Thursday, June 29, 2017


sinners have hunger,
Jesus is the Bread of Life,
feast oh Him today.

At Centerville they
partake of Jesus' table,
the Lord is worshiped.

dirt road turns muddy,
water drips from barren limbs,
green buds on brown branch.

Monday, June 26, 2017

6/19 - 6/25

I returned to training a little bit. It went like this.

Monday I  swam 1,420 meters at the pond which did not include the 220 meters of kicking.

Tuesday I doubled my swimming with 2,400 meters of swimming in the catfish pond and 440 meters  of kicking. I also did some dumbbell work both days.

Wednesday I stayed home and did some very light weight lifting (Is that an oxymoron?).

  Bench press
   25 X 45
   20 X 50
   20 X 55
   10 X 60
  Swim Pull
   55 X 14.3 + 3 washers.

Thursday I went to see the grand kids and to Masters. I did 

9 X 200 breathing 3, 5 by 50s
6 X 50 fast/east @ 1:30 (:43)
100 easy
total: 3,100 meters.

Friday I went to DSU at noon and swam

5 X 100 @ 2:00
100 easy
total: 2,100 meters.

Saturday I took a walk (1.38 miles) to work on the two beat kick muscles and lifted some weights as

  Bench press
   27 X 50
   25 X 60
   20 X 65
  Swim Pull
   60 X 14.4 + 4 washers

Later in the afternoon, I went over to Twin Rivers to swim test the pool. They are still not officially open. I swam

  1,600 31:22 (I have a Garmin again!)
  6 X 100 @ 2:00
  100 easy
  total: 2,300 meters.

For the week, I swam 10,100 meters. The shoulder feels about 95% well. I am going to be OK. Thank you, Jesus, Shelley Darby, and Shay Darby. Cookies in July!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Sheila Haikus

roars from up the road,
dust rises above tall trees,
Sheila comes to church.

the road is quiet,
no dust above the tall trees,
Sheila works today.

infectious laughter,
a big smile, a happy face,
Sheila's back at church.

Friday, June 23, 2017


I decided not to swim Wednesday. However, I did lift weights, if you can call it that. I performed some bench pressing and one set of the Swim Pull. My progress on the bench since Chicot looks like this.

10 X 8
12 X 10
15 X 12
20 X 15

Those were all done on different days with dumbbells. But Wednesday, I graduated to the barbell and did

25 X 45
20 X 50
20 X 55
10 X 60

Yeah, that's it. Believe it or not, I was extremely sore Thursday. Extremely. Wow. On the Swim Pull I did 55 X 14.4 plus three washers. I'm coming back.

Thursday, I had to work and needed to go to the kids, so I hit DSU. Cagri was out and I tried to introduce myself to the fill in coach. She didn't even tell me her name. Is that rude or does she think I am a serial killer? I don't get it, but a lot of women respond to me like that. All she would say was to ask me if I was there last Tuesday.

I swam

Then I overheard her, whoever she is, tell Mark we were swimming 8 X 200 with :30 rest and breathing three, five by 50s. So I swam

9 X 200 (did the extra rep with Ricky)
6 X 50 @ 1:30 fast/easy (my fast wasn't too fast but my best since the comeback started)
total: 3,100 meters.

Daylight with dark clouds painted the delta a yellowish hue as I drove east feeling encouraged at my progress and pleased with the earliness of the evening. Summer's long days are lovely, and I thought about how many times I have made this drive in the dark. I passed the Lehrton Cemetery where Dad is buried. Sometimes I stop. I have a lot over here: Dad, grandchildren, DSU's pool. Is there any wonder I like to come this way?

Thank you, Jesus, for a rapidly improving shoulder.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


I know my cousin Shay thinks I have the half mile swim at the Heart O' Dixie in the bag. However, I recently learned that nothing is ever in the bag. But, you protest, after swimming for 23.8 miles, how can a mere 800 meters be a problem? Trust me, it can.

First, a 23.8 mile swim is conducted at about 65 to 70% of maximum heart rate/Vo2max. A half mile swim, on the other hand, if done properly, is swum at about 90 - 95%. Big difference. To use running as an example, it is like training for and completing a 100 miler then going for a fast time in the 5K. The distance is not the issue, the pace is.

I have the endurance base and can literally swim all day. What I need, however, is to do a lot of work at the lactate threshold pace and faster. The problem is, I am recovering from that last big swim.

A quick check of the calendar shows that including this one, I have five weeks to train and one week to taper before Heart O' Dixie. How much of that will I be able to give to the high quality sets I need? Only time will tell. But to get the time down into the thirteen minute range, I have to do some tough sets, the kind that make me breathe hard and make my muscles burn, and right now I don't dare.

But I digress.

I opened this post to tell you about my Monday afternoon swim. The dogs and I went to the pond. First, I did 3 X 16 X 8 tricep kick back. I carry some dumbbells around in the back of my truck so I can do some assistance exercises at the pond. The tri kick back was done to pre-warm the muscle and create some lactic acid and fatigue in the before I began to swim. The reason for this was to maximize my distance. Since I am recovering from a really irritated shoulder, I am swimming slow and swimming short. The weights on the front end gives the muscles a lot more work and it does so without going through the shoulder. Almost all upper body weight lifting goes through the shoulder. The triceps kick back and the curl, however, don't and these two exercises target muscles that are very important for swimming.

