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2014 The Rut 50k Men’s Preview

Sometimes circumstances call for the quick and dirty. Fortunately, sometimes quick and dirty also feels appropriate. Such is the case with our men’s preview of the 2014 The Rut 50k. Quite simply, there are a pair of favorites, maybe another half dozen guys with good shots at the podium but still long shots for the win, and then a boatload of talented runners.

We’ll, of course, be covering The Rut live on Saturday. Thanks to Salomon Running for helping make that possible!

To see how the women’s race might play out, check out our women’s preview for The Rut. We’re also published a pre-race video interview with Sage Canaday, Paul Hamilton, and Kilian Jornet with more to come.

For The Win

Amongst the elk, the rut establishes dominance. So shall it be this weekend and the two big bulls are easily recognized from far away.

Kilian Jornet

Kilian Jornet (pre-race interview) is the king of trail running at the moment and that’s all the more true in Skyrunning events. Once or twice year, someone manages to beat him, but it’s not frequent and it’s often associated with mitigating circumstances. His year so far? A lot of wins and a second to Luis Alberto Hernando a week into his running year at Transvulcania.

Enter Sage Canaday (pre-race interview), who unabashedly is going after Kilian. He wants to beat him and wants to beat him bad. He’s clearly in top form, having sped to a win at Speedgoat in July and winning the Pikes Peak Ascent, this year’s WMRA Mountain Running Long Distance World Championships, in August. No one doubts Sage’s speed nor his climbing ability. Everyone knows Sage can’t run with Kilian on technical descents. So the question is, is there enough nontechnical terrain at The Rut to overcome the gnarly sections. I don’t see that as likely after hearing Meghan Hicks’ description of the Lone Peak section. Like Ellie Greenwood in the women’s race, if inclement weather requires the running of the alternate route, Sage does become the favorite.

I’d be remiss not to mention that aside from individual win, Sage and Kilian are battling for the Ultra Skymarathon Series title. With two races to each of their credit, Kilian holds the advantage. However, with a win on Saturday, Sage would claim the series title.

Other Contenders for the Podium

Paul Hamilton

Despite only becoming more broadly known after taking second to Sage at Speedgoat in July, Paul Hamilton (pre-race interview) is the defending champion at The Rut 50k. While it would be surprising if he could out run either Kilian or Sage: (1) We have absolutely no idea how high Paul’s potential is and (2) he can certainly pick one of them off if either falters. For the curious, he just became an athlete with The North Face. [Broken link to September 8, 2014 Never Stop Exploring blogpost entitled “Paul Hamilton Joins North Face Endurance Team” removed]

Manuel Merillas finished seventh at the Zegama Marathon, but only 10 minutes off Kilian’s course-record setting effort and still under the excellence standard that is the 4 hour mark (3:58). This year, he’s also been second at Trofeo Kima, fifth at Ice Trail Tarentaise, and seventh at Transvulcania. Time for us to learn who Mr. Merillas is!

It’s been a mixed bag for Alex Nichols when it comes to Skyrunning this year. He didn’t have great days at the Zegama Marathon nor Sierre-Zenal. However, he did run to a strong third-place finish behind Canaday and Hamilton at Speedgoat.

Adam Campbell has moved provinces and jobs this year, but that’s not kept him from moving well on the trails. From the long stuff–third at Hardrock–to the shorter stuff–speedy win at the Arc’teryx Squamish 50k, he’s on. For some reason, I see Adam really excelling on this course’s terrain. However, he lives at sea level–unlike most of his fellow top competitors–and The Rut tops out at 11,166′!

Tom Owens is back from injury this year and ready to knock one out of the park. He’s been active on the Euro Skyrunning scene with a sixth at Transvulcania, third at Ice Trail Tarentaise, and fourth at Kima. Those results are stronger than his at shorter Skyrunning races this year. He’s currently in second in the Ultra Skymarathon series, ahead of Kilian Jornet and behind Manuel Merillas.

