Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Morning

It's Friday morning and I'm ________, ________, and ________. I bet you can fill in the blanks. My wife is off work today, but I am not ________. Enough of that.

I had big days Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I slowed up a little and only ran 4.38 miles and swam 4,400 meters, which included some sprinting. Wednesday night we had our final meeting of the Film as Literature class. This was the best movie class I ever had. The students were smart, interested, and talkative. They got it, every thing I threw at them. Wednesday nights were the highlight of my week, and I am going to miss this one a lot. But on the bright side, I now have more time to train. I won't have to get out of the pool and rush home to change clothes and go back to work. That helps a lot. Next week is finals week. Then I will go bat crap crazy in the water and on the road. 

Thursday I thought would be a good time for another straight swim. I went 7,600 meters in 2:36 (2:03). This was farther and faster than Tuesday's straight swim. I cut the run to 2.03 miles because my legs were flat and I want to run well as Kosciusko Saturday. The plan for today is another tipping two miler.

John hasn't swum with me this year, but he says he's on tap for today. We'll see. I need to shorten it up and do not only some faster stuff, but some hear rate sets, maybe fast 100s with a short turn around. For the week, I sit at 26,000 meters of swimming and 16 miles of running. Today will be an easy one. I'll start after I empty the coffee pot into my stomach, go to the post office and mail more money to the DFM, and ship a T-shirt to Minnesota.

Things are looking up. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Bricks

I wrote about Monday already. I swam 6,800 and ran 6.53 miles. On the running front, I am attempting to get in good volume this week while simultaneously tapering for a race Saturday. That can be a little tricky, especially when your legs are having to compete with your arms for protein synthesis and repair.

Tuesday I went back to the pool. While I started warming up, I was thinking through what I might swim. But then I began to feel some slight niggles in my right shoulder. Consequently, I decided against any hard swimming for the day and just kept going at an easy pace. I swam for 2:31 but only totaled 7,200 meters (2:05 pace). It was a good workout, however, and boosted my volume for the week. Two days into this training cycle, and I sit at 14,000 meters.

I went home, mowed the back yard, watered the flowers, and took some nutrition. Then it was out the door for more. I shuffled 5.53 miles. So I sit at 12.06 miles of running to go with my 14,000 meters of swimming. Dude, something should be happening in my body. 

One thing that is happening is weight. I am finally shedding a little adipose tissue, not huge amounts, but I am down a few pounds. This will certainly help my running a lot, my swimming a little, and definitely improve the appearance of my post swim pictures. I've been a bit embarrassed by them the last couple of years. Also, my health is an issue and it is one of the reasons I do all this. I need to live under 160 pounds. Last year, I was under 160 exactly one day of the entire 365. This morning, I weighed 162. I might get under this week. Monday mornings I am at my heaviest so even if I get under, I will be over come Monday. The goal is to get under 160 for one day, then two days, then everyday of the week.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Chicot Verses 7

The latest Chicot passage is Isaiah 40:28 -31.

28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.

30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:
3But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

I confess to taking this one out of context a bit. It refers to the people of God struggling in life and God giving them the strength they need to make it. They shall fly, they shall run, they shall walk. "Walk" is a constant figure of our life with God, a life of belief and faith. The condition for getting this renewed strength is waiting upon the LORD.

Although this is a spiritual passage about a spiritual walk, I do believe it has application to my preparation for the big swim. I have to do some waiting. All two of you regular readers know how I get a little doubtful, fitful, frustrated in late February, all of March, and some of April. I have to wait until God, in His good time, warms the water and opens the venues for my increased training. I have to wait for the changes to take place in my body, changes that God Himself has programmed into our physical being. And I have to have faith. Maybe some can train and achieve without it, but not me.

Just today I was talking to Coach Moore, one of my colleagues and a man who has become a bit of a sounding board for me. "I heard you had a good week," he said this morning referring to a big training week.

"Yes. And I need good ones from here on out," I answered.

"You have it all wrong," he rebuked me gently. "You will have good weeks from now until the swim. You don't need good weeks, you will have good weeks. God will help you."

And once more I marveled at my lack of belief. He is absolutely correct. I have to look at it all through the eyes of faith. God will help me. I will wait in faith and when my time comes, I will mount up with wings as eagles, I will swim and not be weary, I will tread water and not faint.

Monday, Week Five

I had a good one Monday, the kind that gives confidence and joy. The pool hit 78 degrees Fahrenheit, perfect, but alas it will not stay there. It will soon be too warm. I shouldn't complain, but it is only in that perfect range for a very short time.

I started with a straight swim of 2,200 to work the oxydative and fat burning enzymes of the mitochondria in my swimming muscles' cells. Then it was time for the latest edition of my countdown set: 800 meters. By hundreds, this one went

1st - 1st 25 fast
2nd - 2nd 25 fast
3rd - 3rd 25 fast
4th - 4th 25 fast
5th - none fast
6th - 1st 50 fast
7th - 2nd 50 fast
8th - none fast
rest 1:30

I did the countdown set three times then went to 400s easy with the last 50 fast resting 1:00. After 3 X 400, I swam an easy 1,000 and it felt really good. It was slow, but it felt good. The total for the practice came to 6,800 meters. That's the kind of work I need.

After my Monday night class, I shuffled 6.53 miles in the dark. It's kind of neat running after sundown in the summer. Yes, it is now summer here in Mississippi. Usually I ran in the dark during the winter. This time of year, it is nice not to have to bundle up and it's also nice to hear the tree frogs sing while footfalls keep time on God's free radio. Life is good.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Week Six Training

Last week was six weeks out from the big swim, not counting event week. That means I need to be clawing for every meter I can swim. I did that and came up with a decent training cycle that I hope to top this week. Since I have already written about most of the days, I will make this short and sweaty. I mean short and sweet. For the week, I

swam 28,592 meters,
ran 27.2 miles,
cycled 51:00 minutes on the bike trainer,
lifted weights (lower body) one time, and 
walked 2.93 miles.

