Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Running Wilderness



As 2014 comes to a close, so does the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The anniversary meant festivals and other events celebrating the legislation that protects the wild lands we cherish. It also meant getting out and enjoying wilderness lands while drawing attention to the designation that ensures their permanent protection.

We founded Montana Trail Crew as an "educational and conservation-based nonprofit for mountain and trail runners devoted to discovering the perfect single track trail, maintaining access to open space, preserving wild lands, and cultivating a running community under the Big Sky." We post stories and race reports about Montana destinations and people, we organize trail work days, and we look for ways to highlight some of the experiences that make trail running in our state so special. We also run the wilderness.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, I set out to experience Montana's wilderness areas on the run. After covering hundreds of wilderness miles and documenting my journey along the way, I hoped to spread the message about the value of wilderness to the trail running community. In October, I joined fellow trail runner, historian, and MTC founder Jed Rogers at the National Wilderness Conference in Albuquerque where we presented a talk on our wilderness running experiences. We also produced the non-commercial short film Running Wilderness--now available for public viewing--as a way to offer a glimpse into the wilderness running experience. The film first screened at the Mountain Running Film Festival in Missoula and now we're happy to share it with a wider audience. 

We hope the film draws attention to wilderness preservation and the Montana trail running experience. With any luck it might inspire your own adventures in the new year. 

Thanks for watching!


Monday, November 3, 2014

2014 Mountain Running Film Festival

Montana Trail Crew’s 2nd Annual

MOUNTAIN RUNNING FILM FESTIVAL 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Montana Cup: Getting Back to Our Cross-Country Roots

"The Montana Cup cross-country meet offers an exploration of Montana’s magnificent open spaces. It is not a road race, nor is it an ultra-endurance trail run; it's a team event, which brings together runners from all of Montana’s cities for competition, racing across country, for the glory of claiming a 'traveling trophy'"
Lead Pack of the 2010 MT Cup

Friday, October 17, 2014

HURL Elkhorn Endurance Runs: Returning to the Mountains

HURL Elkhorn Endurance Runs:  Returning to the Mountains
By Eric Ashley

I started putting on sunscreen in the dark.  It was 4:30 in the morning, the pitch-black dark pierced only by the headlamps of other runners and the headlights on the cars of occasional latecomers.  The stars glittered above us, Cassiopeia in her chair, the Big Dipper pouring out its water, and Cygnus the Swan, son of Neptune, flying his endless, tireless journey.  I focused on Cygnus.

The improbability began two days earlier.  I climbed a ridge in the back of Beehive Basin with my dad and my wife on our last backpacking day before the HURL Elkhorn 50 Mile.  I told them about a video of Kilian Jornet running down Grants Swamp Pass in the Hardrock a few weeks earlier, how he had dropped down hundreds of feet of near vertical scree in a matter of seconds.  Then I gave them my best impression and ran down the steep slope back to camp.  After watching my descent, my dad told me I would win the race.  I mentioned that I hadn’t been in danger of winning a race since middle school, but his confidence wasn’t fazed.

At packet pickup the next day, race director Steve Engebrecht handed me my bib, embossed with a bright red number 1.  I told him he couldn’t be serious.  I said that number 1 should be reserved for a returning champion, but Steve told me that in all his years directing the race he’d never had a winner return to run again.  The course was too hard.  Pause.  Wicked grin.  Chuckle from Steve and another veteran, Scott Blum, who was volunteering this year instead of running.  I tried to join in the laughter, but the joke was clearly at my expense.

In the dark before the race I rubbed the gleaming line of sunscreen over my neck and arms.  It disappeared into my skin, becoming part of me, becoming, along with my shoes and sleeves, headlamp and handheld, a final piece of armor wrapped around my body to shield me during the coming day.  Around my muscles and tendons I had wrapped the countless hill repeats and pounding intervals; around my mind the exhaustion of endless long runs.  I hoped, as Scott Jurek says, that the work would protect me during my most trying moments.  I hoped I had learned how to suffer.
As the 5 AM start approached we clustered around to hear Steve Engebrecht’s last minute advice.  Without fanfare he drew a line across the dirt of Crystal Creek road with his foot.  “This is your starting line,” he said, and we all stood back.  No one wanted to commit hubris this early, but moments later we surged forward with Steve’s “three, two, one, GO!”

