The Rut 50k and 12k in Big Sky, Montana is an epic mountain run put on by race directors Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe and presented by The Runners Edge. Hammer Nutrition has been happy to support many Runners Edge events over the years and are especially excited for the inclusion of The Rut to their lineup. All four aid stations were stocked with Hammer Nutrition products and Hammer’s new Peanut Butter Gel even premiered at the event. The Rut is looking to come back bigger and better in 2014 and was recently selected as the Skyrunner World Series Ultra Final and is also part of the U.S. Skyrunning Series. If you’re an ultra runner who lives for technical terrain and The Rut isn’t on your radar for 2014 you have no idea what you’re missing.
The below report is a composite of write-ups contributed by Race Director Mike Foote, Montana Trail Crew’s race preview, and race reports from 4th place Jeremy Wolf and 7th place Jeff Rome. Photos were taken by Hammer’s Myke Hermsmeyer.
The Rut Mtn. Runs 50K and 12K, held in Big Sky, MT on September 14th, challenged runners with technical terrain, a strong dose of altitude, and a generous helping of challenging weather in it’s inaugural year. This, however, did not stop the close to 400 event participants from enjoying a day of pushing their limits in a serious mountain environment. At 6:30 a.m., as runners milled about the start line in the Big Sky Resort base area, a steady rain fell and the dim light revealed a low hanging cloud layer enshrouding the upper reaches of Lone Peak and the 50K course.
Paying homage to the races namesake (which highlights the prolific population of elk in rut during the fall season) the sounding of an elk bugle from an invisible Mike Wolfe decked out in camo signaled the race was on.
“We worked hard, when designing this course, to make it as challenging and dynamic as possible,” shared race director Mike Foote. “We integrated steep singletrack climbs, rocky ridgeline descents, off trail travel through a talus field, as well as a fair amount of runnable smooth trail to give the racers a breather before the next challenging section.”
“Skyrunner’s ethos,” Wolfe explains, “is to design the purest mountain running races on aesthetic terrain, extremely technical, with loads of vertical relief. . . . That’s the type of terrain that most appeals to us as runners – adventure in the mountains.”
Distance: 31 Miles / 50K
Elevation Gain: 10,000 ft / 3,040 Meters
Elevation Loss: 10,000 ft / 3,040 Meters
60% Single Track
30% Dirt Road
10% Off Trail
“The first climb was nice single track through the forest up to the 4k point. At the top of the climb, there is a sharp right turn off the service road which I missed. Fortunately a few guys behind me shouted to let me know I missed the turn. After the race, I learned that winner Paul Hamilton had missed this turn as well and had added a few extra minutes to his day.”-Jeremy Wolf
“Back onto some great single track, it was a long gradual downhill through Moonlight Basin for the next 10k. This was a really enjoyable section of the course to run. Hopping over puddles while taking in smells of a damp forest brought a smile to my face. I was able to take my mind off of racing and just enjoy the beauty of my environment while gliding down the mountain.” -Jeremy Wolf
Photos from the Moonlight Basin aid station and other locations on the course can be found on The Rut’s Facebook page.
