Run with the Cougar, aka Hoffmaster Trail Race, aka .90 mile less than advertised, but it's all good...

Race-Report--as posted on RunningAHEAD.com:

As of 10AM (well, 10:05, but who's counting...?) I am no longer a trail virgin--woot!

This race was named thusly after several reliable sources had spotted a cougar/mountain lion/puma within the park bounds and near the park a few years back. Mountain Lions aren't common in lower Michigan, but they aren't non-existent, either. So this was a race where it was good to be a mid-packer--or at least not first or last.

No big kitties spotted, but at least 100 runners showed up for this race that very nearly went extinct. Hopefully today's run removes it from the endangered species/threatened list. It was super fun!

At one time the race had been a full 10k, but a particularly brutal stretch with ravines on either side of the trail, slippery wood steps (especially with all of the wet leaves this time of the year), and tons of roots obscured by heavy leaf cover had organizers cut it down to 5.2 miles (last time they ran it as a full 10k a woman broke her ankle), which is what it was billed as. I wouldn't mind the full distance, since risks are part of the game and why we sign the release...but, whatever.

In actuality today's course was 4.3 miles. Had I known this going in I would have pushed myself harder, particularly on the 1.25 miles of beach approaching the finish. But I thought I had almost an additional mile remaining after running up the dune off the beach, so I took it too easy. A guy at the top of the steps off of the beach said "hey, finish strong...you're almost there--the finish is just over that rise." I was thinking "yeah, sure...I bet you say that to all the girls." But he wasn't kidding. It was literally like 1/10 of a mile after exiting the beach. I was kinda annoyed, but it was a fun race and next year I will have a better idea of what to expect, assuming they keep the course as-is.

That beach section was pretty boring, really. But it was very scenic and dramatic coming down the dune onto the beach. Lake MI looks very moody on a windy Nov. day. Gray sky contrasted with whitecaps. One had the choice of running on loose sand (difficult, but feet stay dry) or packed, wet sand at the shore (easier, but risk of getting nailed by a wave). I chose the waterline option. I did get doused good at least 3x, but it was part of the fun. My Gore-Tex trail shoes are excellent on loose sand, leaves, and muddy stuff on the trails, but once those waves went over my feet they still got wet. Not too cold, though.

I still posted a better pace than I had anticipated (still waiting on official results). Heather73 and I ran the trails last weekend at an easy pace of about 13mm. I figured 11:30 would be a reasonable race pace, but my actual pace was closer to 11:10, even holding back a bit. This race definitely attracts a fast crowd, though. Heather and I brought up the rear of our 35-39AG, 11 and 10, respectively...out of 11 (at least when she checked the results board). During most road races I finish almost exactly middle for AG and overall field (unless I have a major crash-and-burn race).

An added bonus...the husband and wife who will be joining Heather73, PoQ, backroadrunner and I for our trail relay this coming June were there. That was a pleasant surprise. And Mary/hopeful4ever ended up deciding to do the race at the last minute, too. We compared our new marathon tattoos.

So...to make a long story short--I am completely and utterly hooked on this trail running thing. And tonite's post-race celebratin' will include Heather and I enjoying beer and bluegrass while wearing our race Ts!


  1. Where'd ya run? DLSP?

    Nicole can't remember her login again...

  2. Heh, nope...Hoffmaster State Park. It's so cool in there!


  3. OK, I confess when I read the title (before getting any further) I thought you were referring to "cougar" in the sense of the older woman-younger man phenomenon. I envisioned a bunch of young, hot dudes with a head start and a pack of older women chasing after them.

    I'm glad that wasn't the case. :)

  4. Ha, funny you should say that, Sarah! One of my friends who ran it with me pointed out a hot young thing to me after the race...he was probably 10 years younger than us. We were joking about us being the "cougars."


  5. If you want to try some fun trail running next summer, head over to Snug and hit the back side of the sugar bowl or the back area of the block house :) Beautiful trails, but gotta watch the feet so light snow cover is risky. Maybe we can walk some of it one day next spring, my knee is not in the shape to run there anymore LOL

  6. That would be awesome, Nicole! Heather and I (BTW, you and I and Heather need to do a girls' night at the new Chamber Bar in Whitehall very soon--nice joint!) ran that back side of the Block house 2x this Fall. Really beautiful back there. Love that little Lost Lake back hidden in there. I would love to get snowshoes and snowshoe back there someday, too.

  7. I wonder if you can rent that sort of thing at the winter sports complex? I've never been there in the winter! That's where we ran cross when I was in HS eons ago haha


  8. oh man! That sounds really fun!! Someday I'm going to do a trail run - klutzy tendencies, be damned.

  9. Ha, Monnik, they don't come much klutzier than I (I frequently have bruised hips from taking corners around tables too sharply). somehow I have managed to never fall running. *knocks on wood*