Thursday, June 24, 2010

Staying "Honest" in all this Heat

There's nothing like being a running shoe test "mule" to keep a runner honest. You see, I committed to being a shoe tester for Brooks Running and those wildly colored Brooks "test" shoes arrived on my doorstep just days before I left for my trip up through the Northeast. So a pair came along with me on my motorcycle. I did get some runs in, just not as many as I'd hoped or would have liked. So now I feel like I have some making up to do.

I arrived home from the trip to the ongoing heat wave that has had Houston in its grip since mid-May. The weather forecast on the news last night said the low's for the night would be 78 degrees... !!! ..... I promised myself that once I was home I'd make up for the meager miles the past week, but when I arrived home to a broken A/C unit, I used that as the excuse not to go run that first morning home.

So I dreaded what lay ahead of me when I awoke this morning. Extreme Heat. Extreme Humidity.

Surprise! At 6:00 AM I awoke to the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance. As I laid there in bed, my senses slowly awakening, I began to hear the patter of rain outside my bedroom windows. The running gods chose to smile down on Houston this morning, sending a blessed and badly needed rain to the area. My outlook and expectations improved dramatically.

Running shorts and tank top on, pair "B" of the tester shoes now on my feet, I grabbed my two essential items - my running hat and a piece of Trident gum- and headed out the door. Distance?? I had no idea...I would just play it by ear, see how it goes.

I absolutely LOVE running in the rain! No fair-weather runner am I! It keeps the temperatures down and keeps me cool and, once totally wet, the rain makes no difference at all. By the time I got through the first mile I knew that I'd be turning this into a longer run than my usual weekday distance. The miles came easily. I paid attention to how the shoes felt for the first couple of miles, so that I could take notes when I got home. This was my first run in shoe "B." I'd brought shoe "A" with me on my trip last week and got a few miles in with those.

The neighborhood still slumbered under the dark clouds as I ran and in the darkness of the gentle rain I noticed more detail in neighbors' gardens than I'd ever noticed before: lawns were greener, flowers more vibrant. None of the usual walkers or biyclists were out this morning; it was just me, running through the gentle but steady rain and skirting the puddles in the roadway. The rain added novelty to an otherwise familiar route and to add to the novelty I mixed it up a little by doing the side streets a little differently than usual.

Along the way I came across the usual wildlife - rabbits mostly - but happened upon a new resident, one I'd not seen before. We have racoons and armadillos and opossums living on our golf course, but I can't say that I've seen one of these before.

You see, a skunk and I came nearly face to face this morning!

As I ran along the left edge of the road I spied movement off to my right coming from between two houses that back up to one of the fairways. As our trajectories grew closer - and as the object moved onto the roadway - I could see that it was a skunk. A really beautiful skunk, too. Her fur was thick and plush, a rich black color and the white stripe that is so often a dingy yellow color on other skunks was a crisp clean white. She got fully into the roadway then saw or sensed me and froze. I froze, too, once I realized what I was about to encounter.

We checked each other out, not 20 feet apart and, as I did so, I realized she had something in her mouth. I'm referring to the skunk as a "she" now because once I realized what she had in her mouth, I deduced her gender. She had a little baby skunk kit in her mouth, held by the scruff of its neck like a cat would carry her kittens. It was a tiny kit, but had a discernable tiny little white stripe on its back. It couldn't have been more than a day or two old, and mama skunk was apparently relocating her litter somewhere else: To be safe? To be dry? I only hoped that she made it with all her kits and didn't get hit by a car. I never thought I'd say this, but mama skunk was actually rather cute. So round, so fluffy, such pretty fur!

Madame skunk and I decided we were not a threat to the other and we each continued on our way, me to finish my run, her to safely relocate her little family.

I finished my run in a reverie, thinking about the little skunk and the other animals that call our golf course home. Whenever I see wildlife in our little gated community I must remind myself that they were here first. There are those hundreds of rabbits that freely roam our yards, our gardens, the golf course, with very little if any fear of humans. They're like pets, they're so tame. There are the geese that live in along the banks of the water hazards on the golf course and occasionally wander into someone's front yard. On hole 6 in particular, the geese come out front of one specific house and hang out in the driveway. The raccoons that claim my backyard and rooftop as their own are a little bit of a nuisance given the piles of poop they leave behind, but they are awfully cute and have given my cat plenty of entertainment as they've occasionally come nose to nose through the sliding glass door. The armadillos that routinely dig up the putting greens of our golf course are simply searching for their breakfast. They're so ugly they're cute in a way.

4.5 mile run in the rain with a skunk encounter to boot!

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