False Start

Years ago – many years ago – I served as manager for our high school track team. As such I came to be a part of every track and field sport our team participated in. From time to time, I was called upon to be a timer for track events. I stood at the finish line with my stopwatch, waited for the smoke from the starter’s pistol, clicked the stem (this was well before digital stopwatches) and clicked it again as the runner in my lane crossed the finish line.

Every once in a while, someone would jump the gun, then a second puff of smoke indicated that a false start occurred. Not being a runner, I never personally experienced a false start. However, I did help some of our best runners set their starting blocks and hold their warm-ups. I watched them prepare for the race. I watched them loosen up, stretching tight muscles. I watched them prepare psychologically, envisioning the race and how they would run. I watched their ritual as they set up in the blocks. I watched as the starter shouted “set”. I knew the gunshot would come soon. I sensed the runners’ anticipation. Everything was a go – until the second shot stopped them in their tracks.

This would not appear to be a problem for the casual observer, but I was not casual. I was part of the team. I watched the runners prepare for the second start. It was different. The coaches worked harder to calm and direct the runners. The tension was greater. Their concentration had been broken by the false start. Especially for the one who broke early, the stress was tremendous. A second false start would eliminate him from the race. Invariably, the second start was not as efficient. Nervous energy kept the runners from breaking in anticipation; the burst from the blocks not as crisp. The finish times seemed slower. The fastest runner may not have won because of a hesitant start.

False starts are costly in many ways.

We experienced a false start. We journeyed to Houston expecting to begin the clinical trial. It wasn’t until we entered the doctor’s office that we learned the trial was not yet open. Our trip was needless. Calls from the doctor’s office the previous day to our cell phones failed to connect and were not even recorded as missed calls. We could have stopped our trip before we reached the airport. We could have saved the expense of a hotel. We could have saved the expense of return tickets at full senior pricing. We could have not unpacked in the hotel expecting to stay two or more weeks. We could have not had to repack in two hours to check out of the hotel in time. We could have been saved from a lot of things. But we were not. False start.

False starts are costly. We not only lost financially, we lost emotionally. We lost physically. Two long trips in two days are draining.

However, for every loss, there are gains. We met with the trial coordinator and learned much more about the clinical trial and what is expected of us and what will be happening to me. We came home with the release papers – a many page sheaf of papers detailing the whole process from pre-enrollment to end process. We learned that Melanie could not tolerate a two month stay in the long-term hotel we checked into. Too many problems, too confining, too restrictive, too unprofessional.

We were once again reminded that we have some wonderful friends in Houston. We have involved and loving daughters. We have so many people praying for us, and the list is growing. We have people who have and will help us financially.

False starts.

God, our coach, will help us work through the tension, the stress, the losses, and prepare us for the second start – all the way to the finish line as winners.

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