Without question, the best athletic facilities in Monterey County belong to Hartnell Community College.
I’ve been running on their all-weather track for years. It’s ideal in several ways: conveniently close to my workplace, centrally located for my running partners, and accessible at all hours of the day (well, almost. We usually have to climb over the fence for our 5:30 AM workouts. Nobody from Hartnell security reads this, right?). Best of all, it’s available at absolutely no cost.
For the past few months, I’ve been using their Olympic-size outdoor pool for my swim workouts. It’s 50 meters long by 25 yards wide. We swim the long course without lane lines on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and short course on the other days.
During the summer, the swim program is organized by the local masters club, but once school starts, oversight of the pool returns to the college. The fall semester started this past Monday – three weeks before my triathlon.
I didn’t want to skip the last three weeks of swim training before the race. I’ve also decided that I’d like to continue swimming for cross-training throughout the year (because we can do that in California – lucky us) once the triathlon is finished.
So I utilized my only option to continue using the pool: I walked across campus to the registrar’s office, and enrolled in a 1.5-unit class – P.E. 134, Swim Fitness. I paid $43 to the cashier, and just like that, I became a student again. Hey, everybody … I’m goin’ to college!
Walking back to my car, I got a few “Hey”s and “Whassup”s from some of my fellow students, which led me to wonder: would I actually fit in here? Could I really pass as a student?
In a flash, I had another thought: how many people get a second chance at living the college life? Suddenly this new fitness endeavor seemed like my ticket to a lot of collateral benefits.
I considered all the ways my life might change now that I’m back on campus:
1. Chillin’: As an undergraduate at UCLA, I spent a lot of time in the student coffee house or the main outdoor plaza, just watching the girls go by (whoops … I meant world. Watching the world go by.). It’s a habit I reluctantly gave up once I acquired some of those so-called “important” things like a job and a family and hobbies. But hanging out in the courtyard yesterday, I realized that people watching was an activity for which I wouldn’t mind polishing my skills a bit.
2. Study groups: In every college movie, there’s one very cute, very smart girl who helps some dopey guy through a difficult class. Remember Tommy Lee's tutor at the University of Nebraska last summer? How do I go about requesting something like that for myself? I think a little individual attention while I’m in the pool might be just what I need to survive such rigorous coursework.
3. Partying: I wasn’t a fraternity guy in college, which at the time seemed like a mature, responsible decision. But part of me (that little guy with the devil’s horns) thinks I might have missed being a part of something special. You know, things like being publicly hazed, learning to drink from a gravity bong while standing on my head, or waking up on a stranger’s front lawn with somebody else’s underwear on – such moments must be precious.
I need to do some investigating on this one, but I’m wondering if there’s a nearby fraternity like the one in Old School that recruits folks of any age. That way, if I ever get the urge to run naked and drunk down the middle of the street at 2AM, I’ll have somebody to share the experience with. After all, you can’t put a price tag on those kind of memories.
4. Drugs: The only time I ever saw illegal drugs in person was at an undergrad party. Do college students nowadays get a discount on marijuana or ecstasy? Would I be assigned a drug dealer in addition to a career counselor? I thought I could look into this, and report my findings here, in the spirit of journalistic curiosity. (Then again, I just finished a whole series on drug use – that’s probably enough for the next year or so. Let’s move on.)
5. Speaking of discounts: Will my student ID get me cheaper meals or movie tickets anywhere in town? If so, I’m all over it. I mean, every couple bucks I save is like an extra GU packet or bottle of Gatorade. This class could potentially pay for itself after a couple of months.
Obviously, this swimming thing has opened a whole new realm of possibilities that I never imagined during all those years I was cluelessly running laps around the campus track. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this plan years ago.
However, there is one point of concern now that I’ve enrolled in a college class: getting grades.
I’m not quite sure how this works for elective classes yet. Am I going to be graded on my swimming now? Is there a final exam? Do I get credit for effort or improvement? Will the grading be done on a curve? Is there a pass/fail option? Should I tell the coach that I’ve already been running in the mornings when I’m swimming at lunch, so he can consider that in my evaluation? Do I get extra credit for also knowing how to bike and run?
I never had to worry about having my performance evaluated when I was merely a runner, and before I re-entered college. It’s enough to make a guy pretty nervous.
Thank goodness there’s a back to school mixer this weekend – because I just might need to blow off a little steam.
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