I am now over 250 miles ahead of last year in my run totals, and I even pulled a little farther ahead in my swim totals. As of the end of last week, I am 6,631 meters ahead of 2015. I need to keep pulling farther and farther in the lead.

The pool is warming and I will hold my last night class meeting this Monday and Wednesday so next it will get even easier to do some long swims. I did the countdown set several times last week and hope to extend that starting today. Chicot Challenge V is now five weeks out. The countdown has begun. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Another Brick in the Wall

Building endurance is like constructing a brick wall. One brick at a time, done one run or one swim at a time. I put another brick in the wall Friday.

After four straight days in the pool doing various version of my countdown workout, I wanted open water. But instead of going to the fish farm, I opted to swim a tail end water recovery pond. I tested one late last summer and decided to go back. The fish pond I am swimming now is a large one and I average .83 of a mile per lap in it. This recovery pond is over a mile for a single loop. I like large. It is stocked with fish, but is nowhere near as heavily populated as a commercial catfish pond which must produce 8,000 pounds per acre to turn a profit.

I started swimming a little after noon. Although the water was 74, I opted to put on a rash guard because I wanted to swim about three and a half hours, and I didn't want to freeze out. This time of year, the water temps vary wildly from area to area in the same body of water. I knew there would be cold spots and where I dropped my thermometer was on what I guessed to be the warm end of the pond. I was correct about the warm end and the cool end got colder while I swam.
After the swim.

To make a short story long, I began stroking and didn't stop until 3:31 had passed. Unlike my last long pond swim, I got tired. My pace was slow, over 37:00 per mile. My legs felt crampy and weak from the start, which was odd because I never notice my legs when swimming open water. I think the legs had to do with Tuesday and Wednesday and my nutrition Thursday.

Tuesday we had our MDCC Greenwood 5K. I ran hard and then ran the course a second time. In short, it was a tough day on the legs. I decided on another hard leg day Wednesday because I mistakenly thought Saturday was the Kosciusko 5K, and I wanted to get in some volume and taper for the second race (I missed the date by a week). Thursday I did 6,200 in the pool which means a lot of calories burned a bunch of pushing off the wall. Thursday night I ate mostly protein which I am assuming left my legs and arms short of a full tank. After the swim, I could barely run and did only 1.71 miles.

I was really wanting to swim on the upside of ten kilometers. But I did tire and it was my first open water without a wetsuit. I stopped after five laps which gave me my three and a half hours but only 5.59 miles. That is only .09 longer than my longest of the year before today. But I am OK with that. No wetsuit, limited calories, choppy water, and a hard week of training meant I wan't going to swim fast. I got what I needed now. Next week I will need a little more. I am getting there.

Another Big Crime

We had another one. A crime that is of the interesting, shocking, stunning genre. Unlike the last one I wrote about, however, I am not laughing at this one. Fortunately, this latest did not happen here in town, but fifty miles away at my Alma Mater, Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. 

It was a shooting. 

At the university.

A professor was killed.

I don't care to enter the politics of all this, but I do want to enter the emotional impact it has had for me. To have some understanding of how and why it hit me as strongly as it did, we need to go back in time a bit.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the specific stimulus, but approximately a year ago something happened here at the Greenwood Center that caused me to ask the question of "What if?" 

What if it happened here?

I made some inquiries, at the time, and was shocked to learn that in the event of an active shooter, we teachers are supposed to lock ourselves and our students in our classrooms. I teach on the end of a lonely hall with an emergency exit thirty-two feet away from my class door in the direction from which a shooter would come. If someone came in with a gun, we would be trapped rats in a barrel waiting to meet our fate. 

My idea was to beat it for the door, as risky as that might be, but that is not the protocol I am to follow. 

I talked with one of our campus police officers about this. I talked with one of the other teachers about this. I thought I talked with the Center Director about this, but she says we did not, so I will take her at her word.

In the process of time, I forgot all about the threat despite periodically hearing about shootings in other places from time to time. I suppose I felt so comfortable with my students and my familiar surroundings that the possibility of something like that just could no longer penetrate my thinking. That is until something, several things actually, shook me out of my lethargy.

The first incident was a blowup in the hallway that took place Thursday, September the 3rd. It was nothing really, or should have been nothing, until the student chose to become combative over someone quietly and gently speaking with her about an infraction. It was shocking is all I will say.

That wasn't all. The very next day of school a normally gentle student had to be removed from the campus in handcuffs by the Greenwood Police Department. Over nothing really. Those two incidents refreshed my knowledge of how volatile people can be. It seems they are becoming more violent and unpredictable by the year. Once more, I began thinking about the whole issue of safety.

So I asked one of the campus police officers what we were to do in the event. The answer was the same: "Look yourself in the classroom." I walked him, once more, to my classroom and showed him the lack of locks on the door. "Slide a desk against the door," was his response. 

Are you kidding me!?!?!?  A twenty-five pound paraplegic could open that door with every desk in the room against it.

"Hide behind a desk," was the next advice he shot my way (pun intended). You would not be safe from a BB gun hiding behind one of those desks.

"We are going to get this taken care of," he assured me.

I know he meant well, but I had heard it before and there is a road somewhere paved with those kinds of intentions.

I then went to the Center Director and requested locks for the doors on that hall. She wanted to know why. I tried to tell her. Next, I sent an email to my division chair requesting the same thing. 

I received a return email from my chair asking me to talk to Chief about the rooms. I talked to Chief and he told me to get the Director to turn in a work order on it. I made the request.

The weekend passed. Then, while we were in Creative Writing, one of the students blurted out, "Active shooter at DSU. One professor dead." I became so agitated I had to leave the room and attempt to recompose myself.

To make a short story long, before the day was over, I had a copy of a work order (which in this institution is merely a request) for locks on the doors. Then I was told that one of the administrators said, "It is up the Maintenance Department."

My head exploded. My life is up to the Maintenance Department? Again, has anyone thought about what this will sound like read back to them in court. The school can't put a lock on our doors but the president can get a $35,000 per year raise? Yeah, you read that right. 

