Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hodge Indicted

Hodge Indicted
By Jay Unver

(Lehrton, Mississippi) At a press conference today, Big ASS Endurance handed down a shocking one hundred sixteen count indictment against the organization's biggest star, Zane Hodge. The charges include 91 counts of derogatory comments against the administration of Mississippi's premier endurance league, twenty-four counts of falsifying required training reports, and one count of insubordination. 

When asked about a timeline for a trail and punishment, Nomann responded that his staff is working overtime to "get this matter settled as quickly as possible." He added that "although this is an unfortunate circumstance for everyone involved with the organization," they were determined to get the matter behind them. Furthermore he added that justice must be served, and that "no one person is bigger than Big ASS, not even Hodge."

That statement, of course, led to reporters shouting questions about the possible punishment of Hodge if convicted. "All punishments, including banishment, are on the table."

Hodge's lawyer, Tom Flanagan, sat silently in the conference room as Nomann read the charges against his client. When asked later, Flanagan had "No comment" concerning the matter. "We will speak at the trial," was his only other words he spoke as he left the building.

Hodge could not be reached for comment, but a rumor quickly surfaced that he was seen standing on the Tallahatchie Bridge outside the railing as if preparing to jump. I drove over but failed to find Hodge on the bridge or in the water. He did not answer his phone nor return a voice message and was not at Plate City Gym, his usual haunt. This reporter will print additional details as they become available.

Monday, February 27, 2017

2/19 - 2/26

By the grace of God, I had a good week in the water and the dogs had a good one on land. The week started with us taking a trip to the pond, a 3.31 mile swim (5,325 meters), and a 1.31 miles walk.

Tuesday was masters for 

8 X 150
8 X 25
3 X 650
total: 6,000 yards = 5,484 meters.

Wednesday we, the dogs and I, went back to the pond for another 3.0 miles of swimming.

Thursday, since I was getting nervous about missing a week of lifting, went home after work and hit the weights before going on the DSU. On the bench, I pushed

20 X 65
15 X 95
12 X 115
10 X 120
8 X 125

At the pool, it was a total of 5,400 yards (I already wrote about the practice).

Friday we went back to the pond for 1.65 in the water and 1.12 walking, and Saturday, I benched (among a lot of things)

20 X 65
15 X 95
12 X 115
11 X 125
10 X 125

For the week, I swam 23,198 meters. This was the first time I have ever swum that much in one week in February. I also walked 6.69, and lifted weights two times. Nice week. Wish I could run. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Friday Pond Trip

You may have noticed that I have been writing a lot lately. That's because I have been swimming a lot. God has given us a blessed winter which has allowed me access to the pond much earlier than usual compared to the past few years. According to my training diary, I did my first pond swim last year March the 7th (see what I didn't do there? I didn't say "on") and the water temp was 60 degrees. I made my second trip to the fish farm the 29th of that month, and I recorded the temp as 62. It was not until April that I did a long swim (five plus miles). This year I have done two three milers already.

I took the dogs back yesterday and gave them a good running. Bear likes to run. Pee Wee loves to run and the faster the better. He possesses tremendous energy and has so much fun that it brings tears to my eyes to watch his joy at living the life God has given him. He had a tough start in this world, but things are better for him now.

When we arrived on scene, I thought maybe I had made a mistake and should have gone to the pool. It was cloudy, windy, and teasingly cool. The water looked almost angry as it churned and waved in the wind. It was forty minutes before I got my nerve up to wade in. 

When we get to  the fish farm, Pee Wee almost busts
the window out wanting to run and chase birds.
The swim wasn't so bad, and I need to train some in choppy water because you never know what it will be like on Chicot day. Amazingly, the water was only 68 on the warm end, the same temp as Wednesday. But as the pond had equalized a lot from Monday to Wednesday, it had done so even more by Friday. There was only about a degree maybe a degree and a half difference between the warm and cool ends despite the fact that the wind had been out of the west for several straight days and was blowing ten to fifteen Friday. That means the up-well water is warming. Nice.

I stopped after two laps. My shoulders were tired and I felt a twinge a time or two so I decided to tap out instead of getting greedy and maybe injuring myself. The weight session plus 5,400 I did Tuesday was heavy duty stuff. Besides, I am ahead of schedule thus there is no need to push the envelope. Not yet anyway. I will lift weights today and do total rest tomorrow. I should be ready to bust out one Monday if the water doesn't fall too much. Outside right now it is forty something. I will be able to swim Monday, but will I freeze out before I push the distance above my longest for the year? We shall see.

Thank you Jesus for some good training this winter. Praise His holy name.

Friday, February 24, 2017


It's Friday morning and I will give you three guesses as to what I am doing. OK, you only needed one. Yes, I am drinking coffee and hanging out with Jeff and the cats. Not only that, but I am pondering what to do with the day after sleeping in 'till about 7:30 this morning. Earlier in the week, I had thought it a sure deal I would go back to DSU today. Now I am rethinking that. 

The weather has been so mild, I almost feel an obligation to God to swim the pond. It hasn't been like this for the past six years, and last night at DSU I hit 20,000 meters for a week of swimming the earliest in the year I ever have. Speaking of DSU, last night I swam

950 (thank you, Tabatha, for a longer warm up)
100 (all on a :45 per 25 base)
300 (all three times through) I found this to be a pretty challenging set. The 25 - 100 was all fast and the 300 was a recovery swim. Cagri likes that kind of stuff, alternating the fast and the slow. I suppose it works all the energy systems, thus it should build endurance and as well as speed. After Masters, I stayed and swam

4 X 700 easy, three at 12:05 and one at 12:18.
total: 5,400 yards = 4,935 meters.

That was a pretty good practice. In addition, I did something different Thursday. I went home after work and lifted weight since I was afraid I might be out of pocked Saturday, and I didn't want to miss an entire week of lifting. I was a little apprehensive about how I would feel in the water after pumping iron. I went straight to the pool from Plate City once and it was a dreadful experience. This time, however, I had about two hours and some nutrition between the two sessions. It wasn't bad but when I arrived home last night, my muscles knew they had been in a scrap. This might be a new technique of mine, to combine the lifting and swimming. How I feel in the water today will in part determine if I repeat this next week.

