A grueling 26-mile marathon ski race, known to be the most difficult in the state with its big steep hills and backcountry feel, took place under picturesque conditions Saturday.
The 25K and 42K (the equivalent to the traditional 26 marathon miles) race started at the Lookout Mountain Trails and ended at the Baycrest Trails.
"Our groomers worked all day Friday and into the evening to pack the trails after Thursday's high winds that drifted mounds of snow onto the trail and roads. It would have taken a lot to cancel the race, but if it wasn't for our groomers, Saturday would not have turned out so perfect," said Race Coordinator Marylou Burton.
The clear weather on Saturday was a turn of events for the 155 grateful skiers who participated this year; a 40 percent increase from the Kachemak Nordic Ski Club's most successful marathon year at 110 participants, said Burton.
"We had a record number of entrants from up the road this year. At least 75 skiers from out of town entered the race," said Burton.
A number of racers from Anchorage have traditionally come down to Homer to participate, but this year was the first year the Marathon saw skiers from Fairbanks and the Lower 48 which gave a few of Homer's top skiers a bit of healthy competition.
Fairbanks racer Melissa Lewis skated across the finish line a mere four minutes behind local racer Megan Spurkland to take second in the 42K women's race. Jake Brown from St. Paul, Minn., blazed through his 42K in 2:09:53 to take first; a full 11 minutes and 37 seconds in front of Homer's Jan Spurkland in second place.
"This was the most fun racing I have had this year. The scenery was beautiful and I loved the long climbs and fun dips in the trail, which we don't see much in Minnesota," said Brown.
The Brown family is visiting Alaska to attend the Junior Nationals in Fairbanks, where Brown's younger brother is competing in Nordic skiing. The skiing family was able to schedule the Homer Marathon into their trip after Brown found the race in a Google search.
The Homer Marathon was just one of the many ski races the Browns have competed in this year. Less than a month ago, Jake Brown took 16th in the American Birkebeiner 50K ski race in Wisconsin, the largest Nordic ski race in North America with nearly 10,000 participants each year. This was Brown's third year competing and his father's 22nd year in the Birkie.
Former Homer High School Nordic skier Andre Lovett and Homer Women's Nordic skier Stacey Buckelew both took first place in the 25K race. Skiing races back to back, Buckelew also took third place overall and first place in her age group in the 40K at the Tour of Anchorage two weeks ago.
"I credit Jasmine (Maurer) and Megan (Spurkland) to helping me become a better skier. It was a great race this weekend with great trail conditions," said Buckelew.
More than 60 skiers participated in the 25K tour event this year, a majority of them local skiers.
"The tour is a great opportunity for people to participate in the marathon race without having to feel like they have to compete. This is the second year we have done the tour and it has shown to be a great success," said KNSC member Megan Spurkland.
The popularity of the Homer Marathon over the years has been largely due to word-of-mouth publicity, said Burton. She added the large number of participants in the 2013 Homer Marathon is because of the statewide ski marathon series happening this month.
The series kicked off with the Tour of Anchorage at the beginning of March, the Homer Marathon last weekend, followed by the Oosik Classic Ski Race in Talkeetna this weekend, and ending with the Sonot Kkaazoot in Fairbanks the next weekend.
Of the four races, the Homer Marathon trail is widely known among its long distance skiers as one of the most challenging and unique, making it a special race for those who come from far away.
"The trail has morphed from year-to-year and recently has become a more established route. People who do the 40K and 25K Tour of Anchorage have been known to be surprised by this trail," said Burton.
Even the Brown family from Minnesota with years of competitive skiing under their belts spoke of the genuine uniqueness of the Homer Marathon.
"Everyone in Homer was so welcoming and made us feel like we were a part of the community. We felt like we belonged," said Brown.
In Burton's eight years as race coordinator, the Homer Marathon has become KNSC's largest fundraiser. Next year Burton will retire as race coordinator with the intent to compete in a few ski races herself.
