Failing Fast

I was racing down the back roads trying to get up to speed. My legs were burning, but I ignored the discomfort because I had to make my bicycle travel another two miles faster. 18 mph was not fast enough. If I wanted an A in class, I would have to travel 20 mph or faster. I briefly made another glance at my speedometer attached to the bike. Finally, I was traveling the right speed, but just a moment later I felt my tire fall off the road, and the world around suddenly started to play out in slow motion.

I felt the remaining parts of my bike fall underneath me into the nearby ditch, but my body kept propelling forward quickly to the asphalt. I braced my left hand to take the initial blow, which was better than my face. My left thigh quickly relieved my hand from having to protect more important parts of my body. My thigh slowed my momentum, but I rolled on to my right forearm and right hand until I skid to a stop on the side of the road.

I sat very still. I wiggled all my toes and fingers, and I waited to feel any pain that would signal a broken bone or torn ligament. My skin was burning, but nothing felt broken. My father-in-law was quickly by my side asking what hurt and if I was okay. Luckily, I was okay. A cousin was driving down the road when I crashed, and he pulled off to the side and offered to drive me back to the house, and I happily accepted the offer. My body was fine but hitting the asphalt at 20 mph hurt.

Oral Roberts has pretty rigorous health fitness requirements. More specifically, the field test required to pass heath fitness each semester requires completing running, biking, walking or swimming distances at competition speed levels. In fact, the running field test has the same standard as the Army Physical Fitness Test taken after military men and women complete basic training. The ORU standard is more rigorous than the Air Force Basic Military Training Physical Fitness test. If an ORU woman completes the field test fast enough to receive an A for the semester, she would receive a Warhawk Award (extraordinary- or highest standard) based on the men’s Air Force completion times.

At this point, it may seem like ORU students walk around campus fit enough to go to war, but that is not necessarily true. Most the students are not competitive athletes or trained warriors, they are instead just fairly healthy college students, which means most of them cannot complete the field test fast enough to receive an A. Completing the field test on time requires intense training and significant amounts of time the average college student does not have available.

Now, it may seem like ORU has a lot of students without a 4.0 GPA simply because of health fitness requirements. This is not necessarily true either. Instead, a large portion of the students pays the university $10 a semester to wake up at 7 a.m. to run a “fun run” for ten extra credit points to compensate for the chronically low field test grades. Sounds like fun right?

This was my last fun run! The fun part was when it was over.

It does not matter if your class is bowling, racket ball or golf, nearly half of a student’s grade depends on how fast they can run, swim, bike or walk. Just to clarify the walking field test requires finishing two miles in 23 minutes, and that is walking nearly six mph. The average natural walking gate allows for power walking 4.5 mph to 5.5 mph, so for the average individual, walking the field test is literally impossible.

I usually swam the field test, because one of the state’s faster swimmers I could finish the field test just on time. Unfortunately, I was a sprinter and the field test required distance swimming. I had to complete 800 meters or half a mile in 15 minutes. I had to adjust my style, but I could usually complete the test on time with a little training.

One semester, however, I decided to bike the field test, because it seemed fun. I knew I would have to train to be successful. My father-in-law was an avid cyclist for many years, and he had a road bike I could borrow and time to train with me.

The biking field test requires traveling 20 mph to finish on time, which is a pretty competitive pace. I had to complete five miles in 15 minutes, and the guys had to complete five miles in 13 minutes, which is 23 mph.

I trained hard for the event. During a training session is when I had my crash, but I still kept training for the test.

When test day finally arrived, I was scheduled to take the test at Riverside Park in Tulsa at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning. My father-in-law rode with me to the test. I arrived about 10 minutes early. I saw other classmates standing around, so we sat on our bikes and talked waiting for the professor to arrive. 10 minutes passed, and then 20 minutes passed. It was 7:45 and the teacher never arrived for my test. Obviously, it would have to be rescheduled.

When I was finally able to work out a test time, it was on this really narrow outdoor track. It was an awful location, but it was my only option. I took off trying to get to the 20 mph as quickly as possibly. I rounded a narrow corner, and I heard a pop. My bike quickly slowed down, and I realized something damaged the tire. I got off my bike, and I carried it off the track. I found the teacher, and I told him, maybe I will just swim the field test.

After that semester, I always swam my field test. I was not a fast runner, biking injured me and walking was not an option. I found out what worked for me by failing and failing fast.

As I pursue my podcast, it might be another story of trying to bike my field test. I might fail, but if I do I am one step closer to knowing what will work for me and the message I want to tell. I have to be willing to fail fast to figure out what works. Hopefully, my podcast won’t give me road rash.

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