Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series still on
The Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS), a series of eight races on the public lands of Southwest Montana, will be held from July 16 to 26. Due to Covid-19, the vast majority of sporting events across the United States have been canceled or postponed. The GYAS races, which include an Olympic distance triathlon and duathlon, two marathons, a 5K running race, two 50K ultra marathons, and a gravel road cycling race, are the exception for the state of Montana and the nation. The races have been downsized and re-purposed to comply with Montana’s Phase Two conditions for COVID. The key requirement was to limit each race to no more than 50 athletes and to enforce social distance requirements among other adjustments.
“We were more than happy to comply with Governor Bullock’s Phase Two requirements. It meant we could host our races in a safe way and continue to show off Montana’s public lands,” said Sam Korsmoe, the race director and owner of the GYAS. The races are held in Madison County and primarily within the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest. These events require a permit from the US Forest Service. Korsmoe also reached out to the Madison County Public Health Department with his plans for hosting the races in compliance with Phase Two restrictions.
The first four races of the series are from July 16 to 19 and these are the 9th Annual Madison Triathlon (July 16), 9th Annual Madison Duathlon (July 17), 13th Annual Madison Marathon (July 18), and the 6th Annual Big Sky Marathon (July 19). The triathlon and duathlon are both Olympic-distance road events. The marathons (full and half) are high-altitude events held on the Gravelly Range Road in the Gravelly Range mountains outside of Ennis. The Madison route averages 9,000 feet in elevation while the Big Sky is a downhill marathon that starts up on the Gravelly Range and descends to the Madison River. The following weekend the series hosts the 25th Annual Madison River Run, a.k.a. the Water to Whiskey 5K in Ennis (July 24), the Inaugural Madison Ultras (July 25), and the 4th Annual Tour de Gravelly (July 26). The Inaugural Madison Ultras are 50K running races in two directions. The Madison Ultra Up starts on the banks of the Madison River and runners run up the Gravelly Range Road to the finish line at Monument Ridge which is at 9,587 feet. The Madison Ultra Down is the exact opposite with the runners starting at Monument Ridge and then running downhill to the Madison River. The Tour de Gravelly is a 55 mile gravel road cycling race that starts in Ennis and goes up and over the Gravelly Range to the Ruby Valley.
Considering the devastating impact of COVID across the USA, most marathons and other sporting events have been canceled. Korsmoe did not cancel the events outright though online registration ceased shortly after it opened in early March. Some athletes took offered refunds or chose to defer to 2021 while others decided to wait it out and hope for the best. With a new cap on participants of 50 athletes, online registration re-opened on July 1 for the remaining spots available.
“I’ve been receiving emails every day from athletes around the USA looking for marathons to compete in,” said Korsmoe who is based in Ennis for the races. “When we received the green light from the Madison County Health Department and the US Forest Service, we had to kick everything into high gear to meet our deadlines even with only 50 athletes per event,” he added and noted that there are still spots available for each race.
The last minute preparations included the design of the race shirts which features the strangeness of the year with a hopefully humorous twist. The design comes from the inaugural Madison Marathon in 2008.
“There has been nothing but bad news recently. The GYAS is a community. It’s so nice to be able to host these races and give everyone something to celebrate, share, and most importantly enjoy the great outdoors of Montana,” said Korsmoe.