Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe of Missoula, Montana, started The Rut 12K & 50K in 2013 at Big Sky Resort. For 2014 they added the Vertical K on Friday, Sept. 13. More than 1,000 racers will be at Big Sky Resort this weekend to participate in The Rut and 50K Skyrunner World Series Ultra Final. Here's what Foote had to say about The Rut and ultramarathons:
How was The Rut conceived? Give us a bit of the back story.
Mike and I both have travelled and raced extensively in other parts of the world, especially in Europe, and we were inspired but the challenging and technical mountain terrain where these events took place. We were also impressed by the amount of celebration around these events by the local towns and the culture in general. We are excited to bring that energy back to our home turf in Montana and the US. There are few races in the states which have the severe terrain The Rut 50K and VK showcase. We also just wanted to have fun with this and have a reason for folks to come run in some of the best mountain terrain Montana has to offer.
So Big Sky Resort was always in the top running for an ultramarathon for you and Mike Wolfe?
Lone Mountain and Peak had the terrain we were looking for, mixed with the infrastructure of trails to use and the amenities of a world-class resort to host thousands of runners with their friends and family. It was an easy decision.
The Rut was such a hit last year, what can you tell me about the 2014 course? Any updates?
We had so much fun with the race in 2013 that we didn't want to change the atmosphere too much. With that said, the race has more than doubled in size and we made the course harder. Yes, that has been the goal all along. We have added some stunning ridge line terrain on the Headwaters Ridge and a brutal climb up a steep 45 degree scree slope to gain the ridge. It's going to be awesome.
Also, we are now the final of the prestigious Skyrunner World Series Ultra category. This has attracted many of the best mountain runners in the world.
About how many hours have you worked on The Rut trails?
*Laughs Good questions. We have worked a couple days on the Headwaters section. It is the most technical sections of the course so we wanted to make it flow better through certain sections to provide more safety in the exposed terrain.
We know there's a lot of physical preparation for any ultramarathon, but how does a runner mentally prepare for The Rut?
Every runner is different. I think I would recommend accepting the suffering that will occur on the course as opposed to fighting it. I would also recommend working to be relaxed the week of the race. It's easy to get overworked and overstressed. Lastly, focus on the positive. It will help you perform to your potential.
You both are also well-known for competing in Ultramarathons (not just directing one), what was your favorite race of 2014 besides The Rut?
For me, I really enjoyed the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 120K mountain race in the Italian Dolomites I participated in this June. It had all the elements we want to have at The Rut. It was well organized, went through incredible mountain scenery, and was a celebratory atmosphere with thousands of runners and spectators.
Any other comments?
We have Elk Hides branded with the Rut logo for finisher awards this year. Finishing this race is quite the accomplishment and we are excited to honor that with some Montana flare.
I haven't been fishing since I was twelve years old and let's just say I'm close to quadrupling that age now. Living in the mecca for fly fishing, I jumped at the chance when I was invited to go. I really didn't have any gear, only the tackle box my Dad bought me for my twelfth birthday (yes, the same trip that made it my last until now), of course it's now full of art supplies so I decided not to take it. My boyfriend set me up with all the gear I needed and the terminology: indicator (aka bobber), nymph (I remember these being worms), split shot (aka weight), and dry fly (mimic the bugs on top of the water - hate those bugs when swimming). After being quizzed on my new fly fishing vocabulary we arrived at the river, put in the boat, and started some fishing... um, I mean, fly fishing.
Once we were on the water I learned time: 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, don't break the wrist, and drop the fly in the right spot. Easy enough until you're trying to get the weight, I mean split shot, to float through the air. After some tangles and a lot of "I got it, I got it" toward my boyfriend, I truly did get. I had the fishing line and tippit (yes, another new term I learned, but I like to say, "the clear line tied to the yellow line") moving like a pendulum through the air before I cast to the perfect spot. Now, the perfect spot would actually be where my boyfriend told me to place the fly, but I came to soon realize that maybe the perfect spot was where the fly actually landed. Hitting the perfect spot is not easy, believe me, when I got remotely close to where he told me to place the fly he was rather shocked and congratulatory.
