Although I run a lot of miles in the woods and mountains I hate animals. Of the biggest ones I worry about I will write them in order of which ones I fear the most, not necessarily the ones that will most likely sink their teeth (or fangs, claws) into me and also make me crap my pants and scream like my 3 year old daughter going down a slide. My non running friends and / or coworkers think that I am tough or something because I don’t think it’s that big of a deal to run 30 miles after work or 100 miles in the mountains. But I can assure most anyone that I am the biggest pansy in the world when it comes to natures little creatures. Sure, I run trails solo a lot, in the dark, in the afternoon, any time anywhere I will run them with or without someone else and generally it doesn’t bug me too much, but anyone that has ever followed me on single track when I come across a snake (even a cute little baby Gardner snake) and witnessed me jumping 10 feet in the air no matter the amount of miles in my legs can attest to my pansyness.
Bears – I am not too worried about these dudes. I haven’t seen them too much, the closest I have been has been running Tiger Mountain and it was maybe 60 feet away bulldozing its way through the thick bushes and small trees as myself and 2 other guys ran the single track. I have read enough stories though to make my meager heart skip a beat at any noise I hear. The sentence I just wrote I will be able to write under each animal I write about under this post.
Cougars . Rattlesnakes. Alligators - I’m not sure how to rank these. All of them make me wish I was born with the innate ability to stay indoors and play videogames for hours on end as the soul meaning of my life. But I will just write about them in alphabetical order as they could all make me crap myself quicker than a gallon of Exlax on a 4000 foot downhill run.
Alligators. I’ve only had to worry about these on a single run – Rocky Raccoon in Texas. I still remember checking out the run the day before the race, entering the park and seeing a sign that read “Aliigators Exist in this Park.” All I remember thinking was, “Awesome!” So everytime I ran near water, or mud (which was nearly everywhere since this was a trail race) I ran a little quicker, and a little more quiet. Of course the only thing I saw was an armadillo. Maybe my quick and quiet running was elusive enough to avoid scary predator known as the alligator.
Cougars. I have seen one of these whilst running before. It might have been 2002 or so. I was running with the old running group above Monroe, WA on some old not used any more logging roads. There was a group of maybe 6 of us and myself and another guy were a little bit ahead on a long climb. As we crested the top I saw one bolt off down another trail. I said to the other dude, “Holy Shit! Did you see that cougar?” And sadly he said he didn’t because he was too busy staring at the ground while running up the big ass hill. I sure saw it though and am just glad I was with others when we came across this thing. Lots of times when running and there is an overhang above the trail, or I hear something big running in the woods near me (near me means I can hear it) I will often crunch my neck up making it shorter and less of a target as I imagine the cougar about to launch itself and sink its teeth into me. And these cats are tough as nails too. While in Yellowstone last year on a backcountry trip some dude showed us cougar crap and it had bones in it explaining how they eat virtually all of their prey, bones and all. Them is some tough sons sa bitches. Although good luck trying to shit out my femur to the stupid cat that wants to eat me. That’s a joke to the non sense of humor person, I know a few of those : )
Rattlesnakes. This is a newer one to me. Although I have run in areas where they exist in the past, I have never truly worried about them too much. But with having to run in Arizona next month, and possibly Zion and Leadville next year the crap is building within me that I may empty into my proverbial pants (or running shorts) someday soon. I still remember running the Capitol Forest 50 miler 2 years ago and seeing a little tiny non threatening snake in the middle of the trail somewhere around 40 something miles in – and I still jumped about 10 feet high. So if I hear a rattle I just hope I can ascertain where it is coming from so when I jump I can do it away from the sound. All I can imagine is that I will have to crap at about mile 80, and I’ll be hovering just off trail, and then all of a sudden I’ll hear a rattle as I squat. My shorts will be around my knees or lower, I won’t be able to gracefully remove myself from this dangerous predators personal space, and it’ll be pissed because I am about to literally crap on its parade. It will sink it’s venomous fangs right into my ass cheek (or worse) and instantly suck what little energy I have left and in my depleted state the toxins will render me paralyzed yet writhing in pain until I expire. Talk about getting caught with your pants down.
I think the if any of them are going to get me though and I have to get bit or eaten or clawed I think I would choose the alligator or cougar. Seriously, how bad ass would it be to go out that way. If it’s gator I’m sure as hell going to rip one of his eyeballs out a la Happy Gilmour, and if it’s a cougar and I am losing I;m at least going to leave a mark somehow on his sorry (but well fed I’m going to surmise) ass even if I have to sink my own teeth into his furry hide.