I ran the Crystal Creek ascent next to a tall man with a red beard and a woman with the quickest cadence I’d ever heard on a runner.  His name was Eric Gilbertson, and she was Becky Wheeler.  I asked Eric if he planned to win, but he said no.  Becky asked what time I was shooting for, and I said maybe eleven hours if everything went well.  She dropped back, apparently thinking of a longer time for herself, or perhaps thinking I’d committed my hubris already.

I took the lead on the single track climb up the flanks of Casey Peak.  Most runners dropped their headlamps in a box at the top of the road, but I kept mine and used the extra light to accelerate by the others in the predawn gloom.  I crested the ridgeline alone and dropped down into Casey Meadows, yip yip kiyee-ing a heard of black cows off the trail.  I chased four elk across the meadows, heard the chirping of early morning songbirds, and startled a grouse into flight.  The wilderness thrived with life, both hidden and visible.  I relished the life around me.  I had come home to Montana to see my family, reconnect with the wilderness, and enjoy these mountains.  I cherished the opportunity to run on these trails with all the wild things, predator and prey, and to pretend to be a predator myself.  On the climb toward second ridge I heard clattering on the scree above me, evidence of large animals obscured by a dense stand of lodgpole pine.  More elk, or mountain goats, or maybe a moose?  A bear?  I didn’t know.

As I ran the words of better runners echoed in my head.  On the descent to Teepee Creak I heard Sally McRae talking about quick stepping down the steep technical tracks of the Western States (quick feet quick feet quick feet).  Kilian Jornet described the mountain goat descending, weight over its back feet, front feet stretched forward (center mass center mass center mass).  Scott Jurek – “Flow downhill like water” (momentum momentum momentum) and Caballo Blanco – “Don’t fight the trail” (easy light smooth fast easy light smooth fast).  On the climb to Elk park there was Yassine Diboun’s voice “if you have to hike, hike like you’re late for work” (late for work late for work late for work) and the advice I got from Krissy Moehl “start running before you get to the top of the hill, and keep running after the next hill starts” (start running start running keep running keep running!).  As I worked up the switchbacks the sun broke over the saddle behind me, bathing the sky and ground in pink and orange.  I turned for a moment, awash with its glory.

I ran alone through Elk Park and past Tizer Lake.  The climbs were relentless, steep, and rocky.  My energy ebbed away, and I felt my like stomach was liquefying.  Just before the highest point of the first half I heard runners talking behind me, and on the descent to Elkhorn Ghost Town I heard the clattering of Eric Gilbertson’s feet on the rocks.  I stepped aside to let him pass.  He looked so strong running by, and I stumbled in his wake.  At that moment I was sure I would never see him again.

My family met me at the Elkhorn Town aid station.  My son rang his cowbell, and my sister raised her hand for a high five.  I collapsed on a cooler, gratefully accepting soda from the aid station crew.  In a moment I had four people massaging my legs, my parents each taking a calf, my wife on one quad and my sister on the other.  I told them that I felt terrible, that my stomach was flipping out.  I thanked them for being so nice and supporting me.  They gave me a moment, but then my sister bent down and looked straight into my eyes.  “Quit thanking us and get out of here!”

I left the aid station in third – Eric Gilbertson had left as I arrived, and Adam Parkison had passed through while I sat on the cooler.  I followed their footprints in the dust past Elkhorn Cemetery.  I thought of Geoff Roes’s essay on racing, not just running, and I measured the length of their strides in the dust against my own.  To my surprise I discovered I was gaining on them.

I found Adam at the first crossing over Elkhorn creek.  He was splashing water on his head, overheated and trying to cool down.  I went one step further, lying down in the icy water and rolling over, drenching myself.  It helped.  I passed Adam on the steep climb up Queen’s Gulch, dropped him, and soon I saw Eric pounding up the hill.

I passed Eric just before Leslie Lake, but he stuck with me when I tried to pull away.  We ran together for three miles before he dropped back.  I tried to widen the gap, ignoring the screaming of my sea level trained lungs as we climbed near 9000 ft elevation on the shoulder of Crow Peak.  I bounded over rock fields, followed distant signposts through meadows of waist-high grass, navigated crisscrossing animal paths deep in the forest, always looking ahead for the next trail marker.  I got lost in the maze, backtracked, found my way, got lost again, rediscovered the route, and soldiered onward.  A mental haze descended as I traversed the woods.  I kept looking for the Tizer Creek aid station and listening for the chatter of the volunteers, but time and distance seemed to stretch boundlessly, as if they would never appear.

