2020 Blue Sky Marathon Post-Race Recap

We’ve had a wide variety of weather conditions over the years at the Blue Sky Trail Marathon, but never quite as much weather as we had for the 13th running. Indeed, we were served up a proper dose of 2020 in the form of gale force winds, sideways snow squalls, intermittent sun and a lot of cold. And did we mention the wind! But – undeterred – our runners persevered and produced memorable finishes in what was an unforgettable finish to an unforgettable year. 

Of course, we typically run the race in mid-October, but the Cameron Peak Fire had other ideas, forcing us to postpone to November. The later fall date meant that for the first time ever we welcomed our final few finishers home in the dark (amid snow squalls and plunging temperatures).

Special mention here must go to now seven-time finisher Maria Grant who emailed us prior to the race asking if she could walk the course and drop at the nine-mile after being told by her doctor that running was out of the question due to a separated ligament. Maria – as we knew she would – walked right on through the nine mile aid, ultimately finishing in the dark to cheers and cowbell as our 126th of 127 finishers, a solid 3.5 hours slower than last year. It seemed like a particularly fitting end to a season that has been all about finding ways to Get It Done and to get it done Safely.   

Maria’s was one of many wonderful stories from the pack, but we also had some pretty incredible races at the front of the field.

It was a two-horse affair in the men’s race with Jackson Brill and Tyler Fox running together for most of the first 20 miles of the course. Reports from the aid stations suggested a fast time was incoming as the two made their way through the Hunter turn and back towards the Indian Summer climb. Splits appeared to be right on pace with Drew Holman’s record setting run from last year, and coming into the finish with the seconds literally ticking down we could tell that Jackson Brill knew that he was close. He pushed and then pushed again against time and distance; finally hitting the tape with just 12 seconds to spare and setting a new standard for the race at 3:10:10. Not to be outdone, Tyler Fox kept his pedal firmly attached to the metal and repeated his second-place finish from last year, 3 minutes quicker (3:12:12) under conditions that were undeniably tougher. Rounding out a strong podium was Denver’s Michael Bolt (3:34:23).

The second start wave of the morning featured our seeded female runners, and it was Amanda Ax who took the race by the scruff of the neck, leading for most of the 26.7 miles as she made her way down to her hometown of Loveland and back. Second at the Never Summer 100km earlier in the summer, Amanda claimed her first Gnar Runners crown in a time of 4:08:11 – good enough for fifth overall. Amanda was followed home by a hard chasing Becky Hendee (4:22:41), and former race winner Meghan Spieker (4:37:39). This was Meghan’s sixth Blue Sky finish, and also the culmination of the Gnar Slam (all four Gnar races in one summer). 

In the men’s master’s category, it was local favorite Mike Hinterberg bringing home the win for Loveland, CO in 3:52:06. His was only one of four finishes under four hours, which is testimony to how tough the conditions were this year. Littleton’s Becki Lynn Bauer ran strong and steady for her master’s victory (4:57:50), while the grandmasters wins went to Heli Uusitalo (5:30:45) and New York’s Blaise Brochard (4:28:57).

All award winners took home beautiful pottery awards from local artisan Amy Hayman.


Race Photos:


Gnar Slam

This year we saw a hardy eight runners complete the Gnar Slam. This despite the challenges of two postponed and rearranged races, smoke, heat, snowstorms, fire and virus. We saw five male finishers and three female finishers. The Gnar Slam is a recognition of those runners that complete all four Gnar Runners trail races in a calendar year:

The points in the final standings for the Gnar Slam are derived as a percentage of the overall winner’s time in each race (male and female), allowing us to offer equal weighting to each race despite the difference in distance, and to rank women and men in the same standings.

Meghan Spieker came into Blue Sky with a dominating lead in the standings and her third place finish assured she finished with the fastest cumulative time and a new women’s record (32:58:06), besting the time of last year’s winner Tara Carter by 25 minutes. 

A hearty congratulations to all of our 2020 Gnar Slam finishers! It’s been a crazy journey this season and we’re thankful to every single one of you for sticking with us through all the trials and tribulations.

