Monday, December 28, 2015

12/21 - 12/27

Being off work is nice and being able to train as much as I want is even nicer. Finally, I am becoming fit enough to do about whatever I want. By that I mean, I can run on a whim pretty much as far as I desire and then do it again a few days later. For me, that has always come only after months of unabated training. I now have a solid ten months of unbroken running. Before that I was sidelined only six weeks and there is another eleven months of steady training before that. Now, if I can just get the weight off, I think my pace will improve drastically.

Monday I slept in a bit and drank a lot of coffee. Then I dragged outside and ran 4.07 miles. I wanted to lift some weights but rain moved in and I just didn't want to push through while getting soaked. Tuesday I ran 6.17 multi-paced miles and then went to DSU where we had practice for the first time in three weeks. That's too long to be out of the water. The pool was set up for long course. I was only able to get 2,400 meters before practice was over. Since the pool is closed and there were no life guards on duty, I could not stay and swim extra on my own. I had to get out and leave.

Wednesday I did lift weights and ran 3.03, and Thursday was Christmas Eve. I already wrote about my 15.7 mile run to Hillbilly Heaven. What I haven't told you, however, is that I did it again Saturday. We were going back so I decided to ambulate it and like last time, let my legs talk to me on the way and tell me how much I needed to walk. I ran the whole thing again and this time I did the Big Hill Mile in 12:27, almost a minute faster than I did on Christmas Eve. That was very encouraging to me.

For the week, I

walked 4.25 and
ran 44.61 miles,
swam 2,400 meters, and 
lifted weights two times.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Santa Shuffle

If I'm healthy and fit enough, I typically run to Hillbilly Heaven (where in-laws live) on Christmas Eve. I was healthy and fit enough in 2015, so I struck out from West Monroe Avenue at 2:06 pm. The temp was in the 70s, and the skies had finally cleared after several days of rain. But since I usually do my long run on Friday and Christmas Eve was Thursday, I didn't know how my legs would respond. Tuesday I had hit them pretty hard with 6.17 multi-paced miles and followed that up with some squatting and swimming.

When I make that run, I do it in several ways. Sometimes I decide ahead of time on a run/walk pattern. Sometimes I run the whole way with no walk breaks. Sometimes I just leave the house and let my legs make the decision once I am on the road. I chose the latter on the last Hillbilly Heaven run.

I thought it was going to be a lot of walking for sure when I first shuffled out of my driveway onto the street and headed west towards Highway 82. My legs felt weak and my mind was uncertain. But like they did on the journey run, the legs felt better and better after I warmed up. I ran the whole way. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fast, but I did it. 

I made it out of town and onto Humphrey's Highway with some fatigue but also with the idea that I could shuffle all the way. Writing this I just realized that I have never seen the name "Humphrey's Highway" on any map, and I look at maps a lot. I love maps. I had just as soon look at a map as look at a woman. Officially it is Highway 430, but all my life I have never heard it called anything but Humphrey's Highway. I don't even know who Humphrey is/was. He may have been a representative or a supervisor or a governor even and the road was named after him to honor his service. Or it may have been called that in jest like a lonely county road I often travel is dubbed the McKellum-Greene Expressway. I don't remember who McKellum was only that he wielded some sort of political power. Greene was a State Representative who lived on the lonely road that even now, forty years later, leads only to catfish ponds where dead raccoons outnumber living people. While these two gentlemen were in office, they were instrumental in having that road paved. At the taxpayers' expense of course.

I was thinking none of that, however, when I shuffled onto Humphrey's Highway and headed south into the warm wind. What was on my mind was heat acclimation and hill running ability. A couple of months back, my heat enduring abilities were at an all-time high. Despite being the day before Christmas, I needed that now, and I wondered if it was indeed warm enough to extend or preserve that fitness niche. About the hills, I have never been very good at them. My legs are too weak, my Vo2 max is too low, and my belly is too large for good climbing ability. The hill one must negotiate to leave the Delta and enter the loess bluffs that tower over Mississippi's flat lands is a difficult one even in a car. When I run that thing, it always wipes me out.

Actually, I was already wiped out when I jogged up to the bottom of the monster with 11.82 miles of shuffling on my legs. Don't forget, one of my goals for this winter is too run up that thing four times in one day. I did that once when I was in my twenties. Late last summer, I made it up twice and came back a couple of weeks later thinking I could do three times only to fail at one and a half times up. I walked down that day in defeat, but vowed to come back more fit and less fat. Today was different, however, in that I had run all the way from town. I really don't remember how long it has been since I ran all the way from home and then up the hill. But I did it. My time on the Big Hill Mile, as I call it, was a miserable 13:16. But I did it.

Not only that, but I continued to shuffle past Acey's Store. Now matter how fit or how young I once was, I never had anything left after running that hill. Now I had one thing left: audacity. I am going to shuffle in no matter how pitiful I look or feel doing it. And I did it. When I got the the house at Hillbilly Heaven, my granddaughter ran out with arms wide open.

"Poppy!" she said running towards me.

"I'm soaking wet, Sweetie," I protested. "Hug me after I take a shower."

