. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Swummed Again

One day closer. I did not get around to shuffling supplies to Seldom Seen. Maybe today. Thursday night I made it to the grand kids for a short visit. I was running late since I worked registration, but decided a short visit was better than no visit at all. Smu was happy to see me as always. 

I left and went to DSU. My swimming has fallen off a cliff. This is the first time in a while I have swum two weeks in a row. There was a new guy there named Zane. When I went to school as a little boy I hated my name because Sanford Thomas used to make up songs like: "Zane, Zane I know you shame/yo face looks like Jesse James." Several times on the first day, the teacher calling the role addressed me as Jane Hodge. That hurt. It was embarrassing. Later I came to like my name as I realized that no one else had it. I am, by the way, named after my grandfather whose mother named all her boys after authors, so yes in an oblique way I am named after Zane Grey. His mother, Lou Ella Krebbs (maiden name) married George Henry Quinton (her second husband). If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that The Great Noxapter Journey Run is in part a re-enactment of George's journey from Utah the Mississippi. I plan a stop at his and Lou Ella's grave on my quest. Anyway, a new guy named Zane showed up. I don't like someone else having my name. "Zane" is not nearly as rare as it used to be. That bothers me. 

I swam

8 X 50
800 as breathing 3,5,7, fast by 25s
50 easy
4 X 100 middle 50 fast
50 easy
8 X 25 @ 1:30
total: 3,400 SCYs.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Countdown to The GNJR

It's Friday morning. Three guesses as to what I'm doing. No, I'm not writing a "Poot" story, though that is on my list. No, I am not dressing for a big run, though I do plan to shuffle some today. Yes, I am in bed with Jeff and Luvie, but Baby Kitty just skipped out on us. It is not raining, but the coffee is good, the house is cool, and I can pretend the weather is Eskimo cold on the outside. I'm comfortable, my computer beckons, and I yearn to write. Writing, it's what I do now instead of shooting stuff anymore.

Besides writing, running, and reading-- the three "Rs"-- I intend to start loading my pack for Thursday. That's the day, the long awaited rematch with The Great Noxapater Journey Run. The countdown has begun. I feel like a little boy waiting for Christmas. I have a list made out. Will Santa bring my dream? Two years ago he left me with ashes and switches. But this time around I have been good. Or at least a little better.

We are now within that time limit in which the weather forecasts actually means something. I learned long ago that a ten day forecast was about as reliable as a triathlon bicycle on a gravel road. It just doesn't work. The five day forecast is pretty accurate. Days six and seven are an educated guess. Days eight, nine, and ten are a pure guess. That's just my opinion, but I'm right. Thursday is now seven days away and the prediction is for a high of 64 degrees with morning showers. I can deal with that. By the way, The Weather Channel App on my phone now has a 15 day forecast. Are you kidding me? I even heard one meteorologist say, "Anything over seven days is witchcraft." Yes, although I don't believe in it, I catch myself taking a pee from time to time. I mean peek, I take a peek at that long-range weather guess on my phone.

Just now, Baby Kitty has jumped up on an end table across from the bed and Jeff is having a fit. He wants all the cats on the bed. So do I, but I have learned that "you don't always get what you want." At least we still have Luvie, who is snoring like an old man sleeping off a night of drinking with other old men. I find Luvie's snoring to be soothing and not annoying at all. Cat snoring is not as soothing as cat purring, but I will take what I can get.

Another thing I ought to do today is make a phone call to Seldom Seen and see if I can ferry out some supplies. I need to drop off some Gatorade, gels, Moon Pies, and breakfast foods. This will prevent me from having to carry all that in my pack on day one. Eating my first meal of the day there will save me from going back into town for breakfast the morning of day two. For me, backtracking on a long run is disturbing, disheartening, dangerous even. It drives me batty. 

Anyway, short story long, I am feeling the anticipation and that is a good thing. There is so much emotion in this for me, and the motivation for this adventure is multifaceted to the point that I don't fully understand it myself. That's OK. I'm done with trying to figure it all out. Now, I only desire to experience it. I want hours on the road alone with my thoughts. I yearn to stagger into the Masonite Cemetery in downtown Louisville and visit the graves of my great-grandfather and -mother. I want desperately to scratch this goal off my bucket list. It has been there a long long time.