Volunteers

And, wow, what about those volunteers out there braving the conditions this year! You all make us look good and our runners notice. We have received so many notes of praise and gratitude for the selflessness and good spirits you showed out on course under very trying conditions to help get your fellow runners to the finish line. Thank you to each and every one of you.

Sponsors

And, finally, a thank you to our sponsors for sticking with us through a tough year. Due to the conditions of our variance approvals with the County Health Department we haven’t been able to host full post-race festivities with sponsors there celebrate with you all. But, please know that you’ve been supported along the way by a group of sponsors that continue to show their love for the Northern Colorado trail community. Please support those businesses that support your passions. Thank you Jax Outdoor GearColorado in MotionAltitude RunningJustin Liddle DMDCountryside Animal Hospital, and the Fort Collins Running Club for your incredible race support.

And also to our fantastic product sponsors: VFuelNew Belgium Brewing, and Mary’s Mountain Cookies.

The Blue Sky Trail Marathon marks the end of the 2020 season for us at Gnar Runners, but we’re already looking forward to 2021 with excitement.

Thank you all again for a wonderful season, and see you in 2020!

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2020 Black Squirrel Wrap – Fire, Snow & Course Records

The start of the Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon begun at 6:00am and finished at 8:00am. Welcome to racing in 2020. Five waves and 221 runners later, and we had everybody off to the races for a fantastic morning of racing, aided by cooler-than-average temperatures and crisp, clean air. 

Packing the start line in Wave 1 were a number of pre-race favorites, past winners and – dare we say – dark horses. While women’s defending champion and course record holder, Rachel Rudel could not make it to the start line this year, her former CSU teammate and school steeplechase record holder Janelle Lincks was there to represent. She would be lining up against Kansas Jayhawk Track alum Grace Morgan, and former Black Squirrel winner Abby Depperschmidt.

The men’s field was also host to previous winners with last year’s champ Nathan Austin on the line looking to defend, alongside 2014 winner Kory Skattum and last year’s third-place finisher Adrian McDonald. Also on the line was this year’s Quad Rock 25 winner, Justin Ricks and former Pikes Peak Ascent champ Timmy Parr. 



With light just beginning to emerge, we sent Wave 1 off to the races and charging up the Timber Trail in pursuit of our hero band of Timber aid station volunteers who had begun the climb over an hour earlier, hauling 16 gallons of water up on their backs after trucks had failed to navigate slick roads to the aid location. 

The crew waited in anticipation at the top of the climb for our lead runners, before reporting with some excitement that the lead two men – Timmy Parr and Kory Skatum – had come in locked together, closely followed by the first lady – Janelle Lincks – in third overall!

Runners encountered lingering snow up high on a sunny morning

The intermediate split times were fast and course records appeared to be in danger after just a half hour of racing.  Meanwhile back at the start with the sun making its way above the East Valley hogbacks, Wave 2 had been sent off up the hill and we were busy getting ready to start Wave 3. As it would turn out, one of our dark horses for the overall placings would be laying in wait in that middle wave.

From the Arthurs West aid station at mile 8.3, the texts coming back to the start had Timmy Parr with a two-minute lead over Skattum and still on – or near – course record pace. Adrian MacDonald and Florida’s Jacob Banta had moved to third and fourth with lead woman Lincks still blazing the course in fifth overall. 

Janelle Lincks at Arthurs West on her way to the win and course record

As we awaited the winner at the finish, Parr came into sight right on cue with Wave 4 lined up and ready for their 7:30 start. It was a fitting 2020 scene, and one of the highlights of a wonderful morning. The assembled runners erupted in rapturous cheers, witnessing the end of a journey they would begin in less than 20 seconds.

Ultimately, Parr would end up just 40 seconds off Stephen Pretak’s 2016 course record, posting only the second ever sub-1:30 finish in race history. Skattum was unable to close the gap on Parr in the valley, but his second-place finish of 1:31:42 was still the fourth fastest time ever on the course and six seconds quicker than his 2014 winning time. The fight for third was a close-run thing between Macdonald and Banta, with Macdonald holding on for a repeat third-place finish (1:35:24), just 20 seconds ahead of his pursuer.

