Saturday, December 31, 2016


A cat on the lap
is worth two in the bush,
and one on the bed
is worth three in the head.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Walking to Africa

We walked to Africa. Details later.

First, I loaded the truck and headed for DSU. It was Thursday so I planned a double dip. If you know me very well, you know that for me, too much is never enough. Next spring I am scheming on some triple dips.

At the pool, I kept things simple, a straight 4,000 meter swim. The pool is still set up for long course. Cagri, The Mad Swimming Scientist, said it will stay that way until January 10. I averaged 1:58. Then I went to the kids'.

I decided  to take a walk and was out on the road when I heard, "Poppy." It was my grandson, Zane, and he and the moose-sized dog, Lucky, were hunting a skunk in the weeds in front of the house and it smelled like it. I didn't ask any questions, but Zane told me there was a skunk in a cage in there and it sprayed Lucky three times. I just kept walking.

Zane and Lucky went with me. When we got way down the road, past the airport, Caitlin texted. 

"Are you with Zane?"


"Where are you?"

"We are walking to Africa."

"How far is that?"

"16,000 miles."

"I thought 10,000."

We turned around and headed back. When we started getting close to home, Caitlin came walking up the road to meet us. "Zane, tell her we went all the way to Africa and saw zebras and lions and giraffes."

She didn't believe us. 

Then I waded into the weeds where Zane and Lucky were skunk hunting and found a skunk in a live trap. Go figure. After that we went to the ditch and threw rocks.

I went to Masters and got there early so I could get in the pool ahead of the others and do extra distance. The team training there ahead of us was late getting out so despite arriving early, I didn't get any extra distance. I/we swam

700 warm up
8 X 200 r :30 1-4 pull/paddles, 5-8 paddles only
Tabitha and I did an extra one (swim) while Ricky finished up.
100 cool down
total: 2,600 + 4,000 = 6,600 for the day.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Stopping by Pond on Autumn Day

Whose ponds these are I think I know.
His house is in Itta Bena though;
He will not spy me stopping here
To swim his catfish pond with cheer.

My training partner thinks it queer
To stop without a swim pool near
Between the ponds and soil of loam
Where only racoons come to roam.

He gives his phone a frown and look
As if to say I am mistook
The only other sights to see 
Are flights of ducks above the trees.

The ponds are pretty, dark and deep,
But I have training plans to keep,
And miles to swim before I sleep,
And miles to swim before I sleep.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beating Sam

child plays gun-fighter
boy hunts squirrels, dove, and deer
man lounges with cats

alone in a pool
the swimmer strokes water's chill
he works for his soul

on our drive to church
we look at the pasture's prize
we gaze at God's flock

Monday, December 26, 2016

12/19 - 12/25

Another dismal week but tis the season to be jolly. Actually, it was a joy filled week; only the training was dismal. This is the training cycle that saw me reach new numbers in my weight, not run for another seven days, and feel so lazy I ought to have invented sloth. Sigh.

Monday started the week with record weight lifting. My top three sets on the bench press were:

1 X 170
1 X 175
1 X 170 

This puts my 85% number at 150.

Tuesday was a pretty big train day with another double dip at DSU. I already wrote about this on December 21st in the post titled, "DSU Times Two." I totaled 7,200 meters. I also got to see Smu and the grandkids. Zane gave me a present. He put it in a Moon Pie box and wrapped it himself using duct tape. It was one of those match box cars. I will keep it forever. 

Wednesday I did more weights focusing on biceps and shoulders. I can't make my shoulders get sore. Odd. I have tried everything. Only once have they ever been sore and that was when I was working on overhead squats. It doesn't matter what weight I use, how many exercises I do, or how many sets I add. I have only two muscles that I can routinely make sore: my pecs and my traps. These are also the only muscles that grow. I can look at a barbell and my pecs will get a little tighter and larger. Kind of like eating. I can look at some kinds of food and gain weight in the belly. But my biceps and shoulders just don't get sore. Neither do they grow or get much stronger. Strength and conditioning is what I am after not size, but I would like to fill my shoulders out a little. My experience has taught me that those two things, strength and conditioning, go hand in hand with DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). But I can't make them sore. Go figure.

Thursday I was back at DSU. I wanted another double dip but they didn't open at noon. We had Masters, though, and I swam

3 X 400 (7:23; 7:19; and 6:54)
100 easy
8 X 50 @2:00
total: 2,400

Friday I did more lifting and Saturday I also lifted some. 

For the week, I

ran - 0
lifted weights four times
swam 9,600 meters.

For the year, I am now at 853,250 meters (539 miles). This is getting pretty close to my all-time record of 873,842, but I don't think I can break it because I have only one more week in the year. That's OK because it has been a good swimming year without the total breaks that I often get this time of year. With Christmas and New Year's being on Sunday, we have continued to have Masters during these holiday weeks.

Christmas morning I weighed a whopping 177 pounds. I can't breathe well at this weight, I look terrible, and I am miserable. God help me get it turned around.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Me 'n Poot Ride with Some Bad Boys

For my 700th post, I did a little review on how this blog has expanded. I mentioned that I have not written any fiction lately and needed to return to my Poot series. That prompted Shawn C. Turner to ask if Poot was fiction. In my Poot stories, I sometimes use my imagination to fill in the details that my memory has lost. It's the English teacher in me who has trouble not practicing what I steadily preach to my students: detail, detail, detail. Well, I am about to break my own advice and tell you a 100% true Poot story. The details be danged, here it is.

I am not sure what year it was but my best guess was 1972. This guess is based on who we were with. By 1974, Poot and I were mostly terrorizing Carroll County, just the two of us. It could have been '73 or even '71, but I think it was 72. I don't remember how this group got together, and I don't even remember who one of us was. Bubba Golden was driving and we were in an old, old car, maybe a 1950s something, old even for that day. Mac Carr was in the passenger's front, me 'n Poot were in the back, and for the life of me I know there was someone else back there but I don't remember who.

We were riding around Greenwood, on a Friday night I think, summertime, and we had bottle rockets. Five teenage boys on a summer's night with a full tank of gas and bottle rockets. What could possibly go wrong?