Well, I have pretty much worn myself out typing, so I think I will take a nap now. Later, I will let you know how far I got today in making preparations for Thursday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

They Are Here Already

They strike only when an important athletic event approaches. Landfall can vary anywhere from one week to two weeks out, but sometimes it is as short as a day. My schedule seems to be one determining factor in when they strike if at all. In times of high activity, the growing anxiety doesn't have a chance to make its appearance until the EndangeredSwimmer stands face to face with the long-awaited event. At other times, they have mysteriously been missing, no-shows like many of the students I don't teach. Like a flubbed meteorological forecast, I have seen the times when never come to pass.

This time the nibbles of nerves have already begun, and like the contractions of a woman in labor, they are bound to grow stronger and more frequent as D-day approaches. Maybe the fact that D-day for this event has come and gone before and D-day turned out to be disaster day has caused my anxiety to be ratcheted up higher than normal. I came, I saw, and I was conquered in my initial match with The Great Noxapater Journey Run, walking on crutches for six full weeks after my first ill-fated attempt. What will this try hold?

November 19th at approximately 12:00 pm is my scheduled launch to once more leave my wife's house on West Monroe Avenue and begin shuffling towards Noxapater, approximately 117 miles away. I don't know what to expect, only that I am better trained and more experienced than I was in December of 2013. Still I am far from as trained as I would like to be, and I still have no experience with multi-day runs. I had intended to try one or two two-day runs, but who knows why I failed to pull that off.

I have already written about my reasons for doing this. Several times. Yet I feel compelled to reproduce once more as best I can my limited understanding of my own motivation. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I am working school registration now which means I am sitting in my office, and I just finished watching every YouTube video ever posted. Boy, that took a while. I posted one myself earlier today, so I just turned to the blog instead of that stack of papers that needs grading. Why oh why do I loathe grading as much as I do? I think it hurts my feelings to see how little of what I try to pass on to the students actually makes it into their skills sets. Be that as it may, I will tell you again why I am attempting to run for five days:
  • I like physical challenges, ones that make me train hard over a long period of time.
  • I like physical challenges that force me to think hard as well as train that way.
  • I love goal setting, investing sweat and effort into the project for long periods of time with and end in mind. 
  • I love the feeling I receive when I finally pull it off, that deep-seated satisfaction that is as real and tangible as the bulging set of keys in my pocket.
  • I crave alone time, time to reflect and not reflect; time to think and not to think; time to just be and let nature seep herself into my soul at her own pace.
  • I love adventure and my one-day adventure runs have been a delight that form part of that good place I can go to when life sends me scurrying for some solace.
  • I am re-enacting my great-grandfather's epic journey from the Utah Territory to Louisville, Mississippi, a journey he made by foot in 1895 at the tender age of twelve. I plan to visit his and my great-grandmother's graves in downtown Louisville before making my way to Noxapater (population 472) where I will spend some time with my Aunt Mary and Uncle Paul.
Have I told you about my past experiences with making adventure trips to the Louisville/Noxapater area. I'll save that one because I work registration again tomorrow.
With the run a week and two days out, I am entering that span of reduced activity that leaves more time and more energy for the butterflies to circle my stomach and remind me that my mouth and keyboard have written checks my legs might not be able to cash. What else is new?

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Week in Review

It wasn't the week I planned, but it was the week I got and not a bad one at that. I had originally hoped to bust fifty miles for the week as my last large training cycle before The Great Noxapater Journey Run. Several things squashed that. What I did do was run 4.65 Monday, and 13.17 multi-paced miles Tuesday. Wednesday I only shuffled 2.6 because I had a sore calf. I took off running Thursday and drove to Cleveland where I visited my grandchildren and swam at DSU. I am still a star in my grandson's eyes and he even asked me about Marcus. Everybody likes Marcus. At the pool, I swam

5 X 300
4 X 50 @ 1:30
total: 2,900 yards.

It felt good to swim again, but this time I felt my lack of conditioning. I have swum very little of late and as a result Mark Blackwood whipped me on almost every set. That won't happen come February.

