In her 5th Ridge Run, Minde Erickson set a personal best by 12 minutes and finished first overall in a time of 4:13. In the history of the Ridge Run, there has only been a handful of women that have finished in under 4:15. What makes Minde’s victory even more impressive is the personal health challenges that she has had to overcome to accomplish such an amazing physical feat.
Rarely does a race go perfect, and Minde’s 2012 Ridge Run was no exception. A route miss cue nearly cost her the win and her goal, yet she persevered and accomplished what she had set out for.
Minde was very kind to answer some email questions about the race. She gives some inspiring reading and insight into her race and her challenges. Enjoy the following interview.
( Editor’s Note: I apologize in that some of my latter questions were a bit redundant given that Minde’s answers to previous questions were so thorough she already covered what I latter asked. Nevertheless, Minde gives even more insight and depth regarding her race. )
From what I heard and saw, it was a fairly close race between you and Alyssa Larsen. Glancing back, it looked like you started out in the lead, but as I got to the top of Sacajawea; I remember seeing Alyssa not far behind me. It looked like Alyssa was still ahead at Ross Pass. Could you fill in the details on how the race played out for you and some of the lead changes as the race progressed?
Dang Alyssa is fast!! Yes, she was in the lead at Sac and maintained the lead until about halfway between Ross and Bridger. She was in my sight from before Ross but my focus during the first half was just to stay strong and steady. Going through Bridger I had the lead and couldn’t see Alyssa behind me. Not long after passing the checkpoint, however, me and three guys followed a goat trail to the point where we actually ran out of trail. From the get-go I had an inkling we were off course as I had made the mistake once when by myself but quickly corrected it.
There is something about being with a group of people that, unfortunately, makes you second guess your gut! Anyway, the four of us lost about five minutes and spent our quads spider crawling up the rocky side of the mountain back to the trail. My “adventure” allowed Alyssa to take the lead and when I finally found the trail again she was nowhere in sight. It took me awhile to catch her enough to have her in my view…my quads were shot due to the unexpected crawl and she is super-fast on the downhills…but by Saddle we were close enough that we could yell and hear each other. It was funny because as we hiked up Saddle Alyssa looked over her shoulder, took a double-take, and then with a surprised look on her face said, “What are you doing back there?!”. That was the first point she realized she was ahead of me. It was awesome because Alyssa really capitalized on my mistake. After she saw me she took off!…I had the hardest time catching her and I credit her for my finishing in my goal time.
I didn’t catch Alyssa again until just above the ‘M’. Then, with me in the lead Alyssa made a smart move and cut down the side of the ‘M’ while I took the normal route. I thought for sure she had the first place finish but somehow I managed to get to the place where her path and mine merged first and maintained the lead to the finish. Once at the finish I was just so happy that the clock said under 4:15:00. The first place finish was just an added bonus…that honestly should be shared with Alyssa!
Were you running for the win and spurred on by competition from Alyssa being so close? Or were you more focused on reaching your personal time goals?
I am super competitive….but only with myself. My goal was never to win…rather I had two goals: 1) To finish in under 4:15:00 and 2) Not to give anything away. It wasn’t until I realized I had gone so far off course that it actually occurred to me that I had been in the lead. From that point on it became about trying to catch Alyssa…not so much for the win but for drive to push and make up the lost time. I wanted that 4:15:00 so bad. By taking the wrong turn I had already blown my second goal and I was afraid it may have cost me my first goal as well.
Also, if you remember, what were your splits or times into the check points at Sacajawea, Ross Pass, Bridger Bowl and Baldy?
- Sacajawea: 39 minutes 30 seconds (target = 40 min)
- Ross Pass: 1 hour 27 minutes (target = 90 min)
- Bridger Bowl: 2 hours 9 minutes (target = 2 hours 15 min)
- Baldy: 3 hours 33 minutes (target = 3 hours 30 min)
This year the course was unmarked. Many people went straight instead of veering left back up to the ridge crest where the trail forks just past Bridger Bowl. From what I heard, you lost a little time there. What went through your mind when this happened? Did making a route mistake fire up a little anger and inspire you to go fast to make up lost time? Or did it really have little consequences on your Race?
