After an already strong 2017 of racing, Tim Freriks is hoping for another big day at the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. In this interview, Tim talks about DNFing this race last year and what he learned, how he balances a full-time job and heavy training load, his 2017 racing successes, and his hopes for this weekend’s race.
Be sure to read our in-depth men’s and women’s previews, and follow our race-day live coverage.
Tim Freriks Pre-2017 The North Face 50 Mile Championships Interview Transcript
iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here with co-host, Hillary Allen. Today we’re interviewing Tim Freriks. It’s the day before the 2017 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships. Hey, Tim.
Tim Freriks: How’s it going, Meghan?
iRunFar: Two women with one man.
Freriks: Sounds good.
iRunFar: It’s your lucky day.
Freriks: Sounds good.
iRunFar: How are you doing?
Freriks: Good. I’m doing well. Travel was really smooth, kind of relaxing, honestly. It’s a pretty easy trip to get here from Phoenix. I’m feeling good, ready to race tomorrow. It should be fun.
iRunFar: Let’s start this interview with a year ago. You were here.
Freriks: I was. Little known fact… I think few people know that I was out here, but yeah, it didn’t go well.
iRunFar: What is the story with last year? Why did you decide to turn up last minute?
Freriks: I entered this race when I was more fit over the summer. I’d register and everything and had a plane ticket out here. I was planning things way out in advance. This was the big race I wanted to do last year. Then life got in the way—nursing school and working and just having too many obligations, Training kind of fell on the back burner there. It just hadn’t been going that well. I kind of decided to focus on other things for a bit. As we got closer to this race, I was like, You know what? I haven’t been training, but it would still be fun to hop in. I can go out and see friends and race. Then I think I just got wrapped up in the excitement of the race and just was out way too fast. My original goal was to go out in the back and try and finish. I think I was running with Sage [Canaday] for the first 18 miles, and he was running a really smart race, but it was way out of my wheelhouse on that day. By mile 30, I was toast. Broken for sure. I saw Alex Varner at the top of Cardiac, and…
iRunFar He told you exactly what he sees.
Freriks: Yeah, exactly. He looked at me and said, “Tim, do you need help?” I was just standing there trying to figure out, What am I doing? Am I going to make it? This is going to be a long 19-mile walk. I ended up pulling out there. I could barely stand. My legs were pretty shot.
iRunFar: Have Alex take you straight to the Deuce?
Freriks: I wish. It ended up being a logistical thing. Jim [Walmsley] was crewing for me, and I can’t remember where he was. He was at Tennessee Valley without cell reception. He was like, I know it’s going to be a long day for him. Maybe he’s still out there. I don’t want to leave him. I was at the finish because I got a ride. I kind of blew it on that one. Hopefully I can make it up tomorrow.
iRunFar: Your 2017, though, has been a pretty good one.
Freriks: Yeah, it’s been fun one. Yeah, Transvulcania, starting off that way this year, kind of set the tone. Ever since then, it’s just been an exciting year. I feel I’ve kind of found my rhythm between work and training and life’s obligations. I’ve found a balance that’s been working for me well.
Hillary Allen: Has that changed? You’ve come to these races, and you’re prepared and you know where you’re at, but it’s kind of like an experiment. Then you really nailed Transvulcania. Did that set the tone for the rest of the season as far as nailing other races as far as the confidence?
Freriks: I think so. There’s definitely a little confidence that comes with winning a race like that, but I think for me, I felt like I had a performance in me before that.
Allen: Black Canyon?
Freriks: No, I felt like I had it in me, but it just wasn’t showing up in races. Thankfully I’ve got good friends that believe in me and knew that it was in there, too. But Transvulcania was just validation that I can do this, I’ve got it in me, it’s just getting into the right environment.
Allen: Americans can do well on European soil.
Freriks: For sure. Yeah, so Transvulcania was the vote of confidence I needed to set myself up for the rest of the year. Yeah, that was crucial to continuing… a year ago at this point it was kind of like, I’m going to do my career thing and hopefully running shakes out eventually. That was just like, No, this is going to be a big priority.
iRunFar: You hadn’t quite figured it out yet.
iRunFar: Can you talk a little bit about your life outside of running? You’re kind of holding your own at the front of the pack and running with the Coconino Cowboys and keeping up with them and setting the pace, but you have a real job.