Timmy Parr approaches Arthurs East on his way to the win and second fastest time in race history

With four runners in, it was just another 40 seconds until the performance of the morning came blazing through the finish line. Not only had Janelle Lincks put a major gap between herself and the rest of this year’s women’s field, but also between herself and an eight-year history of women’s finishers, besting Rachel Rudel’s impressive 2019 record by over six minutes.

Janelle’s time of 1:36:26 looks stout enough to having some staying power. It is especially impressive when you consider that the second place finish of Grace Morgan (1:47:43) was the fifth fastest of all time.

And that wave 3 dark horse we were talking about earlier? Well, Christine Cummings’ coming-out party was equally as impressive. In her first competitive race in 10 years, Christine’s third-place time of 1:48:21 was just 38 seconds off Morgan in second and good enough for sixth fastest all time.

The impressive performances did not end there. In our 50-59 age group, winner Craig Person (1:45:43) punched his way into the record books by lowering Tony Dragan’s 2016 age group best by a minute (and besting his younger 2017 self by close to nine minutes!).  On the women’s side, Wyoming’s Cinthy Carson (2:10:54) retained top honors in the 50-59 age bracket after winning in 2019.

In the masters (40-49) division, we saw wins for Anna Wickersham (2:10:53) and Justin Ricks (1:41:08). The 60+ division wins belonged to Teri Rylander (4:11:18) and Steve Wood (2:20:52), and in the Under 40 division, it was a win for Abby Depperschmidt (1:55:39) and Jacob Banta (1:35:44). 


Gnar Slam Update:

  • Nine runners have battled through the madness of the 2020 season with finishes at Never Summer 100km, Quad Rock 50, and Black Squirrel. They have just the Blue Sky Marathon left to complete for Gnar Slam glory.
  • Meghan Spieker continues to lead in the overall standings, followed by Brandon Cooper and Derrick Searle.
  • All finishers receive a special award at the end of the season, plus a free entry into Quad Rock 2021

Overall, we saw a total of 221 finishers (103 women and 118 men) and we congratulate each and every one of you for a job well done. Supporting our runners was a wonderful crew of 40+ race volunteers.

We thank you all – runners and volunteers alike – for making the morning a special one, and we hope to see you back in 2021 for the ninth running of the race.

Let’s hope that in 2021 we can all share the same start line and breathe clean, smoke-free air! 

Thank you volunteers

And thank you also to our fantastic sponsors for sticking with us through a tough year. We appreciate the many years of tireless support you have all shown for the Northern Colorado trail running scene.

Thank you to our top tier sponsors:

Thank you also for contributing support from: 

       

Generous product support from: VFuel, New Belgium & Lamar’s Donuts

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Runners overcome tough conditions at the 2020 Quad Rock Trail Races

More than any other race we put on, the weather seems to play a prominent role at the Quad Rock Trail Races. After having to postpone this year’s race from May to mid-August, we were counting on the day being a hot one. What we weren’t counting on was the addition of heavy smoke from the Cameron Peak Wildfire, which broke out just two days before the race. But in a year of constant challenges, our runners took it in stride and forged on, albeit at a slower-than-usual pace and with a higher-than-usual drop-down rate from 50 miles to 25 miles.

Overall, we saw 86 runners start the 50 mile race and 123 start the 25 mile race for a total of 209 runners on course. Of the 86 runners that started the 50 mile race, just 37 completed the full two loops for a 43 percent finisher rate. A total of 156 runners finished either the 25 mile race or the first 25 mile loop of the 50 miler (all are included in the final 25 mile results).

Race Action

In the men’s 25 mile race, a group of three set the early pace and challenged for the win. At the Horsetooth Aid Station at Mile 10.3, it was Grayson Lowe leading Adam Merry and (newly minted master’s runner) Justin Ricks into the aid station, each a minute apart. By mile 17.5 at Arthurs Aid, with one climb left to go, there remained just one minute between first and third. On the climb up Howard, it became a two-horse race between Merry and Ricks, with the latter making the final move of the morning and going on to win in 3:47:15. Merry would finish a close second (3:49:43) with Lowe holding on in third (4:00:36).

