Suddenly the Eye spied a pink wrapper sticking up from driver’s side cartage slot.
“Ooo0h,” Brain whispered to body. “Shot Bloks!”
There were three left in the wrapper. Mouth opened wide to take one in. Then another. And another. This is one of the untold rewards of running and riding. There always seems to be something lurking about when you need a snack.
It helps if you’re slightly disorganized and just a bit lazy about cleaning out your car every time you arrive home after a workout. Usually there’s the Great Unloading that has to take place. First to be removed is the smelly, stinky cycling or running clothes. These are carted in like a dead possum to be thrown into the laundry. Then there are shoes or other equipment to take into the house or hang in the garage. If you’re coming back from a cycling trip there are bikes and helmets to stow. It all takes precious time.
Sometimes you forget a few details.
That means by the time you take care of all that gear stuff it’s pretty easy to leave a half eaten Chocolate Chip Mint Clif Bar, a half-devoured pack of Shot Bloks or some other goody sitting around in the vehicle. This comes in very handy when you’re moving about the suburbs and don’t feel like pulling into a gas station or fast food store to spend two bucks on a candy bar.
So you happily nibble away on the leftover detritus from your last ride or run. You might even dare take a dangerous swig of a day-old NUUN-filled water bottle. Probably not a good habit, but admit it. You’ve done it. It still tastes good if there’s no poisonous green methane gas coming out the top.
There is no clear statute of limitations on such leftovers. However I will relate that I once left a bottle of Accelerade in the car on a warm afternoon and it turned into a hideously thick substance that could well have sealed your aluminum siding from yellowjacket invasions. I decided from that point forward that if it could happen in the warmth of a closed up car it could also happen in the warmth of your stomach. So I no longer drink the stuff. Too gross a thought.
Of course you also have to be careful what you ingest even when it’s new and in the wrapper. A running partner recently told me that he’d ordered some Tropical Shot Bloks or somesuch and it turned out they are laced with caffeine. Those of us that avoid such blood boosters need to watch out for dangerous contents and read labels. “Man, when you’re not used to that stuff,” he said with a glazed look in his eyes. “It really hits you hard. I was buzzing for hours.”
Of course that buzz can also come in handy sometimes. He’s a stay-at-home dad with two children ages 4 and 6. Everyone can use a little caffeine in those situations. “I have 2.5 hours when they’re both at preschool,” he said dreamily. We all knew what he meant…
The buck stops
One of the untold yet pleasant rewards of running and riding is finding money in the pockets of cycling or running gear when you need it most. One morning during a scramble to catch a train for a 9:00 a.m. client meeting in the city, I was rushing around pulling clothes together for the trip downtown when a $20 bill fell out of a cycling jersey pocket as I was digging around for a clean pair of underwear.
That $20 saved a trip to the cash station and allowed me to make the train schedule on time. Talk about the untold rewards of running and riding! Yes, my need for such serendipity is rather pathetic I’ll admit. Yet moments like that can make a difference between success and failure in life.
Of course the opposite can happen as well. I’ve lost money out of running shorts and had water bottles fly off the bike into ditches so thick with weeds and poison ivy no sane person would invade that realm to retrieve a $9.99 Camelbak anything. The world has a way of balancing out the good with the bad. Get used to it.
World Class junk
I once attended a race where world class cyclists were tossing aside water bottles while competing on a one-mile criterium loop. In my excitement about the race I eagerly scooped up a prize water bottle with a team logo on it. By the time I got home with the water bottle, I was so grossed out by the idea of using it that I tossed it into the recycling bin with the rest of the plastic that either gets melted down or winds up in the ocean.
The same goes for other kinds of discarded equipment. What seems like a cool find in the locker room or out in the field, some garment or logo-embossed piece of equipment, never seems as inviting when you actually think about trying it on. This happened once when I shared a locker room with a professional soccer player at a physical therapy clinic. In a rush to get to his training session he left behind a pair of his team shorts. I picked thme up and thought about keeping them. But then a rush of guilt wore through my notions and I turned them in at the desk. Honestly the thought of wearing someone else’s shorts just did not sit well with me.
Second hand shoes
Certainly it would never make sense to try wearing someone else’s shoes if you were to find them. It stuns me to think that our school used to re-issue running spikes and even running flats from year to year! The idea seems inconceivable now, but back then running shoes were just considered an exchangeable commodity. No one knew a thing about biomechanics or the dangers of wearing shoes worn out by someone else.
Really, even the idea of re-using running sweats year to year was a bit creepy. Both my high school and college programs issued huge baggy sweatsuits. Usually both tops and bottoms were signed out to members of the team. You were lucky if the top was a size long enough to cover your stomach and back while running. These were worn to train each and every day, all spring or fall and often through the winter when that running top that did not cover your back would creep up and allow subzero air to slide up your back. Yes, those were the days…
Recycling team shorts and jerseys was also common. In many cases, these items were used three or four seasons until the school budget allowed an upgrade. In high school basketball we all tried to avoid sharing a certain teammate’s shorts because he always threw them back in the laundry bin with brown skid marks on them. Seriously, I can still recall the sight of those shorts lurking in the bin with the rest of our equipment. “Oh man!” I recall a teammate groaning. “They’re gonna wash all our shorts with his shitty pants!”
The risk of crotch rot or ass streaks from some other dude on such equipment might have been real if it were not for the Industrial Grade laundry service at most schools and colleges. Those team washing machines could have boiled smallpox or bubonic plague out of our clothes if need be. That meant your training gear and team uniforms had to be tough enough to survive week to week, and year to year. If that meant the equipment chafed you now and then, so be it. You learned to love the calluses on your balls because they protected you.
However, if you had thrown any of today’s high-tech Dri-Fit or Under Armor fabrics into those nuclear-powered washers and driers, there would be nothing left but a plastic shrivel to hold in your hand.
Tough old birds
That Old Tyme gear did last forever. I still have a few of those pieces of gear in my closet. They do not look any older than they did 40 years ago. That’s because they were made to last through years and years of wear.
Though it barely fits because I weighed 140 in college and weigh over 170 now, I’ve kept one classic Luther College jersey from the 1970s era. I recall racing in it on cold autumn days during my freshman year. It was one of the last years we wore those jerseys made by Gopher Athletic Supply. The equipment revolution was about to take hold in earnest with lighter, more ephemeral fabrics. So I sensed it was the end of one era and the beginning of another.
I’m glad I kept that jersey. Now that I’ve pulled it out I might put it in a frame or something. It’s a good reminder that while the risks and rewards of running and riding are often gleaned day to day, the real reward is in the permanence of your life experiences.