Sunday, November 07, 2010

Fun In The Fall

   It's a Gopher Tortoise!  Not really a rare creature, but very local.  It's found only along the Gulf Coastal Plain from Florida to Texas.  I had never seen one, so I stopped when I caught a glimpse of this one on the roadside while returning from our recent canoe trip.

   We had fabulous weather for the Columbus Day Weekend - highs in the low 80s and lows in the 60s with clear skies all the way.  We normally get rained on at least once, but not this time.  Red Creek was very low and we did a lot of dragging and lifting over obstacles, but it was great fun anyway.
   After hearing a lion and monkeys while cooking our Saturday evening meal, we were relieved when Jamie and Bethany told us about an exotic game ranch that had been established less than a mile from the creek.

 Jamie and I returned to Wolf River two weeks later to reclaim our title in the Paddle, Pant, Pedal Triathlon.  We won first place team overall again in a fun race.  Ruthie and I spent a wonderful weekend in Wiggins, Ms. as guests at Bethany and Jamie's country home.

   The weather has been ideal for training for my second marathon.  I've had good energy and injury-free legs so far.  I'm hoping for nice weather for the race.  Kay Vee and I have a guest coming from Denver.  Our blogger and Facebook friend, Tea has committed to running the 4th Blues Marathon.  I sure am looking forward to a memorable event.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back to the Delta

Billy, Kate & Paul

    Another trip to the Delta State University Triathlon was made recently by the intrepid Flounders, and as evidenced above, all were honored with trophies of athletic achievement.  We could have walked to the finish line together and still earned our awards, but that's not as interesting the memory of a great weekend trip with Ruthie and best friends, a great evening meal with fine steaks, wine and stories, a fun triathlon benefiting the DSU Swim and Dive Team, and a picnic in the gazebo on Sharp Street in Downtown Cleveland, Mississippi.
    I love these guys so much.  They have made my journey in the fitness lifestyle more fun than I could have imagined.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Ozark Mountain Labor Day Weekend

    Crawfish season has come and gone for 2010, but keep this outlet in mind if you're around Bentonia, Mississippi next spring.  It's just a few feet from this sign on Highway 16.   
    We passed the sign on our way to a cabin in the Ozarks, an eight hour drive away.  Ruthie wanted to get out of town for the long weekend, and on very short notice she was able to find a single cabin on an isolated farm near Ozark, Arkansas.  The property consists of the owner's home, a barn and stables for their 12 horses, a nice cabin on the back of the 80 acres of property, adjacent to Ozark National Forest.

Leaving Mississippi and entering Arkansas over the river at Greenville, we crossed on the new bridge.  (I know it's not a breathtaking photo, but it's documentation that we were there.)  I really enjoy road trips, especially when there's no hurry.  We left the house at about 8 in the morning, and got to the cabin at around 5.

 Though it wasn't a log cabin with a stone fireplace, it was very comfortable.  There were 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, one with a hot tub and the other with a large shower.  The kitchen was small, but if you didn't plan to do a lot of complicated cooking, it was fine.  There were thoughtful items like a toaster, books and magazines, binoculars, maps, and a cool journal that had entries by other visitors over several years.  The cabin had window unit air conditioners, which we didn't need since the weather was perfect during our stay.  We spent lots of time reading and watching hummingbirds on the deck, and just enjoying the quiet and the tranquil scenery. 

                                                           We did some hiking in the forest and down the mountain a short distance on somewhat rough trails.  We walked all over the beautiful meadows and sat in a swing.  We built a fire outside in a big fire pit and looked at the gazillion stars in the Milky Way.  We drank wine and took naps. And we got chiggers.  Lots of them.  Invisible little bugs that leave you itching worse than a mosquito.  Ruthie called this photo of the meadow "Chigger Country".

The itching stops after a few weeks, and hopefully we'll just remember the great fun we had.  Or when we go back it will be winter, or we'll take the appropriate bug defensive chemicals and clothing.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Late Summer 2010

The hottest in my memory, this 2010 summer, will hopefully soon become one of the most beautiful, cool autumns ever.  I've been busy every weekend lately, and I'll try to wrap up a summary of those events here in one post.

