I topped out at a six-minute/mile pace, something my coach has never seen in training.
Don’t call me paranoid. It’s true! No, really, IT IS. Animals are out to get me. I am one hundred percent convinced that before I hit the trails, the little critters congregate and plan their blitz attack of the day. I’ve encountered snakes slithering across my path, been pooped on by birds, and once was chased by a javelina (if you don’t know what these desert creatures are, think Pumbaa from The Lion King, only substitute the happy musical numbers and meerkat BFF with grunting and a strong desire to use your dead skull as a soup tureen).
While traveling in Texas recently, I found some sweet singletrack along a lake and decided to see where the path led me. As the grass began to get higher, and the scenery more beautiful, I turned a corner and found myself twenty feet away from a very large bird.
Because of my extensive experience playing Angry Birds, I feel confident in saying it wasn’t a crane, nor was it a pelican or a swan. It was a giant behemoth of feathers, possibly escaped from a secret government experimental lab where they cross-breed ostriches with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold and I both stopped dead in our tracks.
“Shoo, bird.” I whispered, hoping to continue my run on the gorgeous trail, “Shoo.”
Arnold cocked his head to one side.
“HEY. Go away, big birdy!” I picked up a small pebble aimed in his direction (again, this is where my extensive Angry Birds experience comes in handy).
Arnold’s beak opened. I don’t speak bird, but judging from the squawk that emanated from Arnold’s large, genetically-modified body, it was certainly some variation of “OH, NO YOU DI-INT!”
His wings spread and he took a flying leap at me.
That was all. I dropped the pebble and ran away faster than you can say “Kindergarten Cop.” My Garmin later showed I topped out at a six-minute/mile pace, something my coach has never seen in training (Coach Dude, if you’re reading this, you are not allowed to acquire a flock of Arnolds to chase me during track sessions. NO.).
I didn’t look over my shoulder until I was almost out of the trail. As I glanced behind in fear, I tripped over a tree root, landing with arms and legs akimbo, face in the dirt.
Cursing and panting heavily in a puddle of my own sweat (at least, I hope it was sweat), I closed my eyes and whispered a silent prayer that when I opened them, Arnold wouldn’t be standing over me, smoking a Marlboro and saying my last rites in German.
He wasn’t. But the animals weren’t done with me yet.
A fly landed on my leg. I screamed, flailing wildly as I noticed he wasn’t alone – the flies were everywhere. What the…?
As I turned onto my side to stand up, I got my final calling card from the animals: less than two feet away from my nose was a giant pile of animal dung.
Well played, critters of Texas. Well played.
Needless to say, I’ve never been so happy to return to a hotel room, where I could deadbolt my door, hide under the covers, and curl up in the fetal position. Three days later, as my flight out of Texas taxied down the runway, I looked out the plane’s window. I sighed with relief when Arnold wasn’t perched on the wing, glaring at me menacingly.
Listen, I’m not totally opposed to communing with the flora and the fauna while running. But forgive me if I’m a bit traumatized. At the moment, I’m perfectly content to stay indoors on my treadmill. At least during those runs, the only animals I encounter are my dogs, who are usually too busy napping and farting to notice I’m running in their space.
I realize my hiatus from trail running gives the animals a bit more time to plan their next attack. That’s okay. But hopefully, they see I’ve learned my lesson: It’s technically their space – I’m the one parading through their home in my neon spandex. I’d be offended, too. I need to respect that and, you know…maybe not throw pebbles at giant Austrian man-birds. But critters, you should know I’m taking a page out of Arnold’s book:
I’ll be back.
About The Author:
Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke