March 11, 2008

The Theory of Three: Rule 4

We've all heard the stories of Albert Einstein. How, like a regular schmo, he drudged through his day job in a patent office, gossiping around the water fountain (or whatever drinking apparatus they had back then), complaining about the boss and bitching about co-workers. Then, like an intelligently caped crusader, he'd go home and transform into a savior of all things mathematical. He'd compose complex calculations ad infinitum that would all eventually lead to the Theory of Relativity. And the rest, as they say, is history.

In some ways, Catherine (my wonderful girlfriend who is quite a bit more physically appealing than Mr. Relativity) has been paralleling Einstein. Though she spends her days in the monotony of office work, she has stretched her mind to develop one of the world's most important axioms of pool training. I like to call it the Theory of Three.

The Theory of Three (ToT) is an important one to understand and there are only a few rules, so try to control your ADD for a couple of seconds and pay attention.

The axiom states that in any given lap pool situation...
1. If the lane has three swimmers, inevitably one person will play the Douchebag, another the Pinhead and the third the Victim.
2. In no instance will you ever see duplication. Never will there be two Douchebags and a Pinhead, or three Victims, or any other similar combination. According to the Theory of Three, there are always three individual roles and they are always clearly defined.
3. The Theory of Three is irrelevant if there are only two people in a lane. The Theory of Three becomes exponentially more complex when four or more people share a lane. (We won't get into that one now. That's for the advanced class.)

The trick is (and this is where the intense calculations come into play), the role you play isn't always the same. One day you may be the Pinhead and the next thing you know - kaBLAM! - you've suddenly turned into the Douchebag.

If you don't know what role you play, don't be concerned. It is sometimes difficult for an inexperienced individual to truly determine the defined role without the support of an experienced lap-ematician. As far as what the lap-ematician does....well, this is where it starts to get a bit more confusing.

To truly determine what role you end up playing on any given day at any given second requires a variety of complex calculations that balance the time of day, the individual personality types, water temperature and a number that we like to call Catherine's Constant. Catherine's Constant usually equals 6.283, that is, unless it's Monday or Friday, in which case the number is doubled. Oh, and on Sunday mornings between 9:30 and 11am, the number is cut in half. I almost forgot that one.

I told you it was complex.

For those that are mathematically inclined, here's what the actual calculation looks like:

Your ToT role = (square root of (length of lane)) * (water temperature / the number of letters in your Chinese astrology animal sign) - ((time of day (unless it's Monday or Friday) + (the number of accessories you use in your swim workout (flippers count as two, so do paddles)) - (size of your bathing suit (in square inches) / your waist size) all multiplied by Catherine's Constant

If your number is over 100, guess what. You're the Douchebag. The Pinhead falls inbetween 1 and 99. As for the Victim, if the final calculation comes out to 0, then it's you.

As you can imagine, conquering this calculation requires a white board, a blackboard or, at the very least, a scrap of paper and an Erasermate. Unfortunately, most of us are too busy swimming to spend the time determining our ToT role. The good thing is that most of the time you can pretty much rely on your gut to figure it out.

Of course, as you may have already figured out, this all leads me back to the swim I had the other day.

I got to the pool at the ungodly hour of 6 in the morning. It was still dark out, but I had 5500 meters to get through and the pool closes at 8.

Yes, 5500 meters... I couldn't believe it either.

The good news is that the pool wasn't that crowded. When you take into account the early morning hour, the cold temperature (well, cold for Los Angeles. I think it was 55 degrees) and the fact that it was an outdoor pool with a 50 meter lane, there weren't a heckuva lot of people swimming. In fact, when I got into the lane, there were only four of us there.

I slid into the water and started my workout at a relaxing pace. Back and forth I went, knocking down the meters as smoothly as possible. As my body warmed up, I started picking up the pace a tad. Nothing too demanding, but a nice steady groove that I could maintain for the 3 1/2 miles.

After about 1500 meters I realized that I had the entire lane to myself. I enjoyed the solitude while it lasted. Unfortunately, I knew it couldn't possibly last that long.

It was right after I bounced off the wall at the far end of the lane when I noticed the new person who had climbed into the pool and began to swim. It was hard to miss him.

