Stuck in the Middle: The Importance of Tradition
There are a couple of traditions that have been going on for a long time at North Saanich. One of those traditions is the annual triathlon that has taken place every Halloween for the last 32 years.
The event has stood the test of time for a number of reasons. One is that it is a great school spirit event that everyone can get involved in as the weather changes and we prepare for the six-week academic push before Christmas break. Just as important, is that it gives students an avenue to burn off some steam on October 31st. Halloween traditionally has been a time when students make poor decisions and the triathlon serves as a positive outlet for their energy.
This year’s triathlon was a fantastic event. We had great weather and our participation rate was very high. Even those students who could not swim, run or bike were actively involved in assisting and cheering on athletes.
This year, I once again joined a grade 8 team that was without a cyclist. I was feeling great about the bike ride. I have been riding to school a couple times a week, so I was in game shape. The night before I checked my tires, oiled my bike chain and made sure my helmet was snug. The bike ride is the last leg of our triathlon and it did not take long before we could see the runners gliding our way. We cheered and encouraged everyone as they approached.
I was the third cyclist to leave the transition area. I took a quick look to see if I had anyone behind me, but all the other bikers were still waiting for their runners. Up in the distance, I could see the two riders in front of me. They were both struggling as they entered the first hill and I quickly caught up to them. As I approached, I slowed to encourage them. Just then I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey Mr. Russell,” as he whipped by on left.
My thoughts immediately changed to catching the young man speeding by me on a mountain bike. “Hey, slow down!” I hollered as I peddled hard to keep up. He slowed down to ride with me for awhile. He talked, while I focused on breathing. All I could say between breaths was, “How do you ride so fast on a mountain bike?”
“I ride a lot,” was his answer before he sped off. As he pulled away from me I tried to convince him that his tire was flat, but that didn’t work. I even tried to convince him he was going the wrong way, but all he could do was turn and smile. As I approached the final stretch I could see him at finish line looking back at me smiling. The student body cheered me on over the last 400 metres and it felt great to be participating in such a positive school event. It isn’t everyday that a bunch of kids cheer on their principal.
Later in the week, I was speaking to my triathlon nemesis. “I couldn’t even keep up with you and I was riding a street bike.”
“I could give you a rematch,” he replied. “I could let the air out of my tires a little and you could borrow a racing bike?” he joked. “The race might be closer.”
Of course, I said, “No Thanks.” As Kenny Rogers says in the classic song The Gambler, ‘You've got to know when to hold'em. Know when to fold'em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run.’
I know that I needed to walk away from the rematch, but I also know that it is important to hold on to some traditions that bring us together as a school community, reinforce a healthy lifestyle, and create lasting memories for students and staff.
At North Saanich Middle School this year’s annual triathlon was another big success. I think Kenny Rogers meant to say, “There'll be time enough for countin' (32 years of the NSMS triathlon), when the wheelin's done.”