For several years now, I've been logging my road miles. It's a habit that came relatively late in life -- 40s and beyond -- and it's not something that I'm particularly attuned to, body-wise. I'm basically the size of your average middle-schooler -- 5'-4", 140 to 145 -- and running keeps the five pounds of gut off that keeps the pants comfortable, and everything else seeming right. When I get heavy, I notice and just start denying myself stuff, or up the miles if possible. It's a losing battle, of course, because that's what getting older is, but the alternative is to not be healthy, so. Run it is.
I also burn in the sun way too easily, hate putting on sunblock, and do my best thinking and writing at night. So I will frequently be on the roads near my home in the wee hours of the evening, when everything's quiet, you can hear the traffic coming for miles, and running right down the middle of the roads are as safe as houses. Given that roads are generally in far better condition than sidewalks, and it's very important to not trip and get hurt, especially when you are miles from your house, roads it is.
You see things in the small hours, especially on my route, which skirts a small creek and a decent sized park. In the last few weeks, that's included a possum (those things are freakish and wrong), a fox, all kinds of abnormally loud birds, cats of every stripe, all kinds of unconcerned rabbits, and a fox. None seemed terribly alarmed by my presence, and none did anything but lope along in their merry way as I plodded along down the road. It's the suburbs. So long as these guys don't come into my home or make a mess or my garbage cans, I'm happy to see them, and glad that they are making their commutes when automotive traffic is at its lightest.
So when I saw something critterish on the road tonight, I wasn't too alarmed. And as I got closer to it, it didn't seem terribly large -- maybe the size of a very large rabbit -- and hey that coloration is kind of striking and is that oh maybe, good thing he's leaving and...
I wasn't actually sprayed -- I don't think I was ever as close as 20 feet from the critter -- but I got close enough that my fellow traveler sent out a little memo that confirmed the species. And man alive, there is just nothing so primal or immediate as skunk spray. If you've never had the, um, pleasure, it's just stronger than anything else you've ever smelled. Skunks carry sulfuric acid in their glands, and that's the base of the hit -- sulfur. It put a certain hitch in my giddy-up that I wasn't counting on at the five mile mark, and I wasn't certain that I was safe from it for a good half mile or more.
Still, better than sunburn. Or not fitting in my clothes...