Justin Ricks breaking it open in the 25 mile race

In the women’s 25 mile race, Sophie Anders and Christy Aish got out at the head of the race, rolling through the Horsetooth Aid Station at mile 10.3 together. The duo would remain locked through to the Arthur’s Aid Station at mile 17.5, with a final climb and descent left to decide the 2020 winner. As in the men’s race, experience won out with master’s runner Aish opening things up by over 5 minutes in the final 7.5 miles. Christy’s time of 4:20:41 was good enough for both the win and a new master’s record. Anders would hold on comfortably for second (4:26:07), with 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Jennifer Masamitsu rounding out the podium in 4:39:03.

Christy Aish on her way to the 25 mile win.

Masters (40-49) wins in the 25 mile race went to Westminster’s Shad Mika (4:10:33) and Edwards’ Lauren Warkentin (4:42:21). Our grandmaster’s (50+) winners were Rich Hall (6:13:16) from Boulder and Jennifer Wang (6:25:42) from Fort Collins.


The 50 mile race was defined by some very tough running conditions, which led to perhaps our highest ever drop rate. Nonetheless, there were some remarkable performances out there and especially so from the women who would end up claiming first, third and fifth places in the overall standings.

Addie Bracy on her way to an overall win in the 50 mile race

Two-time winner and defending champ Addie Bracy came into the race as the clear favorite on the women’s side and she didn’t disappoint. After finishing third overall last year, Bracy went a couple spots better this year by winning the race outright in a time (8:54:23) that was just three minutes slower than her 2018 best on the course despite much tougher conditions. She now holds three of the 10 fastest times on the course.

Second in the women’s race and third overall was Colorado Springs’ Hannah Osowski. Coached by Bracy, Osowski ran a similarly paced race to Bracy making it to the 25-mile turn 15 minutes behind and just over 40 minutes adrift at the finish (9:37:23).

Splitting the two women was overall men’s winner Brady Poskin from Kansas City, MO, our first-ever flatland men’s winner of the race (9:16:32). Brady assumed the lead after overtaking Chris Rom on the way back to Arthur’s and after Alex Nichols dropped from the race. He would hold on comfortably from there to the finish.

Chris Rom, also a Bracy-coached athlete, followed Osowski home in fourth overall and second in the men’s race in his first career 50 miler (9:54:13). He would be followed home for fifth overall and third women by Vail’s Marina Hand (10:26:59). Rounding out the podium spots in sixth was Fort Collins local Brandon Cooper.

In the master’s division, it was another Fort Collins local, Derrick Searle (11:17:46) taking home top honors with Wellington’s Paul Nielsen (13:27:41) claiming top honors in the 50+ division. On a tough course on a tough day, we didn’t see any women’s finishers in the 40-49 or 50+ divisions.


Trail Work Day

As part of our mission to promote responsible use of the public trails we are granted the right to race on each year for Quad Rock, we host an annual post-Quad Rock Trail Runner Trail Work Day. This year’s work day is scheduled for September 19. If you’d like to be added to our volunteer trail work mailing list to learn about these and other upcoming trail work opportunities, please visit our trail work page.


Thank You

 

The Towers Aid Station Team

We can’t say it often enough, but thank you volunteers. Your passion and dedication to your fellow runners is what makes our races so special. We owe you all a huge debt of gratitude, and especially so this year with so many adverse circumstances and conditions to deal with. Thank You!

And to our amazing sponsors, thank you!

Countryside Animal Hospital

Fort Collins Running Club

With generous product support from: VFuelNew BelgiumMary’s Mountain Cookies, and BoBo’s.

We look forward to seeing you again in 2021. We’d also love to see you later in the year at one of our shorter events.

On September 12 we’ll be hosting the 8th running of the Black Squirrel Half Marathon in Lory State Park, followed October 17 by the 13th running of the Blue Sky Marathon, Fort Collins original and only Trail Marathon.

And remember, if you finish all four events in the calendar year you become a Gnar Slammer and receive an end-of-season award in addition to free entry into the 2021 Quad Rock 25 or 50 mile race.