And she did. And so did my grandson. It was a good run, a good day, a good evening. Total run was 15.7 miles. Total hugs from my granddaughter about a dozen. Life is good.
With Caitlin after the run.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fourth Swim in Two Months

Tuesday night I swam for only the third time this December and the fourth time since the first of November. I didn't plan it this way, and I'm not even sure how it happened, but if you have been reading this blog, you know EndangeredSwimmer has read more like EndangeredRunner. I hope all of that is about to change.

Not that I plan to slow down the running. Quite the opposite. I hope to continue to run at a high volume (for me), and the lifting is starting to climb back up, although I am behind last year's pace there also.

To say I'm getting antsy would be an understatement. Antsy, however, is a good thing because it causes me to press, work, scheme to catch up, to get in shape, to prepare. Besides these two slim months, the whole fall has been way down so much that just a casual glance at this year's and last year's training diaries show me to be over 200,000 meters behind last year's pace. One reason for the shortfall was due to me dropping Swim the Suck this time around. That knocked out my Fall ramp up. But I now have something I was fearing I might not have: desire. I am ready to train, and I'm ready to train hard. I just need water and opportunity.

Being out of swim shape made Tuesday's practice unusually tough. The pool was unexpectedly set up for long course, which normally I love, but when one is not fit, a 50 meter pool is extremely tiring in a hurry. To make matters worse, I got almost no warm up because coach inboxed us to tell us not to get there early, the pool is closed, he said and you will only wait outside until I get there he told us. I arrived for practice on time to a pool full of swimmers and my only teammate already in the water for twenty minutes. Huh? What I did was

300 warm up (they were ready to start)
600 small paddles plus breathing pattern
400 breathing pattern?
2 X 200 breathing pattern?
4 X 100 slow and fast
4 X 50 fast and slow
100 cool down
total: 2,400 LCMs.

That afternoon, I ran 6.17 miles with three .25s thrown in at sub-5K race pace. I followed that with some lower body weightlifting. I slept well Tuesday night.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Days Off

How do I love my time off? Let me count the ways. 

First, I love the smell of coffee in the morning. I do get to enjoy that scent everyday, but when I am off work I have the leisure to nasalcate (new word, it means to sniff with the purpose of enjoying the odor) it slowly while it wafts it way through the indoor air of 333 West Monroe Ave. With no pressure to get ready for work, I am able to savor the scent and seize the moment while I think about seizing the day or not seizing the day if I decide to lounge my time away.

Not only do I get to smell it longer, but I also get to drink the whole pot of liquid bean, which is something I try to do no matter what day of the week or year it is. Coffee is good for the human body and since God created the bean, to not partake of such a healthy pleasure is to not cherish the gift (split infinitives intended).

How do I love thee, days off? I love to lounge with Luvie and Jeff and sometimes Baby Kitty. Luvie seeks time with me just like I seek time with him. And after the wife leaves, Jeff becomes my shadow. But baby Kitty, he is normally too busy starting some kind of trouble. He's a teenager and you know how teenage boys are. They find, seek, create, glory in mischief, baby Kitty more than most. I'll give you one example. We have a bathroom that Penny, for some reason, wants the cats to stay out of. The door has an unfortunate gap at the bottom not nearly large enough for Luvie to squeeze his fat butt under, but Baby Kitty is skinny enough to slide under. And like most teenage boys, he does not like being told "no." So my darling wife bought a foam noodle that she rams under the gap between the floor and the bottom of the door. Baby Kitty has become energetic and ingenious at removing the noodle, sliding under the door into the forbidden bathroom, and moving items inside supposedly to show he has indeed been there. It drives my wife crazy.

Third, I can gorge myself on social media, some of which is my own creation. Besides trolling around on FaceBook, I spend a lot of time now on YouTube where I not only check out other people's videos, but I post and watch mine own. If you haven't seen my channel, search EndangeredSwimmer, subscribe, and be somebody.

Fourth, I get to write right here about nothing, make no point at all, and post it on my blog for anyone in the world to read. And people do read, some. That is what I am doing at this very moment. I had no clue what I was going to type, and no point whatsoever to make, yet I am managing once more to engage that part of my brain that produces words on paper or the internet. That's important, in my world, producing words on paper. For one, it improves thinking and writing. For another, it is something I can point my students to and say, "See, I write myself, and I write often." Oddly, occasionally my own writings make their way into my teaching. For instance, I never seem to get textbooks, though everyone else does. This has been a problem for years. I learned long ago that if I were to teach, I had to be able to do so without the benefit of books. I can pull it off. I have to. My writings give me a large body of texts as examples, subjects of analysis, and points of discussion.  

Finally, it feels good to be able to nap like Jeff and Luvie do all the time. It's easy to see why they are always happy; they are always rested. Eventually, however, naps lose their appeal for a day or two and then it is back to running, or lifting or working on the gym in the backyard. Well, it's time to get up. Even on days off, I have stuff to do.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Luvie's Report

By Luvie

Fat boy has finally developed a little discipline and is trying to lose some weight. I hope I am not speaking too soon, but he had a few good food days last week and says he's determined to shed some fat through the holidays. Maybe he can do it. If you remember, he put on ten plus after his December 2013 failed journey run. To lose that weight has been on his list for two years now.