Ugh!…I’m still mad at myself for that mistake! For a brief second I was in shock that I made the mistake because after making it once when by myself I vowed never to make it again. After the shock though was pure frustration (yes, regrettably, I uttered a few voice words). The wrong turn definitely fueled me because I was determined to still finish in my goal time. What affected me more than the lost time though was spider crawling up the side to find the trail. My quads were cramping and I had trouble on the uphills after that.
Other than getting off course, did you have any other problems during the race? Falls, equipment problems, stomach problems, bad patches, emotional highs and lows?
Thankfully I had no major falls this year and my stomach, which normally gives me major trouble, didn’t bother me. The only issue I had was my right hamstring. Both my hamstrings have been used as grafts in reconstructing my ankle and the right one (which was used this past November) has been bothering me most the summer. I was also slower coming off Sac than usual…it took me awhile to get my footing with any sort of speed on the technical terrain that day.
What was your hydration and fueling strategy? How much and what did you drink and eat during the race?
I am a bad one to ask about nutrition during a race because the last few years anything I ate/drank would make me sick. This year my health has been better and I’ve had better luck fueling. I mostly used liquid fuel (only 20 ounces total though to keep from getting sick…just little sips throughout) and managed to get three gels down. Other than that, the rest was just water…a little from the awesome volunteers at each aid station and I carried my own so I could sip every 20 minutes or so.
Each year the Ridge Run has a theme; this year’s was overcoming obstacles. You have some of your own health obstacles with an autoimmune disorder and ankle injuries. If you are comfortable doing so, please explain what these are and how they affect your running? And what do you have to do to overcome these challenges?
I have Sjogren’s Syndrome which is a chronic systemic auto-immune disorder that is closely linked with Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lymphoma. Due to the disease I do not produce saliva or tears (the disease destroys your moisture producing glands). My body also doesn’t recover like it used to and I can get really fatigued for weeks following a race or long run. The last few years I have felt crummy most the time and have had a lot of fatigue. I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy in May though and getting treated for this has really changed my life. It has helped tremendously with the fatigue! I feel the best now that I have felt in four years so I am really thankful for that!
Yes, I’ve had my left ankle reconstructed three times, twice with a ligament augmentation where my hamstring was used as a graft. The ankle is strong though and as long as I brace them both heavily (no, I am NOT wearing ankle weights!…I wish I had a quarter for every time someone has asked me that!) they don’t give me problems when running (but the braces do make for some seriously tender and raw malleoli). This year I also had two hand surgeries so, with all the down time from them and the most recent ankle surgery, I really had to work hard to get into shape this year.
After 4 previous Ridge Runs, 2012 was a breakthrough year for you setting a 12 minute PR and getting the overall win. Did you do anything differently as far as preparation? Was you race strategy different than in the past? What factors lead to your improvement this year?
This year I did most my training runs by myself which I think is the biggest factor in my improved time. I think this was good for me due to my health issues because, being by myself, I was really able to listen to my body and push it when I could but back off if it was telling me to do so. While rehabbing my ankle I focused a lot on my glute and core strength with the hopes of improving my uphill running since it is definitely my weakness. This was also a factor in the improved time. My strategy was the same as last year with the only difference being to listen to my body even if it meant missing a split.
Having accomplished your goals for the Ridge Run, are your ambitions now satisfied? Or do you plan to do the race again and go even faster?
I thought that if I could get a 4:15:00 that I would be satisfied…and following the race I was. Now that a week has gone by though I keep thinking about the wrong turn and am curious as to what I may be able to pull off if I can manage to stay on course! The race and the training for it is so much fun!…I would love to do it again! Assuming my health remains good I will more than likely be putting my name in the lottery again next year!