PC: Tommy Martino

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The F Burn

Freezer Burn- 2014 Revamped Edition Lives Up to its Name

The breakdown:
  • 10 mile, point to point
  • Approx 700 ft of drop on loose snow, ice or packed snow
  • Fundraiser for University of MT HHP Dept
  • Goal: 1/2 Marathon Effort
  • 59:36 - 5:58/mile average
  • 11 weeks from Boston
There is a bit of history to this race. I believe this was my fourth Freezer Burn....or maybe fifth? The first one I ran probably 5 or 6 years ago. That one was a half marathon in Frenchtown, MT running a loop around I-90. After one wickedly cold year, it was shortened to 10 miles (so no one would die) and that distance stuck for the proceeding years. I looked forward to this race, always a few weeks before Christmas, because Andy and I post race would cut down our tree in Fenchtown and haul it back to Missoula.  It always signaled to me the start of the Holiday season.

Surprisingly and sadly, last year there was no Freezer Burn. Rumor was race officials neglected to secure the proper paperwork in time. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed because there aren't too many winter races in the area longer than 3 miles AND I wouldn't get my tree (or watch Andy cut it down, because I am not authorized or "allowed" to use a saw). Sad face - this was a tradition I had become accustomed to love.

But alas! In 2014, the Runners Edge to the rescue. They took this race on, moved the date about two months later and put their own signature on it. The result: Awesomeness. Great race, fun course, good food, indoor facilities and the organization other local races should be taking notes.... detailed notes. 

I gotta give props when they are due. In a large running community like Missoula, you could probably do a 5K every weekend (double up Saturday and Sunday if you wanted in the summer and fall). RE makes a huge effort to be unique, not only in their distance choices (they don't have a stand alone daylight 5K), but also in the runner experience. I've done races all over this country and I challenge any to offer the goods that I experienced today. Most of their races are capped which promotes timeliness, enough goodies for all runners (no running out of race shwag, post-race food, busses - yep, seen that before). This is huge. They are so much more than a running store. Ok... Enough babbling about RE (although I could go on.... :) 

Carpooling buddies: Tim and Marilyn at packet pickup

So back to the race. 

It was cold! Real shocker being February first and all, but Mother Nature had also blessed us in the last three days with snow, snow, melting it, freezing it, then more snow. 'Freezer' - check. I knew the footing would be all over the map, so I chose to wear micro spikes, as I noticed most runners wore their own traction devices too. This helped immensely on the icy sections, but did nothing for the loose snow sections. 

Tim and I have been seat mates to many start lines

I only had the opportunity to warm up about a mile and a half before we started, so unfortunately I felt more like a Popsicle than a runner ready to embark on a ten mile race. My feet were frozen and numb bricks connected to my ankles. But I knew I would thaw once we started and the 'Burn' would flaunt as promised. I downed a Tropical Hammer Gel about two minutes from the start and lined up (yum- caffeine!). 

Did I mention how beautiful the start (and entire course for that matter) was? Talk about a winter wonderland. Stunning! I half expected some Budweiser Clydesdales to trot past me. A VAST improvement from previous years' frontage road.

Warming up with some fast middle aged men, Tim, Dean & Brian. 

Race director Mike Foote on the right with pistol starts the 150ish runners. (He's a pretty good trail runner if you didn't know)

And we were off! Mile 3 (in the lead... But Jeff Rome - in red - passes me around 7.5, and guy behind him wearing a tank (brrrrr!) finishes third)

Being cold (about 17 degrees) I took off pretty fast to warm up, but quickly settled into a rhythm that I relished for about 7 miles. My pace hardly wavered during these miles which had an easy 1-2% gradual downhill grade, so I was feeling confident and strong, running my goal 1/2 marathon effort. We turned left into a neighborhood, the sun came out and it was quickly warming as we came out of the canyon.... However, I knew something was changing under the soles of my feet. I equate the feeling to running on the beach. I felt as if I was in a treadmill and going no where. The snow was not plowed and was not yet warm enough to start melting. But it was loose and separating from the thick layer of ice on the road. (Want a good calf workout? Run fast in loose snow. Yikes! Hurts today.)

Cruising through the gorgeous Miller Creek Missoula

I was passed right before mile 8 by ultra runner Jeff Rome as if I was standing still! How was he running in this soft stuff? (Just a guess, but a little slick snow doesn't phase some one who usually races 100 milers!) My feet were flailing outward and kicking back and he seemed to power through it no problem. I just tried to hold form, keep him in my sight and use him as motivation to keep pushing. I also knew I was in range of breaking an hour and (of course!) that would be most excellent and unexpected. On a strange note, I did grab some water from the aid station at mile 8, and it tasted carbonated or tangy... Ummm.... Or both? I'm pretty sure the jug was soapy (or spiked with gin). My findings were confirmed by other runners I asked after the race. The mystery remains.

We crested a small 100 foot climb and the top of the hill was even worse footing than before! I knew it was all pretty steep downhill to the finish, so I really tried to cruise down. This section of road, however, had started to melt and was a bit slushy. It's an odd feeling when you body wants to go down with gravity but your feet aren't able to keep up and pushing off on your toes just makes your foot slides behind. I tried the side walk and had a few hundred feet of better ground, but I knew I was oh-so close to the finish line. I did lose about a minute total in the last 3 miles battling the footing, but I still broke 60 min! Woot!  Happy, happy, happy! (Yah, I like Duck Dynasty.)

Best part of the day? Getting to cool down and chat with this lady :) Masters ace, mountain running stud and mother of three Nicole Hunt! She was an OTQ about ten years ago, so talking to her just pumped me up for Boston. 

After the cool down, I was able to indulge in the post race fun with fellow runners and friends. There was a variety of delicious soups, breads, hot coco all in the clubhouse at the golf course. Previous Freezer Burns did not have indoor facilities or food, so this was an appreciated addition. I drank my usual two scoops of Hammer Strawberry Recoverite mixed with half a bottle of water and then had a nice hot coffee! Perfect recovery for the end of a fantastic morning. 

Bruce mans the fire and Dean and Brian enjoy

Celebrating our hard work today!

Fancy hardware!

See more photos here.
Course photos by Vo Von Sehlen
The man behind the camera - Mr. Vo himself - A talented photog!

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