2016 The Rut 28k Preview

Kilian Jornet - SalomonThis weekend brings runners from around the world to Big Sky, Montana and three races in the Skyrunner World Series at The Rut. We’ve previously covered the 50k event, but this year we’re changing it up and focusing on the 28k distance on Saturday, September 3.

The race packs in 7,500 feet (2,286m) of climbing in just 17.6 miles with its high point at over 11,000 feet atop Lone Peak.

Follow our race-day coverage on our live-coverage page!

Special thanks to Salomon for sponsoring our coverage at The Rut 28k possible. To help celebrate the race, we’re giving away five pairs of the brand new Salomon Speedcross 4!

The Rut 28k Women’s Preview

2015 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Mile Championships - Megan Kimmel

Megan Kimmel

The favorite in this year’s 28k at The Rut must be Megan Kimmel (pre-race interview), who’s absolutely crushing it this season. With six out of eight Sky-division races run in this year’s Skyrunner World Series, Kimmel has nearly twice as many points as her nearest competitor. She crushed the Yading Skyrun to start her season, was second at the Zegama Marathon in May, and most recently won Matterhorn Ultraks.

One of the few women to beat Kimmel this year is Norway’s Yngvild Kaspersen (pre-race interview), when she took home the win at the Zegama Marathon in May. Kasperson later took fifth at the Dolomites SkyRace in July.

Ragna Debats currently sits second behind Megan in the Sky series overall rankings. Her top finish this year was her third place at the high-altitude Yading Skyrace in late April. Most recently, she was fifth at Matterhorn Ultraks.

Laura Orgue - 2015 Zegama Marathon

Laura Orgué

Spain’s Laura Orgué may be Kimmel’s biggest challenge. Not only is Orgué ranked fourth in the Sky division this year, she’s second in the Vertical Kilometer division, so the straight-up-the-mountain 28k race at The Rut should suit her well. So far this year, Orgué has won both Sky-division races that she’s run, Dolomites and Comapedrosa, both in the second half of July. She also took third at the Pikes Peak Ascent in mid-August.

For the most part, Ashley Erba’s been missing from the trail-race scene since winning the Flagstaff Skyrace last October. Still, she could be in contention, if she’s still got some of her fitness from last year when she won the Red Hot Moab 55k and Power of Four 50k, along with her third-place at the Lake Somona 50 Mile and second overall at El Vaquero Loco 50k.

Spain’s Marta Molist was fourth at this year’s Zegama Marathon. She’s also run well enough at the Livigno SkyMarathon and Ultraks race to be in sixth position in the Skyrunner World Series Sky division. Molist was 12th in the Sky category of the SRW in 2014.

Sarah Pizzo looks to be getting back into trail races with her second-place finish at the Kendall Mountain Run in July and win at the Bear Chase 25k in April. A few years ago, she was second at the Imogene Pass Run in consecutive years as well as placing fifth at the Moab Trail Half Marathon.

Basque runner Aitziber Ibarbia sits in seventh in this year’s Sky rankings. Her strongest finish was a second place at the Livigno Skymarathon, where finished one spot ahead of Megan Kimmel.

Fellow Basque runner Maria Zorroza could help fill out the back half of the top 10. Her best finish in a Sky series race this year is a 12th at Dolomites in July where she ran a 2:53 to Laura Orgué’s 2:27.

Meaghen Brown was fifth at The Rut 50k last year and looks to be in decent shape this year, as she was second at the Jemez 50k in May.

The Rut 28k Men’s Preview

Dakota Jones - 2015 Transvulcania sq

Dakota Jones

Well, well, well… Dakota Jones (pre-race interview) is back, or so it seems after his course-record-setting win at the Squamish 50 Mile a weeks ago. He also won the Broken Arrow Skyrace in late June and the 12-mile Kendall Mountain Race in late July. This all comes after a long battle with a foot injury the previous year. While Dakota is best known for his performance in ultramarathons, he’s got plenty of speed for a race like The Rut.

It turns out that Marc Lauenstein won’t be racing The Rut this year. [September 1 UpdateIt looks like Marc Lauenstein of Switzerland is coming back to the U.S. The last time he raced here (that we know of), he won the Pikes Peak Marathon in 2014. Previously, he’d been second in the Pikes Peak Ascent in 2010. More recently, he’s been crushing it in Europe. A few weeks ago, he won the 46k Matterhorn Ultraks. Earlier this year, he was second to Kilian Jornet at the Zegama Marathon along with winning the U.K.’s Three Peaks race and Giir di Mont in Italy. This just scratches the surface of Marc’s achievements.

For at least the past decade Eric Strabel has been destroying the competition on (and off) the trails of Alaska. He’s won Seward’s storied 3.5-mile Mount Marathon multiple times as well as the 24-mile-long Crow Pass Crossing. The only big trail race in the lower 48 we can remember him running is last year’s TNFEC 50 Mile in San Francisco, where he finished 18th.

The overseas contingent might very well be led by Spain’s Hassan Ait Chaou. While he withdrew from this year’s Zegama Marathon due to hypothermia, Hassan often ranks at the back half of the top 10 at the deepest Sky-distance Skyrunner World Series events. For instance, last year he was eighth at the Limone Skyrace and 10th at Zegama. Hassan currently sits in second in this year’s Skyrunner World Series Sky rankings. Earlier this month, he took fourth at Ultraks.

Eugeni Gil, also of Spain, finished all of a minute behind Ait Chaou a few weeks ago at the Matterhorn. He was ninth a few weeks earlier at the Comapedrosa Skyrace in Andorra.