My blood pressure became dangerously high.

Has anyone on campus every wondered what that and all the other responses I have begun collecting and documenting would sound like read back to them in court? It's not socket rience. Think about it!!! They have already shown they don't place as much value on my life as the cost of a lock. I understand that. I do not understand placing the same lack of value on the lives of the students we allegedly serve. Momma will sue if her little baby gets shot up at our school no matter what the school does to protect students. But when she finds out the doors would not even lock. Are you kidding me?!?!? The school will have no defense against an obvious case of negligence. That's so insanely stupid. How can they be this smart? 

Now that there is a dead professor scarcely fifty miles away, maybe something will happen. I'll believe it when I see it.

I have gotten side tracked in my emotions and not told you about the crime. It wasn't an irate student. It wasn't a crazy off the street. It was another professor. What!?!?! Yeah, another professor killed his live-in girlfriend in Gautier, Mississippi (several hours away), and then drove to Cleveland and shot another prof. A day later, after a massive manhunt, the shooting professor was tailed by police, bailed from his car and fled on foot, and then committed suicide when the cops closed in.  

There is more, but I have exhausted myself thinking about all of this.

I wrote this several months back and failed to publish it for obvious reasons. To make a short story long, the school refused to pay for locks, but the building owner did. Sort of. He had installed some little latches that are about as secure as a slice of duct tape. They lock up computers, but we aren't worth two cents to the school. I'm over it. I just hope the school doesn't get sued out of existence when something happens. I suppose I shouldn't worry about that. I won't need a job then.d

I'm through venting now. But it makes me see red when "they" talk about how much they care for us. They show it.

Oh yeah. I was supposed to get a TV in my room last year. I did get the brackets installed. That was October. The TV? Maybe its in the house of an administrator. I teach Film as Literature. If the TV I borrow gets any worse, I will have to verbally describe the movies I want to watch. Every inquiry into where the TV is is met with shock and assurances that something will be done.

Did I tell you about the 5K at the Greenwood Center that the school can't afford? Don't get me started.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Countdown Sets and Friday Plans

It's Friday morning. Yes and no. Yes, I'm drinking coffee and no the cats are not on the bed with me. We are having cat conflicts right now. I'll post about that later. Now I want to write about my training this week and what I have on the agenda for today.

As you know, March is a month of frustration and fear for me and early April is not much better. I start swimming the ponds in March, but even in a wetsuit, the water temps usually keep me from the kind of distances I want. Early April is also teasingly cool. Twin Rivers, this year as usual, got pumped up early this month but it is too cold for long swims. For some reason-- maybe it's the huge dose of cold water you get on flip turns-- I don't like swimming a pool in a wetsuit. So I suffer some early freeze outs while my big swim looms closer and closer.

This week I started experiencing the kind of swims I need. The water is warming and the pool just sits there and waits on me, me alone to have my way with it. Monday I swam 4,700. Tuesday 5,400. Wednesday I only did 3,300, but they were quality meters. Thursday the water hit 74 degrees, a nice temp. The sun even shown a bit giving me the opportunity to swim as long as my arms desired. I started with a long warm up, 2,000 straight meters, to work the oxygen/fat-burning capability of the mitochondria in my muscle fibers. Then I started one of my countdown sets. This is one of my go-tos that I developed while training to beat Randy Beets in the Tennessee River. It gets me in shape. It gets me in shape fast. The countdown set works speed, threshold, VO2 Max, lactate buffering, and stamina. Anything that works stamina brings endurance along with it. In short, it works everything. I love these sets. I hate these sets. I love and hate them at the same time, but I love them more because they pay big dividends. 

I call it a countdown set because the original one was a 400 with a floating 25. What that means is I swim 400 straight with a 25 sprint in each 100. The sprint changes its position in 100s (thus it floats). On the first 100, I swim the first 25 all out. On the second 100, the fast 25 moves to the second 25 of that 100 and so forth until the last 100 where I swim the last 25 fast. The moving 25, besides the metabolic impact, helps me count down the 100s and not get lost, thus the name "countdown set." I got the basic idea from my coach, Cagri, at DSU, but I experimented with it and usually change it every time I swim it. The set, the way I build it and modify it, is now mine.

This week I did my first countdown of the year Monday-- 3 X 400-- and I found it very difficult. Only a single day later, however, I added a 100 and did 5 X 500 countdown with the 5th 100 being at a moderate pace. I promise, my fitness had changed from Monday. Wednesday I swam a total of only 3,300, but that included a 3 X 600 countdown. On the 6th 100, I swam the first 50 fast. Thursday, I moved the set up the 700 with the last 50 of the 7th 100 fast. Do you see the pattern? I will keep adjusting the set until about three weeks before Chicot. It will be a killer by the time I wrap up Chicot training.

Thursday I swam a total of 6,200 and then tapped out to save something for today. I plan to drive to Minter City to swim one of those tail end recovery systems. That is a big fish-pond looking thing that has something to do with irrigation. The one I plan to swim is larger than my biggest fish pond I have access to. I like big. I have done enough quality swimming for the week. Now it is time for long, easy, low-end endurance work. I want to swim at least 10 kilometers, but my body will dictate how far I go. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Boom! Bang!

I had myself a day Tuesday, but let me start with Monday. For the first work day of the week I went to the pool after work. Although the water was 72 F, with no sunshine it was a bit cool. I did get in a nice practice with

3 X 400
8 X 150 with small paddles @ 3:14 
total: 4,700.

After night class, I ran 2.53 miles.

Tuesday we held our MDCC Greenwood Campus 5K. We had a total of 16 participants but only two runners. That meant I would either be the champion again or the runner up. I won. Hot dog. It feels good because this is the only time I ever get a chance to be the overall winner. At first, we were told we couldn't even do the 5K because the school could not afford it. Eventually, thanks to Katy Jones, they reneged and let us put it on ourselves with no help from main campus. Who needs them anyway. We had a good time and I ran pretty well. Last year I averaged an 8:30 pace. This year I ran

1st mile = 8:08
2nd mile = 8:07
3rd mile = 8:06

Dude, that is perfect pacing and a big improvement over last year. I worked hard and long for that 22+ second per mile break through. Now I want to go under 8:00 for all the miles. Next year.