He has finally gotten serious about something else that has been on his list for years. In the past, he has always payed lip service to the need for lower body strength work while at the same time finding reasons not to do it. After the next race, he would say over and over. Now he is making a bonafide effort to do what he's always know he should. By the time he gets it all worked out, he'll be an old man. Oh wait, he's already an old man.

It was a pretty good training week for him although he was highly agitated that he didn't get to swim a single time. December is always difficult for him to get much swimming in, but this year has been the worst one yet. To make that even more of an issue, he is beginning to toy with the idea of upping his Chicot Challenge by two miles instead of one. Last year, Chicot IV was a 19-mile effort. For 2016, he is thinking at least 20 miles, and now he is toying with the idea of swimming 21 miles. 

Monday he ran 3.01 miles and did some bench pressing and swim pulling. He likes the bench press because he says it helps his swimming. He also went to one of the many parties he has to attend this time of year, a party that requires him to eat. Of course he ate way more than he should have.

Tuesday he did some lower body cross-fit style lifting coupled with some running. This workout was a circuit of stiff leg dead lifts, knee lifts, squats, an agility ladder,  some cord work, tire flips, walking squats, and running. He worked through the circuit three times for a total of 3.51 miles of running. In addition to the workout, he mounted his bicycle frame that is attached to bike trainer. This is one of his plans to seriously improve his upper body fitness.

Wednesday he just did an easy 4.12 miles of running, and Thursday he ran 4.41 easy miles and did some more upper body weight lifting. Friday was his big day. That's when he and James Bevis did their ramble run in Montgomery County. For fatso, his total were 13.08 miles of running and 7.61 miles of walking.

Saturday he trained a little more with more weight lifting and 2.12 miles of running. His totals for the week were

run - 30.25
walk - 11.84
swim - none
weights - three times

Next up: Forrest's birthday run, then the Mississippi River Marathon. More on that later.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"I never saw that!"

Have you ever come upon something in your world, a house, a tree, something large and conspicuous that had have to be there a long time and you're like, "I never saw that before!" It happened to me the other day. Twice. Do what?!

Hmm. How long do I wait?
You know I made a friend on The Great Noxapater Journey Run, James Bevis, who ran with me from French Camp to Ackerman. We agreed that day to get together for some more running. A couple of weeks back, we set up Friday, December 18, as our ramble run date. I called the night before to make sure we were still on. All systems were on go. "I will call about 8:00 am when I get onto Highway 40." That's how we left things.

I got up early, made the drive, and called James at 7:47. No answer. That's OK. I'll ride around a bit and look for a place to park which is what I did and decided to park at Columbiana United Methodist Church on the highway. I called again. No answer.

I finished drinking my coffee, made a sign to put on the dashboard (name, number, and what I was doing), and loaded my Gatorade into my hydration pack. I called again. No answer. 

I am new at making maps on Google.
Since Penny was off work, I was facing a time frame a little tighter than I normally have on Fridays. I started putting on all my outer layers and called again. No answer.

I looked at my watch and thought, I need to be on the road by 8:30. I called at 8:30. No answer. I left running south alone on Highway 407 at 8:35. 

After a couple of miles, I decided to check my phone. I slowed to a walk and noticed I had a text from James. "Are you on your way yet?" To make a short story long, he didn't have service, didn't receive my calls, and joined me a few miles into the run. It was nice to have him. 

We ran to the Kilmichael Road, a stretch of asphalt I haven't traveled in probably twenty years if not more, and started up it with the enthusiasm of explorers seeing country never spied before. 
I should have used my zoom. An old house
on a hill with an older barn and some
 fat cows in the pasture around it.

When we made it to Kilmichael, a small town of about 600 people, we were at around ten plus miles and were hungry, so we stopped at a convenience store and ordered a fish plate. When we left, our bellies were full, our legs were tired, and the cold wind chilled us to the bone. We tried to take a long walk to let the digestion begin, but we soon had to run to stay warm.

Two tired runners. Too tired runners.
It's a good thing I had James with me because I would have taken the wrong road out of town. He knows the area a lot better than I do. The route we traveled was a big triangle of Highway 407, Kilmichael Road, and Lower Milligan Springs Road. Lower Milligan proved to be long and laborious as we both tired and yearned to see 407. 

We slowed to a walk and thought 407 had to be around every curve and over every hill, but over and over again we were disappointed. Then we saw something that blew us away: a water tower loomed above the trees up ahead. 

"I never saw that before," I said.

"I haven't either," James answered.

We were mystified and walked along like zombies in our fatigue and confusion. Finally, we came to a yellow sign with a big red dot on it that signaled a road really was over the next hill. 

When we got there, it was 407. How had we never seen that water tower? James called his fiancee who picked him up there because he needed to be somewhere else. They offered me a ride to my truck, and I almost accepted, but decided instead to finish my journey. I shuffled and walked the remaining mile and a half to my truck. Total for the day was 20.69 with only 13.08 of actual running. Where were my legs? Maybe next time.

