Tim Freriks has had a stellar year of racing, and his win of the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships is the icing on the cake. In the following interview, Tim talks about how he, Zach Miller, and Hayden Hawks ran with and tested each other in the race’s first half, how he intentionally shook loose from them after mile 28 and kept his foot on the gas to stay clear of the field, his upcoming break from running to recover, and how he’d like to race Western States in 2018.
For more on the race, check out our in-depth results article.
Tim Freriks, 2017 The North Face 50 Mile Champion, Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Bryon Powell of iRunFar here with Tim Freriks after his win at the 2017 TNF 50 Mile. How are you doing, Tim?
Tim Freriks: Good, Bryon. Thanks for having me.
iRunFar: That was one heck of a race.
Freriks: Yeah, it was fun. It was fast, man. The terrain out there is just fast-moving and hilly still. It was tough, but yeah, it was a good day.
iRunFar: You, Hayden [Hawks] and Zach [Miller] took it out early and hard.
Freriks: Yeah, Zach shot off the starting line, out of a cannon. He just kept setting the tone for the day. It was awesome having him out there pushing the pace. Yeah, the three of us kind of broke away early, and we were just kind of keying off each other and working together a little bit to keep the pace honest.
iRunFar: Were you working together to keep the pace honest or working against each other to keep the pace honest?
Freriks: Probably a little bit of both. It was good, though.
iRunFar: Zach was saying it felt like one of you would be sort of up against him pushing a little behind him, and then you’d kind of switch?
Freriks: Well, at one point Zach and Hayden were kind of going back and forth leading. I got in the front after that because I was kind of sandbagging back there, and I needed to do my part and help out with the lead.
Freriks: Yeah, I was trying to make it fair and that sort of thing. At the same time, you’re trying to test the other guys and push.
iRunFar: When you broke away mid-race, was that you surging or them falling off?
Freriks: I think I put in a little bit of a surge. We came into Stinson Beach altogether, and I felt like I started pressing on the climb up to Cardiac. I don’t think those guys fell off. I think I was just trying to press a little bit. I kept seeing them when the course would double back. I’d see them on the other side of a ravine. I knew they were right there, and in my head they were right over my shoulder. You’re running scared when you’re in the front.
iRunFar: When did you kind of know you had it?
Freriks: I don’t know. In an ultra I always feel so paranoid. There wasn’t ever a moment where I was like, I got this. I think it’s not letting your guard down kind of thing. Tennessee Valley the second time was really rough. Then Jim [Walmsley] who was crewing for me told me I had a four-minute lead at that point. I was starting to feel al little more comfortable with it with nine to go, but at the same time, in a race this competitive, you have one hiccup, the guys are right there.
iRunFar: But you didn’t really have a hiccup, did you?
Freriks: I kind of started cramping and stuff around Tennessee Valley, but that kind of resolved after I started to eat a little more. I felt like overall today went really smoothly. I didn’t have anything major things happen.
iRunFar: You have a fairly busy life, it sounds like, work-wise. Is that going to slow down at all or are you going to be balancing a really hectic…?
Freriks: Yeah, I hope it slows down a little bit in the future. I’d love to try and do something part time or per-diem situation where I can pick up shifts, but right now it’s full time. Life is busy right now, but I like it. It gives me something else to focus on, too. In college I had all these problems with overtraining and doing too much. So I think it kind of keeps the reins on.
iRunFar: Over the last five years, we’ve seen a lot of that in the sport—people who have driven personalities and really great jobs, but they want to give everything to ultrarunning. They do that and they’re like…
Freriks: Yeah, I think it’s easy to dig yourself in a hole when it’s just running. It’s easy to dig yourself in a hole when your life is busy, too, and you’ve got all this going on, but having that balance keeps…
iRunFar: It’s not a singular stress.
Freriks: Yeah, exactly.
iRunFar: Looking back at your season, how do you feel about it?
Freriks: I don’t know. This year has been like a dream. From Transvulcania to racing this summer in some of the sky races and stuff, I feel really fortunate to have had the season I had. With training, I’ve kind of just found a rhythm in my routine finally. I couldn’t be happier with how this year has gone overall.
iRunFar: Now that you’ve found a rhythm with your routine, are you going to take some time away from that routine?
Freriks: Now I’m going to take some time off for sure.
iRunFar: What does that mean for you?
Freriks: Just a couple weeks down time with no running. There might be a little bit of running but nothing structured. I wanted to take a longer break after this one. Between the Rim-to-Rim FKT, the [Flagstaff] SkyRace, and here, I feel like I could use a break to kind of reset everything. I’ll still be working. My off days won’t be big days in the canyon. They’ll be relaxing and recovering.
iRunFar: Are you a one-trick pony in that you only stick to running, or do you hit the slopes in the winter?
Freriks: I’m not a big ski guy. I’ve never had the money for skiing. Maybe this winter I’ll get into it. We’ll see. I’ve done a lot of mountain biking and cycling in general in the past. That’s kind of been my thing outside of running. The last couple years I’ve kind of gotten away from that just being busy and training. I’d love to get back on the bike. The desert is great all winter.
iRunFar: It’s kind of special living in one of those desert-west towns where if you want to play in the powder you can, but you can also drop down and crank all winter.
Freriks: That would be fun to do some of that and maybe do some skiing, too. That would be fun to get into, but it’s not something I replace training with.
iRunFar: It’s a pleasure.
iRunFar: I know you just ended your season with a great race, but are you looking ahead at all to next year calendar-wise?
Freriks: Yeah, I really want to run Western States. That’s kind of the big goal for next year. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back at Transvulcania. It’s pretty hard to not go back to La Palma. I’m shooting for that.
iRunFar: Do you and Ida [Nilsson] just going to have an agreement to go race at the same races?
Freriks: Yeah, we’ve been overlapping a lot this year. It’s been fun. We’re both Lumberjack alumni.
iRunFar: I was going to say, you’re both NAU graduates.
Freriks: Yeah, she’s older than I am, so we didn’t overlap at all, but it’s cool to see another NAU person do well.
iRunFar: I believe the Lumberjacks won a national championship?
Freriks: Yeah, the Lumberjacks won NCAA’s today, so it’s been a good day for NAU overall.
iRunFar: I hope you have some other great days next year. See ya’ out there, Tim.
Freriks: Thanks, Bryon. See you next year.