The shadow behind me

29 Dec

Hello. Pleased to finally meet you. I knew you existed. On lazy training days I could feel you sliding up behind me.

Tonight your presence was more tangible. Coming around the first wide turn on my neighbourhood trail I heard you. You probably came in on the branch starting from the main road.

No problem, I thought. Here comes a little climb. I’ll shake you. Like all the rest.

Coming off the turn at the bottom of the other side  I heard you again. Tenacious, I thought. Some people. So if you want to hurt, fine. There’s a nice, long hill coming up.

Several minutes later, on its lee side, I thought I’d left you in my proverbial dust and began to relax.

But then I heard you again, close on my heels.

No, you’re someone to contend with. Got me flustered. Couldn’t decide whether to double-pole or go diagonal.

This is good, I thought. Fine training to behave naturally and maintain my technique when faced with stiff competition. When my diagonal got “happy slappy”, I mentally shook myself and forced some calm and smoothness into my strides.

It became purgatory when we got off the good trail and started climbing the unprepped ravine. The thicket of sticks beside the haphazard track clawed at my right pole throwing me off my stride. On the herringbone climbs your bright headlight was shining hotly on my back.

All the while you remained sphinx-like. I think you wanted to pass me and made a solid attempt. But then again maybe you were just minding your own business. I never heard heavy breathing, coughing or any sign of distress.

But damn you fish-boned up the steep spots fast!

I didn’t look at you when we parted ways at the junction. You kept heading up the unprepared trail, I turned off onto the nicely prepared track following the road built by an 18th century timber magnate.

Were you relieved? I was. But I didn’t look at you to see. You’re more effective as a motivator by remaining anonymous. That way you can be anyone, anywhere.

But saying that slights you. You’re a clean, classy skier. Probably a decent human being too. Quiet but effective. Here’s to you, my friend.

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