Wednesday evening July 6th Mike Wolfe gave a presentation at the Bozeman REI covering tips and training advice for those participating in the Ridge Run.
Mike is probably one of the better mountain runners in the world and gave a soft spoken low keyed informal presentation. There were lots of questions and interaction with the audience.
A question and answer format works well for organizing the presentation’s myriad topics and details of information. So using some journalistic license I will write this blog with Mike’s answers in the first person as if Mike is doing the talking. The answers are not his exact words, but are his paraphrased words presenting his message to the best of my recall and scribbled note taking can reproduce. I could not get a good sound recording of the presentation and I am not aware of anyone that recorded it.
Please remember, these are Mike Wolfe’s opinions and advice. The editor of this Blog does not necessarily agree with all of the following advice.
Enjoy Mike’s paraphrased words in question and answer format.
How did you get started trail running?
Mike: “I did not run track or cross country growing up, but I played soccer. After finishing high school, some older local trail runners took me trail running and later encouraged me to participate in the Ridge Run. My training for my first Ridge Run race consisted of a few trail runs up Baldy and Sacajawea. My first Ridge Run was in 1996 and saw me racing in a borrowed pair of shoes and swim suit trunks I bought at the thrift store for 50 cents. That was a wonderful experience and hooked me for life. The mountains have an allure and attraction that I enjoy.”
(Editor’s Note: Mike completed his first Ridge Run in 4:14 incredibly fast for being a young novice trail runner in 1996)
What are the most important elements to training?
“Consistency. Be consistent and regular in your training. Do not abruptly change (either increasing or decreasing) the amount of training you do one week to the next. Even when you do not feel like it, you need to get out and train. If you are only training 3 days a week, then the Ridge Run is going to hurt. I personally like to train twice a day. It may be hard to get started, but you always feel better once you are out in the mountains.
For the Ridge Run, 2 days of training a week on steep hills like the Ridge Run course is ideal.
Once a week do some speed work. This can be on a track. Or you can do short fast surges within a longer run. Force yourself to run fast hill repeats. They may be hard, but the benefits are enormous.
It is important to become familiar with the terrain of the Ridge Run. So train on it. Going from the M trail head up to Baldy and back is great training and it gets you familiar with the last portion of the course.”
What is the longest run you need to do?
“Your long runs should be at least half as long as the event. It does not need to be much longer. For example if you plan on doing the Ridge in 6 hours, you need to do some 3 to 4 hour long training runs.
In preparation for a mountain ultra trail race I will do repeats up and down Baldy. The most I have done in one day was four round trips up and down Baldy. That took 8 hours. My fastest time ascending Baldy from the M trail head is, to the best of my recall, 55 minutes.”
Given there is only 5 weeks before the Ridge Run what should one do to prepare?
“Spend the next three weeks really training hard with the peak in hours trained occurring in the third week. You need to hammer the downhills to build up your quads so they are conditioned to the pounding of going downhill.
Do some back to back hard and long days. These means; doing a long hard run on Saturday and then doing the same long hard run on Sunday. Then take Monday totally off and recover.
Two weeks before the Race only do about two thirds the amount of training. The week before the race really take it easy and fully recover just easy running and stretching.”
Is there any special advice you have for running down steep hills?
“Keep your turnover (stride rate) high and take shorter quick steps on steep downhills. Sit back a little landing on your heels with your knees bent. Keep moving and floating through rocky bad footing sections. On more gradual downhills, you can lengthen and stretch out your stride.”
Do you have any recommendations for cross training?
“I’m not a big fan or participant much in cross training. Perhaps on rest or off days do some mountain biking as it requires more strength then road biking. Core strength is important for a rugged event like the ridge run. So core strength building exercises are a good idea.”
What about recovery?
“Get lots of sleep. Many elite trail runners get 12 hours of sleep a night. 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night is the minimum. This is extremely important. I try to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night and also take a nap. I can’t stress this enough. Sleep is so important to recover from training and to stay healthy.”
What do you recommend for refueling during the race?
“Carry a couple small water bottles. My preferences are for hand held bottles. Get out and train with a couple hand held bottles. You will get use to them fairly quickly. I do not like fanny packs as they are two confining. I find camel backs also too bouncy. There is a tight fitting hydration vest that some friends like, but I have not personally tried it. The vest has also many small pockets for carrying gels. It sounds and looks like a good setup.
Take one or two gels per hour for an event like the Ridge Run. This results in 200 calories per hour. You can add the gels to your water in your water bottles. There are 5 water stations on the Ridge Run course so there should be plenty of water available. If it is a hot day drinking a couple small water bottles full every hour is important.
I take 2 electrolyte pills every hour. This is important and a good habit even when it is not hot. Carrying the pills can be a challenge. Some shorts or shirts have little pockets that you can store them in. Putting them in a tightly twisted zip lock bag helps protect them.”
Do you use energy drinks?
“No. I do not like the super energy drinks and have had bad experiences with them. Caffeine is OK, but don’t overdo it. I like coke and or ginger ale which are sometimes available at races. Ginger ale also helps settle the stomach.”
Do you recommend protein during a race?
“No. I have tried it, but it doesn’t do much for me. In an ultra-event, I use gels and carbs for as long as I can stomach them. Then I have to switch to real food. I like boiled potatoes and fruit and melons.”
What about protein for recovery?
“After a race, protein is important for recovery and refueling. So after long training or racing I eat lots of protein such as eggs, meat and recovery drinks that have protein.”
Is there anything you should do regarding carbo loading or hydrating before the Race?
“No. Maintain your same routine. Do not drink any more or eat any more than you normally do. Over hydrating or eating before a race can cause complications. Drinking too much will flush out your electrolytes.
I used to have a big breakfast before a race, but I no longer do that. Eat light before an event. All I had for breakfast before the Western States 100 miler was one Cliff bar.”
Do you recommend Ibuprofen?
“I don’t use it. But I know many people that do. You have to be very careful as there are known dangerous complications from using Ibuprofen while ultra-running. Pay attention to hydration.”
What do you recommend for shoes?
“Less is more. I like a tight fitting light shoe. Popular in Europe are super cushy shoes.” (Mike held up a pair of New Balance MT101 as an example of what he likes. He then held up a Hoka One One to illustrate the alternative.)
Should your shoes fit a little large since your feet swell?
“No. That is not my experience. Don’t let a shoe store salesman talk you into a poor fit. Try lots of shoes on and find one that feels really good. My preference is for a shoe to fit like a glove and just be an extension of my foot. This may mean it is a little tight and leads to black and blue toe nails. I would rather have black and blue toe nails than a poor loose fitting shoe.”
What socks do you recommend?
“I do not even think about socks. I just use some basic light socks. Some trail runners actually do not use socks.”
Other than the distance, how does the Ridge Run compare to other trail runs like the Western States 100?
“The rocky footing and steepness make the Ridge Run very technical. Western States seemed like it was all downhill. Western States is also on very smooth trails and fire roads. The Ridge Run is one of the most technical trails runs in the country.”
Do you plan on doing the Ridge Run again someday and do you think you can be faster?
“I thought about doing it this year – maybe next year. I am definitely in better shape than the last time I did it. I suspect that someday someone will run it faster than 3 hours (current record Scott Creel 3:06:30 2007). It will take some very fast runners competing for the win and pushing each other to a fast time.”