By Mike Foote
It’s August and you know what that means—The Rut Mountains Runs are just around the corner. With only a few weeks until the big event, it’s time to shift our focus from training to race-day execution.
Here are some tips on how to successfully run The Rut.
Know the course. This will give you confidence going into race day and allow you to have a plan. I like to break the race down from aid station to aid station, and know how much water and food I will need between points. By researching the course and knowing the terrain, I can assess what sections will play to my strengths or challenge my weaknesses. With this in mind, I can plan when to push and when to take it more conservatively.
It’s also important to have a plan when it comes to aid stations. They can be a great boost of energy when you most need it—not only to top off your nutrition and hydration needs, but to feel the energy from the crowd and volunteers. At the Swift Current aid station, there will be hundreds of spectators on race day. This can be a hectic environment and it can be easy to forget the things you need most. To mitigate this, I like to go into an aid station with a plan. For example, as I head in, I’ll think to myself “No matter what, I have four things to accomplish: dump trash, fill one water bottle, ingest 400 calories, and give someone—anyone!—a high five. This allows me to execute at a crucial time in the race and ensures I am taking care of myself.
Run your own race. Yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s also easier said than done. The Rut courses are extremely dynamic in nature and require you to focus only on your effort and pacing, not someone else’s. Paying attention to your energy and needs in the first half of the race will pay dividends in the second half.
Roll with the punches. It’s rare when things go exactly as planned. When something comes up that you weren’t expecting it’s important to focus on fixing the situation rather than dwelling on how it’s negatively impacting your race. If a shoe comes untied, don’t panic, just tie the shoe and get back in the race. If it’s something larger like a big bonk, don’t panic, just begin working to get through it by eating more calories and taking down more fluids. A great race is not one without issues, but one where you stay calm and manage the inevitable challenges quickly, while staying cool, calm and collected.
Be prepared for any type of weather. The Rut Mountain Runs have a history of having extreme weather conditions of all kinds. In 2016 it snowed, and in 2017 there was wildfire smoke and heat. Don’t let the weather be the reason you have a bad race. If it’s going to be cold, bring a jacket, gloves and a hat. The weight of these items are well worth it if they protect you from the elements and keep you warm and dry. If it’s hot, be sure to carry enough water between aid stations to stay properly hydrated.
Sometimes walking is faster than running. It sounds counterintuitive yet it’s true. On the Rut course specifically, I’ve seen many people trying too hard to keep running up the steep and technical sections, when walking would have saved energy and ultimately led to a faster time.
Don’t forget to have fun. We all sign up for this race because we want a challenge, but also because it sounded like fun. So don’t forget to smile on occasion.
Lastly, be nice. We can all lift each other up and support one another during a challenging mountain race. Thank a volunteer, encourage another runner and, perhaps most importantly, be good to yourself. You’ve earned a spot on the start line just like everyone else. Positive self-talk throughout a race is proven to close the gap between your performance and your potential.
We cannot wait to celebrate a weekend of mountain running with you in Big Sky over Labor Day weekend. Run the Rut!
Mike Foote is the Rut Mountain Runs race director and a Global Athlete for The North Face. He started the Rut Mountain Runs six years ago with a desire to bring a world-class running event to Montana.