I drove back home, and as I was approaching Greenwood from the east, I noticed a water tower. "I never saw that before," I said out loud. Really, I'm not making this up. I guess I better open my eyes the next time I go out. If I don't, I might run into something.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Stupid Speech

The Bible says, "Give honor to whom honor is due" (Romans 13:7), so I must credit Shawn C. Turner with providing the inspiration for this post. Recently, he published an insightful piece on the absurdities of some popular expressions that masquerade as sensible speech (check out his blog Shawn, Drawn. See "You don't say" published November 24, 2015). I have long been an avid offendee at poor English and other forms of decaying communication. What English teacher isn't? So here is my bite at the same apple.

This football season I have noticed that pass receivers are doing something spectacular, something they have never done before, something play-by-play announcers love to reveal to the uninitiated TV audience. They are now somehow able to "catch the ball at its highest point." No joke. I must have heard Gary Danielson of CBS say this no less fewer than 155 times. Let me offer a little thought here. I'm no physics teacher, but the ball is at its lowest point when it reaches the receiver. It just is. It can't be thrown any other way. Not only that, but the receiver is forced to catch the ball where the ball is when it gets to him and he can't do anything about that. He either catches the ball where it is when it gets to him, or he doesn't catch the ball. It would be like an announcer for a MLB game saying an outfielder who caught a fly ball nabbed it at its highest point. Huh? Why do they do this? Stop it already.

I love sports, but I am sure this next one came from the world of professional basketball. Let me give one simple English rule to all my readers who can spell the word grammar. The subject of a sentence is never the object of a preposition. NEVER!!!! Sometime in the 1980s, I heard Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics explain his success at guarding some forgotten player by saying, "I try to stay between he and the basket." That was the very first time I had ever heard third grade English stood on its head by someone who should have known better. Now, ten out of nine college educated adults think it's refined speech to use subjective case pronouns where clear rules of grammar call for objective case pronouns, and yes there are rules. If we are going to have pronoun cases in English, we should follow the rules, me thinks. 

Not long ago I watched a commercial for a law firm that pleaded with the viewers to protect "you and your family's health." This one is similar to the offense above because it substitutes the subjective case pronoun for the possessive case. I assume the lawyers wrote it or at least read over the commercial they were paying lots of cash to have aired on national television. "You health." Really? How hard is that?

And that is how you check it. I know that prepositions, objects, subjective, and objective cases all sort or clouds up in the brain after one has been out of school a decade or two. But if in doubt between "Jill and I" of "Jill and me" just leave Jill out and the answer becomes crystal clear. Jill and I are going to the ball game, but don't give Jill and me a hard time about it. See how easy that is.

One more and I will get off my soap box. Increasingly I am hearing the plural verb being used with collective nouns. That ain't no way to talk. This one started with broadcasters, as far as I can tell through my casual observation. Now it is common to hear, "The team are playing well." I think some newscaster heard a BBC documentary and picked it up because it sounded British. That's because it is British. Let me remind you that we whipped them Brits in 1776 and again in 1812, so they can't tell us how to do English. This one comes out with a vengeance around World Cup time when sports fans are listening to European announcers pronounce "The team are . . . ." The team IS dang it! The team IS. Don't make me come see you. 

Wake up Amuhrica! Save your language before it's too late.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

More Less than Intelligent Stuff

They are at it again. One of those Facebook things. Remember the Channel 13 News and the privacy changes that had Facebookers in a tizzy? Just where is Channel 13 News and how does everyone seem to know what they broadcast? That one made the rounds not once, not twice, but three times since I've been on FB. About once a year, people who appear to be almost of average intelligence believe that Facebook is suddenly going to own all their posts and photos. Really? I marveled that such a silly notion could get so many so upset. Facebook is going to own my photos? Wants to? I know my cat is good-looking, but exactly what is Mark Zuckerberg going to do with all those cat pics? Paper the walls of his mansion? Sell them to a magazine for a gazillion dollars? How about he lets everyone in the world who wants to take a peek gaze upon them? Oh, I forgot, they already can gaze away at their leisure for as long as they care. Not only can they see my cat, if they wade through enough my albums, they might catch me in a swim jammer. Shocking.

The new thing is about money. Mark is giving away a ton of the stuff if you will just copy and paste another silly writing to you Timeline. It goes like this:

THANK YOU, MARK ZUCKERBERG, for your forward-thinking generosity! And congrats on becoming a dad!
Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he is giving away $45 billion of Facebook stock. What you may not have heard is that he plans to give 10% of it away to people like YOU and ME! All you have to do it copy and paste this message into a post IMMEDIATELY. . . .

I was planning to put in the whole post, but I am about to become sick, nauseated. This disturbs me greatly. The whole thing makes me think there is no hope for the human race. Did I tell you that this one, unlike the other one which appealed to Channel 13 News for its legitimacy, claims to have been the subject of a Good Morning America broadcast? Has anyone actually seen that segment? I didn't think so. Let me school you a bit on how to keep from falling for one of Facebook's frequent hoaxes. Watch Channel 13 News. If you can't find it on your cable, or if you rather keep up the easy way, watch my videos and I will address all the really important stories they cover. Here is my current Playist of my favorite news channel. To make sure you never miss a single vid about really important stuff you were too lazy to watch, subscribe to my video channel and be somebody. Go to YouTube and search for EndangeredSwimmer the Vlog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Samuel Lott, Poet

As an English teacher, I believe in the arts and I try to be, in some small way, a patron to poets, writers, and photographers. Thus, when I discovered in my very own class a poet, and in my estimation a very good one, I began a brainstorming project to produce ideas for promoting this unfound talent. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you Mr. Samuel Lott of Greenwood, Mississippi, who I am convinced will be famous one day. My prayer and aim is that his fame comes not fifty years after his death.