Another Lake St. John Swim

    On Saturday, August 14, Kay Vee and I drove to Kate's lake house, AKA "the Asylum", to do another open water practice swim.  Susan drove over with her kayak, and Kate and her mother were already there for a weekend stay.
    Kay Vee swam across and back, about 1.5 miles, with Susan as kayak escort.  Kate paddled her canoe across while I swam, and I paddled back while Kate swam.  We were through with our workout in less than an hour.

    Kay Vee and I brought our bikes and did one loop around the lake.  It was about 11 in the morning and the temperature on my bike computer read 100.2 degrees.  We had intended to ride around twice, but the heat changed our plan.

25th Cotton States Triathlon

 Saturday, August 21st was the date of the 25th Annual Cotton States Triathlon at Lake Providence, Louisiana.  As in years past, I awoke around 2:30 AM, picked up Kate at 4:00, and drove the 100 miles to the parking lot of the Lakeside Inn.  We arrived in plenty of time to get set up comfortably, got registered and body marked, and visited with several friends.  Kate and I repeated our new tradition of swimming to near the middle of the lake for a warmup just in time to see the sun rise over the cypress trees.  I reminded her of the remark I made last year, "We must be crazy to get up in the middle of the night, drive 100 miles and swim 200 yards out into a lake at sunrise, and call it fun!"
    There was a larger turnout for the race than in recent years, and I was anxious to set a personal record, knowing I had been training for the Rev3 Half Ironman for a few months.  The swim went very well in spite of lots of bumping and jostling for position on the outbound leg.  I was feeling good and maintaining a good 21 mph on the bike, when after about 12 miles I heard a loud "PING" and knew a spoke had broken.  On a custom racing wheel with relatively few spokes, the loss of one is often enough to cause the wheel to "untrue" or go out of its round shape, and shortly thereafter binding itself into the frame.  There is no field fix, so I sadly faced the fact that I would post a "DNF" - did not finish. 
    I began walking toward some trees about a mile ahead, carrying the rear of my bike since it would not roll.  Soon I began to be passed by other riders, who nearly always offer to help, even though there is nothing to be done but wait for a support vehicle.  I waved as John Fike and Judge Bill came by nearly at the same time, and was surprised to see Kate only a hundred yards behind them.  She had made up the 4 minute head start they had enjoyed from being in the swim wave ahead of her. 
    A support vehicle showed up soon and I was rescued by some of the lovely Lake Providence Junior Auxiliary ladies. 
I made it back to the transition area in time to put up my bike and join Kate on the 5K run.  I urged her along and she wound up winning her age group. 

Gator Bait at Eagle Lake - The Flounder Legend Continues

   August 28th found Kate, Paul and I at Eagle Lake near Vicksburg for an open water swim meet. The race was hosted by the Vicksburg Swim Association who did a super job of organizing and putting on a great event.  There were USMS officials and lots of boat support.  We competed in the 1 mile event.  A half mile and quarter mile event were also part of the meet.

    Paul and Kate won their age groups, and I finished 3rd.  We had a great time and have added this event to our "must do again" list.  We had our friend in our hearts on this day. Very sadly, Kay Vee had planned to join us but did not attend due to the sudden and tragic passing of her husband the week before.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Suddenly Things Are Much Different

I couldn't post another entry without a salute to Kay Vee's husband, Richard Vesey.  Rich died last Saturday, and the news was shocking and profoundly sad.  The Mississippi running and triathlon community was on its knees in disbelief and sent its love to Kay Vee and her family.  Richard was a fixture at races, whether working with the organizers, volunteering, or just supporting his wife and all his friends. 

Kay Vee is one of my dearest, closest friends, my marathon and tri coach, and the coolest person I've ever met.  When I went to bed that night after hearing the news, my grief was uncontrollable for a time.  My heart hurt so badly for her as I recalled my own experience after losing my wife, Robbie several years ago.  Kay Vee's journey from here will not be like mine. I can only watch and be close by with encouragement.  She will know what I know and that may be comforting to her as she starts a new life.

