Oppressive heat comes standard with a North Carolina August. Hoping to avoid the soon-to-be ninety-plus temperatures, I got up early, strapped my road bike onto the carrier, and set out. Off to complete one last trial run for an upcoming charity race, more than twenty-one miles awaited me – 3.1 running, 16.2 on bike, and another 2 running – the same distance and order of the race.
Having been a runner since high school, the miles on foot did not concern me, but this cycling thing was quite new, from the dozen-plus gears to the ridiculous shorts. On this particular day, all went swimmingly early on. My first run was complete and, even at 12 miles into the bike leg, I had plenty of energy. Then I heard the haunting sound: “Psssssssshhhhh…flub, flub, flub.” My front tire went flat.
The flat came just as I prepared to turn back for the last downhill portion of the course. It would have been the easiest part of the day, but it also meant I was four miles from my car. Walking my bike along the highway took considerably longer than riding it, and I did not have the benefit of the wind in my face. The heat grew more intense and my water bottle was dry.
After returning to my car, I strapped up the carrier again and foolishly set off to complete my two-mile run. I finished it, but at great cost. Thrown off by the flat tire and preoccupied with getting my bike back to the car, I neglected to take in enough fluids to keep me going and I became seriously dehydrated. My head hurt, my vision went a bit fuzzy, and the world spun while I sat in my car. The small cooler of Gatorade in the front seat was my savior and only after two bottles was I steady enough to drive home.
Lesson learned: You cannot continue to put out what you have not taken in.
If you happen to be in the midst of multi-sport training, this is important advice. But in the more likely chance you are a teacher or homeschooling parent reading this, it is no less important. It is mid-April and the bulk of us are running on fumes. Your student(s) may have no idea what you are talking about today, but rest assured they know how many days remain before summer. Of course, the only difference between students and teachers at this point is that teachers have to conceal some of their exhaustion and excitement. We still have discussions to guide, papers to grade, tests to prepare, and lectures to deliver.
Most of us are dehydrated and we don’t realize it until the serious symptoms show up. We push and push, run and run, until our heads hurt, our vision goes fuzzy, and the world is spinning. Papers pile up, patience wears thin, and enthusiasm wanes. What happened? For me, the problem is almost always the same. I try to give out while failing to take in.
In my experience, this is a particularly serious issue for classical school teachers and homeschooling parents because so many lack the funds and opportunities for teacher training and development. But, we must all quickly learn that you cannot teach great books without basking in them yourself. You cannot guide moving conversations without having them yourself. You cannot feed the souls of your students while starving your own.