Monday, August 8, 2011

Scream Like A Girl

This past Saturday I went on the first 10 mile run of my training cycle. Where shame and embarrassment failed to motivate me to eat healthy, this 'run' definitely succeeded. I trudged through the first 4 miles feeling sluggish and icky, then gave into alternating between 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking... then the 1 minute became 2 minutes which soon became 5 minutes...

Not long after that, I gave up entirely. I felt like crap, my stomach was cramping, I was out of water, and most of all - I was not enjoying my run one bit. Now, I know that not all runs will be fun all the time. But what's the point in running as your hobby if you are not enjoying it? So, I turned off my timer, made a new plan for this week's training, and enjoyed spending my Saturday morning outside. I walked when I wanted to, ran a full speed down every hill just for fun, and simply enjoyed life. It was fabulous.

So, it was in this peaceful carefree mindset that I started walking across the grassy earthen dam that marked the two mile point from the parking lot. Normally when I cross this area, I'm very careful - it's right next to the water, sunny, and full of tall grass. In other words, it's the perfect place for snakes. Have you guessed where this story is going now?

As I walked through the sun bleached grass, swinging my arms, singing "Boom Boom Aint It Great to be Crazy" to myself, I noticed a flashed of white by my left ankle. I looked down. And immediately screamed and jumped into a run.

Within inches of my left ankle was a copper head, coiled to strike, mouth wide-friggin-open, pointy fangs aimed straight at me. The white I saw was it's mouth as it opened to strike me.

I stopped running almost as soon as I had started - but quite a few feet away. I let out another solid scream just to make myself feel better and did the shuddering shakes of the totally freaked out.


I pulled myself back together.  I figured I should find a long stick and get the critter chased off the path into the woods. This area was still close enough to the parking lot that folks come along with little kids and pets. With that thought, I wondered what would have happened if the thing had bit me - two miles away from my car. Or worse, what if I had been at the halfway point of one of my long runs, 6 to 8 miles away from the parking lot where few hikers venture. I really need to find myself a running partner. Or buy some running gaiters to protect my legs from snake bites. If they even make gaiters like that. Anyway, I'm not going out there by myself again until I have some better safety measures in place.

So I started looking around for a stick when I noticed that I couldn't see the snake anymore....


I've never pissed off a copper head before, but I remember my Dad telling me that they were mean snakes. Where other snakes might put on a mean show at first, they'd run off the second they felt they could. But a cooper head will come after you. Maybe my Dad just had some bad experiences with copper heads, but maybe he was right too. So I held very, very still. Before too long, I saw the grass next to me start moving. I stopped breathing. The snake slithered out of the tall grass onto the path about a foot in front of me. The critter looked over, flicked his tongue at me, then slithered the rest of the way across the dam to get into the woods.

I almost screamed again. It was a big snake. Definitely full grown. Very pretty, but very scary.

The remaining two miles of my hike went very slowly. I stomped the ground with my feet repeatedly to chase any other snakes away before I got close, and I studied the grassy, swamping areas as though my life depended on it. 

The experience made me realize: I have no clue what to do if a snake actually did bite. Do you make a tourniquet? Or so you try to 'suck out' the venom? Should you stay still and wait for help, or should I run like hell to get help? Would taking a Benadryl or Advil help? What can you possibly do by yourself in the middle of the dang woods?

So beyond telling my scary snake story, I'm also going to provide hopefully helpful info: What to do if you are bitten by a snake and not near immediate medical care. Just don't sue me later if you follow my advice and still lose a finger or a toe. I'm going to do some thorough research, but it's your own job to look out for your own health. I'll be posting this info in my professional blog ( later today or tomorrow since it seems like it could be useful to anyone recreating outside. I'll post the article link when it's up.

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