Thank you all!

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A Recap of the 2020 Never Summer 100km & 60km

The sun pokes up over Table Iron Mountain above the American Lakes as day breaks on the sixth running of the Never Summer 100km. Photo: Erin Bibeau

The sixth running of the Never Summer 100km was one that we’ll all remember for years to come. Despite the challenges presented by putting on a race in the midst of a global pandemic, we were truly impressed and humbled by everyone’s willingness to adhere to the contingency measures that were put in place to ensure a safe yet fulfilling race experience for runners and volunteers alike.

If we have one enduing memory from this year’s race, it will be that of our community coming together to do what we love to do and at the same time be accepting of working within the constraints of our current predicament. To you all, a huge THANK YOU for making it easy on us!

Our biggest debt of gratitude as always goes to our wonderful team of volunteers who again came out en masse – masked all day – to help competitors reach their goals. Thank You Volunteers

Kris Tyson and team work the new Crew Rally Point

We also feel a deep debt of gratitude to the small community of Gould, CO from where we host the race every year. The Community Association, along with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, was quick to give their blessing for this year’s race.

Every year, we award the Never Summer Trail Boss Award in recognition of an individual or group who have gone above and beyond in services to the race. It is offered in the spirit of a broader recognition of the whole race community, and this year we wanted to recognize the community of Gould with whom we have received nothing but support from the very inception of the race. Thank you Gould Community Association.

Bron Austin (Never Summer Nordic, Gould Community Association Treasurer) & Jean Krause (GCA Secretary) accepting the 2020 Trail Boss Award on behalf of the Gould Community Association.

The Race

The weather is always a factor through the course of a high altitude mountain adventure, and this year we were blessed with near perfect running conditions for the full duration of the race. Cloud cover ensured cooler temperatures all day, while also offering intermittent bouts of cooling light drizzle.

The favorable weather combined with what we believe to have been an extra determination in the face of adversity among the Never Summer Class of 2020 resulted in our highest ever finisher rate. By far.

The digits:

100km Starters: 245 (192 men, 53 women)
100km Finishers: 212 (169 men, 43 women)
100km Finisher Rate: 87% (vs 69% in 2019)
60km Finishers: 43 (includes 10 100km drop downs)

No matter how far along the course you got, or indeed at what time you finished, we sincerely hope you enjoyed your experience in the beautiful mountains of Northern Colorado.


Race Results

Race Photos

  • Erin Bibeau (American Lakes) & Teal Wyckoff (North Diamond)
  • Terry Grenwelge (Kelly Lake & Clear Lake)

Due to a slight shortening of the course (~3 miles), times and course records this year will come with an asterisks, but nonetheless there were still some mighty impressive runs posted on race weekend.

And none more so than that of our men’s winner, Jon Rea, who took the race by the scruff of the neck from the gun, leading from pillar to post and finishing in just under 11 hours (10:58:04). While the short course does put an asterisks on Jon’s time, the margin over Hannes Gehring’s course record from last year (11:47:06) was enough for us to confidently state that it was the fastest 61.5 miles we’ve ever seen on the course. Remarkably, this is the sixth year in succession that a new men’s course record has been set.

Jon was followed home by Charlie Macarthur (12:25:08) from Steamboat Springs, CO and Laramie, WY’s Thomas Dean (12:52:15).

Charlie Macarthur approaching Kelly Lake on his way to a second place finish. Photo: Terry Grenwelge

In the women’s race, it was perennial Gnar podium finisher Meghan Spieker taking home top honors with a time of 14:33:13 in what was a close-run race. Meghan assumed the race lead from Michelle Kent on the Clear Lake section of the course, but was back and forth in the segment splits with Amanda Ax, who started 35 minutes after Meghan in the 3:30 wave. Ultimately Meghan would best Amanda’s second-place time (14:40:04) by less than 7 minutes. Olivia Bojan in the 3:20 wave would end up a close third in 14:46:50.