Hooking my first fish was, let's say, a miscommunication as I wasn't equipped with the new terminology my boyfriend was excitedly expressing to me. Down. He excitedly said "down", I took my rod (never call it a pole) and pointed it down and lost the fish. I now know in the fly fishing world, "down" actually means "up." Yes, I was supposed to pull up on the rod when the indicator goes down. As the day went on I received some good bites, but I wasn't able to hook the fish. Tired of standing I asked if I could try rowing for a bit. Happily my boyfriend relinquished the oars and took to the front of the boat. Five minutes later he was pulling in a beautiful Rainbow Trout out of the water. Man, I'm a good rower. Put him right where he needed to be.
After a short bit, he gave the fly rod back to me, determined I would catch my first fish in (cough, cough) number of years. I cast out with good 10 and 2 pendulum form trying my best to place the fly in the right spot and mending perfectly (another term for making sure the yellow line is ahead of the clear line. I got pretty good at this). I hear "down" and pull up fast. Fish on! I start pulling line in and reeling in excess fly line. I'm completely out of my head excited. It's not just a fish, but a good-sized fish. I'm all of the sudden a professional fisherwoman calling for the net.
As it gets closer to the boat I ask what kind of fish it is and he says with a sigh, "a Whitefish". How cool is that, my first Whitefish and I moved to Big Sky from Whitefish. I'm just beaming until I look over at the disgust on my boyfriend's face. Each person I've told this story to give the same disgusted look, like Whitefish are rats in the water. No good. I insist he takes a picture.
"But it's a Whitefish, you don't want a picture with a Whitefish," he says.
"Oh, no, brother, I don't care. I caught this fish and I want a picture," I retort back.
He took the picture. A beautiful picture of me and my first fish I've caught since I was twelve and fly fishing to boot. I held it proudly for the camera with the biggest smile on my face and a death grip on this poor Whitefish. As he releases my fish into the water it starts to go belly up. I'm in a panic. I've killed it. This is supposed to be catch and release and I killed the first fish I've caught. I'm devastated. My boyfriend kept chuckling and saying "don't worry, it's just stunned from your death grip." Within a couple of more minutes it begins to wiggle and finally swims away. All smiles again, I crack a beer.
When all was said and done, and the kegs had been drank, Brewfest was a successful event by event manager and attendee standards, and it was a ton of fun. Here is a quick list (and a lot of photos) about the things I loved at Big Sky Resort's 9th annual Brewfest:
New Belgium Brewing's Peach Porch Lounger (which I never would have sought out without an event like Brewfest)
Bottom of the Barrel.
Roadkill Ghost Choir (what a cool band).
An impromptu dance troupe dancing on moving tables and teaching us a move or two.
Lone Peak Brewery won the People's Choice Award for Best Brewery.
The sleekness of New Belgium Brewing's brand campaign. Oh the colors! (See below).
The people (I saw so many people I hadn't seen in a long time, and met a great couple from North Carolina).
The scenery. A Brewfest at the base of Lone Mountain just doesn't get much better.
Join us at Brewfest next year on July 10-11. See you there!
Imagine running a marathon that takes you up, around, and over the top of scree-encrusted Lone Peak, gaining and losing approximately 10,000 feet in elevation. Now tack on about 5 more miles. That in a nutshell is The Rut 50K-an ultra-marathon on the brink of becoming the biggest deal in Sky Running in the United States and, at least to some extent, the world.
To clarify, an ultra-race is any race longer than marathon length, or 26.2 miles. The shortest established ultrarace is 50 kilometers, or approximately 31 miles, but many ultra-marathons are 100 miles or more. Sky running, in its simplest definition, is running distance plus vertical, or long runs over mountainous terrain. The Rut, organized by The Runners Edge in Missoula, began in 2013 as the brainchild of race directors and international mountain runners, Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe. "The two Mikes" as they are known throughout the circuit, are both members of the North Face Ultra Running Team. Inspired by the steeper, more technical courses they've competed in throughout the European Alps, they wanted to bring that level of world-class racing to the U.S. and more specifically, to their Montana backyard.