A few weeks back I posted a link to the very video you see linked below. This time, however, the link is to the entire Playlist which features Mr. Lott. There are now six videos in this collection with more on the way. While we have yet to successfully complete a full reading, we are attempting diligently to do so. Even in these short, interrupted clips, the passion of a true poet comes through in Sam's unfortunate readings. Watch his videos. Give him some likes. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and be somebody.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Week of 12/7 - 12/13

I didn't run a whole lot last week nor did I swim a bunch. But I did run and I did swim and I started back lifting weights with more zeal than I have lifted in a few months. It is time to begin to train with the next Challenge in mind. Monday, I ran 2.6 miles and did some rotator cuff exercises. Tuesday, I did some lower body weight work and then ran 2.71 miles. I might have to rethink this.

Squatting and running afterwards tears my legs down way way more than one would expect. It is a huge difference from squatting after running, which causes less muscle damage. The reason I went to leg work before running is twofold. One, if I run first, I tend to run farther and then do less work after the run. Two, I theorized that running afterwards would pre-exhaust the muscles and thus lead to greater endurance gains on shorter runs. The jury is still out on that one, but I have made a necessary commitment to strength work, and I am not dropping it just because I don't have the kinks worked out. Maybe I will split the leg work into a before session and an after session.

In addition to the leg work and running, I went to DSU Tuesday night. I slipped into the water early and got in 2,400 straight yards before practice started. I think I wrote about the swim already, so I'll spare you the details and say only that I got in 4,350 yards for my only swim of he week.

Wednesday could best be described as dead legs day due to that lifting/running issue talked about above. Even if it costs me mileage, I need to lift more not less. I only shuffled an awkward 1.5 miles before I walked home feeling like a bust. I did some upper body weight lifting once I got back to Plate City Gym but not much else.

Thursday was special for a couple of reasons. First, I entered the last of my grades meaning I was out for a few weeks. Second, I drive to Webb where I met Hayden Hall to pick up a dog that needed a home. Our dog, Gracie May, has been terribly lonely. Hayden's son and wife moved and needed homes for two outside dogs. We took one. I will write about Bear later. Now I only want to say he is a nice addition to our family. I only ran 1.61 miles because my legs were still trashed.

Friday, I knew I was not up to a really long one, so I did a longish run with some quality. After shuffling through each mile, I tossed in a hard .25. For the run, I shuffled 11.62 miles with eight hard quarters thrown in which should reawaken my anaerobic system as well as maintain my endurance.

Saturday, I did something I think about a lot but rarely do. I created my own cross-fit style workout that hit the whole body but the emphasis was more towards the upper. I did a circuit of bench presses, T-bar rows, swim pulls, kettlebell swings, tire flips, and runs. Each run got a little longer, and I did the circuit three times through. I plan to do many more of these in the future. There is no limit to the number of workouts one can come up with.

For the week, I

ran 23.42 and walked 2.49 miles,
lifted weights two three times, and
swam 4,350 short course yards.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Glory to God in the Highest

I hate it when I lose my Fridays which is exactly what happened to me on the first one of December. Due to some health issues my sister experienced as well as the help being in the hospital, one of my nights to stay with Mom shifted from Wednesday to Thursday. This meant I had to get Mom up Friday, fix her breakfast, and administer her meds. Then I had errands to run most of the morning. After that I had to see after Mom's lunch. To top it all off, the first Friday of December is Band Festival Day in Greenwood, and my wife got off work early. Oh, my. It was a good day. I thank God that I get to care for Mom, and I thank God for a good wife. I also thank God for my Friday adventures. I wanted to thank God for this one Friday's adventures also.

I did enjoy the parade, and we had nice company, Sheila and Bridget Mitchell, who joined us for the bands and supper at No Way Jose afterwards. But there was no time for my customary long Friday run. So I woke up Saturday morning with a grudge against the day. I will show you, I said to Saturday and then proceeded to scheme up some type of outing.

The temp was warm, the sky was blue, and the winds were light as I shuffled over the bridge onto the familiar tarmac of Money Road, my go-to stretch of pavement in a pinch, my default running road. I really had no plan because I didn't know how recovered my legs were from the Great Noxapater Journey Run so I played it by ear, so to speak, or maybe I ran it by leg is a more apt saying. I wore a Calbak and carried six Gu gels just in case I could hold up a while. I held up a while.

My mind had toyed with twenty, maybe a marathon, maybe more. I even thought the run could be as short as ten. But about eight miles in, I knew the outing would be a marathon or more. Several friends of mine were running St. Jude's that very day. I really wanted to beat them, so I hatched the idea of a marathon plus one.

The run was pretty uneventful other than me finding  a lot of loot along the way. I usually bring home something to my wife that I find along the side of the roadway such as discarded silverware. It amazes me how many spoons and butter knives and forks I find on the shoulder of the roads I run. Why are they there? Was someone eating lunch while driving and oops that fork fell out the window? 

