By Melinda Turner
Explorebigsky.com Contributor

Sept. 14 marks a turning point for Big Sky endurance athletes. It’s the day of the inaugural Rut 50K, and excitement is growing. Mike Wolfe and Mike Foote, race directors and athletes for The North Face, have built an ultramarathon to rival the country’s top big mountain races.

The course is set, the race is at capacity, and runners have been readying for the grueling 31.07-mile-run and its daunting 8,200-foot elevation gain. Here are six vital nutrition and training tips to prepare for a race of this caliber:

Bio-individuality

What works for Johnny won’t necessarily work for Suzy. Each person assimilates food differently, meaning a giant bowl of pasta the night before a race might make you feel great in the morning, but it would leave the next guy bloated and groggy. The trick here is to tune into your body. This takes practice, and focusing on how you feel after certain meals.

Stick with familiar foods on race day

Once you find what works for you, don’t make changes the day of the race. There will be four aid stations during The Rut, with plenty of food and water for runners. But, if you know Spirulina Dream Raw Revolution bars are what your body craves, throw a few in your racing pack. An average runner needs to ingest 1-1.5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per hour. Solid foods provide about half of these, and the rest should be from gels and sports drinks. Remember to start eating early. Don’t wait until you feel sluggish to start putting energy back in your body.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Before the race even starts, make sure you’re hydrated. Drink 2-3, eight-ounce glasses of water in the morning and consume approximately one liter per hour during the race. Keep in mind women tend to need less water than men because of their size; additionally, you may need more water on hotter days or due to excessive sweating.

On the other side, be aware of hyponatremia, a condition where there is too little sodium – relative to water – in the bloodstream, sometimes caused by excessive hydration. It happens when lost sweat (salt and water) is replaced with ingested water (no salt). Hyponatremia occurs in only around 5 percent of ultra athletes, but can be quite serious.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that during ultra-endurance events, athletes consume 500-700 milligrams of sodium for every 32 oz. of water they consume. This will prevent hyponatremia and keep you running on your merry way.

Cross Train

The easiest way to stay injury free is to have a specific strengthening and flexibility routine. This will support muscles, ligaments and tendons, protecting them against fatigue and injury. As little as a 15-minute routine completed 2-3 times a week will make a world of difference.

Rest

Letting the body rest is just as important as going out on long runs. Most training programs include one long run, a few moderate and short runs, and two rest days per week. The Internet is a great tool to research training programs and cater them to meet your needs, schedule and goals.

Running Form

By eliminating unnecessary movements, you’ll reduce injury and improve efficiency. Having a gait analysis done will save you aches, pains and injuries in the future, and can help you find the perfect shoe for your foot. And as they say, “If the shoe fits…”

Best of luck in what is sure to be a grueling good time. See you at the finish line!

Melinda Turner is the founder and holistic health coach for Montana Holistic Living. When not spreading her health and wellness message, you can find her running up big mountains, skiing down them, or frolicking around them with her husband and their two huskies.