I had an interesting morning.

I didn’t have the best weekend and this morning I woke up feeling kind of crappy so I decided to cancel everything and spend the day in the woods. I had breakfast and took some niacin and started off on a 2k run through the cemetery in my VFFs:

The entrance to my woods is hidden right behind my local cemetery. As soon as I got in I found a secluded tree and buried my VFFs under a pile of leaves. Then I went on barefoot. It started off like this:

I decided to follow a direction that I had never gone before and the road proved much more treacherous than what I was expecting. The good part is that my feet were never cold, and I didn’t have to stop and stand on fallen logs like last time. But there were tiny stones and loose twigs (with thorns on them) all over the place. A few times I was forced to walk. Then there was a stretch of wood chips which – for anyone who has not run barefoot on wood chips – feels worse than gravel.

I like to make up little games for myself whenever I’m running barefoot. My goal for today was to not be seen by anybody. I found a few trails to run alongside of, where sometimes people walk their dogs. I saw a total of five people, and I couldn’t help noticing that they were all incredibly loud. I could hear them coming from such a long way off. As they got closer I scrambled off trail and crouched down nearby and watched them pass. Nobody noticed me, and I thought this was a super fun game.

I was near the end of my barefoot run when I heard some footsteps approaching. They didn’t quite sound human but it definitely wasn’t a squirrel or a bird. I thought maybe it was a human with an awkward walk, so I bounded off trail again and found a place to crouch behind some leaves. A few minutes later there walked in front of me the biggest deer I have ever seen in my young life. It was almost the size of a horse and it was so close. I held my breath.

The deer didn’t see me. It was focusing in the direction of the cemetery, where most people walk. Then it bounded off and in about three leaps it had disappeared completely. I was in shock. I had no idea these woods were big enough for deer that big. I tried to take a picture as it was leaping off, but I wasn’t anywhere near fast enough.

After that I put on my VFFs for some hill training. The area that I was in had a path in the middle and some fairly steep hills on either side. Like this:

I decided that I would zig-zag across the trail so I would be running up and down the hills on either side. It sounded like a great plan in theory, but in practice it was incredibly challenging. At one point I felt like I was at mile 20 of a marathon, seriously questioning whether it was possible to take one more step.

When I normally do hill training, it’s a straight surface going up. But this was mud and dirt and leaves. Every time I took a step, I had no idea what to expect under my feet. Each incline was different and I had to climb not only with my legs, but using my entire body. Pulling with my hands and propelling myself with my core. My views would look something like this:

Just as I was coming down one of my last hills I was startled again. A fox the size of a medium dog had apparently been running down the opposite hill. We both landed on the trail at the same time just a few feet away from each other, and both immediately froze. We stared out each other for a long time. I wanted to pull out my camera but was afraid to even move.

After a few minutes the fox turned and trotted calmly down the trail. I pulled out my camera and ran after it in hopes of a picture. But he sensed me following and stopped again. He turned around and stared at me. I had the camera right in my hand, but I froze. My heart was beating out my chest. The fox turned and ran down the trail at top speed.

I figured that was the end of end of it so I put my camera away and kept running. After a few minutes I passed what I thought was a pile of leaves, and nearly jumped out of my skin when the fox leaped out from under them. He had been hiding in wait for me, then freaked out when I nearly stepped on him.

He ran up to hide behind a fallen log and from there poked his head out to stare at me. He was fairly close to where I had hidden my gloves and house key. So I walked slowly towards my stuff and put them on. He was peeking out at me the whole time. And that’s when I finally snapped a picture.

I named him Fantastic Mr. Fox (you know, after George Clooney). If you look carefully you can see him here towards the right, poking his head out from behind the log.