Yalping ape attack

7 Nov

I don’t know where he came from. I was going at a reasonable clip and had just crested a hill. I doubt he was behind me the whole time.

But there he came, easily rolling by me in a tuck as I doubled-poled down the hill. Slow wheels are a lesson in humility.

When he got down to the flats I saw he had bad technique. Mine, on the other hand, felt sharp. I’ve been concentrating on my v1/enkeldans after my drubbing in the flat stage of the Cosnes-Sancerre race. I’ve made progress in both speed and flow. But I still haven’t felt satisfied lately. My rollerski workouts feel like they’ve lost intensity, and that has been confirmed by my GPS stats.

It’s hard to stay motivated, even in bright sunshine, when every square centimeter of the road is caked in a sub-zero mix of water, salt, dirt and snow-tire rubber. At this point in the year the road up Maridalen never dries in spite of the recent absence of rain.

So there he was ahead of me. And I confess I had uncharitable thoughts as we passed the ruins of Margarethakirken:

My rational mind said let him go and concentrate on technique. Baser instincts said creep up on his tail and see if I would get a rise.

With rollerskis, different levels of wheel resistance can make speed differences irrelevant. Furthermore you never know how much someone trains and where their current activity fits into their fitness plan. There’s nothing shameful about a long, slow calm rollerski workout where you focus on good technique or just take it cool and easy to reward yourself for previous intense efforts.

But the fact remained that the man front of me knew he had faster wheels. Therefore passing him wouldn’t be benign if (and only if) he demonstrated that being passed was not insignificant for him. In most confrontations you can show you’re not interested in fighting without losing anything. That, for the reasons I’ve already stated, was even truer than usual in this situation.

But when he heard me behind him he took the bait and immediately started working harder. Bingo, I’d hooked a yalping ape on the end of my line.

There were several more drops on the way down to Hammeren. He had really fast wheels and edged away from me on each one of them in a tuck. But I stayed in v1/enkeldans all the way down and kept him within 10 or 15 meters.

As I crept back on his tail I noticed he had the same tights as a couple pairs I own. For some reason that triggered a little more bestial rage inside of me. In a fight for pure prestige the choice is always between winning or becoming a mirror for the victor’s glory. We needed to decide who would reflect whom.

Hearing he hadn’t lost me, his movements became more erratic as he struggled to increase his pace. There, his pain made me forget my own. Yes, this is good I thought, as I pulled past him driven on by a heady mix of sadism and more efficient technique.

As is usual in such circumstances the beast gave its last ditch effort while his brain calculated furiously whether or not to concede. Maybe there were some regrets thrown in too. All he needed to do was keep calm and let me go by and nothing would have been lost.

As for me, I felt supremely confident. Each time we climbed I had absorbed any distance lost going downhill. And when I finally pulled past him I knew the biggest hill on the route lay just around the corner before us. By that implacable logic victory was already Q.E.D.

As we came down the last little slope leading into the big climb I glanced behind me to see if he would roll ahead. Strangely, he would not. It was if my will had paralyzed his wheels. Emotionally I even felt a twang of pity. Which my body, now responding independently, crushed with a pole plant whose ferocity surprised me.

And so I was, and no longer needed to be. It didn’t occur to me to look back again. The animal rage I’d felt evaporated as quickly as it had come. I floated easily upwards in a bubble of road, breath, sunshine and fluid movements.

Arriving back at my starting point I saw my time was the among the fastest I’ve done on a wet road. I’m not sure who was the bigger ape, but the experience proved the animal instinct was what I’d been missing!


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