I would be proud to leave this life with the love and respect felt toward Richard Vesey. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Change of Plans

I described in my last post the episode with dehydration at the Heart O' Dixie Triathlon.  I've also had a few more dehydration problems this year, and have been curious about the blood pressure issues.  I've been on BP meds for 6 years.  Not anything really powerful, but what the doctor described as similar to Mydol or Pamprin, a diuretic.  So lately, after my very low blood pressures associated with dehydration, especially after HOD, I thought I might be able to stop my BP meds altogether...

...Wrong again, Gatorade breath!  My BP the day after HOD was way high. High enough to make me worry, not to mention Wifeunit's concern.  Over a few days I made two unplanned trips to the medical clinic, and got in to see a cardiologist for a sonogram, stress test and blood work.  During those days, I naturally expected the worst: clogged arteries, open heart surgery, weeks of rest, no strenuous activity for months.

Think about it.  I have a lifestyle born 9 years ago after being diagnosed with mild hypertension.  I started with joining the YMCA and doing some elliptical machine work for 30 minutes a few times a week.  That evolved into spin classes, Masters Swimming and running 5Ks.  Then MC pushing me into a beginner tri on a borrowed mountain bike. Swim meets with Kate and Paul.  Now dozens of triathlons later, several half marathons and my first full marathon with Kay Vee, plus a nearly 4 mile swim across the "big water" just a month ago. 

I thought it might be better to die on the road or in the pool.  I still think so, but I'm not going to beg for sudden death. 

Test results indicated I had a heart like an athlete with no problems.  BP meds were changed and I'm monitoring regularly.  Overheating episodes apparently have a lasting effect sometimes.

Two doctors suggested I cut back my training until the record heat subsided.  Wifeunit voted with the MDs.

So, the half Ironman at Cedar Point next month will not happen for me.  Kay Vee suggested a compromise of doing my long run training on the treadmill, but I just think the safest way is to give myself a chance to keep my lifestyle is to keep living, but in moderation, not in 100+ degree heat.

I'll continue to do events lasting less than 3 hours.  There's the Cotton States Triathlon and a mile swim event at Eagle Lake called "Gator Bait" later this month.  The Delta State University Tri is late in September, and the Paddle, Pant, Pedal Tri is in October.  Mix in a few 5Ks and I'm feeling pretty satisfied.  My training for the Blues Marathon in January will start ramping up as the temps go down. 

There may be a nice Half Iron in San Juan with my name on it in March 2011.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Heart O' Dixie Race Report

For 31 years this race has been held in east central Mississippi.  That means it was first held in 1979 under much different conditions.  I wasn't there, but I listened intently as it was described by my friend Ted who was there and has done the race 20 something times.  No chip timing; bikes lying around on the ground by the lake made a transition area, steel 10-speed Peugeots and Schwinns, drafting allowed; tennis shoes for running.  

The race is point-to-point, and the points are of historical importance.  It begins at Lake Tiak O'Khata near Philadelphia, Mississippi, the locale of the infamous slaying of the civil rights workers in the '60s.  It ends at the Neshoba County Fair about 30 miles south, one of the oldest remaining camp house fairs in America.  Unique and traditional.

This was my first time to run HOD.  Most Jackson area folks stay Friday night at a motel nearby or the Lake hotel, where rooms are reserved for years and handed down like passes to the Masters Golf Tournament.  Ruthie and I chose the other option and awoke at 2:30 AM Saturday morning, hit the highway at 3:30 and arrived in the parking lot just after the first volunteers were gathering in the darkness; mostly teenagers in matching race T shirts.

Kay Vee setting up in a dark T1
I felt good for the race, ready to swim my best, back off a notch on the bike and save something for the 7-mile run in the hills.  The weather was kind to us, bringing overcast skies and a little light rain for the bike leg.  It was still very hot and humid, but the sun never made its way out of the clouds enough to cook the strength out of us.  
The staggered swim start allowed me room to post a good time, 2nd of 13 in my 55-59 age group.  The bike leg was somewhat aggravating because of the heavy traffic along the state highway, mostly made up of vehicles following the bikes to Neshoba County and T2. I rode as planned, 3 tenths MPH slower than my Heatwave pace, stumbled through T2 and out on the run course.  I felt good.  I think I smiled, enjoying legs that weren't screaming for rest.  (Thanks, Coach Kay Vee)

I ran a pace exactly as planned, slow by most standards but within my limits.  I also learned how to pee in my shorts while running. (Thanks again)  No big deal since you're dripping wet with sweat and you can strategically dump a few cups of water over your head to flush.