After Katy finished, my competition for the day, we ran the course again, this time gently averaging almost 11:00. I then ran back to campus for a total of 7.1 miles. What time was it then? You got it. I went home to get my swim stuff and headed for the pool.

The water temp had dropped about 1/4 a degree. I put on my rash guard since there was no sunshine to help me out. I got a good one:

5 X 500 coundown set @ 11:00
6 X 100 small paddles @ 2:15
total - 5,400

That was a big day. I went to bed before 10:00 pm and slept like Rip Van Winkle.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chicot Verses 6

Today's selection is from the Book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3.

Ecclesiastes 3King James Version (KJV)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it. (copy and pasted from Bible Gateway)

I hope it is obvious why this passage speaks to me in the context of my training. Currently I am in the season of training for the big swim. The spring is not only the season of the year when I prepare for this personal swim, but it is also the season of my life when I am engaging in as many extreme endurance events as I can and still stay alive and married. Looking back, I am beginning to see a structure to my adult life. There were the early years of our marriage, the school years when I earned four degrees and we raised a family, and now the athletic years while I work a new career and have adventures on the weekends.

What comes next? I know not. My hope is that these athletic years will merge with my old age and that old age will be good. For many, aging brings stresses and trials that life does not prepare them or their loved ones for. I have both experienced this with my parents and seen it in older friends of ours. There is failing health, sometimes suffering; at best there is at least some loss of mobility and ability.

For Dad, although he was still very healthy and active, stiffness (arthritis?) prevented him from being able to back his boat trailer anymore. This was a huge stress on him because his fishing, so large a part of his life, changed, diminished, degraded. He could no longer spend a whole day at the place in Carroll County working. Before he passed, he was down to a half day of country work. That's all his body would endure. But he kept at it, doing what he could. That was his nature, personality. He played tennis with his friends a couple of times per week until they died off one by one until they could no longer get up a game.

For Mom, it has been sickness and suffering, the loss of both mobility and autonomy. She no longer drives; she no longer ventures out to take photographs; she no longer spends whole days in her computer room. But she maintains a positive attitude and is amazingly happy.

We had church members we watched age and change and die. I preached their funerals; I pondered mortality and immortality; I grieved. Penny's parents have had the same battles; her mother passed, her father is in decline. We presently have friends who drive to Jackson to see doctors several times per month. Physician visits, medication, medical crises, sickness, confusion, exhaustion are now the norm. They struggle with these things and all I can do for them is pray and talk to them on the phone offering a listening ear and a sympathetic attitude.

How will it be for us, Penny and me, when we enter into that season of life? One thing is for sure: we will either die first or get there. Only our faith can offer us a preparation. No school, no class, no book that I know of addresses the subject other than the Bible. I find that amazing.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Training 4/11 - 4/17

I had a pretty solid cycle of Chicot preparation even though I only swam three times. Several good things happened last week which included my longest swim of the year (5.5 miles), the disappearance of my mystery ailment, and the arrival of this year's Chicot T-shirts. Although the water temps have continued to slide down, that is about to change with some warmer weather on the way and the prospects of some sunshine.

I hope to bust out a big on this week in terms of both running and swimming. We have our Greenwood MDCC 5K this week as well as Koscuisko Saturday, where I ran 26:18 last year and I am anxious to see how far I can go under that with a solid year of running on my shoes since then.

For the week, I

swam 18,457 meters,
ran 34.06 miles,
spun 30:00 on the bike trainer,
lifted weights two times, and
walked 6.58 miles.

I finally caught up with last year on my swimming total and am even 838 meters ahead. I hope to be about 10,000 ahead by the time Chicot rolls around.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Thanks to all of you who prayed for my swimming health. Thank you and may God bless you richly. I'm still confused about what was wrong, but all seems well now. I went to the pond Friday, and when I began to swim I just kept going for almost three hours. Nothing felt amiss. But that was also the way it was Tuesday: no problems until I climbed out of bed the next day. Saturday morning I rose from a night of sound sleep to be greeted by a solid body. Not a negative sensation anywhere. Praise God.

I had a good time on my swim, but I missed a wonderful opportunity to do it in the rain. That is one of life's simple pleasures. Having only had that experience a few times, I think about it often. Most of the time when it rains here in Mississippi, there is enough lightning to frighten an experienced storm chaser. But not Friday morning. It rained and rained and rained and I never once heard thunder. I got in my truck at 10:00 am to run a few errands and go to the pond. It was 12:00 before I made it out of town. WHAT!?!? Yeah, I have a genius for making simple things long and complex. By the time I arrived at the fish farm, the rain was ending.

Anyway, I ran before I left home, an easy 4.04 miles and then at the pond I hit it for 5.5 miles in 2:52. This was my longest swim of the year and my second five-miler of the week. I still have a long way to go, but I am on the road if I can just stay healthy. The progression of my pond swims looks like this:

1. 1.1
2. 1.5
3. 3.22
4. 5.05
5. 5.35
6. 5.5

Now I am ready to start hitting some 10Ks. I am in a good place if I can stay off the Yazoo River Trail, where I fell on my shoulder twice last year during Chicot training, and avoid any more mystery ailments like I had this week.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Weird Stuff

I've been out of the water a couple of days. It's weird. I don't know what's going on. Monday I swam at Twin Rivers but froze out in twenty minutes. Tuesday I went to the pond and had a lovely 5.35 mile swim in my wet suit. When I exited the water I was not tired, and I felt no ill effects from my longest swim of the short year. Wednesday morning, however, the weird stuff started.