I swam an easy lap, stretched some and then did an over, rest, and back. Following that format, I know my exact distance even though I don't have a Garmin (I have one ordered and on the way). That gave me .89 miles or 1432 meters. Then I put on the fins and did a kick set over and back. After all of that, I did 55 X 10 dumbbell curls.

Although it was a pretty light day, I call it training, light training but training nonetheless. 

Tuesday I swam a little more and a tad harder. I did not do any lifting before hand. But I swam two full laps (2,400 meters), and I did some pickups along the way probably hitting 80 to 85%. I slowly built to 26 strokes. Yeah, that's not much, but it's a start. And that is counting on one side, so I built to 52 strokes or about 50 meters. Then I did four crossings (112 meters each) kick with fins.

After that I did 

20 X 8 tkb, 
15 X 5 lr, 
20 X 8 tkb, 
60 X 10 curl, 
20 X 8 tkb, 
25 X 5 tkb

I am feeling more like myself everyday both overall and in the arm that fell off. Caution is still the buzzword, but slowly my mind is releasing the fear and the hold back it has on my body. Thank you, Jesus.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Darby Inked

Darby Signed
By Jay Unver

Lehrton, MS (BA) After months of speculation, Dr. Timothy Nomann ended all rumors today when he announced the signing of endurance star Shay Darby to a multi-year contract. Darby, who hails from Philadelphia, Mississippi, has been spotted in Lehrton several times over the past two months fueling scuttlebutt that he and Big ASS were negotiating a deal. Details of that deal were not made public but what was revealed is that Darby inked "for three years at a higher than average base salary."

An ecstatic Darby and wife after
signing his Big ASS contract.
Ever since Nomann brokered an agreement to merge the Association of Sports Syclists with the Association of Sports Shufflers and the Association of Sports Swimmers to form Big ASS Endurance, the charismatic President and CEO has been relentless in the pursuit of top talent. Darby will add to an already deep pool of athletes that features the likes of Zane Hodge, Randy Beets, Justin Nunnery, Annabel Lavers, and others.

When asked for a comment, Hodge just smiled and gave a thumbs up. Beets, on the other hand, gave the same scowl we have seen the last couple of times he's been asked for a comment.

Although Darby's salary was not disclosed, the usual base pay for Big ASS athletes is $16.00 per year, a T-shirt, a $10.00 gift certificate to Jimmy's Used Swim Jammers, and two cans of potted meat annually. In addition, sometimes athletes are awarded performance bonuses as when Hodge was given a refurbished pair of goggles after his recent sixteen hour world record swim. After his bonus, Hodge reportedly blurted out, "I wanted cookies!"

At the press conference, Darby's pants bulged in what looked like two cans of potted meat in his left pocket and one in his right. If indeed he received an extra can of potted meat, one has to wonder if he also received the $17.00 one anonymous source reported he will be paid.

One thing is for sure, he and his lovely wife were all smiles as they left the Big ASS Training Center and headed for the Lehrton International Airport where they reportedly left for a vacation in Hawaii. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Lesson's from Chicot VI

It's been a bit over two weeks since my epic swim, the longest of my life and the one that beat me up the most. The beating was both physical and mental as well as emotional. Like always, I do a lot of reflecting afterwards while attempting to draw meaning from my experience. I have arrived at several lessons I'd like to share with you.

1. Penny and I have some really good friends. Inevitably, after ten plus hours of swimming, I begin to feel guilty for what I am putting the crew through. They get up early, travel and lodge at their own expense, and then spend a long, long day taking care of me, helping me fulfill a personal goal while trying to raise funds for a worthy charity. Last year, I put them through it with a thirteen hour and fifty two minute swim. This year I really put them through it with a sixteen hour swim. I can't imagine being in a boat that long. They probably can't imagine swimming for that long, but I had rather have my job than theirs. Never once have I heard a member of Team Centerville utter even a hint of a complaint. Not only were they good friends going into the swim, but sharing an experience like this strengthens some already strong bonds. At least it has for me. Thank you, Team Centerville and may God bless you for you selfless giving of your time, energies, and finances. 

2. Nothing is in the bag. Every year I go through the nerves as the swim draws near. Many try to calm me and tell me how I have it. But anything that long carries some real risks with it. That truth was driven home this time around. Eighteen miles in, my left shoulder started protesting. It hurt. Bad. Not only that, but it hurt bad. The pain was severe enough that I thought I was going to have to tap out. I prayed, changed my stroke, and struggled on for another five and a half miles. But the ordeal drove home how fragile the body is and how quickly the best laid plans can come crashing down. I even asked the crew to pray for me. Thanks be to God, I made it. But the ending easily could have been much different.

