Well, it's settled. We cannot live in Lompoc for the long term. This will become clear as the story unfolds...
This morning I ran another 5k. It was held at La Purisima Mission Historic Park. The last two 5k's I've done I've finished in just over 28 minutes...to avoid unnecessary anxiety reactions, my philosophy is to look at the race as just another run and not worry about time, pacing, or placing. I did have the unexpected surprise of finishing second in my age group in the cross country run I did just over a month ago, but really that's because there were very few people in my age group to begin with.
Well, the Cat Daddy was egging me on, and dared me to run today's race for time. There were no awards, so my only competitor was myself. I thought hey, why not. The worst that could happen is I would go out too fast and then finish way slow. So I took the challenge for a time trial. I guessed I would finish sometime in the 26's. I was pretty sure it would be faster than the cross country run, since being a cross country course and all it was more rigorous than others.
Well, long story short, today's course was slightly shorter than a full 5k--the race director told us it was 2.8 miles instead of 3.1. So I went out and kept a slightly-faster-than-comfortable-but-not-overdoing-it pace up until the final quarter mile when I swung the arms and barreled into the finish with a final time of 21 minutes 14 seconds. The Cat Daddy said he was shocked to see me coming in so early (yes, shocked), but I think I was still even more surprised. So I crunched the numbers and it came out to a 7.6 minute mile, and extrapolating out for a full 5k I estimated it would take 23.5 minutes. Dunno if today was a fluke, or if pushing His Highness in the jogger during the week makes me faster overall, but either way I'm pleased as punch. And so tired...
The bad started out very good. After the race we went out to do errands and pick up a coupla geocaches. Lunch, Target, blah blah blah. The caches were hidden outside a nearby park, in some grassland hills. Or hilly grasslands, or something. As we set out we found another family going after the same two, so that was kind of fun. We gave them a head start so they could find the first one and rehide it before we got there. Given my encounter earlier in the week, the Cat Daddy thought it would be fun to taunt me by calling out "snake" randomly. Yeah, no fun. We had a little talk over that one. The cache was not a hard find though--a fairly-well camouflaged container, but sticking out of the ground next to a bush, so you couldn't mistake it for much of anything else. The Cat Daddy unearthed it while I tended to His Highness, then I bent down to sign the log, surrounded by a breeze and the sounds of nature. I hadn't thought much about the squeaking I was hearing, until the Cat Daddy said "Ooooh, Skerrib, come here and look in this bush" (what, oh what was I thinking). He almost had a gentle tone about him though, so I thought maybe he'd found a nest of furry little babies or something. No. What he found was a gopher snake lunching on a mouse. The squeaking...its death song. I didn't actually see the mouse. All I saw was a small part of the snake...just enough that I knew I was looking at the middle of a snake. Before I signed the geo-log. For heaven's sake...I signed the log in record time, didn't bother to switch out or really even look at any trinkets, got myself and His Highness (safely buckled in the jogger) out of the brush, and tried to think of bouncing around on soft pink gumdrops or something equally non-snakelike. This got me to thinking about the times in my life where I've likely been within mere feet of a snake, completely unaware. [shudder]
Now I know that gopher snakes are harmless to humans. And this was possibly the best time to be near the snake. It didn't know we were there, and having just eaten it wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. I understand nature, the circle of life, and all of that. I'm fully aware that civilization provides only a superficial sense of safety. Go back a hundred fifty years or so and we'd likely encounter snakes and other wildlife on a regular basis. God made a very good world, but not a safe world, etc. Snakes are simply one of those things that produces a visceral anxiety in me. I've gotten less panicky about it in recent years, but they still do and probably always will give me the heeby-jeebies.
The Cat Daddy thinks this is something in me to be cured. While I agree it would be nice to just get over it, I seriously think it would require professional and experienced help, and I'm not in a place to desire or put the effort into it.
By the time we got our stuff together to go find the second cache, the other family was also just getting ready to go for it, so we decided to go together. It turned out to be a fairly strenuous hike down one grassland hill and up onto the next, and then another hundred meters or so to the cache itself. We let the kids find it, so that was fun. Then we talked a bit before the Cat Daddy and I (and His Highness) started back across the grass toward the trail. About halfway there--halfway to the trail, not to the car--wouldn't you know, there was another dang gopher snake. I was headed for it, but since I was being ultra-vigilant I saw it in plenty of time to back up & divert. This one had its head in the ground (the Cat Daddy surmised that it, too, was working on lunch. And he was all-too-amused by the whole thing, in my opinion), and its markings were actually quite beautiful. But creepy. Didn't help me feel better. When I thought about it, it was way too similar to my occasional snake dreams. Where I'm walking along minding my own business, and oh look there's a snake. [shudder]
So we hiked back to the car. And went home.
TWO. TWO, I say! In one day!
In other locations, I might be able to simply stay away from where the snakes live, but here in Lompoc we are amongst the wilderness. One cannot go very far before being off pavement, among farm fields, or on a dirt trail.
Sad. So sad...