In his first official Ridge Run, 23 year old Daniel Kraft of Grand Junction Colorado placed second overall. In the process, he ran the second fastest Ridge Run ever; breaking the previous course record held by Scott Creel.
Following is an interview of Daniel that gives a little insight on just who Daniel is and what led to his impressive and in Daniel’s words “surprising” Ridge Run performance. It looks like Daniel has much talent and potential in the sport of trail running.
How does it feel to be the second fastest person to have ever run the Bridger Ridge?
If I had to pick one word to answer that question, I would say surprising. I definitely thought that I was capable of running under 3:30 but I never thought until I reached Saddle Peak that I would have a shot to run under Scott Creel’s record. I wasn’t able to run much at all during the first half of the summer so I wasn’t expecting this race to go nearly as well as it did for me.
You actually started in the second wave, 5 minutes behind 50 or so people that started ahead of you in wave one. By default, the race officials tend to not put anyone in the first wave if it is their first Ridge Run like yourself. Did not starting in the first wave impact your race performance? I think you made up the 5 minutes and passed nearly everyone except Mike Wolfe before Sacajawea. Is that correct?
I think that not starting in the first wave did impact my race performance to some degree. I feel that if I did start off in wave 1 I would have tried to run with Mike Wolfe for as long as I could. Although I might have bonked towards the end because of an increase in competition earlier on, I may have also run faster. It’s really hard to say. Regardless of how I would have done I think that if Mike were to have had me pushing him he would have undoubtedly broke the three hour barrier. I think I passed about 6 or 7 people after Sacajawea, so yes, I did catch most of wave 1 during that initial climb up to the peak.
Do you remember what your splits were into the check points at Sacajawea, Ross Pass, Bridger Bowl and Baldy?
My splits were Sacajawea- 27 high, Ross Pass- 1:04, Bridger Bowl- 1:38, Baldy- 2:32.
From what I gleaned from the local newspaper, you live in Colorado, but spent last summer in Bozeman. So had you run all sections of the course previously? Or were there parts of the course that were totally new to you?
I actually spent the summer of 2010 in Bozeman, doing an undergraduate research internship at MSU. I had been dealing with injury during the late spring that year but still made it my goal to run the full Bridger RIdge course as my last long run before leaving Bozeman. My goal was to break 4 hours and I believe I ran about 3:46 (taking the long way down from the “M”). It was a difficult effort though as it was a fairly hot day and I did it in the afternoon… I would say that run felt significantly more difficult than this year’s race. So yes, I had run all of the course previously.
Fill us in on some of your trail running and racing background. You obviously have terrific talent to be able to post such a fast Ridge Run time. Just who is Daniel Kraft? What is your running background? What other trail races similar to the Ridge Run have you participated in? How did you prepare for the Ridge Run?
I grew up in Grand Junction, CO and started running cross country and track as a sophomore. I continued my running at Colorado College, which is Division III for xc and track. While I had run many trails while in high school, when I was at CC I became more exposed to the idea of racing on trails, and made it my goal to get into that scene after graduation. The first day I arrived at CC I met Anton Krupicka, who had finished school a year earlier but was briefly in town after his second victory in the Leadville 100. My teammate Alex Nichols had also just run the Pikes Peak Ascent that year, previous to his senior year in cross country. The time I spent running with Alex and others on the trails around Pikes Peak definitely made think that trail running was where my talent was greatest. This past winter I moved to Telluride and was particularly intrigued by all the trails that we have here in the San Juans and my nagging injuries from college had (for the most part) all cleared up.
The only other race I’d done that was longer than a 10k was the Greenland 25k in Colorado during May of this year. It is not at all a technical course but I was able to beat the course record there by about 2 minutes.
My training to prepare for the Ridge Run was rather rushed. While I was able to get in a solid winter of skiing, hiking and steady 40-50 mile running weeks, around the end of May I developed a shin splint issue and spent the first half of the summer mainly mountain biking and hiking here in Telluride. Finally around mid-July I was able to start running a solid amount and had about a month of training before the Ridge Run. I started doing 2-3 hour with 4,000-5,000′ vertical long runs on most of my weekend days during that time, and got a couple of 80 mile weeks. Training at such high elevation certainly helped me greatly, I am used to running between 9k and 13k, so the Ridge Run felt, in a subtle way, like low altitude.
Did the race play out for you as you expected? Did you have any troubles with route finding, stumbles, bad patches or the like?
I would say that the race did go somewhat as planned. I didn’t plan to run as fast as I did but I was feeling good and able to push myself to go faster than I had expected. I had no trouble with route finding. I did fall a few times, the last of which was coming down Baldy and caused some good scrapes on my wrist and forearm.
In pictures, it looks like you are hand carrying a single water bottle. Was that the extent of your hydration and fueling? Did you stop at any aid stations to refill your bottle and grab something to eat?
I carried a hand bottle and six gels in a little “Spibelt” around my waist. I only ended up eating 4 of the gels but came extra prepared. Looking back I should have just planned to grab gels from the aid stations. I stopped to fill up my water bottle at each of the three major aid stations and dropped in a Nuun tablet with each of those refills. It was my first time using Nuun, but I would highly recommend it– the carbonation helps to calm the stomach when it is upset from the gels, and the salt replenishment is also a plus.
Do you have any future plans to come back and do the Ridge Run again?
I would love to return next year and improve on my time. I’m not sure sure if I will try to though, as I also would like to run the Pikes Peak Ascent, which is typically always one week after the Ridge Run.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I would like to thank all the volunteers for their work and support. When I passed through the Baldy aid station I was overcome by the encouragement of the volunteers up there. I think this race is one of the better trail races in the US and it is particularly special that it is not very well known outside of Montana. I also would like to thank all the Bozeman locals, I love your town and am very tempted to move there in the near future- although I don’t want to contribute to the overpopulation issue.