Rickey Gates

If Rickey Gates has a good day, he could find himself on the podium. Back in 2012, he was second across the line at the Speedgoat 50k before later being declared the winner. This year, Gates took fourth at Speedgoat, but ran half an hour slower. (The course is now slower, but by 10 minutes, plus or minus.) In early August, Gates won the classic 9-mile La Luz race.

Dan Kraft makes this pool by nature of his speed and fourth against top competition at The North Face 50 Mile in San Francisco last December. For a guy who appears to come from the just-plain-fast background, he did win Bozeman, Montana’s gnarly Bridger Ridge Run last year. He took second at the Ridge Run in 2012, five minutes behind Mike Wolfe, who set a course record, and a good ways ahead of Mike Foote in third.

More Top Ten Contenders

  • Galen Burrell — My pick for a big upside surprise. A decade ago, he won the Pikes Peak Marathon and was runner up there a couple times in that era. Last year, he was fourth at the race. He was in good position (fourth or fifth?) before going off-course at Speedgoat in July.
  • Oscar Casal — A fixture in the European Skyrunning scene. He was seventh at the Zermatt Ultraks 46k a few weeks ago.
  • Fulvio Dapit — Strong Italian who’s been fourth at the past two editions of Ice Trail Tarentaise.
  • Nick Elson — An unknown quantity who won the Arc’teryx Squamish 50 mile last month.
  • Ryan Ghelfi — Steadily improving with solid, top-ten finishes at top races over the past year. This year, took fourth at Chuckanut and sixth at the Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
  • Luke Nelson — This is a course for Luke. He blazed a course-record win at the El Vaquero Loco 50k in August and won the Bighorn 100 mile in June. On the other hand, he’s had rough days at the Red Hot Moab 55k and Speedgoat 50ks this year. Third at last year’s Rut 50k.
  • Philipp Reiter — This year, he took third place at the Coastal Challenge stage race in Costa Rica, was eighth at the 82km at Grancanaria, and 12th at Transvulcania. More recently, he was fifth at the Mont-Blanc 80k.
  • Justin Ricks — A speedster who’s won the last two Red Hot Moab 33ks. Was fifth at Pikes Peak Marathon in 2009.
  • Catlow Shipek — Catlow has his sights firmly set on the US Skyrunning ultra series crown. He was seventh at Speedgoat in July.
  • Matty Shryock — Who? A Missoula, Montana resident who took second place at last year’s The Rut 50k, six minutes behind Paul Hamilton. Won the Bighorn 50k in June. Could be the top Montanan in the race.
  • Greg Vollet – Salomon team manager who’s also a speedster himself. Could be anywhere from fifth to 15th.
  • Jeremy Wolf — Fourth at The Rut 50k last year. Had rough goes at the Way Too Cool and the Speedgoat 50ks this year.

The Montana Trail Crew also has a preview that does a good job of identifying some more of the local contenders.

Other Men to Know

  • Marc Casal
  • Jamil Coury
  • T.J. Hooks (Top 17 year old in field?)
  • Josh Korn
  • Jeff Krar (don’t know anything about him… other than he’s related to Rob!)
  • Carles Rossell
  • Damian Stoy
  • Michael Versteeg

Entered But Not Racing

  • Cameron Clayton
  • David Laney

Call for Comments

  • Ok, so will it be Kilian, Sage, or someone else taking home the win?
  • Any others who’ll challenge for a podium spot?
  • Anyone else deserve a mention? Know of anyone on the list who’s definitely not racing?
Bryon Powell: is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com, which he founded more than 10 years ago. Having spent more than 15 years as an ultrarunner and 25 years as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. These days he calls Moab, Utah and its trails home.

View Comments (42)

  • I think Sage might take this one. Not sure if Kilian is motivated to take it all out, but you never know. He is certainly a man to beat. He has been in top shape this year.

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    • Motivation doesn't matter, victory is victory, defeat is defeat.

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  • I thought Ghelfi was doing RRR100?

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  • I am running RRR. It's tough to choose races anymore. Have to try my hand at 100 miles though.

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  • I take this as meaning coverage this year will be of the rut and not RRR?

