The view from the Horsetooth Estates neighborhood, 1 mile from the Start/Finish Photo credit: Tara Carter-Radcliffe
Due to increased activity in the southeast portion of the Cameron Peak Fire, trails comprising our course in Horsetooth Mountain Park and Devil’s Backbone Open Space closed the morning of Wednesday, October 14.
After a full day’s firefighting and the updates the morning of Thursday, October 15 from the Incident Command Team, all information is pointing toward the closures and evacuations affecting our course remaining in place through the weekend. Even if we could get permission to hold the race, we know it would be irresponsible to put any extra burden on first responders and public lands officials, and we are officially CANCELLING the Blue Sky Trail Marathon for this Saturday.
We know our runners and volunteers have questions regarding postponement and more. So do we. That conversation starts with our permitting land agencies, and they definitely have many higher priorities at this time. We will update you once it’s possible. Thank you for your understanding, and we appreciate your support.
This fire has now been burning more than two months, and is officially the largest in Colorado state recorded history. If you would like to support relief efforts with donations of time or money, please check out this article from The Coloradoan.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
We are very happy to announce that the Black Squirrel Trail Half Marathon (September 12) and Blue Sky Trail Marathon (October 17) have provisional approval from the Larimer County Department of Public Health, as well as Lory State Park (Black Squirrel) and Larimer County Department of Natural Resources (Blue Sky)! The approval is contingent on pandemic requirements remaining at (or improving from) their current levels of restrictiveness. Help keep the curve flattened!
Many thanks to innumerable friends and resources who helped craft a plan where the events can safely happen.
There’s a lot to communicate. Whether you are a runner, volunteer, pacer or crew – we need you to read it all – before you come to the race – including our full list of safety protocols and race changes (Black Squirrel – Blue Sky).
As the pandemic continues to evolve, there is a strong chance some of these protocols will too. We promise to communicate any changes via email, social media and our website – but it is ultimately your responsibility to read, understand and follow the full list.
Here is a summary of the main points:
ALL participants (runners & volunteers) are required to:
Wear a mask at all times, except when 1) running 2) eating/drinking
Have a contactless Temperature Check upon arrival. Those with temperatures above 100.4F will be required to leave
Limited Service at Aid Stations, Changes to Drop Bag Policies
Wave Starts & changes to start times
No Awards Ceremony, Food/Drinks-To-Go
Discouraging attendance of families & spectators
We all look forward to a fun, relaxed atmosphere that feels normal, yet we all also know things will be different. Our approval to hold this race is contingent on following safety protocols submitted to and approved by the Larimer County Department of Public Health, and we appreciate you playing your part. Those not cooperating will be asked to leave and could be subject to disqualification. We really don’t want to have to do that, so let’s all play by the rules and continue to gain trust as a responsible user group.
For current registrants, if you feel unsafe taking part with the protocols we’ve put in place, or this year’s race experience will not be fulfilling for you, we encourage you to defer. 100% credit transfer to 2021 will remain open for another week, through the end of the day on August 20, after which point our normal deferral policies will resume.
We are reducing our field sizes. Black Squirrel will be capped at 300 runners, and Blue Sky at 250. Space is still remaining in each as of the date of this release.
As ultrarunners ourselves, we are doing our best to strike a balance between a fulfilling race experience and ensuring we can manage risks to your health and safety. Please contact us any time with questions.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.