Speaking of the pond, I think I will go back there today. The dogs have such a good time. I love seeing children and animals playing and having fun. I like that almost as much as having fun myself.

The weather is beautiful, God is good, and the cats are sweet. Praise God.

On Ponds and My Return

I just found out that one of my student's dad is a fish farmer. Actually I knew already but forgot. He wrote about it in his initial in-class essay. Today we are doing our warm up writing about catfish ponds. He lit up like a Christmas tree at that topic so I began to query him about the size of his ponds. He said he has some twenty acre ponds. Cha ching!! I asked him if I could swim and he said, "Yes." Cha ching, cha ching, cha ching!!! I really have lots of ponds already, but it is always nice to have some backups. Most likely his are too far away because I think he lives around Belzoni. But who knows, I may drive down sometimes just for a change of pace.

I really like the pond I am swimming now because it is large and well off the beaten path. Since I am now taking the dogs with me, being secluded is a good thing in part because Pee Wee chases automobiles. I never had this problem before so I don't know how to cure it, but it's dangerous for him and I would be devastated if anything bad happened to the little fellow.

Recently, my current pond was restocked with fish and a lot of them. As small as they are now, mostly that is not a problem. I did, however, run into them one day last week. They were all piled up in one corner and I was literally pulling myself through a pile of fish. Yes, I got finned but not too badly. When I told David about it, he said that's how the hybrids are. 


Hybrids are a cross between the channel cat and the blue cat. The farmers are going that way because hybrids are tougher, more disease resistant, feed more aggressively, and grow faster. That's good for them but bad for me. That means these fish are going to grow quickly and food like crazy and if I am in the pond when the feed trick  comes by, I will get torpedoed mercilessly by fish. It's happened before and is a bit unsettling at best. It also means it won't be long before the fish and I are competing for space. In short, In will need a new pond soon. 

Actually, David has already suggested a pond for me, D 10. I drove over there once and mistakenly swam D 11. Since D 10 is currently fish free and recently repaired (that means clean), it will be a good choice. The problem is all the D ponds are low right now. When I asked David about the low water, he said they have electrical lines to run to the paddle wheels and when they finish that all those ponds will be pumped up. Now to hurry up and wait.

Speaking of ponds, Wednesday I was presented with a dilemma. I had a choice to make because Wednesday is often one of my major weightlifting days. But with the weather so nice and the pond temps so high, the temptation to go swim was strong. I turned it this way and that way in my mind. Since Penny's dad was having heart surgery that day, I knew most likely we would be in Jackson Saturday thus knocking out my other main day to lift. I think the lifting is important, but given a choice swimming should win every time. I just did not want to lose an entire week of lifting.

But . . .

I went to the pond.

The dogs had a blast as usual. So did I. The pond had risen to 68, that perfect temp for me and wetsuit swimming. That is really warm enough to swim skins but at that temp I often still freeze out. So probably I will let the water hit 70 before I ditch the suit for the year. 

I made four full laps which is three miles plus, but my watch lost satellite reception once so it only showed 2.58 miles. Pee Wee, unlike Bear, made every lap with me. Seeing him up on the shore rolling and sniffing and smiling, sometime drinking really makes the swim more enjoyable. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

One More Pool Haiku

green water, dead leaves
cold foot enters dying pool
he swims for a cause

birds chirp inside cage,
glass door shows cold patio,
man sits in warm chair

darkness steals the day
lone bird lands on swaying branch
snowflakes pelt cold beak

Typical Tuesday

It was a typical Tuesday which meant I taught at the Moorhead campus then made my way to the kids house after work. The pond was a real temptation for me since I had so much fun there Monday. But I felt almost like I would be cheating on the dogs if I went without them. How did that happen?

Sorry about the quality here.

I guess one way it happened involves how things turned out last year during my Chicot training. Randy Beets moved to North Carolina a few years ago and forever changed how I train. Then John, my pool partner, was out of pocket the whole spring being occupied with taking his wife to the doctor during a bad spell in her health. In short, I, an introvert and loner, became lonesome, something which rarely happens to me. Now when I go to the pond, I have someone there, two someones in fact, Bear and Pee Wee. They run and romp and have the best time ever. They even follow me around the pond as I swim laps. Bear goes around once, but Pee Wee will stay for as many laps as I have swum thus far. Bear is as lazy as he is smart. He figures the game out and after one loop waits on me at the truck. In the shade, of course.

They not only provide me company, but Pee Wee makes me cry every time I watch him run. He reminds me of my dad's bird dogs that I grew up hunting with. He ranges like a pointer, and he hits the brush like one. He hunts. It's in him, placed there by God. I wish Dad could watch this little fellow go. He would be impressed I am sure and I can't watch the happy canine without thinking of Dad. This dog is not only full of energy and hunting instincts, but he is happy and they both have a blast when we go to the pond. We'll have to go back soon. For them, of course.

Oh, I almost forgot. I swam 6,000 yards at DSU. That brought me to 10,800 meters for two days of swimming and the weather forecast looks good. Here I go. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hodge Unhappy

Hodge Cries Fowl
By Jay Unver

Lehrton, Mississippi. Zane Hodge was as angry as I have ever seen him, and I have seen him murderously mad at Randal Beets several times over the past few years. Big ASS Endurance had just announced the expansion of their Wikileaks, uh Wikibeets, investigation as it is now being called. Additionally, they revealed that the inquiry was "now focusing mostly on Hodge," according to President and CEO Dr. Timothy Nomann.

"Beets," Hodge kept repeating over and over. "I knew he was a low down son of a skunk, but I never thought he had either the intelligence or the spitefulness to pull this off."

"What proof have you that Randal Beets is behind this?" I asked. We were at Plate City Gym, an hour after the announcement. The gym is the one place I can usually find Hodge and get some insight into his mood and thought.

