Former collegiate track standout Tim Freriks decided he might like to try trail-ultra racing, and he did so with the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile and took second in his first ultramarathon. In this interview, we meet Tim and hear about his running background, where his interest in trail and ultrarunning originates, and whether or not he’s going to use the Western States 100 Golden Ticket he earned by taking second.
For the full story on how the race went down, check out our results article.
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Tim Freriks Post-2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile Interview
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here at the finish line of the 2016 Lake Sonoma 50 Mile. I’m with men’s second-place surprise finisher, Tim Freriks. Hey, it’s nice to meet you.
Tim Freriks: Likewise. Nice meeting you, too, Meghan. Thanks for having me.
iRunFar: I’m basically meeting you right now. So who the heck are you?
Freriks: I grew up running on the trails, but didn’t have any trail running or racing experience before now really—a little bit on a local road race. I ran cross country in college. I ran track in college. That’s kind of my main background, 5k and 10k. I was always successful on higher mileage. I’m used to the longer stuff and would train on the trails but hadn’t taken a crack at a race yet.
iRunFar: So a couple of people of people the past week gave us a heads up to have a look out for you at the race and that you’re bringing some leg speed. So we did a little bit of googling and yes, you do bring a “little bit of leg speed” from collegiate running.
Freriks: Yeah, I was never… like Jim [Walmsley] ran something like 4:04 in college for the mile. I never had leg speed like that, but 5k…
iRunFar: Your 5k pace was pretty…
Freriks: Yeah, I had some 5k speed that I think helps out on some of this stuff here and there when you’re trying to cover someone’s move or trucking downhill.
iRunFar: So you’re in Flagstaff, Arizona, right now, and you went to college there. Where did you grow up?
Freriks: I grew up just down the hill from there in Cottonwood, Arizona, a real small town kind of close to Sedona. That’s in the desert, but when I went away to college, it felt like a whole new area because it’s high in the mountains and pine trees.
iRunFar: So you’re a couple years out of collegiate running at Northern Arizona Uuniversity. What have you been doing in that time?
Freriks: Not a whole lot. I kind of took a year-and-a-half to two years away from competitive running.
iRunFar: [points off camera] Jim’s dying right now. He’s wilting.
Freriks: What’s going on over there?
iRunFar: He’s wilting in my peripheral vision.
Jim Walmsley from off camera: I’m just stretching.
Freriks: I took a couple years away from competitive running and then have been kind of working my way back into it. I’m working full time in Flagstaff just kind of… I’ve really enjoyed the training for this kind of stuff. It’s something to look forward to on the weekends, getting a big run in on the peaks or the Grand Canyon or something like that. I’ve been enjoying the process.
iRunFar: I’ve been learning by listening to your mini-community talking that you and Jim are training partners.
Freriks: Yeah, Jim and I have been training quite a bit together.
iRunFar: Was he the one who kind of egged you on to do this race, or how did you decide to put your name in for a 50 miler?
Freriks: Honestly, it kind of started with me and a friend, Cody [Reed], I started running longer stuff with the idea of trying to take a crack at the double crossing of the Grand Canyon. Then that idea I kind of lost interest in and thought I’d hop in a race or somewhere you should be competing for time or against other people.
iRunFar: So you and Jim did a couple long training runs. You said right at the finish line you had done 36 miles in the Grand Canyon.
Freriks: Yeah, that was my longest run up until now. Yeah, the Grand Canyon definitely from a training perspective prepares you really well for this stuff. It’s a lot different, though, than this. You’re running straight up or you’re running straight down—not a whole lot of… I think on their website it says, “Relentless” as their slogan for this race. That definitely nails it because it’s up and down the whole way.
iRunFar: You can’t get into much of a rhythm. You find a rhythm and it changes.
Freriks: No. I think I’m a rhythm runner, so it was a bit of a struggle in parts today, but I had fun.
iRunFar: So I’m just going to ask, how does a guy like you wrap your head around 50 miles? Gun goes off; guys go out. How do you know what the proper pace is? How do you think of, Where should I eat? What do I do when I feel bad? There’s a lot of stuff.
