Somehow in the Carolinas we manage go from winter coats to flip-flops in about a week. And once this meteorological miracle happens, I’m ready to fully commit to the change of season. While I can appreciate the guarded optimism dictated by still-flagging bank stocks, unpredictable weather, and the guts to publicly bare one’s winter-white extremities for the first time since Halloween, spring is more than just the season to “set our clocks ahead an hour and change the oil in the crankcase,” as E.B. White once sobbed. Spring is the season for change, for fresh starts, and for taking note of the world around you. Here’s what I’ve noticed.
Despite running all winter in shorts regardless of the temperature – actual or perceived – why do the first days outside on the bike with bare legs make me feel practically naked? Rather than stew on the self-consciousness of baring them colorless and now only partially wrapped in spandex, I should worry more about the reflected headlamps bouncing off the pasty-paleness of my more Anglo mates in those early morning group rides. And why do I view cyclists’ and runners’ eventual “farmer’s tans” as completely normal, but think similar shading on golfers and gardeners to be just hilarious?
Even shops in the most unassuming parts of town and those dealing in the most unsuspecting of wares now have carts with rings to hold your coffee cup. Given my level of undying affection or, more honestly, my straight-up addiction to a freshly brewed cup of patience, does it really need to be even more acceptable and accessible? Tell me I’m not the only one who remembers the “Coffee Achievers” ads with David Bowie, Kurt Vonnegut, Cicely Tyson, and Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson. Like the voiceover says, “No other drink does that like coffee!”
Clothes and gear are chock-full of technology terms lately. Sorry, Fletch, but it’s not all ball bearings these days. To read the product literature, you’d think there’s as much R and D devoted to the square foot of fabric cooling your buns in a modern-day pair of running shorts as was needed to land a man on the moon. Some of it works, some of it’s marketing, some of it’s crap. But one thing spring weather will teach you for certain: There is a clear delineation between the terms “water-resistant” and “waterproof.”
Packing away your long-sleeve jerseys, sweaters, hats, and gloves should be a process. Committing too soon, as I usually do, leaves your hands, head, or other bits and pieces prey to the freak near-freezing mornings we thought were gone for good. Too many times have I watched the Weather Channel for nuances in the forecast that might hint at the perfect layering system for the day’s activity only to find myself woefully under- or over-dressed for the occasion. I may just pile all the clothes in a big box near the back door and dress ad hoc for the day’s weather until June.
I’ve amassed enough race numbers over the years to Tyvek an addition to Oprah’s house. Regardless, I’m still a nervous wreck before the first event of the season. Every year. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “tune-up” or something around which my whole year will orbit, those butterflies won’t settle down until a mile or so after the gun goes off. This, people, is why you tell your significant other, crew, flunkies, or friends to wait until after the race starts to hog a precious spot in the pre-race port-a-potty lines. I don’t care how much coffee they’ve had. You think Coach K and his kids felt the same before they took on Belmont at the start of the season?
Flagging motivation is a fact of life, work, and sport. Sometimes chasing that PR, a podium spot, or just the finish line isn’t enough. It’s been a long time since I’ve been scared out there. Not that I’m wishing and hoping for unpleasantness, accident, or injury, mind you, but more the thrill of the unknown that a brand-new challenge presents. Will I have the endurance, the strength, and the guts to finish? Or even to start? When I finally and completely burst from the winter cocoon of jackets, hats, and gloves, I want the emerging me to be ready to take on the new season and new adventures with confidence and, let’s call it, a healthy respect for what’s out there.
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