5 Tips For Surviving A Trail Race Like The Rut

In September I raced in a true mountain race, The Rut at big Sky Resort in Montana. This race is awesome for so many reasons. Number one, it’s in my backyard. Who doesn’t love a local race? Number two, it is not your average trail run. I raced the 25K, which covered about 18 miles of trail up and around the resort but—and that’s a big BUT—we gained nearly 8,000 feet of steep ridge climbing and then had to withstand a long, technical decent along precipitous ridge lines, dangerous if run too fast. Here are the things that helped me survive.

Fueling up, for real
When we're talking about endurance events, you can’t forget the importance of fuel. For me, fuel is everything from a few beers the night before to calculated caloric intake during and after the race. I use Hammer Nutrition for racing. I think the Hammer Gels are the best, easy to eat on the run and they never freeze. I ate one per hour plus plenty of water.

Taking one trusty trekking pole
OK, I know this sounds funny, but for some reason, one is better then two for me. It’s all about personal preference. When I’m guiding on Mount Rainier, I only use one pole, so when I run, I also only use one pole. It lets me use my other hand for carrying a gel, holding on to a fixed line or just dangling at my side to swell up and turn my fingers into useless sausages. Nonetheless, I only use one. My one trekking pole is a key tool on the steep descents for keeping balance and taking some of the impact off my knees.

A layer like the Deviator Hoody
Whenever you go into the mountains, you need to be prepared—even if it's an official race course. The weather can still change rapidly. We could have blistering sunshine one minute and the next it can be snowing and blowing sideways. I used my Outdoor Research Deviator Hoody as my all-purpose layer on this run, and all mountain runs. It's warm, wind resistant, has a hood and thumbholes. I able to keep my core, my head and my hands warm with one piece of gear that still sheds excess heat. It's a must-have piece in your mountain kit.

Having suffer buddies
What's better than hours upon hours in the mountains? Hours in the mountains with other people who love the mountains. I don’t always race to win, I mostly race to share the experience of being in beautiful places with other people who appreciate it. It brings a different level of joy when you share the experience with others.

Relying on mental toughness
Last but not least, I would not have survived the Rut without some serious mental toughness. Physical stamina aside, any event that takes you on multiple hours, often with no one else in sight, can take a toll on the psyche.  Over the last few years I've climbed Mount Rainier almost 50 times, completed an Ironman triathlon and plenty of long solo training sessions. We train not only for the physical aspects of these endurance events, but also for the key mental aspects. We push past comfortable, past fun and block out the pain. You keep going, keep running, keep moving forward because you know in the end it's worth it. The fight, the sweat the blood dripping down your leg from falling and rolling down the hill are all worth it. Crossing the finish line, summiting a mountain, skiing a beautiful line … each experience is worth the pain and suffering. So get out there and enjoy the Mountains!