I was so grateful for company when Scott Blum greeted me at Tizer Creek that I lingered, and soon Eric Gilbertson arrived as well.  We left the aid station together, and a minute later we heard cheers for another runner.  Was it Adam, recovered from the heat?  Or Brian Story, who’d run smartly and conservatively over the first half, reeling us in?  Had Becky Wheeler’s quick feet carried her through the field to our heels?  I quickened my pace.

Over the final thirteen miles I put a minute per mile on the field.  Ignoring pain, exhaustion, dehydration, sugar depletion, and all the hallmarks of every ultra runner’s race, I pushed and pushed and kept pushing.  On the climb back to Elk Park I chased down a multitude of 50K’ers, trying to encourage them as I went by.  On the descent to Teepee Creek I used every trick I’d ever learned for downhill running and blazed down the switchbacks.  With five miles to go I found my sister, who’d hiked in from the road to pace me.  She’d had no information since my third place exit from Elkhorn Town, and she was preparing to tell me how many runners where ahead of me and how much time I had to make up.  Instead, she saw me in first, and she began jumping up and down and screaming.  She was super pumped, and she fed me that energy all the way to the finish.  We flew down the single track, blew past the aid station unchecked, and hammered down the road to McClellan Creek Campground.  There was my son, furiously ringing his cowbell.  There was my wife, yelling and waving.  There were my parents, chasing after me to the end.  I ran under the finish banner at 10:22:52, overcome and with tears in my eyes.

From my spot on a chair by the finish I cheered the other runners across the line.  A few 50K’ers, then Eric Gilbertson, finishing second overall and winning the master’s division.  Becky Wheeler, first in the women’s race and setting a new master’s division course record.  Adam Parkison, nearly overcome by the heat in Queen’s Gulch, charging home in seventh.  A multitude of others whose names I didn’t know, but whose courage and tenacity glowed brighter than the afternoon sun.  As I sat there I thought about running and about winning, and somehow it didn’t make any sense.  Had we really been competing?  Or was the competition a mere marker on the trail toward the joy of running free in the mountains?  I didn’t know, but I did think that next year Steve might have his first returning champion.


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tenacity and decency of the volunteers at the HURL Elkhorn as well.  Volunteers at all ultra races go above and beyond the call of duty (just ask Joe Grant!), but usually the aid stations are supported by easy road access with motorized vehicles.  Most of the stations in the Elkhorns are accessible by foot only.  Above and beyond by this measure means backpacking in the night before, carrying gels and bars, bananas, potatoes, and a hand-pumped water filter, then awaking early in the morning to purify enough water from the stream to cool a full race of runners.  Doing these things with bright smiles and raucous cheering, the HURL volunteers epitomized the wonderful spirit of Montana and the race.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kristina Pattison: The 2014 Rut 50K Experience

Kilian Jornet on Headwaters Ridge at The Rut 50K 2014. Photo credit: Jordi Saragossa for Salomon 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Jeremy Wolf: 2014 The Rut 50k Race Report

What more could a Montana trail runner ask for than having the 2014 Sky Running World Series Final in our own back  yard?  I’d bet that co-race directors “The Montana Mike’s” couldn’t have imagined their creation would achieve such prestige in just it’s second year of existence.  For the first time ever, Montanan’s would not have to travel to Colorado, Utah, California, or Europe to race against the world’s best.  An easy drive along the Gallatin River would lead us to Big Sky Resort, host of the 2014 The Rut 50k. 
Being chased by Manuel Merillas after Madison Village Aid Station at mile 7.5 - PC: Matt Trappe

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Justin Angle: Ghosts of Yellowstone 100 Recap

