I speed-walked as fast as I could down my street trying to force my legs to warm up faster than usual. It had rained earlier today, right before I got home from the looks of things. I couldn't wait for a solid warm-up, so when I got near the bottom of my own street I broke into a healthy jog.
My breathing wasn't under control, by any means. I wasn't ready to run. I was huffing and puffing. But my pace was good compared to my last 2 runs so I kept going. It was getting dark quickly. I had pepper spray in one pocket and a flashlight in the other. If necessary I was prepared to run with one in each hand.
1 mile down the road I was in my own world, just cruising along, feeling OK, if not particularly fast or strong. The storm had dropped a lot of tree branches and crap all along the road. I was stepping over them without really noticing. And then suddenly I noticed one of the branches turning around to look at me. And I was right on top of it at this point.
"Huh, that branch is turning around and looking at me," I thought to myself in a mental fog. My mind was a million miles away at this point. But it was rapidly returning to where I was.
The 'branch' was no more than a foot in front of me and I was running towards it. In a split second I was looking down at a long, brown 'branch' with dark diamonds all along it that apparently had a head and eyes and was now looking at me with mild curiosity. I was of course looking back at it with equal curiosity and perhaps a little alarm.
I suddenly found myself putting a little extra spring in my step as I leaped over it and started moving past it. By this point I had mentally returned to the present and was fully aware that a 3-4 foot long snake was directly beneath me and turning around to face me.
|That stick is looking at me!|
I had a good pace going and I had fully intended to stick to it, but I suddenly felt the urge to speed up. And that is exactly what I did. Not only that, but I was looking backwards to see what the snake was doing the entire time I was running away from it until I was over a hill and out of sight of the snake. Sorry Coach, I know you told us to never look back because it slows us down, but I figured I had compensated by speeding up with the extra adrenaline that was suddenly pulsing through my veins. And besides, this is the first time I ever encountered a big snake like this directly underneath my feet while running before. If necessary, I'll get a note from my mother, but I think this one is excusable.
I live out in the country. I encounter all kinds of things while running. It's really dangerous for me to run after dark and it was getting darker by the second at this point. I don't know snakes. I know that a snake with diamonds on it and a rattle on its tail is a rattlesnake and a big black snake with a flared back is a cobra, but beyond that I have no clue. I only know what I saw there in a brief instant as the sun was fading and the pavement was steaming from the rain.
The problem with my running route is that it partially repeats, which is to say, I have to turn around and return the way I came, covering the same ground. And that means when I pass something like this, unless it decides not to be there when I get back, it will be waiting for me.
On my return run you can rest assured I was wide awake and looking intently at every stick and leaf and log along that road. I looked and looked until, once again, the snake and I were reunited. Apparently the asphalt was warm. He must have liked it there. He was crossing the road, but he was in no hurry at all. He was now on the opposite side of the street, which coincidentally was once again the side of the road I was on. Yay!
So I crossed the street and gave the snake a wide berth. He turned to watch me pass, just like before. I kept my eye on him the entire time, just like before. And my pace was quickened. Wah-la! Instant motivation!
The problem with this snake speeding up my pace was that I was at that point in my course running uphill. And I was really running at about the right pace for my currently physical condition. When I sped up after leaping around the snake the first time I felt a slight twinge in my ever-problematic calf. It wasn't an injury. It was just the old injury reminding me that I had better be more careful if I wanted to finish this run and not end up missing the Warrior Dash in 2 weeks because of my calf. Despite the snake, my calf was continuously on my mind from that moment on. Well, my calf and the snake were on my mind. Let's be fair, I didn't just forget the snake because my calf was on the edge of injury. But if you are an athlete then I'm sure you know what it feels like to have a bodypart that is right on the verge of injury and warning you. It's unnerving.
By the time I reached the long, dark stretch of my route it was pretty dark outside. And there I was looking everywhere for snakes in the road. So I pulled my flashlight out of my pocket and ran with it on until I reached the end of my run, down at the bottom of my own street. Even walking up the street on my own block, with houses on both sides of me, I was totally focused on objects in the road in case any of them turned to look at me.
When I got home I immediately stretched. This past weekend I saw an NFL trainer working on an injured running back. He had something very familiar that he was using on the pulled leg muscle of the football player. It was The Stick, of which I just happen to have one. Having seen that and knowing that my calf injury is just dying to make a comeback I pulled out my Stick and worked the hell out of my legs from ankle to hip. Then I took the advice of some of you here on The Blog and pulled out my trusty tennis ball. I worked my arches and then got down on the floor and worked the crap out of my calves.