Lt. JC Stone 50K 2014 Race Report

by Lou D’Angelo, RD

All week the forecast called for rain, so we were ready for it when it DIDN’T RAIN! I was one happy race director. The 2014 Lt. JC Stone 50K had record sign-ups and the largest field ever. We had 106 register and 89 make it to the start. This year we had the highest drop rate. Seventy-seven of our runners made it to the finish line! There is one number that really stands out for 2014. That number is 3:17:54. The finish time that Ben English put up on the finish clock to smash the course record. The prior record was 3:21:56 set by second place finisher Andrew Bartle back in 2011. This year brought back our top two female runners from 2012. Stacy Kopchak went on to win her second Lt. JC Stone in 4:03:56, while Christine Forrest pushed Stacy for much of the race and placed second. The race for third female was close with Brynn Aljoe and Kelly Dworak, separated by 30 years, and finishing within 35 seconds of each other.

I asked our runners to write this year’s race report, and here is how they saw the event:

Audrey Burgoon, “This was my sixth consecutive Lt. JC Stone 50K. It took me several years before I realized that it’s more about the race experience than a finish time. The more you appreciate where you are in your life that resulted in that finish time, the more satisfied you will be.” Besides being a very insightful runner and six-time finisher of the event, Audrey provided the amazing pulled pork sandwiches and stuffed French toast that our volunteers and runners enjoyed post-race!

Gracious in victory is our first female, Stacy Kopchak, “Hats off to all the volunteers, again they did an outstanding job. I highly recommend this race for anyone curious enough to want to run further than a marathon. This is my fifth year running the race. I like the looped course and look forward to the cheering crowd and words of encouragement from friends and family each time I run through the start/finish area. I was excited to defend my last year’s first place women’s finish. You never know what can happen during an ultra race. I enjoyed running with Christine (Forrest) for a few loops – we had a great conversation – she is an awesome runner!” Yes, that’s our first and second place women having a conversation while racing each other!

Mary Siegel used the 50k to help with her 100-mile race training. I often hear this from ultrarunners, using a shorter race to get fired up for a much longer race goal. “I could not be more thrilled that I chose this race. It made me happy to know the funds raised are for a great cause. The athletes were of all abilities which is inspiring, humbling and made for a great group to chat with. Most importantly the volunteers and race staff were fantastic. I’m still dreaming about the strawberry stuffed French toast. I moved to Morgantown, WV this past June. I started a small running group with the idea of finding new running partners. We are an unlikely group who have formed a great friendship over miles shared on the trail. One of them, Daniel Vanderbelt,  joined me at this race. It was his first 50k. Two other group members made the trek from West Virginia to pace us the final lap. The Lt. JC Stone was the perfect race for a new ultramarathoner. The course made it simple for our pacers to find us. The RD goes above and beyond to award each finisher (with the race medal as they cross the finish line). I plan to come back year after year.”

Tracey Kryskoiak, who finished her first ultra said, “The Ultra atmosphere was AMAZING. I was at or near the end most of the race, but was taken care of and cheered for like I was in the lead. My right knee hurt like crazy. Funny, my biggest motivation was being able to wear my race shirts (we received two of them). I couldn’t wear them if I didn’t finish. As I went past the aid station, finally jogging, I asked what would happen if I couldn’t finish in the allotted time. Lou (the RD) told me to finish…he would wait. I kept going, passing a random walker with a dog. I stopped to pet that dog to cheer myself up, then called my husband crying about my knee. He told me not to hurt myself more. I told him I had to finish. My time was 7 hours and 39 minutes. I finished! My first ultra was nothing I expected and yet so much more. The finish line and clock were gone, but the RD, the photographer and a group of volunteers were still there. This was such a personable event. I was able to run with my little cousin across the invisible finish line. I don’t know whose day that made more, mine or his. After finishing, Lou put my finisher medal on me and I was able to get a great picture with my crew. That was when I smiled. I was finally an ultramarathoner!”

Ben Brucker summed it up nicely: “The JC Stone is a race that I look forward to every year. Having an ultramarathon in Pittsburgh in March helps me to stay focused and train hard during the cold months of winter. I like that this race is a nice and simple race with a small field of runners, a friendly crowd and a great post race meal.”

Mark Cangemi (third overall) said, “I felt so valued and appreciated as a runner in this event, and the volunteers went above and beyond to do all of the little things that it takes to make the race experience a memorable and positive one!” Mark set a PR in the marathon during the 50k. His comments on the people who volunteer were much appreciated. “The people were really great! I have never had volunteers care the way that this group did, thanking the runners for coming, asking to take photos with us, motivating us with comments on the course. This has such a personalized caring feel to it. And again…. I was just blown away by the lady who made the French toast cream cheese sandwiches.”

Let’s let Mike Salamon have the last word. “There are many reasons to run the JC Stone 50K. Some run with the goal of just to finish, and this race is ideal for those looking to complete their first ultra. There are the front-runners, those looking to actually win, and in this race there is plenty of competition for that. I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve completed the JC Stone 50K three times and while I’m not going to threaten any leaders in the race or any records, my motivations were obtaining a personal best time and enjoying the spirit of competition and the atmosphere of the Lt. JC Stone 50K!

Saturday, March 21, 2015 is the next opportunity to run the Lt. JC Stone 50K.