Friday, March 24, 2017

Changes in Chicot

As I train up, gear up, planup, and prayup for Chicot Challenge VI, I thought it was time to let you know some of the changes and the reasons for them in this years event.

1. A new course. For the sixth straight year, I have a new course in mind. I really don't like change, and I have been thinking for several years about settling on a course and leaving it. I can't remember why all the course changes in the past other than each year I wanted to swim a little farther. Chicot I was a 13.94 swim. As soon as the pain from that swim began to dim in my memory, I started scheming on a longer swim for the next year. Another thing that has forced changes in the course has been the changing nature of the swim. As the swim got longer and required more support, the rental boat forced us to make South Shore Cottages the base of our operations. That has all changed.

I called South Shore in early January to reserve the pontoon boat only to be told they no longer rent them. !!!! They were nice enough to tell me the State Park has a pontoon for rent. After securing that water craft, obviously our starting point had move with the boat. So this year's swim will start and stop at the State Park. By the grace of God, I will swim from the park to Ditch Bayou and back. That makes a little over 23 miles so I get the extra distance I wanted. I had already planned the basic route thus the new boat just reversed the course.

2. New Distance and measuring method. I have just about reached the limits of what can be swum in one day. This new course and distance may be the final form of the swim for years to come, but that remains to be seen. But one really big change in the distance is the method of measuring it. For the first time, this year's course is pre measured and landmark based. This change is to bring the swim into full compliance with accepted open water swim practices. The Marathon Swimmers Federation ( wants the course to be landmark based so it is repeatable. I do a swim, and have it documented, then someone else can do the same swim. 

In the past, we set out an approximate course based on our knowledge of the lake and how far I wanted to go and then measure the actual distance I swam that day. With this new method of a landmark based course pre measured on Google Maps the shortest distance it could possibly be swum, I will most likely swim a mile or two farther than the named distance. This is a substantive change and has me a little nervous. More about that later.

3. Tracking capability. In the near future, I plan to purchase a Spot Tracker ( so anyone interested will be able to keep up with the swim in real time. We will have a link on Facebook that will go to a map of the lake. The tracker will update every ten minutes and place a dot on the map. Thus, besides relying solely on Facebook words, one can see exactly where we are and how long it took to get there. This also adds a level of documentation desired my the Marathon Swimmers Federation.

4. Official Observer. Marathon swims that are recognized by governing bodies of the sport require an official observer to watch the swim and take notes during the event. In the past, we just went out and did it. This year, MJ Staples ( of Atlanta, Georgia has agreed to serve as the observer for this swim. MJ is a marathon swimmer with a passion for and an understanding of the sport who has a desire to work "the other side of a swim." MJ has also graciously and bravely volunteered to swim with me if the event last past the daylight hours. I have always been a little afraid of the alligators at night. In the event she swims part of the way with me, Gerald Johnson will assume her duties as observer.

5. Marathon Swimmers Federation Documentation. Some of these changes, you may have figured out, are in an effort to have this swim documented by the MSF. Doing this will lend credibility to our efforts and my boast that I swam the longest swim ever on Lake Chicot and possibly in all of Arkansas.

6. Crew. Each year the crew changes. Some of these changes are planned while others are not. At this point, I don't know who the full crew will be. I am expecting Justin Nunnery, Gerald Johnson, Trevor McLain, Sheila Mitchel, MJ Staples, and my wife Penny Hodge. Possibly joining for the second year will be Debbie Johnson, and Kelsey McLain.

7. Faith. The Chicot Challenge has not only been an adventure over the years, but it has been a journey of faith. This time, I have approached things with more patience and trust in God than I have in the past. I hope to continue that, and I pray that God will in some way glorify Himself through this event that has so blessed my wife and me. 

Praise be to the God of heaven and earth.