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Frozen Snot race not for newbies

PHOTOS PROVIDED Participants of FSX2022 sign up for either the 8.3-mile course or the 13.5-mile course, but can change their minds the day of the race, depending on conditions. Taking place on what is predicted to be one of the coldest days of the year, runner Julie Pentico said the race is not for those just starting out in trail running. 

One of the most extreme trail events in the world takes place in Clinton County with The Frozen Snot Adventure Race at McElhattan.

FSX2022, set for February 12, 2022, could see 300 trail runners experience one of the most difficult events of their lives.

“It is the hardest possible race at the worst possible time of the year given our natural terrain,” said Jeff Stover, founder of the event that will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year.

In terms of elevation gain per mile, the extreme trail event starts at Zindel Park and is considered one of the most challenging trail races – mile for mile – in the world. Stover, who has explored landscapes all around the globe, said the closest comparison to the Bald Eagle Mountain is, perhaps, the White Mountains in New Hampshire. What is lacking in elevation is made up in endless rocks and technical footing.

Although participation was down last year due to several factors, including the pandemic, 225 participants still showed up. In addition, more than 80 volunteers manned the base and on-course operations for about 10 hours in extreme cold.

Joanne Heimer, volunteer coordinator for the event, is an avid hiker and has personal experience with the trail.

“I participated the first two years, then volunteered and then began coordinating volunteers in 2017,” she said.

Participants sign up for either the 8.3-mile course or the 13.5-mile course. They are then given the option to change their minds the day of the race, depending on conditions.

“Safety for our competitors and volunteers is, of course, of paramount importance,” said Heimer. “Throughout our nine years of this competition, we have, unfortunately, dealt with some serious injuries and a death.”

Last year’s winner, Justin Beatty of South Williamsport, began hiking and trail running in the winter about six years ago to stay fit for cycling.

“I enjoy the relationships, nature and amazing spaces and places, the mindfulness, the opportunity to challenge my limits and the way running allows me to enjoy and be present in the moment,” Beatty said. “When I run, I’m just a kid in the woods.”

It was Beatty’s wife, Sumer, who signed him up for the Frozen Snot last year as a Valentine’s Day present, something he had avoided in the past due to the “really difficult conditions.”

In fact, the course conditions, at times, have made him laugh out loud. But participating in, and winning the race, was a shared joy for his family. His experience was an unforgettable one.

“It definitely feels invigorating and epic to be moving through difficult terrain with so much snow and ice,” he said. “Very few people get to see the world in that way. Last year was incredibly beautiful, especially on top of the mountain where Beast and (Mt.) Logan Direct are close together. There is a vista over a boulder field and everything was covered in at least two feet of fresh snow and the pines held a glaze of ice that looked like glass.”

Julie Pentico of Loyalsock Township is a teacher and mother of three who grew up in Nebraska and began running in high school to stay in shape for other sports. She continued to run in college and through law school for health and fitness. Racing started in her mid-20s, but she didn’t begin trail running until she was in her early 40s.

Pentico has participated in the Frozen Snot three times and, if injury free, will be back on the trail this year. She said that, while the extreme temperatures are certainly a factor in making the Frozen Snot incredibly challenging, she tends to forget about the cold once the race director yells “go.”

“I am thrilled if we have a bit of snow on the ground on race day because it allows me to wear spikes,” she said. “The climbing, descending and rocky terrain is much easier for me to navigate. This race has some of the best volunteers and aid stations. Tough to beat the famous ‘bacon station’ with volunteers dressed as chickens and dinosaurs. This race does not play to my strengths as a runner but it is at the heart of what I love about trail running: Grit and grind. The Frozen Snot is not the best race for those just starting out in trail running. However, it is a fantastic one to work toward and proudly become a fellow ‘snotter’.”

For more information about the 2022 Frozen Snot, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/McElhattan/TheFrozenSnot.

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