Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in the making of this blog post. Mildly embarrassed perhaps but only they can speak to that for sure...
Apparently I am not only George Castanza, but also Dr. Doolittle as all creatures great and small came out to greet me on my long run (semi-long run...we're tapering) this weekend. I saw no less than some geese, one deer, two raccoons, a few funny bunnies (funny because they plop themselves almost on top of the trail and take care to move not a single muscle as you approach as if saying to themselves, "if I just don't move maybe she won't notice me." I like to wave, lest they think they have me fooled), many scavenging squirrels, and even a skunk (ok this one I saw actually walking around on the drive to the trail, but I can't say I've ever seen a LIVE skunk just walking around before and besides I practically choked on his fumes at mile 3 so it's like I ran by him anyway).
But it's the raccoons that freak me out. My mobile mile marker, affectionately referred to as Dad warned me on the way to the trail that they'd been out snarling at him all week long. (Let's just pause here for a sec and recap slightly in case someone stumbles across this blog and thinks I'm an abusive daughter forcing my elderly father to go out with me on 20+ mile runs. For starters he's not elderly, I won't give away his age, but I don't even think he qualifies for an AARP card yet. Secondly he's not running with me, he's on a bicycle and probably most importantly, the dude does more on a bike than most people half his age are capable of. His long rides are the day before my long runs. He rode 50 miles this past Friday. He uses my long runs as his recovery rides. Yeah, I think it's safe to say my little girlies do not have the average Grandpa. Oh and by the way, he just recently won the Gold medal at the Senior Olympics in our county. Awww yeah Dad!)
Anywho...back to the masked bandits. So as my Dad got his bike out of the back of the truck and I started on the trail in the pitch black of 5:30AM, I started thinking about what I'd do if I ran across one. I mean at least on a bike, my Dad was moving pretty fast and would be gone before the little guys knew what happened but me at long run pace, in the dark and on their turf...I was toast. With every step I pondered how they'd attack. One bite and take off? Do they chomp down and not let go? I think they've got pretty sharp claws too.
And just about the time I started wondering where the heck my Dad was with his bike light, I saw them. Two black figures off to the side of the trail up ahead. I became a funny bunny thinking maybe they wouldn't see me. They turned my direction and employed the same tactic. "Huh?" I thought to myself "Now what?" So I took a couple steps forward, heart pounding "This is it. I am about to be destroyed by a raccoon and I will most surely die of rabies and what a stupid thing to have to explain to my kids when they get old enough to understand. Sorry girls your mom got taken out by a rabid raccoon while running 15 miles in the pitch black at 5:30AM training for a marathon."
I stopped again, my confidence wavering and thinking it might be better to turn around and head for the car. But the strategy worked, well at least on one. He took off running away from the trail, across the street and into the woods. The other however, ran my direction across the trail practically giving me a heart attack, but dove under the rail and went down the hill. I heard a splash in the river (do raccoons swim or was he just totally thrown off his game?) so I figured I was safe and kept running.
Shortly thereafter, my Dad caught up and I of course let him know about the unwanted visitors (wait...maybe I was the unwanted visitor?). He nobly decided to defend my honor by riding up ahead to chase away any remaining hidden bandits that might lie in wait up ahead. No big deal for the guy who used to make a game of hunting ground moles (and bringing them in my bedroom at about 6:30AM on a shovel for me to wake up next to in the morning...I kid not. He thought it was funny. Me...not so much.) when I was a teenager. Although, I'll admit I was a little concerned. The moles were pretty much blind the minute they got out of the ground and not much bigger than an orange, the raccoons on the other hand have superior night vision and are roughly the size of a small bear (ok I'm exaggerating, but that's pretty much what it looked like in the heat of the moment). I swear I heard them growling (or whatever that angry noise is) not a minute after he took off from me. While not another one came within sight for the rest of the run, I'm thinking I'll do this last long run a little later in the day, you know, when the sun comes out and those fellas head for home.
'Til next time....
Keep your eyes open on the trails. You never know what might pop out!
P.S. On behalf of mighty mole man, please wear reflective or light colored clothing when running in the dark of night or early morning even when on the trails. Though he may not bike as fast as a car, he has been known to hit speeds in excess of 15 miles an hour especially coming downhill and even if you're running with football gear on that's probably gonna hurt a little bit. Mighty mole man thanks you for your cooperation!