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The Rut: A True Montana Mountain Run

Posted by Myke Hermsmeyer on 12/08/2013 in News | No Comments »

Run The Rut 50K: Big Sky, Montana from eli weiner on Vimeo.

Registration for 2014 is now open.

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.

Packet pickup in the Big Sky Resort facilities.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Mike Foote holds the pre-race meeting inside before racers brave the rainy start.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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.

Mike Wolfe and Luke Nelson before the race.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Racers lining up at the base of Big Sky Mountain Resort.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

And they’re off!
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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.”

Watch the race directors preview The Rut course.

“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.” 


The Rut 50K by the Numbers:

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

Racers nearing the top of the first climb.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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

Jeff Rome does a good job hiding he’s in the pain cave.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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 tram out-and-back from above.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Racers approaching the tram aid station.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Jesse Langner leaving the tram aid station with Lone Peak looming.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Spectators cheer on from the tram aid station.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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

Start of the ridge line climb up Lone Peak.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Starting the grind up to Lone Peak.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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

Jeremy Wolf chasing down Alan Adams on the ridge.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Katy-Robin Garton with Sprout Films in good spirits on the ridge up Lone Peak.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Jamie Swartz in the hurt locker.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Without a proper trail runners followed a string of Runners Edge flags up the mountain.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

The lower section of the ridge climb.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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

Emily Linton scrambles up loose rock above Big Sky Resort.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

The Cycling House’s Anya Wechsler showing off her running chops.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Dan Pierce getting steep!
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Aaron “Shake n’ Bake” Little scrambling.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Kaitlin Macdonald from Bozeman on the ridge.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Babak Rastgoufard, John Fiore and Matt Pagel grouped up on the ridge.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Casey Weinman nearing the top.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Topping out on Lone Peak racers were enshrouded by clouds, limiting visibility to about a few dozen yards at times.

Doug Brinkerhoff entering the clouds.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Spectators waiting for racers at the top of Lone Peak.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Jeremy Wolf topping out on Lone Peak. Hiking poles helped many racers through this stretch.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

 

Lone Peak aid station.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Alan Adams heads off into the clouds.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Matt Shryock was first to reach the top, followed closely by Paul Hamilton and Luke Nelson.

Matt Shryock in the lead topping out on Lone Peak with Paul Hamilton in tow.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Luke Nelson emerging from the mist in 3rd place.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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

Emily Kipp on the final descent to the finish.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Alan Adams nears the finish at the base of Big Sky Resort.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Cody Stekly nearing the finish with Lone Peak looming behind him.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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:

50K Overall Results

12K Overall Results

Female winner Erin Phelps crossing the finish line.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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.

Racers approaching the finish line.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

“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

Jeff Rome being congratulated by RD Mike Foote at the finish.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Lamar and Lance Lewis crossing the finish line.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

Racers were greeted at the finish with a custom “The Rut” cowbell.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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.

Sarah Downey at the 12k finish.
Photo provided by Sarah Downey

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!

The Grand Prize.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

2013 The Rut men’s podium.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

2013 The Rut women’s podium.
Photo: Myke Hermsmeyer

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).

To learn more about The Rut you can visit their website or like their facebook page.

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.

Text was provided by Mike FooteMontana Trail Crew, Jeremy Wolf, and Jeff Rome.

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