What can you do during the winter months to prepare for the Ridge Run?
I’m NOT into the hard core Nordic ski gig – neither skate nor classic technique. Nevertheless, Nordic skiers have had a history of success on the Ridge Run. You cannot argue with that as testimony as to the effectiveness of Nordic skiing contributing to overall fitness and toughness. So by all means, Nordic Skiing is great way to train during the winter months.
I personally do a lot of Alpine (downhill) skiing and backcountry. Unfortunately, in my experience, downhill skiing does not coexist well with running performance and vice versa. I find doing a lot of downhill skiing tends to make me stiff; negatively affect my running. Likewise doing a lot of running has a deleterious effect on my leg spring and brute strength needed for alpine skiing. As fun as it is, I do not recommend lift serviced downhill skiing as a viable winter training activity.
Trail Running in the Snow
So with the mountain trails covered in snow, what are your winter training options? If you do not mind hiking or running in the snow, getting out and running trails like the M trail, Sypes Canyon or foothill trail can work. These trails tend to get packed out from high use. There are a few hard core souls that climb up Mount Baldy from the M year round. In winter, they’ll stash a pair of small light snowshoes up high above the M where the snow deepens. Bozeman creek also is conducive to winter running as it gets packed out from dog walkers. Of course there are always roads and the trails right in town for running.
Finding Snow Free Trails
The western Gallatin valley near Three Forks tends to have much less snow than the Bozeman area and affords some good winter training grounds. Bear Trap canyon is good winter running terrain. Also the state parks such as Buffalo Jump and Missouri Headwaters are historic places to get a bit a trail running in.
Indoor on the Treadmill
As a break from running in the cold on potentially slippery surfaces and if you do not mind the monotony, you can do the treadmill thing. One workout I like to do is walking uphill at a good clip. Setting the treadmill at 15% grade (as steep as most treadmills go) and 4.5 mph (a very brisk walking pace) affords a challenging workout. At a 15% grade, each mile gains about 800 vertical feet. I like to use the bench mark of gaining 1000 feet of vertical in 20 minutes. Anyone who can climb 1000 feet in 20 minutes is in extraordinary shape. At 15% grade you gain 1000 feet in 20 minutes at just slower than 4 mph walking pace on the treadmill.
There are many portions of the Ridge Run course consisting of steep uphills. Three sections come to mind. The first part of the course up to the summit of Sacajawea; much of the way from Ross Pass to Bridger Bowl; from Bridger Bowl up to the summit of Saddle peak. Power walking is just as efficient as a slow run on these sections. If you honed your uphill walking fitness on the treadmill, these portions will be all that much easier and faster for you.