3. The open water world is special. On Facebook, I have friends from across the U.S. and around the world (twenty four countries the last time I counted). Our connection? Swimming, especially open water swimming. Enter MJ Staples. We were Facebook friends having never met in person until Chicot VI. She was either wise enough or foolish enough to put it on one of the swimming sites we both are members of that she wanted "to work the other side of a swim." She was even willing to pay her own way. Cha ching! I was considering seeking Marathon Swimmers Federation documentation for this swim, so I needed an Independent Observer. I contacted MJ. She agreed. She did a great job. She is pleasant, knowledgeable, organized, and professional. Besides observing and taking meticulous notes, she support swam and even took a turn in the kayak. When I ran out of ibuprofen, MJ came to the rescue. When Lake Chicot swallowed my Garmin, not to fear because MJ had a stop watch set aside for the sole purpose of timing the swim. When it got black dark on us, MJ came to the rescue with some glow sticks. My wife said she was super organized, super prepared, and super nice. If you need someone to observe your swim or possible do something else, she just might be your girl. Thank you, MJ.

4. Don't let old lessons die. During Chicot I, I developed tough pain on the top of my hands and wrists. After that swim, I had visible knots in the tendons on there. I did a lot of thinking and concluded that I had a flexibility/strength imbalance. I corrected that problem with a year of stretching and targeted strength training. Over time, I let those assistant exercises fall by the wayside. At Chicot VI, that old nemesis came back with a vengeance. For hours, I swam in pain. Fortunately, unlike the shoulder, I knew what the pain was and that I would recover from it without permanent damage. After the swim, the top my right hand looked like it had been stepped on by a horse. My left wrist had a knot on the top and was discolored as well. The sad thing is, I had seen this before and learned how to prevent it. I simply became complacent and let the lesson slide away. Wow. Note to self: don't do that again.

5. I can do this swim without running. I haven't run since November. My shuffling career may be over. I will find out later. When that problem arose, I determined to just focus on swimming. I did wonder a little what affect it would have on my swimming. I know it made it virtually impossible for me to lose weight, or at least it did with the current state of my will power. But the swim showed me pretty much what I thought before hand. My legs got much more tired than they usually do, but if that made a difference in my performance, I couldn't tell it. Yes, this swim was slower than the others. But that was, I think, a result of the conditions. At the pace I swim Chicot, 65 -75% of Vo2max, the extra cardiovascular efficiency, and the enhanced fitness of the legs is not a big factor if it is one at all. But the next thing up for me is the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon, a mere one half mile swim. But that has me a little concerned. I need to turn in a good time and that means swimming the half mile at 95+ percent of Vo2max. At that pace, the lack of running could make a real difference. 

6. Once more, Chicot is a swim of faith. We had problems with securing a pontoon boat from the start. When I called South Shore Cottages in January, they told me they no longer rented pontoons. I was stunned, but not terrified. My mind went back to Chicot V and how God had showed me this was His swim. God had to come through. Coming through was me getting a boat from the State Park. Or so I thought. When they called in March and said their boat had fallen off the trailer and was badly damaged, we were back to square one again. I didn't panic but prayed and tried to have faith. If this swim really is God's, He will make a way. He did. After about six hours, we had a boat. During the swim when the shoulder pain hit like a miniature Samurai inside my shoulder trying to slice his way out, I prayed and the pain didn't disappear but became tolerable. Almost a week after the swim when I discovered my Spot Tracker, swim cap, cookies, and goggles were missing, I prayed and God restored everything except the cookies. Sometimes you just have to be thankful and suffer loss in gratitude that it is not worse than it is. Thank you, Jesus.

7. We really have reached surpassed the end of what we can do in a day. This swim was finished at 9:58 pm. That put me, the crew, and all two of the people waiting on us at the finish in a strain at best and some risk at worst. Next year, we will most likely scale back a little. And yes, the desire to push farther has come back a some. But I am thinking that it will probably be on another swim somewhere else. My body is still healing, and my mind is still reeling from this sixteen hour ordeal. But Lord willing, we will be back next year for another edition of Chicot.

8. I have a really good cousin, Shay Darby. But since that is the subject of another blog post, I will say no more about that now.

Monday, June 19, 2017

6/12 - 6/18

The comeback began and while progress was slow, it was real. Not only that, but it was real slow. 

Monday, I did nothing in the way of training. Tuesday, I spoke at the Exchange Club where Barry Brewer delivered the last batch of Chicot T-shirts. When I got ready to pay him, he said the shirts were a donation. Thank you, Barry. I sold one while there and the club gave me an offering of $7.50. I put the $27.50 in the mail that day along with another couple of checks that I already had. That put the fundraising at a little over $4,300 for the year, a record by a long way.

Wednesday I did nothing. Thursday, however, I felt like I should swim. I went to DSU and did an easy 10 X 100. I had small sensations in the shoulder.

Friday, I went to see Shelley Darby in Philadelphia and was administered a butt-busting anti-inflammatory shot, some oral meds, a kenesio tape job, and some gel. I did some visiting while there as I always do.

Saturday, I went to the pond. I wanted another short swim and the dogs needed an outing. I swam one lap (1,200 meters). After climbing out of the water, I did 

15 X 8 tri kick back
15 X 8 tri kb
50 X 10 db curl
15 X 8 tri kb
10 X 30 squat

So that was it: 2,200 meters and a new high in weight. I have to get that under control. This upcoming week, I expect to swim three or four times and do some really light lifting. I need some form of cardio, but I don't think I can run. That leaves only the bike.