The race ends at the fairgrounds harness race track.  Runners enter the track and make a full half mile circuit before crossing the finish line.  That was pretty cool, but I was quite ready for the end after 3 hours of heat.  As I walked into the crowd of finishers and found Ruthie and some Gatorade, I was checking my condition for the dreaded dehydration symptoms, a sudden profound dizziness when my legs stop moving. The dizziness began so I kept walking around, drinking cup after cup of fluids.  There was a tent set up for massages and first aid, manned by doctors and staff from the local hospital.  Ruthie alerted one of the doctors that I was having problems, and he stopped me and asked if I would like him to check my vital signs just to be safe.  I agreed, sat on a table and had my blood pressure checked - 90/58.  No surprise to me since I had stopped moving the legs and the water and Gatorade weren't yet completely absorbed.  
He wanted to start a fluid IV and I consented, and then things went almost black. 

 I laid back and gathered myself, they started another IV, and after lying and sitting for 40 minutes or so, I was back on my feet, able to enjoy fellowship of friends. 

Kay Vee, Becky, Me
As I mentioned earlier, Wifeunit Ruthie made the trip to this race.  I had told her I needed a support crew to go back and pick up my gear at T1 and my bike at T2.  I was very impressed with her success at locating everything and getting my bike loaded.  Thanks Rufie!  You are an official "Sherpa" now.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Big Swim

I visited this pier at the Fannin Landing boat launch several times over the last few weeks. Looking west, it's roughly 3.6 miles across. Some mornings the water is smooth as glass all the way to Madison Landing, and some days it's rough with wind and waves. I kept this photo as my desktop at work, a constant reminder of the coming challenge.

Months ago, Kate, Paul and I stopped while riding our bikes and discussed the possibility of doing a big open water swim here, maybe swim out a half mile and swim back. We have talked about a big reservoir swim since we started our annual Lake St. John swims 4 years ago. Our Flounder swimming partner, Mack talked about swimming across some day. Then in April, Kate forwarded an email message to me about a 5K swim in Pensacola, and suggested that maybe we weren't brave enough to accept that kind of challenge. I knew then she had thrown down the gauntlet. As I stewed about it for weeks, Kate phoned the Reservoir officials and learned we needed only to submit a plan describing our intentions, and if there was no fund raising or official advertising as an event, we could proceed.

I wrote a plan. Kate approved. I sent the plan to the Rez officials and sent a copy to several others who might be interested in swimming or kayaking. Our plan was simple: a small number of swimmers, each escorted by a canoe or kayak, would swim across at 6:30 AM on July 11, accompanied by a ski boat.

None of us had ever done the distance before. We swim lots of yards in the pool each week, and we do our Lake St. John distance of less than 2 miles.

The plan was evolving, with a few people curious and some willing to paddle with us. The most dangerous thing that could happen, (besides getting tired and drowning) was the possibility of a 60 mile per hour bass fishing boat streaking through our long line of swimmers without seeing anything until someone was killed. For this reason it was my feeling that more boats escorting us would mean more visibility and protection from being run over. Safety in numbers. Stay in a tight group and don't spread out.

Our Mississippi Heat Triathlon Team President, Amanda, offered to put the word out via our club website and newsgroup. I declined the help but promised to keep her posted. There are 200 club members, and we couldn't risk a large turnout for the limited boat support that was committed.

The fateful morning arrived and brought with it 8 to 10 mph wind from the southwest and 1 to 2 foot waves. 10 swimmers, 9 kayakers and 2 canoe crews were waiting and nervously preparing themselves. John brought his ski boat on a trailer, and Dan and Mark T came across from Twin Harbors in a ski boat. Roy from the Jackson Yacht Club brought a boat and big buoys they use for their regattas, making it easier to see a route across. I was very pleased with our support turnout. We had a spotter for every swimmer and three fast support boats. Should we still try swimming into the wind and waves?

I asked some of the kayakers and canoes to put in and see if it was too rough for them. I got a big "thumbs up". Someone said "Let's go!"