"Proof? Just look at his reaction when this first broke. He was jumping up and down like a little kid at Christmas, practically laughing out loud. He was on TV doing that. Then he posted the video of his shadenfruede on YouTube and Facebook. Isn't it obvious?"


"Yeah. That's a German word that means 'joy at someone else's misfortune.'"

"Shadenfruede is not proof," I answered him. "Some would say it's not even evidence. If you have evidence that Beets started this ball rolling, you need to reveal it."

"I don't have any evidence. Not the courtroom kind. But trust me, he did it and I will do everything in my power to prove it. And if I ever catch him walking the street, I'm going to knock him out."

"That could get you suspended from Big ASS," I informed him.

"That is where this is headed anyway. Suspension. I can see it coming like a bad car wreck. Beets has been dreaming and scheming on me for years. When Nomann snubbed me at the banquet, the writing was on the wall. And then Beets won all those awards. He's finally getting it his way. I tell you what, if I get suspended, there's no telling what I'll do. Besides beating his butt, I will most likely move back to the Fasttrack Fatties. That's an organization founded on principle not on arbitrary rules they use to hang you with. They don't have these silly reporting requirements where you can get suspended if you make a simple mistake in arithmetic, and say you swam 20,000 meters when you only swam 19,900 because you added wrong. All of this is as stupid as Randy Beets is goofy. They act like you cheated or something if there is a reporting mistake."

"I don't remember you having this reaction when Beets was suspended over misreporting his height," I reminded him.

"And we still don't know how tall he is, do we?" Hodge snapped back.

"But either reporting matters or it doesn't. Which is it? You were all for it when it hit Beets. Now you are against it when you apparently think it is going to hit you."

"OK. I'm inconsistent. Sue me. I'm for anything that's against Beets and anything that's for me. It's called being competitive."

"Some would say it's called being a hypocrite."

Hodge reacted strongly at that. His face turned red, and then he stood up and stepped towards me with his right fist balled up as if he intended to strike me around the head and shoulders. His anger was alarming and I sought to deescalate the situation as quickly as possible.

"You're a preacher, aren't you?" I asked him, appealing to his better nature

"What's that got to do with it?"

"Preachers can't be beating people up."

"Samson did, and he made Scripture."

"Well, if you pull a Samson on me, you won't make Scripture, but you will make the newspaper. The Police Docket."

That caused him to think better of things and he sat down on a bench, stewing in silence.

"What am I going to do?" he asked after a few minutes of saying nothing.

"What have you done to get into trouble?" I asked. "No charges have been filed as of now."

"Geez. When they start one of these things, they're like the IRS. They're gunna find something whether there is anything to find or not. Beets has been working on this for years. Sucking up to Nomann and sending Christmas gifts to all the secretaries at Big ASS. I thought he was over it, over all the past fights and feuds we've had. But all this time he was working behind the scenes and simmering in thoughts of revenge."

He sat a bit longer and stared at the floor. Then he got up and said, "I better go hire Tom Flanagan of Morgan Morgan and Morgan to represent me. This is going to get worse before it gets better." 

So he drove away once more leaving behind a cloud of blue smoke big enough to kill the town's mosquitoes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

More Bad Haiku

tall grass hides big cat,
nervous deer graze open field,
rising sun melts frost

cats nap without shame,
man enjoys lazy felines,
sleet pelts house's roof

feet slip on algae, 
water burns and bites like fire,
swim man strokes away

Monday, Funday

I took pups and headed to the pond as soon as I got off work and loaded the truck. The weather is a pure godsend; I suppose it always is, but the way it has been lately has made me think God ordered it up just for me. As I did the last time, I let the hounds out about a half a mile before my parking spot and let them run in. Bear runs just fast enough to keep the truck in sight. Pee Wee races the truck and tries to bite the tires. That last part is not good.

After parking, I set my thermometer to soaking and started the arduous process of getting dressed. It takes a while and it is difficult. If it were not hard to get into and out of a wetsuit, the suit would not work. I also have to spend time preparing my nostrils for taping, and for the actual taping. That is to keep out the brain-eating amoeba that kill several people each year. They enter the body through the nasal passages and destroy the brain. Not only that, but the taped nose, I theorize, discouraged alligator attacks as well as prevents sinus infections due to the high bacteria content of the water.

The water temp was 64. What?!?!? It was that Saturday and Sunday the weather was 80 degrees and sunny all day. But this time of year, the temps do strange things because there is a lot of cold water just under the surface of the ponds even when the top foot temps are nice. 

I did notice that the pond was more uniform in temperature than Saturday and it was warmer farther under the surface than then. That made the total effect much better, and although I froze out Saturday, I could have swum for hours Monday. I stopped at four laps and a double on the parking end. I like to build slowly, and that gave me 3.31 miles in 1:38 for an average pace per mile of 29:40. A pretty nice swim and my longest in the pond this year.

We took a walk after the swim, and my feet were not feeling like blocks of ice. It was a nice day and I am really fired up about some upcoming open water training efforts.

Praise be to God from whom all blessing flow.

Monday, February 20, 2017

2/13 - 2/19

For swim training purposes, this is always a tough time due to cold water and an annual swim meet at DSU. I began the week, however, still rebuilding my lifting confidence and on the bench did

21 X 65
15 X 95
13 X 105
10 X 110,
and on the swim pull, I did

36 X 20
26 X 26
21 X 28.5

Also, I walked 3.05 miles.

Tuesday was my great disappointment when I showed up for practice only to find we did not have it. I did walk 2.34 miles at the kids'.

Wednesday, I did more walking and more lifting. On the bench I did

21 X 65
15 X 95
11 X 115
11 X 115
and on the swim pull, 

40 X 20
27 X 26
21 X 28.5
10 X 30
10 X 30

By Thursday, I was desperate to swim so I went to the pond and swam a straight 2.13 miles in 1:03:15 at 29:40 per mile.

Friday I was back at the pond which had dropped in temperature despite a warm day and lots of sunshine. Consequently, I only swam 1.66 miles, but at least I was in the water. 

Saturday I was at the pond again with the dogs and we all had a great time. Pee Wee is runner, hunter, and explorer. Bear is a minimal effort dog. The water was slightly warmer and I swam 2.25 miles.