Praise be to God for two swims. More to come.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

She Did It!

At mile 18 of Chicot Challenge VI, I swam my left arm off. Yeah, I swam an arm off. By the grace of God, I kept the faith, I finished my course, and left the lake carrying my arm. Over the next several days, between bouts of licking my wounds, I had Facebook Messenger conversations with my cousin, Shay Darby. They went something like this:

Shay: How did the swim go?

Zane: I finished, but it was tough. I swam my arm off.

Shay: That can be fixed. You need to see my wife.

Zane: Shay, my arm fell off.

Shay: She can fix that.

Zane: I don't think you understand.

Shay: I understand. My leg fell off last week. She put it back on.

Zane: Really?

Shay: Matt and I have done Ironmans. She keeps us going. I'm telling you, she can put your arm back on and help speed your recovery. 

Zane: *Ponders in silence.

Shay: She had a 4.0 in nursing school. 

Zane: *Falls asleep in bed without answering.

Shay: She knows about athletes. 

Shay: She is really good. 

Shay: I know it's a long way to drive, but it will be worth it. 

Shay: She will put your arm back on.

Shay: She will introduce you to kensiso tape.

Shay: She will give you a steroid shot.

Shay: She will prescribe you some meds.

Shay: She might give you some of this. *He sends picture of an anti-inflammatory gel.

Shay: Call this number and make an appointment BR5-000-4231

Shay: She is really pretty.

Shay: She is nice.

Shay: She will not hurt you.

Zane: *Wakes an hour later and sees the texts.

Zane: She's pretty? She won't hurt me?

Shay: Honest.

Zane: OK. I think I'll call. Tomorrow.

Shay: She just had breast augmentation.

Zane: Hang on. I'm calling right now.

So I did it. I made an appointment to see Shelley Darby, FNP for one o'clock on June 15. On the way over, I had the opportunity to pray and think, a couple of things I always like to do. It also gave me the opportunity the relive the journey run I made this way a few years back.

When I made it to Louisville, I took the old Highway 15 through town and stopped at my cousin Joe Joe's place of business to speak to him. He was not in. Then I drove past the lot where my grandmother's house used to sit before a bad tornado tore it up. After that, I made my way south towards Noxapater. On the way there, I passed Flower Ridge Methodist Church where my paternal grandmother and grandfather and my Aunt Johnny and Uncle Howard are buried. I often stop for a walk through the cemetery but I kept driving this time. I did stop in Noxapater to see my dad's sole surviving sibling, Mary Darby. No one was home so I continued my journey to Philadelphia. 

I have been by Philadelphia a lot and near Philadelphia, but I don't know when I have been inside the town. I was impressed as I drove around and looked at the pretty old homes. After finding the clinic, I went to Bumper's Drive In and bought one of the best salads I ever ate. Who knew?

At the clinic, I had to fill out paper work for about thirty minutes. They even asked me if I had ever shot a road sign, hunted on posted land, or cheered for Mississippi State in a football game. What? Is this an IQ test, a mental stability exam, or what?

I saw Shay with the two kids in the waiting room for a minute or two, and then they called me back. They put me in a room and two nurses came in and interrogated me for another ten minutes or so. "What are you here for" was one question they posed.

"I'm here to get Shelley to put my arm back on."

"To put your arm on?" one of the interrogators repeated as if to make sure she heard me correctly.

"Yes. I swam it off at mile eighteen of a twenty-three mile swim. She is going to put it back on."

She shot me a look like she had "one of those." Maybe the question about Mississippi State Football is about to bite me in the backside. But no, they had other plans for my backside.

Those two nurses got up and left the room. I half expected a security guard to come escort me from the building. What I got instead was Shelley. 
See. She did it. She taped my arm on.

Shay was right. She was pretty, nice, and pretty nice. Not only that, but I found her professional, thorough, and I detected no hurry in her examination of my arm and shoulder. And just like Shay said, she put that arm back on. She even taped it up to make sure it didn't fall off again. 

She left the room and then one of those other nurses came back in. "OK, swimmer man. I need you over there," she said pointing to an examination table while she attempted to hide something behind her back. "Grab aholt of that table and drop your drawers."

You know it's about to get real when they tell you that. And I got a glimpse of what she had in her hand. It was a syringe which was about as big around as my wrist and the needle about the size of a large drinking straw. I tried to hide my fear, but my hands trembled as I pulled at my belt.

"Anybody who can swim twenty-three miles ought to be able to take a shot in the butt," she said. I couldn't tell if that was a taunt or an encouragement.

Then she stuck that thing in my buttocks. I gasped out loud. It was most unmanly and terribly embarrassing.

"I forgot to tell you it's going to sting a little."

A little? 

After the initial bolt of pain, it felt like she was pumping gravel into my butt cheeks. She finally ran out of rocks and told me to have a seat.

You have to get better after they do that to you because you don't want them doing it again.

Shelley came back in. She wrote me a prescription, gave me the gel, and we even chatted some about family. Then it was over. I left and compared to my butt, my shoulder felt great. I am getting better, I am getting better I thought as I made my way to the truck.

