By Jack Kurisky
After a few relaxing days in the Tetons, we headed northeast to continue our 2015 Western adventure. Our destination was the Ghosts of Yellowstone 100-mile run in the Tobacco Roots Mountains of Southwest Montana. We stayed in Ennis, MT and made the trek to Pony, MT (race HQ) for the 2015 edition of Rampage the Roots. The race series includes a 100-miler (starts Friday), 50k and 50 miler (starts Saturday), a bit of an ultra festival. The 100-mile featured a simplified course. Starting from Pony, you headed up and over a pass and completed a far loop. You then headed back over the pass and completed a 10-mile loop before heading back to the start and doing it again. However when completing the second loop, the far loop is run in reverse which results in a challenging, sustained 10-mile climb when you have 60 miles on the legs and the sun is setting.
The festivities started with a pre-race meal and briefing on Friday afternoon, located at the Start/Finish area. Runners were able to tent camp the night before or use the historic Pony Gym for lodging accommodations. During the race on Friday, we encountered occasional smoke from distant Montana fires. We could see some blue tint in the horizon. Late Friday night we could smell the smoke. But it was never a concern or a problem for myself. Coming west for the race, I was acclimated to DC heat and humidity. I found the temps to be comfortable during the day. Friday night was cool, but the pass at the highest point of the race was cold with sustained winds, a few spots of snow and mist, which made visibility a bit of a challenge. I was tackling this section the coldest part of the night with lower energy and the sleep monster hanging on my back. Four 10-minute naps along the trail sustained me until day light when the sun revived my spirits. During the race I saw elk and deer and was not really concerned about bigger animals on the food chain tracking me. Saturday saw cloudy, cooler weather before the sun peeked out Saturday afternoon.
Special thanks to Athletic Equation (Christine and Alexander Papadopoulos and Scott Crabb), Team Kurisky (Jacqueline Dreher Kurisky, Anna Kurisky, JP Kurisky, Megan Kurisky), and all the volunteers on the course. I cannot say I used much from my drop bags given the quality of food and drink at the aid stations (multiple beers and burgers along the way). The finish line had great food and plenty of micro-beer. Personally I really enjoyed the low-key vibe of the race. There are even a local hot-springs involved, and all runners were treated to a complimentary post race soap (it works wonders on your recovery). I know Alex and Max are trying to grow the race and coming from the beltway of DC, there was something special looking down from 9,000 feet at 3 a.m. and seeing no lights and no human sounds. Just the sounds of the wind through the pines! I loved the intimacy of the race and did not have to share the trail with 900 of my closest friends.
If you are looking for a western challenge with a decent amount of climbing, no significant acclimation and fantastic views, and a UTMB qualifier, consider Rampage the Roots for 2016. The dates for 2016 are AUG 20 and AUG 21. Why sweat the lotteries and weigh-ins? See you there!