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  • Jason Delaney is a local to watch (2nd at Pikes Peak Marathon this year, after getting 7th in the Ascent the day before). He should give Shryock a run for the top Montanan.

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  • "He wants to beat him and wants to beat him bad." Bryon wrote that....it's not a quote from me. I'm not going to lie though...I am a very competitive person...I want to try to win every MUT race I do..that is not a secret. More importantly though, I think that pushing yourself 100% in a race and getting the most out of your potential is the real key - and top competition usually helps facilitate that. In closing, I agree with you though...Kilian has a lot more outlets in the sport with climbing, mountaineering, and his really cool projects so he probably hasn't spent as much time worrying about this race.

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    • I've underestimated Sage a few times in the past. He will do more than keep KJ honest that is for sure.

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    • Motivation, time spent for preparation for specific race don't matter, victory is victory, defeat is defeat and it will be remembered.

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  • What happened to Cam Clayton? I remember him tearing it up last year, but haven't heard anything since UROC 2013 I believe. Just curious, and hope all is well with him.

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    • Cameron Clayton had surgery this year.

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  • I am just super stoked to be toeing the line at a race with the likes of Sage, Killian, etc etc ... Can't wait!

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  • I think Mr. Clayton has been over in Europe for a few months racing over there?

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    • He had ankle surgery and is out for the year.

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  • Good luck Sage!

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  • Bryon are you not covering RRR this year? I was hoping to shake your hand!

    For me - I'm liking Paul Hamilton for the win here, realizing this is an upset choice. He knows the course, and he's an incredibly skilled climber. Sage will come to win, as he always does, and I hope he nails it too. I think Killian is a big question mark with these kinds of races. Killian placed 4th at UROC. Depends how interested he is.

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    • No Run Rabbit Run for me this year. Sorry. Was almost headed that way, but, fortunately, Meghan Hicks's injury healed up and she's running the Tor des Geants and Italy at the moment... so I'm off to Montana.

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      • All the best to Meghan @ Tor Des Geants! Sorry to not see you at RRR, but enjoy Montana. RRR is stacked this year with talent, just like previous.

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  • Galen Burrell is not coming, unfortunately. He's healthy, just needs to stay closer to home. Targeting TNF50 in December.

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  • Additional Rut preview information including Q&A with Kilian, Sage, Ellie, Anna, Rickey, and others elites is at http://www.montanatrailcrew.com, the Montana source for trail running.

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    • Thanks for the link. Good info.

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  • There is a "Swan Swanson" from Missoula on the registrant list. Is that Seth Swanson?

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    • That's Seth's father. Seth will likely be there helping mark the course like he did last year.

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      • Like father, like son. Very cool.

        Although I think Swan missed an opportunity naming his son "Seth".

        "Swanson Swanson" would've been awesome.

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  • 1. Kilian
    2. Sage
    3. Campbell

    (Wait... am I allowed to make predictions since I am the event timer?)

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  • J Marshall Thomson is a very strong Coloradan. Mostly races sub ultra and also US SkiMo team member. Dark horse shredder.

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  • Have you seen the videos of the descents in this race? Kilian and friends filmed a new one today. The race is for second place. No offense intended to any of the great athletes running. But talk about tailor-made.

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    • Just watched it. Agreed. He was running the scree with his hands in his pockets!!!

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    • Are those videos online? Thx...

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  • I saw that too and just laughed out loud. In fairness, he has spent his entire life running in mountains. So I dont feel so bad about face-planting on buffed out fire-roads when I try to copy his descending skills.

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  • I believe Kilian is also running the Vertical Kilometer on Friday... I know he's done this sort of double before; does it really not take anything out of him? Or will it be the difference between first and second?

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    • He did the same in Chamonix at the end of June. : he first won the VK in front of some of the world's best specialists (Zemmer, Padua, Dematteis...) and then easily won the Marathon du Mont Blanc two days later, the race that counted for this year's Skyrunning World championships. Now we are nearing the end of the season and he might feel a little more tired, but I wouldn't bet on that !

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