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Posts tagged ‘safety’

Cheetahs in the dark and other night running perils

I make no apologies for running at night. It’s often the only time I can carve out a chunk of time to go on a run. It’s soothing in many ways, with the hum of wind coming over the Altamont hills near my home. It’s cooler than during the day.

But I’ll be the first to admit, it’s kind of scary.

Especially when you see a cheetah.

Well. Not really. That cheetah comes from Wikimedia Commons. Not Mountain House.

A couple months ago someone reported seeing a Mountain Lion where I run. Turned out to be a house cat. Yes, a house cat.

But the problem with running at night is that the mind can play tricks on your eyes. Even with a headlamp.

That happened to me and my running buddy Jennie recently. We’re already hyper focused on our surroundings. We literally turn around when we think we hear something behind us. We speed up in areas we’ve seen dogs jumping up to eye level at six-foot brick fences (seriously, a huge jumping dog).

We run through areas of darkness quickly, just to get to a brighter area.

And sometimes, we see things.

Once, on an early morning 20-mile run Jennie and I saw a fox. It was before there were houses in a specific area out in Mountain House. Instead, there were just frames. We hid, temporarily, in the world’s worst smelling portable toilets. That’s saying a lot about the smell too. I’ve experienced some pretty bad ones in my time as a runner.

The fox passed.

On the recent cheetah encounter run, we had joked about seeing wolves now that it’s darker when we run. On the backside of the community, there’s a farm where we often hear wildlife noises. So a wolf? Possible.

More possible? Seeing a feral cat.

So on that specific run, we were already psyching ourselves out a little when I turned a corner and saw bright eyes.


What the hell is that?

Jennie, about 50-feet behind me, is coming closer.

“Cheetah!” I yell out, half kidding.

The look on her face was priceless. She was petrified.

She laughed it off after I told her it was just a cat. A cat that ran and hid behind a bush as soon as we came around a corner. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t try to save it. I have dogs. And ducks. I’m not a big fan of cats in general. I would completely ignore all cats if I could.)

A cat like the one above can turn into a monster on a night run. I’m not even kidding. That specific cat above belongs to my student Haley. Haley recently had her world turned upside down with more than her share of loses, including her faithful companion Peaches, a cat that was like a sister to her.

I’m glad Haley got a new cat today. I’m more glad that, I believe, she adopted a stray. She was really excited about it. And it made me realized I needed to write this blog post. (Rest in peace, Peaches.)

So a cat as innocent looking as Haley’s becomes a crazy beast ready to chase us. Except it isn’t.

Once you see something like that, you let your guard down a little bit. Whew. That passed. Right.

Jennie and I laughed it off and rounded a corner heading into our last mile. About 20-feet after the little store we sometimes stop at we again saw eyes. Bigger eyes. On a bigger animal.

And we freaked out. In an unexpected way.

Because it was dark.

Kind of like that.

Jennie and I did a quick back peddle and ran back toward the store. Jennie ran faster than I’d ever seen her run on any training run. We looked back when we got to a safe place, in front of the store, and realized the dog, large as it was, actually ¬†was with a person. On a leash.

But for 10 seconds, that dog was scary to us. And neither or us saw the owner, even with two headlamps.

I know not to run from dogs. I have Chow Chows, often considered violent animals (I call my dog Cuddles sometimes even though his name is Beau, that should say something). I was raised around dogs.

That doesn’t make it any less scary when you see an animal, staring you down on a sidewalk in the dark. A dog can become a monster. And a cat that’s likely more afraid of you, becomes a cheetah.

Or maybe I’m the only one this happens to in the dark.


Staying warm and being cautious

It’s been a little crazy here with the weather in the past couple days.

I’ve been relegated to the treadmill as of last night and this morning. I don’t mind running in the rain, usually. However, the wind is a little annoying and I woke up this morning with a killer headache.

I went out for a five-mile run around Mountain House on Wednesday with Jennie. And I was cold. Really cold. I’m used to running at night. I tend to warm up a little later than I want, usually at about the end of my shorter runs. But on Wednesday, my body didn’t seem to want to warm up. I got to mile four of the run and was still a little cold.

I was wearing a pair of long Nike tech running tights and my newish Lululemon Run: Your Heart Out long sleeve pullover. I had a short-sleeve Nike Dri-Fit shirt on underneath the long sleeve.

None of the gear had a thermal layer.

I thought a lot about this, especially since I knew there would be bad weather this weekend.

On Wednesday, I also noticed that, despite the headlamp I wear, sometimes people driving ridiculously fast through Mountain House don’t see us. I saw lights before I saw the car on one intersection, but I knew to slow down. We had the right of way in the cross walk, but that never means I should trust that a car will stop.

In many cases they don’t.

So I ventured to my local Fleet Feet store in Stockton with some goals in mind: I needed better layering for the cold and I needed to find something to make me more visible to cars, other people, etc.

The worker at the store directed me to some standard Nike pants, but the first thing he grabbed was a pair of Mizuno Breath Thermo tights. I was looking around a little more. The store had all jackets on sale for the rain, but I have a couple nice running jackets for rainy conditions.

I came across a beautiful purple Nike pullover with a weave design on it. The worker came over and told me that was an excellent choice, especially considering the Nike pullover was made of wool. Wool is a natural insulator. It’s incredibly thin, but really warm. I’m wearing it right now as I type this, if only because it is really, really comfortable.

I bought a size medium, which will be great for runs because I like my clothes skin tight as to not get in my way.

Plus, did I mention it’s gorgeous? The purple is beautiful.

Here are product screen shots from online retailers. I wore the pants on my treadmill run this morning because my legs were feeling a little fatigued. The Mizuno Breath Thermo material responds to sweat (does that sound gross? Maybe a little?) and warm in return. By the end of my five-mile run my legs were feeling rather toasty.

I think these will be a nice combination when I run a trail 10K next week in Fremont. I’m hoping, though, that I get an outdoor run or two next week in Mountain House as well.

So warmth was taken care of. I nearly forgot about the safety aspect of my visit until I saw a gift basket behind the worker who was cashing me out. In it was a pair of Brooks Nightlife Arm and Leg Bands.

I hate that when people take pictures of florescent items, they always seem to leave a little something to be desired. These bands are bright. The reflective tape is awesome. I’m really looking forward to trying them out.

As I was trying to finish the one purchase, the worker asked me if I’d seen the flashing strobe lights they had for runners to. I hadn’t. He brought one over. For $7 it was a steal, so I picked one of those up too.

The regular lighted mode is really bright. But the strobes will make people notice us more as we run. I shot a quick video of the strobe types, which didn’t exactly show up very well, but you get the idea. (And I apologize for the background sound, I was watching an episode of Cheers on Netflix. Don’t ask me why, I just decided to turn it on.)

So now I’m cold weather and safety ready. I’m excited for more bad weather runs, just not the wind-prone type.