Big and Hot – Big Butts 50K Preview

I am going to run my first ultra marathon this Saturday, that’s the plan at least. The Big Butts 50k is at Butts Park in Clinton, MS. Here’s a link to some videossome bikers made of the trail so you can get a feel for the terrain and what the course looks like. It’s a loop through the woods that’s about 6 miles long, so you run that 5 times plus an extra mile at the end. The course is about a 30 minute drive from where I live, so it makes a good choice for a first ultra. The course is mostly flat and pretty at times, but it’s not going to win any awards for the most beautiful of venues.

What makes this race unique is the timing. It’s at the end of July, in Mississippi, it’s HOT! I looked up the previous years finish times and the winners are running 10 minute mile paces. My marathon pace in cooler weather is 8:15 per mile. I will have to remind myself to respect the heat and s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.

Here are my goals for the race:

– Age group – Top 3
– Males – Top 5
– Overall – Top 7

I plan to get to the race about an hour before the start and set up a chair and gear bag on the trail near the parking area. I’m hoping that doing that the morning of the race will work. There are something like 50 runners registered for the race, so there won’t be a ton of competition for good spots and I don’t need much space.

Race strategy will be important. In the weeks leading up to a big race, I usually mull over multiple race strategy options, pick one, change my mind, pick another one, change my mind, pick another one or go back to the first one, then race day do something completely different. I’m on track having changed my mind once already. Here are the strategies I am considering:

1. Go out at a 10:00 mile pace and plan on running the whole thing, with only brief slowdowns to grab fluids or calories. Stop only to change socks, once, maybe twice.

2. Go out at 9:45 pace and take some 1 minute walk breaks in the first 20 miles. Should work out to about a 10:00 mile pace overall. This is a strategy advocated by Jeff Galloway who is a famous marathoner and coach. I’ve used this strategy with success in marathons.

3. Go out at whatever pace the leaders go out at and see how long I can hold on.

Strategy 1 and 2 sound pretty smart. Strategy 3 is what I want to do, but it’s dumb. I think I’ll go with Strategy 1 but probably not for the right reasons, mostly just the pride of saying, I ran the whole thing with minimal walking. Pride is a poor way to make a decision, so perhaps I will go with Strategy 2. Strategy 2 will probably yield the best result while leaving more energy for the end of the race.

Planning on eating and drinking more than I usually do during a marathon. Just relax and do what I feel like doing. I have probably listened to too much advice and over complicated the eating and drinking part of marathon races. I’ll be back in a few days with a race recap and to let you know if I made accomplished my goals in the Big Butts 50K.

Which race strategy would you use for a 50K in 90F heat?