I remember we had a Coke bottle and Mac was using the bottle to put the bottle rockets in and he was shooting stop signs while we randomly roamed the roads. Then we fell in behind a car load of girls. We were on Popular Street headed north and stopped behind them at the intersection of Popular and East Jeff Davis. By the way, even if you have never been to Greenwood, you might know this intersection. The Help ends here when Abileen turns left onto Jeff Davis at this same four-way stop. The girls turned right, however, giving Mac a nice target for a bottle rocket. Probably he couldn't reproduce his shot if he had a year to practice, but that night the rocket went straight into the open passenger's window and although I don't remember the sound of the explosion, the sight of the interior of that car lighting up is still vivid in my mind.

Kathleen Saffold spilled out of the rear passenger's window and proceeded to dog cuss us at what seemed like the speed of light. I don't fault her for it. Her anger was justified, righteous even. But I did not know that girls our age knew those words, and I had never heard them coming out of the mouth of a female. It was a different age. Later, I got a date with Kathleen. In fact I dated her much of 1973 and 1974, maybe some of '72, but none of us got a date that night.

What we did do was drive over the Tallahatchie Bridge where Billy Joe McCallister took his jump and turn right onto what is now known as County Road 150. Again, if you have seen The Help, this road shows up as part of the drive Hilly makes when she is en route to confront Skeeter about her book. But then as now County Road 150 is a simple gravel road that dead ends at what we called The Trestle, a train bridge over the Yalabusha River. One way in and one way out, a testament to our intelligence when you consider what we did next.

What happened next was somebody fired another bottle rocket. According to my memory, it wasn't planned and I don't even know which one of us did it. Mac may have done it but he was on the wrong side because the houses were to our left. At that time, there were still a few people living in what we called shotgun houses on that road. The ones Poot and I didn't burn down were later moved to Tallahatchie Flats, and if you aren't from around here you can Google that and see pictures. One of those houses is the one we shot that night with a bottle rocket.

Whoever fired it off had a good aim because it hit the front porch and exploded with what sounded like an atomic bomb. Bubba floored the weak-engined car while we all laughed hysterically. We were having ourselves a night. We bombed a car load of girls and now a house. We went to The Trestle and parked there and got out and smoked cigarettes in the hot summer air and laughed some more. For whatever reason, we were not drinking beer that night. Despite living neck deep in sin, I firmly believe that was Providential and may have saved our lives because if we had said the wrong thing-- and alcohol helps you say and do the wrong things-- we very likely would have been killed.

When we felt it was safe, we headed back out but Bubba drove slowly with the headlights off so we could sneak out without being seen. Remember, we were smart enough to shoot the house going in not going out. Bubba lost his nerve driving in the dark, however, and just as we were almost to the house we had shot, he turned the headlights on and not a moment too soon. The road was covered over with firewood. Bubba hit the brakes hard, and we slid to a stop about two feet short of the wood pile. A black man with a rifle rose out of the ditch and said, "Get out of the car."

We climbed out, hands up, and faced an irate man pointing what looked like a .22 at our heads. He wanted us in the car's headlights so he could see us. He looked about thirty-five, wore a white T-shirt, and was as pissed as Kathleen Saffold, more so. He kept saying he was sick of this and that we did the same thing just last night. We tried to tell him and were not lying when we said we had never done this before. We weren't the only teenage boys in Greenwood who did stupid stuff, but we got credit for it all that night.

I stared at his mouth. His lips were tight. His jaw muscles flexed while his teeth clinched. His eyes were filled with hatred, and while he kept saying he ought to make us pay, I heard the gentle waters of the Tallahatchie trickling over a log. He had ears too, and I thought how easy it would be for him to sink our bodies in the river only fifty yards away where we would likely never be found. 

When he said, "Clear the road," we worked like it was a job and the boss was watching. After neatly re-stacking his firewood, he told us to get out of there and never come back. I really think the only reason he didn't kill us was the boy. When he got out of the ditch, a little boy, maybe nine years old, got out with him, his son I suppose. I believe he didn't want to murder us in front of the kid.

We drove to town and stopped at Jitney Jr on Park Avenue where there were always some kids hanging out. Bubba and the others were telling everybody what had happened, but I was quiet. I really wanted to go home. The one thing I always wanted when I got in a tight spot was to be in my bed at 422 West Harding. For most of my life, I have felt unsafe. My bed at 422 was the only place I ever felt safe. Now after forty-five years, I have not been back on that road at night. I sometimes run the road in the daylight. I drive by often with the sun up. But neither God nor demon has caught me out there in the dark. On Money Road, or Wade Road, yes, but that road, no.

I learned one lesson from that experience. People don't like to be shot with bottle rockets. This is another testament to our, my, intelligence. I had to learn that.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Child, Boy, Man

child plays in backyard
boy rambles on bicycle
man runs for five days

child plays the baseball
boys drinks and smokes and goes wild
man comes to Jesus

child is a cowboy
boy hunts in dark woods and dreams
man teaches, preaches

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

DSU Times Two

I did it again. I pulled off another double dip. Tuesday morning, I packed my truck with clothes, towels, swimming gear, and snacks then headed for DSU, the home of the Fighting Okra. I arrived a little late for the 12:00 to 2:00 opening and got into the water around 12:20. I started with a straight swim because I wanted to work those aerobic enzymes. Besides, Masters practice is always filled with fast 50s. This swim came on the heals of a big back yard weight session on Monday, so muscles were sore and tight. I like it like that, and I seem to swim well the day after lifting hard. Go figure.

My initial set was 3,600 meters straight in 1:10:03 (1:56). My usual pace for this type of swim is around 2:02 or slower even. I was helped by having other people in the pool, one guy near my speed. Every time we passed-- he going one way and I the other-- I marked the spot and then tried to see if I could add some distance between us when we passed again. This helped me push it a little harder than I would have if I had been alone.

My second and only other set was 800 with small paddles. Although there was still some time left, I tapped out after the paddle set knowing I would be swimming again. Total: 4,400 meters. For lunch, I had a protein shake and a sweet potato which I ate whole, skin and all. It is time to declare war on the belly. 

