Confessions from the Trail: Close Encounters of the Critter Kind!

I’ll confess that I have about 1,000 1800(!) words on nutrition that I was going to post today but I’m allowing the Twitter crowd to sway me and I’ll be posting about critter encounters instead. Which mostly means I’m digging up photos from cool hikes/runs that never were because some form of critter turns us back early or altered our route. This might also serve as a good segue into the nutrition post later as you will see I used to be much, much heavier.

As many of you know or have surmised, I’ve been doing endurance sports for a while. A long while! I completed my first Ironman 70.3 in 2010 which means it’s been a solid decade. Before that, I ran track and cross country in middle and high school. So, I’ve got a few years worth of critter encounters from which I can pull, but we’ll keep it to the more recent encounters. (And not all of them will be critters!)

First up, your rather run of the mill dog encounters. Easy to escape from them on a bike… not so much while running. Especially when you’re clumsy and trip on a sidewalk in your haste. Oops.

I spun out many hundreds of miles in the hinterlands of Alabama where farm dogs were pretty constant. I just learned which were the aggressive dogs and which had good fences.

Inside city limits, where I ran, it was a crapshoot every day, hence the bloodied knees.

Some days you win, some days the dog wins, and some days you eat pavement regardless

Getting a little more exotic, during a trip to Alaska we had close encounters with moose and bears. See my frustration that we not only got turned off our trail but I didn’t even get a picture of the big bugger because we were beating a hasty retreat.

Then there was a bear on the trail from lower Exit Glacier up to Marmot Meadows. My partner in crime managed to snap a photo of me just as our Ranger guide got the call about the bear and we got turned around. Probably good we did, I ended up in some – uhhm – gastric distress later in the day and a planned 8 hour hike would have been horrible if we’d gone through with it!

Chased off by a moose and halted by a Ranger who was more cognizant of bears than we were

Training for my fourth and fifth half Ironman’s was a trip and a half as I had encounters during training and on the course. Due to the shift I worked at the time and my location (hot desert in summer) I was doing a lot of riding at night (check those sweet clear lenses!) which meant I got lost as often as not. Fortunately, I had reflective tape all over my bike and blinking lights which made me look like a one woman UFO, not a terrorist… It also meant that when I accidentally turned towards a DoD weapons depot one night, the cops briefly detained me and didn’t open fire. I guess they figured anyone who was announcing their presence so openly probably wasn’t trying to break in.

Another ride that training cycle (haha, geddit??) I was lucky enough to be riding in daylight and came across two cows that had escaped their pasture. A quick call to the local sheriff’s office and they dispatched two deputies to get them penned back up.

Finally, race day. Some poor unfortunate bass got mowed over by the 100 or so swimmers ahead of me and I had the misfortune of hitting it mid-stroke on the swim. I almost levitated from the water and Jesus-ran my way off the swim course. My partner, of course, tells it that I set a new PR (I did) and won a bass tournament (I didn’t) in the same race.

Goofy enough to not get shot. Civic minded enough to call cops on the cows. And despite the rumors, I did not win a bass fishing tournament that day.

Not all my encounters are on the road or trail, sometimes I find little friends in my gear. I save this photo as a reminder why good nutrition is so important, something I’ll hit in the next post.

Sorry, Kermit, my cycling gear is not a good place to hang out.

Finally, and probably my personal favorite encounter, was not even a critter but definitely had us asking “What kind of tracks are those?” While trail running at the edges of a military base in Poland, we found tracks… train tracks and tank tracks. The train tracks were unused but my running partner and I elected not to stick around to see how fresh the tank tracks were!

Trail running around Warsaw is beautiful, just watch out for the tanks!

Now I contend with run of the mill critter encounters: spiders, dogs, snakes, and the occasional black bear.


Happy trails!


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2 Comments on “Confessions from the Trail: Close Encounters of the Critter Kind!

  1. Pingback: Confessions from the Trail: Race Day – K R Paul

  2. Pingback: Confessions from the Trail: After the Race – Author K R Paul

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