TRAVERSE CITY — Running isn’t usually one of those things you term a “slippery slope.”
Except for Saturday.
Rapid City’s Kyle Kiel and Traverse City’s Julie Comfort were able to overcome treacherous weather conditions to win the annual Frozen Foot five-mile road race through the base of the Old Mission Peninsula.
“There’s that big hill up by Timber Ridge, and coming down was a little harder than going up,” Comfort said. “And there were a couple turns where I had to slow down and get my grip before I could go (around). But it was a good day and a lot of people were out, so it was fun.”
Kiel took advantage of a chance turn of events to notch the victory.
Erik Peterson led most of the event, but took wrong turns on two occasions, the second of which cost him the race. Even Kiel, a 32-year-old former Kalkaska standout, said Peterson should have won.
“I was yelling at him a lot that he was going to wrong way,” Kiel said. “He was at least 15 seconds ahead of me. By the time he was able to turn around and go the right way, I was right up to him. The second time, I pretty much passed him by the time he was able to turn around and get back on the right track.”
Kiel won in 29:21.4, just over eight seconds ahead of Peterson.
Manton’s Thomas King was third, Traverse City’s Jacob Secor took fourth and Allendale’s Joel Medina fifth.
“There aren’t any other races this time of year besides snowshoe races,” Kiel said. “Last year, the weather was perfect. It was 60 degrees. It was amazing. This year, the ice was very difficult and tricky. There were a couple people that fell, and I almost fell. On those corners where it’s ice and you’re cruising, you have to pretty much stop to turn.”
Comfort hadn’t even planned on entering in the race, but woke up Saturday morning and filled out a late-minute entry.
She ended up winning the women’s race by 2:13 with a total time of 34:26.4. The next four female finishers were all teenagers.
“Considering I was about to fall on my face a lot, it was not my best race,” Comfort laughed. “It was decent for the conditions, I suppose.”
Finishing second was Paityn Andrekus of Allendale, followed by Autumn Burin of Allendale, Fenton’s Sarah Waraniak and Traverse City’s Jessica Gockley.
Comfort — a nurse at Munson Medical Center who used to work at Running Fit, which ran the race — moved to Traverse City eight years ago after running at Port Huron Northern in high school and then at Albion College.
“Going down Timber Lane, it was icy,” Comfort said. “There just wasn’t a lot to grip there. And you’re going downhill. You really had to slow up.”
Race officials said about 240 runners were signed up for the race, but due to the weather, only about 180 actually competed in the event that started and ended at Eastern Elementary.
“But for the conditions, I was surprised at the turnout and how many people were out there ready to run,” Comfort said. “It was a good time. I was going to run in the awful weather anyway, and it was nice to have people to do it with.”
“There was a lot of ice,” Kiel said. “It just made it tricky. You couldn’t go all out in the icy sections.”
It was the second time in the event for Kiel, who finished fourth last year. He said he ran in 24 races last year, including the Boston Marathon, and is already registered for both the Boston and Bayshore marathons this year, as well as a 100-mile event.
The 32-year-old gave up running for 10 years after his high school career, but resumed again after having children.
“I just started running (again) when I had kids,” Kiel chuckled. “I feel like as soon as I had kids, I don’t want them to ever be faster than me, so I started running again. I started running just to run a 5K, and then I got addicted to running and started training for a marathon. Ever since, I’ve wanted to go further and further. The further I go, the better I seem to do.”