After swimming, I went to see Smu and the grandchildren. I left with hugs, a jug of candy corn, and a big box of Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. My son-in-law has a cookie route. Did I mention I've declared war on the belly? War is hell.

At Masters, I swam

8 X 150 small paddles, breathing 5, 7, 9 by 50s 
200 cool down
total: 2,800 meters = 7,200 for the day.

After the night swim, I had another whey protein shake, another sweet potato and an apple. I made it all the way back to Greenwood without touching the candy corn. Don't say you don't believe in miracles.

Now for a word about breathing sets. I hate them. A lot. I hate them a whole lot. One of the reasons for having a coach is they make you do things you would not do on your own, and normally I follow instructions without complaint. I complained last night.

There are several reason given for doing breathing patterns. One reason is that it teaches your body to perform in oxygen dept. I have read a lot, and the science allegedly does not back up that reason. I say "allegedly" because I have not read the primary studies but have only read synopses done by other people. I take their word for it but understand they may be wrong. It is like those training masks that some MMA fighters use. The theory is that by restricting airflow, your muscles are forced to work harder in the absence of enough oxygen. That is logical and appealing to my mind. But from what I have read, the science doesn't back up the benefits of those training masks either. Still I am tempted to purchase one.

Another reason given for breathing sets is it helps you focus on your stroke. That also is logical and although I know of no studies on that, I am confident that none are needed. My problem with breathing sets is they hurt and they are potentially dangerous. Let's look at my first problem: they hurt. Most people don't like pain and I fall in with most people on that one. But remember, one reason for having a coach is he or she makes you do what you would not do on your own. I don't mind some pain if there is a good purpose behind it, i.e., a payoff. For example, hard 400s hurt, but there is a big payoff; they really boost your fitness and they do it fast. I question, however, if there is any balance between benefit and pain on these breathing sets.

As far as danger goes, it is real, and I have experienced it. Once, I almost blacked out after a flip turn doing a nine breath pattern. I am not exaggerating, and it scared the holy doo doo out of me. That's when I began to cheat on these sets. I take two breaths coming off the wall on seven and up patterns, and on nine patterns I take two breaths after each nine. It goes like this: nine strokes, breathe breathe, nine strokes, breathe breathe. It is still difficult but I never get into trouble. If I were to black out and sink to the bottom, I could be down there a couple of minutes before anyone noticed. That is long enough to die. It ain't worth it. Not now, not never, and I don't mean ever.

Well that is my rant for the day. I hope you enjoyed it. I did.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

12/5 = 12/11

It was me most worstest training cycle of the year. Monday I stayed with Mom most of the day and when I got home I was just lazy from sitting around so I did more sitting around and watched some worthless television. 

Tuesday, MDCC's English Department held its Christmas party at Emily Riser's house so I ate too much, sat too much, and talked too much (a common failing of mine). In the afternoon, I dragged myself to the back yard to lift some weights. My bench press session went like this:

15 X 100
8 X 120
6 X 140
4 X 150 
2 X 160
1 X 165
1 X 170 (new record)
1 X 171 (new record)
3 X 160 (new record)
4 X 155 (new record)
5 X 150 (new record)

I reached some new levels for my bench strength. I have long noticed a correlation between it and my 50 meter times. Stronger = faster. I am not sure how this strength relates to endurance swimming, but I theorize that it at least helps lay a base of exercise capacity and muscle toughness. By "toughness" I mean a resistance to muscle fiber breakdown which is helpful in being able to train big one day and follow up with more good training the next day.

Wednesday I stayed with Mom and did nothing physical. Thursday, however, I drove over to DSU at lunch time and swam

3,000 1:00:47
10 X 50 @1:15
8 X 150 @3:09 with small paddles
400 easy 8:11
total: 5,100 meters.

Friday I went back to the water treadmill and simply swam 3,100 straight in 1:01:23. I stopped to get out and use the restroom, but I picked up my bag at the end of my lane, a sure sign that I lacked to motivation to come back out. I lacked the motivation to come back out. We were scheduled to eat with Gerald and Debbie that night, and I didn't want to tire myself too much and be bad company.

Saturday I lifted more weight and did some mowing. I focused on reps and worked the entire upper body. The bench session went like

22 X 100
13 X 120
10 X 130 paused
then three sets of incline dumbbell bench presses (30, 35, 40).

That night we had another eat out and Sunday we had our Christmas eating at church. Notice all this eating? My belly is so big right now that I can hardly breathe. 

For the week, I 

ran - nothing
lifted weights - two sessions
swam - 8,200 meters.

Tis the season to be jolly.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Long Surprise

The Mad Swimming Scientist cancelled all our Masters practices this week. Oddly, I didn't come unhinged. Slowly, I am learning that my off season is a needed break both my body and mind benefits from in order to refresh for the big Chicot buildup. Still, I like to swim, I want to swim, and I need to swim. Some. Don't force me into total hibernation.

So I drove over to DSU Thursday for the noon opening. The parking lot was bare and the lights inside were off. I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and then walked to the door to look for signage when Ronnie, the main man, drove up. Ronnie Mayers runs the whole shootin' match at the natatorium. He opened up and said, "Swim away." I did.

To my shock, awe, and amazement, the pool was set up for long course. I love long course and feel it is much better for endurance work. Normally the pool is short course all winter. But they had some sort of swim meet (one of the reasons we lost our Masters sessions) and they switched over to 50 meters. I swam

3,000 straight 1:00:47
10 X 50 @1:15 (85%)
8 X 150 @3:09 small paddles
400 easy 4:11
total: 5,100

It was good. It was real. It was real good. 

I hope to do it again today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Chicot lies dormant
like a sleeping giant she rests
but will rise again

my lover lies still
her long limbs rest and she sighs
waiting my return

green water flows over
arms, shoulders, chest, legs and feet
only the strong lasts

Monday, December 12, 2016

12/5 - 12/11

It was a non-training week that saw my weight go through the roof and made me believe I am dying. I don't want to sound dramatic or overstate things, but my body has been giving me numerous signals that it can't survive the hours on end on my backside and the steady barrage of unhealthy food and too much of that. Finals week is always brutal and combine that with the holidays and all the eating that forces on us and my belly has ballooned and my breathing is difficult to the point of fear.  Students and co-workers have been asking me if I am breathing hard. I always say no and try to play it off. I tell myself I just have to get it together, that fitness and health will come back.