Olivia Bojan on her way to a third place finish. Picture: Erin Bibeau

In the master’s division, Wendy Stalnaker ran an impressive 15:45:05 for the win, while Eric Truhe took home top honors for the men (13:34:55). In the grandmasters division (50+), it was Pennsylvania’s Gary Lampman who took home top honors in a time of 16:04:28. For the women, it was Colorado Springs’ Tracey Anderson bringing home the hardware in a time of 18:13:02.

New this year was the late addition of our inaugural 60km race. Introduced as a safety measure, we hope this distance will be a permanent fixture moving forward into 2021 and beyond. Getting the ball rolling for the record books were winners Zach King and Amanda Grimes. The respective times to beat for future years will be 6:59:06 & 9:16:06.

In recognition of the challenge that the course presents to all runners, we also give out a Final Finisher award for the runner that shows the most dogged persistence in being out there the longest. We were delighted to be able to hand off that award to Woodland Park’s Robert Elliot who beat the 24-hour buzzer by just under 8 minutes. 

As always, the volunteer support that we received for the event was – quite frankly – outstanding, and testimony to the special place the mountains of Northern Colorado hold in the hearts of the local outdoors community. Thank you again to each and every one of you.

And a special thank you also to:

  • The Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club and their team of ham radio operators all of whom went above and beyond in ensuring that we had radio contact from every aid station on course, in addition to between medical and park staff.
  • State Forest State Park (SFSP) and their incredible staff of park rangers. We have received nothing but enthusiasm from SFSP in the years of planning and executing this event, and their professionalism on race weekend was second to none.
  • The Fort Collins Trail Runners. Though completely informal in affiliation, this group of trail running enthusiasts has been the backbone of the Gnar Runners operation from its inception. A continued Thank You to you all.
  • Poudre Valley Hospital’s team of medical professionals for going above and beyond in coordinating our emergency medical plans.
  • The Gould Community Association for their support and the use of the Gould Community Center.

And to our amazing sponsors, thank you!


Top Tier Support From

Contributing Support From

Generous Product Support From

VFuelNew BelgiumMary’s Mountain Cookies, and BoBos


We look forward to seeing you again in 2021. We’d also love to see you later in the year at one of our shorter events.

On August 15, we’ll be hosting the postponed 9th running of the Quad Rock 25/50 Mile Trail Races for which we still have a few spots available. On September 12 we’ll be hosting the 8th running of the Black Squirrel Half Marathon in Lory State Park, followed October 17 by the 13th running of the Blue Sky Marathon, Fort Collins original and only Trail Marathon.

And remember, if you finish all four events in the calendar year you become a Gnar Slammer and receive an end-of-season award in addition to free entry into the 2021 Quad Rock 25 or 50 mile race.

Thank you all!

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Gnar 2020 – Trail Race Registration Open

We’re excited to announce that registration for all four races in the 2020 Gnar Trail Series is now open, and that once again we’re proud to be hosting them all in partnership with Salomon Running.

Please read on for 2020 race details and news, and a short recap of the 2019 season highlights.

Dates & Key Details for 2020 Trail Races

  • July 25, 2020: Never Summer 100km
    • Early Entry Fee: $195
    • Location: State Forest State Park, Gould CO
    • Race Cap: 400
  • October 17, 2020: Blue Sky Trail Marathon
    • Early Entry Fee: $75
    • Location: Horsetooth Mountain Park, Fort Collins, CO
    • Race Cap: 300
 

What’s New for 2020?

  • The 2020 Never Summer 100km maintains its status as a qualifying race for the Western States 100. In addition, it serves as a qualifying race for the UTMB series of races, earning finishers 4 ITRA points. The Quad Rock 50 & 25 mile races are worth 3 & 2 points respectively. The Blue Sky Marathon earns finishers 1 point.
  • With the continued excitement surrounding the Gnar Slam, we’ll again be offering end-of-season awards and a free entry into the 2021 Quad Rock Trail Races for all runners that complete the Quad Rock 50, Never Summer 100km, Black Squirrel Trail Half, and Blue Sky Marathon.
  • After a successful roll out of our 4-race Summer Trail Series, we plan to continue offering shorter-distance trail fun in August 2020, with distances ranging from 5k to 7 miles.
  • On the road side, we’re delighted to again be managing the Horsetooth Half Marathon, Northern Colorado’s largest and oldest half marathon. The 2020 race will be held on April 19. Group training runs begin January 12 with a kick-off party at New Belgium Brewing.
  • Also on the road side, we’re excited to be hosting the second running of the Long View Marathon and Half Marathon on October 4, 2020. The inaugural running was a huge success, seeing close to 700 runners complete the journey from Fort Collins to Loveland.
 