For the week, I swam 9,717 meters which compared favorably to last year's zero for this same week due to me having the flu. Thus I made up my zero from a few weeks back when I was healing from some shoulder issues. Now I am at a mere 67,825 meters for the year, but at the same time in 2016 I was at 64,???. With the warm weather, my prospects for the week are good. I plan to take the dogs today to the pond and tomorrow, who knows?

Praise be to God who gives His sons water to swim.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pee Wee 2

Since I was out of the pool all week, I decided to make another trip to the pond Saturday. Normally, I try to stay close to the house on the sixth day to spend some time with Penny and the cats. Usually, it is my big weight lifting day. But with the weather so warm and my need of training so great, how could I pass up a dip at the farm? I took the dogs, Bear, who has been before and swam with me on his last outing, and Pee Wee, a new rescue passed down to us from our son, Forrest. Pee Wee has a long story behind him. He weighs 23 pounds and looks like he is a cross between a feist and and pit bull. According to the vet, he is approximately one year old and he has scars all over his small, brown body. My hope and aim is that he will never again get beat up but will live out his days in safety.

I lifted weights around noon time and hit the upper body pretty hard so I was a little leery of swimming too far. Before we arrived at my parking spot, I let the hounds out and Pee Wee came alive. I saw right away that he is fast, likes to run, and is a high-energy dog.

The water temps had risen a little, 62 on the warm end, and the pump was turned off so I knew it would not be as warm in that corner as before. There was still a difference between the north and south sides but they had equalized some. Now the west end was the coldest part of the pond. I swam 2.25 miles, my longest open water swim this year, and I averaged 30:06 per mile, not bad after a major lifting session. I should be set for something longer Monday because the weather is supposed to stay warm the next couple of days. The two sides will continue to equalize and the whole pond most likely will rise two to four degrees. It should be perfect and without a Monday night class for the first semester I can remember, I don't have to hurry. I can swim until dark if I choose.

After the swim we took a walk, and I got to see more of what Pee Wee is about. He has some hunting instincts and he runs and ranges like a bird dog while staying off the road and in the brush most of the time. Check out the two videos below. This makes me want to take up hunting again. A hunting dog is one of the great joys of life. Running and swimming have replaced hunting and fishing in my life, but if running stays on the shelf, I might try to make a squirrel dog out of Pee Wee.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pee Wee 1

I was not able to put both videos I shot today into one post. It probably can be done, but I don't know how to do it. So here is one of the vids showing Pee Wee our new rescue dog running at the pond. This dog has spunk, energy, and hunting instincts. Some dog. Later I will post the second video which shows him working a ditch while Bear stayed on the road.

Two in the Pond

February is always a stressful month to be the Chicot Challenger. From this month on, Chicot comes rushing at the windshield of my life like a blinded deer in the middle of the highway. To make matters more tense, DSU always has swim meets this time of year that knock our Masters group out of some of our practices. Last week was one of those. We lost the whole week.

To make matters worse, The Mad Swimming Scientist didn't let me know about Tuesday. The last thing he said to me was "We will practice Tuesday but not Thursday because of the meet." He told us that a week early then corrected himself. He never told me anything else. Apparently he told the others, presumably when they got out of the pool the Thursday before. I stayed in the swim more. To make a short story long, I could have saved seven hours and rearranged my schedule to get more exercise done had I known. But what will I say to the Swimming Scientist? Nothing. He has never been wrong about anything so why start an argument.

So I wasted Tuesday. Wednesday there was not time to do my errands, swim, and get to Mom's by 6:00. By Thursday, however, I was desperate so I went to the pond. My farm man had suggested D 10 but all the D ponds were low. I called David and asked him about Lee Watts 30, which is the one I have been swimming. I like it. It is big. It is clean. What's not to like? He said it was recently stocked but I could swim it if I wanted. I wanted.

I arrived at my old swimming hole to find the pond being pumped. In the summer, that means cooler water. In the winter, that means warmer water because the well water comes out at about 65 degrees. After struggling like a desperate Houdini to get into my wetsuit-- I was sweating, breathing hard, and certain someone needed to be struck about the head--  I waded into the water to be surprised at its warmth. I didn't have my thermometer, but guessed it to be about 62. I swam north towards the pump and the water warmed to 65 or more. Then I swam west down the side of the northern levee. After about fifty meters I thought, "Oh my gosh!" the water suddenly dropped to sub sixty when I made it out of the well water. A few more meters and it dropped again so low that my forehead and orbital bones began to hurt. The temps must have plummeted to sub 55.

When I made it to the south levee, the water warmed to about 58. So when I got back to the end where I started, I swam that end twice to give myself a chance to warm up before taking on the painful north levee. To make a short story long, I swam 2.13 miles in 1:03:15. Better than a poke in the eye.

Friday I awoke with an excitement to do it again at the pond since DSU was still not an option. The night was warmer and the day was warmer and with the second day of warm weather in a row, I expected the water to be warmer. that meant I could stay in longer. I arrived at the pond with my thermometer this time and set it out to soak while I struggled into my wetsuit. The thermometer read 58! I waded in and sure enough the water was colder than the day before. When I lapped the pond, the south side levee was noticeably cooler than it had been Thursday. What the heck?

Actually, I have experienced that before and when I drove up that morning and noticed how hard the wind was out of the south, I feared the pond might be cooling. These ponds are oriented east/west. I don't know if that is accidental or purposeful. I intend to ask David about this the next time we talk. But if the wind is out of the north or south in the winter or early spring when there is still a lot of cold water a couple of feet down, the ponds will cool because of upwelling which happens faster than the sun can warm the surface water. When the wind is out of the west, as it most often is, the upwelling is negated, defeated even, by the warming surface temperatures.

So I swam as long as I dared which was only 1.66 miles. I suppose I could have toughed it out a bit longer, but I was losing my ring finger on each hand, a sure sign I was dropping body temperature and would have trouble getting out of my suit. I hate feeling like a trapped rat when I have lost most of my hand strength due to hypothermia and can't undress myself. I did get the suit off after expending more energy than I did swimming. Then I went home to pet cats, take a bath, and get ready to go out with the Johnsons.