Survival Running: Ghosts of Yellowstone 100

by - Justin Angle

I signed up for the Ghosts of Yellowstone 100 on a bit of a whim.  After an untimely fever forced a scratch at the August 2nd Elkhorn 50, my plan of running the IMTUF on September 20th lost its appeal.  I wanted to race, and as soon as possible.  The Ghosts of Yellowstone was just a couple weeks away and as Montana’s only 100-miler, I figured I had to give it a shot…plus Mystery Ranch was putting up $1,000 in prize money to sweeten the deal.  Seth had a fun time running it last year, my fitness was starting to come into good form and I was feeling confident I could once again get ‘round one of these things.
In the days leading up to the race, my biggest concern was the weather forecast.  It certainly was not going to be hot, with highs of about 60 degrees predicted for Pony, the start-finish village.  There would be rain at some point, either showers or steady, but precip was a given.  Planning drop bags was a challenge as I had to forecast my time and location and plot against the predicted weather.  In retrospect, however, this challenge proved useful because it forced me to look closely at the course description and maps and focus keenly on where I would be and when.  That would help later…
With classes set to begin the following Monday, it was a bit of a scramble to leave town.  I had meetings all day Wednesday and Thursday, but was able to sneak out a bit early in order to make it the pre-race meeting in time to turn over those drop bags to the aid station folks.  A quick drop, some basic course information and I was off to Pony to get some sleep.  Pony is a classic Montana cowboy town. Not much to it.  I found a level place to park the truck and gobbled some dinner as rather dramatic thunderstorm moved in.  With no place dry to go other than my truck, I retreated to the cap at about 7:30 and hunkered down with my book.  It pelted rain throughout the night, a precursor to race day weather, but I slept quite well, waking sharply a 4:00 ready to down some breakfast, brew some coffee and get on with it. 
It was barely not raining at the start and that buoyed my spirits considerably – starting wet is just plain unpleasant. A small tribe of 20 or so toed the line and set off in the pre-dawn light.  Just as soon as I started to revel in a relaxed starting pace, one young fellow darted off like he was running a 10k.  Slightly annoyed, I gave chase and resolved to keep him at least within eyesight on the day’s first climb.  After only a mile or so, he was already a minute ahead – fast or stupid or maybe both.  The first several miles grind up an abandoned fire road, gaining a high ridge 2,500 feet above Pony.  I slowly reeled the rabbit in and pulled alongside, introducing myself.  Chris’s (now that I new his name) response, “Justin Angle…yeah I know you…I used to read your blog when I was in high school!”  That cut. Cut me deep.  “Dude, I turn 40 on Monday and I’m not exactly looking for more things that make me feel old.”  We chatted a bit more, contemplating the day before us, and then I slowly eased ahead, finding a nice rhythm over the ridge and down into the abandoned mining town of Murdoch.  I bypassed the aid station here (mile 8) and strode on to the Curly Lake trailhead at mile 12.7, climbing a 1000 or so feet up a progressively degrading doubletrack.
The smell of fresh weed greeted me at the aid station.  7:55 AM…a little early to be burning so hot, fellas.  Nonetheless, the two guys manning the aid helped me locate my drop bag, reload some water and head out onto what would (much later) become the crux move of the course.  The stretch from Curly to McGovern covers almost 17 miles, climbing up 4,000 feet to a high pass at just below 10,000 feet.  This trail was absolutely the highlight of the course…mountainous, technical and exposed, offering sweeping views during the rare moments the low – and lowering - ceiling allowed. The climb gained steepness toward a high junction at 9,000 feet.  I had not seen a course marker in quite some time, but I knew I was at the southern end of the course and needed to head north, making the decision to turn right at the unmarked intersection relatively easy.  From here the trail climbed steeply to a pass taking me across two open alpine meadows, meadows in which the trail disappeared.  What was easy navigation on this outbound leg was sure to be tricky on the return so at several spots I made the point to turn around and take a good look at what I would be facing 50 or so miles hence. 
The descent off the pass was sweet…rocky and steep at the top giving way to bomber singletrack all the way down to the McGovern aid station.  McGovern, by the way, was the first of 5 out-and-backs embedded within this larger 90-mile out-and-back.  I didn’t feel stellar heading down, a little stiff and awkward, but the mind was good and the guts intact.  The aid station crew seemed surprised to see me, which is always a boost, and I reloaded my gels and Omnibars in short order. 