2019 Highlights

 

Volunteering

  • We are incredibly humbled to have been able to staff a total of 662 volunteer positions across all races in 2019. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any race organization, and we count ourselves as incredibly fortunate to be able to draw from such an enthusiastic and talented local running community. Thank YOU!
  • Hosting events has an impact on the resources we use. We are keenly aware of that and our responsibility to be good stewards of public lands. In 2019, we helped organize five trail work days, focusing primarily on the trails that we host races on. Our team of over 50 trail volunteers put in three days of work on the Valley Trails in Lory State Park and two days of trail improvement and rebuilding work up in the Never Summer Mountains at State Forest State Park. Across the five work days, we laid tread and worked on drainage across a total of 18 miles of trail. Up in State Forest, we cleared upwards of 100 downed trees, cleared a similar number of sapling stumps and re-routed a severely mauled Pennock Trail. And we loved every minute of it! To learn about 2020 trail work opportunities with Gnar Runners, please visit our Volunteer Trail Work Page.
  • When we’re not organizing races, we love to get out and help fellow race directors and clubs with their events. We always enjoy the annual Gnar outing to the Golden Gate Dirty 30 where we host the Forgotten Valley Aid Station. In addition, we’ve enjoyed helping out with local Fort Collins community races such as the Mountain Avenue Mile, the Fort Collins Running Club’s Tortoise & Hare 7-race series, and even the 2019 North American XC Unicycle Championships held on our home trails this year!
 

Training Runs

We’re incredibly thankful to the wonderful Gnar Team and other community run leaders who come out week after week throughout the year to organize local trail runs. These folks are the lifeblood of our running community, and we’ve been especially stoked this year to see the growth of women-specific weekly trail runs and workouts. If you’re interested in learning more about local group runs, be sure to join the Fort Collins Trail Runners Facebook group for updates.

In addition to the weekly group runs, we really enjoy hosting some bigger, race-specific runs and weekends. As always, the Quad Rock training runs were incredibly well attended through the winter and spring months and we had record crowds up at State Forest State Park for the Never Summer training and trail work weekend. We’ll be doing it all over again in 2020, beginning with the build-up to Quad Rock. Stay tuned for details.

 
 

A Few 2019 Race Highlights

  • A total of 4,410 finishers across all Gnar-managed events (with a few more to come: Spring Park 6k, Resolution Run 5k)
  • Welcoming close to 700 runners to the inaugural Long View Marathon & Half Marathon
  • Seeing new course records at the following races:
    • Horsetooth Half Marathon (women): Ivy Kibet (1:15:30)
    • Never Summer 100km (men): Hannes Gehring (11:47:06)
    • Black Squirrel Half (women): Rachel Rudel (1:42:35)
    • Blue Sky Marathon (women): Addie Bracy (3:35:25)
    • Blue Sky Marathon (men): Drew Holmen (3:10:22)
  • A double rainbow for our final Quad Rock finishers

In the Works for 2020

  • Transition to 100% compostable and/or reusable dishware
  • New website with rich visual content
  • New volunteer rewards program
  • And some new race ideas/distances are percolating….

Great Partners

Part of the reason we’re able to offer such great race experiences is because we’ve worked tirelessly to partner with quality sponsors that share our vision for well-managed events. In 2020 we’re incredibly excited to be partnering again with Salomon Running, one of the greatest brand innovators in the sport.

We’ll be offering special Salomon shoe & gear deals with our retail partner, Altitude Running, at all pre-race packet pickups. We’ll also be offering the opportunity to demo Salomon kicks at training runs, community events and race-day expos.