The last thing I told Penny when I headed out the door was, "I'll bring you something."

Her response was, "I don't want anything."

That sort of hurt my feelings, but perhaps it was providential. I kept for myself everything I picked up that day, and it was a pretty impressive haul. The first thing I found was a flashlight. It was one of those little LED things. Picking it up and examining it revealed that the light had most likely tumbled from an auto at high speed. The front glass was gone, but when I clicked the switch, that little bugger came on. Hot dog, I thought. I can always use a light, especially this time of year when often a shine is the only thing that keeps me from being run over by a car when running at night. 

Wearing the rain top and holding the flashlight.
The next thing I found was a car charger for a cell phone. I still don't know if it works, but this very second that thing sits on an end table beside me. 

The third thing I found was a really nice rain suit. I did my turn at 13.62 miles and was only a few steps into my return journey when I ran by some clothing on the shoulder. That is not unusual. Clothing is common as are shop rags which I occasionally pick up. Usually, however, I just keep running when I encounter clothing, and I did this time too. But I stopped and went back. Something about what I saw seemed less than ordinary or more than ordinary. Not ordinary. Gosh, it was a nice rain suit, a Coleman. The top was in mint condition, but the pants had become a part of a fire ant colony, so I tied the top to my pack and left the pants with the ants.
Gift from a stranger.

I was feeling pretty smug about my stuff when another incident, another find, brightened my day. I was getting low on fluid and was planning a stop at the fire station in Money when a pickup truck slowed as it approached me. Two guys were in a small, red truck and that is all I could discern about their physical description. They never stopped, but a hand came out the passenger side window and in that hand was the biggest bottle of water I had ever seen. They slowed just enough to pass the water like a runner passing the baton in a relay race. 

"Thanks," I yelled out.

"You'e welcome," someone yelled in return.

Immediately I heard a flock of geese overhead honking away as if to sing their approval at the random act of kindness they had witnessed below them. A light breeze blew brightly-colored leaves which pirouetted through the air to the ground below as if the heavens were raining grace upon the earth. I thought of Luke 2:14 which reads and was sung by the angels and is sung by mankind now,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Swummed Agin

This time of year is a difficult one for me and swimming. The ending of a school semester is always a super busy time and the holidays bring inevitable cancellations of practice. Also, about this time each year I begin to become aware of the Chicot Challenge and want to start easing my distance up. To make all of this more profound, I have missed more practices than ever during the months of November and December. I actually got out of swimming shape.

So I go to practice Tuesday night and find out there will be no practice Thursday night because of a swim meet. Before we leave, coach lets the other shoe drop. He tells us there will also no practice the next Tuesday after that. WHAT!?!?!?!? Just when I am starting to come back, I get knocked back to the ground. Do NOT tell me to get up one more time than you are knocked down. That's an impossibility. Think about it. You get knocked down once, you get up once. You get knocked down twice, you get up twice. You get knocked down three times, you get up three times. Where does the extra getting up come from? If you get knocked down four times, how do you get up five? 

Two things, three, I'm trying to focus on now that it is December because I start the build for real in January. One is consistency with the weightlifting. Even there I have been a bad boy and a lazy one, but from now on, no more gaps in the program. Weightlifting really does help my swimming. Two is swimming. My access to water will remain limited for some time, but when January arrives, I try to squeeze every yard or meter possible out of every dip in the pool. Three is rotator cuff exercises. I try to do them year round, but guess what. Yes, I get lazy in the off season and let that slip also. 

At the pool Tuesday night, I swam

6 X 100 @ 2:00 small paddles
6 X 100 @ 2:15 small paddles
6 X 100 @ 2:30 
150 easy
total: 4,350 SCYs.

I got there early and found an empty lane and was able to get 2,400 straight before practice started. That is the most in a long time. Then on the 100s, the first set was with fins and paddles. I didn't bring fins, and when I told coach I would go without, he said that changes the sendoff time. "I can do 2:00," I told him. So we did the set. It was just Ricky and Mark and me so they kicked me pretty good since both of them had fins. I did hang with Ricky on a couple of them, but then decided not to push it too hard because I didn't want to risk tweaking a shoulder trying to swim fast with paddles when I am not in top form.

The second set of 100s was with paddles only and @ 2:15. Mark beat me on at least half of them. Then we did the third set with nothing @ 2:30. I was able to stay ahead of Mark by just a second or two on all six of them. I have definitely slipped some, but last week's two swims has me stronger now that only a week ago. That is one thing I love about swimming. My body responds quickly to workouts. Running? Not so much.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Luvie's Report

For two weeks my lazy human did almost nothing. He finished the Great Noxapater Journey Run on Monday, November, 23. After that he mostly just took lot naps and drank coffee. His total running for that week was 6.61 with 11.38 miles of walking. He swam not at all and lifted weights only once.

The next week (11/30-12/6) was headed the same way until Saturday when he finally shook off his lethargy and did something real. Until then he had run 8.17 miles and lifted weights once. He did, however, swim two times for a total of 6,675 short course yards.

