Although I love to run, and enjoy doing so every autumn, what my coaches and other running authorities don't know is that I love to be on my bike a lot more. I don't get stale very easily, and doing the kind of riding I'm doing in October and November does not set me up for "burnout" the following year. (That's left for other rides without enough sleep in July and August …)
But I run anyway, and my company just happens to be located right across the street from the forest preserve that lines the Des Plaines River on the western edge of Northbrook and Glenview. It's perfect running on bridle trails, and is pretty good to my knees and feet -- which are not accustomed to running regularly, and often protest in pain the next day. It's pretty fantastic running through the woods, on trails covered in leaves -- I liken it to running through a Washington Irving novel, and half expect the Headless Horseman to jump out at me around every bend.
Today I had the next best thing: a frightening brush with nature. It was an easy/zone 2, half-hour run, and I began easily enough on the trail to the bridle path. From there I turned north and west, into the wind, figuring I'd have a bit of an easier time on the way back with the breeze at my back. In truth, there wasn't much wind in the woods, so it was just a beautiful, crisp fall day in which to run.
Nearing the halfway point, I started to feel a bit lightheaded, and realized that I was starting to bonk a bit. I had just 3 minutes until I had to turn back, so I decided to continue on -- but chose to do a bit of off-trail running through a small clearing. The leaves on the ground were nice and springy, and their deep carpet made the footing sure as I bounded over small logs and stumps.
All of a sudden, the bonk grabbed hold, and I had to stop for a moment. I had my head down, looking at the ground in front of me, and when I stopped I looked up -- straight into the eyes of a young buck, standing just 15 feet away. He stared at me, startled, and I stared back -- thankfully, he didn't look angry, just curious. But I wasn't going to take any chances! I shouted -- "Boo!" -- and he turned and ran into the forest.
As if by magic, several more deer appeared from the woods and followed his lead. I had inadvertently interrupted their afternoon grazing, and now they bounded away, deeper into the forest. It was pretty amazing to watch the herd move away, and I marveled at their swift, spry moves through the trees.
I had a few more seconds until I had to go back, so I jogged slowly forward, following the path of the small buck. Suddenly, a movement caught my eye up through the trees, as a dark shape loped ahead, following the group of deer. It took a second, but then it moved from behind a tree … and there was an enormous coyote, slowly making its way deeper into the trees.
That was enough for me, as I have heard of local homeowners complaining about the coyote population increase, and attacks on small dogs and animals in the area. I wasn't too afraid, but despite my bonk, complete with lightheadedness and rapid pulse, I wasn't going to take any chances. I turned back the way I came, and made my way out of the woods and back to the trail very quickly.
It was pretty incredible to witness nature in all its splendor today … it was definitely a great day for a run.