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Title:Frozen Gnome 50K Race Report -- winter ultra Chicagoland Style
Date:Saturday January 11th, 2014
Author:Juli Aistars
I foolishly, or maybe not so foolishly, signed up for a tough winter ultra in December, knowing it would happen 10 days after ATY where I planned to run more than 200 miles. Why do I do these things, and at my age??? I guess I wanted another goal on the schedule, knowing there would be a letdown after all the fun at ATY. I also wanted to be part of the fun. The MUDD Runners, who put on the race, know how to have fun!

So on Friday, after a deep freeze and lots of snowfall, the forecast called for warmer temps in the 30s, which would start a melt in Veteran's Acres where the race is held. It is a challenging course even without snow and ice. I was tempted to opt out. My legs were tired and my grandson was overnight Friday. I had a multitude of excuses to use.

Come Saturday morning, in the interest of not being seen as wimping out, especially since Scott Kummer was challenging me to a duel on FB so he could get me back at me for passing him in the last mile of Devil's Lake 50M last summer, I grudgingly got up early and got ready for the onslaught. Scott holds a grudge for a long time... :) I guess I can't blame him for getting riled that I passed him since I am a lot older and a woman. But to pick on an "old" woman who recently ran 212 miles??? :)

I didn't realize our lister Tim Smith was there from Iowa. I would have sought you out to say hello but I didn't know until I saw results this morning.

So, anyway, the course was an icy, slushy mess, worse in some ways and better in some ways as the day went on and the course was trampled. A 10K and a 50K are offered, so the course got quieter after the 10Kers finished. After one loop of the 10K course, they were probably congratulating themselves that they had been wise to sign up for 10K and not 50K. The course has a lot of big hills, which were covered with snow and ice. About halfway, after climbing a long hill, there is a luge-type "butt-slide" which sends you over a drop-off. Each time, I sat down, let myself go, tried to break my descent with arms and legs as I bounced off the sides, and hoped I wouldn't break arms and legs. The best ride was when some kids were watching me, so as not to let them know I was a wimp, I acted as if it was nothing and I was not dreading it. Thanks, boys! I scraped and bruised both elbows with the 5 slides, because I was too stupid to use my butt as intended and keep the rest of the body parts safe.

But the weather was not so cold, in the 30s, which felt like Spring after the recent frozen tundra we've been experiencing, here in Chicagoland.

Scott ran with me on loop one and we talked -- about running, of course. He passed me on loop 2 but I was too tired to raise my head, noticing his bare legs and Hoka's as I was looking at the ground in front of me. Yes, he wore shorts, as did some other guys. I never saw him again and thought he had really whupped me, but then found out his victory was a mere 16 minutes -- C'mon, Scott, you can do better than that! :) In all seriousness, Scott kept it steady and ran well. I just didn't have it in me to do more than get a finish yesterday. Uncle!

The most important thing to mention about this race is the family feeling, the love, the excellent volunteers who are mostly ultrarunners and will do about anything, including stand on their heads to help you through. Michele Hartwig and family direct the race, putting out funny and encouraging signs on the course, like "Jake's Hill" named for one of the MUDDers, and "Possum Pass". Volunteers stay on the course for all 8 hours, making sure we don't take a wrong turn, encouraging us unfailingly. Andrea's smile after climbing that hill, or Ric sitting in his comfy chair with coffee in hand when we entered and left the "Gnawbone" loop, Keith Daniels in his running snow shoes, the sweeps, all who spent hours of their day or all day to make sure we had a good race. The "Gnome Headquarters" is in a big tent where they cook all kinds of hot foot at the start/finish. Volunteers bring home-baked goods for the one aid station. Everyone gets cheered on as if they are winning the race. I should know, since I barely finished, and they made me feel like a star. Julie Bane made me soup in the tent and brought it to me so I wouldn't have to go in. Carl gave me one of his personal gels when they didn't have any before the last loop. I wore windpants over my regular pants -- I was way over-dressed, leary of the cold. The windpants were a nuisance, falling down for the first 4 loops and I had to constantly hitch them up. It probably looked like my butt was drooping from behind. Then Brandi came up with the bright idea to duct tape them on me for the last loop. She used "Hello-Kitty duct tape, making a belt for me. Another great use for duct tape... That did the trick, and I could finally run without feeling so uncomfortable.

Yes, this was an epic race, and I am glad that I didn't wimp out. I feel like running again, even in the dead of a Chicagoland winter. Congratulations to all who finished or even started -- about 25 people of the 90 starters dropped. It took a lot of guts to tow that start line. Congratulations to my adversary, Scott Kummer and to Shelley Cook who won for the women, and who takes the time to encourage even the slowpokes, like me. Thanks to all the loving, fun, helpful volunteers who I am lucky to call friends. Thanks to Brad, a young man, nephew of Karen Shearer, who carried my stuff to my car. He is a budding runner. When I asked him if he does other sports or has other hobbies, he said, "Not really."

I love this sport and all the people I know and meet, even on a winter day (which was lovely if you were looking out a window), even on a trail with snow, slush, ice, and a luge slide... I am so glad I joined you all at Frozen Gnome!

Results at:

And a video which captured the spirit of this event perfectly, by MUDDer Scott Laudick:

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Posted:January 12th, 2014 9:19 am
Last Update:January 12th, 2014 10:13 am
Last View:July 9th, 2020 1:48 am
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