What will the ponds be like today? by the time I left Friday, the wind had shifted to the southwest, so I expect a warmer pond. But the fact is, I won't know untilI get there.

Praise be to God.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Chicot Verses 1

Desire realized is sweet to the soul. Proverbs 13:19

My English Composition classes are writing a profile of endurance athlete David Goggins. One of our paragraphs is about his motivation. To secure our information, we have been watching some videos on YouTube. So far we have heard him say he does his extreme events "to raise money for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation," that pays all college tuition and fees for the children of special opps people killed in the line of duty. On another video, he says he does these things to spread the word about fitness to America's youth who are rapidly becoming obese. A third video has him saying that he does these things (running for 48 straight hours, etc) to test himself, to experience life, to see what choices he will make when he hits a wall. I suspect somewhere in his psyche resides another motivation or three.

I have long felt that endurance athletes are complicated creatures who scarcely understand themselves. Our obsession often looks like pure craziness to others, and it is only over many years that I have begun to understand the multifaceted nature of my own compulsions. I suspect there is still much I don't know about why I will leave this keyboard in a hour or so and go climb into a catfish pond and swim till my arms feel like they are about to fall off.

For a long time, I have recognized that goal setting and achieving those goals was a satisfying endeavor for me. Not just any goal will do, however. People speak and write of internal motivation and that is something I have experienced but scarcely comprehend. Some goals-- many that my wife sets for me,-- just don't work. She wants me to paint the house, fix the floor, remodel the laundry room, move to another house, buy a new vehicle. These goals aren't working. I don't have that inner drive to accomplish them. But setting an endurance goal, like Chicot, then having to not only train, but think, and plan, and promote, pray for weather, and depend upon other people, well, that one floats my boat.

Actually, I have always been impressed with endurance and not just the physical kind but the ability to remain in the saddle and do anything worthwhile for a long time. From my youth, those kinds of things have caught my attention. People who work a job for many years impress me. People who stay married for many years impress me. People who pastor a church for many years impress me. I count it as one of the milestones of my life that I pastored the Moorhead Church of God for twenty-three years and two months and preached through the entire Bible during my tenure there.

But physical endurance has been my play for the past dozen years and the Chicot Challenge has been at the forefront of that for the last six. I mentioned the goal setting, but in addition to that, I like to swim. A lot. A like to swim a lot. I like a lot to swim a lot. Sometimes a co-worker will make a comment about my "discipline." I always try to set that person straight because if discipline were the key, I would of all men be most unsuccessful. I swim crazy distances because I get off on it not because I force myself to do it.

I also like helping the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, which I say is the best charity nobody ever heard of. Check them out at msdiabetes.org. Chicot raises funds for them, and I wish I could say like David Goggins, "The only reason I do this is . . ." but that would be a lie, and I try to tell the truth at least 50 percent of the time. I do like helping them and wish I could raise ten times the money I have. I get a great satisfaction in raising awareness of the dangers of diabetes and collecting funds for the state's premier diabetes charity. But there is a whole lot more to it than that.

Another important reason for Chicot is the memories and bonds that are formed from working with a crew and experiencing together such a monumental task. The first year we did Chicot, 2012, Randy Beets made a film that I watch about once a week. That sixteen minute movie captures the simplicity of that first Challenge. Without fanfare (save a Commonwealth article) or a lot of planning, Randy, Robin Bond, and I just went out and did it. It was simple, basic, and new territory for us all. And the video shows that we were all happy. I cry every time I watch that film and remember our childlike joy at achieving a goal we all bought in to.

As the years have gone by, the swim has lengthened and become more complicated. Not only that, but the crew has changed and the planning has become a major preoccupation of mine starting on the first day of January each year. I often look back at past pictures and fondly recall the events of that particular Challenge. Last year, due to a late date change, I lost the dream team crew I had assembled in my pride. I had boasted to my wife, "I can build a crew." I lost them and little Centerville Church became our crew for the day. I worried a little about the lack of experience. No need, however, as everyone performed admirably, and it was a great event from my perspective and from what I can tell from photos and video clips shot from the boat, everyone was happy. That made me feel good and often brings tears to my eyes. The memories and bonds created are a powerful motivation for me.

One of my most selfish motivations involves my wife. Like a little boy trying to gain the attention of a girl he has a crush on, I love showing out for her. She told me last year that she was proud of me. She called my "an amazing man." That almost made me burst in two with pride and joy. I was thinking of dropping Chicot, in part because of the lack of sponsorship, and doing a pool swim instead. But when Penny said, "We have to keep Chicot going," I was all in.

Chicot V was a major turning point in my soul. God showed me that I was wrong when I thought I stumbled into marathon swimming in 2007. He showed me that me guided me into the sport, into Chicot, and that Chicot was not mine but His. The 2016 swim was one of my most discouraging for much of the buildup and training.  But when the day was over, I was blessed to the max and more determined than ever to do it again. Climbing out of the water at Ditch Bayou to a few spectators, and raising a few dollars from Arkansas, was a thrill I want again. And then there was that cloud that a spectator said was over us as we came in. She took a picture of it and gave it to Debbie Johnson who gave it to Penny who gave it to me. It was as if God was saying, "Just in case you missed it, I had your back all along."

                        Desire realized is sweet to the soul. Proverbs 13:19

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Licit Lover

My licit lover beckons with a wave, waves.
Like a happy hound she invites me closer. 
She laps my hands, caresses my shoulders, kisses my neck.
Her embrace soothes, energizes.
Drawing me inward she whispers,
"Stay with me and we will commune with God."
He rejoices over her like a young man,
His entrance gives pleasure.
They commune with God.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Word Images

water grows more green
surviving bugs swim freely,
swimmer joins their fun

slanted sun sinks low,
green water yearns for warmth,
swimmer steps slowly

lonely water waits
who will take her challenge?
one swimmer steps forth

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Big ASS Awards Banquet

The 2016 Big ASS Awards Banquet
By Jay Unver

Lehrton, MS. The stars were shinning bright like the twinkling above on a moonless night under a clear sky: Randy Beets, Zane Hodge, Robin Bond, Bel Lavers, Justin Nunnery, Tabatha Whitten, and a host of other successful but largely unknown athletes of the Association all showed up for the annual red carpet event. Accompanying the stars were all the trappings of prestige, pomp, and celebration at the 2015/16 Big ASS Awards Banquet. 