I drove back to the Darby's at Noxapater. They were home, and I showed them where Shelley put my arm back on and taped it up. Then I drove to the D and D Tires. I showed then where Shelley put my arm back on and taped it up. I went home and showed my wife where Shelley put my arm back on and taped it up. Then we went out to eat with some friends. I showed them where Shelley put my arm back on and taped it up.

If you need an arm put back on, go see Shelley Darby in Philadelphia, Mississippi. The FNP behind her name stands for Fantabulous Neuro-muscular Professional. Everything Shay said about her is true. Thank you two very much. 

Loss at Chicot VI

I finally put my grief to rest
God gave me much and He knows best
For this big swim I paid a cost
The biggest price was cookies lost

At night I turned and moaned and tossed
For cookies gone for cookies lost
My broken heart my God did heal
And has restored my earthly zeal
To train, to strain, to swim, compete
And after victory my cookies eat.

Friday, June 16, 2017

First Swim

It was time, time to get back into the water. This week my shoulder has been giving me a greater mobility each day. I thought I could swim Thursday, and I pondered going to the pond. The dogs are getting really restless. They heard me packing the truck and Bear howled while PeeWee yelped like he was looking at a rabbit across the fence. But a look at the sky and a peak at the weather forecast convinced me to head to DSU instead. I had not seen the grand kids in a while so that sealed the deal. It was time for that too.

Penny sent the box of makeup Kelsey McLain gave Caitlin. Our granddaughter was in it in nothing flat, and when she found the black lipstick, she was ecstatic. I left Andrea's with a couple of hugs and a box of Honey Buns. This is why I can't lose weight.

At the pool, I had small expectations. On the first stroke, I felt the shoulder just a little, not pain but a tightness and a little discomfort. I swan 10 X 100 easy. The longer I swam the better I felt. But I decided better safe than sorry. I am supposed to see a nurse practitioner Friday. It's time for that also. 

I think, by the grace of God, I am on the way back.

Thank you Jesus.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

What Goes Around . . . .

Beets under Investigation
By Jay Unver

Lehrton, MS (BA) An investigator for Big ASS Endurance, speaking on conditions of anonymity today, relayed to me that Randy Beets is under investigation by the organization. Calls to Dr. Nomman's office went unanswered. 

"This is serious," the investigator said in hushed tones over a plate of pancakes and grits at Jack's Cafe in downtown Lehrton. "We are talking death penalty here."
Jay Unver (File photo)

"Can you give me any specifics?" I pleaded with him between mouthfuls of fried eggs and jellied toast.

"No. I expect a formal announcement any day now. After that, things should move quickly. From what I hear, this is pretty much an open and shut case."

"Is it performance enhancing drugs? Cheating? Conduct unbecoming a Big ASS athlete? Anything?"

He was quiet a second. After a sigh he said, "False . . . ."

But he caught himself. 

"I have to go."
Controversial Big ASS swimmer Randy Beets.

At that, he was up and out of the cafe in nothing flat leaving a half eaten plate of food and a simmering cup of Jack's coffee. I sat and tried to fill in the gaps, to connect the dots, but I could come up with nothing. Whatever your criticisms are of Big ASS, one thing is for sure: it is not boring. Something is always happening in "the Association" as locals call it.

Then I considered going next door to the barber shop. If anybody on the street knew, they would. But after a second I thought better of that. They might start shooting guns in the air, and we could wind up with another riot. The Hodge ordeal still has some of his ardent supporters on edge and itching for a fight. Randy Beets is about a popular as leprosy around here and it's no good to stir the pot. As soon as this reporter gets any new information, he will compose it here.

Monday, June 12, 2017

6/5 - 6/11

Monday I did nothing. I worked, but I didn't workout.

Tuesday I did the same thing as Monday.

Wednesday I did nothing but take some naps after work.

Thursday I did nothing but nap.

Friday I did 25 X 14.4 on the Swim Pull and 10 X 8 pound dumbbells on the bench press. Yeah, you read that right. That's almost nothing, but it is something.

Saturday I did 30 X 14.4 on the Swim Pull and 13 X 10 on the  bench press.

That's it. 

Are you kidding me?

Nope. That is it. 

I have been very tired. My shoulder has been very sore and stiff. It is feeling better. I was becoming frightened thinking I had ruined myself. Now I think I just have some inflamed tendons and they are slowly un-inflaming.

Twin Rivers pool is still under construction so if I swim at all, I have to go to the pond. I would like to take a short swim, i.e. 1,000 meters or so. But most of my time and energy now are spent on trying to keep Bear in the back yard.

By the grace of God, I hope to get into the water sometime this week. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Cookie-eatin' World

This world is a dark place. Out there in the absence of civility and goodness, probably lurking in some shadows somewhere is a low down, no good, sorry, no count, thieving cookie eater.

After Chicot Challenge VI, I was so washed out that it was Friday morning before I began unpacking the box of stuff I dropped on the living room floor late Saturday night after the swim. Immediately I knew something was wrong. First, there were only two pair of used goggles in the box. There should have been three and the missing one was a new pair I had worn the last 11 plus miles. Yes, I can tell by looking at them. Second, my swim cap was missing. And third, my Spot Tracker was not in the box. 