We went. KV and I were last in the water. She was originally only there to watch and get in a little open water practice. I promised to stay with her, and we swam about 45 minutes before asking her canoe escort, Harry and ML to call over a boat. She sent me off with a yell, "Go Billy!" I'll never forget the sound of her voice in the middle of miles of water.

I learned that our boat support fended off a couple of boats passing through, or just making sure they were slow and watchful. I can't say enough about our boat support and how much more secure a swimmer feels, miles from shore, with boats all around, imagining they are all watching out for you.

Pictured above are me and Susan, my kayak escort for two open water swims in a row. After years of working together and sharing a great friendship, I feel very safe with her paddling next to me, and that orange birthday kayak is easy to see.

KV was accompanied by Harry and ML, veteran crew of dozens of gnarly river trips. I suspect this was their first big lake crossing. ML and Harry are family, and swimming athletes from way back in the early Courthouse and Sunkist age. They came up for the swim from the Gulf Coast. Susan brought kayaker family, Patsy, Will and his friend from Cutoff, Louisiana just to help out. Canoe advantage: bigger cargo capacity. Kayak advantage: fast and nimble, and easier to handle in the wind without two paddlers.

Ruthie and Minor escorted Kate, who is, to my knowledge, the only woman to have accomplished a swim across the Rez. Now, there may have been a few over the years, but I'm not so sure about it. Kate as a swimmer is nothing short of amazing in terms of guts and tenacity.  She's also pretty damn fast.

After a little less than two hours, Tripp is escorted into the boat launch by Will.  The wind had died and the water was smooth and pleasant for the finish on the west side of the lake.
Here's all the finishers coming out of the water, tired but happy!

Tripp Davis

Michael Lindsey

                                                         Mack McLeod

Toby Burchfield

Scott Joyner

Kate Eidt
Paul Colman

Keith Davis

                                              and finally me.

My legs had cramped so much I could hardly stand, (and it was slippery), but Mack was there to lend an older Flounder a hand. 


 Paul and Kate proudly display their Flounder tattoos.

As the days have passed since the swim, I still think of what we did as an awesome accomplishment, made even more so by all the fear and anxiety I experienced during the days before the swim.  I worried about all possible things that could happen, not especially to me, but to those who might have trusted that we really knew what we were doing, when at least I knew we were taking a big chance.  I was never confident I could swim the distance, but I reached a point out there, just as one does running a marathon or in any other great endeavor, that I could not allow myself to quit.  If my body failed, if the arms would not take another stroke, then I would surrender.  But my 5 years with my wonderful swimming friends, the Flowood Flounders, gave me the strength to make it.

I am still so thankful to all those who supported us: Wifeunit Ruthie, ML, Harry, Susan, Will, Patsy, Richard, Roy, Kay Vee, Dan, Mark T, Minor, John, Bill and several others I never really got to meet.

I'll keep going back to that boat launch to look across and wonder how we ever did it.  My eyes will blink with pride as they do now.

(photos by Ruthie Mitchell and Shelley McLeod)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Renaissance Half Marathon Race Report