We’re also incredibly thankful to Colorado in Motion for providing fantastic training and injury prevention presentations and advice at numerous training events across the season. Your next opportunity to check-in with the team will be at the Jan 12 Horsetooth Half training run kick-off at New Belgium.

And, of course, innumerable thanks to Justin Liddle DMD, a Gnar supporter from day one, and simply the best prosthodontist in Northern Colorado. What would our races be without dental hygiene products among your packet pickup goodies?

 
 

Thanks for a great 2019 season, and we’ll see you in 2020.

— The Entire Gnar Team (all 664 of us).

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2019 Blue Sky Marathon Post-Race Recap

Much like last year, we had beautiful conditions for the 12th running of the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. The brisk pre-dawn temperatures gave way to a cool but comfortable morning, and a light wind out of the south picked up as runners were making their way to the Hunter turn, offering a friendly tailwind for the last 8 miles of the race. And, once again, we had a fast field ready to take full advantage of the ideal running conditions, with new course records being set in both the men’s and women’s races, and a total of 249 runners hitting the finish line from a total of 254 starters.

In the women’s race, course record holder and defending champion Addie Bracy came in as the pre-race favorite. And she lived up to the billing with aplomb, leading the women’s race from start to finish, progressively chipping into her course record splits from last year before crossing the finish line in a massive 10 minute course record (3:35:27).

Former race winner Meghan Spieker completed her fifth Blue Sky Marathon in style, registering another podium finish for second (4:15:07), while Marisa Watson ran strong through the back half of the race to claim third (4:24:19).

Addie Bracy doing it in course record fashion!

The men’s race was a closer affair, with Drew Holman and Tyler Fox running together off the front for the first 20 miles of the race. It was in the last six miles that the race was decided, as it often is in the marathon, with Holman pulling away in the Indian Summer hills and powering to the finish over the last 5 miles on the Blue Sky Trail. His closing 5 miles were a minute quicker than Peavy’s course record split from last year and good enough to reset the bar at 3:10:22.

Tyler Fox would hang on for second in 3:15:22, while Fort Collins-based Grayson Lowe rounded out the podium in 3:24:17.

Drew Holmen has just relocated to CO from CA and he’s already setting course records!

In the men’s master’s category, it was former race winner and now five-time finisher Ryan Burch bringing home the win for Loveland, CO in an impressive 3:30:42. Rebecca Flowers edged out Tara Carter over the last mile for the women’s master’s victory (4:39:54), while the grandmasters wins went to Amber Allen (4:47:12) and Rick Granquist (3:56:27).

All award winners took home beautiful pottery awards from local artisan Amy Hayman. 


Race Photos:


This year we saw 11 runners complete the Gnar Slam, the exact same number as last year, but this time with a record five female finishers. The Gnar Slam is a recognition of those runner that complete all four Gnar Runners trail races in a calendar year:

The points in the final standings for the Gnar Slam are derived as a percentage of the overall winner’s time in each race (male and female), allowing us to offer equal weighting to each race despite the difference in distance.

This year, we combined the men’s and the women’s standings and it was an incredibly close run thing at the top. Tara Carter came into Blue Sky with a slender four point lead over Travis Massey. After it was all said and done and the points had been computed, Tara jut edged out Travis on top with an overall points win of half a point (330.27 vs 329.81). Tara’s cumulative time across the four races (33:23:06) was good enough to best Colleen Weitzel’s record from last year.

A hearty congratulations to all of our 2019 Gnar Slam finishers! It’s been a fun journey to watch you all progress through the season, and we can’t wait to do it all again next year.

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 our volunteers, whether parking cars in the morning, marshaling runners at the turns, or filling bottles at the aid stations. Thank you to each and every one of 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. Thank you Salomon RunningColorado in MotionAltitude RunningJustin Liddle DMDCountryside Animal Hospital, and the Fort Collins Running Club for your incredible race support.

And also to our fantastic product sponsors: VFuelNew Belgium BrewingMary’s Mountain Cookies, Skratch Labs, and Boulder Organic!

The Blue Sky Trail Marathon marks the end of the 2019 season for us at Gnar Runners, but we’re already looking forward to 2020 with excitement.

Thank you all again for a wonderful season, and see you in 2020!

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