I tried hard to remember as I searched the house diligently to find the missing items. Did I take those items out and forget? I was also missing some cookies Sheila Mitchell had given me. But I had known Saturday night I had left them on the boat ramp when Sheila asked me on the ride home where the cookies were. I apologized profusely for squandering the gift. I wanted those cookies, and I wanted her to know I wanted those cookies and would have eaten them all like a hungry dog gobbling down a handful of hamburger meat.

But Friday morning my concern became a deep seated sickness in the pit of my stomach when I realized I left my goggles, cap, and Spot Tracker with the cookies. What a stash just sitting there in the open.

So I called South Shore Cottages. Nothing resembling what I described was in their Lost and Found. Then I texted Justin and asked him if he was in the area to at least go by and take a look, please. I knew it was a one-in-a-million chance, but we serve a one-in-a-million God. And the thought of those cookies was watering my mouth. They were mine They were a gift. Two hours later my phone went, "Bing." Justin texted me a picture of my goggles, my cap, and my Spot Tracker. Whoopie! Praise God! Thank you Jesus! Hallelujah! I was strutting around the house fist pumping the air, high as a kite.
The picture Justin texted me.

Then I looked at the photo again. I expanded it and searched. I was looking for cookies. "Where are the cookies?" I asked Justin.

"No cookies," was his reply.

My heart sank. Sorry and joy mingled in a strange way within my beating breast. I was grateful for the return of all that equipment. God had come through. But my cookies! My cookies!

I queried Justin like a lawyer in court. He story was that he went by and searched the landing. No cookies. Then he happened to see someone who worked there and he asked her about the cookies. She told him I had already called. Then, a guest hanging out on his porch and overhearing their conversation said, "I have that. My boy picked it up this morning." And he went inside and brought out my cap, goggles, and Spot Tracker. 

But he didn't bring out cookies.

It's a dark world when someone steals your cookies. But what else do you expect. I am grateful to you, Lord, for getting me the other stuff back. That is a pretty expensive stash of merchandise that I could ill afford to lose. And to that boy who ate my cookies. I hope you enjoyed them because cookies are too precious to waste. Better you than some mangy raccoon. And thanks for not keeping my other stuff.

Friday, June 9, 2017

New Ruling

Swim Ratified
By Jay Unver
Lehrton, MS (BA) Dr. Timothy Nomann, reading from a prepared statement, announced Wednesday morning that Zane Hodge's Chicot Challenge VI swim had been accepted as the new Big ASS World Record surpassing Hodge's own mark set only a year ago. "The recent swim met all qualifications and has been adjudicated by the Rules Committee of Big ASS Endurance. Hodge's suspension, however, resumed at midnight June 4 and will continue until the Association rules otherwise," Nomann read before exiting the room.

As when Hodge's dispensation was granted, fireworks started going off almost immediately on the square in Lehrton, and gunfire could be heard erupting from the Lehrton County Coon Hunters Clubhouse almost two miles away. Several local business closed early while the people young and old danced in the park as coon dogs bawled like barking at a treed raccoon. 

Outside of Collett Street Recreation Center in Morganton, North Carolina, Randal Beets only sneered and said, "Eat a swim jammer," when asked his opinion on the new record. 

Hodge could not be reached for comment but was reportedly hidden away studying for his Sunday morning sermon to be delivered at Centerville Baptist Church.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I Found It (Chicot Challenge VI)

For several years now I have been looking to see how far I could push myself. In 2010, I rode my bicycle 174 miles in one day. I didn't find it. A couple of years ago, I did a stage run that lasted for five days. I didn't find it. At my annual Chicot Challenge, I've been upping the ante each year swimming farther and farther. Chicot I was 13.94 miles, Chicot II was 16.0, III 17.7, IV 19, and V was a colossal 22.38. I didn't find it find it in any of those. This year I swam 23.8 miles (officially 23.5), and finally, I found it. Really, I did.

I know what you're thinking. You surmise that when the pain and strain of this latest physical ordeal wears off, my brain will "re-crazy" as Katie Horton Jones aptly puts it, and I will start dreaming of a longer swim. Not this time.
Part of the crew and MJ taking notes 
just before the start.

The plan was to be swimming at 5:45. We didn't make it but we did get started at 5:58, the earliest ever. Team Centerville (Gerald and Debbbie Johnson, Kelsey McCain, and Sheila Mitchell) was there along with Justin Nunnery and for the very first time Gerald's brother Gerry who would join us a few hours into our quest. We prayed. MJ Staples, the swim's Independent Observer, took notes and started the timer. The water was 77 degrees and fog covered the face of Lake Chicot as I swam out of Ditch Bayou and headed north. 

Due to the fog and the low light, I couldn't see the opposite side of the lake. The goal was to aim at the farthest point we could see north on the other side. All I could see, however, was fog. Gerald asked me if we wanted to head for that point over there. I told him I couldn't see land but that sounded about right. He led; I followed.