Enough whining.

What I did do last week was run once for 2.01 miles Tuesday. I also lifted weights that day and did 1 X 165 on the bench. I did nothing Monday or Wednesday. Thursday I enjoyed the double dip swim that I already wrote about. That was my only water work for the week. I lifted weights on Friday and pumped more iron Saturday. That was it. That was all. Now I am off work. 


Pardon my frustration.

I'll write something positive later.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

700th Post

This is my first ever milestone post. I did not do it for the 100th or 200th or 300th post. Nor did I do it for numbers 400, 500, or 600. But for my 700th post, I am taking the time to reflect on this blog, what I have done, what I am likely to do, and a bit about why I do it.

I began this experiment on July 21st, 2012. My first post was titled "HOD Training" (Heart 'O Dixie) and recounted a massive training session Randy Beets and I did in preparation for this state's biggest and best triathlon. We swam Twin Rivers pool and rode our bicycles to Phillip where we had lunch and then rode back. After the ride back, we ran four miles. That post pretty much set the tone for the blog: primarily this was, is, and will remain an athletic journal, a place for me to record my training, reflect on my performances, and dream of new athletic adventures.

Over the years, however, EndangeredSwimmer has slowly but surely expanded in scope and purpose. The description currently found in the header on the home page has not always been there. It states that the besides being an athletic journal, this blog is a repository of an occasional essay, and even more occasionally, a piece of fiction. Speaking of fiction, I have not written any of that lately. I need to return to my Poot series. That is one of my goals over the Christmas Break.

Of late EndangeredSwimmer has once more expanded in scope. The past few months have seen me putting up some of my poetry. That surprised me because I never fancied myself a poet. Maybe I still am less than a real poet, but I am composing both free verse and haikus. In large measure, this new emphasis on an old art has been inspired by one of my students, Samuel Lott. Sam, a real poet, is bold enough to inform me that my haikus are no good. I am grateful for his honest feedback, but really I don't care. They are my poems and as mine, I love them like I do my children, my grandchildren, and my cats. They are mine and I embrace them, hug then, hold them. They represent my thought, my feelings, and like pictures of my babies, they are beautiful.

All of that brings me to motivation. I am both surprised and flattered when someone reads my posts. But if no one ever read, I would still write because I love writing and EndangeredSwimmer gives me a reason, a place, and a purpose to compose sentences and paragraphs that mean something to me. At work, we once had a president that everyone agreed loved to hear himself talk. Well, I admit it: I love to hear myself write. I am now old enough to know that if there is something we love to do, God had blessed us with that and the least we can do is thank Him by enjoying the passion He has placed in our life. 

And that brings me to something else: swimming. July 21, 2012, was only a little more than a month removed from the first Chicot Challenge. I wanted to document, preserve, and promote my open water efforts which have providentially been in service of the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi. That first Challenge raised funds for the American Diabetes Association. After the swim, Mary Fortune of the DFM contacted me and asked me to consider them if I ever did anything like that again. Frankly, I was flattered then and remain so today that anyone would want my services. I hooked my efforts to their cause and have remained with them since. I only wish more people would contact me and ask me to swim for them. I was in my fifties when I accidentally (providentially that is) slid into marathon swimming. It is a gift I didn't know I had. I have squandered one gift so I know what that is like. By the grace of God, I will not squander this one.

So I swim and I write and one day I will die. When I pass, I hope my son keeps this blog alive as a way to honor me and to document his own journey.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rare Double Dip

Thursday I did a rare double dip unlike any I have done before. A few weeks back, I did a Twin Rivers-- cold and short-- and a Masters double. The totals weren't that impressive, but I had fun. Sometimes in the spring when ramping up for the Chicot Challenge I will do a pond/Masters double. But since this is my off season, I typically don't swim too much this time of year. I woke Thursday morning, however, off work and hungry to be active. Then I remembered something the Mad Swimming Scientist suggested to me last whenever: swim at noon and then come to Masters. So I did.

At noon, I swam

1,650 warm up
25 X 100 @2:00 (1:24 - 1:32)
650 small paddles
total: 4,800 yards.

I went to my daughter's and saw my grandchildren then went back for more swimming. For the second session, I swam

700 warm up
400 (last 25 of each 100 fast; 6:12)
400 (2nd 50 of each 100 fast)
50 easy
400 (last 75 of each 100 fast; 6:05)
16 X 50 @1:30 decline 1 - 4 (1st set: 41, 40, 39, 38; best 37 on last 50)
total: 2,950
total for day: 7,750 yards = 7,083 meters.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Haikus of the Pond

he spends hours alone
fish, bird, turtles are his friends,
water is his home

ducks and geese fly high
rows of fish ponds pull them down,
swimmers pushes them up

hunters down a duck
a dog retrieves the fallen
swimmer enters pond

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

We Talked

He was wearing those old grey sweats, a T-shirt, and his running shoes just like he was the day he left us. I didn't know if I could hug him or not but when I did, I felt something like flesh and bones hugging me back. Surprisingly, I wasn't overly emotional as we each took a seat at a small table near the wall of Steven's BBQ.

I had hoped for such a meeting for years and now here we were sitting together and looking one another in the eye. I had no idea how long he could stay so I didn't want to waste time or words.

"You don't look any younger," I mentioned, attempting to start some talk while I put sweetener and cream in my coffee. He was still taking his black. 

"I get younger every day," he responded. "One day younger every day. It goes the other way. I don't know when it will end. It doesn't matter. I can run again now, not fast, but I shuffle often."

"Do you get to keep up with what is happening here?"

"I get a peak from time to time. Just a peak."

"Then you know we are taking good care of Mom?"

"I know."

"Then we can talk about the important stuff?"


