‘Chipmunks of Death’ and Other Training Hazards

Posted: June 19, 2012 in Lifestyle
Tags: , , ,

For the past three years, I trained for triathlon whilst living in the city.  Although I could breach the city limits on my bike at least once or twice a week out into the more scenic parts of the Niagara Region, everything else was primarily done amid the buildings and roadways of the concrete jungle; particularly my runs.  Part and parcel of training in the city is having to plan for and cope with the nuances of life in an urban center such as crazy traffic, busy intersections, pollution, other pedestrians, motorized scooters, and, did I mention the crazy traffic? It’s not undo-able of course, but, one still needs to be, shall we say, alert.

Since moving to a more rural area, my training has been simplified in many ways.  Gone are the busy intersections, pollution and whatnot, but there is still some unique hazards that one needs to be genuinely aware of and prepared to deal with.  Let’s just say it has been a learning experience all unto itself.  Whereas it’s infinitely less challenging than the city and provides for many more of those surreal, happier-than-shit ‘oh, wow’  training moments, one still has to be careful at the end of the day.

The following items are a collection of those lessons that I have learned, usually the hard way, while transferring my training regimen to that of the country.  Take heed you city folk, it’s not all rainbows and apple orchards out here.  The country can fuck up your shit right fast.  And, lord knows, I don’t want to end up sitting on my couch like a caged gorilla for the rest of the season.

Public Enemy No.1

1.  Small animals/wildlife – True, you have to deal with the odd stray dog chasing you periodically, but, let’s just say that the chances of being mauled by a hungry Doberman are significantly increased while running out in the country.  In fact, there are more than just roaming dogs to deal with; there are skunks, coyotes, deer… or worse yet, chipmunks.  Yes, chipmunks.  Make no mistake about it, these cute little striped fuckers will throw themselves headlong into the spokes of your bicycle before you even have so much as a chance to swerve or veer away.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been riding happily along, then I see it, a chipmunk suddenly dart out in front of me and…pause.  Surely it’ll move when you get closer, right?  Think again.  He’ll wait until the last possible second before charging directly into your front wheel with all the focused determination of a Japanese kamikaze pilot.  And if the feeling of a snapping rodent vertebra under your wheel doesn’t throw you off an otherwise enjoyable bike ride, I don’t know what will.

Likewise, words cannot express the sense of ‘oh shit!’  that washes over you when you suddenly find yourself riding in the midst of a herd of panicked deer that didn’t hear you approaching in the distance.  “Hoofed in the head by doe a deer, a female deer”  is not my idea of a respectable tombstone epitaph.

2.  Country folk – Now, let’s be clear: I’m not talking about your typical friendly, plait-clad, suspenders-sportin’, straw-chompin’ farmer type, I’m talking about ‘Children of the Corn’  here, a real buck-toothed, sister-screwin’, Deliverance type of backwoods hillbilly; the kind of person who has a gun rack in the back window of their rusted pick-up and thinks that Kurt Russell’s character in ‘Overboard’  was an Academy Award worthy performance. 

“That sure is a purdy bike, boah.”

You will recognize these types of weirdos instantly as they tend to look like the illegitimate off-spring of Ron Jeremy and Captain Lou Albano.  Yeah, that ugly!  These types don’t give a flying fuck about you either.  They will maneuver their pick-ups within an inch of you while you’re out running as they rocket down back roads kicking up a cloud of gravel and dirt in their wake while giving you the finger as they drive off into the distance.  But, whatever you do, don’t ever flip these guys off with the universal ‘one-finger-salute’ in return either, as they’re likely to come back and, before you know it, your genitals are being used as a wind chime on their front porch. Yup, they love their conflict like Maury loves his paternity suits alright! 

I pass decrepit shacks out in the middle of nowhere that look like they might house these types of hillbillies and, believe me, if there’s a pick-up truck in the driveway, I will inevitably pick up my pace and to get the hell out of there.

