When the gear slips, the gears slip

Old Shoes.jpgYesterday I wore a pair of Cordogan shoes to work. They complemented the peach Oxford shirt and olive pants I’d paired up from the closet. Sue said, “You look nice.”

But they are old shoes, having been handed to me upon the death of my father-in-law after family members cleaned out the closets. So I’d think about my late father-in-law whenever I wore those Ecco shoes.

One problem: the shoes are a touch tight. So I don’t wear them all that often, especially if the work day calls for long walks of any sort. They definitely would not have been suitable for the two-mile hike from the train station to the marketing agency where I did some contract work in Chicago for a month. Blisters might have ensued on a walk that long. And you don’t want that.

We try not to let our everyday clothes and footwear mess with our sporting lives. Yet I recall a previous commute in Chicago where the walk to work was 2.5 miles. That meant I either took the bus, hailed a cab or walked. I already wore orthotics to help prevent knee soreness and injuries such as chondromalacia. The orthotics back then consisted of a plastic foot form covered by a permanent layer of insole. And I ran in the same orthotics. So they stunk. Really stunk.

I tried everything to get them to stop stinking, but they still smelled of pungent sweat and foot odor. Some days I’d get to work and sit at my desk with the smell of my stinky orthotics wafting up to my nose. Like a country hayseed.

The Hayseed Factor

That was a problem because I shared a long desk with a refined younger woman who somehow politely ignored (to me anyway) the stink of my orthotically stinky feet. And that was embarrassing but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

Thus the world of athletics and the world of work sometimes merge whether you like it or not. It’ not good when you get a blister from the commute or your shoes stink to high heaven because you work out in the same orthotics you wear in your dress shoes. When stuff like that happens, it feels like the cosmic gears are slipping somehow. As in, “What is wrong with my life that I can’t control these simple things?”

But the fact of the matter is that we don’t really control a number of things in our lives. And things wear out. Break down. Get old. Or become outdated or useless. Some can’t accept that about their lives. They cling to things when they should relent. It happens in every facet of life. In work. At play. Even in religion and politics. Some people can’t let go of worn out anything.

Yet I still love the song by Sting and the Police titled “When the world is running down you make the best of what’s still around.”  It celebrates that sense of ‘hanging on’ and making the best of things even when the world is changing before your eyes. Some of the lyrics go like this:

Turn on my V.C.R., same one I’ve had for years
James Brown on the Tammy show,
Same tape I’ve had for years
I sit in my old car, same one I’ve had for years
Old battery’s running down, it ran for years and years

Which brings me back to those old shoes I wore yesterday. They started to fall apart right underneath my feet. The soles began to crumble into rubber bits that littered the pad under my office chair. By day’s end big chunks of brittle rubble, an inch in length, were scattered over the floor.


It took me a while to figure out what was going on. Then I lifted my foot and looked at the bottom of the shoes. There was a three-inch void in the sole rubber. Even the heel of one shoe was falling apart. The rubber was crumbling and tumbling off.

Those shoes must have been much older than I thought. They still look good. The tan leather still looks pretty enough. So perhaps I could have them re-soled. Yet that typically costs as much as a new pair of shoes. Planned obsolescence? Not really. Shoes simply don’t last forever.

And like I said, those shoes were a bit tight.

Worn out shorts

The crumbling condition of those shoe soles reminded me of the sudden dissolution this winter of a relatively new pair of Pearl Izumi cycling shorts. I pulled them out to ride this winter when a long February warm spell allowed a few road bike rides this year.

But when I pulled my standard black bike shorts out of the drawer, their condition shocked me. Whenever lycra gets old its starts to show tan fibers at the surface. Perhaps those black fibers get bleached by abrasion, or the laundry. But whatever their cause, the worn fibers are a sign that a set of bike shorts is beyond its useful life. Worn through, you might say.

Bike Shorts Worn Out.jpgI tried hard to recall when I had purchased those shorts. My thoughts turned to last year, when we took a trip out west for training. It sure seemed like I bought those shorts just before that April trip. But could a set of cycling shorts wear out in just a year?

In more than a decade of riding, I’ve worn out five or six pairs of cycling shorts of the same style. None of them gave in after just one year, or even two years. But the black bike shorts that I own now look like hell.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what causes the problem to happen so quickly on some shorts and not others. Perhaps it is my new position on the bike. The front of the shorts is actually worn off more than the back. Maybe my strong forward lean on the bike is causing friction around the crotch. If only it was too much crotch causing the friction. Every man’s dream, right? Ha ha.

Worn out dreams

But some people simply hang onto gear for too long. Seems like we all know people who wear their endurance gear far longer than its proper, useful life. One guy who occasionally joined our Saturday group ride wore the same raggedy-ass triathlon shorts he bought back in the 1980s. Those saggy shorts literally hung on his body. How they did not wear completely through and leave bare-ass holes on his ass cheeks no one will ever know. Or want to know.

There is a point at which one should not remain loyal to any piece of equipment. And there are moments when SURPRISE! even a relatively new piece of gear slips into dysfunction mode or wears out before its time.

It happens with every kind of gear it seems. There are lemons in every kind of product. Running shoes that fall apart or never work. Bike gear or even bikes that never work like they were designed. Swim goggles that break the day you buy them, or always fog up no matter what sort of spray or spit you apply to their precious surfaces.

When the gear slips, the gears slip. It’s a fact of life. All we can do is deal with it and move on.

So I tossed those old shoes in the garbage and the bike shorts will likely go a week from now. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do about our functional and dysfunctional possession. And that’s the naked truth.

When I feel lonely here, don’t waste my time with tears
I run ‘Deep Throat’ again, it ran for years and years
Don’t like the food I eat, the cans are running out
Same food for years and years, I hate the food I eat

When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around

About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @genesisfix07 and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and genesisfix.wordpress.com Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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