Saturday, September 27, 2014

Let's Enjoy the Ride, as Some Things are Out of Our Control...

Written the day after the cancellation of Ironman Lake Tahoe, September 22, 2014

I gave my brother a hug, wished him good luck, and told him I'll see him as he exited the water.  It was a dark and chilly morning at King's Beach on Lake Tahoe's northern shore.  3,000 athletes were 15 minutes away from embarking on the biggest challenge of their lives:  competing in Ironman Lake Tahoe, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run all at elevation.  My brother was one of these 3,000.  Unfortunately, 40 miles away, more than 5,000 firefighters were also embarking on a huge challenge- fighting the King Fire, which was intentionally set by a deranged man a week and a half earlier.  In the days prior, smoke from the fire plagued much of the region.  At that moment, while standing on Kings Beach with thousands of athletes and spectators, it appeared the winds were in our favor.

The skies above Kings Beach were clear and calm at that moment, 6:25 AM.  As I looked out at the calm waters of Lake Tahoe, the sun slowly started rising, turning the sky hues of pink and orange that I swear I had never seen before.  Ironically, smoke in the distance makes for a stunning sunrise.  I was with my friends Michelle, Natalie, and a dozen others from our tri club.  We watched the swimmers warm-up in lake Tahoe, then slowly congregate into the holding corrals before the race.  As we stood right at the edge of the shore line, anticipating the starting cannon,  we were surrounded by hundreds of other spectators.  Many of them also held cameras and signs of good luck for their loved ones.  One sign read "Good Luck, Mommy" while another read "Go, Bryan!"  The sign I was holding for my brother is to the left (he's a nurse, so we nicknamed him The Ironmurse).  A family close by spoke with Australian accents.  Another person spoke with a southern accent.  People from all over the world were there on the shores of Kings Beach on Lake Tahoe for one of two reasons:  either to become an Ironman or to cheer one on.

For 12 long months, I watched my brother overcome working night shift hours, injury, and uncertainty to complete his training for this:  his dream, becoming an Ironman.   He was so jazzed that morning.  He was ready.  I was so proud of him.  I was so excited to cheer him on over what was to be a long day- perhaps the longest of his life.  He accomplished more in these past 12 months of training to get to this point than most have accomplished in a lifetime.  Just thinking about his perseverance and heart brought a smile to my face and filled me with pride as I stood there on that beach.

Then, the announcement came at 6:30AM, 10 minutes before the start of the race.  Over the
My brother Tommy, minutes after the announcement.
Photo by Michelle Lipira
loudspeaker, the announcer asked for everyone's attention.  Everyone stopped their conversations and looked to the announcer stand.  The beach filled with 3,000 athletes and possibly more spectators became eerily silent.  Sadly, I think many of us knew what was about to be announced, but we didn't want to believe it.  After saying something about having disappointing news to share about the race, the announcer sadly stated, "County air quality officials have recommended that the event be cancelled."  Immediately, gasps, sighs, screams, yells, sobs, and moans were taking over the air at Kings Beach.  I instantly thought of what my brother must be feeling and I burst into tears.  As I looked around, I was not alone.  So many tears, so many dreams dashed, so many broken hearts amassed all together on that beach.  I couldn't believe it.  Needless to say, my brother Tommy was disappointed beyond words.  I can't even accurately describe how he felt.  I don't even think he can.  Sometimes, no matter how hard one works, no matter the amount of sacrifice, blood, sweat, and tears, things are just out of our control.  This was one of those moments.  Despite all the effort and hard work of every competitor on the beach, the cancellation of the race was simply out of their control.  It was over before it even began.

You may be thinking, why is she writing this?  This is an education blog.  True, this is an education blog.  However, the lesson I learned yesterday while reflecting with friends and family (instead of cheering on my brother through 140.6 miles of swim, bike run), is one that must be applied to life, and especially to the education of our children.

We simply have to stop putting so much emphasis on product, and start putting the emphasis on process.  My brother spent 12 months training for the race of his life.  He logged thousands of miles on his bike while working as a registered nurse on the night shift.  Not only that, but he also ran hundreds of miles through a painful bout of plantar fasciatis and logged hours upon hours in the pool.  Did I mention that he did all this in temps in the triple digits while hundreds of miles away from his closest family and friends?  He did all this training on his own.  Where he was living at the time, he had no training partners.  He never quit, never gave up, and toughed it out.  It was painful, and it was hard.  He put everything he had into training for this Ironman.  He was so prepared.  He was confident he could do it.  He now knows he will become an Ironman one day.  He was just not allowed to become one yesterday as planned.

Now, does all this make him or the 3,000 other athletes feel better?  Probably not right now.  Yet, I hope it does one day.  In fact, I know it will one day.  Sometimes, things in life are simply out of our control.  The 3,000 triathletes who were not allowed to compete in Ironman Tahoe learned this the hard way yesterday.

We, teachers, also need to internalize this.  For example, one test or standards-based performance, should never ever be the sole judge of a year's worth of learning.  The process of learning is the prize in itself.

One final piece of writing should never be the judge of a writer.  We have to put more emphasis in the process of finding an idea, drafting, writing, revising, writing more, editing, and so on.

One book report or test of reading should never ever be the judge of a reader.  Rather, the process of learning how to read, developing a love for reading, and working to understand new things through reading should be the only things that matter.

Correctly finishing a math problem with the right answer is not what makes a mathematician.  Rather, it's enduring through the process that it took to get that answer that matters.

Just like in Ironman- crossing that finish line and the end result bring all the glory and pride to athletes.  Yet, what about the months of sacrifice and work it took to get to the starting line?  Shouldn't that be honored as well, or be honored even more?

Sometimes, things in life are out of our control.  We can't control everything.  Yet, we can make the most out of the journey and process.

Enjoy the ride, friends.  Whether you long to swim, bike, and run or read, write, and wonder, please simply just enjoy the journey.


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