He was a little ticked at having to miss his Friday run so he headed out Money Road for a long one. He did a marathon plus a mile. He will write about that later. Let me just give you the totals. For the week, he

ran 27.56 
swam 6,750 short course yards
lifted weights once, and 
walked 10.72 miles.

My name is Luvie, and I wrote this post.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The GNJR: Seven Lessons Learned

Besides having lots of fun and fulfilling a long standing goal, I learned a number of lessons on this run. A few of them are less than earth shattering. A couple of them, however, are heavy, or at least that is how I see it. And one of them I am sure you have never heard before. On the Great Noxapater Journey Run, I learned:

  1. Coffee is important. The day I didn't have coffee, Day Two, was my toughest of the entire trip. I don't know that the absence of the bean was the full cause of my difficulties. I do believe it was a part of my lack of energy and inability to perform that day.
  2. You can run and walk over 100 miles in five days and not lose weight. I didn't set out to shed pounds. I did, however, expect to drop one or two along the way. But I ate heartily whenever I got the chance because I was hungry and didn't want to bonk out on the road.
  3. Closely related to number two is, you don't need the gazillion calories and tons of fluid everybody says you must have in order to do ultra-marathon distances. Yes, you need calories and fluid, but I have a definite stance on the Replenish vs Replace debate. In short, the Replace group says you must match calorie in for every calorie out and ounce for ounce on all the liquid lost through perspiration and respiration. They believe you must do this WHILE you complete your event or you are a novice and perform only at a fraction of your potential. That group, by the way, is represented primarily by people who are selling products to help you do exactly that. Smell it? Don't get me started here. I could go on for pages about all the hydration stuff alone. Let me just say, only certified sissies fall apart if they lose a few ounces of fluid that are not instantly replaced. In fact, much of the hydration mania that has dominated the headlines and literature for the past twenty-five years is not only unscientific (although it claims science), it is dangerous. A far greater risk than dehydration is hyponatremia (too much water, sometimes called water intoxication). 
  4. Confidence is overrated. Really. I feel sure I am the only person on earth who will say that. After my run, my son, Forrest, brought a book by Scott Jurek (if you don't know who he is, google him) to a family get-together. I picked it up and began to read. Almost instantly I came upon these words. "Racing ultras requires absolute confidence tempered with intense humility" (Eat and Run). He is, of course, talking about racing as opposed to just having fun like I was. But the point is, with a little effort, I could fill up a few hard drives with quotations and stories saying essentially the same thing. What I am about to say is anecdotal. But so is everything else you will ever read or hear about this subject. I attempted the Great Noxapater Journey Run in 2013 with 100% confidence I would complete day one. I had done a thirty-miler a few weeks earlier. How could I fail? Day two was the question in my mind at that time. How would my body respond the day ofter a long hard effort? To my utter shock and amazement, I failed on the very first day. No amount of belief or determination or toughness could have gotten me any farther down the road on the extremely painful stress fracture I had been struck by. Fast forward to 2015. I had 0% confidence I would even make the distance on the first day, much less the entire journey. I had developed symptoms of plantar fasciitus a few days before the run, and I was sure things would go from bad to worse. I made it. All. Five. Days. Throughout the journey, my confidence was like a Yo-Yo: up and down. My success was not dependent upon my confidence.
  5. If confidence is overrated, what is the essential quality, the one that is not overrated? My answer to that is audacity. More important than confidence is audacity, the willingness to face down your fears and do battle with them. I have done that and failed. I have done that and succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. If you have a dream, don't stupidly believe that confidence will conquer all. But do have the audacity to try. Be willing to fail. Be willing to fail again after you fail the first time. Remember the old adage, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." Life is not for sissies, and great challenges are not for the faint of heart. Only cowards have to be filled with confidence to begin the quest. Confidence is for cowards; audacity is for achievers.
  6. Life is struggle. The old man at the cafe in Ackerman was right. Without struggle we don't fully live; we waste the gift God has placed in us; we cheat ourselves out of an essential part of our humanity. I think that is one of the reasons I feel compelled to set goals and train and fight to attain them. It's innate in the human condition. When our falleness and our environment separate us from this aspect of our DNA, we and those around us are the losers.
  7. Never forget the importance of faith. I don't mean faith in faith as is preached from many popular pulpits today. That, in my opinion, borders on witchcraft. I don't mean faith in self which is the same thing as confidence. I mean faith in a personal God whose will is not always clear and whose ways are often beyond our ability to discern. Sometimes He gives and sometimes He withholds great favors, and sometimes we know not the reason for the gift or the withholding. On the Great Noxapater Journey Run, He gave to me greatly, and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The GNJR Day Five: The Denouement

My breath was visible in the cold air when I checked out of the Village Inn and started walking south on Church Street (Highway 15) at 8:00 o'clock Monday morning. Naturally, I was stiff and sore as I made my way towards my great-grandfather's grave site on day five of my journey. My mind went back to last night's fright. When I walked up to the motel, I was immediately impressed by all the cars I saw filling the parking lot. Well, I thought, this place must be a better than I had assumed. I was quickly disabused of that impression, however, after I entered the room.