The waitress came to our table and I ordered three eggs over medium, grits, and toast. Dad didn't order, and I didn't question his decision.

"So you know the score?"

"Just that we won."

"It was 55 to 20. I wasn't even going to watch a month ago."

"Why not?"

"I thought they'd beat us by 70. And I think they would have. Then."

"What happened?"

"Injuries to them. A big win for us. A & M was ranked number five in the nation and we beat them. That made me think, maybe we have a chance. Then Ole Miss lost their quarterback, and I thought I'd watch a few plays."

"What made you think they were that much better?"

"Their passing game. They could score and score fast. They had Alabama by 24 just before half. But they faded in the third and fourth quarters. That's been their pattern all year. They have the talent but lack depth."

"So what was our record?"

"We finished 5 and 7 with wins over A & M and Ole Miss. Not a great year, but a couple of big victories. Another reason I thought we had no chance against Ole Miss is our secondary. We have been a train wreck there all year. Everybody and I mean everybody has lit up our defense. We haven't been that bad against the run, but anyone could pass on us."

"So how did it play out?"

"We have a quarterback. Nick Fitzgerald is a sophomore and he's already broken one of Dak's records."

"Which one?"

"Single season rushing record. He's big, he can throw, and he can run like a deer. We wore out the Ole Miss defense and in the second half could pretty much run wild."

"What about next year?"

"I don't know. We need some help on the defense, especially in the secondary. Funny thing, even in the Egg Bowl, our defensive backs made some plays. That was a surprise. That was great. I cried at the end of the game."

My eyes grew moist again just thinking about how I felt then and how I wanted to tell him about it when I first experienced it. 

Then I heard a noise. Jeff was getting off the bed. No! I rolled over and closed my eyes. We haven't talked about 2014 or Dak. 

But it was too late. 

He was gone.

Monday, December 5, 2016

11/28 - 12/4

I'm so fat I can barely train, and I am gaining weight every day. I did do some running last week before my adipose tissue shut me down. Monday it was raining and cold so I went to Twin Rivers where I did some weight lifting and ran 2.7 miles on the dreadmill. Tuesday I was determined to bust out a big one and get my weight back under control so I ran 8.76 miles. Unfortunately, I woke up the next day heavier than the day before despite being temperate with the food. 

Wednesday, I ran another 3.42 miles but I had to shut it down because my weight was causing knee pain. I think it is Gerald Johnson's fault, but I haven't figured out how. I lifted weights and tired not to eat too much but woke the next day heavier.

Thursday, I took off from running so my knees could get better. I traveled to DSU and swam 

850 breathing 3, 5, 7, choice by 50s
150 easy
16 X 50 @1:30 descending by sets of four. I did 44, 41, 39, 37 - 35
2 X 400 small paddles
100 easy
200 easy
total: 3,850 yards = 3,518 meters.

Friday, I determined to get things right. I left the house planning on running 16 miles, but because of being so overweight, I had to call it off at 8.01 miles of running and 2.95 miles of walking. I only ate twice yet I was heavier Saturday morning.

Sunday morning I was heavier. I only ate twice  that day.

This morning I am the heaviest I have been in years!!!!!

Darn it Gerald Johnson!!!!!

Please pray for me because I am not in a good way right now. I am beginning to believe something is seriously wrong with my body. I have lived in this body for 60 years so I kind of know it. It is not responding the way it always has.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

More Fish Pond Haikus

a pelican dives
seeking the fish farm's bounty
a swimmer breaths, sees

a flock of geese dive
they seek the fish farms' safety
a struggling man swims

workers seine the pond
swimmer follows the harvest
he swims clean water

Monday, November 28, 2016

11/21 - 11/27

Swimming slowed to a crawl and running crawled to a full gallop during the past training cycle. Monday I skipped the pool because I needed a big run to get the right stagger of hard/easy efforts so I could go long on Thanksgiving Day. I did 8.3 miles with some quality intervals thrown in.

Tuesday I went to DSU during lunch. I saw Tabatha there, the new girl at Masters who used to lifeguard at the pool years ago when she was a student there. We did a few sets together. I swam

750 warm up
8 X 50 @ 1:15 
6 X 150 with a floating fast 50 (1 -3 X 2) @3:00
20 X 100 @ 2:00
750 small paddles
total 4,800 yards = 4,387 meters.

Later that day I shuffled 3.55 miles.

Wednesday I did a lot of napping and some preparation for Robert Roberts funeral. I ran 3.26 which included a trip to the hospital track where I did some tire flipping and box jumps. In the afternoon I lifted weights benching 150 X 3 three times. 

On Thanksgiving Day, I left the house at 9:30 and started shuffling towards Hillbilly Heaven. I ran 15.69 and walked 1.2 for a total of 16.89 foot miles. I even managed to be temperate in my food consumption. I was right proud of myself.

Friday was dedicated to one thing: preaching Robert Roberts funeral. I prepared in the morning, made my way to Indianola after lunch, preached the service at 3:00 o'clock, and arrived back home at about 5:30.

Saturday, I did an easy run back to the hospital track where I did some squats, box jumps, and tire flips. I intended to lift weights, but the egg bowl and an unexpected request knocked all of that in the head. Mississippi State had a big win over Mississippi. I cried.

For the week, I 

swam 4,387 meters,
ran 34.19 miles,
lifted weights once, and 
walked 2.6 miles.

For the year, I have now run 1,042.72 miles and swum 824,850 meters.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fish Pond Haikus


swimmer yearns to work
while ducks swarm off the pond--
summer will return


ducks fly overhead
wings circle the pond below
a sole swimmer glides


yellow leaves drift down
a cool wind drives geese above
the swimmer steps in

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Haikus 20 and 21

Fall Swimming

Haiku 20

lonely pool sits quiet
leaves clutter the green bottom
one man swims alone

Haiku 21

no more clear the long pool
shortened days make water chill
a lonely man swims

Monday, November 21, 2016

11/14 - 11/27

I feel like I am almost back in terms of running although my weight is still high. But it was a good cycle and I am beginning to make the shift from swim centered to run centered training. Usually that shift has taken place already, but the warm weather has kept me in the outdoor water much longer than usual. Thank you, Lord.

