Yesterday, as I crested the last hill during a set of double pole intervals, I felt a bit of loathe that usually doesn’t make itself apparent until late October. While training alone can be relieving in its flexibility and release of pressure, it sure gives you a lot of time to think, and on these long, lonely rollerskis, I’m running out of thoughts to be thunk.
I’ve begun honing in on all the details of this strange exercise. I watch my poles quiver as they hit the pavement, better feel each muscle strain as a ferrule slips up a hill and am all the more attune to each rebellious pebble or crack that could stand in the way of me and a safe return to my car. In the last two weeks, I have reencountered the heat and monotony that accompanies my rolls, slowly acquainting myself with blistered hands and sweaty helmets-details happily forgotten in the bliss of winter.
And yet, three, four, five times a week I still do it. Without reluctance, I zip up my boots and clip into my rolls. I slide on my gloves, pretending they’ll protect my skin, and strap on my poles, readying my body and mind for the upcoming hours of the less-than-melodious “prack prack” of my ferrules hitting pavement. I still do it, because it’s the closest thing I’ve got. I do it because between those thick, sweaty moments of angst, there hide fleeting snapshots of winter. Every once in a while, my hips get just right and my stride timed well, I almost smell the snow. These reminders keep me rolling.
I once told a friend, to explain my disdain in the face of my first rollerski, that my antipathy towards rollerskiing stems from it being agonizingly close to skiing, but not quite the same. I told him that rollerskiing is like a rebound girlfriend (stay with me here).
Every spring, Nordic skiers must undergo a reluctant breakup with the perfect girl. Whether we like it or not, she leaves us. Temporarily, we may feel relieved. We heal the transition with food and relaxation, partying and camaraderie, but after a month or so, separation anxiety again creeps up on us. We want her back, but she’s long gone. So, in an effort to move on, to do something productive, to push our need for her out of our minds, we find a new girl. At first, this one seems fairly different from our last girlfriend. She’s shorter, lower maintenance and requires a different kind of courting. She’s louder, and gets a lot of attention from people who don’t know her, and we initially feel relief that maybe everything will be ok–maybe we can get over the last girl.
But, soon, her subtleties begin to resemble those of the one we loved. Resemble, not mirror. Her voice sounds nearly the same, but is slightly harsher than skiing’s. She takes us to new places, but we can’t help but think the old ones were just fine. Her dance moves are similar, yet somehow less rhythmic and the thrill we get on our dates is one of “really liking” but just not quite one of “love.” It’s a painful closeness, but, still, not altogether unenjoyable.
So, we stay with this new girlfriend, resolving that it is better to have loved and lost, and then kind of liked, than to have nothing at all. We continue humor her, laughing at her bad jokes and enduring her repetitive chatter, knowing in the back of our minds that, if it is meant to be, our one true love will return.
Come November, as we find ourselves reunited with the one we’ve so missed, we may even look back on our interim relationships and smile, knowing for all the trouble that second girlfriend caused us, she was worth it.