Friday was the turning point of the week in terms of running. I wrote about that in my last blog post. Looking back, I can thank God for slowing me down and thus giving me a good ten-miler Saturday in Batesville (also written about in the last blog post).

Sunday, the Centerville crew traveled to Oxford for the DFM Walk for Diabetes. It was a beautiful day, and the turnout was good. Our pastor and his wife were there and although her health is far from stellar, she walked some of the hilly course. Brother Gary pushed her in a wheelchair for much of the walk, but she started and finished the event on her feet. I was proud of her.

For the week, I 

swam 2,900 yards = 2,650 meters,
ran 32.79 miles, and   
walked 6.13 miles.

The Great Noxapater Journey Run is now under two weeks away. I am become a little nervous but in a good way. I can't wait. Two work weeks and I will be on the road.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fattie Ten Mile Champ

Oh no, I thought as the alarm went off at 5:10 am, and my ears quickly picked up the sound of rain outside. Forrest, my son, and I were scheduled to race each other in Batesville, Mississippi for the Fasttrack Fatties Athletic Club Ten Mile State Championship. I don't want to do this.

Forrest picked me up at 5:30, and we promptly drove to Waffle House for some early morning nutrition. The service was terrible but the food good and we managed to get out the door in time to leave early enough to make the two hour drive to Batesville, find the packet pick up, and show up at the race start.

The rain slackened as we drove, giving us hope that we just might get by without getting wet. It was still warm enough that a soaking would not have been too bad. But the temps were predicted to fall throughout the day. It could get bad, I mused with dread.
Forrest and I at the start

We made Batesville, found the race site, and parked the car. To make a short story long, instead of getting a T-shirt, the ten milers received nice hoodies. They proved indispensable later as we stood in the chilling air, damp with sweat, and waiting on the awards ceremony.

My plans for the day were modest at best. Originally, I had planned to run ten miles Friday leaving me with tired legs for the race. My reasoning was twofold: First, I thought I had no shot at placing in the race (I looked up last year's times on the internet), and second, I knew I had only two chances of outrunning my son: slim and none and slim left town. It's more important, I reasoned, that I get in a good volume for the week to prepare me for The Great Noxapater Journey Run.

Then, Friday, I went out for my run and .82 in I received a shot of pain in my left calf. It hit again, harder, a few steps later. O Lord, please, I prayed as I slowed to a walk and realized that Saturday and the journey run itself were both in jeopardy. I walked and shuffled slowly for a total of about three miles and went home to pray.

So all the way to Batesville I thought, maybe I can just shuffle through this and not damage myself. I hope. I even told Forrest, "I'm going slow today," and I meant it.

We started promptly at 8:00 am, and I did not feel well running. I looked at my Garmin and saw my early pace was 12:35 per mile. I felt heavy and out of shape. About a half mile in, I slowly began to pick the pace up some, went through the first mile in 9:42, and had no foreboding signs from the calf, so I set a goal for myself to run the ten under 10:00 per mile. Then I started feeling better. Duh, like I haven't learned from the past to go out SLOW the first mile. At one point during the second mile, I was running 8:40, my current 10K race pace.

During the second mile, about half way through I think, I came upon Forrest who I had assumed was far far ahead. I took my hunter orange cap off and stuffed it under my fuel belt. I then shifted outside and passed, hoping he maybe would not see me. I thought I had gotten away with it, but a bit later I saw someone in my peripheral vision move up on my left. I took a look and it was Forrest. Ruse foiled.

I, we, ran the second mile in 8:56. The next few miles were a ragged pattern of Forrest pulling ahead and me catching back up. I did the third mile in 9:17. Mile three to three and a half were in the industrial park and delta flat. I was surprised at how flat the course was. I caught Forrest during this stretch and while we ran side by side, he dropped his phone which went tumbling end over end. I let out a loud and long "HOOO Hooo Hooo!" Some nearby runners got a big laugh out of that. Then he dropped it again. I gave him another Hoo Hoo and told him, "God is on my side." We both laughed and I laughed so hard it hurt and my legs went week.