Monday I went to Twin Rivers and since I ate myself out of my new wetsuit over the weekend, I went skins in 64 degree water. I only did 1,200 meters before I tapped and then shuffled 2.31 miles.

Tuesday I decided to focus on a longish run so I did not bother with the pool. I ran 8.08 miles with some hard quarter miles thrown in. I intended to lift some weights but got lazy and didn't do it. 

Wednesday I was back at the pool, skins, and the water had risen to 65. I did 1,300 meters and then ran 2.3 miles. Finally, I did my only weight session of the week and benched 145 for five reps.

Thursday I did a rare double dip, maybe the only one ever in the fall. I hit Twin Rivers for 1,100 (water 66) and then made my first trip to DSU in at least seven months. The water felt pretty warm compared to my outdoor swimming. We did

600 warm up
800 12:38
2 X 400 decline 1-4 by 100 (r :40)
50 easy
600 9:06
50 easy
2 X 300 decline 1-3 by 100
200 cool down
total: 3,700 yards
total for day converted to meters = 4,481

Friday was long run day. I did a run/walk workout and totaled 15.7 miles as 13.5 miles running and 2.26 miles walking.

Saturday Penny and I went to Jackson shopping with the Johnson's. Gerald and I did some walking. I didn't get to count any of the indoor stuff, but outdoors I totaled 5.01 miles.

For the week, I

swam 6,981 meters,
lifted weights once,
ran 28.44, and 
walked 9.71 miles.

Now I am over 1,000 miles running for the year and the swim total is 820,463 meters.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

I Have to Be Strong

I have heard it 163 times. I bet you have too. Maybe you've even said it yourself. Every time someone dies, someone I know, I hear a survivor say, "I have to be strong for whomever."

Question: Where does this idea come from?

Another question: Whom does it help if we are "strong"?

Answers: The idea that we "have to be strong" does not come from the Bible. As far as I can tell, it is not even written in the works of Shakespeare or the writings of Dante, nor was it said by the famous Don Quixote. Yet is gets repeated over and over and over by people who burden themselves with the idea that they are doing their loved ones good by "being strong." Please rethink this notion.

Yes, there is a passage that could be interpreted as supporting the "being strong" thing. Romans 15:1 states

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. (KJV)

What this verse is saying is that we should be patient with the failings of others, not that we should be strong for them. This distinction is shown in the New International Version's translation of the same verse:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

This becomes even more clear, at least in my mind, when we look at mourning in the Bible. As far back as Genesis, I fail to encounter the "being strong" thing but instead I find a heavy emphasis on mourning. For example, upon Jacob's death the Bible says that "Joseph fell up his father's face and wept" (50:1). At Jacob's burial, the Word of God reads that "they mourned with a great and very sore lamentation and he made mourning for his father seven days" (50:10).

David mourned for the deaths of Bathsheba's child, for his son Absalom, for Saul and Jonathan, for Abner. Even Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus (John 11:35). Take note that no one backslid when "Jesus wept," no one went back and refused to follow, no one was disillusioned. Instead they noted how Jesus loved him (Lazarus).

When I was a boy, we had a tomcat who was insane. Really, he was a sociopath, the most violent, dangerous feline I have ever know. I remember Dad having to run him out of the house with a broom because he got stirred up and wouldn't settle down but kept attacking anything that moved. He was banished to the outdoors where he roamed away from home sometimes days at a time. He always returned with terrible wounds to his head and he would lie around on the back stoop, stinking because of his infections. There was no taking him to the vet. You did not dare touch him, but left him food and left him alone for your own safety. He did not want your touches or baby talk or any of the other interactions that most cats year for.

He lived like that a couple of years, and then early one summer day we discovered him dead on the back steps. That morning, my mother sat down at the kitchen table and wept for William the insane, mean, dangerous cat. Now, fifty years later it remains my favorite memory of Mom and the most perfect, poignant, noble example of how she was and is and how she raised me and us. Thank God she did not get the memo about "being strong." I really believe that experience translated, transferred something into my soul, something that remains there until this day. Anyone who knows me very well, is aware that I am a fool for cats. I can't help it; it's just the way I am; it's the way my mom made me.

Please remember that when a loved one dies, no one benefits from you "being strong." Your children or grandchildren or whoever is near you need to see your weakness, your tears, your humanity. Instead of being comforted by a brave face, you will be connected by your common humanity by being weak, by being broken, by being a person. Jesus said, "My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 2:9).

When my dad passed, I went through a long period of mourning. Several months after his death, my truck broke down and I instinctively, habitually reached into my pocked for my phone to call him. When things go wrong, who you gunna call? For me, it was always Dad. Before I could began to punch in the numbers, his absence was thrust upon my consciousness in a powerful and profound way. It was not a good day. It was a day of tears and sorrow.

Gradually, the tears became fewer and farther between. More often than cry, I laugh at memories of him being himself, of him being the unique individual he was. Those around me rarely saw my tears then or my laughter now. My granddaughter was one of the few who did. At one gathering, who hugged me and told me she was sorry. I wept. I am sure I did her no harm that day. She remains the most thoughtful, considerate, sweetest child I have ever known.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Odes to Her

Ode to Her 1 

Lean arms reach, delicate fingers wave
She stares, beckons, flirts
Her soft surface covers secrets
A famous man lies in the depths
of her darkness,
An unknown man plied her lengths
He writes of her beauty
He sings over her with rejoicing.

Ode to Her 2

He rejoiceth over her with words
His camera captures her form
His eyes follow her comely lines.
Many pass her and never notice
the shapely hips
the long loins,
She waves and invites the strangers
She winks and smiles. Come to me
and I will give thee joy.
One man hears
He writes a date
He plans his return.

Monday, November 14, 2016

11/7 - 11/13

A decent week it was for running. The swimming, however, began to fall off with the plunging water temps. Monday I made it to the pool for an easy 2,100 meters splash. The water was a nice 69.5. After night class, I shuffled 2.1 miles.

