2013 Ridge Run Recap

The 2013 Ridge Run saw Daniel Kraft return from his second place finish in 2012 and totally dominate the 2013 field. His winning time of 3:14 was 20 minutes faster than the chase pack of the next finishers.

As forecast, there were indeed some surprise performances in the Woman’s field. Kaitlin Macdonald in her first Ridge Run notched a victory. She ran 45 minutes faster than her estimated time of 5 hours and was a surprise to more than a few people.

Unfortunately the registration committee placed Kaitlin in the second wave based on her estimated time and her own suggestion that she be in the second wave. So a dramatic dual between her and second place finisher (last year’s winner) Minde Erickson never played out.

It is a bummer when the first person that crosses the finish line is not the overall winner because of the wave start scenario. This is the second time this has happened. But in this case, given the current way runners are broken up into waves, there really was no way to prevent it. Time trial races and races with wave starts will encounter this situation from time to time.

The Winner Wears Hokas

At the start, Daniel told me he had injured the ball of his foot a few weeks previous to the race. He pointed out the Hoka shoes he was wearing explaining that running in Hokas did not aggravate his injury.

Daniel Kraft at Start, Bozeman Chronicle Photo by Adrian Sanchez

Daniel Kraft at Start, Bozeman Chronicle Photo by Adrian Sanchez

Granted Hokas are very comfy and protective, but their increased weight and sponginess may have slowed Daniel down a bit. In my experience, it does take a bit more effort to run fast in Hokas, especially on the flats and uphills. You can bomb the downhills and maybe that makes up for the performance penalty on other parts of the course. It is hard to calculate. Hoka’s thick sole tends to torque your foot around on irregular footing requiring a bit of extra work on rocky surfaces.

Hedging his bets, Daniel also said his training had suffered from being injured. Most of us know how that goes. And we all like to bring other people’s unrealistic expectations back down to earth. Nevertheless, Daniel harbored the goal of breaking 3 hours and went out fast with that goal in mind. The article in the Chronicle mentioned his split time at Sacajawea as 19 minutes. If this time is accurate, it is not just blazing it is superhuman!

The trail up to Sacajawea is now a little over 2.4 miles and gains 2100 feet in elevation. Getting there in 19 minutes would mean running faster than 8 minutes per mile on a steep uphill averaging 17% grade. It sounds like Daniel used a jet pack. To put things in perspective, 8 minutes per mile is the pace the top world class athletes run the Mount Washington road race. And Mount Washington is only an 11% grade and on a paved road not a trail.

It took me twice as long, 38 minutes, to get to the top of Sacajawea! I asked Daniel his split to Sacajawea. He did say he was faster than last year and went out too hard, but did not know his exact split time. Not to degrade Daniel’s performance, but I do not fully trust the Chronicle’s accuracy regarding the 19 minutes and I am curious as to where that number came from.

I’m just speculating, but to logically explain were the 19 minute number came from, consider these possibilities: Perhaps 19 minutes is the time it took Daniel to get up past the Sacajawea basin pass and begin his climb towards the peak and become recognizable to the people on top of Sacajawea. Or maybe his time was actually 29 minutes to get past the top of Sacajawea. (Still incredibly fast times!)

Daniel mentioned that after Bridger Bowl he struggled with fatigue and slowed enough that the goal of 3 hours slipped away. He figured that lack of prior training and starting the race at such a fast pace conspired against him; the result being nearly 10 minutes slower this year.

Every year is different. Last year had near perfect conditions and record breaking fast times. This year had more typical conditions and was a little slower for most every one for a host of reasons. Only 8 people ran under 4 hours this year compared to last year’s 16.

Longer Course

First and foremost, the course is longer making it obviously slower. The start has moved down to the Fairy Lake parking lot. During the race, I checked my watch when I got to the point where the new trail merged with the old trail. It read 3 minutes 45 seconds. Given that it probably takes 30 to 40 seconds to get from the old trailhead location to this same trail junction point; the net increase in time for me was a little over 3 minutes compared to last year. Factoring increased fatigue later in the race, the real difference is probably slightly more.