Then I entered the washing machine portion of my day – rinse and repeat.  I mentioned the 5 out –and–backs, well, they were pretty uneventful.  Each descent/ascent was 2,000 or so feet of similar profile – sub-alpine at the ridge to high pine forest, to open range land, to rugged two-track falling steeply to the valley floor.  I stayed steady – never felling too good, never feeling too bad – and was able to check in with other runners, get a sense of my lead (it was thankfully significant), and manage negative slits on my second laps of Rock Creek and McGovern Creek.  Throughout, the aid station crews were quite pleasant, though I could tell they were growing anxious about the evening ahead.  You see, ominous weather was on the move.  Never climbing out of the 40’s, the day brought intermittent showers, none of which quite motivated me to don my Houndini jacket.  But as afternoon crept on, the clouds grew deeper and darker and the air acquired a distinctly damp chill.
As I topped the final climb of McGovern, I saw Chris just about to descend, looking fresh and in good spirits, but likely 2+ hours in arrears at this point.  To this point, though I had yet to really feel good, I knew I was moving relatively well.  At mile 61 the aid volunteers told me I was 10 minutes ahead of Seth’s and Zack’s split from last year.  Who knows how accurate that was, but it brought confidence and reassurance that I was making good progress.  Parting ways with Chris I turned and resumed the climb – that same climb I previously referred to as the crux move of the day – knowing I was now the only person on the south half of the course.
 By now the rain was steady and darkness creeping.  I pulled out the Houdini and my gloves and rigged my headlamp for the evening.  Each step of ascension brought thicker fog and more intense precipitation.  Gaining the technical switchbacks of the final ridgeline, I first flicked on my headlamp, only to see the fog completely swallow the beam.  It was dark, but just enough twilight remained to make my way, motivating me to reach the two aforementioned meadow sections before losing those last glimmers of illumination. At the first meadow, the trail tapered away just as I remembered.  I pressed on, now fully engulfed in dark, headlamp consuming fog, feeling around for the fairly run-out cairns guiding the route.  Not feeling quite confident, my vector began to descend a saddle – this wasn’t right; I had one more steep pitch to climb.  I backtracked, then sidetracked, then other-sidetracked, finally returning to the spot at which I accessed this wall-less maze.  Realizing my initial mistake, I worked left and soon found the desired steep pitch, picking up the goat trail and feeling, at least temporarily, secure.  That security, however, came only from knowing I was on route.  My 15 or so minutes of wandering left me alarmingly cold and with rain giving way to sleet and snow, any margin for addition error was gone.  One more meadow to go and then hopefully descending a few thousand feet would bring some degrees and an escape from the fog. 
I crossed that second meadow rather uneventfully, recalling a slight angle to the right and a distinctive cairn.  Now on the descent, I needed to run and run hard to bring back some body heat.  Behind on calories and shivering, I pushed as best as I could, though the fog made running almost impossible. I desperately needed my headlamp, but even its super powerful Roch Horton-modified beam could not pierce that fog.  I stripped it off my head and held it low to the ground, working my way off the ridge like an old man working the beach with a metal detector.  Finally back beneath treeline, the fog relented and the sleet turned to rain.  With some tree cover over me and an Omnibar in the belly I regained a small bit of warmth, but at this point what was left of a race was quickly becoming a survival mission – I had a big lead, there was $1,000 to be won, and any chance of running close to Seth’s time was now out of the question.  Just get through this thing in one piece became the mantra, and I clung to 2 notions to keep me moving.   The first was the makeshift aid at Curly Lake.  Two fellows I had seen on the outbound were making camp at the lake and informed me that their eventual ambition was to achieve aid station status.  Perhaps they had made some progress during the 10 or so hours between my visits.  Approaching the lake basin, their impressive camp fire caught my eye and I hopefully inquired as to the possibility of a hot beverage. 
“Hold on, we can heat some up for you” 
“Sorry guys, I gotta keep moving.”
Not their fault…but kind of a kick in the balls at that particular moment.
My second point of hope was the potential arrival of Beau Fredlund, fellow Omnibar athlete, overall mountain adventure stud and good friend.  Beau is a prolific ski mountaineer and guide and has traded the sticks for kicks this summer in preparation for The Rut.  A few days before the race, I pitched the idea of 25 or so miles of pacing work and he jumped on it.  Not quite knowing if he would actually materialize – this is remote terrain with challenging logistics – I descended the Curly drainage with moderated optimism – Beau would be a boost, but I was mentally prepared to go it alone.
Sure enough, Beau appeared about 2 miles out from Curly and his energy immediately lifted my spirits.  I brought him up to speed as he brought me up to speed, enthusiastically snapping photos as we approached the aid station and a resupply.  