Once inside my prized palace, I found out the place was in fact a dump. I had come an extra fifteen miles, some of it in the dark, so as not to stay at a rat-hole in Ackerman only to stay at a rat-hole in Louisville. I barely had my pack off when I heard loud, angry voices outside. And thumping. The room shook with the thumping. Then I noticed the door had been kicked in and only partially repaired. Who does that? The safety latch thingy had been broken off and not replaced. Holy crap, I thought.

I wedged a chair under the door, hoping to make it secure, turned the lights off, and peeked out the window where I saw what seemed to be unsavory activity that made me uncomfortable. OK, I was frightened, so frightened I thought I might not exit the room all night, even to eat. Finally, I did muster the courage to leave the room and walk the 100 feet to the restaurant for supper, which I enjoyed immensely. Also, the restaurant helped me relax a little but not totally. Then I went back to the room, took a bath, and put on my night-night clothes. After a little TV time, I crashed like an airplane with its wings shot off. 

Now, the next morning, I was free and safe but tired and weary. Day four had been a trip-long 30.54 miles with lots of running. Fortunately, it was not even a mile to the Masonic Cemetery where I walked straight to my great-grandparents' graves. There I shot a short, emotional video, said a prayer, and thanked them, George for his successful journey and Lou Ella for my name. She named all her sons after authors, my granddad after Zane Grey. I felt like my journey had reached its logical conclusion. This is where it should end, I thought, but I had already announced Noxapater as the ending point. So I left the graves and made my way back to Church Street.

George Henry Quinton's grave

On the way through Louisville, I passed the lot where my maternal grandmother's house sat. A business now occupies that piece of land, but in my mind's eye I could still see the large old house and the yard, front where I played football and back where I ate figs. A bit farther I came to another lot, this one empty, where my paternal grandmother and then an aunt and uncle lived before they all died in faith. The April 28, 2014 tornado took away the structure but it, like the business on the other lot, was powerless to sweep away the multitude of my memories. The Christmas gatherings and summer nights I slept there with Mamaw flooded my consciousness. I remember her putting a chamber pot in my room at night, but I never wondered why until I got much older. Her house had indoor plumbing, and the bathroom was only a few feet away. She would also dust the room with some kind of insecticide, probably DDT, that she manually pumped out of some type of sprayer I haven't seen since I was a boy.

When I got out of town, I realized the final leg of this journey was going to be a really slow one. It didn't matter. My brother-in-law, RT, was to pick me up at Aunt Mary's house around noon time. As long as I made it there by then. A couple of miles south on 15 brought me to Flower Ridge United Methodist Church where my paternal grandparents are buried along with some other kin folk. I stopped and visited the graves. I have never been much of a grave visitor, but as I have aged that has changed a bit.

Flower Ridge Cemetery

Highway 15 from Louisville to Noxapater has no shoulder and is heavily traveled. That made running difficult. My fatigue made running almost impossible. In fact, I only shuffled 1.7 miles on day five. It was just a slow, anticlimactic walk, and it took all morning for me to cover the 10+ miles to the little village. I was mightily relieved when I came to the city limits sign and knew my journey was almost over. Another half mile and I was at Aunt Mary's. I shot a short video outside and then went inside and hugged my aunt, the last of my dad's siblings. I took off my pack and shoes and sat down. RT arrived a bit later and we ate some lunch before he drove me home. I did not put shoes back on for the next twenty-seven hours and that was too soon.

Selfie at 100 miles.

I Swummed

I went to DSU Tuesday night and swam for only the third time since the first of November. As Bruce Buffer would say, "It's TIME!!" It is time to begin work on my long neglected swim fitness. Since I dropped Swim the Suck this year and have been running well, my focus has been on having fun on my feet. And I have done that, had fun on the feet, and I plan on having more fun. But I can no longer neglect swimming and upper body weightlifting. 

From November 19th through the 23rd, I completed The Great Noxapater Journey Run, (I am drafting Day Five now), something I had long planned, prepared for, and dreamed of. Now my bucket list is one item shorter. After the big run, I didn't do much from Tuesday on. In fact that Monday (23rd) I only ran 1.7 miles on the final leg to my aunt's house in Noxapater. For the week, I only ran 6.61 miles and did not swim at all. I did, however, lift weights a couple of times. 

This week, I am slowly rebuilding my running distance, committing to being consistent on the weights, and resuming swimming. This time of year I cannot swim much, but I can no longer let opportunities pass me by. At the pool last night I swam

1,350 (I felt my lack of fitness while doing this)
8 X 50 @ 1:30 decline 1-4
800 breathing 3, 5, 5, 7 by 25
100 easy
50 easy
8 X 50 @ 1:30 progressive 1-4
total: 3,000 SCYs.

Only 3,000 and I had had enough. But I am at the very bottom of the mountain, and I know the way to the top. I've been there before. From now on, the Chicot Challenge will motivate everything I do.

Running wise, I still have some things on the agenda. I plan to do some one day Buddy Bones runs, and I also plan to do my son's birthday run (thirty miles) in January. In February we, Forrest and I, plan to do the Mississippi River Marathon. But more and more, running will become cross training instead of the main training while swimming shifts to the forefront. 

This week I ran 2.5 Monday and 2.65 Tuesday. I am still easing back into things. I feel thankful to God that I am not injured and by grace and good sense I plan to keep it that way.