3.  Narrow roadways – You take it for granted in the city that you have either dedicated pedestrian walkways, or at least a cycling lane to run in.  Not in the country.  Typically, you have narrow, unkempt back roads with little to no shoulder, or a ditch you could lose a body in.  And when you have backwoods bumpkins driving around in over-sized farm vehicles to worry about, that doesn’t leave one much option for getting out of the way, now does it?  Let’s just say that if one isn’t careful, they could quickly end up under Farmer Brown’s combine.  To make matters worse, many country folk have little sympathy or an understanding at all of joggers or cyclists.  They figure we’re just some fancy-pants city slicker in tights who might best be served with some roasted corn and slaw should we fail to get out of the way.

Furthermore, these back roads are seldom smooth or paved.  Never mind being careful to step off curb-sides and avoid manholes like you would in the city, try running along a surface that looks like it’s been on the receiving end of a WWI-era creeping barrage.  Seriously, I’ve seen potholes from which even light doesn’t escape while out cycling.  Forget stumbling and overturning on an ankle or blowing out a tire should I ever miss spotting one of these gigantic crevices, I’d be lucky to ever find my way out again without a map, a compass and a Sherpa guide.

Bet you wish you had a cell phone now!

4.  Loneness – This is one aspect of training in the country that I both love and fear.  Where there is nothing quite so satisfying and peaceful (well, as peaceful as one ever gets while ones legs are falling off during a 30k  long run) as running in the country, but what happens if something goes wrong?  What if you cramp or suffer an injury?  Or worse, get attacked by outcasts from ‘The Hills Have Eyes’?  What then? I’m one of the few people that don’t go out with a cell phone or other means of contacting the outside world, so should something grievous happen while I’m out training – I’m fucked.  Sure, I can navigate my way home with my GPS should I get lost, but if I suffer anything that prevents me from continuing, I’m knee deep in doo-doo for sure.  All someone will find later is a balled up corpse of a wannabe triathlete clutching an empty gel packet by the side of the road.

For this reason, I try and go prepared for all contingencies whenever I run or cycle; I’m literally a single CO2 cartridge away from needing a pack mule whenever I go long.  In the city, there is always a corner store, restaurant or diner, or at least some sort of welcoming neighborhood residence that doesn’t also have drying animal pelts hanging from the clothes line.  So, on my long distance training days, I will typically be harbingering toilet paper, and enough food and water to sustain me for a week.   Worse comes to worse, I can always wrap myself in the toilet paper for warmth, or use the Clif bars to barter for safe passage home with  the local natives.

5.  Boaters – When I first moved to the area, I was excited about the prospect of swim training in the open waters of Lake Erie nearby.  What I know now is that any attempt to go out further than, say, 500m  from shore, is likely going to be met with the very real possibility of being run over by drunken yachters.  Given from what I’ve observed already is that country folks are more Captain Crunch, than they are Captain Bligh and, as such, I’m doubtful if they’ll ever pay much attention to the slow moving lump ahead of them in the pink swim cap.

Welcome to the country!

6.  Country air – The best thing about training in the country is the country air.  Worst thing: the country air.  In the city you have urban pollution to contend with like smog, exhaust, factory smoke, etc., to deal with.  In the country you have cow shit.  At this point in my training regimen I’ve probably inhaled enough methane to keep Phileas Fogg and Passepartou circumnavigating the globe at least a dozen times over.  There have been days when I’ve gone for a long run at high noon only to be nearly suffocated by cow farts.  Likewise, heaven help me if the wind is blowing in the right direction off the lake.  The foulness is so vivid it’s nearly epic.

Oh, and God help you if you suffer from allergies as you’re likely to fall victim to some mutant strain of dino-pollen as soon as you leave your front door.  Forget about working out and invest in a impregnable plastic bubble instead.

  1. Jan says:

    OHHHHHH Terry, how could you? You seem so unconcerned about those little sweet chippies. How could you do that? I’m expecting that you will come up with a perfectly soft , comforting bumper pad on your tires and that they will ever so gently slide those little sweethearts back onto the road without so much as a hint of hurt. I’m counting on you!. This is definitely the test of a friendship!!! Jan

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