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, Colorado 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.
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.
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.
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 Gear, Colorado in Motion, Altitude Running, Justin Liddle D.M.D., Countryside Animal Hospital, and the Fort Collins Running Club for your incredible race support.
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!