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.