We left the industrial park and the course turned upward at three and a half. The next mile and a half were tough. I don't run hills well, but still I managed at 9:15 fourth mile, and a 9:21 fifth mile. Forrest pulled decisively ahead on the hills but as we approached mile six, I thought, the start and stop are at the same elevation. We have been climbing for almost two miles. Soon we have to descend

The mile six marker was at a turn and the road was flattening out. I was getting my pace back down and finished mile six in 9:21. As I rounded the turn, there was Forrest. I decided to at least give him one more big fright so I pushed, caught and passed him. He immediately pulled alongside me. Then the road turned downhill. I run downhills well. I think most runners fear them. If they are not steep, they don't tear your quads up IF, you run road level (lean into the downhill) and let your legs go (no braking). That's what I did, and I dropped Forrest in the process. I checked my watch, and at one point I was running mile seven at a 7:49 pace. That juiced me so much I thought, I'll make him really afraid, but who I frightened was me.

I did mile seven in 8:19, my current 5K race pace. When the course made a right hand turn, I looked back for Forrest. He was a little over a hundred meters behind. That's when I became frightened. For the first time that day, I thought, I can win, and from then on I was running scared.

Mile eight was completed in 8:40. The legs were talking to me at this point, but I tried not to listen. Mile mine was done in 8:50. I did my best to make mile ten faster, but a suffering 8:50 was all I could muster. I crossed the line a couple of minutes ahead of Forrest, and I was instantly rewarded with that deep sense of satisfaction that comes from a good effort, the kind where you know things worked out well and you left it all on the road.

I liked the course, the hoodie is super, and I not only beat Forrest, but placed second in my age group. All the ten milers received a super nice finisher's medal, and I got an additional medal for placing. 

I plan to be back next year. Maybe I can unfat a little, train some more, and move up into another age group, the 60-64. I'll kill those old guys.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In Praise of Cats and Naps

Yeah, it's that kind of day. 

I'm in bed with cats, a weenie dog, and coffee. The drizzly rain has stopped, but the lazy mood has stayed. 

I just might remain here all day. Probably, however, I will drag out once the coffee pot runs dry and try to do something productive. But for now, I feel that taking it easy is pretty productive.

I suppose that is just one reason I like and value cats so much. They know how to rest, and they appreciate the benefits of a good nap. Unlike dogs, cats have no need to impress a human with activity. I once had a dog, a good dog-- an outside one-- who thought she had to arise to her feet and point the pear tree every time I exited the back door. She guarded that tree zealously and to the best of her abilities, against squirrels and jaybirds, and she felt the need to constantly show me she was on the job. I appreciated that.

Not so with cats.

Cats have no shame at sloth. Rightfully so I might add. I agree wholeheartedly that napping is not only a good activity and a necessary activity, but a divine one at that, and felines are the ultimate evangelists for this bit of neglected theological truth. Even God rested on the seventh day. If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for me. It seems sometimes that much of man never got the memo. I framed it.

Rest on brothers and sisters. There is always time for work. 


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

And the Champ Is . . .

By Jay Unver

I recently sat down with the new Big ASS World Open Water Swimming Champion, Randy Beets. We discussed his victory, his plans, and of course his rivalry with Zane Hodge.

Unver: First of all, let me say congratulations on your victory.

Beets: Thank you very much. It was a long time coming and it feels great.

Unver: Tell me about the swim. How did you feel?

Beets: I felt good from the start. I knew early on it was going to be an above average day for me. The water temp was perfect, and we had a good flow. 

Unver: Were you disappointed that Hodge was not there?

Beets: That @$$. He's such a coward, a wussie, a wimp. If I could get my hands on him I would beat the #&@** da(( $i++ out of his a$$.

Unver: Tell me how you really feel.

Beets: I think he is a low down, worthless piece of crap who tried to taint my victory. If he were here right now I would stomp his little buzzard butt into the ground. You would have to stop it or be a witness in my trail.

Unver: That's pretty much what he said about you last year. He was shocked that you failed to show.

Beets: I was sick. Was he sick this year? No. He withdrew. It's not the same thing. He knew he was in for a whuppin and he just bailed out. It's shameful really what he did. I think Nomann should fine and suspend him, but it will never happen because Hodge is Nomann's little fair-haired boy.

