On Saturday, January 13, Ornery Mule Racing presented their annual Frozen Gnome 10K and 50K races. Held in Crystal Lake, this black diamond trail race is a regular event for those willing to brave the cold and jagged trails of Veteran Acres and Sterne’s Woods.
Despite the single digit temps and below zero wind chill, the energy on race day morning was cheerful. Smiling faces, albeit covered by facemasks and several layers of clothing, greeted me as I grabbed my race bib and comfy sweatshirt contained in the swag bag.
Parking was easy and free. Being close to the start line was extra convenient on the chilly race day morning. Most of us waited in our vehicles until race time.
Both distances begin promptly at 7:45 a.m. and racers were greeted with a dry, non-snowy track. It was an extremely rugged trail, filled with branches and rocks. They were also hills throughout the course, including an aptly named, “butt slide hill.” Volunteers stood at the top of this well-known portion of the course and advised racers to slow down and sit if needed. I took the sitting option to get down the steep incline and became one of the many butt sliders!
This extremely challenging course was a 10K loop that racers circled throughout the day. At the finish of each loop, the race organizers had a table well-stocked with plentiful fuel options including cookies, sandwiches and several different types of beverages. There was also a large tarp where racers could leave a drop bag.
50K female first through third winners were: Brienne Famera, Christine Murphy and Tricia Ruby. 50K male first through third winners were: Kyle Larson, Daniel Kittaka and Jacob Gallagher.
10K female first through third winners were: Heidi Mane, Karen Grabowski and Laurie Giumento. 10K male first through third winners were: Ian La Belle, Mark Jensen and Josh Swenson.
The Frozen Gnome was incredibly well organized and staffed. It is easy to see why many racers return to this course year after year in the frigid January temperatures. The amazing race staff, friendly volunteers and awesome swag are all incentives to try out this extra challenging January race. Make sure to check the Ornery Mule Racing website for information on their series. They have several races this spring and fall that I know I will be including on my race schedule for the year. https://www.ornerymuleracing.com/