Slowly, the light grew brighter, the fog burned off, and the clouds began to part. The day, which had started with so much suspicion, became beautify and sunny with light winds. Perfect. We made our way up the lake one stroke at a time. For my sanity, I break the swim up into stages, sections. The first section is to make it to the open area, a place where there are not trees along Highway 82. The next stage is downtown Lake Village, then to the Causeway, followed by the State Park and then everything in reverse. 

Still foggy about three miles in.

Gerald stayed on task for about the first six miles, which took us a little past Lake Village. MJ Staples, the Independent Observer, replaced him for a short stint as paddler because the boat had to go to town and pick up Gerry who arrived somewhere around 9:30 a.m. and she needed to be with me to observe the swim. She was either in the kayak, on the pontoon, or even in the water with me the whole day. God bless her.

It gives me joy to look at pics after the swim
and see a happy crew. Thanks, Sheila.

After the boat got back, Sheila Mitchell replaced MJ for her first tour of duty as a full-fledged crew member. I remember telling her to guide me straight to the bridge. Her response was, "What bridge?" I'm not sure I answered. She'll figure it out, I thought. And she did. After thirty minutes or so she said, "I see the bridge." 
"Just give me the ice cream and no one gets hurt."

I used to be terribly afraid of swimming under bridges. Maybe I still am, but I have swum this one so many times that it doesn't bother me anymore. I am, however, a little leery of this area because it seems to me like a dangerous place. The Causeway Bridge has a little strip of lake running under it that is at most fifty feet wide. A bunch of boats go through there, and I asked Sheila to stay near and ask the pontoon to pull in close behind us. Justin dutifully closed the gap and gave me a real sense of safety as we finished the third leg of the journey and began the fourth. 

North of the Causeway, we faced a head chop from the start and it kept us company all the way to the State Park, about four miles. Gerry took over kayak duties from Sheila and did a pretty good job especially when you consider that he had never even been on Lake Chicot or in a kayak before. When he got on I told him to head for that point of land. "You make the line, and I follow you." 

As we drew very near the boat ramp at the State Park, the pontoon went ahead and docked just past it. MJ, from the boat ramp, told me to "swim past the boat by one foot." I did and pulled my head out of the water. She responded, "We can start back now." 


Out and back courses are brutal. You swim and swim and swim and then you get to do it all over again. Although I was still feeling pretty good, it seemed like it took forever to get there. I think it was somewhere around 1:00 or 1:30. MJ no doubt will have this in her notes.

Amazingly, the wind held and we got a little push back to the Causeway. It did seem to go faster and when we crossed under the bridge to the other side, I knew we were in for the long journey to Lake Village because the tail wind we had disappeared and became a cross wind that produced an annoying chop. We got to keep that chop all the way to town and it only got worse as we went. Downtown Lake Village has a couple of piers that frame a designated swimming area and past that is a boat ramp. When we got to the swimming area, some kid swam with me for 50 meters or so.
Company at Lake Village
 That was a first.

Not long afterwards, Justin was in the kayak and told me, "We need to cross the lake to get out of this wind. We headed for the far shore and almost immediately I was stricken with some pretty tough shoulder pain in the left one. I rolled over onto my back and did a few strokes that way. It didn't like that either. Returning to my stomach I was thinking, "I may have to tap." It was serious, and I have never come as close to not finishing a swim as I did that day. I changed my stroke to keep my recovery lower and that helped some but I could feel the shoulder with every pull of the water reminding me that I was swimming on grace. Slowly we inched across the half mile of waves to get over where we should have been all along, and although the stroke change helped, my mind was already infected with fear and doubt.

Gerald always keeps the kayak exactly where I want it.

At one of my feeds while we crossed over, I told the crew I needed prayer. They must have touched God for me because I was able to keep going. Then when we made it to the other side of the lake, the wind shifted.  Yeah, it did. A thunderstorm had built up ahead of us and as it drew near the wind grew with the storm's approach. There was no place to hide, no where it get out of the waves. Looking back, I should have asked them to pray again because according to what Justin told me after the swim, the winds grew to 19 miles per hour. I had to struggle not to go backwards. Once more I thought this might be it, the swim might be called due to lightning. I later learned there was one flash but the crew decided to continue. Somehow we endured the storm, and on the other side there was still a head chop but one much more manageable.

After the storm in the fading daylight about 
three miles from the finish.

By then we had made it back to the place where there are no trees on Highway 82. I knew that meant we were approximately three to four miles from finishing. After my fright with the shoulder and the storm, I began again to believe that I might finish after all. But the trek past the open shore was agonizingly long and slow. It seemed we would never make the trees and the daylight began to fade. I had feared swimming after dark, but when night came I think I was too tired to be scared. Or maybe it helped that I was already in the water when it grew dark. But at this point, I just wanted the swim to be over. Oddly, I found swimming in the dark kind of neat. When I breathed to my right, I could catch a glimpse of the moon above. This was a new experience for me, but one I didn't take the opportunity to relish because I was beginning to feel guilty for what I was putting the crew through. I knew they had to be exhausted and want this thing over with as bad as I did.

Night hit us with almost total blackness, at least from my perspective. Eventually, besides the moon, I could see only the kayak and lights on shore. When we came to Lighthouse Inn, I thought we are there, a mile at the most, and the next big set of lights was the finish. But Gerald told me Ditch Bayou was the lights beyond that. I thought he had to be wrong. I hoped he was wrong. I believed he was wrong. 