KNSC's hope is for the Homer Epic, a 100K bike, ski, or run race, to eventually become the club's largest event. The Homer Epic takes place Saturday at 8 a.m. starting at McNeil Canyon School.
25K TOUR WOMEN
1 Kaya Morelli Homer 1:56:14
2 Michelle Stenger Fritz Creek 2:06:19
3 Kara Clemens Homer 2:18:46
4 Jennifer Bando Homer 2:19:05
5 Audrey Russell Homer 2:26:25
6 Dorothy Childers Anchorage 2:26:28
7 Riki Lebman Anchorage 2:29:04
8 18 Carlin Rauch Homer 2:38:39
9 16 Katia Holmes Homer 2:38:58
10 Alison O'Hara Homer 2:39:00
11 Sara Wolf Homer 2:39:25
12 Karen Loeffler Anchorage 2:40:17
13 Hope Strohmeyer Anchorage 3:15:55
14 Christine Anderson Homer 3:18:33
15 Karen Marquardt Homer 3:21:18
16 Joell House Homer 3:39:58
17 Miranda Weiss Homer 3:40:41
18 Dots Sherwood Homer 3:42:30
19 Celine Maeckelberghe Anchorage 3:46:09
20 Danielle Lecy Anchorage 3:49:07
21 Jolie Pollet-Strohmet Anchorage 3:53:50
22 Marilyn Parrett Homer 3:58:41
23 Polly Hess Homer 4:02:39
24 Annie Steward Homer 4:09:54
25 Rachel Lord Homer 4:18:54
26 Amanda Bernard Homer 4:20:28
27 Kathy Pate Homer 4:21:58
28 Alice Knapp Anchorage 4:27:40
29 Kris Holdereid Homer 4:34:10
30 Amy Holman Anchorage 4:34:11
31 Poppy Benson Homer 6:03:36
25K TOUR MEN
1 Mike Gracz Fritz Creek 1:41:00
2 Parker Sorensen Homer 1:56:10
3 Glenn Seaman Homer 1:56:33
4 Jeremy Kupferschmid Kasilof 1:56:49
5 Jason Herreman Homer 2:18:11
6 David Clemens Homer 2:18:46
7 Mark Spano Anchorage 2:24:12
8 Charles Trowbridge Homer 2:24:36
9 David Messiar Anchorage 2:29:04
10 Leonard Miller Homer 2:34:09
11 Carl Seger Homer 2:35:02
12 Caleb Rauch Homer 2:38:27
13 Revelle Russell Homer 2:41:42
14 Kevin Walker Homer 3:02:53
15 John Fowler Homer 3:08:04
16 Deland Anderson Homer 3:18:26
17 Charlie Rohr Homer 3:22:31
18 Seamus Scholz Homer 3:34:40
19 Jakob Krisntu Homer 3:42:05
20 Quinn Alward Homer 3:42:08
21 Ghen Sasakura Homer 3:42:09
22 Richard Speakman Anchorage 4:09:30
23 Ben Gibson Homer 4:18:54
24 Gene Stoye Anchorage 4:24:31
25 George Matz Fritz Creek 4:25:22
25K RACE WOMEN
1 Stacey Buckelew Homer 1:38:43
2 Jasmine Maurer Homer 1:40:33
3 Lindsay Fagrelius Kasilof 1:43:43
4 Karen Hopp Palmer 1:46:25
5 Aurelie Barnel Anchorage 1:49:30
6 Kathy Sarns Homer 1:51:39
7 Karen Brown St. Paul 1:52:34
8 Becky Hauser Anchorage 1:53:22
9 Gabie Husman Homer 2:02:06
10 Liz Butera Anchorage 2:02:46
11 Mia Alexson Homer 2:12:34
12 Lorena Knapp Anchorage 2:17:59
13 Eva Gardner Anchorage 2:25:12
14 Rebecca Sherman Anchorage 2:25:18