Typical Conditions

2013 saw the race begin with slightly overcast and hazy conditions. The cloud cover kept the warmth in overnight and the temperature was a bit warmer than usual at the start. Lingering clouds in the first few hours of the race kept the sun from heating things and temperatures remained comfortable for most of the race. It did warm up later in the afternoon. People out on the course longer than 5 hours did experience some heat challenges in the later stages of the race.

There was very little wind this year so it was not much of a factor, unless you were warm and wished for a cooling breeze. Contrast this with last year’s, 2012’s anomaly with a mix of a rare tail wind and cooling cross breeze during the race.

The weeks leading up to the race saw dry and warm conditions. This resulted in dry dusty and fairly loose pebbly trail conditions. This makes the footing a bit less secure and may have made the course a little slower compared to the last few years that were blessed with rain the day before the race.

Prosthetic Performance

2013 marked a milestone by having the first person with a prosthetic leg complete the race. Kraig Kempt earned that distinction with a time of 8:23. At the award ceremony, he appeared in good spirits and did not show any indication of just how hard it must have been to negotiate that terrain with a prosthetic leg.


The only person I am aware of at this time that took pictures was Dave Skelton of the Bozeman Track Club. Dave positioned himself about a mile up from the start in the basin below Sacajawea. He mentioned to me that most everyone was looking down at their feet as they passed him and it was hard to get good shots. I explained to him that people are looking down focused on where they put their feet so they don’t trip!

Look for Dave’s pictures on his Bozeman Track Club website. As of August 21, he had not yet posted them.

Please comment if you have knowledge of any other photo galleries or want to say anything about the 2013 race.

Following is a video taken at a water station near the finish above the M.


Here is a series of videos from this year’s race. A lot of work went into creating this by carrying a camera out on a fishing pole. These videos show major portions of the course and would make a great tutorial for those not familiar with the terrain.


Here is another video taken just north of the Bridger Bowl aid station looking north as the runners approach.

You will need the password “ridge run” (no quotes, with space) to access it.

About Bridger Ridge Run

The Bridger Ridge Run blog is an information portal for all those seeking to learn more about the Bridger Ridge Run event held every second Saturday of August in Bozeman Montana. This blog contains notifications about important registration dates and deadlines, history of the event, training advice and other stories and entertaining tidbits of information about the Bridger Ridge Run.
This entry was posted in Fun Stories, Results and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 2013 Ridge Run Recap

  1. Jeff Rome says:

    This was a great race, but I was bummed to see the way the women’s race went down. I think it could have been prevented had the race committee assigned runners there waves according to previous times in races, rather than by the runner’s suggestion. In last year’s Oktoberfest Race, Minde only beat Kaitlin by 12 seconds–shouldn’t this have been a sign that Kaitlin could compete with her?

    This problem could be eliminated by having all runner’s who want to be competitive, or are fast enough to be competitive, assigned to the first wave. Colorado’s Run Rabbit Run 100 has two waves–a non-competitive (Tortoise) and a competitive (Hare) race. Even were someone to have a great day and run at a competitive level in the Tortoise race, they would not receive any of the cash prizes or other awards given to the Hare runners.

    I’d consider this fair, since runners who start in the 2nd wave have the added advantage of knowing their position relative to 1st wave runners, while most 1st wavers would be caught unaware that they’re racing against someone from the 2nd wave.

    Though I love the course, love the mountains, love the runners, and love the volunteers that make this event happen, I wouldn’t want to race it again. At least not with the current way the waves are handled. I could see myself winning this if I continue to get better, and wouldn’t want what happened to Minde to happen to me.

    • Thanks for your comments Jeff.

      This world has a tenuous relationship with perfection. Lots of things do not turn out the way we would like them to.

      As it is, volunteers put in many hours of unreimbursed and underappreciated personal time.

      If you see better ways of doing things, then by all means get involved, volunteer and contribute.

      The process of putting people in waves is a time consuming and tedious process. Previous race results for participants especially for those in the critical wave 1 and wave 2 are researched to help make the right placement. This combined with the participants own requests and ability assessment is weighed.