We made quick work of the aid and kept moving.  Temps continued to dip and the rain/sleet was intensifying.  If I hadn’t realized it earlier, I now firmly knew that this night was going to be about one thing and one thing only…stay movin’ – stay warm.  Beau kept the mood light as we trudged our way up the steep pitch from Murdoch. We gained the ridge and shuffled down toward Pony and with every step I started to wonder just little a bit if Alex (RD) might shut this thing down and not allow us to hit the 10-mile finishing loop?”  Oh, yes, I neglected to mention that…after the 90-mile out and back from of Pony, the course took us away from town around a 10-mile alpine loop.
Now stumbling a bit on my clubby, icy feet, we got a visual on the aid station and some potential warmth.  The crew seemed pretty exuberant as we rolled in.  “Why the hell you boys out here running?”  I just responded with “Beau, can you see if they have any soup?” He poked into the tent only to find a smoke-filled and whiskey-drenched scene.  Nope, this was not the aid station.  We had fumbled into a bachelor party and the partiers were just as confused by us as we were with them.  As we scurried away, I asked Beau, “why the f@ck would anyone have a bachelor party out here in this ridiculous weather?”  He paused, allowing me to grasp the elementary and painful irony of that question on my own.
That small detour made for a few good miles of stories, propelling us to the aid station proper.  Mile 90.  12 to go, with a 3,000 or so foot climb.
By now I was about as cold as I could tolerate.  Unable to really get words organized and out of my mouth, I forced some soup and warm water and off we went.  They said 4 up and 6 down, then 2 into town…we’ll see.  Just keep moving…stay movin’-stay warm.
And so for the next 3+ hrs, we made our way around that God-awful loop, mocking our hypothermic selves and doing our best to stay on the route.  Type 1 fun had ceased long ago, leaving us in the Type 2 category, with occasional dips into Type 3.  But we kept moving, Beau maintaining the positive mood with stories of imaginary beaches and questions about the feasibility of insect agriculture.  Monosyllables and grunts were about all I could add to the conversation.  There was one lonely aid station on this section…not so much an aid station as an outpost with two burly folks tasked simply with validating our completion of the loop.  Somehow they had a fire, burning brightly in the deluge.  I sat in front of that thing for about 15 minutes, soaking up as much warmth as I could through my sopping layers – two Cap 1 long sleeves, 1 Houdini and 1 Alpine Houdini.  That fire melted my Houdini pants, fusing them with my skin, but it was so very worth it.
Now in the final stages of this bastard, I refused to acknowledge the last aid station, just above town at the insultingly ironic 100-mile marker.  2 and change to town.  Just on the outskirts I coughed slightly, initiating an impressive vomit session.  I turned to Beau between bouts, sensing his concern, and muttered, “Well, this is what you came for!”
And then we were done…
Alex and a few others were waiting at the finish, quite enthusiastic that I made it round in one piece.  I lingered for a few moments, then shuffled up to the Pony school, grabbed my duffle and headed straight for the bathroom.  No shower, but a hot water sink-splash session felt pretty darn nice.  Within about 20 minutes I was soundly asleep in the truck. Warm at last.
I’ve been somewhat nonplussed by this experience.  Sure, I made it through a 100 after some recent struggles.  It was a tough one – 28k of climbing through rugged, remote terrain and challenging weather.  I managed a win and some cash.  All good things.  I’m certainly uncertain about the fun involved – in the late stages it was negligible, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.  Until a day or two after the race, I was under the impression I was the only finisher, adding to my ambivalence.  Four other hearty folks made it round, however, facing those elements for a minimum 9 hours longer than I did.  Can’t even begin to imagine that.
I’m grateful I have the choice and the ability and resources to take on such challenges – family, friends, sponsors, and good fortune make this possible.  Already musing on the next one…
Can’t thank Beau enough for his colossal effort…you are the man and that’s a fact.  Alex and crew put on a solid event in the most challenging conditions and seemed to keep everyone in good spirits.  Maggie and the girls put up with a lot this summer to give me this chance and my gratitude for their support, patience, generosity and love fueled every step.  Love you guys!
Gear/Fuel list:
Roch Horton specially modified Black Diamond Icon Headlamp
Loads of Omnibars, gels, some soup and the occasional Coke.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Paul Hamilton