I'm amazed that I agreed to do this race. Back-to-back weekends with 2.5+ hours of testing my endurance in high heat and humidity would have seemed unlikely for me last year. Now it's not such a big deal, (now that it's over).
Everyone participating was fairly warned about the dangerous heat situation. We were all urged to prepare ourselves and keep hydrated during the race. I thought I did a good job of that, but even Coach Kay Vee conceded it was almost impossible.
Packet pickup for the race was Friday, an expo-type scenario at the Renaissance shopping mall, an upscale commercial development still under construction in some aspects. I arrived at the expo around 2pm and found Kay Vee's hubby Richard hard at work, passing out T-shirts and overseeing the volunteers who were putting together and distributing race packets. I hadn't intended to volunteer, but Richard hinted that they were short-handed, so I offered to help out for a while. A while turned into about 4 hours, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The other volunteers were fun, and seeing faces and names of the hundreds of participants was very interesting.
Back to the race...
KV advised a 10 minute run, 1 minute walk pace for me, and the run was to be slow. For me, this was a training and survival race, not a competition. I admit I was a little worried about the heat.
The race began at 6am. It was already feeling hot as the mass of people shuffled through the starting chute and over the timing mats. I ran as slow as possible, but just fast enough to avoid getting passed by people actually walking. There were many walking since this race was a Marathon Makeover deal. (Marathon Makeover is an organization that will let you pay them to drive you off the couch and into a long term training plan ending with a marathon. Lots of folks change their lives dramatically this way. Others, as I noticed during the race, do it once and revert to their former selves, but still come out to cheer on their friends.)
Most of the race was uneventful - no chafing issues thanks to Skin Sake, plenty of water in my hand thanks to Kay Vee's orders and water stops about every mile. The volunteers were great, even offering to fill my bottle for me.
Between mile 8 and 10 there were some bothersome hills to climb, and I ran the first ones but had to walk most of the others. I found myself passing more and more runners as the end neared. I was certainly not fast, but apparently more able to extend my runs and shorten my walking. My 10/1 pace degraded to about 2 minute/20 second series of bursts until I was on the home stretch frontage road. I finished strong and feeling pretty good about myself.
Kay Vee and her friend were waiting to see me finish and all seemed well. I drank a bottle of water and stopped to talk, then set off to the car to freshen up. As I walked, I could tell things were not right; my vision was darkening around the edges, and my left calf and foot were trying to cramp. I recognized the problem and kept my legs moving to sustain my blood pressure. I threw some stuff in the car and abruptly walked around a truck and into a trailer hitch. I thought I was certainly going to pass out then, but the pain must have kept me conscious. Fortunately, the damage was minimal to my knee, and I kept moving.
I made it back to the crowd and found people who would be able to identify my body if necessary. I was told my lips were blue at one point, but I gradually recovered. I hung out for the awards with Melanie, Holly, Bo and some others, and my good spirits returned.
And so passed another memorable event, and hopefully valuable conditioning for upcoming weeks.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Heatwave 2010 Race Report

There were rain showers as I awoke just before daylight, making me anxious to check the radar on my computer and get an idea what to expect for race day. No storms were close by, but they would arrive at some point.
I was not as antsy about getting to the race site early as I usually am. This was a mistake, because I always get a nice parking spot close to the transition area. This time I had to park in a restaurant lot, not so far away, but I was not comfortable with it. I felt a little rushed getting marked and chipped and set up in transition. I did a sanity check on my gear and found I had forgotten my cycling shoes, but I had just left them in the car.
I enjoyed pre-race visiting for a while with old friends and local racers, and got in the water for a warm-up swim. The wind had whipped up the water to some respectable chop, but I considered that an advantage.(see previous post)
The mass swim start was much more crowded than any I had experienced, but I fought my way through feet and elbows into some clear water. It was a bit difficult to see the buoys, and I focused on the wrong one for a while. A kayaker guarding the course perimeter paddled over and warned me to swim back to the left. That faulty navigation probably cost me a minute or so.
As I made the final turn toward shore, the water seemed smoother and I turned on the speed as best I could. It was great hearing "go Billy!" from a few voices in the crowd as I left the water and ran to transition. (Swim time 17:52, #5 of 15 in age group)
I had no problems in T1, and headed out in heavy bike traffic. After a few miles I thought the riders would spread out and there wouldn't be so much passing and getting passed, and yo-yoing with other riders, but the race was pretty much that way until the last few miles. I was feeling good and strong, and gave it 100% the whole time. My new bike was great, and I knew I would post a better bike leg time than I ever had.
I risked the one-pedal dismount, where you coast to the dismount line standing on the left pedal, a quicker way than coming to a stop and then dismounting, but a potentially dangerous one if your foot slips. I executed flawlessly and even heard a compliment from the crowd. (Bike time 1:14:33, avg speed 20.0)
T2 was smooth, my fastest yet, 54 seconds, and I trotted out on the well-known jello legs. Kay Vee's orders were to swim hard, ride like a time trial, and ease into the run, but hammer the downhill return leg. The first 2 miles were OK, but the hills were making my thighs really ache since I had pushed hard on the bike. The heat was manageable. I carried a water bottle and filled it twice at the stops, and used it to douse myself when I felt hot. By the fifth mile I was having to stop and walk for 15-20 seconds because of the pain in my thighs. I did notice, due to a good swim and bike, that my friend Steve did not pass me until after the turn, and Kay Vee did not catch me until a half mile from the finish. Becky never did catch me! All this was very encouraging. But it was a poor run, still my biggest weakness. (Run time 1:09:21 11:23 mile pace)
Overall time 2:44:22 - a personal record by 5 minutes!