I got out of bed on what many people call Hump Day, only to be greeted by some pain in my upper back. The discomfort was on the verge of groan producing. I poked around with my fingers and failed to find a sore spot. It seemed to be on the upper part of my scapula. At school, I checked out Buddy Bones and concluded that one of my rotator cuff muscles was protesting. That was my best self diagnosis.

I hoped it was a muscle because muscles heal quickly. A tendon, on the other hand, heals slowly, often gets worse, and could be the beginning of the end of my marathon swimming. Thursday brought more consternation. By then I could poke a spot-- to the upper right of the top of my left scapula. Did it move? I didn't know what to make of this. I still don't. Maybe I bumped into something and bruised myself, but my memory could produce nothing of the sort even after long and thorough searching. 

Right now I am drinking coffee and plotting my days work. No, the cats are not on the bed with me, and I am most displeased with that. They wouldn't leave the back porch because they are watching a large flock of birds on the patio through the big plate glass window that forms the southern boundary of their world. I am so jealous. But I got out of bed to no sign of my mystery phenomena. Am I well? Was it swim related? What is/was it? I am confused and my confidence is shaken, but since nothing hurts, I plan to go pond dipping. How far should I try for? Everything in my mind is in a tizzy.

Well, on the brighter side, the Chicot shirts are in. I'll post a pic later, but I have them and will be selling before the day is done. Not only that, but I have one sponsor in hand and another in the bush.

Buy shoes from Conerly's. I do.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Tough Tuesday

I busted out some major training Tuesday. It started with a 1.13 miles walk. That might sound like nothing, but walking is really good for two-beat kick conditioning. A bit after that, I ran 7.6 miles with some real speed work embedded into those miles. When I finished the running, I took some nutrition and began to pack up for a trip to the catfish pond. 

The goal was to get into the water by 3:00 pm. I was swimming by 3:15. Thankfully the days are long now and with no night class, I could stay a while without having to count the minutes. Although this time of year presents some problems in terms of outdoor pool swimming, the ponds are at that magical moment for swimming in a wet suit. My reading showed 67 at the end of my swim, and the pond had a range of maybe four degrees or more. Some streaks were a bit uncomfortably cold even in my suit. But overall, it felt great. I swam easy and just tried to be smooth and steady. 

Since I had swum 5.05 miles last Friday in 2:24, I hoped to top that by a little. I did a straight swim not stopping even for nutrition or water. I wondered how it would go after my run and limited calories after that. But I felt good and swam for 2:40 getting in 5.35 miles before I climbed out to go home. I felt refreshed in body, mind, and soul. The sun was sinking in the west bouncing beautiful light off the water. In the adjoining pond, some ducks swam around like they had no cares at all. I guess they don't. I thought, how is it that I am the only one around here who does this? This is the best swimming and the atmosphere is amazing. I pay no membership dues, have no parking problems, and never wait on a lane to swim in. I have 6,000 acres of ponds to chose from and miles and miles of lonely levees and gravel roads to run and walk. Why am I the only one? Randy Beets used to do this with me, but alas he has moved to North Carolina leaving it all to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Still Learning

I'm still learning about temperature. I went to Twin Rivers hoping and expecting to be able to swim at least two hours. I had the time. I had the opportunity. I had the fire in the belly. I had the recent exposure to cold water. I can do this, I thought confidently as I parked my truck and swaggered my way towards the pool.

The water was sixty-nine degrees. 

The air was sixty-eight degrees.

I tapped out in twenty minutes.

What happened?

I knew right away I was in trouble. Body parts started going numb almost instantly. At sixty-nine, I should have been able to swim at least an hour. I lasted longer than that last week at 68. The only difference I could figure is that there was no sunshine and although the water and air temps were in the right range, with no sunshine to aid in my body's warmth, I started down the road to hypothermia almost instantly. Who knew? Come to think of it, I should have. Think about how many times you have been outdoors on a cool spring day and you are perfectly comfortable until a cloud covers the sun and instantly your body feels the cold?

So I only swam 1,000 meters, but that left me with time to do some other things before my night class. I spun for 26:00 on the bike trainer and then ran 3.65 on the treadmill. Since it was storming, really storming by then, I took advantage of my indoor equipment. I don't run on the treadmill often, but it's nice to have one when the weather is bad.

Chicot Verses 5

I find myself still in need of Chicot verses. After a good training cycle last week, I am much more relaxed than I was. But I still get uptight and I hope I haven't let my lesson of walking alone go to waste. Today's Bible selection is an obvious one: Philippians 4:13. Before I give the verse, however, let me share a little tip I find handy when flipping through God's Word looking for some of those small epistles. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians can be a little confusing, the order I mean. A little mnemonic device I picked up along the is, Go eat pop corn. That gives the order, so as soon as you find one, you know which way to turn to find the one you are looking for. Go = Galatians,  eat = Ephesians, etc. So here is the verse:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

The basic meaning is obvious, and surely it is apparent why this verse is on the lips and pens of so many believers. This passage does have a context and at the risk of sounding ridiculous, the context is the Bible. This doesn't mean I can do anything one could name "by Him who strengthens me," but rather I can do anything He wills. For instance, I could not become the most accomplished serial killer of all time by claiming this truth. The context of the Bible rules that out. But whatever God leads me to do, I can do it because He gives the strength. There, however, is the rub. Is the Chicot Challenge God's will for my life? It is easy to think so when the planning and training is running along smoothly. But every March when weather and pool closings and interruptions seem to conspire against me to make the swim an impossibility, I wrestle with this very issue, God's will. Right now, I believe. I believe God has set me on this path, and that He will help me accomplish this goal. If He is for me who or what can be against me? 

Admittedly, almost all ultra-marathon events, the Chicot Challenge included, are laced with self-centeredness. I want desperately to do this as part of my goal-setting personality and to enjoy the fulfillment of something I have to dream about, plan over, and train for over a long period of time in order to pull off. I get a charge out of that. But there is more to it than that. This swim does raise money for a good cause, a health charity that touches lives right here where I and my family and neighbors live. Another aim is to raise awareness of the disease. Yes, I know people know diabetes is in our world. It seems to me, however, that many people are not aware of the risks they themselves face nor are they aware of their ability to reduce those risks by implementing some not so radical changes in their behaviors. 

