Tim Freriks will debut at the 100-mile distance at the 2018 Western States 100. In the following interview, a part of the iRunFar Live at Western States show, Tim talks about how he will give his first 100 miler an effort that he hopes will be equally honest and careful, his injury earlier this year and the block of training he had after it, and the training and friendship dynamics of his Flagstaff, Arizona area training group.
Tim Freriks Pre-2018 Western States 100 Interview Transcript
iRunFar – Dylan Bowman: All right, we’re back. We’re here at the Coffeebar before Western States 2018. We’re joined by none other than Timothy Freriks from Flagstaff, Arizona. Tim, thank you for coming.
Tim Freriks: Thanks for having me.
iRunFar – Bowman: It’s strange for me as an observer of the sport how you’re sort of flying under the radar. It kind of boggles my mind. I think in the likes of a race that has your friend, Jim Walmsley, and François D’haene, one of the greatest of all time, it sort of lends itself to people like yourself flying under the radar. Of course, you had one of the most incredible seasons last year, winning both Transvulcania and The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships at the end of last year, to world-class events with international fields. How did your meteoric rise in the sport and your success in 2017, how have they helped you coming into this race? Does it give you confidence?
Freriks: Yeah, I think it does. I’ve seen success at 50 miles and I really like that distance. I think that distance is a good distance, just to acquaint you with ultrarunning in general. But 100 miles is a different beast. I’ve been talking with Jim and with Jared Hazen, guys that have done it before. But yeah, [my past experience] definitely gives me confidence. I know that over the shorter distances… I’ll go into this with a cautious approach and be ready to get after it knowing that I’ve put in the training. There is an element of ‘first time going in’ but other guys have had success their first time. I’m ready to get after it and give it my best shot.
iRunFar – Meghan Hicks: Let’s talk about that concept of stepping up to the 100-mile distance for a minute. There are people watching in this room and online, who are on the cusp of their own first 100-mile races. You’re doubling the distance! What’s that process like?
Freriks: I think what kind of gives me peace of mind is looking at the little things, like making sure my crews are dialed and taking care of things from a nutrition standpoint. Doubling the distance of what I’ve been competitive in is intimidating, but at the same time, I like a new challenge. Pushing myself to do something new and something longer has me really excited, to be honest.
iRunFar – Bowman: I honestly think the ‘first 100-mile’ thing is a little overrated, too. I don’t think you need to worry too much. I saw you this spring at Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. You were there supporting your friends. Everybody in your little training group got into Western States, which was incredible to watch. But you were hurt at that point. Can you tell us what you were dealing with and how your recovery has been?
Freriks: If I can trace it back to one thing, I fell on a training run in the Grand Canyon by myself. I was on a more remote route and I ended up having to hike out, or hobble out. From that point forward, I started favoring my other leg and having some IT band issues in my left leg. A lot of people get stress fractures and bone issues, but for me it has always been ligaments and tendons that bother me. For whatever reason it was knee pain in my IT band, kind of classic IT band runner’s knee syndrome. I probably kept jogging on it a little more than I should have. I kept trying to test the waters and that prolonged things.
Right after I saw you guys at Lake Sonoma things started clicking again. I have a lot of really great people in my corner in Flagstaff to work with me. Wes Gregg at Hypo2 really ended up helping me and Tommy Puzey worked with me a bunch. It’s been a short training block, but I kind of like to go into things under-trained, rather than go in the other direction. In college I dabbled in the overtraining category a lot, so staying away from that is to my advantage.
iRunFar – Bowman: That’s probably hard to do when you’re training with the group of guys that you are.
iRunFar – Hicks: A few people in Flagstaff have told me that you are arriving at peak fitness at just the appropriate time. Where do you think you are?
Freriks: If I look back at my training logs, I think before Black Canyon [100k], which was the race that got me into Western States, I was probably in the shape of my life… in like January. It was like, December and January went really well. I remember really nailing a run in the Grand Canyon in January and being like, “I’ve got a long way to go until Black Canyon in the middle of February.” If you look at it, it’s kind of everything in an eight-week block here. That’s worked well for me in the past. I’d prefer a couple more weeks to train, but I’ve been really fit off of a two-month block in the past. I think I’m getting into shape right at the right time.
It’s hard to say, too, because we’ve done so much heat training. When you’re running in heat in the Grand Canyon on your big days, you kind of just feel like garbage no matter what. I’ve had to keep a level head with that, knowing that it’s not going to feel the same when you’re running at 105 degrees [Fahrenheit] in the Grand Canyon. But I think that things are running into shape at the right time.
iRunFar – Bowman: As I said, you’re sort of flying under the radar, but astute observers–like myself–think you probably have a legitimate chance to win the race even though it’s your first 100 miler, based on your performances in the past. You’re also going to be racing against a lot of world-class guys. Obviously, your good friend, Jim Walmsley, who has sort of transcended the sport in the last couple of years…. François D’haene, who’s one of the best in the world–they both like to put pressure on the field early in the race. It seems you also like to race fairly aggressively. How do you think about your strategy leading into the race? Do you think you might go with the front pack, or are you going to try and be conservative because it’s your first time?
