Monday, January 21, 2013

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

I'm *ahem* mature enough that I remember when all race t-shirts were cotton and generally made better rags than clothes.  After spending the last three months running and riding in cold weather, I couldn't help but wonder how I ran all the winters of my youth without technical fabrics.  By starting forest fires with my thighs from the layering of polyester running tights inside flannel pajamas pants, and soaking my torso to the bone with layers of cotton long-sleeves, that's how.     

Back then, technical material clothes were either old-but-good technology (wool), made from recycled bottles (fluffy-as-clouds fleece) or generally the purview of hard-core skiers, climbers, and outdoor adventurers (Gore-Tex and Windstopper, down fill, and waffle-woven long-johns).

I still remember the first tech shirt I ever owned.  In 2002, I ran the Boston Marathon, which then started at noon.  Most people layered up all morning, and threw away their inner-most layers only after being staged at the start line.  I was the naive opposite: I was planning to run in a white cotton v-neck t-shirt and Adidas soccer shorts, and I arrived at the start line cold.  So I walked among the piles of discarded clothes on the sidewalk and grabbed the first shirt that seemed light, but warm.  It was turquoise polyester tech shirt, and instantly it became my favorite shirt, simply because seconds before it had been something I dreamed about owning for years.  I ran the entire marathon in it, and treated it as sacred until later that summer, when it was stolen in Africa.  Perhaps someone, somewhere, is still wearing that shirt.

The birthday after the Africa theft I received my first Under Armor shirt as a present, thoughtfully maroon to match the soccer jerseys I wore in the New England fall weather.

And what do we do when something comes into our lives that makes so much sense and brings so much comfort?  We become attached and wear/use/treat it with tenderness and repeated abuse.  Case in point, how many of us name our bike?  I stand guilty as charged.

While I was packing for my return to Austin, several of my beloved training clothes needed - deserved - to be retired.  They had put in their years and miles of service.  More runs, rides, and soccer games and practices than I can remember later, the elastic on my UA shirt looks every day its ten years.  But I don't think I could have brought myself to get rid of it until it looked like this.



These two pairs of shoes have been the workhorses in my running shoe rotation since November 2011.  That's like 20 in high heel shoe years!




I know some of you are thinking "What the heck?  These are just pieces of clothing.  Stop whinging and get new ones."  To you, they may be clothes; to me, they are tools - and boon companions.  Like my dad's motorcycle jacket, or my uncle's John Deere baseball cap, or my mom's hand-made-by-a-friend coffee cup.  I have spent so much time with them, and they were right there to (literally) support me - and prevent forest fires.
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