15 Joanna Karet Anchorage 2:25:27
16 Sara Young Fairbanks 2:49:52
17 Libby Kugel Anchorage 3:14:22
18 Elizabeth Knapp Anchorage 3:14:30
25K RACE MEN
1 Andre Lovett Homer 1:22:17
2 Michael Wise Anchorage 1:26:20
3 Paul Butera Anchorage 1:31:18
4 Dan Brokaw Girdwood 1:33:24
5 Ray Robinson Anchorage 1:35:17
6 Dan Libbey Anchorage 1:40:53
7 Bill Spencer Anchorage 1:43:57
8 David Spencer Anchorage 1:44:00
9 Daniel Perry Homer 1:46:08
10 Bob Butera Anchorage 1:51:10
11 Konrad Mittelstadt Indian 1:51:29
12 Doug Karet Anchorage 1:54:05
13 Conrad Schaad Homer 1:54:52
14 Ari Hinrichs Anchorage 1:57:09
15 Trevor Harings Anchorage 1:57:11
16 Jon Berryman Homer 1:59:30
17 Michael Wise Anchorage 2:00:09
18 Keith Chilson Kenai 2:05:06
19 Jessie Classen Homer 2:05:27
20 Gene Backus Palmer 2:10:36
21 Jacob Davis Homer 2:13:51
22 Paul Gutler Homer 2:22:30
23 Arthur Kettle Homer 2:22:41
24 Alan Gnad Homer 2:23:52
25 Alex Price Anchorage 2:28:57
26 Ben Kettle Homer 2:35:52
27 Ben Stedman Anchorage 2:39:20
28 Chris Tomsen Eagle River 2:45:41
29 Don Pitcher Homer 2:59:36
30 Tadhg Scholz Homer 3:00:46
31 Steven Krause Homer 3:13:50
32 Brian O'Quinn Anchorage 3:16:56
33 Mark Woelber Anchorage 4:37:16
1 Megan Spurkland Homer 2:31:49
2 Melissa Lewis Fairbanks 2:35:49
3 Rachel Stier Anchorage 2:58:40
4 Lia Siemons Anchorage 2:59:10
5 Annie Ridgely Homer 3:18:13
6 Jana Linfield Anchorage 3:19:20
7 Heidi Zimmer Anchorage 3:20:38
8 Danielle Jerry Anchorage 3:25:49
9 Jenissa Budd-Amick Anchorage 3:36:01
10 Margret Williams Anchorage 3:48:13
11 Kristan Kelly Fairbanks 4:12:22
12 Megan Soule Anchorage 4:17:48
13 Cecilia Rozem Anchorage 5:02:17
1 Jake Brown St. Paul 2:09:53
2 Jan Spurkland Homer 2:21:30
3 Kent Peterson Soldotna 2:26:15
4 Noah King Kenai 2:28:24
5 Karl Volz Anchorage 2:35:37
6 Dan Beutel Anchorage 2:45:48
7 Scott Hauser Anchorage 2:46:17
8 Baby Red Cheetah Homer 2:47:36
9 Bill Brown St. Paul 2:47:55
10 Steven Bergt Anchorage 2:49:00
11 Eric Groth Homer 2:51:54
12 Nate Brown Charlottesville 2:56:38
13 Nicholas Strohmeyer Anchorage 2:57:07
14 Alex Wison Anchorage 2:58:40
15 Bob Platte Anchorage 2:59:18
16 Mark Lawrence Anchorage 3:05:28
17 Kenton Bloom Homer 3:08:34
18 Brian Young Fairbanks 3:15:47
19 Karl Kircher Kasilof 3:18:42
20 Brian Stibitz Anchorage 3:18:58
21 Chip Treinen Anchorage 3:19:57
22 Sylvain Maeckelberghe Anchorage 3:21:51
23 Alan Parks Homer 3:24:49
24 P.J. Hill Anchorage 3:34:40
25 Gary Dickerson Homer 3:39:11
26 Tim Mowry Fairbanks 4:33:51