*** Please note that there have been some minor changes to the course for 2015.
Cayuga Trails 50 has an excellent course. It is challenging, yet runnable. It is beautiful – but you’d better watch where you’re going!
For this review of the course, I’m going to break it down aid station to aid station. If you still have any specific questions about the course, feel free to ask.
Sections 1 & 7 (Start to 2.9 miles, 25 miles to 27.9 miles)
There are two tenths of a mile on flat grass to get you warmed up – then you start climbing on a jeep road. It is a gradual climb, but it is pretty relentless. Before getting to the mile mark, you’ll already have tacked on 300 feet of elevation. The next mile is relatively flat in terms of elevation, but watch where you’re going! The “paved” paths in this section are tricky and the “stairs” can wreak havoc on your joints.
Near the start of the third mile, you’ll turn onto Red Pine. You’ll gain nearly 300 feet of elevation in half a mile. Unless you’re a lot tougher than me, you’ll be hiking this part. The good news is that once you’re at the top of Red Pine, you can cruise half a mile downhill into the aid station.
Sections 2 & 8 (2.9 miles to 6.9 miles, 27.9 miles to 31.9 miles)
After leaving the aid station, you’ll run on some relatively smooth trails for a bit (although you have to jump over a few trees that are down). These bring you to the cliff staircase – it’s a little disorienting because you’re looking down at the tops of trees. Last year, Ian had some helpers on the stairs to make sure you didn’t do anything stupid. Take your time here – I promise you that your race will not be won/lost on the stairs. There is one more modest climb (200 feet of elevation in half a mile) and then a two-mile descent all the way to the next aid station.
Sections 3 & 9 (6.9 miles to 12.4 miles & 31.9 miles to 37.4 miles)
In my mind, this section is the [vegan] meat and potatoes of the course. It has river crossings, huge hills, mud, slop, snakes (although I didn’t see any) and heat.
After crossing the big river (with rain last night, the river will probably be almost waist deep), there is a short flat section and then you hit a monster climb. In about a mile, you’ll climb nearly 700 feet of elevation. There are switchbacks – but you’ll probably still be hiking most of it. There are a few false summits – now that you know, don’t let them discourage you. The good news? Once you hit the top (around 8.9 miles, 33.9 miles), it’s flat/downhill for the next three miles.
Sections 4 & 10 (12.4 miles to 18.1 miles & 37.4 miles to 43.1 miles)
The next part of the course is a little tricky. There are lots of stone steps and they’ll be wet. In addition, the second time you go through, there will probably be tourists – a lot of them have kids. Be careful. Don’t be an asshole. With that being said, after the aid station, you’ll climb fairly quickly – 550 feet within a mile. After that, it is gradual and definitely runnable. You’ll go back through the mud and slop. You’ll suffer a little in the heat. Keep moving. Around mile 15.4/40.4, you’ll hit the ridge. If downhills are your thing, you’re going to be stoked. You’ll shed 700 feet of elevation over the next two miles. The entire thing is runnable and not overly technical. Pay attention to what you’re doing and try not to blow out your quads the first time through.
Sections 5 & 11 (18.1 miles to 22.1 miles & 43.1 miles to 47.1 miles)
The bad news is this section has two decent climbs – one of them being the cliff staircase. The good news is that the first climb is fairly gradual and the trails are in excellent condition. The west-coasters will be happy – finally some trails that remind them of home!
Sections 6 & 12 (22.1 miles to 25 miles & 47.1 miles to 50 miles)
Personally, I think this section is pretty difficult. On the one hand, it’s almost all downhill – you lose nearly 600 feet of elevation over 3 miles. With that being said, coming down Red Pine is pretty rough – a few hundred feet of descent on loose stone. Then you hit the “paved trails” – the pavement is broken, the stairs are uneven and there are roots everywhere. Once again, you may hit some tourists or day-hikers on the way back. Be courteous!
To sum up, this course has a little of everything (except altitude – Ithaca is about 500 feet above sea level). There are technical trails, wicked climbs, steep descents, stairs, roots, rocks and water crossings. As an added bonus, there may be heat and humidity. The course is well-marked, and the out-and-back nature of much of the course allows us to encourage each other.
A theme song for Cayuga Trails? I think it should be something by The Roots (after the race, you’ll get it):