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Paul Hamilton

Five Rut Questions With: Emelie Forsberg

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Emelie Forsberg

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Jason Delaney

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Jason Delaney

Five Rut Questions With: Hillary Allen

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country. It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Hillary Allen - Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Sage Canaday

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Sage Canaday - Photo Credit Paul Nelson

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

2014 Rut 50K Preview

Paul Hamilton, 2013 Rut 50K Champion - Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer

As Montana’s trail running non-profit, Montana Trail Crew is dedicated to celebrating Montana trail running, Montana trail runners, and the spectacular places where we run. The Rut presents an opportunity unlike any other to do just that. A year ago we rolled out our first race preview when we told you about a brand new ultramarathon at Big Sky that promised to be unlike anything we’ve seen in the Treasure State. “Clearly,” we claimed then, “the Mikes go big.” Indeed, here we are one year later and the Runners Edge race directors Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe have managed to not only grow the event—500 runners per race instead of 200 and a Vertical K, in addition to the 50K and 12K—they’ve even found a way to make the course tougher by cutting a new trail on the crest of the formidable Headwaters Ridge where passage is enabled only by a via ferrata line. The new addition treats runners to 2,000 vertical feet beyond last year’s course and includes the most challenging terrain of the entire race. Now that’s big.

Five Rut Questions With: Kilian Jornet

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Kilian Jornet - Photo Credit:Damien Rosso Droz

Five Rut Questions With: Daniel Kraft

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Daniel Kraft - Photo Credit: Glenn Tachiyama


Monday, September 8, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Rickey Gates

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Rickey Gates - Photo Credit:Scott Markewitz

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Anna Frost

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut
Anna Frost - Photo Credit: Marceau Photography

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Luke Nelson

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Luke Nelson

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Ellie Greenwood

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Ellie Greenwood - Photo Credit: Joe McCladdie

Five Rut Questions With: Catlow Shipek

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.
Catlow Shipek

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Five Rut Questions With: Adam Campbell

It's that time of year where daylight is fleeting quickly, the air is crisp, and snow is threatening to fall in the high country.  It is Rut season.  On Sept 12th & 13th, hundreds of runners from across the globe will descend on Big Sky Resort to push their physical limits on the scree laden slopes of Lone Peak.  To give you insight into who will be running The Rut 50k and why they're excited to come to Montana, we've asked each elite runners five questions.  Leading up to the race we will post responses daily from world class runners such as Kilian Jornet, Anna Frost, Adam Campbell, Paul Hamilton, Ellie Greenwood, Rickey Gates, Luke Nelson, Sage Canaday, Emelie Forsberg, and others including Montana's finest ultra runners.  It is time for The Rut.

Adam Campbell

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stumbling Upon The Best Run Of The Year

A wise runner once said "The best runs are the ones you stumble upon."

I tend to agree with this wise sage.  My favorite runs are the unexpected ones.  The ones where you enter the trail not knowing where it goes or the terrain it will take you through.  Every step is a fresh experience, every turn provides a new vista.  The body and mind are engaged and excited at the beauty of the unknown that lies ahead.  The sense of adventure and exploration is strong.

I was lucky enough to "stumble upon" an amazing trail last weekend while camping with my family at Holland Lake, about an hour and a half drive from Missoula.  The lake itself has a spectacular setting being wedged against the base of the mighty Swam range to the east, with views of the Missions across the valley to the west.

At 6:30am, as I ran through a sleepy campground I headed toward the trail head at the end of the dirt road along the north side of the lake.  I had no expectations for this run; no agenda for miles, elevation gain, or time, just exploration.  At the trail head a map was posted showing a network of trails heading up to Holland Lookout and Upper Holland Lake.  There was even a possibility of doing a big loop run.  I was instantly excited and a bit overwhelmed by the possibilities and decisions that my awaking mind would have to make.  I took a picture of the trail map for reference and figured I'd head up to the lookout since I was overdue for a run with some elevation gain.

As I made my way up a series of switch backs and started leaving the dense forest below, I was noticing thousands of stocks of expired bear grass all around.  I was in awe of how dense the bear grass was, and bummed that I had missed them in their full bloom.  As I climbed higher and neared the pass, that all started to change.  Hill sides started to appear covered in solid white bear grass blooms.  Cresting the pass, bear grass was perched at the top, glowing radiantly in the bright morning sun.  To top this off, was an expansive view of lakes and mountains heading deep into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the East.
Bear Grass perched on top of Holland Pass.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Around Patagonia film screening at Runners Edge - Monday 7/21 @ 6:30pm

Come see the trail running film "Around Patagonia" at the Runners Edge on Monday, 7/21 @ 6:30 PM. Missoula runner Jeremy Wolf, one of the main characters in the film, and film maker Joel Wolpert will do a Q & A following the screening. $5 suggested donation at the door benefiting The Montana Trail Crew.
View the trailer by clicking here

Jeremy Wolf & Jason Schlarb running through Patagonia - photo Joel Wolpert
Runners Edge
304 N Higgins Ave.
Missoula, MT

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ten+ Questions with MTC: Jim Walmsley

ED note: “Ten+ Questions with MTC” is our way of introducing Montana trail runners to the Montana trail running community. Do you know someone we should feature? Let us know! Also, become a follower on our RSS feed or like us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest Montana trail running action and help us grow our community! If you like what we’re doing, we’ll keep on doing it!