Freriks: There are a few of us who looked up to Rob Krar because we know he did it for awhile. I think someday I’d love to… we’ll see when, maybe sooner rather than later, but I’d love to make running a full-time team. For now, I’m a nurse at Flagstaff Medical Center in the critical-care cluster. I’m on a post-ICU unit. That’s what I’m doing. I’m working full-time 36 to 40 hours per week. I think for ultrarunning, it works well because you do these 12-hour shifts, and I run commute so I can get something in on the days I work. Then I have four days off a week to really nail it in training and setting myself up for canyon days and big days in the mountains. It’s pretty nice to have a full day off rather than doing the 8-to-5 Monday-to-Friday thing.
iRunFar: I just want to put it on the record if things turn out pretty well for you this weekend, I think your email to me said you pulled a couple 12-hour shifts this week?
Freriks: Yeah, I’m green. I’m pretty new at the hospital. In retrospect, I think I could have gotten some vacation days, but early on, it’s kind of hard to go to your manager and, “Hey, I know I’ve been on the floor a couple months, but can I…?”
iRunFar: “…Have a week off?”
Freriks: Exactly. Yeah, I was working earlier this week. Yeah, I don’t know, there’s part of me, too, that really loves the balance that I have now. If you have too much time to overthink things, I think that can be dangerous especially for a guy like me. I’m kind of an analytical guy, and keeping my mind off things is kind of a good fit.
iRunFar: You don’t want to visit the rabbit hole too deeply?
Freriks: No, not at all.
Allen: I know something about how that goes.
iRunFar: A couple weeks ago, well it’s been a bit over a month ago now, but you set the Rim-to-Rim FKT in the Grand Canyon. That was part of or in the middle of your main training block ahead of this race?
Freriks: Yeah, it was. It was originally going to be part of this block, and I ended up doing… I’ve kind of found in training I just end up getting in shape pretty quickly, so I didn’t want to come into this race stale. I took a little bit of a down week after that, actually after the [Flagstaff] Skyrace the week after. That was a big part of this training block. I had some of my best training leading up to this around when I did the FKT. This fall has been a lot of fun. I’d never been on the top four miles of the North Kaibab Trail in the Canyon. We’d run to that point from the South Rim. We’d done a 36 miler a couple years ago.
iRunFar: Had people told you about the sand beforehand? It’s kind of sandy.
Freriks: Yeah, it is.
Allen: It’s kind of like Transvulcania.
Freriks: Yeah, for sure. I was just in awe. We train there a lot. It’s amazing.
Allen: For the Coconino Cowboys, it seems like it’s a staple run. Do you have those, going into other races, based on how you do in the canyon, how fit you are going into other races?
Freriks: Yeah, for sure. I actually had a really good one with Hayden [Hawks] and Jim before Transvulcania. I’ve definitely drawn confidence from the Canyon runs. I know how long it takes to go from the river to the rim, and based on how fast I can do that and how comfortably, I usually have a good gauge on how my fitness is.
Allen: Going off that, you’re running with technically the competition. You like this? If you’re running with people, I know it changes from a training day, do you know the competition’s weaknesses versus your strengths?
Freriks: I feel like I know Jim pretty well from constantly training with him. Training with him, I don’t see a whole lot of weakness. Yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t trained with Hayden enough to know that stuff, but I feel like I’m a competitive guy on race day. A guy like Jim is competitive always. It’s awesome. I love being around that. I feel like it’s good for me. But for me personally, in training and stuff I’m just not super-hyper competitive in training. I train really hard, but at the same time…
Allen: You’re guarding the psyche?
iRunFar: Best of luck to you out there. We look forward to seeing you make the five loops of the Headlands tomorrow?
Freriks: Thanks so much, Meghan.
Allen: Leading the pain train? We’ll see.
Freriks: Yeah, hopefully. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited. Thanks so much for having me.
iRunFar: Good luck to you.
Allen: Best of luck.
Freriks: Thanks, Meghan. Thanks, Hillary.