      In the case of Kaitlin, her prediction of 5 hours and request to be in wave 2 seemed reasonable, so that is where she ended up. She exceeded her own and everyone else’s expectations. This situation is rare and hard to avoid, but it does happen.

      Given the difficulty of having to pass many people on sometimes very narrow situations, being in wave 2 is NOT an advantage for fast runners.

      There are many races that use wave starts and staggered starts. It is a common theme for Nordic ski races and bike time trials. The local Wulfman Continental Divide Trail Run uses wave starts. This year the Wulfman race had the same situation as the Bridger Ridge Run where the first woman across the finish line in the Wulfman race was also beat time-wise by the woman coming across the finish line second.

      It happens.

      • Jeff Rome says:

        Thanks, BRR.

        Next year you’ll see me lugging water up Baldy. This is a really fun race, and I know each year I’ll still want to be in the Ridge Run atmosphere. I think it will become a race I give back to over the years.

        I understand not wanting to change the way waves are handled, but I still have to respectfully disagree on some matters. I feel like this may sound bothersome, but I just have to get it out. I really hope this criticism is taken lightly enough that I can still volunteer at future Ridge Runs without being frowned upon, because I love this race–I just no longer want to race in it.

        Some of Macdonald’s past races showed strong potential for competitive running (2nd place at Huffing for Stuffing, notably). She ran a faster time there than most former Ridge Run champions. It’s a totally different course, but road speed still has some crossover into steep trail runs (look at Jimmy Grant’s 4th place finish).

        As someone who slowly moved up in position throughout the race, I feel that having people ahead of you and gaining confidence from passing runners can be a huge advantage (note that Kraft ran the 2nd fastest course time ever with a Wave 2 start). He ran slower this year with a Wave 1 start, possibly because he had no one to chase.

        The trail is narrow in parts, but runners are usually polite enough to step aside when they hear someone charging behind them. I had no trouble playing leapfrog with some of the Kraft chase pack throughout the race, switching positions naturally when openings came, and then letting others pass when they were feeling strong. Even on technical terrain, like at The Rut, I found no trouble passing a runner coming down from Lone Peak. By the time Macdonald or Kraft had likely caught up to Wave 1 runners, they were already near or past Sacagewea, with runners spaced out enough to avoid any potential congestion.

        What happened happened, and there’s little we can do about it. I think more thorough research into wave assignments would help. With 300 some runners, it can be hard to get things sorted best. I’m unsure of how wave assignments are done, but I love doing research, especially when it comes to running. I’d be willing to help do research for wave assignments, and am great with Excel. Any errors that happen I would take the blame for. Otherwise, I can lug up water and volunteer at an aid station.


    • Jeff,

      Thanks for your well thought out comments.

      Your willingness to do the research on people’s past race performances and contribute your efforts to helping with wave placement is much appreciated.
      I will pass your name on to the race director David, and Kendra and Tomas the registration team.

      The wave assignment process takes place toward the end of July, a couple weeks before the race. You will need to be available around then for a meeting or two to finalize the placements. This past year, there were five people working on this. Next year, it will probably be about the same number. Besides yourself and the registration team, I’m not sure who the others will be.

      More typical than the situation with Kaitlin, is the opposite. Where someone overestimates their potential, is put in the first wave and ends up running really slow. The Ridge Run has had participants with sub 2:30 road marathon times demand to be in the first wave and end up struggling just to finish in under 6 hours. There are so many variables in assessing one’s potential (especially for first time participants) the wave assignment process is anything but an exact science.

  2. Peder Anderson says:

    For what it’s worth, I was in the (distant) chase pack in the first heat, and recall noting that Daniel was already about 5 minutes ahead of me when he topped out on Sac. My split was just over 34 minutes, so that would put him around 29 min, which seems a little more human …

    • Thanks so much for the data point, Peder.

      Yes, 29 minutes makes more sense on getting up to Sacajawea. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around someone getting there in 19. Probably it was just a simple mistake in reporting or maybe even a typo in the paper.

      By the way, Peder, given this year’s longer course, you ran a very fast time and must be pleased with your results. Nice race.

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