Furthermore, I hope this series of swims sets an example on a couple of fronts. I like to think my son's recent fund-raising run for the same charity, the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, was in part inspired by my example. I like to think that, although I am well aware that his civic consciousness is infinitely higher than mine and for that I can take no credit. I also like to think that if I do this swim long enough, going farther every year as I get older, that some people will be inspired to become more physically active, even late in life, and that they will see ageing not as an inevitable sentence to the couch, to obesity, to bad health. 

I like to think.

Monday, April 11, 2016

4/4 - 4/10

I missed several intended postings last week. In one way that is a good thing because it means I was busy, busy swimming and running. Overall it was a pretty good training week, one that helped me relax a whole lot. I posted about Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Thursday I hit Twin Rivers for my second outdoor pool swim of the year. I didn't take a reading, but the water felt no warmer, maybe even a bit cooler. I was, however, able to swim 3,300 without anything going numb. Besides the swim, I ran and did a small amount of bike riding.

Friday I went to the pond and swam 5.05 miles in 2:26:24 for an average pace of 28:58. That was wet suit aided. I never skin swim that quick. The water temp had fallen from Monday to 65. Saturday I ran, and lifted weights. The bench work was

18 X 100
10 X 120
4 X 140
4 X 145
4 X 145
4 X 145
4 X 145
5 X 140
6 X 135

Sunday, I went out Wade Road on my mountain bike and alternated between riding and running while pushing the bike. I did a total of 6.15 on the bike and 2.1 on foot. For the week, I

swam 22,295 meters,
walked 5.29 miles,
ran 30.69 miles,
mountain biked 12.69 miles,
pedaled 23:00 on the bike trainer, and 
lifted weights two times.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Wild Wednesday

Wednesdays are one of the highlights of my week. The other is Friday date night with my wife. But Wednesdays, during this semester at least, are a long but happy and satisfying day. I teach three classes in the morning, keep some office time, then go home to eat and see what I can get done on the exercise front. This particular Wednesday I decided to go to Twin Rivers for my first swim of the year there. They just pumped up the pool so it is cold, dirty, and not ready for swimming. But I frequent catfish ponds so getting in that dirty pool is like taking a bath for me.

I carried my wet suit with me but decided after I got there to go skins. The water was 68 degrees which is just about my lower limit. It felt great after the initial shock of pushing off the wall. I swam 2,100 straight, and stopped because I had a lot to do to get ready for class. I was getting a bit cold and experienced some after drop when I got to the house. After going home and changing into my work clothes, I went to Mom's and administered her afternoon meds and made sure she had something to eat. Then it was back to school.

Usually, I go in at 5:30 on Wednesdays but I was there by 5:00 because I needed to capture some screen shots for discussing Unforgiven, the movie we watched last week. Film as Literature is my all-time favorite course to teach, and right now I have the best class I've ever had. That makes going to work a real joy. I leave school for the final time on Wednesdays at almost 9:00 pm. Since I have to get a swim in during the afternoon, I now am forced to run after my night class. Wednesday is also one of the nights I stay with Mom. So it is off to Mom's, more meds, change clothes, and out the door for a run in the dark. I shuffled 3.6 miles, did some walking, then gave Mom her shot. After that I changed clothes again, and settled in for a little mindless TV.

Now I am in a quandary about what to do today. I can go to Twin Rivers and save a lot of driving, but I am limited to how long I can stay in and swim because of the cold water. I could go to DSU and get 4,000 or more meters, but I have to drive for two hours to do it. I could even go to the pond and swim in my suit and stay in as long as I want. I only need one more long swim this week, around 7,000 meters or more. I like to do my really long stuff on Fridays and Mark Blackwood tells me that he has that lake pumped up that he has been telling me about for years. It is large enough to water ski and I can swim it if I can get up with him to let me in. Choices, choices. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Torrid Tuesday

I ran before I ate lunch to make sure I at least got that much done. Seven plus miles with two solid miles of sub 5K race pace scattered in made for what should be a nice 5K/10K training effect. I will find out soon when we have our school run which for some unknown, unfathomable, unguessable reason Chief Manuel will not let us know when it is going to be. 

I drove to Skene where I saw my grandchildren, hung out with Smu, and fell asleep on the couch. Then I drove to DSU without the usual pressure to get every meter possible. I had a pretty good swim Monday and beside that the ponds are getting right, Twin Rivers is pumped up, the the possibilities seem endless. The total for me was

1,100 warm up

Set one
50 all these with small paddles and rest :20

Set two
12 X 50 @ 1:30 as three sets of four holding pace in each set and declined sets 1-3. I averaged :49 for the first set. :47 for the second set; and :43 for the third set (I did two at :42).

1,100 cool down

total: 3,600 meters.

I am at the very moment trying to determine what I am going to do this afternoon. Pond or pool. If the pool were warm enough, I would certainly hit it. I may do so anyway just to see how long I can last. I can wear a wet suit in the pool, but for some reason I don't understand, I rather not. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Mad Monday

No madness really, just an attempt at grabbing your attention. Monday was a long and active day, but I don't mind that. I have three day and one night class on Mondays, so that alone makes for a pretty full day. Being that the Chicot Challenge in rushing towards me like a speeding train, I felt the need to get into some water. Also being registration week, we are supposed to be in our offices all day, but since I have a night class, I was allowed to leave for a little while. Five guesses where I went. Wow, what a shot; you got it on the first try.