Unver: So you don't believe there was an adequate reason for him not being there? He wanted to mess you up?

Beets: He found out at the Chicot Challenge that I could match him stroke for stroke. He was so stunned after that swim that he couldn't speak for a long time. I blew him out of the water, and he was immediately looking for a way out.

Unver: You forget, I was there. I'm not sure his emotional state was why he spoke so little. I was under the impression that he was too busy eating cookies to talk.

Beets: Dang his cookies. He only gave me like two. He ate a whole durn bucket full by himself. What a hog. What a dog. What slime. What a sorry excuse of a sportsman.

Unver: What about next year?

Beets: He won't show up. He's over as a threat at the Suck. I'll be the champion forever now.

Unver: What about the Chicot Challenge? Will you be involved with that?

Beets: I don't know. In the past, we have been able to put our differences aside and work together on a project that was, is, bigger and more important than either of us. This time, I don't know. The rift has grown pretty wide, and I just don't know if I could hold back an assault. I think I would whip his little butt if we came into contact with each other right now.

Unver: But there is time for you to enjoy your victory and get over Hodge.

Beets: I'm not yet over the 105 pictures he posted on Facebook last year, taunting me before the race. You knew about that? the 105 pictures?

Unver: He said that is the real reason you didn't show up in 2014 for Swim the Suck.

Beets: Dang what he says. I was sick. His stupid pictures had nothing to do with it!

Unver: But you just said that you weren't over it, the pictures he posted mocking you.

Beets: I'm not over being pissed off and thinking he needs an @$$ whuppin'. All of that was uncalled for. He has no restraint. He can't keep things in moderation. He has no sense of when enough is enough. He doesn't know when to stop. Since his momma didn't teach him how to act, I will have to do it for her.

Unver: Let's shift the conversation away from Hodge and back to you. What's next?

Beets: Maybe a trip to Mississippi for some fisticuffs. Maybe the Pensacola Bay Bridge Swim which is another one Hodge always ducked me in.

Unver: He says it just doesn't work in his schedule with the Chicot Challenge so shortly after.

Beets: He always has a excuse. Did you ever notice that, or is he your little fair-haired boy too?

Unver: I'm just a reporter.

Beets: Well report this.

Beets stood up and took a picture of Hodge from his back pocket. With a wicked snarl on his face, he ripped the photograph to pieces, tossed the shreds to the floor, and spit on them. He then wipped is feet on them and stormed out of the room.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Luvie's Report

The week of 10/25-10/31 was a drop down week in my run training, but I didn't expect to drop down as much as I did. I had the pleasure of preaching a revival at Centerville Baptist, the little church Penny and I attend and recently joined. I enjoyed some pulpit time because I have had very little of that over the last year. I preached "Faith in The Book of Genesis," "Faith in Habakkuk," and "Belief in the Gospel of John." They were big messages that swept through entire books, which meant they were both challenging and fun for me.

Monday I ran 4.3, and Tuesday I did my longest run of the week with 12.07. Out of my dozen miles on Tuesday, 4.35 of them were at 10K race pace. I also did some squats after the long run so my legs were pretty much toast after that. Wednesday I did an easy 2.12 as I was pressed for time and hobbling on legs too tired for walking. Due to the revival, I ran not all on Thursday and only 2.42 miles Friday.

After church Friday, we had our Harvest Festival, which meant we ate a lot of food and had a cake walk. Funny how I enjoy things like that now. There was a time when a cake walk would have a) bored me, b) irritated me, c) disgusted me, or d) all of the above. The answer is "d" but not any more. I won a nice brownie dish that I have guarded jealously and consumed with vigor. We also had an eating contest at the church Friday night and John Misterfeldt, my training partner who was visiting to hear me preach, ate so much that he won first and second place. 

Saturday and Sunday were spent resting as much as possible. It was not possible to rest as much as I needed to or wanted to but I got in a lot of leisure.

This week, 11/1-11/7, is the planned biggie of the year. I hope to bust out around fifty miles running and a dozen or more walking before starting my taper for The Great Noxapater Journey Run.