It was supposed to be a more relaxing run after a muddy half-marathon the day before.
Instead, two-time Olympian runner and Duluth native Kara Goucher had a tense moment on her morning run Monday.
Goucher was running about a mile from her home in Boulder, Colo., when she came around a parked truck and encountered a mountain lion. Goucher believes the mountain lion was trying to cross the residential road to head back into the wilderness.
"It was literally like three seconds, (but) it was so terrifying because I think I caught it off-guard, and it definitely caught me off-guard," Goucher said Monday evening. "It looked like it was about to run, but then it just turned around and darted back down into the woods."
The animal was close enough that Goucher could have reached out and touched it, she said.
"I did the absolute wrong thing, which was to turn around and sprint away," Goucher said. "You're supposed to make yourself big and walk back slowly. ... I feel like I know what to do, but, yeah, it all went out the window."
After the mountain lion ran off, Goucher called her husband, Adam, on her Apple Watch and asked him to pick her up. A woman walking her dog came by, and another came outside when she saw Goucher standing there. They waited with her until Adam arrived.
"My heart was beating out of my chest," she said.
Living in Colorado, it's not like mountain lions are rare, but still, Goucher said, it was a shock to lock eyes with one when she was out running alone.
"We have mountain lions all over here; we live just a few blocks from the mountains and the trails," she said. "Our neighborhood message board is constantly people posting videos of mountain lions walking across their yards - but I've never actually seen one, you know?"
Just up the highway in Fort Collins, Colo., a young mountain lion attacked runner Travis Kauffman in February. Kauffman recounted to multiple media outlets how the mountain lion latched onto his wrist, sending them both into a tussle that ended with Kauffman frantically fighting back and suffocating the animal. He received more than a dozen stitches to his face and wrist, according to the New York Times.
Goucher is training for the high-altitude Leadville Trail Marathon, five weeks away. She's trying to be smart about trail running, including not running too late in the evening and usually having a running partner with her — especially after hearing about Kauffman's attack.
"We know that we have (mountain lions) here; it's never really worried me. I'm not a dangerous runner. I'm not, like, waist-deep in the woods by myself," Goucher said. "But after that, I definitely was like, 'If a mountain lion tried to bite me on the neck and drag me off, would I have fought and fought and strangled it? Probably not.' So, running, I really need to think about my safety."
Goucher finished her run Monday morning closer to her house, squarely in a residential area, and she did her afternoon run on the treadmill. But she'll be out again.
"I honestly think that we spooked each other," she said.