Jim Walmsley is on a roll. 2014 Missoula Half Marathon - Credit: Myke Hermsmeyer

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE WEEKEND MISSOULA SAT ON TOP OF THE ULTRA RUNNING WORLD

Originally this article was going to be about how Missoula was past its peak in terms of caliber of mens ultra runners.  Last year, 2013, we saw a wide range of our men place on or near the podium at very competitive ultra races throughout the U.S. and internationally.  However, the spring of 2014 brought several departures from Missoula for the mens ultra running community.  Jason Schlarb, 2013 Run Rabbit Run winner and 3rd place finisher at Speedgoat 50k, left town in April.  Chris Kollar, 2013 Gorge Waterfalls 50k winner, left this rocky mountain hamlet in his rear view mirror in June.  Also, this spring saw the exodus of 2013, Le Griz runner up, Jed Rodgers.  All three of these men are not only great ultra runners, but also supporters of our local trail running community and founders of Montana Trail Crew.  Over the past few weeks as I pondered their leaving town, I reflected on how the stable of men’s ultra runners in Missoula may never be as deep or talented as it was in 2013.
Missoula training grounds - Nelson Kenter

Monday, June 30, 2014

Mountain Men and their Blankets: The Old Gabe 50K Race Report

Mountain Men and their Blankets:
The Old Gabe 50k Race Report

By Jeff Rome

Runners nearing the highpoint of the course, above Truman Gulch - Credit: Old Gabe 50K

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wilderness Running Project

Adventure begins at the Wilderness boundary - Welcome Creek Wilderness
In 1964, Congress passed the Wilderness Act to provide protection for some of our nation's most spectacular places. I'm celebrating the 50th anniversary of this landmark conservation effort by going on a series of adventure runs in Montana's Wilderness areas. I call it the Wilderness Running Project.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kristina Pattison: 2014 Pengelly Double Dip Race Recap


Mount Sentinel and University Mountain. Photo by Myke Hermsmeyer.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

MTC Trail Work


The site of a trail work day. Not a bad place to volunteer!
Montana Trail Crew is committed to providing the Montana trail running community with volunteer trail work opportunities

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Route Description: Sheep Mountain Loop


A good place to nap? Sheep Mountain Summit and its signature rock shelter. 
Sheep Mountain serves as the high point for what can be considered Missoula's classic backcountry running loop. It's basically a marathon through the mountains that starts and finishes at Missoula's beloved Rattlesnake trailhead. As far as loops go, Sheep Mountain is pretty much as good as it gets.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Preview: 2014 Don't Fence Me In


In 1805, Meriwether Lewis named a stretch of the Missouri River just north of Helena “Gates of the Mountains.” He might as well have applied the name to the entire Prickly Pear Valley because his expedition encountered plenty of mountains from that point forward. Over 200 years have since gone by and, for many Montanans, the Helena area is still the Gates of the Mountains. For people who love to run, hike, and bike, Prickly Pear Land Trust (PPLT) is the gate keeper—or gate opener. Founded in 1996, PPLT is Helena’s go-to organization for open space and trails; quite literally opening recreational access to miles of trails in the greater Helena area.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Over the Puddles and Through the Woods: 2014 Spokane River Run 50K

A Race Report by Jimmy Grant
Spokane River Run: Bloomsday it is not!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Traveling for Trails: Maintain Your Mid-Winter Running Juju, by Rick Wishcamper and Rika Botzet

The expansive views of Sedona, AZ
Do you ever feel that the grey dreary drizzle that characterizes winter in our beloved Missoula valley is crushing your running spirit? I do! Every winter, come late February or March, I get sick of the few icy trails I’ve been running over and over for 6-8 weeks that require a gymnast’s balance to navigate, as my favorite trails are either buried under hip deep snow or are more suited to a luge run than a tempo run. I enjoy the occasional post hole trip up to the beacon. But snow followed by rain followed by a grey day in the 40s followed by more grey and more drizzle brings me to the edge of my ability to maintain a positive attitude on my runs and in my daily life with my friends and colleagues. At that point, I need some sun and a few good runs on fresh, fun, dry trails.