On September 14, 2013, when the inaugural Rut 50K and 12K went off like a ski boot at 4:00am at Big Sky Resort, it got the attention of the International Skyrunning Federation. They chose The Rut 50K as the site of the 2014 Skyrunner World Series (SWS) Ultra Final. The SWS is a group of races taking place in the mountains of Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, and now the United States. As race organizer Mike Foote explains, "You don't have to run all the races [in the SWS], but since The Rut 50K is the final, you get double the points, so most of the serious competitors will be here. We're expecting a bunch of international elite trail running athletes." One of those much anticipated athletes is Sky Runner Kilian Jornet, whom National Geographic named the 2014
People's Choice Adventurer of the Year.
"The course is one of the biggest draws of the event," says Foote. "The 50K is extremely technical. There's runnable
single track, but there's also lots of knife-edged ridgelines." The most attention-grabbing section takes runners up and over Lone Peak via Bone Crusher Ridge. The climb gains 2,000 feet in elevation in about a mile and a half of highly exposed terrain, to the iconic 11,166 ft. summit.
"It's just unbelievable up there," says Foote. "That part of the course is more than a race. It's an adventure."
The question The Rut asks us all, on some level, is do I have it in me? Do I have that kind of mental game? To put one foot in front of the other, over rocky, mountainous terrain, for 31 miles?
To read more from Ginny on The Rut Ultramarathon check out the next issue of Live Big Magazine now at Big Sky Resort.
The Rut 2013.
The Rut runners head up Lone Peak via Bone Crusher.
In most cities there's a wide range of special events and activities, which often lead to debilitating decision-making. But in small towns like Big Sky the entire community comes out for almost every event.
One of the first events of the summer was the Big Sky Wide Open on Saturday, June 8. The third annual putt-putt tournament Ophir School fundraiser took place from shop to shop around Big Sky's Town Center the second Saturday in June. Raising funds for our public schools couldn't be more fun. With holes designed around snowboards, slack lines, movie theater cut-outs, taxidermy Grizzly Bears, and old skee ball machines each par was more unique than the next. If only we could raise school funds more than once a summer...
Another great summer event I'm excited for is Brewfest on July 12. Big Sky Resort's Brewfest is in its 9th year and promises to be the largest beer festival in Montana. My favorite part is being outside, enjoying great beers with friends, and the live music. Roadkill Ghost Choir, who played The Late Show with David Letterman earlier this year, will perform at Brewfest alongside Hollow Wood.
Although I spend my fair share of time fly fishing in solitude, I love the annual Big Sky Fly Fishing Festival on July 26-27 because it combines one of my favorite hobbies with my love of socializing. I'll spend two days tackling the difficulties of fly fishing while sharing in the camaraderie. This festival makes for a fantastic way to enjoy food from the Gallatin Riverhouse, watch fly fishing films at Lone Peak Cinema, and, of course, catch some fish.
New this summer is Vine and Dine Festival. If there's one thing I like it's food and wine and someone telling me how to pair that food and wine. In particular I'm looking forward to the Big Sky Mountain Village Stroll because I'll have the chance to try a wide variety of wines from dozens of vineyards (including Green and Red Vineyards in Chiles Valley) as well as socialize with friends and wine reps. I intend to ask a lot of questions to learn everything I can about the ins and outs of wine tasting. With only a handful of other tastings under my belt, I'm looking forward to increasing my knowledge of wine and finding new appreciation for the art of wine tasting. Vine and Dine Festival is August 14-17 at Big Sky Resort.
Big Moon Rising Music Festival replaces Spruce Moose this year with its debut over Labor Day Weekend (August 29-30). I have not had a chance to see any of this year's bands live before and I cannot wait for the funk of New Orleans' Dumpstaphunk. Check out "Gas Man" performed by Dumpstaphunk in San Francisco.
Lastly, The Rut. In only its second year, it is now the International Skyrunner Federation's World Series Final, The Rut Vertical K, 12K and 50K promises to be even more impressive than the last. National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Kilian Jornet will make an appearance, and is sure to set a fast pace, in this ultramarathon of ultramarathons. Running is not my sport of choice, but I plan to cheer each runner on, cowbell in hand, and enjoy the Saturday afternoon BBQ, beer in hand. The Rut is one of those events unlike anything I have ever seen. It's too simplistic to say that it is impressive, it's a feat of physical fortitude, but more than that it is a feat of human spirit.
These are just a few of my favorite summer events around Big Sky. More info on these and other events can be found at bigskyresort.com/events
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