The weather always seems to play a role at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. Last year we sat in a cloud all day and saw some seriously fast times as a result. This year Mother Nature delivered blue skies and bright sunshine, which made for a tough back half for many of our runners. Perseverance, patience and cool heads were the name of the game, and despite a record number of DNFs (21), we were excited to also see a record number of finishers (216) work their way through the course and conditions.
We’ve always considered the Blue Sky Marathon to be a great test of all around trail running ability. The course opens with an honest climb up Towers and Carey Springs before launching into a loose descent on Stout. The middle section of the race is fast and relatively flat, but run those miles too hard and the technical Devil’s Backbone and punchy Indian Summer sections of the course can leave runners wishing they had just a bit more juice to finish out the zippy final four miles of the trail.
The two runners who mastered the intricacies of the course the best this year were Brent Kocis (3:27:35) and Jeanne Cooper (3:56:34; 8th overall). They both went home with a new pair of shoes from Salomon Running and a beautiful handmade pottery award from local artist Amy Hayman. Both of our winners dipped under the magical four-hour mark, just two of nine to do so. This compares to 18 sub-4-hour finishers last year.
In the men’s race, Brent was followed home by James Walsh (3:35:04) and Eric Nau (3:39:13). The women’s podium was rounded out by Kala Maus (4:19:47) and Meghan Spieker (4:26:25), who finished 15th and 16th overall.
The master’s victories went to Mike Neal – a race sponsor through his downtown business Mary’s Mountain Cookies – and Clara Glaze of Red Feather Lakes. Our grandmasters winners were Steve Chaffee and Karen Smidt who was out testing her legs six weeks removed from running the Leadville 100.
- Erin Bibeau (Towers & Finish)
- Bradley Olwin (Laughing Horse)
- Rob Raguet-Schofield (Stout & Indian Summer)
In addition to keeping track of our fastest finishers, we also like to keep track of our oldest, and we had a new record on that front in the men’s division with Juergen Kuhlmey of Fort Lauderdale, FL resetting the record books with a 7:57 finish at the age of 78. We also had a youngest ever female finisher this year. Congratulations to 17-year-old Claire Hayhow on her 7:06 finish.
And this year we saw three runners complete the Gnar Slam, finishing the 2016 renditions of the Quad Rock 50, the Never Summer 100km, the Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon and the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. Elijah Flenner posted the fastest cumulative time of the season/ever at 27:14:14. He was followed by Aaron Youngberg and Brian Boyes. They join last year’s sole completer, Rob Raguet-Schofield, in the Gnar Slam Pantheon.
And of course, our races would simply not be the same without the magnificent support of our volunteers. From Towers to the Hunter turnaround, the Blue Sky volunteers were out there on course keeping runners motivated, fed and hydrated. As always, race participants were glowing in their praise of the volunteers, whether they were parking cars in the morning, marshaling runners at the turns or filling bottles at the aid stations.
To you all, a huge THANK YOU.
We also couldn’t put on our trail races without the help of our wonderful sponsors, all of whom are tireless supporters of the Northern Colorado running scene. So thank you Salomon Running, Colorado in Motion, Drymax Socks, Altitude Running, Justin Liddle DMD, Countryside Vet, and the Fort Collins Running Club for your incredible race support.
The Blue Sky Trail Marathon marks the end of the 2016 season for us at Gnar Runners, but we are already looking forward to bigger and better things for 2017.
If you enjoyed Blue Sky, consider running the Horsetooth Half Marathon in April, the 25 or 50 mile Quad Rock races in May, the Never Summer 100km in July, the Black Squirrel Half Marathon in September, and of course the Blue Sky Marathon in October.
Thank you all again for a wonderful season, and see you in 2017!