BY DENNIS CHASE
TRAVERSE CITY — Runners huddled inside Eastern Elementary, waiting until the last minute possible to venture outdoors into single-digit temperatures for the start of the Frozen Foot 5-mile road race.
That was last year.
On Saturday, runners will be greeted by much warmer temperatures — and clear roads — for the annual race, which gets underway at 10 a.m.
"I think the temperature was around 5 or 6 degrees when the race started last year," Kevin Deyo recalled. "It was a real pretty morning, just cold and clear."
Upwards to 200 runners typically compete.
"I'll think you'll see a good turnout given the mild weather," Traverse City's Lauren Tucker said.
Tucker, who turns 30 in a week, has been running four days a week this winter, logging between 18 to 24 miles. She officially starts a training program next week, leading up to May's Bayshore Half-Marathon. She has a set goal in mind for Saturday.
"I ran the Turkey Trot 5-mile race in about 41 minutes," she said. "I want to see if I can beat that time. It was a really beautiful warm day (for the Turkey Trot), so I'm hoping the conditions will be similar Saturday."
Deyo, 54, has been battling a cold and is not certain he'll race Saturday.
"I'll see how I feel," he said. "I want to do it. I picked up my entry form."
Deyo runs or snowshoes nearly every day. His running base is around 50 miles a week.
"Last year I was training for a marathon and I was over 70 miles a week," he said. "I don't have any goals in mind right now (for spring), so basically I'm just trying to keep fit."
Deyo figures he's been in "eight to nine" Frozen Foot races.
"Saturday's weather is going to be much different than all the other ones I've done," he said. "Some years (it's been so icy) I've put screws in my shoes to get better traction.
"I remember the first one I did. It was in the high-30s with rain. A cold rain is miserable to run in. I'd rather have snow than a cold rain."
In fact, Deyo, would like to see more snow.
"Hopefully, Sunday and Monday it will starting swinging back the other way," he said. "I'm one of those people who likes winter. I like to cross country ski, snowshoe, get out. If we're going to have winter, let's have winter, not this in-between stuff. It's nice to drive on clear roads, but ...."
Another large contingent from a Grand Valley State University running club is expected. Grand Valley's Michelle Verellen and Max Dekorne were the overall winners last year. Dekorne has won the last two men's races.
Saturday's race starts and ends at Eastern Elementary. Race day registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
For more information call Running Fit at 933-9242 or 932-5401.