He was one of those guys that pushes really hard when he swims. And though he moves at a fairly decent clip, he's doing it all in a wacked-out kinda way. His hands are slapping the water, his feet are kicking like scissors gone wild, his body is twisting and rotating in contrary movements and overall there's a heckuva lot of flailing and splashing. Picture the Tasmanian Devil trying to swim laps. That was my new lane-mate - Taz. Water was flying all over the place and all you could see was an arm popping out here, a leg jutting out there. And, best of all, since he required so much space to maneuver, he was swimming in the middle of the lane. As you may already know, I love that.

I've seen these types of swimmers before. They go really hard the moment they hit the water, pushing and driving so that they look fast. But after a few laps they're all out of steam. My competitive ego has a tough time letting these swimmers pass me by. I've worked hard, I've fine-tuned my form, I've focused. I suppose I want to feel like all that work isn't for naught - that in any given race, a bus-load of Tasmanian Devil-like swimmers won't blow me out of the water.

At the same time, my ego also knows that in a few minutes I'll zip by them like they're standing still.

Of course, within a few seconds after I first saw him, Mr. Splash and Flail swam right by me and my ego, nearly kicking me in the face with his man-eating scissor kick.

Now maybe I'm a little crazy, perhaps a bit too sensitive, and definitely a competitive summobitch, but I had the distinct sense as he swam by me that he did it with attitude. If there's one thing I don't like, it's attitude when you pass me by.

You're a douchebag, I said to him (which actually just resulted in me swallowing a bunch of pool water, considering the fact I was still swimming and my head was underwater). I wanted to pass him by. I wanted to dust him. I wanted to make him swallow his ego and bow at my feet. Building an effigy of me would be ok too. But I tried to be patient. I told myself to hold on, he'd tire out soon enough.

I got to the other end of the pool just as a new lane-mate entered. Lane-mate #3. Uh-oh.

I thought about the Theory of Three. I already knew there was a Douchebag in the lane. That left a Pinhead and a Victim. I wondered which would be me.

I had a bit of a break in the set, so I stayed on the edge of the pool for 30 seconds before I pushed off again. As I continued down the lane, all of the sudden I came face-to-foot with Lane-mate #3.

She was wearing what looked like a short-sleeved wetsuit. She had long legs and lanky arms, which is important to the story as you'll realize in a second. As it turns out, she was doing the breaststroke. And with those aforementioned long legs and lanky arms, it was a very long-reaching breast stroke. With each kick of her legs, her feet practically stretched to the other side of the lane.

I had visions of the game Wack-A-Mole, where her feet were the wackers and my balls were the mole. I cringed. Why is she doing the breaststroke in this lane anyway?

You've got to be kidding me, I said as I slowed down behind her and swallowed pool water again by talking underwater. We're not in the slow lane here people.

This lane was clearly marked as the "Medium speed" lane. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but breaststroke ain't no medium speed. Regardless, I need to get by her before I get sucked up into the backdraft of her propeller-like legs. I moved to the far side of the lane, with the hopes of passing her and keeping my family jewels intact. As I pushed hard and began to swim by, I looked up.


Mr. Splash and Flail was rapidly approaching. He was, of course, smack dab in the middle of the lane. It was like a Mac truck coming right at me at full speed. I felt like a squirrel that was about to be smooshed and there was nowhere I could go, nothing I could do but hold on to my nuts and pray for my life.

For what seemed like minutes, I floated in shock. I never thought this is the way it would end.

Suddenly, in a flash of opportunity, I saw a space. I dropped back and went behind the breaststroker's legs just as the Mac Truck-like Splash and Flail whizzed by me. I don't think he even noticed me. I was a pebble in the road. He was a Douchebag.

With the coast clear and me safe, I moved back over to the opposite side of the lane and pressed forward, zipping by the breaststroker as quickly as possible. Suddenly it all made sense. She's the Pinhead. After all, who jumps in the Medium lane and just does the breaststroke back and forth? A Pinhead, that's who.

And since he's the Douchebag, that makes me the Victim.

This is the way it went for the next 20 minutes. Douchebag splasher annoying me with his form, Pinhead breaststroker oblivious to the fact that people are trying to swim in this lane. Back and forth I went, each lap getting more and more angry. I'm a Victim here people. I'M THE VICTIM!!!

I pushed harder, desperately trying to catch up to the Douchebag and pass him. I wanted to show him a lesson. I wanted to prove that I was better. Faster. More manly. And goddammit, I've got good swim form!! But, alas, with all my scheduled rest breaks, anytime I was about to catch up he had time to move further away.

