Wooderson, Dazed and Confused
Beautiful autumn run through the valley yesterday.I took the car to the dealership and ran home—not far, just about seven kilometres, but enough to get my legs warmed up.
Not that they needed it, as I was wearing my favourite pair of tights, an old pair that I have had for many years. In fact, when I got home, I walked past a photo of me in the Vulture Bait 25K trail race back in 2007, and noticed I was wearing the same tights (and the same blue running jacket, as it happens).I remember when I bought them. It was just after the Rideau Lakes Cycling Tour in 1999. The Rideau Lakes is an enjoyable 360K round trip pedal between Ottawa and Kingston. You bike down on Saturday, stay the night at Queen’s University, and head back to Ottawa on Sunday. The first year I did the event, we had beautiful weather on the Saturday; but overnight, wind, rain, and cold moved in. Some people (including me) were taken by surprise by the sudden weather change. I had only a little jacket and some tissue-paper thin nylon warmup pants with me. Many people abandoned that day; oddly, I didn’t, but I was wet and freezing for every minute of the ride back. At one point I recall standing in the public park washroom in Perth, about 40K from the end, trying to thaw my hands out under a weak stream of hot water from the tap so I could hold onto my handlebars. The finish line seemed a long way off that day.
I don’t mind running or biking in the cold and wet. But I hate being cold and wet, and I was annoyed at myself for not having had the foresight to have brought the proper cycling kit for bad weather. Tim Noakes, in The Lore of Running, agrees with me. “Almost without exception,” he writes, “Fatal cases of hypothermia occur in people who underestimate the cooling capacity of the environment.” Yikes. That is exactly what I had done.Right after that first Rideau Lakes, I decided that as God was my witness, I would never be cold again. I went to Mountain Equipment and bought a carload of weather-resistant clothing. The next year at the event, I was outfitted with enough gear for an open boat journey through the Drake Passage in the gales of winter. Of course, that year the weather was warm and sunny all weekend.
All these years later, my tights are anything but tight; they have all the elasticity of a pair of Pa Kettle’s long johns. After I’ve been running for a while they tend to bag around my ankles like a pair of 1980s aerobic leg warmers. Somewhere along the line they acquired a rip in the thigh from an unfriendly bicycle component. It’s a cinch that they slow me down considerably by wind drag alone.
|New paths; familiar clothing|
Maybe it’s because they link me to all the races we have done and all the places we have been together: countless early morning training rides in Algonquin; the Waterfront Marathon in Toronto; the Blue Mountain Century in Collingwood; winters of biking to work downtown. On my desk, as I write, is a photo of my wife and me on a chilly morning ride to Zabriskie Point in Death Valley. I’m wearing the tights. There is a timelessness, an agelessness about these almost indestructible tights that I am loath to let go of.Next weekend, failing an unprecedented increase in global warming, I’ll pull the tights on one more time for the Angus Glen Half Marathon. I’m really looking forward to this run, a small, friendly race just north of Toronto, which I’m doing for the first time. Except it won’t feel like the first time. As I flop down the road in my baggy old tights, each step will feel like every one I’ve ever taken.