Race: Stone Steps 50k – http://stonesteps50k.com/
Runner: Matt U
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Results – 3rd overall. 4:10.32
3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most
- Smaller race feel with great camaraderie. The spirit of this race was alive and well!
- The weather was absolutely gorgeous. Trails were dry and they blew the leaves off the trail the day before. It was 40s at the start, 60s at the finish. And it was sunny but not hot or tiring.
- I had friends in the race, Julie and Paavo crewing, and it was on a course I used to run back in college. All around a really fun day.
Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
There was nothing about this race that rubbed me wrong or that I didn’t like.
Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race
They had bagpipes for the start. Weird, in a good way. 🙂
Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular
I ran the race I was hoping to run. This was not an “A” race for me, but more of a long training effort, and an opportunity to practice race management skills. I accomplished my goal. I ran hard, but not too hard. I didn’t go out too hard and I didn’t crap out in the end and have to death march it in. I maintained a steady pace throughout, I wasn’t sore from it, and I had a really fun time doing all this. Lots of wins on this day!
Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
It would be easy to spend too much energy early and pay for it later. I know this advice is somewhat cliche and seemingly overstated when it comes to ultras, but people frequently make this mistake and this course could come back to haunt those that make this mistake.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
If this were a bigger race on my calendar, I would prepare better for the steps and for technical terrain. There are some rocky sections that were tough, especially since I don’t run rocky trails very often. The Stone Steps are literally a quarter mile of stone steps that climb steeply. My legs were tired and burning a little after the first round. We did these steps four times. I would train for these more next time around.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Besides knowing about the Steps, and the other steep little hill near the end of the big loop known as Gummy Bear hill (they have a can of gummy bears waiting for runners at the top), I think it’s important to have a game plan that utilizes the aid station. The course consists of four big loops (~5+ miles) and three little loops (3+ miles). At the end of each loop, runners go through the same aid station in the middle of the park. So we go through the same place six times. Having a crew with a plan could make these transitions really quick and easy. Julie had water ready for me with gels so that I hardly ever had to stop. I think this could make a big difference when thinking about times and placing.
Aesthetics – is it a pretty course
It is pretty for this part of the country, especially given the fall season and weather. If it were raining and cold, it wouldn’t be so pretty. Also, it’s beautiful on a relative basis. It’s not running on mountaintops with vistas or along ocean cliffs. It runs through a forested city park (a really big city park at 1300+ acres) in Cincinnati, OH.
Difficulty – is it a tough course
It is a challenging course. This is always a loaded question. If you’ve only done flattish road marathons, this is a really tough course. If you’ve run UTMB, it’s not that too tough of a course. The rocks make it challenging, the Stone Steps are tough, and Gummy Bear hill are tough. Otherwise, the course was fairly tame.
Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
I was really pleased with the vibe of this race, and that includes the organization. It felt like an old school race but an old school race that was organized and had done this plenty of times before.
Competition – is there a strong field?
The top two finishers are bad ass runners.
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
Easy and not very expensive. I don’t know if it sold out, but I signed up a few weeks before the race.
One aid station that you go through six times. Standard fare, though I never used anything from it other than one cup of water.
Weather and typical race conditions –
Could get nasty this time of year in Cinci with cold and rain. It could also be hot and humid. Thankfully, we got a beautiful fall day with good temps and sunny skies.
Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?
I didn’t carry anything for this race. I had some gels in my pockets and after the first two laps, I carried a half liter soft flask partially filled. Julie would have a new one ready for me to switch out after each subsequent loop. With the frequency of aid, this part of the race was easy.
Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends
You see your runner six times without ever having to move. If you have a ten month old baby, and you want a baby friendly ultra, this is it. There were some swings too for Paavo to play with while they waited!
I got a chalice with the race logo for my third place finish along with a RoadID gift certificate. For being 3rd at a small race, seems like a pretty good deal!
The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it
I’m having to be more careful with how I rate races the more races I do. This isn’t UTMB or Western States so I can’t give it the same score. However, for a small race, this one is well run, lots of fun, and if the weather is right – a great fall run. 4 out of 5 stars.