Cancelled in early 2016 due to an ISSIS threat, Big ASS and its athletes seemed determined to make up the lost year. The celebration/ceremony was held at the old Lehrton Cotton Compress Warehouse. The only building in town large enough to host the banquet sported a new coat of white house paint over it's rusty corrugated metal exterior. Valet parking was provided by the local Lehrton County Coon Hunters Association, and Dr. Nomann himself, the president and CEO of the organization, greeted each arrival with a bow, a handshake, and a smile.

When Hodge arrived, however, he extended his hand towards Nomann who looked back at the next arrival. Hodge, visible affected by the snub, reddened, went inside, and scowled as he took his seat. The tables, made of plywood on top of saw horses, were covered with old newspapers which featured Randy Beets winning the Open Water World Championship at Swim the Such in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This further irritated Hodge who proceeded to "spill" dipping sauce on the newspapers, covering Beets' face with yellow liquid.

Missing was Randy Beets' mom, who reportedly explained her absence during a phone interview that she feared and dreaded a dust up between Hodge and her son. Further, she reported, that "Hodge doesn't know how to act in public."

The revelers were treated to the live music of Johnny Smutt and the Bad Boys who played several cover songs was well as some of their original pieces that have started bar fight across the county and beyond. The local Ladies Water Aerobics group were the servers as well as being undercover security. They carried out slice after slice of pizza from Lehrton's own famous Jim Bob's Pizza. Jim Bob himself was on hand wearing a clean T-shirt and a huge smile on his unusual face.

After the meal, Dr. Nomann took the dais and announced the 2015 winners. Randy Beets was the Open Water World Champion by default due to Hodge not making Swim the Suck that year. Bel Lavers became the first Big ASS Swimmer to conquer the English Channel and took home a large trophy and the world record for the longest swim, 21 miles. Hodge was named Athlete of the Year and Triathlon World Champion due to his performance at the venerable Heart O' Dixie.

The ceremony then moved into year 2016. Again, Randy Beets was World Open Water Champion. Hodge once more reclaimed his world record of longest swim with his 22.38 mile Chicot Challenge on June 11, 2016. Tabatha Whitten was named Rookie of the Year, and Randy Beets again was the Open Water World Champion, but additionally,his 2012 film on the Chicot Challenge 2012 was nominated for Film of the Year. Furthermore, Beets was nominated for Best Screenplay, Videographer of the Year, and Film Editor of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Directer of the Year. The entire movie was played for the attendees and Hodge was seen wiping tears from his face while watching himself on the big screen. 

Beets won all the film awards.

After the banquet ended and everyone was filing out, someone asked Hodge about the investigation. Apparently Hodge took offense, turned to take a swing at the guy but tripped, fell, and broke the only trophy he won that night.

Yeah, it was a bad night for Hodge.

Monday, February 13, 2017

2/6 - 2/12

I had a pretty good week swimming, but I miss running and I need running. I am still fat, and I feel like assaulting someone because of it. Don't judge me. Don't lecture me. Somebody deserves blows.

Monday, I gently pushed a few weights. On the bench I did

16 X 50
15 X 66
12 X 96
11 X 101

I also walked 2.16 miles.

Tuesday I walked 2.89 at the kids while I was waiting on the school bus to run. At the pool, I swam

2 X 50
4 X 50
6 X 50
50 easy
8 X 50
end of Masters
3 x 500
total: 4,050 = 3,701 meters.

Wednesday was so pleasant with the sunshine and mid-seventies temperature that I thought it an absolute sin not to swim, not to drive to the fish farm and make the effort to avail myself of the lovely chance. I called my fish man David who told me that the sale of the farm, which I had so feared, was not to be. Praise be to God. Now these ponds will remain mine. I did a short 1.26 mile swim in my wetsuit and enjoyed myself extremely.

Thursday I was back at the kids for some walking (3.16 miles) and at DSU for swimming. Once again, I survived a lack of a warm up and swam

12 X 150 @ 3:00
8 X 50
end of Masters
3 X 600
total: 4,500 

I had time to stay longer, but I am still exercising some restraint.

Friday I went back. I started with 

3,600 straight in 1:00:52, then
8 X 50 @ 1:00
400 small paddles
6 X 50 @ 1:00
total: 5,100 SCYs = 4,661 meters.

Saturday, I walked 2.34 miles and did some gentle lifting. On the bench I pushed

20 X 65
15 X 95
12 X 100
20 X 105

For the week, I 

walked 11.02 miles,
lifted weights two times, and
swam 14,502 meters.

Now, it is time to turn up the volume. If you helped pray me through my shoulder issue, thank you and thank you Jesus. Now I need a little help with my right elbow. 

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Saturday Morning

Saturday morning and the cats are scattered. It's hurting my feelings that not one is on the bed with me. I just started coffee and since it takes me thirty minutes to drink one of these Arctic cups my best friend Gerald Johnson gave me, it is the ideal time for a cat to be competing with my computer for lap space/time. But that is life and that is the way cats are and that is one reason I love them so much. They are independent and you can't demand their attention the way you can with a dog. I suppose that is one reason I am so flattered when CC or Luvie or Baby Kitty wants to hang out with me.

I had a pretty good day at the pool yesterday. I went in without much of a plan, but as soon as I pushed off the wall, some fin-wearing fellow in the next lane pushed off also. I told myself to do my own thing, not worry about him, and I had my own event to train for and he had nothing to do with it. 

I worried about him. 