But he wasn't wrong. I realized he was right when we came to Lighthouse Inn which I had earlier misidentified. "Lord no," I said out loud when I realized I still had one more mile to swim.

But there was nothing to do but put my head down and keep moving. We crept towards the lights up ahead. Finally, we got close enough for me to ask Gerald where the landing was. "Over there where the little light is down low," I think he said or something like that. Another minute and I was close enough to see the boat beside the landing. I swam till my hands touched the indoor/outdoor carpet the crew had laid out on the ramp to help me get some traction. I crawled out. Literally.
The finish. Sorry about the belly.
Wait till next year.

The only people on hand were the crew and Tank and Linda Tankersley, friends of ours from Hollandale. I was honored, flattered, and touched that they made the trip and waited that long. I jokingly told the crew, "Next year thirty miles." The laughter was subdued. Then I said seriously, "This is too much. Too much."
And that's the way I feel about it. Sixteen straight hours of swimming had me satisfied. I found what I've been looking for all these years. Thank you crew. Thank you MJ. Thank you God.

More pictures:

Gerald relaxing while MJ takes notes.

Kelsey went for and achieved a new record for most hours sunbathing.

Gerald as pilot late in the swim.

MJ swimming with me somewhere along the way. She did that several times.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mostly Gooder Haikus

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

cold wind howls outside,
soft cats nap on tired man's legs,
nature on TV.

cold wind blasts window,
snoring cats snuggle up close,
hot coffee in bed.

Monday, June 5, 2017

5/29 - 6/4

I set a new record for most swimming in one week. Monday I went to the pond and swam four laps for 5,148 meters. Tuesday I cut it to three laps as I attempted to start the radical taper. The three laps gave me 3,781 meters. Wednesday I cut it to how many laps? Yep, two laps for 2,493 meters. 

Thursday I swam what? No, I had intended to swim one, but I was so tired and knowing what was coming on Saturday, I took and day off and napped after I got home from work. 

Friday, I finished my packing and Penny and I along with Sheila Mitchell loaded the truck and headed for Lake Village, Arkansas. The crew met at Foxx's Pizza for supper and at Ditch Bayou Saturday morning. We did the Challenge and I swam 23.8 miles. Officially the swim is 23.5, but in my journal I put down the amount I actually swam. That gave me an additional 38,294 meters for a total of 49,716 for the week, a new personal record.

I will write up the Challenge swim in a few days. For right now, thank you Jesus for keeping us safe and helping me finish. A couple of times out there I thought I was going to have to tap out. And thank you Jesus for good friends. Praise be to God.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Chicot on for June 3

Thursday was a full day. I taught Comp II in the morning, then spoke at the Greenwood Lion's Club at noon. The presentation went well, the audience was receptive, and I enjoyed the meal and company. I spoke on the swim, of course, and I attempted to plant some seeds about diabetes and some other people who could address that topic with them. Then when Penny got off work, we headed over to Greenville/Lake Village to check on the pontoon boat.

In, around, and during all this were the near constant prayers for the weather and the fetish checking of the latest weather forecasts. That forecast for swim day was bouncing up and down like a basketball. Seriously, I have never seen such. It would be 40% and then an hour later 80% chance of thunderstorms for Saturday. Then back to 40% then 60% then 40% and back to 80.

I had to make a decision because one crew member is driving in from Atlanta and others were taking Friday off work. Finally, after prayer and consultation with my wife and others I decided it was a go. Pray for us. I hope to be swimming by 6:00 a.m. or earlier. But I have hoped that before. This effort has a lot of moving parts and all of these parts are voluntary. I don't like to boss people around, especially friends who are doing me a great kindness. In fact, I refuse to do anything like that. To all of you who are serving on the crew, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Not only that, but thank you from the top of my heart. Furthermore, thank you from the middle of my heart. I really appreciate it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Nomann Rules

Hodge Swim Official
by Jay Unver

(Lehrton, MS) In a stunning move Wednesday morning, Big ASS president and CEO, Dr. Timothy Nomann ruled on the Hodge case pending before the Association's Disciplinary Board. Citing the special circumstances of the swim and the cause which it supports, Nomann granted a one day dispensation temporarily lifting the star athlete's suspension. The dispensation will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 3rd and last until 12:01 a.m. on June 4th. 

"Hodge's swim, the Chicot Challenge, will carry the full sanction of Big ASS Endurance and will be eligible for world record status if successful. The suspension will resume on June 4th and remain in effect until such a time as this Disciplinary Board deems appropriate to remove it."

Nomann left the conference room after this statement and took no questions from reporters who shouted them at him as he left the diaz. Within an hour, firecrackers started going off in downtown Lehrton. Cannon and gunfire could be heard at the Lehrton County Coon Hunters club house on Billy Bob Road. Despite his troubles, Hodge remains a popular figure in and around Lehrton. With most of the Barber Shop crew out on bail, celebrations were expected to possibly become excessive. As of press time, however, there had been no reports or rioting or other expressions of violence.