Oh my! What beautiful eyes you have!
Last week, I needed to put in a twenty mile run.
With my strep throat and recent travels for business, I haven't been able put in any long runs over the past couple of weekends. It is difficult finding time to go long during the week; there are only so many hours in the day.
So I got up at 3:30 AM to put in 10 miles.
As I ran by starlight and my headlamp, I was serenaded by our local coyotes. This time of year the coyotes start pairing off and determine territories. They certainly put on quite a show for me for the entire 2 hours. At one point they were so close I could hear their feet as the ran over the hard crust of snow. Wild song dogs!
Then, I got off work early and put in another ten mile run so I would have a total of twenty miles for that day. Putting in AM and PM double day runs allows you to put in your mileage in way that is a little more friendly towards one's schedule.
I don't do double days runs because I like it. I am certainly not a running addict (yes,I know how crazy that sounds coming from an ultramarathoner). There are many other things I'd rather do than run twice a day or get up to run at 3:30 AM in a cold, dark Feburary morning. However, I do know that if I am to continue to run ultras without injury, I must put in the training. Sometimes, AM and PM runs are the only way to do that, especially on a week day.
I could hear coyotes during the evening run but they were not as close or as vocal as they were that morning. About 2.5 miles from home, sudddenly I saw the brightest red-orange eyes glowing in the light of my headlamp. I'm used to seeing animal eyes reflect in my light. I can recognize what deer, rabbit, horse, domestic house cat, skunk and even wolf-spider eyes look like when reflected in my light.
But these eyes were different. They were larger and brighter than any I've ever seen before. It was if they were lit from behind by their own light source. I walked off the road and into the pines to get a better look at what they were.
As I approached, I could see it was definitely not a deer. The back was round and the neck too short. Then it got up and I knew exactly what it was. A silouette of a long tail stretched out behind it.
It was a cougar!
Many of our neighbors and acquaintances have seen mountain lions but until now, not me. Some have even seen them peering in their windows and sitting on their decks (the two photos on the left are from a friend in Wyoming).
I've seen the tracks and heard the screams of mountain lions but never seen a live one in person. It always surprises me how many others can be so lucky so often.
If anyone were going to see a mountain lion, wouldn't you expect it to be someone who spends many hours running on trails, at night and in the early morning?
Apparently me staring at her with my bright headlamp and then walking towards her, made her uncomfortable. She got up and cooly, non-chalantly, walked off slowly as only a cat could do. It was as if she was trying to say, "I don't like you
coming towards me but I'm really not afraid of you."
I waited until I could no longer see her before I turned to move away myself. I looked behind me and watched my back trail often to make sure she didn't try to follow.
When many people sight a mountain lion, they claim they are huge. This one I didn't think was all that big. Based on comparison to dogs which I know the size of, I'd estimate that maybe she could have only been 70-90 lbs at most, perhaps smaller.
I swear that I saw some dappling on her coat, which if it was true, means she was a kitten. Of course it was hard to see int he dark, even with my head lamp, so that might have been my imagination.
Still, even if she wasn't all that big, I wouldn't want her stalking me without me knowing about it!
What a great experience. I love living here!
The 3 Days of Syllamo are coming up in less than two weeks. Am I ready? As ready as I could be but running a multi-day stage race is a new experience for me so I do not know what to expect. I'm planning on doing the first 50-k stage very conservatively (ie hike most of it). Then I'll make sure I calorie re-load that evening before attempting the 50-mile stage the following day.
As for the 20-k stage on Sunday? If I'm still walking and not injured, I'll do it however I can. I'll even crawl if I have to. However it goes, it'll be a great early season training adventure.
Finally, in case any of you are questioning my sanity: I wouldn't ordinarily walk up to a cougar in the dark.
I just couldn't pass up finding out whose those bright beautiful red eyes those were. I happened to be carrying some protection in my fanny pack which gave me extra confidence. Had I not had that with me, I would've stayed on the road and wondered about what I'd seen.
Run on- but watch for big red eyes reflecting in your headlamp!