Freriks: I think it’s hard to say for sure. I always have a rough game plan. I try to roll with the punches on race day. I think a lot of guys go into it with that mentality. I do think for this race I’ll err on the side of caution, but I do still want to put myself out there. I don’t ever want to go into a race being beat already, even before lining up. I think giving myself a shot while being cautious is kind of my approach.
You’re not going to see me leading the race in the first 10 to 20 miles. There’s no way, there’s no way [laughs]. I do like to be aggressive, but at this place I think you have to respect 100 miles. You have to respect the course and the heat. I think being cautious plays in everyone’s favor.
iRunFar – Hicks: So do you want to know that the guys in front are a couple minutes ahead? Do you want to keep sight of them? Are you going to be running by feel?
Freriks: I think a lot of it for me is going to be running on feel. I think comparing yourself to the field is a useful tool. I know a lot of the guys that are running and I know that they’re in really good shape right now. I train with Jim every week, so I know where those guys are coming from. I think I will use those guys as a bit of a gauge, but for me, so much of ultrarunning is about monitoring yourself and paying attention to your internal cues. Though I haven’t raced one yet, I think that’s more important over 100 miles compared to other distances.
iRunFar – Hicks: Let’s talk for a second about that heat. That’s one of the factors that will influence how this race plays out. You’ve experienced some incredible heat in the Grand Canyon, pretty much like what you’ll experience in the canyons at Western States. How are you and heat?
Freriks: I think I’m average. Cody Reed will joke about Jim Walmsley–Jim’s a camel. Some of his best splits, speaking objectively, he’s run some of his best times in the Canyon when it’s like 100 degrees [Fahrenheit] out.
iRunFar – Bowman: He grew up in Phoenix. It’s not fair. He’s made for this race.
Freriks: Even guys like Jim are prone to overheating. I think I’m pretty good. I describe myself as average, but I grew up in the desert. It’s not as hot as where Jim grew up, but it would be 110 [Fahrenheit] in the summers. So I do have experience in the heat and training in the heat in this block… honestly I’ve had better runs in the heat than I’ve ever had. I think the heat just adds another layer of, “Let’s just put our heads down and get through it.”
iRunFar – Bowman: Cool. We’ve already talked a bit about the community you guys have in Flagstaff and your whole Coconino Cowboys thing. Can you tell us about your group and how it helps you guys? How often do you train together? Anything specific you can share?
Freriks: More than anything, we’re just a group of friends that like to train together. That’s kind of the bottom line. It’s been super-useful–Jim was about a year into it when I first came in–just having guys to bounce ideas around off of. We’re all self-coached. Having that as a gauge. Cody went out and ran Way Too Cool [50k], Jim won Lake Sonoma. What were those guys doing when they did that? It’s a useful tool to be able to compare, but we’ve also been able to hold each other accountable.
I know that when I get really deep in the trenches of working a lot and running by myself a lot, it’s a lot easier to let training slide. Being held accountable by friends and having people to join up for a run… in the past Eric Senseman has run with me at 9:00 p.m. after a 12- or 13-hour shift.
iRunFar – Bowman: You mentioned both Jim and Cody. Obviously both Jim and Jared Hazen are both known as being high-volume trainers. I talked to Cody last night, and we were talking about how he’s more of a low-volume guy. Do you feel pressure when you’re training with guys who are doing 150- or 170-mile weeks? Does that influence your training at all?
Freriks: Absolutely. When you’re training with guys that put in that much volume, you kind of question your own methods–Maybe I’m not doing enough. But I kind of like where I’m at with my work-life balance. Being kind of self-limited with work has kept me from overtraining. In college I would routinely do bigger miles. Not the kind of miles they’re doing now, but back-to-back weeks for months at a time and ended up kind of overtrained. So I think paying attention to what works for me and it being that kind of moderate–not necessarily low volume or high volume, but around 100-110 miles per week has worked for me. But yeah, there is a pressure there, but a fine balance has worked well.
iRunFar – Bowman: That’s smart.
iRunFar – Hicks: I’ve always wondered with that group and the accountability thing–does the accountability ever go in the opposite direction, like, “Maybe you better ease off a bit”?
Freriks: It does. At least for me, I’ll give the guys my schedule or whatever. I’ll kind of ease off of things. It should probably work that way a little bit more.
iRunFar – Hicks: Like, “Let’s go have Dairy Queen instead of a second run.”
iRunFar – Bowman: They’re like, “This lazy guy [pointing at Freriks] is only doing 110 miles this week? Come on!”
Freriks: Yeah [laughs].
iRunFar – Bowman: Well, Tim, thanks for taking the time to come and see us this morning. There’s going to be a lot of interested people watching your race on Saturday, a lot of people rooting for you. Good luck.
Freriks: Thanks for having me, guys.
iRunFar – Hicks: Let’s give Mr. Freriks a round of applause. [Audience applauds off-screen]