In addition to reading Cycle Sport on the toilet, we cyclists share other traits as well. This one, however, I may only share with baseball and poker players.
I have a pair of socks about which I am now superstitious. Most people who know me will agree that I am usually the kind of person who shuns things that don't have a rational or scientific basis; things like superstitions, ghosts and enlargement pills. Sure, we would like to discover these things work, but instead you just get stuck with a monthly bill on your credit card.
So anyway, last night I was finally getting on the trainer (did I mention that Spokane's contribution to global climate change has been to suck up snow and cold temperatures the way the Yankees suck up free agents?). I grabbed the top jersey from a stack and was pulling it on as I headed to the basement and a DVD of Floyd Landis winning or not winning the Tour. As I pulled on the jersey I realized it was one that features a crazed Bozo the clown face. This is jersey that I used to pull out on days when I was feeling good. It was too aggressive and a tad obnoxious to wear for a friendly coffee shop ride, so it had to be reserved for those days when I felt like riding at the front, taking monster pulls and living up to the sentiment of the shirt. I had one cycling buddy who recognized this and took to warning the others in the group when I showed up with the crazy clown on my chest.
And yes, for those of you following along at home, this jersey has not seen a lot of action lately. Let's just say the last time this jersey was seen in the local peloton Tyler Hamilton was better known for falling on his collarbones than failing on his drug tests, but I digress.
The crazy clown jersey was obvious. I put it on when I was feeling strong and feeling like proving it. As a result, it wasn't a separate force, it was just a reflection of how I felt. This is unlike my pair of magic socks.
Much like a young Harry Potter, my magic socks didn't start out powerful. They developed and grew. They also snuck up on me. I don't know how long it took, but over a period of a couple of seasons, I realized after a ride where I felt great or had raced well that I was peeling off one particular pair of socks. The socks themselves aren't much to look at, but they were a single pair I got in the swag bag from a ride, so they stuck out more than a plain white pair would (or plain black if you are Lance).
After I noticed this, I started to pay a bit more attention and to my amazement, every time I wore this pair of socks I had a great ride, one that was seemingly above my fitness or training level. And here is where the problem lay. Once I realized it, I wasn't sure how to treat the power of these socks. Should I slack off on my training and just depend on the power of the socks? Should I only pull the socks out when I really, really wanted to have a good race? Was the power of the socks finite, so that I may have wasted many "great" rides when I was just out dorking around? Like a quantum particle, did the act of observation change the socks?
I don't know about you, but for me, this is an exponentially greater number of questions than my socks normally create.
After pondering the power of the socks, for a few rides, when I was getting ready and I wasn't feeling great, I would decide to use the socks like a performance enhancer. I would use them like a testosterone patch for my soles, so that I had new-found power at my disposal. To my amazement, they continued to perform. I was flabbergasted that these socks seemed to have the power to turn a bad day into a good day. And at that point, I reached paralysis. I couldn't let the socks down. I couldn't bring myself to have a bad ride with the socks, as if I owed the socks more than that. I could no longer just wear them like every other pair of socks in the drawer. These socks had brought me much good fortune and had never let me down. And if that is the case, how could I bear the burden of continuing this unbroken string of success with the socks? I couldn't. And to this day, I still can't. The socks now sit in the drawer, power level uncertain, but with the weight of expectation making them so heavy that I can't bear to lift them out of the drawer.
Thus, this is a cautionary tale. Be careful of the power you find in your cycling apparel. For while it may be better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, it is just not the same with a pair of magic socks. It is better to have won and lost, than to have the burden to never let them down.