This past Saturday saw Mike Wolfe return to the Ridge Run after a 4 year break. In those 4 intervening years, Mike has rounded into one of the best mountain/trail/ultra-distance runners in the world. Last year, he was second overall in the Western States 100 miler and then at the end of the year won the North Face Endurance Challenge Championship 50 miler against stellar competition. This year, Mike brought his world class speed and endurance back home to the Ridge and won in record time, nearly breaking 3 hours. Enjoy Mike’s answers that he generously took the time to jot down in response to the following questions.
We know your total finish time 3:00:24, do you remember your times or splits into the major check points? Sacajawea? Ross Pass? Bridger Bowl? Baldy?
Sac was 27 minutes (I think this is slow, compared to Creel?), Ross was 1:03, Bridger was 1:38, Baldy was 2:30.
In regards to effort, was it a 100% all-out magic effort for the full course that will be hard to duplicate? Or do you think you can trim a little time here or there and even go faster?
On that day, the effort felt all-out for me. However, I now know I could shave time, and run it faster. I think I should be able to take off 3-5 minutes. My legs haven’t felt “fresh” all summer – feel like my training/racing the past 4 months has taken a toll, and I haven’t come around 100%. I felt slow on the climbs last Saturday, and know I could shave time on Sac, climb out of Ross, and up Saddle with a little more rest and pep in my step. I ran the flats/downhills as fast as possible. Not sure I could shave time there. I was reckless off Baldy to run it in 30 minutes. But, on the funky/rocky sections on the meat of the ridge, might be able to move a bit more efficiently through that stuff?
Do you still have ambitions to break 3 hours and do you plan to comeback someday to give it a go?
Definitely. 24 seconds away? I have to come back! Maybe next year? I’m trying to get some faster guys (nationally and internationally) to come race it. If there were 3-4 guys really pushing up front, someone would go low 2:50 range.
Since you last did the Ridge Run in 2007, you have developed into one of the world’s best ultra-distance trail runners. Besides just being faster and stronger than the last few times you did the Ridge, is there anything in particular in regards to training that helped you prepare specifically to run the Ridge so fast?
Tons of steeps/vertical. I’d say I average between 30-50,000 feet of climbing in an average week of training. Lots of steep uphill running and Euro powerhiking, and seasoning the quads for pounding downhill really fast. And, getting much better at running technical terrain really fast. This has mainly come from racing against Europeans on technical courses, who are incredibly fast and comfortable on nasty terrain.
From pictures, it looks like you ran without a water bottle. Is that correct? Do you remember how much you drank during the race?
I actually did have a water bottle. It’s a new TNF prototype that is 10 oz. soft/collapsible. I carry it tucked in the back of my shorts. I drank one bottle.
What did you do in regards to fueling? Did you eat Gels, or Sports Drinks or anything special?
I ate a Powerbar gel at Ross, Powerbar gel at Bridger, same at Saddle, same at top of Baldy, so 4 total. Much more than I would normally eat in 3 hours, but going that hard, the extra sugar helped maintain that effort level.
Did you have any challenges during the race such as trips and falls, bad sections, equipment failures, stomach problems, or route miss cues?
I almost missed the subtle trail climb back up to the ridge proper in the 1/4 mile after Bridger, where that little goat trail goes right into the trees – slowed me down for a few. I fell once, before Saddle. Moving fast enough I had to tuck and roll, but just popped right back up on my feet. Lucky!
Given the nearly 30 year history of the Ridge Run, how would you describe the overall experience of being the fastest person to have ever done the Ridge Run?
My history/experience with the ridge run goes deep. I don’t think of having run the fastest time. The time thing is very personal. I’m just at a point in my running career when I know attempting sub-3 hours was a good goal for me – something that is hard and daunting, but doable.
The ridge run means so much more to me: it’s the first race I ever ran, when I was 18 and right out of high school. It’s the event that inspired my interest in mountain running. I had amazing mentors when I was 18 that convinced me to race it (Matt Lavin, Jay Rotella, Bruce Maxwell, Scott Creel). I used to hike in the Bridgers, ski the Bridgers, and hunt, with my family when I was a kid. I know the range intimately and it’s such a stalwart community event. It’s important to me to have that race around just because people love to do it, support it, and get out there and recreate because it’s a beautiful place and we are lucky to have that gem of a range in our backyard! I ran that race hard over the years out of pure passion for the place, to celebrate our mountains, and the community spirit surrounding exploring mountain places that Bozeman holds.
Is there anything else you would like say or comment on?
To expand upon that last comment, the ridge run is one of the most aesthetic mountain running races anywhere in the world. The course rivals any true “mountain race” anywhere, in terms of vertical, technical, pure scenery, and being point to point on that ridge. It’s perfect. It was made to have a race up there. I’ve now raced similar mountain races in Europe. The sport is much older over there, and there is a deep history with technical mountain races in Europe. The ridge run is just as good, if not better, than many of the European courses and it’s really special we have the ridge run history in Bozeman, and that it’s such a part of the community. The race deserves more recognition.