Former Olympian Kara Goucher nearly collided with a mountain lion during a morning training run last Monday in Boulder, Colorado.
After an injury forced her to drop out of Houston Marathon in January, the 2:24:52 marathoner decided to try her hand at trail running.
Even Kara Goucher, 2:24:52 marathoner and mainstay of U.S. women’s distance running for over a decade, gets spooked sometimes. But when it’s a dangerous wild predator just inches away from you, that’s understandable.
Since the return of an old hamstring injury forced Goucher to drop out of January’s Houston Marathon after 16 miles—her first marathon attempt since her heartbreaking fourth-place finish at the 2016 Olympic Trials—Goucher has taken her running in a new direction: the trails.
After so much success on the road and track, the 2007 IAAF World Championships silver medalist in the 10,000 meters and three time top 10 Olympic finisher, now 40, is training to run the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 15.
Though she wants more time to acclimate to the new discipline, Goucher told Runner’s World, training in her home of Boulder, Colorado has been going well. That is, until she nearly collided with a mountain lion.
The two-time Olympian will make the high-altitude event her trail running race debut.
All I had going for me in my attempt to keep up with Kara Goucher were the rocks. The two-time Olympian and 2:24:52 marathoner is relatively new to trail running, and on our car ride over to a trailhead in Boulder, Colorado’s, Chautauqua Park, she claimed to be “terrible at it.” And so, to abate my own fears of being dropped by the pro—even on a casual run—I chose a particularly rocky and technical route.
The purpose of our jaunt was to chat about Goucher’s transition from road racing to trails. After a disappointing DNF because of an injured hamstring at January’s Houston Marathon, the 40-year-old athlete hinted via Instagram that she wanted to take her running “in a new direction.” She told Runner’s World after the race, “I have my eye on a race in June, but it is not on the roads.”
That goal race, she revealed to Runner’s World, is the Leadville Trail Marathon on June 15. The 26.2-mile course, located roughly two hours from her home in Boulder, winds through rocky, rugged terrain and tops out at 13,185 feet in elevation. It’s a far cry from the road routes Goucher is used to—and will certainly demand a different style of running.
“I’m scared of downhills, especially,” she admitted on our drive to the trail. She explained that while she grew up running on trails in Duluth, Minnesota, and frequented nearby mountain trails while on the University of Colorado cross-country team, for many years she became what she calls a “surface diva.”
Just about a year ago this time, I was standing near the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles with a large crowd of running fans watching the exciting finish of the women’s U.S. Olympic marathon trials.
Early leader Shalane Flanagan was faltering in the heat, and Boulder’s Kara Goucher looked to have chance at a top-three finish. (She ended up an oh-so-close fourth).
We were not the only ones watching.
Joanna Zeiger, Boulder’s seven-time Olympic trials participant over three sports, was just about to begin her final six-mile lap when she heard the loud cheers for the fast-approaching leaders.
“I decided to wait and cheer on (winner) Amy Cragg ,” Zeiger, 46, said in a recent phone interview. “I hung out to see who was in the lead. Amy was amazing and seeing her gave just such a chill up my spine and motivation to get through the last lap.”
There was really no need for Zeiger to finish. She could have easily joined the roughly 50 women who pulled out of the marathon that day, done in by the near-90 degree heat. Zeiger’s spot in triathloning history is secure. There was, however, no way she was not going to finish the marathon.
“I knew it was going to be a major struggle,” said Zeiger, who has suffered daily debilitating rib and nerve pain ever since a bike crash in the 2009 70.3 World Triathlon Championships. “I was prepared for a long, tough day; every time I saw a runner walking back to the finish after dropping out, it strengthened my resolve, and I thought, ‘I am going to get through this.'”
Get through it Zeiger did, fueled by her “champion mindset,” which, appropriately, is the name of her new book.
On March 10, Zeiger will talk about “The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness” at Flatirons Running in south Boulder. She will also show footage of her Ironman World Championship win.
In a nice coincidence, “The Champion Mindset” is one of three new books by world champion female triathletes with local ties.
Long-time resident and former world-ranked No. 1 and 2001 world champion Siri Lindley, now a coach of elites based out of RallySport, tells her riveting story in “Surfacing: From the Depths of Self-Doubt to Winning Big & Living Fearlessly,” while four-time Hawaii Ironman world champ Chrissie Wellington, a native of England who lived in Boulder during her top competitive years, is out with “To the Finish Line: A World Champion Triathlete’s Guide to Your Perfect Race.”