Freriks: There’s a ton of logistics stuff. I definitely have to give credit to Jim Walmsley. He gave me a ton of great advice. He really helped out with housing and stuff on this trip. He told me last year he was camping out and freezing on race morning and huddling in front of the fire. I got super lucky with him mentoring me and showing me the ropes. We had Cody Reed out here crewing for us which was awesome.
iRunFar: He was crewing for both of you?
Freriks: Yeah, him and Jeremy Drenckhahn, one of Jim’s college teammates, were out here handing us our bottles and all the good stuff. I just started the watch and then didn’t look at it. I looked at it every once in awhile, but I tried to just focus on the present and getting through the next hill or the next decline down the hill.
iRunFar: How did you gauge yourself? Were you gauging yourself on splits you were getting to Jim in front of you? Were you gauging yourself on the terrain?
Freriks: Definitely not on Jim. His gap just kept growing, so I kind of just forgot about him and was just really trying to not see the third-place guy behind me. Gauging myself, though, I don’t really know. I kind of just took it one hill at a time and tried not to walk. I feel like walking is hard for me to get out of the walking mode and back to running, so really, really slow shuffles. I probably was going slower than a walk, but I think I had maybe one in there. It was definitely jogging slower than I could have walked. It’s just getting back into the rhythm of running is easier for me if I’m running a little bit.
iRunFar: Did it ever go into a nasty, uncomfortable, aching, painful feeling?
Freriks: Yeah, it kept alternating for me. I think it had a lot to do with nutrition and just taking in the gel and all that. I got to a point where I was just forcing myself to take the gel because I knew I’d feel better, but it also kind of upset my stomach. Right around half way coming back on the really steep hills on the way back, down was pretty hard for me. For whatever reason, I’m a lot more comfortable climbing than I am going down. It just beats up your legs, or it really beats up my legs. After those descents, climbing back up was pretty tough. Around 30 I was hurting pretty bad. Then I started to feel like I was getting there. That was when they have a sign that says, “You’re not close.” I’d just been telling myself, Ah, you only have 15 miles to go. You’re getting there. And then I come around the corner and they have a sign that says, “You’re nowhere near the finish.”
iRunFar: “I’m pretty sure this was planted here for me.”
Freriks: Yeah, exactly. It was like someone with my mind put that there.
iRunFar: As crazy as it is, fast collegiate track runner kind of farts around with running after they graduate and then decides to jump into a trail race, takes second, runs a pretty speedy time, and now gets offered entry into the most prestigious 100 miler on earth. What do you do now?
Freriks: Yeah, I’m not sure. I’m kind of 50/50 at this point. I really don’t know. I’m going to be starting school again in mid-May, so I’m going to be pretty busy with that, but I don’t know. I’m really not sure. A 100 miler is a whole new ballgame.
iRunFar: Do you think you’ll take the thinking window and ponder it?
Freriks: Yeah, I think it’s two weeks, so… I think within a week I should know if I’m going to run it or not. I’ll just take some time and look at my schedule and evaluate. I’m feeling pretty bad right now after the race, so that’s a little bias in the back of my mind, too, so when I’m thinking more clearly I’ll really evaluate and kind of see where I’m at.
iRunFar: If it doesn’t happen to be that race, is trail racing something that you are going to pursue now?
Freriks: Yeah, I think so.
iRunFar: Why not?
Freriks: Yeah, I know, definitely. I love training on the trails. I grew up running on the trails. Yeah, I just enjoy it. It’s fun. It’s kind of a new take on running for me and from what I was doing previously at least in the racing department. Yeah, I think so. I would like to get on the track again, too, but I’ll probably stay on the trails.
iRunFar: Try everything, a la Max King.
Freriks: Yeah, why not?
iRunFar: Congratulations to you. Nice to meet you.
Freriks: Thanks, Meghan. It was nice meeting you, too.
iRunFar: We’ll look forward to seeing you down the trail somewhere. Congrats.
Freriks: Okay, sounds good.