|Lynn Reynolds enroute to his 2011 record-setting victory - Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K|
At Wulfman’s CDT 14K runners take their mark atop a mountain pass in the brisk June air. Instead of toeing the line, they stand anxiously single file. Looking around they can’t help but notice the bib numbers of those around them, since unlike the random digits at other races, these numbers mean something. Find someone whose number appears to be a time ten seconds after yours and you know they’ll be chasing you through the woods for the next hour or so. As the line forms on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) there’s some friendly banter before 9:00:00 (8:00:00 in even-numbered years) takes his mark. A stoplight-type of device signals red, yellow, green and he’s off. Ten seconds later 9:00:10 begins his chase. 9:00:20, 9:00:30, 9:00:40, so on and so forth.
|Ray Hunt on the CDT - Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K|
As event co-founder Ray Hunt explains, “We wanted each runner to get an unencumbered run through the trail, based on our previous experiences racing on trails in mob format. Being clustered takes too much away from the sense of running wild and free, and from glimpsing the majestic surroundings during those split seconds when one’s eyes can lift from the next foot placement. We didn't fully imagine how the staggered starting format would create the ‘Gingerbread Bread Man Phenomenon’ with the hunted and the hunters, and with racers going full throttle the whole way for fear of being beaten by those unseen during the race.”
|2013 Champ Olivia Wood - Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K|
The hunter phenomenon is particularly well-suited for the CDT. Dozens of switchbacks and curves through forest and around boulders allow the ten second gaps to play tricks on you as you lose sight of your prey. You hustle around the next bend only to see them disappear again. But if you do lose them completely, don’t worry. There are plenty of other things to see. Take, for example, a section on the route’s high plateau. After running by bizarre rock formations racers trample over newly constructed bridges and pass lingering June snow patches giving way to freshly sprouted wildflowers.
Interested? You better act fast. General registration typically caps out in early February, maybe sooner. If you do secure a coveted position in line on June 21st you’ll quickly see why the Wulfman’s CDT 14K is becoming a Montana classic. Now in its seventh year, the race features the pristine singletrack of the Continental Divide Trail. The point-to-point route gains close to 1500’ feet over 14K topping out at an elevation reaching 7,500’. But the trail is surprisingly runnable, helping it draw not only some of Montana’s top trail runners, but top track and road athletes too. Its first six editions included appearances by such accomplished athletes as Lynn Reynolds, Thomas Jodoin, Scott Creel, Keifer Hahn, Alan King, Sarah Graves, Nicole Hunt, and many others.
Nicole Hunt—Ray’s wife—might be better suited to do the hunting than anyone else. A former MSU great, Olympic trials marathoner, and multi-time member of the U.S. Mountain Running team who really needs no introduction on this blog or any other discussion of Montana distance running, Nicole has won the race a pair of times and holds the event’s course records—both southbound and northbound—oh yeah, another Wulfman’s quirk: the point-to-point race switches directions each year. Nicole and Ray also have another personal connection to the event, Nicole gave birth to their first son on the very day the first Wulfman’s race took place.
|Nicole Hunt in 2013 - Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K|
The Hunts are just two of the many Butte Piss and Moan Runners with deep personal ties to this event and the club's commitment to it shows. The club started the race in 2008, just two days after the U.S. Forest Service officially opened the Continental Divide Trail between Homestake and Pipestone passes. The new trail linked a couple of long-time favorite Piss and Moan trails and each year proceeds from the event and trail work performed by the Piss and Moaners make the trail even better. After the race, the club hosts a picnic feast for tired runners and their families at beautiful Homestake Lodge with homemade food and local beer. There's a raffle, awards, and giveaways.
|Scott Creel after setting the Master's record in 2011|
Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K
|View from the lodge - Credit: Wulfman's CDT 14K|
Although you won’t be mistaken if you hear wolves howling on race morning, the event itself took its name from long-time Piss and Moan Runner John "Wulfman" Wulf who died suddenly after his annual summer solstice run in 2007. Wulfman never experienced the completed CDT trail, but he did lead group runs on his own version of the CDT race route. From these early forays came some of the Wulfman’s fabled quotes: "There's just one hill." "Where the trail disappears, look for my flagging, and if you start down over the rocks, you went the wrong way." "The markings are blonde-proof." Hunt recalls that the last quote was typical Wulfman jest:
Zealously faithful to his wife and family, the lovable Wulfman was also a bit of "babe magnet." The first time he ran the CDT-14K "trail" in May 2005, he was accompanied by two sexy young blondes. It was still snow season in the high country, and the three were training partners preparing to race Wyoming's Bighorn Wild and Scenic 30K. One night after work, the trio started what Wulfman promised would be an easy training run on the new CDT from Homestake to Pipestone Pass ... the gals should have known better. Wulfman said that the trail was clear all the way, and he figured it would be a short 8 kilometers. As it turned out, there was yet very little cleared path. Undeterred, they bushwhacked and tromped through knee-deep snow all along the route's high middle portion. Traveling nearly twice as far as planned, they stumbled through black of night before emerging from the woods safely at Pipestone Pass. It was another typical Wulfman-led adventure, and they all loved it ... after it was over. The two blondes (Angela Welles & Amber Wood-Jensen) continue as key members of Wulfman's CDT race committee
Perennial Wulfman’s runners know the Wulfman through legend, but to the club Wulf was a dear friend. According to Hunt, losing him brought the Piss and Moan Runners together, “galvanizing our efforts to create a race there in his honor.” The honor goes well beyond the event’s name. Race proceeds are donated to the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest to create signage and improve the trail. It has funded bridge construction and Piss and Moan volunteers have supplied the labor. More than anything else, the old Wulfman saying “there’s just one hill” speaks to his ever-present encouragement to get people on the trails to enjoy the places he loved. With the improvements made possible by this successful event, more and more of us are able to do just that.