In her 9th Ridge Run, Alyssa Larsen ran her fastest ever and finished second – coming oh so close to winning. Alyssa may now live in Jackson Wyoming, but she spent a good portion of her early adult years in Bozeman and still has lots of friends and acquaintances in the Bozeman community. So it was a real pleasure for many to witness her doing so well.
Following is a brief question and answer session about Alyssa’s 2012 Ridge Run experience. Given that Alyssa needs only to finish one more Ridge Run to total 10 and become fully vested in the “Ridge Run Retirement Fund”, expect Alyssa to be back next year.
After 8 Previous Ridge Runs, this year you set a PR by 22 minutes. This comes after becoming a new mom just 18 months ago. What do you contribute your new found speed and strength to?
I ran throughout the winter last year & I think I can attribute my faster speeds this summer to that. Usually I start from scratch each year. Staying fit through the winter gave me a head start to a good season of races. Becoming a mom has definitely minimized my training time, so I really have to use my training time wisely. Next year, a babysitter might come in handy.
It was a close and exciting race between you and Minde Erickson, with you leading over certain sections of the course. Did having such close competition spur you on to a fast time? Or were you just running your own race?
It certainly was close & exciting. I had no idea that she & I would spend most of our run within 2 minutes of each other. I was trying to trust my training, trust myself & “stay in my own shoes” which is a motto I use when the competitive side of me tries to make an appearance. Catching a glimpse of Minde every now & then certainly kept me pushing to keep the lead, but I also know my limits & was trying to listen to my body.
Please gives us a brief synopsis of how the race played out for you, your race strategy and where you swapped leads with Minde?
She and I spoke at the start regarding the fact that there were only 2 women in wave one. Usually there are about 10 women in wave one, so I think both of us knew what was expected of us. We also spoke about the fact that it was possible that someone from wave 2 or 3 had a good shot at winning even though we may not see them in the race.
I figured, since it was already predicted that Minde would win, that I should stay behind her no matter what until Bridger. But, I also wanted to run my own race. I was behind her for about 12 minutes from the start, but the pace felt a little slow, so I bagged my plan to stay behind her & took the lead. She was a little back and I passed through Sac 1st. Felt great coming down from Sac into Ross (of course I took a fall there, I always do, but barely any blood, so, good!). Got to Ross 1st. As I was heading out of Ross aid station, I took a quick glance and I could see her entering the meadow area. I had a feeling that she would catch me on the climb after Ross to Bridger, and she did–near the top of the climb. Then I passed her again, then she passed me. She checked into Bridger Aid Station 1st. As I ran through Bridger, people were yelling that she was not even a minute ahead of me. I filled my water bottle and took off. I felt really good and fresh at that point, that was the first time I felt like I may have a shot to win. Coming up Saddle, I took a glance behind me & saw Minde heading up the hill behind me…? What was she doing behind me!? She said she had gotten lost for a few minutes. I figured she would blow by me since her adrenaline was probably running high from getting lost, but instead, she dropped back & i stayed in the lead. As I was coming up to Baldy aid station, she was at the bottom of the trail to head up to Baldy. Honestly, I felt a little frantic as I was coming down from Baldy. I knew she would try to catch up, but I felt strong on the downhills. Then, I fell again. This time I fell pretty hard on my upper right thigh. The fall was not even close to the worst fall I have had on the ridge, but must have been pretty bad as my pace slowed (and I still have a nasty bruise!). She caught up just as we were at the top of the M. She was about 5 steps ahead of me when I chose the steep trail down the East side of the M, as I always do. Little did I know that, all these years, it has been a slower option. The steep trail is shorter in distance, but longer because of the technical terrain. Almost immediately, I knew I had made a mistake that may have cost me the race.
Were you thinking at some points that you could win this thing?
I went out to race my own race, but I did think that if I had the lead at Baldy that I had a pretty good shot at taking 1st. I felt so great at Bridger that I couldn’t help but think I may be able to pull off the win.
What were your splits or times into the check points at Sacajawea, Ross Pass, Bridger Bowl and Baldy?
I am not sure what they were exactly, but I remember hitting the top of Sac at 37 minutes. (the rest of the times I can only guesstimate by using Minde’s times as reference which she reported.)
- Sac: 37:xx
- Ross: 1:25
- Bridger 2:10
What was your fueling and hydration strategy? How much and what did you eat and drink during the race?
I carried a handheld water bottle with just water. I had 1 1/2 packages of shot bloks and half a clif bar. I always take advantage of the uphill before Bridger to get some fuel. That is where I ate the clif bar. The shot bloks I took throughout the run, starting at 35 minutes and about every 20-25 minutes thereafter. I refilled water bottle at bridger and baldy (at baldy with half gatorade/half water)
From the top of the M, you chose to come down the very steep trail on the east side of the M instead of the more common single switchback that goes west above the M and then turns back east below the M. You now realize your choice cost you some time and the race could have been even closer. Besides this unfortunate choice, did you have any other problems out on the course such as trips and falls, route finding, bad patches, that affected your performance?
Oh, this one will indeed haunt me for a while. I have always thought that taking that East side steep trail was a faster route down the mountain since it is shorter. I now know that taking that path is actually longer to get down to the finish. It is more technical and it adds time. I had two falls, a minor one after Sac and one coming off Baldy that may have slowed the pace a bit in the end.
Being a close second, do you feel like you have unfinished business with the Ridge Run? Will you be back faster and more determined next year?
I was extremely happy with my time when I finished, as I had 4:15 in my head as a lofty goal. I definitely wanted to go under 4:30. As the hours passed after the Ridge, I started thinking more about my choice of coming down the M the more technical way & knowing that the race could have been even closer or maybe even could have had a different outcome. I feel a little unsettled about that. I do think that I could be faster on the Ridge. And I could be a lot slower, too.
Is there anything else you would like to say or comment on?
The Big Sky Wind Drinkers are the people who inspired me to run & encouraged me to run my first Ridge Run. I can credit them and my BSWD crew of ladies (you know who you are!) with helping me become the runner & person I am today. That being said, the Ridge Run is really almost like Christmas for me, a homecoming, a celebration. I get to see the people who have helped me become who I am today. It has always been a dream of mine to go “home” to Bozeman and win the Ridge. I just may hire a babysitter & get to work on that dream. If you run the Ridge ten times or win once, you get on the guest list for life! My family and I have always joked that I will finally win on my tenth time. Next year will be my tenth, we’ll have to wait and see what happens!
It is interesting looking back at my previous ridge times and just how much they vary. (5:13, 4:52, 6:06, 6:51, 4:37, 4:47, 4:54, 4:49 and 4:15). It just goes to show that what happens on the ridge all depends on the day, the weather, the falls, training, nutrition and whether or not you pull your muscle while trying to go to the bathroom (6:51) 🙂 One thing that I have learned over all of these years is that no matter how hard you train for the Ridge, it still hurts….To Finish Is To Win! Great job to all of the Ridge Runners & thank you volunteers!