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