|Everyone lined up to get their picture taken with Brice Alt "The Gnome" photo credit Ilona Meagher|
The week of the race we had a snow base of 37 inches with much of that fresh snowfall. It was windy so there were drifts of snow on the course that were above your knees. The day before the race we got 6 hours of freezing rain and race morning the temps rose just above freezing. The course was deep slushy snow. If you wanted to design the most challenging course conditions possible, Frozen Gnome 2014 is what it would be.
The night before the race we had our annual packet stuffing party. The driveway to my house was a solid sheet of ice. It had been freezing rain for hours. We were all feeling bad for the folks out marking the course. Geoff Moffat, Jeff Lenard, and Andrea Robinson. It took them hours but they all tromped through the knee deep slush and did a fantastic job! When they got back to their cars they found Andrea's car had slid in the parking lot almost hitting another car it was so slick and icy.
We also had some amazing guys out wrapping the pavillion in plastic and getting the picnic tables all set up for packet pick up in the morning. The Frozen Gnome Race Headquarters crew was Jake Burkhart, Tim Kruse and Alec Bath.
Jeff Lenard finished up marking the course then him and his wife Jean headed over to my house to help with packets. The Lenards are very generous like that.
Jeff was telling us how extremely challenging the course was. Him and Geoff were predicting we may not have anyone finish the race under the 8 hour cut off. Jeff is a very good runner (he finished his first 100 sub 24 hours recently) If Jeff thought it was that bad we knew it was going to be an extremely challenging day. I should mention that the actually running course is extremely tough even in ideal conditons. Efforts were made to find every challenging hill in the parks to have on the race course. Each 5 mile lap has 1100 feet of elevation gain and 1100 feet of loss each loop, with 5500 feet total elevation gain and 5500 feet loss for the entire 50k. ...and we aren't talking gentle rollers.
|We can always count on Edna Jackeline for a bright smile- photo credit Scott Laudick|
|Frozen Gnome Race start-photo credit Ilona Meagher|
We all waited for the runners to finish their first lap. They came flying in. Much faster than we had all predicted but still quite a bit slower than last years times. We had a stacked field in both races so the slower times were a direct result of the tough conditions.
People were having fun, laughing at the pure ridiculousness of it. Everyone sounded like kids giggling about Butt Slide hill. At one point a couple gals came through the aid station with and said with a voice of defiance "they said this was going to be fun". We all laughed. We knew in some sick way they knew it was fun. Anyone that came and survived this race had great stories to last a lifetime.
|The Legendary Dan Crouse- Photo credit Scott Laudick|
From here on I'll finish this story up with a race report Jeffrey Lung sent me. He survived the Frozen Gnome of 2014 and does a great job and expressing the magic of the day.
|The Famous Butt Slide Hill- photo credit Scott Laudick|
Slushy, Slick and Sweet: The 2014 Frozen Gnome 50k Race Report
By Jeffery Lung
By Jeffery Lung
The 35 degree air greeting us on this morning of January 11 in Crystal Lake, IL, is a charming change. After enduring the polar vortex that brought negative temperature highs to Chicagoland earlier in the week, mid-30s and gray skies dare me to dress for the beach. However, the 37 inches of accumulated snowfall this winter remind me to keep my flip-flops in the closet, probably until July. Last night the Veteran Acres trails we will be running on were bombarded with rain, so we are in for a wintry mix of slush, ice, snow and lots of hip flexor soreness.
“I’m going to have to take it easy,” I say to myself, “or I’ll be just one spill away from six weeks in a walking boot.”
The start line is abuzz with cheer. Friendly faces from all over the area have come together for the second annual Frozen Gnome 50k, hosted by the MUDD Ultrarunning Dudes and Dudettes. I give race director Michele Hartwig a salutatory hug and chat with course director Geoff Moffat. After our short conversation, capitalized by Geoff’s sinister grin regarding the abundance of hills strategically placed throughout the race, it is apparent that we are in for a day full of excitement.
The race starts and through the first of what will be five 10k loops, my constant mind-body-mind feedback loop reminds me to take it easy. The snow is packed down in spots, not so much in others. The thawing rain has left much of the course a slushy and slick gauntlet of uneven terrain. Climbing the hills requires patience. Traversing down them requires caution.
Show me a race that invites runners to slide down a steep, snowy bank on their backsides and I will show you a race more than worth its registration fee. My first time down Butt Slide Hill reminds me why I love running ultras so much: despite the aches and pains associated with tough trails, I can’t seem to lose my smile born of the pure fun and exhilaration of exploring and experiencing my surroundings. Flying down Butt Slide Hill, I let out a raucous “Weeeeee!” I’m just a goofy kid drunk off life.
Shortly after, I find myself again focused on the trail. I have to concentrate hard to stay upright. Up this hill, down that one. Around this snow bank, zig-zagging over that one. Ankle high sloppy slush through this trail, cross country skiing through that one. For the rest of the race I will myself to tough it out, to just hang on through the sloppy stuff until the exciting once-per-loop respite of Butt Slide Hill.
The cheerful aid station at the loop start/finish line also pulls me through the rough spots. Cinnamon rolls, homemade cookies and hot soups highlight the runner’s buffet while an army of helpful hands and warm smiles rushes to my aid. I find myself pushing on against the elements to honor the volunteers for their hospitality.
My second and third loops include a lot of friendly conversation with those whom I’ve been leapfrogging throughout. But during my fourth and fifth loops, I find myself all alone, singing out loud to my winter wonderland surroundings. It’s all I can do to divert my attention from my achy body.
On my last loop, the only thing I can think about is hot soup at the finish line. When I finally get there, 7 hours and 9 minutes after starting, I work my way through the bevy of crockpots quick to warm my soul. With a full stomach, I notice that my feet are frozen bricks and my mind an overworked mush, but here I remain, happy as can be.
Completing a tough adventure like the Frozen Gnome tends to do that to me. And this year’s race wasn’t just tough for me. It was tough for everybody. Only one person managed to finish under five hours and that was Todd Siebert, who completed the race in 4:55:50, compared to last year’s winning time of 4:16:00. On the women’s side, Shelley Cook defended her 2013 crown with a first place finish of 5:47:21.
Finally home, heated by the comfy cotton of my Frozen Gnome hoodie and the wintery English porter filling my finisher’s pint glass, I kick my feet up and let out a satisfactory sigh. “What a day,” I say to myself.
“What a wonderful day.”
Frozen Gnome Race Planning Team
Michele Hartwig- Race Director
Karen Shearer- Assistant Director
Geoff Moffat- Course Manager
Brice Alt- Advertisement creator
Jake Burkhart- Danger Castle designer-Shirt Designer, Award creators- Gnome Headquarters Captain
Tim Kruse- Packet pick up Director
Alec Bath- Race set up
Evelyn Cooley and Tasha Hartwig- Nacho bar and food coordinators
Andrea Robinson and Ric Nienstedt- Course Marshal
Michael Johnson and Keith Daniels-Course Marshal
Anastasia Rolek, Jan Silverman and Crystal Hutchings- Course tear down
Brian, Andrea Korte and family- They did pretty much every job there, including opening ceremonies
Julie Bane-She donated hours of her time helping where ever needed
Plus many, many more valuable volunteers!!!!
It is such a great feeling to see a community come together to create a magical day. I am so proud of all the runners and volunteers at the Frozen Gnome 50k/10k. I love how running brings people together with different skills and personalities. We saw the joy this togetherness created yesterday. Everyone of you are valuable and the day would have not have been as special with out you. I love you all and I am so proud to be part of such a great group! ~Michele Hartwig