After about 10 more minutes, he must've gotten frustrated with the breaststroker because all of the sudden I noticed he moved over to the fast lane.

HUH?!?! [cue sound of tires squealing and screeching and coming to a halt.]

The fast lane?! What the fuck?! You can't move to the fast lane!! YOU'RE NOT FAST!! I'm faster than you. If anybody should be in the fast lane, IT'S ME!!! And I'm NOT in the fast lane, am I!?! I'M IN THE GODDAM MEDIUM LANE SO GET YOUR SORRY DOUCHEBAG ASS BACK OVER HERE LICKETY SPLIT!!!

These are the things I was yelling in my head as I swam back and forth in the medium lane. I was pissed he moved over. Angry as all hell. He's not fast. He shouldn't be allowed in the fast lane. It's not fair. IT'S NOT FAIR, I TELL YOU!!!

I pushed harder. I was fueled, angry, perturbed, upset, and any other synonym you want to put in there. I was also coming to the end of my workout.

I had six 100s to go, with ten seconds of rest between each one. As I waited at the end of my lane for my rest period to end, I glanced over at the fast lane. Lo and behold, Mr. Douchebag was just coming to the end of the his lane as well. This is my chance. This is it. The butterflies started building in my stomach. My time has come.

He pushed off the lane while I still had 5 seconds of rest ahead of me. Everything was going just as planned. I love this.

As I pushed off for my first 100, I found myself catching up to Mr. Splash and Flail within 20 yards. It was like I had an outboard motor coming out of my butt. I flew through the water with the greatest of ease. And as I passed him by, I gazed at him with the leer of death. I threw at him all of the attitude I could muster, and topped it off with a patronizing sneer.

How do you like that, Taz m'boy?!?! You think you're better than me?! I shouted in my mind. You think you deserve to be in the fast lane?! Well, my friend, you don't!!

And realizing that I had 6 of these to do. I decided to keep going with my underwater tirade.

Welcome to goddam frickin groundhog day, I screamed in my head. Every 2 minutes I'm going to pass your ass and I'm going to do it with attitude. The only sound you're gonna hear is the echo of me laughing and snickering at you.

I smiled. I laughed. I swallowed more pool water.

And as I finished my first 100, I chuckled as he pushed off from the wall just 5 seconds before me.

Within a few yards of beginning my second 100 - BAM! - I passed him again.
Ka-BOOM! I did it a third time.
Groundhog day, motherfucker, I screamed silently as I passed him on my fourth 100.
You like me now!?!? I bubbled on my fifth 100.
And as I blew by him for the sixth time in a row, I had a sense of serenity flow through my body. It lifted me and pushed me through that 100 faster than I had been swimming all day.

I won. I'm the best. King of the world.

My swim was over. I smiled and got out of the pool with pride. I walked into the locker room with my head held high. I dried my body and squeezed into my warm dry clothes. And as I walked to my car, it suddenly hit me.

My calculations were wrong.

I reviewed the mornings activities. Over and over it went in my mind. Every scenario, every stroke, every thought. Soon it became clear. I realized that I had forgotten about Rule 4 in the Theory of Three.

Theory of Three, Rule 4: If you always think you're the Victim, you're probably the Douchebag.

Yes, it was me. It was me that was the Douchebag. I was no Victim here.

Sure, the breaststroker was the Pinhead. But my friend, the splashy swimmer - why he was merely the Victim. The Victim of bad lane circumstances, the Victim of my asshole-ishness, the Victim of Catherine's Constant. I thought he was the Douchebag, I was convinced he was the Douchebag, but that was merely a classic case of Douchebag transference. I had mistakenly redirected my Douchebaggyness onto the unsuspecting Victim.

It's a tricky thing, this Theory of Three.
Hopefully it'll make us all better people. I know I need all the help I can get.


ChrisM said...

LOL, Oh, we're so alike, you and me. It does make the swim workouts go faster though, doesn't it?

Yesterday I refused to get sucked into the Rule of Three zone, someone asked if it was OK to circle. I looked at the guy swimming in the lane, doing.... 2:30 100s, and said "No." Douchebag, Table for one?

Urban Koda said...

Just found your blog last night as I was looking for something else... I'm hoping to be ready for an IronMan next year.

I haven't read anything this funny in a long time, it's pretty much how my swim training goes, but far funnier when reading it through someone else's perspective.

Good Luck in Arizona!