Freedman hopes Running Series title is just the beginning
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs resident Penelope Freedman hit a low point in her athletic career two winters ago when she tore her MCL on the slopes at the Loveland Ski Area. At the same time, that injury helped propel her to the top of the local running scene today.
“When you are an athlete and you get injured, you feel kind of worthless. You should never define yourself by the sport you do, but that’s how I was feeling,” Freedman said. “As I started to strengthen back from my injury, I started running. I guess I hadn’t realized how much I missed running.”
Freedman, 32, returned to running last summer, a world she hadn’t fully been part of since her days growing up in South Africa. This summer, she jumped whole-heartedly into the sport, where she won the Steamboat Springs Running Series title, which ended with Saturday’s Emerald Mountain Trail Run.
Freedman spent the first 14 years of her life in Cape Town before moving to New Zealand. There, she developed her love and skills for snowboarding, a sport that would define her life for the next decade, plus.
As she approached her mid 20s, Freedman left New Zealand and began her vagabond traveling lifestyle, which sent her all across the world. Eventually, she made her way to the United States, where she spent the winters living at various ski resorts, notably in Oregon and Utah.
In the offseason, she’d travel back to Australia or New Zealand. Being in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand’s ski season fell in the American summer, and allowed Freedman to snowboard almost year round.
“I loved the adventure that goes along with skiing and snowboarding,” Freedman said. “The skiing is a lot bigger and better in the U.S. The mountains are bigger. I feel like the snow is better in the U.S. And I wanted to experience all of the mountains in the U.S.”
It’s been almost three years since Freedman moved to Steamboat Springs, the draw of the Colorado Rockies pulling her in. She originally decided on Steamboat because it was a place that both allowed her to be on the mountain during the winter and work on her education, where she spent a short time studying at Colorado Mountain College.
She had no intention to stay long term, but after stepping away from school to start her own business — Kenchuto Bliss, an organic foods company catered toward athletes — and falling in love with the Yampa Valley, Freedman has made Steamboat the most permanent home she’s had in a long time and plans to stay.
“I stayed because of the people and the community here in Steamboat,” Freedman said. “I love the feeling of being really grounded and able to focus on my running and having a training schedule and setting goals. It’s a lot easier to do when you are grounded. But I miss seeing new things.”
While Freedman is sure her desire to be on a snowboard will return as soon as a fresh batch of powder hits the mountain, running has made its way to the top of her priority list since her injury.
She does a lot of training on her own, often running for miles through the mountains with her dog. But she has also enlisted the help of many locals; including highly regarded strength coach Charlie Chase and five-time Ironman champion Heather Gollnick, of IronEdge Coaching.
Freedman has high hopes her running career is just getting started. With the overall Running Series title in the bag, she has her sights set on bigger prey going forward. The former competitive snowboarder wants to get sponsored as a runner and move on to larger races outside of Steamboat.
“I feel like I’m too old to compete (in snowboarding) and I wanted to focus on the things I’m really good at and I feel I’m very talented as a runner,” Freedman said. “I think it’s really important for everyone to focus on things they are naturally good at. I just want to see where I can go with running.”
To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert
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