This morning at swim I arrived five minutes late and struggled to get my gear into place. Finally, things were ready and I wandered over to the dry erase board to study the assigned workout. Bullets swim coach Chris Colburn pens it all out so you can see what you’re supposed to do each day. Typically none of us can memorize the whole set at that time of day so you’ll see swimmers perched at pool’s edge with goggles up on their heads squinting to read the next set.
Chris roams the deck with panache, doling out advice and asking where people are in the workout. For swimmers like me who are just getting our fins wet (we’ll get to that later) he checks to see how much we’ve completed. Then he calls out some encouragement that actually means “Get your ass in gear” and moves on to the next lane.
Often the workouts consist of a set of six different activities including freestyle, IM swims, kick drills, a group of float intervals in freestyle and then some meaty-beaty big and bouncy joy ride like multiple sets of 8 X 50 in timed intervals with descending rest.
Today when I studied the board, the set included a surprising conclusion: 8 X 500. I was aghast. “That’s a big ass set,” I muttered to myself.
Get on with it
So I got in the pool and did my warmup and other stuff, then started to chew away at that 8 X 500 set. Only I couldn’t do it. Not effectively. So I started doing 200 repeats instead and kept my rest intervals down. After three 200s, I saw my Aquarian fiance Sue in the next lane doing kick drills. I was hungry for a break from the 200s, so I grabbed my Speedo board and did a weak-ass kick the length of the pool. Going nowhere fast, I call it.
“Where are your fins?” she inquired.
“In the car,” I told her. So I hoisted myself out of the pool and walked out to the car in my wet swimsuit to retrieve them. The sky had just above zero light going on, but I dug into the back of my car, retrieved the fins and went back to swimming. This will not be advisable in two months when the temps outside dip to 7 instead of 70. But for now that lonesome zero was a protection of sorts.
So I got back in the pool and did my kicking and was about to get on with the rest of my 200s when I noticed that everyone that had been in the in the pool had gotten out and left.
I’d already been beating myself up for being such a slow-ass swimmer compared to these people who seem to be part seal and part dolphin and part human all at one. But I figured if I kept showing up I’d get faster and maybe even get invited to the super Christmas party the group holds every year.
But how in the fucking world could anyone swim 8 X 500 in the same amount of time it took me to do, well, whatever I was doing.
So I wrapped up the workout at 5 x 200 and got out of the pool to visit with coaches Chris and Tim. I asked, “How the hell did those people do 8 X 500 in such a short amount of time?”
“What?” Chris replied. Then he looked at the board. “That’s 8 X 50 with descending rest. That’s what the “o” with the strike through it means.
“Well, fuck,” I blurted out. It is indeed funny what one zero can add or take away in life.
That reminded me of a little Internet hoax I’d encountered the day before. Somehow I clicked on a story about the value of Beanie Babies that read, “If you have any of these eleven Beanie Babies, you can retire now.”
It was curiosity that killed the cat. And so, I clicked on the story and studied the claims that people had made so much money from selling Beanie Babies. Then I walked to the hall closet where a small wooden cradle was filled with six of the many Beanie Babies my kids collected years ago. The Beanies in the cradle included the Peace Bear, some Easter Rabbit thing and a dopey looking white bear that also was cited in the article. The Peace Bear was supposed to be worth $5000. Same with the stupid rabbit.
I wasn’t entirely sold, but you never know in this world. And as I walked through Menard’s I got into a conversation with a gal working there about the Beanies. She kindly said, “You should have them appraised.” But it was not in that Antiques Roadshow kind of way where people are excited about what you’ve discovered. It was more in that come-back-to-earth kind of way that people who know the world lies about all sorts of things sort of tone.
“So you know about this stuff?” I smiled. She beamed and again smiled nicely. “Yes, I do.”
When I got home, I did a simple Amazon search and found a Peace Bear selling for $9.99. No zeros. Just a lot of nines. And so on. None of the Beanie Babies in our closet was worth $5,000. Not even $50.
It’s a funny thing with zeros, you see. They can cost you plenty in some aspects of life and make your eyes sing in another.
But that reminds me of another thing I did in the pool for the first time today. During one phase of the workout, I put my goggles over the swim cap while trying to read the board. Then without thinking, I spun around and started swimming without my goggles on. Thank goodness my contacts stayed in place on my eyes. They felt like two little blue zeros that help me see. Only everything under water was foggy for that moment.
Proving I may not always see clearly, or understand very well, but at least there are people around who help me keep things in focus. But if you know something about Beanie Babies that I should know, and want to tell me these things are worth tons of money, I’m all eyes and ears. But with zero hope of that being the case.