By Tuesday the water had actually risen to 70 degrees, but for some reason I can't remember, I only swam 1,200 meters. Then I went out for a 7.52 mile multi-paced run. Maybe that's why.

Wednesday was my first swim in my new sleeveless shorty wetsuit. I did 2,400 meters, lifted some weights, and ran 2.11 miles.

The water had fallen to 68 by Thursday and I enjoyed my 3,100 meters swim. I would have done more, but I was experiencing some unexpected chaffing under my arms due to the wetsuit. I didn't run at all after the swim but went home and spent time with the cats. 

Friday I ran 10.06 miles with some pacing thrown in, my longest in a while. I also did some weightlifting.

Saturday I ran 1.97 miles and did some more lifting for both upper and lower body.

For the week, I

ran 23.78 miles,
lifted weights twice,
swam 8,800 meters, and 
walked 4.23 miles.

For the year, that puts me at 813,482 meters swimming (505 miles) and 980.09 miles running. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Haikus 18 and 19

Haiku 18

Leaves on the pool's floor
Gray clouds block the sun above,
Swimmer strokes strongly.

Haiku 19

Cold steel barbell waits
Backyard gym sits quietly,
Today he brings noise.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Toys

Don't tell my wife, but I bought some new toys. 

Seriously, keep it quiet.

She used to buy our granddaughter barbie doll after barbie doll after barbie doll and say, "You can't have too many barbie dolls." Not a problem for me.

If she is around when my packages come in, however, she often says, "Don't you already have that?" 

My answer is usually, "Baby, you can't have too many barbie dolls."

Monday, my fresh practice jammer and new neoprene swim cap came in from, and I couldn't wait to get to the pool and try them out. I was pleasantly surprised at how much the cap helped. The pool had chilled to 69.5. Not only was the cap comfortable, but while I swam my head was as warm as a baked potato fresh out of the oven.

According to the email that sent, my shorty wetsuit was due to be delivered Thursday but it came in a day early. Don't judge me for not shopping local, because you can't get this stuff around here. If you could, they would name the store after me.

The shorty was not too expensive. Since I already own a full, I bought the sleeveless shorty as an intermediary to swim in the upper and mid-sixties. It fit well, and when I started swimming in the 69 degree water Wednesday, I liked the way it hugged me and kept the water out and the heat in. My arms were free and my legs were pretty much like they are without a suit. My body position was, however, a little higher in the water. With a full on, your legs are so high and buoyant that it's hard to kick. Not so with this shorty.

I had things to do so I only swam for forty-five minutes. But that was long enough at that temp to begin to lose some body parts, namely my big toes. When I got out, however, I was comfortable and nothing was numb. So I made a good purchase; I have some new barbie dolls. And really, I saved some money because normally I am driving to Delta State twice per week this time of year. I have already saved in gas what I spent on the new equipment. From now on everything is pure savings.
Ready to swim in my new cap and shorty suit.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Haikus 16 and 17

Haiku 16: The King

God is King above,
the world follows His voice,
send, O Lord, your peace.

Haiku 17: One Worthy

Child dreams of heroes,
Boy ponders his future life,
Man finds One worthy.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tanka 1 and 2

Tanka 1: His Great-grandfather

He leaves home and runs
five days on the road he roams
stopping at a grave
his great-grandfather's tombstone
he kneels and cries at the sight

Tanka 2: A Worthy Walk

The day is clear, warm
We wait on friends then journey
to Ole Miss' campus
for DFM's Oxford walk
We fight one step at a time

The DFM Oxford Walk

She popped up at the passenger's side window giving me a little bit of a startle. I was composing a haiku, one about our upcoming activities, while Penny and I sat in the Dollar General parking lot in Carrollton waiting for the rest of Team Centerville to arrive so we could get our convoy on and head to Oxford, Mississippi. We were going to do the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's walk on that beautiful Ole Miss campus. Sheila Mitchell held out a baggy full of something, sausage balls we learned.

"Y'all want some?" she asked.

"Sure," Penny answered. 

Then the Johnsons arrived and we wasted no time but hit the road, three vehicles and nine people bound for the school up north. When we got to town, we turned off Highway 6 onto Jackson Street and stopped and some kind of fancy sandwich shop. The cashier asked me if I wanted a half or a whole when I ordered my Turkey Guacamole BLT Sandwich. The question made me think of a footlong so I thought a half was plenty. Boy was I disappointed when they brought out a little runt of a sandwich.

After eating, or snacking in my case, we made it to the Lyceum where we thought we had to be by 1:00 o'clock. Turns out that registration started at one and the walk at two. That was OK, though, because it gave us plenty of time to get signed up and for us to have our devotion on the steps of that famous building I can't remember the name of.

Irena McClain greeted us as we walked up. When we registered, we had a little over $200 for a donation. That entitled us to four T-shirts (one shirt for each $50.00 donated). Irena told the girls working the table to let the whole team have a shirt since we were the ones who did the Chicot Challenge. Thank you, Irena.

When the walk started, I had planned to run at least 2.1 miles to finish out a twenty-mile week, my first of that volume since injuring my knee a couple of months back. But there were several Kandu Kids up front and I didn't want to pass them so I waited until we had a sidewalk and started shuffling on it therefore passing them without fanfare. I ran several side streets and thus stayed close to the main pack while getting my distance in. Then when we got to the square downtown I caught up the Gerald, Debbie, and Penny and walked the rest of the way with them. As we neared the Lyceum, Gerald started shuffling and we went another .23. All in all, I shuffled 2.33 miles and walked 2.52.

The weather was glorious, the skies being clear and the temperature hovering around 70. Huge, beautiful trees cover the campus and squirrels play like a litters of kittens on a carpeted floor. Gerald remarked that the tree rats here have a pretty good life. I reckon so. Since sponsors of the event supply hot dogs and other amenities, we sat around, ate, and had easy conversation while enjoying the weather, the squirrels, and each other. The day's events capped off a great weekend. 

Then it was time to go. I had to get back and stay with Mom. Gerald, Debbie, Kelsey and Trevor stayed in town and ate again. Yeah, they're good like that. 
Team Centerville: Front row -Trevor McClain, Beth Moore.
Middle row -Debbie Johnson, Sheila Mitchell, Penny Hodge, Kelsey McClain.
Back row - Gerald Johnson,  Zane Hodge, Gary Moore.

