Monday, October 7, 2013

Across Blue Skies: 2013 Blue Sky Trail Marathon

(photo courtesy of Ultrasignup)

Since moving to Colorado, my desire to run races had pretty much dried up. It wasn't that I didn't want to run, quite the contrary, but rather that the notion of trying to put in hard efforts seemed to contradict peacefully absorbing the beauty of the mid west. In August, I once again attempted (and failed) at the Leadville 100, only to find it was a horribly managed event, and from the perspective of personal gratification, it wasn't even enjoyable. An epic train wreck, plain and simple. The whole experience left a pretty bad taste in my mouth, and after a dreadful year of running, I really wanted to just be able to run slow and happy on my terms.

But, I had a change of heart when several friends of mine signed up for the Blue Sky Trail Marathon. The entry was cheap, it supported the local community, and it was practically in my back yard. I was already familiar with most of the course and knew it would offer a good challenge and the low key kind of running I wanted. In many ways, it is races like this that got me into running trails and ultras, and definitely not the big productions full of pomp and circumstance.

The event itself was everything I had hoped for. The course typically has 3,300 feet of vertical gain, but a last minute re-route brought the total to 3,700. The re-route, which organizers initially thought shortened the course by 0.3 miles actually made it a tad longer than the original 26.5 route. Various GPS's at the finish recorded anything from 26.7 to an even 27 miles. The course offered a great mix of steep climbs, rolling terrain, and technical rock gardens. In the history of the race, nobody has ever qualified for Boston, and it probably takes most runners at least an hour longer (if not a lot more) than their typical road marathon times.

I found this race to be very well organized and friendly. There was water and food pretty much guaranteed every 4-5 miles. I couldn't have asked for better weather either with a starting temperature of around 39 degrees and rising to mid 60's at noon. In fitting fashion the skies were also crystal clear blue, which certainly added to the appropriate nature of running along the Blue Sky trail. Nick Clark and the Gnar Runners put on a quality event.

As far as my race, I can't complain. I started off pretty slow and finished strong. It was my slowest marathon time ever, but considering the nature of the course, I was fairly pleased with the effort. Running is starting to be fun again.