|Penny is getting me marked up.|
Penny ministered last rites: greased me down, applied Desitin to prevent sunburn, and wrote names on my chest, arms, and belly, names of diabetics who would symbolically make the trip with me while I swam and sometimes prayed for them. I decided to go off the boat ramp closest to the pontoon in spite of its steepness. With the ramp's incline and the algae that grew on the concrete, I knew the landing would be slicker than greased owl doo doo for sure. Consequently, I sat on the ramp close to the water and butt walked to the water's edge. Once my hinder parts touched the water, I slid neck deep into the bayou like a kid on the playground scooting down a steep slide. Standing chest deep in the water, I asked Gerald to pray which he did, asking God for His protection upon us all. Then, at 6:38 a.m., I began swimming towards the big lake for a day of fun and, well . . . more fun. Lots of fun. So much fun I could hardly stand it all.
|Praying before the start.|
It had not been all fun and games leading up to the swim, however. Looking back, I am almost ashamed at how down I had become at times. At several points I was discouraged over a lack of sponsors, training frustrations, training fatigue, and slow fundraising. But my emotions began to turn when a large donation picked up our fundraising efforts to where they needed to be and brought my spirits along for the ride. And before Saturday, June 11 was over, I was whelmed and then overwhelmed with emotions, good ones, that paid me in full for every real or perceived effort and disappointment I had experienced along the way.
|Swimming out of Ditch Bayou|
All that aside, I started the swim with my usual mixture of excitement and trepidation. People are always telling me I have the swim in the bag, but to me it seems a bit hubristical (Yeah, I coined that one) to presume on the kind of distances I have been doing in the Chicot. I swam out to the main lake and headed back towards Greenville. The water was flat, and I felt smooth and I stroked along with Trevor close by in the kayak. The Garmin was under my swim cap and it buzzed for one mile then for two. The plan was to cross the lake at two miles so we did. The pontoon had caught up with us long before this so we were all together now.
|Trevor giving me ice cream. I like Trevor.|
After crossing the lake, we began the long trek towards the causeway, one stroke at a time. In my mind, I broke the journey into subsections. First after crossing the lake was the trip to Lake Chicot County Park (directly opposite from Ditch Bayou). The next leg was to downtown Lake Village, and then onto the causeway. The weather was nice and the crew appeared happy. Whenever I fed, the crew always gave me words of encouragement. About the time we made it to Lake Village, Denise Turner of WXVT called. I had contacted Woodrow Wilkens and he had arraigned for her to call the boat and come out for an interview.
|Denise Turner of WXVT shooting as the|
pontoon approaches Trevor and me.
I later saw on a video Penny recorded that the reporter was shooting as they motored up. She then asked if she could talk to me so Trevor stopped me and right there in the water I got interviewed. Neat. One odd thing, though, was that I noticed a current while we were stopped. The water was flowing down lake by a half or maybe three fourths of a mile per hour. In the video, you can even see the bubbles moving that way. That was very surprising to me to have that much current in a lake. Anyway, she asked a few questions, thanked me, and then Gerald motored her back to the Visitor's Center from whence they picked her up.
After that we resumed our slow-motion journey toward the causeway. I still felt pretty good, but I had one problem all day. Forty minutes into the swim I had to pee which I did not too long after that, but I was having trouble getting it out and my bladder never fully emptied. This meant that after peeing, it would only be a short time, maybe ten minutes before I had to go again. So all day I suffered from that discomfort. I don't know what I can do about that next year, but it will be on my mind between now and then.
|The part of Team Centerville that wasn't on the boat was on|
shore waiting for us to finish. Pictured are Gary and Beth
Moore, and Sheila and Bridget Mitchell.
Eventually, we made the causeway, turned, and headed back towards Lake Village. Trevor and Gerald swapped out paddling from time to time with whoever was on the pontoon serving as pilot. One thing that was especially memorable was the rain. Twice. The first shower only lasted six or seven minutes. The second shower was harder and lasted twelve to fifteen minutes I am guessing. I didn't notice any flashes and once I stopped and asked Trevor if there was any danger. He said he had not seen any lightning so we kept going.
|Trying to climb up an algea-slick|
boat ramp at the finish.
We made it back to Lake Village. We made it to the Visitor's Center. We made it to the place where the bank is clean and you can see the highway. Just after we passed the clean bank/highway seeing place, we could see Ditch Bayou. "There it is," Trevor said. "Where?" I asked. "See those roofs," he answered pointing. "We are almost there. All you have to do is sprint to the finish." But I knew better than that. Although it was encouraging to see the finish, I knew from experience it was a lot farther than it looked. We were at 20.0 miles so the finish should have been 1.1 or a tad over. I didn't think that was only a mile. It wasn't. It turned out to be 2.38. That's right, I finished the day with 22.38 miles of continuous swimming, and when I crawled out on the ramp at Ditch Bayou, I was one relieved and happy man.
To my surprise there were a number of people gathered there waiting on me to come in. Once, at Chicot III, Bethany Theilman of the DFM collected up a bunch of fishermen to cheer when I cam ashore. But from what I was able to gather, these people had heard about the swim on the radio and came out to watch me come in. Several of them even made donations on the spot. Not only that, but one man was so overcome with emotion he could hardly speak as he hugged me and tried to thank me for my efforts. That was very touching to me, and once more I felt ashamed at how many times I had been discouraged in the preparation and build up to the swim.
Kaitlan Sudduth of the DFM was there as were the rest of Team Centerville: Brother Gary, Sister Beth, Bridget and Sheila Mitchell. They all had their Chicot T-shirts on, and their presence was a blessing that I am still feeding on today. All in all, it was a wonderful experience. I did the longest swim of my life, was blessed by the support and encouragement of faithful friends, church people, and exited the water without suffering too much. The fundraising, which for so long had looked so slim, took an upturn and as of this writing we are at a little over $2,500 which beats our previous best by over $700. To call the swim a success is no exaggeration.
Next year? Well, I have tried not to think about it, but that has proved to be impossible. It is still a little close and as Katy Jones put it, "It takes a while for your brain to re-crazy." She nailed it. Actually, I had decided previous to this Chicot to do a pool swim in 2017. My wife keeps saying, however, that we need to keep Chicot going. I think she is probably right. This far out, plans are never very firm, but right now I am thinking a pool swim and Chicot. Maybe a package deal, something called "Double-Dip Diabetes Swims" consisting of "Pool Fools" (I will recruit some other swimmers to swim with me) and the "Chicot Challenge VI."
What do you think?
Help me think, pray, and scheme. Some members of the church have already approached me about selling shirts next year. Believe it or not, I am getting that buzz in the belly, that eagerness to set another goal and go for it. My brain is beginning to re-crazy.
Someone who had gathered at Ditch Bayou to see the finish took this picture and gave it to Debbie Johnson who gave it to my wife. Jesus is in the clouds, holding up one hand in front of Him, rebuking the enemies: lightning was not allowed, alligators could not bite, and boats/jetskiers could not strike. We were guarded.
P.S. Since I completed this draft, Denise Turner of WXVT called Wednesday afternoon and asked if I was up for another interview. She came by the house and shot a few minutes of footage on our back patio. They ran the story on the Ten O'Clock News that night. Wow.