“Nine miles into the race, for a hopeful minute, I thought I had gotten off course. Surely, I would come across someone soon who would tell me I’m running the wrong way. Surely, I would act upset but be secretly thankful that I now had reason to drop out. But sure enough, that damn yellow flag showed up and let me know I was still on course. I kept thinking to myself that it wouldn’t be too bad to get lost, or to get hurt, or to have terrible stomach issues, because then I would have a good reason not to keep running this ridiculous course.” -Jeff Rome
“The beauty of the last 1.5k climb up to the Tram Dock is that it is the only out and back section on the course. The out and back section allows you to see all the runners ahead of you as they come back down the road from the Tram Dock.” -Jeremy Wolf
The toughest section of the course comes between miles 17.5 and 22, where you might want a free hand to clamber with. The ascent, at 2,000 feet of climb in less than a mile and half, averages out at a 27% grade. -Jeff Rome
“Lone Mountain is essentially a giant pile of loose rock. Under those rocks are more loose rocks, and more loose rocks lurking beneath those. It’s like a giant pile of sand, where each grain is dinner plate sized and weighs 20 pounds. Nothing can convince you that the world is a solid place and not falling apart beneath your feet. There is no trail to follow, only flags (unless the mountain goats eat them). -Jeff Rome
I was able to tell my distance from other runners not by sight, but by occasional sounds of rocks sliding and tumbling. There was not running in this section so much as hurriedly trying-not-to-eat-it-and-sliding-shuffling-tumbling my way down the mountain.” -Jeff Rome
Topping out on Lone Peak racers were enshrouded by clouds, limiting visibility to about a few dozen yards at times.
Matt Shryock was first to reach the top, followed closely by Paul Hamilton and Luke Nelson.
“After this, you’re out of the alpine for the rest of the race, and the trails and roads have more secure footing. The steepest part, however, is just ahead. It’s funny how all the most difficult parts are in the second half of the race. One would think it’s a bit sadistic.” -Jeff Rome
“This section of the course provided some of the steepest single track trail of the race. And to make it worse, it was muddy, and I saw numerous slide marks from the runners ahead of me.” -Jeremy Wolf
“From the final aid station on Andesite, it’s downhill, mostly. There’s a series of very gradual switchbacks, meandering back and forth towards the finish at the Big Sky base.” -Jeff Rome
After going off course for a short time following the first climb of the day, overall men’s winner Paul Hamilton, of Fort Collins, CO, re-established his lead and controlled the race all the way to the finish in 5 hrs. and 8 min. Matt Shryock of Missoula, MT, finished in second, with Luke Nelson of Pocatello, ID, cruising into a strong third place. On the women’s side, Erin Phelps of Flagstaff, AZ, won with a time of 6 hrs. and 43 min. holding off second place Kaitlin Macdonald, of Bozeman, MT. Jessica Jakes of Missoula, MT, rounded out the women’s top 3.
2013 The Rut Results:
Racers were welcomed at the finish line with music, cheering crowds and a hot meal catered by Big Sky Resort. It was a party atmosphere as the runners stuck around and rang their finishers’ award cowbells for those coming in behind them.
“For the first time, I actually felt challenged on a course—I genuinely felt proud for each person who crossed the finish line because I know everyone there had to really try to finish. No other race has done that to me, because no other has been so tough, or so nuts.” -Jeff Rome
Upon finishing the grueling race, Rut 50K’ers echoed this sentiment of race organizers as a “true mountain running experience.” 5 miles of steep and technical alpine ridge line heading up to and down from the 11,166 ft. summit of Lone Peak will give any runner a sense of achievement and adventure. “Usually in races, when I am concerned about going off course, I am not worried about falling off the course!” said one elated 50K finisher.
Winners were rewarded for their hard effort with a little gas money to get back to their home states, a sweet t-shirt showing off a bugling elk, and some legit bragging rights!
With an eye toward the future, the race directors not only envision The Rut expanding, but becoming a premier U.S. event in the Sky Running Federation World Series of Mountain Running. Talks are underway to develop a Skyrunner-style 3-day festival of mountain running featuring a Vertical Kilometer (a 3,000 foot ascent race in less than 5K to the summit of Lone Mountain) which, along with the marquee 50k, would draw a top international field. Although we can expect the event to grow, the Montana faithful can be assured that the Mikes will keep the event true to its Montana roots: big, beautiful, and rugged. -Montana Trail Crew
Registration for 2014 opens on January 5th, 2014 at 8 AM (MST).
Photos in this blog were provided by Hammer’s Myke Hermsmeyer, who can be followed on Facebook or Instagram. Additional photos from the race from Vo von Sehlen can be found on The Rut’s Facebook page.