Monday, November 7, 2016

A Poor Poem to a Rich Lake

Chicot is my swim
She also is God's large lake
I recline in her breasts
Safe in her embrace

10-/31 - 11/6

For the first week of November, I had a really good training cycle, a 20/20 one. I think this is my first one ever this time of year.

Monday I swam 4,400 meters at Twin Rivers and then shuffled 1.73 miles. Tuesday, the water at the pool was still a comfortable 75 degrees and I swam 5,700 as

1,200 23:58
1,100 22:04
1,000 20:15
900 18:06
800 15:57
700 14:17

After dark I slipped out for a 5.68 mile multi-paced effort. I slept well, had good dreams, and awoke with praise to God for a good life.

By Wednesday the water had dropped 74.5 and I only did 2,600 easy meters and 2.55 miles of easy shuffling. But I added some weightlifting in the back yard gym.

Thursday the water had rebounded to a full 75, and I swam a straight 6,400 meters. Besides my 2.06 mile run, I did some more upper body lifting focusing solely on my deficient biceps.

Friday I swam an easy 3,400 meters, did some more upper body lifting, and ran a very easy 1.68 miles to let my legs rest for Saturday's trip to Vardaman where I won my age group in 27:50. I did some more shuffling after the race and wound up with 4.23 miles on the day.

Sunday I usually do no exercise, but we (Team Centerville) traveled to Oxford for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi's annual walk. I will write a separate post on the walk so suffice here to say that I ran a total of 2.33 and walked 2.52 while there. It was a good day.

For the week, I

ran 20.26
swam 25,100 meters,
lifted weights three times, and 
walked 7.84 miles. 

I don't think I ever swam 25,000 this late in the year. To have a 20/20 week was huge and has me thinking about Chicot VI already.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Vardaman 5K

The Johnsons, Debbie and Gerald, arrived at our house a little before 6:00 am. It was dark outside and cold or at least what I call cold. I reminded myself that although I dislike rising early, I rarely regret it when I do. I had no sorrows at the end of this day either, only good memories of good times with good friends.

We drove to Vardaman, a small town located along Highway 8 in northeast Mississippi, to attend their annual Sweet Potato Festival. In addition to vendors lining the downtown streets, part of the town's yearly celebration involves hosting a 5K. The race started at 8:00 am, thus necessitating our early departure.

This was Penny's and my first trip to the town and festival. I have driven by the village many times, but like so many other dots along the map, I had no exposure to the town itself or its people. So when we got there and parked in the hamlet's grocery store parking lot, I got out and bolted in search of the race start. 

I walked until I found a policeman who told me to go to the water tower, which I did and found a table and a few shorts clad people milling about trying to stay warm on our first really chilly morning. I assumed they were runners and I assumed right. I registered, payed my $18 entry fee, and asked the volunteer at the table how many runners were signed up. 

"You make thirty-eight," she answered. 

I then began to warm up a bit and chatted briefly with some of the other participants.

"I like this one," one middle-aged tall man told me "because it is so low key. Nothing fancy here. We just go out and run."

I found his word accurate, and I fell for the race's charm in part for the same reason he expressed. I also liked the course which is mostly delta flat but has two hills one of which caused me some pain in my thighs and chest. Just last week, I ran the two MDCC races where I averaged 9:12 per mile. I hoped, as we lined up ready to start, to drop it a little below 9:00. Those two school races along with a long run Tuesday, I reasoned, should tune me up a little. On the negative side, I weighed 171.6 this morning. Terrible.

I tried to hold back but went out a little too quickly. Then I settled down after about a half mile in and hit a rhythm that was tough but one I though I could hold. My splits were

mile one - 8:54
mile two - 9:04
mile three - 8:42
.13 - 8:27
time - 27:50
average per mile - 8:52

These numbers show that my fitness progressed a little with the last two weeks' running. This one was on a cool morning which no doubt helped the average some, but I reason that the two hills at least partly negated that advantage. In short, I ran hard, was pleased with my performance, and had a good experience.

After finishing the race, I went out for some additional light running and got in another 1.1 miles. Then I found Gerald at the start/finish line and we waited for the awards ceremony. I took first place in the 60 and over group. When the other age group winners were announced, I did not know what they received in place of a trophy. It looked like some sort of card, a gift certificate? I didn't know. But when they handed me mine, I quickly saw that it was an envelope with some cash inside. What?!?!?

That's right. I got a T-shirt, and great experience, and $15 bucks cash for my efforts. Not a bad deal. That means they lost money on me, but they gained a new runner who will probably go back as long as my old man legs can still shuffle a bit.

After the race and awards ceremony, Gerald and I did our shopping. We made the whole loop and tried to shop like our wives taught us. I was in the market for a folding knife and some honey. Gerald was on a quest to find a cook book. We looked at every vendor, and I examined knives at three of them. Only after looking at everything did we begin to spend money. I bought the lightest folding knife I found to replace the one I carry when I train to protect myself from cougars and coyotes. It no longer locks so if I had to use it, I might cut my own fingers off if it folded up on me. I sprung for a pint of honey and a bag of pig skins. Gerald found his cook book, two of them. He also bought honey and pig skins, and then we went back to the truck.
Gerald and I at the start/finish line.

It was now around 11:00 o'clock and we weren't there too long before the wives came back. All their shopping had them as giddy as a deer hunter who had just killed a Boone and Crockett buck. We then left and drove to Grenada where we had a nice lunch at Jake and Rips. Gerald and I even got to watch some of the Mississippi State versus Texas A&M game as well as the Ole Miss/Georgia Southern match up.

We arrived home with some afternoon left. I took and nap and then went to the pool. The water had dropped from 75 to 72. That was OK. I enjoyed an easy 2,600 meters and then settled in for some serious football watching and cat petting. Right now the Alabama/LSU game is in the third quarter. CC is sleeping at my feet, as happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. So am I, that happy. It has been a good day.
CC and I watching the game.