Yeah, I went to the catfish pond as quickly as I could. The water temperature was 68 when I waded in and 69 when I crawled out an hour and thirty-nine minutes later. For me, that is the perfect water for wet suit swimming, and I loved every second of it. I felt good and smooth and for the first time in the pond this year I got into my rhythm and roll open water swim stroke. That is one reason an open water swimmer needs to do more than train in a pool. Don't get me wrong, pool training is indispensable. It is in the pool that basic techniques are mastered. It is in the pool that basic fitness is earned. It is in the pool that speed is built. But to transfer those techniques and fitness and speed to open water requires wild swimming, as the Brits call it. Why? you ask. Because the chop is open water, however slight, causes me at least, to shorten my stroke, increase my tempo, and swim like a sprinter instead of a distance athlete. It takes some open water work to relax in a chop and lengthen the stroke and find the rhythm. I found the rhythm yesterday. It felt good.

After the swim, I rushed home to bathe and get back to work. Then when class was over I went home to change clothes and go out for a run. I did a wimpy 3.53 miles and called it a day. Monday was a long one. Monday was a good one. And Twin Rivers is pumped up. The real training is about to begin.

Monday, April 4, 2016

3/28 - 4/3

The week of 3/28 - 4/3 was a decent training block overall but far from what I really needed in the swimming category. I ran a lot, or at least a lot for me, totaling a little over 36 miles with one long run of 11+ and two multi-paced mid-week workouts. The swimming, however, was on the light side, but I did get in a two hour pool swim, and I hit the pond twice. The days looked like this:

Monday - run 3.26/swim 2,400 in the pond
Tuesday - run 6.59/swim 3,100 at DSU
Wednesday - run 3.35/no swimming
Thursday - run 6.08/swim 6,400 straight swim at DSU
Friday - run 2.75/swim 4,038 in the pond
Saturday - run 12.15/weights, upper body
Sunday - Bike trainer 22:00/run 2.29

The totals were:

Swim - 16,038
Run - 36.46
Weights - one time
Bike Trainer - 22:00
Walk - 2.97

I fell behind last year's swimming some more last week, but I am still hopeful to make it up.

My straight pool swims progressed unto 2:11 on Thursday night, my longest thus far of the year. It will go up a lot very soon.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Chicot Verses 4

We just rode by Twin Rivers after we ate lunch, my wife and I. They are pumping up the pool. Thank God. My woes have been so many that I began to question if God wanted my to continue this. I want to do it, but maybe God is saying, "No more."

Recently, however, I have had some rays of light. The Twin Rivers pool soon to come on line, the catfish ponds becoming swimable, the newly acquired sponsorship, are a few. From my point of view, none of this happened  a moment too soon. Of late I have been pondering Romans 8:28:

     And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those        who love Gad, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB)

If God has called me and if God does want me to do this swim, then all my problems may be problems only in my own mind. Could it be that God is holding me back from over training too early in the process? Unlike running, my swim endurance comes up quickly. I can literally do one hard practice and be in better condition two days later, sometimes one day later. Really. Maybe I should just relax and realize my all-day swim endurance is built in April and May, and without some hold back, I just might train myself into the ground, burn myself out, injure myself. Maybe. At any rate, I believe what the Bible says here and I should continue to believe God has called me to this task until I fail to pull it off.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Super Saturday

Saturday was a pretty good training day. I wanted a long run, somewhere between 10 and 14 miles. I ran 12.15 with a few pickups. The temps were a little cool for April 3, high 50s, low 60s, but that made for good running. The workout went like this:

1 - 3.11 @ 11:14
2 - .1 @ 6:00
3 - 3.11 @ 12:06
4 - .1 @ 6:34
5 - 3.11 @ 12:42
6 - .27 @ 8:11
7 - 2.34 @ 14:01
8 - walk .71
total - 12.15 running, .71 walking.

After some protein, I worked in the yard and lifted weights. Mostly I mowed which is how I like to lift. I do a set and then make a few rounds with the mower. I focused on the bench press and did:

18 X 100
8 X 120
5 X  140
2 X 150
1 X 155
2 X 150
4 X 140
4 X 140
4 X 140
8 X 120

On the swim pull, I did just one set of 60 X 26.5.

Later, I took Jeff to the recycle bins and we walked .49. We would have done more, but he had been outside several hours and I didn't want to over tire him.

I wish I could have swum, but there are only so many hours in a day. I was pretty pooped when Jeff and I got home. After a bath and supper, I hung out with Luvie and we watched Shane on TCM. Good day, good cat, good movie.

Second Pond Swim

I finally drive back to the fish farm and did more than run or sit in my truck. Friday, that most blessed of days, I started by hanging out with Luvie, drinking coffee, and blogging. What else is new? Finally, I dragged out of bed around ten and went for a short run. Then I packed for the pond and ran some errands before leaving town. One errand was to stop my Conerly's Shoes on Park Avenue and purchase a new pair of Hokas, which is the brand I wear exclusively. While I was in the store, I picked up something else I had been needing: a sponsor. Thank you, Gail Goldberg and Conerly's.

If you are a runner or walker in the Greenwood area, go to Conerly's and buy Hoka shoes. If you want your feet to be happy, go to Conerly's and purchase a pair of the most comfortable shoes you can ever get. I not only run in mine, but I wear my "worn out" ones, the ones I don't run in anymore, to work every day. Seriously, avoid foot problems like plantar fasciitus by giving you feet a fighting chance. Buy Hokas. Buy them at Conerly's. Buy them today.

With my new shoes on the floorboard of my dirty truck, I drove to my favorite fish pond and parked. Next, I tossed my thermometer into the water and then shot a short video. After that, it was water time. I didn't know how my muscles were going to react after the 6,400 I swam Thursday night. Turns out it was a good swim. My shoulders, which are always tight after a long swim, were loose and my muscles, which felt funny and out of sync at Masters, felt smooth and strong and fit. Go figure.

I did wear a wet suit in the 65 degree water but nothing else other than my cap, goggles, and jammer. Usually I don a rash guard under the suit which adds to the warmth but also creates a little constriction in the shoulder area. I only swam 2.51 miles, but it was fun and refreshing. The ponds are getting near that magical 68 degrees that is perfect for a suit. Oh yeah, before I left town I drove by Twin Rivers. No, it was not pumped up yet, but the fire hoses were stretched out from the fire plug to the pool so they will be doing the deed soon. Things are looking up. Thank you all who are praying for me. Don't stop. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Cagri Is a Real Sneak

What a week.

