The Broken Arrow Skyrace
is a super fun and challenging event patterned off of European mountain races. Runners can choose from a 26K, 52K, or new this year, a 10K. The 26K is the main loop of the course, and 52K runners do that loop two times. I have now done the 26K twice, although I didn't do a race report in 2017. This year, Kevin joined me for the trip to Tahoe and we both raced the 26K.
We arrived in Squaw Valley late on Friday night and had Saturday to explore the expo and to relax. The expo had lots of tents for vendors and I was especially excited to meet Gina from Trail Sisters
, a team that I joined just before this event. The 52K was also on Saturday, so we spectated and cheered for those runners while we were in the village.
|Posing with the finish line arch on Saturday.|
I became nervous about the weather report on Saturday evening, which said Sunday would be 40 degrees and rainy at the mountain base. That would mean cold and maybe snowy on the mountain. This would be fine if I were prepared, but silly me had forgotten to pack our jackets for the trip. Lucky for us the weather was high-40s and not raining, and that was true for the whole race. Whew!
We were staying in the village, so on race morning we were able to hang out in our room for a long time and went to the start area 20 minutes before race time. I remember being incredibly nervous for this race last year because I didn't know what to expect from the mountains, but this year I was excited and ready for adventure! I was also happy because the snow had mostly melted and I knew we'd be able to enjoy single track trails versus the snow fields we climbed last year.
|Race morning selfie.|
After a few announcements, including one that they would be holding us at aid stations if there was lightning (yes, that was in the forecast!), we were off. The race begins with a short run through Squaw Village and then begins to climb along single track trail. The good thing about having done the race before is that I had a strategy with my poles, and I knew I didn't want to get them out of my pack until the first ski run climb. I got them out almost immediately last year and they only got in the way on the early single track.
|Marcia and many others along the single track.|
I had been sick a week before the race and I didn't feel completely recovered yet, so I was feeling pretty rough especially in the early miles. I kept pushing along up the hill, enjoyed the small rollers followed by great downhill, and around mile 4 we came to the first steep climb on the course. Poles in hand I began the climb, thankful that I didn't need the microspikes on my shoes for the snow this time around!
|The course profile, a total of ~5K vertical feet in 16 miles.|
This year I was mentally prepared for the false summit; the view at the top of that first steep hill is the next hill you have to climb before a reprieve. After topping out at 7400 feet elevation, we had a decent downhill into the first aid station.
|Arriving at the aid station, happy for the downhill.|
After the aid station, we began the next climb up the KT22 black diamond ski run. This is a long climb, but it's beautiful and not super steep when you follow the switchbacks. Last year's course in the snow had us go straight up KT22 with a rope and no switchbacks, so again I appreciated the lack of snow. We were at the top before I knew it, and I enjoyed the next bit of downhill and gradual climbing through the trees.
Next it was time for what I consider the hardest - but also most fun - part of the course, the steep climb to the top of Squaw Peak. By this time we were at about 8000 feet and the oxygen felt thin; everything was way harder than it should have been. I kept pushing through the first steep section, rejoiced at the less steep section, and then started the rock scramble to the ladder. I needed my hands in many parts and I stuck close to that cable for safety.
|It looks less steep in this photo.|
I was pleasantly surprised to find no line at the ladder; last year the 52K and 26K were on the same day, and I waited in line for at least 20 minutes. We climbed the ladder and then the snow staircase, and we were at the peak! The feeling of accomplishment plus the views made me a very happy lady.
|Ladder photo from 2017, I didn't have one this year.|
Getting down from Squaw Peak was challenging and slippery due to the scree - something to watch out for if you run this race. I had to go sideways at times to avoid falling, and even so I put my hands down a couple of times. Quite a few people had bad falls in this spot. Once I survived that section we were at the next aid station, the top of Siberia ski lift.
I didn't need anything from the aid station and kept going down the hill. This is another place that I gained time over 2017 because I could run down the dirt instead of falling all over myself in the snow. The course passed the Shirley ski lift and then dropped into Shirley Canyon, turning into amazing single track near the bottom. Seriously, this was beautiful!
|The photos don't do it justice, but this is it!|
I was feeling wiped out but my body was moving well; I think it was mostly the altitude getting to me. We climbed one more time to get out of Shirley Canyon, and then we arrived at the High Camp aid station. This was our last aid station before the finish and it's basically all downhill from there. Yipee!
With the snow last year, we had to run down the fire road to the finish - but this year we were greeted with awesome single track for this last section of the race. It was pretty technical so I had to be careful, but all I could think of was how baller that section of trail was. I had an absolute blast running the last 3.5 miles of single track and hope the course can use that next year too.
|Quick selfie because I loved this part so much.|
|Photographer photo from this part of the trail!|
Soon I was at the finish and ringing that finish bell! I didn't have a specific goal for this race, and I finished in 5:00:30. Perhaps I should regret taking random photos that cost me the sub-5, but I don't. Even more exciting, this was 52 minutes faster than my time in 2017 and I was pumped about that! Yes, part of this was due to less course congestion and no snow, but I felt strong at the end and that's a big win.
|Ringing the finish bell.|
|Celebrating with the free beer!|
I'm super happy with how the race went this year. Even though the course changes were fairly minor, it felt like a whole different course due to the lack of snow and I loved seeing the single track that was hidden last year.
I'm also very pleased with the organization of the event and I can tell they took feedback to make improvements over 2017. The main change was splitting the 52K and 26K into two days, and that took care of the course congestion issues I saw last year. They have really great swag too - 26K finishers got a tech tee, Klean Kanteen
pint glass, wooden medal, and awesome BOCO Gear hat. The hats are different colors for the 52K and 26K, but the 26K teal color is my fave.
Hit me up with any questions about this race - I highly recommend it and plan to return next year!
This sounds AMAZING!! I can imagine last year was a little bizarre -- we were there July 4th weekend skiing!ReplyDelete
I would absolutely love to do this race!
It's really fun, I recommend it! Yeah last year was nuts with all the snow. :)Delete