I spent the next thirty-five minutes holding him off. When he climbed out, I slowed a bit and began to ponder what kind of set I was doing. I stopped at an hour, figuring the 3,600 was a pretty good warm up. Then I did 

The pic that started it all.
8 X 50 @ 1:00 (these work the heart rate more than on 1:30)
400 small paddles (first set since shoulder)
6 X 50 @ 1:00
400 easy
total: 5,100 SCYs = 4,661 meters.

Not a bad Friday swim. I took a selfie just before I left and posted on Facebook with the caption: Cash me at the pool. How bow dah? My Facebook started blowing up. That led to more posts and before the day was over, I had a combined several hundred likes, about a dozen shares, multiple comments, and thirteen new Facebook friends. It's a strange world we live in.

I went home, cleaned up the house some, and took a bath. Then we went out to eat with John and Patsy Misterfeld. We all ate fish like we had been on Naked and Afraid for twenty-one days. It was a good day and a good night and when we left Larry's, the moon was so bright it looked like a cloudy day. I slept like a drugged man and woke up craving coffee. Live is good. Thank you, Lord.
Cash me peein' on the road. How bow dah?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friday Morning

It's that special time of week, that certain day of week, the highlight of the weekly cycle. Yeah, it's Friday. I slept a little longer this morning rising around 7:00. Then I had my devotions, and currently I'm enjoying my coffee as I try to plan the mid-day swim. My confidence has not fully returned, although it is growing with each dip in the water. Last night I had a pretty good practice. Today I hope for a better one.

At Thursday Masters we had a paddle set. I swam it without, but I am thinking of doing a short one today. Right now I am pondering a long, lazy warm up. I like long warm ups because they waken those aerobic enzymes in the cells' mitochondria and get me ready to swim hard. Maybe I will follow the long warm up with fast 50s sandwiched between 400s. This will work speed and endurance at the same time. After a few rounds of that, I will be ready for something like 300 with small paddles. Then a long cool down should give me around 5,000. If I can hit 5,000 today, it will be a victory.

Chicot is rushing toward us like a run away train. It always does. Soon I will be posting about the changes in this year's swim. There are several and they are significant. Not only that, but Pool Fools comes first. I will also write about this inaugural and possible annual event in the near future. 

Another thing to be on the lookout for is the write up of the Big ASS Awards Banquet which was held Monday night. Jay Unver wrote an article on the ceremony, and he will post it here probably Tuesday. You might be curious as to why I would ever let Unver post anything in my blog. The answer is I would not EXCEPT it is in my contract with Big ASS. They have access to my blog and can post at will. Thankfully, they don't do that often. 

For me, the event was bittersweet. I won a few awards, but Randy Beets literally had to have help carrying all of his trophies to his car. I am not above telling you that that chapped my hinder parts. Bad. Additionally, the current Wikibeets investigation cast a shadow over the whole affair. I am not bluffing when I saw I just might resign Big ASS and move back to the Fasttrack Fatties.

Oh well, I didn't mean to wander off into all that negativity, but is is hard to let it all go. At times like these one must have faith. One more negative thing. Jay Unver has been parked across Monroe on the little side street watching our house through a pair of binoculars. What the heck does he think he's going to see!? I feel like going over there and whipping his arse. That would not be right, though. I need to get to the pool and swim all of this away.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Second Open Water Swim of 2017

I did it again. I hardly could afford not to. In fact it would have been wrong, almost a sin even if I did not.

The weather has been so nice here lately that when Wednesday rolled around I started thinking about the pond. I called David Rutherford, my former student and current pond scout. 

"What's the water temp?" I asked.

"Sixty this morning. Probably sixty-one by now."

Cha Ching!!

Sixty is my break point. That high and over I head for the fish farm with a smile on my face. Below sixty I opt instead to lift weights or take a nap. To pass up the chance to swim outdoors in February would be ungrateful to God who has blessed us with a normal winter after SIX straight cold ones. Six straight cold winters! Already people apparently have forgotten and are complaining like crazy about how hot it is and how weird this weather is. Geez Louise, stop it already. This is not abnormal and not weird. Weather changes. We are far enough south that it does not even get cold here without some sort of weather system that pushes Canadian or Arctic air into our region. But people have forgotten. Just think, if you are eighteen years old, you were eleven the last time our winter was typical, so it really must seem weird to you. 

So I got my jammer on when I came home from school, opened my newly arrived package from SwimOutlet.com, and loaded the truck. The package contained a new silicone swim cap and three pair of goggles. One pair I put back in my special bag for Chicot Challenge VI, one pair I put in my swim bag for Masters swim Thursday, and one I took with me to experiment with at the pond. The one I carried to the farm was a different brand and model as I am always looking for a better mousetrap goggle, one I can swim all day in. You can't do that with just any old goggle. At least I can't.

David not only gave me the water temp, but he informed me the fish farm was not selling. There had been a move by an investor to buy them out. This had caused me some concern because I feared the possibility of losing access to 6,000 acres of fish ponds. I need those ponds in the later winter and spring to prepare for my big swim in June. With the sale falling through, things will remain the same going forward and those ponds and all those levee roads will continue to be my private fitness club. 

Thank you, Jesus.

David also told me of another pond, D10 which he said had no fish in it and was recently pumped up so I determined to give it a try. I have been swimming one called Lee Watts 30 but David said that one was recently stocked with fish. Driving over to the D ponds, I was a little confused about which one D 10 was. I stopped where I thought it was, parked and began to prepare to swim. I put my thermometer in, but I was on the down wind side and it is always warmer on that end of a pond. Also, I did not have my weight and cord that allows me to get a reading several feet out into the pond. Instead, my thermometer was right up against the bank and in the sun. It read 68, so I really don't know what the temp was farther out. 