I continue to be Sisyphus, driven to achieve the impossible, but doomed to failure. Or so it seems.

I wrote already about Tuesday's disastrous practice that left me exhausted after only 3,100 meters and what little confidence I had was shattered and stomped into the mud of my pessimism and despair. But what I didn't tell you was a little chat I had with Cagri Tuesday night. Since Thursday is Duke Morgan's (one our Masters swimmers) 73rd birthday, they both invited me to swim 7,300 meters in honor of the Duke.

"I don't have time for 7,300," I protested, still reeling from the return of all the practice squads which make getting early into the pool an impossibility. "I swim about 3,000 meters per hour, so the most I could do is 6,000."

"Well do it if that meets your training goals," was Cagri's response. A plan was born. Since my longest straight swim this year is 1:48, a 2:00 effort would put some endurance back into my swimming muscles and some positivity back into my brain.

I wanted to swim Wednesday, but after work and prep for my night class, I opted for a more time efficient run. After Tuesday I wan't even sure I could swim two hours straight, but the idea that I could make the attempt with the blessing of the coach was a real boost to my energy.

Then came Thursday. Then came the weather reports. Then came a text from Cagri about checking with DSU to see if the pool would be open. Then came a text that the pool was closing and practice was cancelled. Then came despair.

I didn't stew in my self pity too long before I asked myself, "What can I do?" The answer was to go to the pond and get some swimming in before the new storms hit. While I was packing the truck to go the the fish farm, Cagri texted again that his earlier message was an April Fool's joke. Dude, I like jokes, but that one almost put me over the edge.

To make a short story long, I made it into the water at 6:22 and swam until 8:33. I was a little disappointed in my pace, only getting 6,400. But that is my longest of the year both in terms of time and distance. I got a good workout and exited the pool with the calmness of soul I have walked without for much of this year. I have a little hope again. I can still do this. 

Roy Ray Hodge

I don't know much about him having never met the man and only hearing his story several times removed from the source. Like my great-grandfather, George Henry Quinton, my uncle, Roy Ray Hodge, was reported to have made an epic journey, a life threatening one which involved a long and difficult trek on foot. Also like George Quinton, I only know the skeleton of his story, and I'm not sure how much of that is accurate.

Dad never said much about him. Unlike his brothers, he had a middle name. My dad was just Roger Hodge. My uncle CD was just CD until the military made him turn those letters into initials and he legally became Charles Dale. He, Roy, was older than my father by several years, and as a boy I think he and his other brothers-- there were six boys in that family-- were mischievous, adventurous, bad. Really bad. Those older boys stole chickens, scrap iron, and watermelons. They stole the chickens to sell so they could buy sugar to make home brew. They smoked cigarettes, drank their homemade beer, fought with fists sometimes for fun and sometimes in anger. Once they ran away from home because they didn't want to chop cotton and then had to chop cotton to earn enough money to get back home. That's just the little bit of what Dad told me. 

I learned more from my uncle CD. Dad, CD, and I were in his truck one day a dozen or fifteen years ago, and though I can't remember where we went or why, I do remember vividly some of the things they had to say that day. I remember because they struck that cord deep within me, that part of me that yearns to connect with my ancestors. The older I become, the stronger that part of me grows. CD began to talk about their youth, and my uncle let things out that day which Dad had never told me and though my uncle wasn't known for always telling the truth, I took my father's lack of correction as consent that CD was telling God's sanction.

I learned more about the grandfather I never met, who died before I was born. He is the one I thought I knew a bit about because Dad had talked of him often. I learned things that day that left me stunned, silent, and somewhat sad. But it is not he I wish to write about now, rather his son Roy. I learned one thing about Roy that also left me stunned, silent, and sad. 

The chief thing I learned about Roy was why he left home. Maybe other reasons were involved, but CD spoke of a fight, a physical confrontation between my grandfather and his son which resulted in the son standing over the father with an ax in his hands raised above his head. After deciding not to chop his dad's head off, he threw the ax down, climbed over a barbed wire fence that marked the property line, and walked away in silence. The family never saw him again.

He joined the United States Marines in part because a war was ongoing and in part, no doubt, to get away from home. Maybe there was the idea of adventure involved also. Their world had been small. Dad once told me that as a boy he thought the world ended just outside Estes Switch, Mississippi. I wish I could ask him, Roy, about these things myself.

Roy's home-leaving adventure took him to the Pacific Theater of World War II to some funny sounding places that I wonder if a boy from Estes Switch could even spell, exotic islands like Guadalcanal and others. I wish I knew more about his military service. I do know he was taken prisoner by the Japanese. My aunt Mary, who is younger than Dad and was still living at home when all of this took place, remembers the little cards that were mailed home from time to time saying he was well, was being treated nicely, and little else. She, Mary, is the one who told me that Roy had been in the Bataan Death March.

That really got my attention. How I wish I could confirm that and could discuss the journey with my long dead uncle. Like George Quinton's foot journey from Utah to Mississippi, I want to know more, I want details, I want to hear about it firsthand with my own ears. But like George's journey, the means of learning more are no longer within my grasp.  

My mother did some sleuthing on the internet and found that Roy is officially listed as "missing in action." The story Dad and Mary told me is that Roy was placed on a Japanese ship for transport to the mainland to be used as slave labor. Against the Geneva Convention, the ship he was on was not flying a flag that was to mark it as a vessel bearing prisoners. The Allies sank the ship and inadvertently killed over a thousand of their own, Roy being one of them. 

Today Roy is a faded photograph on a wall in my aunt's house, a hole in my heart, and a cluster of question in my head. The handsome but lost son has a headstone in the little cemetery at Flower Ridge United Methodist Church near Louisville and outside the now defunct Estes Switch. But his bones lie somewhere on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean far far away from a barbed wire fence he climbed over in Winston County proving to my dad and himself that the world doesn't end just outside of Estes Switch, Mississippi.