Annual Lake St. John Swim

We made the trip to Lake St. John on May 15th. The forecast was for afternoon rain, but I was a little worried about the low clouds as we drove west on I-20 toward Vicksburg. We got to the camp house and eventually everyone was in the water - 4 kayaks and a flat bottom fishing boat followed 4 swimmers – Kate, Paul, Mariel and myself. The weather was deteriorating with the line of thunderstorms approaching, so we chose not to swim our triangular path across the lake and back. Instead, we swam parallel to the shore and about 100 yards out, upwind and into some choppy water for ¾ mile, then lined ourselves up with the waves and headed back.

The waves swimming out were hitting us slightly from the left, so I found it difficult to breathe on the left without swallowing a lot of water. I resigned myself to breathing only on the right. I like the right better anyway. The water was cool and comfortable, but likely contributed to some cramping in my feet and calves. I dealt with all the minor cramps, but I got a pretty severe one that turned my left foot inward and hurt like hell. It was one that would have made me grab the edge of the pool or the lane rope, but lacking those, I had to call my trusty kayak escort Susan to paddle over and let me hang on for a minute.

We swam 1.6 miles in about 55 minutes, a 34 minute mile pace. Considering the rough water, that wasn’t too bad. I found it pretty tiring and felt some pain in my left forearm, something new to me. Maybe it was caused by breathing on the right all the time and using the left arm to raise my head a little more.

I was the last swimmer out of the water, of course, and just as we got all the kayaks out and situated the storm rolled in. We would have been very uncomfortable in the middle of the lake in that storm. We ate a nice lunch of muffalettas, chips, pimento cheese and chicken salad, got clean and dry and headed back home. The rain kept Kate and me from getting in a bike ride around the lake.

Overall, the swim wasn’t too bad, and we all agreed that a 3 mile+ reservoir swim might be harder than we had thought. That swim will include some rest stops, though. Our tentative date for the “Reservoir Swim & Kayak Challenge” is July 11.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Training Begins Now

It's a new bike, Jamis Xenith T - carbon composite, very aero. I really like it. I bought it about a month ago from Gary at ProBike because, mainly, it would have been a crime to ride my other 20 year old bike in a 70.3 race. Yep, I'm committed now. Already registered for Rev3 Cedar Point in September. That's in Sandusky, Ohio at the famous amusement park island. Kay Vee delivered my 20 week training plan the other day, and it begins tomorrow. I can't say enough about Kay Vee and all the help she's been to me. Now she and I will drag our spouses to another race, but this one should be fun for everyone! Serious roller coasters live in the Cedar Point Park.

I really don't fear the 70.3 distance so much, but the training through the Mississippi summer heat and humidity gives me some doubt. Can this old body acclimate itself? I've never been very good in the heat, turn red as a beet. But 6 years ago I would have never believed I'd be doing a lot of the races that are routine now. This year I'll run my 5th Heatwave Triathlon. This should be an interesting summer.

Here's two group photos of the Flounders. Everyone wasn't available at once, so I made two, in commemoration of our coach's departure. Whitney is married to a soldier, Army man, and they are now setting up a new household in Georgia. We will miss her terribly. She changed our group from three committed swimmers to a team of good swimmers, greatly improved over the last year. This group's age ranges from 56 (me), to early 20s. Paul, Kate, and Mack are excellent swimmers. Matt, Melanie, Cedric and I may not be stars in the pool, but in a typical tri group we are above average. Christeen is another story, a collegiate swimmer in the ACC and a world age group triathlon qualifier for Budapest later this year. With an enthusiastic coach to replace Whitney, we could have a credible, competitive Masters Swim Team to challenge the long dominance of the Catfish Masters from the Courthouse.

Plans for the summer include a Flounders-led effort to swim across the Reservoir, a distance of more than 5K. We may call it the Rez Swim/Kayak Challenge. Let us know if you're interested.