Ted Farley won’t be racing due to a foot injury. [September 1 Update] Ted Farley took fifth in last year’s The Rut 50k. He’s also posted some fast times at shorter trail races in Montana. Farley ran for the American squad at the World Mountain Running Long Distance Championships in late June when he finish 37th.

Luke Nelson - 2013 UROC 100k

Luke Nelson

Luke Nelson (pre-race interview) is quite familiar with the terrain he’ll encounter this weekend. He’s raced The Rut 50k the past three years, taking third, 31st, and seventh. While we see him often at ultras, he seems to mix shorter races into his schedule each year. Most recently, he was fourth at the Whiteface Sky Race in New York in July.

Colorado speedster Timmy Parr mixes up his trail racing and isn’t afraid to line up for shorter races. So far this year, he’s won the Collegiate Peaks 25k as well as been second at the Sage Burner 25k and third at the Kendall Mountain Run. This year, he’s also raced the Mad City 100k on the roads (8:32) and had a rough go at the Speedgoat 50k. He lives and trains high, so the top of Lone Peak on Saturday shouldn’t be a problem for him.

After a couple years with more of an ultrarunning focus, it looks like Michael Barlow might be focusing a bit more on shorter races of late. Early this year, he was third at the Sage Burner 50k, while he was sixth at the Kendall Mountain Run. The high point of his season came in winning the Whiteface Skyrace in early July.

Switzerland’s Micha Steiner was 10th at the Limone Skyrace last October, where he ran a 3:03 to winner Remi Bonnet’s 2:45, in what’s likely his best trail race since he got into it in 2013. He’s also a skimo guy.

Young Catalan runner Jan Margarit Solé just took ninth at the Pikes Peak Ascent a few weeks ago and won the junior world championship for the vertical kilometer in late July. He was also eighth at the Dolomites Skyrace. Both Steiner and Solé are part of Salomon’s Young Guns program for developing young trail runners.

Justin Ricks didn’t have a great race at the Kendall Mountain Run, where he was 13th in July. However, that might be the lone bad spot on his season so far. While you might not know the race, he won the Run Through Time Marathon in March, which often brings many of Colorado’s fastest out of hibernation. In February, he won the Antelope Canyon 55k.

We don’t know much about Chris Mocko’s experience with shorter races, but he’s had a great year running ultras. He was eighth at the Way Too Cool 50k in March, second at the Gorge Waterfall 100k in April, and seventh at Western States in June. I’d love to know more about how Chris might handle a race like this.

All we know about Bulgaria’s Kiril Nikolov is that he was 13th at the Dolomites Skyrace in July. Similarly, we don’t know much about Ondrej Fejfar of the Czech Republic, who was 11th at the Comapedrosa Skyrace in July. His 2:51 put him only 11 minutes behind winner Tom Owens. If you’ve got any more info on either of these runners, please share it.

Call for Comments

  • Who’s gonna’ take these races this weekend?
  • Montana tends to play home to some quiet champions. Which other local runners would you add to our preview? How about folks from further afield?

There are 12 comments

  1. Sam

    Ondrej Fejfar is member of Czech Skyrunning Team. He finished 2nd on Transvulcania VK and he won Transvulcania Half Marathon. Ondrej also finished 9th on World Champs in Spain this year (Vertical Kilometer).

  2. Matt Laye

    The full Mocko will be a force. He has multiple sub 2:25 marathons to his name so the 28k time wise should fit his skill set better than the longer ultras have. He is inexperienced in racing hard at altitude and the types of climbs at the Rut can’t be simulated in the Bay Area.

  3. Michael Dominguez

    Mocko should finish within top 7, he’s very fast on road and some hilly stuff, but I think he needs a lot more mountain running and higher altitude training right now. If he focused on building that up he’d be a podium for Western States or many ultras similar to that, excluding ones like Hardrock or UTMB, etc

  4. Ivan

    Well, Kiril is quite a diverse runner. Currently the best mountain runner in Bulgaria. He also does orienteering at elite level just as Marc did up to a few years ago. Last year Kiril set the speed record at the most know tourist route in Bulgaria (Kom-Emine) over 600km in the mountains and he did it under 5 days.

    Here is a little movie from another record he did a few years ago – running up Bulgaria’s five highest peaks in under 24hr.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnYXRExAzHA

    Hope that helps a bit. :)

  5. Dimitar

    Hi Guys,

    some more information about Kiril in terms of Sky Racing:

    Dolomites Skyrace 2013 – 6th
    Olympus Marathon 2015 – 2nd
    Skyrun Comapedrosa 2016 – 8th
    Dolomites Skyrace 2016 – 13th

    Current ranking in the World Sky Series – 17th, with only two races (it takes the best four for the maximum rating).

    He is now turning his career from Orienteering to Sky and Ultra racing. This is his first race in North America….

  6. Myke Hermsmeyer

    Sure I’m missing a few but some locals to keep an eye on in the 28k – Adam Jensen (Currently lives in Alaska but lived in Missoula – 7th Mount Marathon 2015 & 2016) Kaitlyn McDonald (Bozeman – 2nd Rut 50k 2013, 11th 2014, 8th 2015 and just won Bridger Ridge Run) Forrest Boughner (Missoula – 14th last year) and Jeff Rome. Also I know Teague Holmes (Breckenridge, CO) crushed this course in the winter at the Shedhron Skimo race but I’ve never seen him run.

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