Friday, July 23, 2010


I am just now getting ready to head for another RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) and as always it occurs to me that the lessons I learn preparing for it are applicable to the work I do as a member of Palmer College. To refresh memories, RAGBRAI is the nation’s largest and oldest cross-state bicycle ride; 39 years ago perhaps 150 riders participated, and this week it will involve close to 15,000 riders and another 10,000 support personnel, all moving through the small rural towns that comprise Iowa. We will start riding on Sunday out of Sioux City, and end a week later in Dubuque. We camp along the way, and while this year the route is relatively short (442 miles), there will be days with hills (notably on our first day as we cross the Loess Hills) and days with wind (notably the 4th day, where we head due south for 60 miles). But there will be companionship and fun as well. As I think about it, here are a few considerations I think are important.

1. Training, training, training. The RAGBRAI organizers suggest that riders should attempt to have at least 500 miles of training riding accomplished before riding the tour. If, like me, you are 57 and not really an athlete, more might be better. Like any other activity we participate in, including teaching or patient care, the more you do it (that is, the more practice you get), the better you do it in the future- you get experience that benefits you and those around you. This year, I am happy to brag, I have more than 1200 miles of training done since the first day of spring, and more than 1600 since last year. So I feel confident in my abilities, similar to how I feel when I enter classroom to teach- years of practice provides significant experience to draw from.

2. Planning, planning, planning. There is little question that planning is critically important in our teaching or in our clinical duties. For instructors, this means developing goals and objectives to cover content and ensure that our tests, for example, match the objectives we set out for our class. For clinicians, this means ensuring that we review information prior to seeing specific cases, so we are up to date on the latest material that is available. As I look over the RAGBRAI route map, I am looking at which towns have aquatic centers, so that I can clean up in those towns (showers are not always easily available and can become quite crowded). It means considering how to manage my diet, by noting which vendors are located where. Planning is important in all that we do.

3. Network, network, network. RAGBRAI is an enjoyable event due in part to the people you ride with. Having a good friend while riding is a wonderful thing; it provides support, insight and enjoyment. In our work here, we are part of a community where we have others we can rely on, who will help us, and who take pleasure in our own successes. Sharing the joy helps all of us feel better.

It may not be much, and it may be common sense, but every day we bring to our work a sense of commitment, based on our training, our planning, and our support from our colleagues. It makes daily life more pleasurable and more productive. It’s a message as equally true for recreation as it is for work.

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