Skunked!

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
One of the many benefits of living in California is the incredible climate offered up to year-round runners. Having gone on many winter runs in New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and Washington, the state of California remains by far the easiest (read: wimpiest) locale to run outside between December and March.  That having been said, there is nothing I enjoy more than embarking on an early morning run across crisp, freshly fallen snow. Unfortunately, that simply is not possible in California.  With temperatures throughout the Bay Area consistently in the mid to low 60's, I sometimes find myself wishing it was actually a little colder out while running.

My (minority) opinions on the subject aside, you may find yourself wondering as to why this article is named "Skunked". Bear with me.

This past Wednesday, I had a busy day at work and was unable to go on my usual morning run.  As the weather had been terrific all day and as the sun usually sets sometime around 5:30pm, I decided to go for a run in the dark.  The terrain around my office is mostly flat, but there are some great hills and well maintained running paths that go a long ways toward making the experience quite enjoyable.  Especially now that in the "winter" months most runners have retreated to treadmills, seeing other runners outside (and in the dark) has become pretty rare.

One particular hill that I enjoy mounting during a run is Crittenden Hill.  It is located directly behind my office and has some great interconnected paths that wind their way upward.  I usually include it at some point on my route as it provides a great overlook of Google's campus and the bay.

On this particular occasion, I had spent the afternoon playing Halo and drinking a few beers with a friend before setting out on my run.  Inevitably, I knew I was going to have to pause and "relieve" myself at some point.  Being as it was pitch black outside and I knew there would be few other runners, I didn't consider this a problem.

About halfway through my run and on the northern side of Crittenden Hill, I paused and made my way into some bushes to pee.  I hadn't been urinating for more than 10 seconds when I heard some rustling in the darkness directly in front of me.  Since my eye's had already adjusted to the night, I looked and saw what I thought were 3 small cats walking toward me.  It was only when they came within about 15 feet of me that I noticed the white stripes running down their respective backs. Baby Skunks!

Realizing the skunks were still infants, I immediately panicked as I saw they were not with their mother.  Since I had stepped off the running path and into the bushes to do my business, I turned around and saw the mother skunk sitting in the middle of the path staring straight at me.  I now realized that I was directly between the mother and her babies, and was certainly in no position to move myself as I was already "preoccupied".

To demonstrate this visually, I've plotted out all of our positions on this custom google map for easy reader reference.

I was fortunately able to finish, and slowly moved to one side before deciding to sprint away from the unfolding scene.  I circled back to the area later, but the skunk's had decided to move on and were nowhere to be seen.

All things considered, I think the entire situation could have ended a lot worse. I ended up not getting skunked, I still had a great run, and I got a neat story out of it.  If there is a moral in all this, I'm not quite sure what it is.  Possibly it's that running in the dark is a lot more interesting than running during the day.  More likely, it's probably something closer to "check your surroundings before whipping it out".  I quite literally picked the worst possible spot to take a piss over the course of my hour run.  I will certainly be more careful in the future to keep my shit packed up.  Or, at the very least, take a cursory look around before getting down to business.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.