Anyway, I waded in and started. The water didn't feel too bad with the wetsuit on. In fact, it felt good, refreshing. I only swam two laps and left since I had to go home and get ready to go to Mom's and pack for school, the grandkids, and Masters Swim the next day. Two laps in that pond gave me 1.26 miles which I covered in 38:47 equaling a 30:50 per mile pace. Thank God, my shoulders felt fine, and I enjoyed swimming with cormorants and ducks flying above and farm workers harvesting fish two ponds over. There is nothing like training in a catfish pond. If you have never done it, call me to book a tour. For a nominal fee, I will serve as your personal guide and help you experience one of life's simple pleasures.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

More Not Real Haikus

leaves clutter the ground,
cold steel lies unmoved by hands,
lifter breathes cool air

lounging on the bed
drinking hot apple cider,
cats and I watch game

football on TV
napping with my furry friends,
we watch the whole game

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


Problems Found
by Jay Unver

Dr. Timothy Nomann met the press this morning at the Big ASS Training Center in Lehrton, Mississippi. Reading from a prepared statement he said:

"Numerous irregularities have been discovered in the reporting of some of our contract athletes. Also, personal attacks on the management of Big ASS has shown up in some personal emails. Additionally, further undisclosed problems have been detected. Since the investigation is ongoing, we have nothing else to add at this point."

Nomann then walked off the podium while reporters hurled questions his way like "peaceful" Trump protesters tossing rocks through business windows. 

For the rest of the day, the whole town of Lehrton was abuzz. At Toby's Barber Shop, the old men who regularly gathered there blamed all the trouble on "the Russians" who "surely have hacked Big ASS." I had gone in to get a hair trim and thus became privy to the town's talk machine. 

"Ain't that Beets guy of Russian descent?" one old man in overalls asked the group. 

While I was receiving my haircut, a gaggle of four-overalled men played checkers on a card table in the corner. 

"Pinko commy sissy if I ever saw one," a decrepit checker player piped in. 

"Wikileaks my a$$," the ancient man sitting across from him spouted. "Wikibeets more like it."

"Yeah," another talking overall answered, "Wikibeets."

I left Toby's Barber Shop and went to City Grocery on the square. While in the check out line I overheard one middle aged woman chatting with the cashier. "Witch hunt. It's that Beets guy. They are going after Hodge, and I think it's a shame. But just you remember this," she said with the blood rising in her face, "God don't like no ugly." 

Later, I caught up with Zane Hodge who was working out at Plate City Gym. When informed of Nomann's remarks, Hodge looked ill and sat down for a few minutes. I asked for a response and he said was, "Anything I write in a personal email is just that. Personal. If they discipline me for something I wrote in private to a friend, I may leave Big ASS and go back to The Fasttrack Fatties Athletic Club. Geez, this administration is repressive. These are Nazis. Nomann is a Nazi and Randy Beets is Joseph Stalin." 

"Can I quote you on that?" I asked, but he never answered.

I also inquired at to what he may have written that could lead to discipline. Hodge was silent as if lost in thought.

Hodge then rose and began to pace the gym with a worried look plastered across his face.

"I'll tell you what this is," he finally spoke out in an agitated voice. "This is Wikibeets, not Wikileaks. Beets done it. This has Beets written all over it."

"That's what they called it at the barber shop," I informed him. "The also called it Wikibeets." 

But Hodge acted like he didn't hear and kept pacing about. Then he picked up a pair of dumbbells and did a few bicep curls. Flinging the weights to the ground he shouted, "I'll get that Beets if it's the last thing I do. Hear me? I'll get Beets for this!"

An ill-tempered Hodge then stormed out of the gym yelling, "If you have anymore questions, you can contact my lawyer."

"Who is your lawyer?" I yelled back.

"I don't know yet," he answered and he climbed into his truck and sped away leaving a cloud of blue smoke in his wake.

Monday, February 6, 2017

1/30 - 2/5

It was not a big week, but at least I resumed training. Monday I took a little walk and a long nap. The measly 1.69 miles was a bit better than nothing but not much.

Tuesday I walked 2.02 miles and finally got back into the water at Masters. I swam with fear and trembling. We did

8 X 75 @ 2:00 breathing 3, 5, 7 X 25s
16 X 50 @ 1:30
200 easy
total: 2,350 yards = 2,147 meters.

I had no pain or discomfort, but I held back a lot. My confidence will take some time to return.

Wednesday, I walked 2.06 miles and then lifted weights, if you can call it that, for the first time in a couple of weeks. I went super light and super easy. On the bench I did

10 X 50
10 X 70
12 X 90 

Thursday, I let the legs rest. Yeah, I  have fallen that far. At Masters I swam

8 X 50 @ 1:30 decline 1 - 4 (I tried to hold back but did :36 and :36 on the third and fourth rep of the second four 50s). Then we swam
4 X 150 as  1- first 50 fast
                 2- 100 fast
                 3- all fast
                 4- choice of 50 fast
4 X 150 as floating 50 fast, fourth all fast
600 breathing 3, 5, 7 by 50s
400 easy
total: 3,100 yards = 2,833 meters.

I swam harder than I intended, but I felt no discomfort. I think I am OK, but my mind won't relax yet.

Friday, I went back for

1,200 21:14
1,300 22:26
400 6:48
400 7:00
400 6:58
total: 3,700 yards = 3,381 meters.

Saturday the wife and I both did a good share of napping. Eventually I dragged out to Plate City for another restricted workout. I benched

13 X 55
12 X 75
12 X 95

I also walked 2.45 miles.

So although it was not much, it was a start back. Usually I keep a close check on last year's training diary as I build up for Chicot. Not this time. I must be careful and increase with restraint. I must wade into my beloved lake with healthy shoulders.

For the week, I

swam 8,361 meters,
walked 8.22 miles, and 
lifted weights gently two times.

Besides resuming training, I called over the South Shore Cottages to reserve the pontoon boat. They told me they not longer rented boats. !!!!! They also informed me that the State Park did. This was something I did not know, so I called the Lake Chicot State Park and started asking questions. They only have ONE pontoon boat and they don't start taking reservations until March 1. After relaying to them my situation, they said I could have the boat, but I will not rest until March 1 when I call them back to confirm my reservation.

Also, I secured my room at Lighthouse Inn. Patti Tuggle was happy when we talked and she found out I am doing the swim again. It is nice creating these connections over the years of Chicot. A lot has changed in the swim, the crew, and the buildup. I'll be writing more of that later.

Praise be to God from whom all blessings flow.