The Broken Arrow Skyrace experience

Last week I was out in California for a running race, a brief departure from ski training in Vermont. The Broken Arrow Skyrace is relatively new as far as races go, this being only its 3rd year, but it has a lot going for it and was an excellent event! “Skyraces” as a category of event are quite common to Europe, but there are few happening yet in the US, even though we’ve got some great terrain and trails for them too. Actually I just learned from a quick search – skyrunning is defined as “mountain running above 2,000m over extremely technical trails.”

Broken Arrow happened in the mountains at Squaw Valley, a ski resort near Lake Tahoe. I figured it’d be competitive fields of racers, nice scenery and mountains, and a fun chance to meet people at an event I’d never been to before. So I decided to make the trip West, using airline miles for a ticket and the help of my running sponsor, Salomon, for on-the-ground logistics and housing. I do like running up and down technical trails and mountains… that’s probably worth noting too!

The week I spent at Squaw Valley was an awesome experience, and definitely worth the trip! After arriving in Reno, I took a long solo run into the foothills and was impressed with the variety of desert vegetation and the little oases in the canyons. I stayed my first night with Annika Taylor, a friend and Olympic XC skier for Great Britain, and it was great to catch up with her and then be able to rollerski together the next morning. From the second day on, I ventured into uncharted territory – meeting a whole bunch of new people, exploring a new area, testing the waters of how my body would respond to running at over 6000ft altitude with no acclimation.

The People:

Staying in a Salomon Running athlete house facilitated meeting a ton of really cool people – runners, supporters, family, and Salomon staff. I didn’t do a very good job of taking photos of the various groups of people; my phone has many more photos of flowers than people from the trip.  At the risk of sounding a little star-struck, I was quite excited to put faces to names, to meet and talk to a few of the big names of US and international running… Courtney Dauwalter, Scott Jurek, Francois D’haene, Lucy Bartholomew, Max King, Rickey Gates and many others. These are amazingly talented, dedicated, and accomplished individuals, and it’s just fun to see everyone’s personalities behind the scenes, what you might not get from a race report or a photograph. I also ran into quite a few acquaintances from the ski world, since nordic skiing and mountain running is a frequent cross-over, so it was great to catch up with a few of them too – James Southam, Morgan Arritola and more. The Salomon staff were tirelessly running expo booths, aid stations, and supporting the athletes – thanks Esther, Steff, and Ryan! And filmmaker Max Romey and photographer Martina keeping the energy high and everyone on their toes… overall it was a great and enthusiastic group of athletic people.

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Photographer-extraordinaire, ski-mountaineer and runner from Italy, Martina Valmassoi was my roommate for the week in the Salomon house. It was great to talk to her about photography and the nordic sports (a lot of runners don’t really get rollerskiing, but she does!). She was on-site photographing the Broken Arrow races for Salomon; Max Romey was the videographer, and both of them stayed to video and photograph the Western States 100 mile race the next weekend as well. Great coverage, thanks guys!
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It was also awesome to meet and get to know Lucy Bartholomew, an exuberant ultra runner from Australia. She was in Squaw Valley at the Salomon house preparing to run the Western States 100 mile race which happened on June 23rd — her first 100 miler, at age 22! Lucy and I helped at the top aid station of the course for a few hours during Saturday’s 52k – here we were having fun taking selfies with all the gels and treats. Lucy went on to start off in the lead of the Western States for dozens of miles, and ultimately to finish 3rd place for women!
On my last day in CA, I went on a great long trail run on the Flume trail above Lake Tahoe. For this 18mi run it was just me and Gina Lucrezi, the founder of the Trail Sisters website/social media collective/community, as well as an excellent runner. Gina has done ultras and all sorts of mountain running, and it was great to talk to her about her experience with the sport as well as her initiative through Trail Sisters to get more women out on the trails! Plus we enjoyed the spectacular views of a sunny day above the lake!
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Here’s a photo from the organizers of the race with a handful of cool people I got to either meet and talk to, or race with. It was fun to be able to put faces to names, and see many of the elites of US mountain running and how they smile and carry themselves behind the scenes. I find that, just like when I was at the Olympics, these elite athletes are amazing and talented people, but still just people with real character and strengths and weaknesses. It’s also nice to prove that I can run right among them, even as an xc skier crossover…  L-R Max King, Amy Leedham, Lucy Bartholomew, Amelia Boone, and Hilary Allen
Conversing with women’s 26k winner Dani Moreno right after the finish. It was fun to learn that she’ll also be coming to Loon Mountain, a race that I’ll be doing in a few weeks in New Hampshire. One of these races I’ll get to run along with Dani, but in the 26k she took off so fast that while she was in my sights some of the time as I ran to my 2nd place finish, I never had a chance to run with her.

Here’s a collection of photos more centered on the racing action, and my activities between races. I competed in the VK on Friday June 15th (that’s 1 kilometer of climbing, over about 5k of distance going all uphill), watched on Saturday as runners raced a 52k, and then I raced again on Sunday for a 26k loop around Squaw from base to top and down again. I was quite happy with 3rd place for women in the VK, and 2nd place in the 26k!

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And the race is off! For the 26k we started under the arch and crossed a few cobblestone-esque streets in Squaw village. This picture isn’t the very front of the pack – a bunch of guys were already off the front, but I’m on the far right in the long sleeve blue shirt, and to my left is Amelia Boone, an excellent obstacle course racer and runner who I ran with for about the first 4 miles of the race.
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The stairs were fun, heading up to the top of the VK and we crossed this section during the 26k as well. There wasn’t actually very much snow on course, but after the VK a big group of us finishers was able to glissade down a huge snow patch on the other side of the mountain.
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The day before the VK I previewed the bottom part of the course, but didn’t make it all the way to the top. I made sure to keep the pace easy and admire lots of flowers, since I came from sea level up to high altitude at over 6000ft.
Heading towards the ladder and the last few hundred meters to the top of the VK. Photo: Martina Valmassoi
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Crossing the final snow patch, above the stairs, just steps before the finish. I love being able to use poles in a running race! Then I can actually use my upper body, which I train so much for ski specific strength, and it allows me to reduce a little burden on the legs.
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VK women’s podium, I’m thrilled to be standing in the top 3 together with Morgan Arritola and Hilary Allen. They were super fast, out of sight by the top, and I had to dig deep to fend off the 4th place chaser. 
Day before the races, in between the races, and after the races… rollerskiing! Double poling is an awesome way to get a workout but rest the legs a little. Thank you Spencer/Emily/Patrick/Annika, my Truckee area skier friends, for the lending of equipment so that I could rollerski but didn’t have to travel with the gear.
Taking in the scene of Squaw from above, during a tram ride to the aid station
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Aid station at the top, where I helped for a few hours. That peak to the right is the high point of Squaw at around 8800 ft, so this aid station was pretty high up there! I almost felt more altitude effects just standing up here than when I was racing – it was sunny but also kind of cold, so even though the racers were in tanks, we volunteers had to bundle up in sweatshirts and jackets.
Broken Arrow 26k race, solo running hard with poles! Photo: Martina Valmassoi
Ringing the bell was a fun way to end the race! I think better than the bell sound itself was just the fact that I could occupy my mind during the last few minutes of the race descent with contemplating how to jump. You might think I’d need to focus on my footing, but that’s kind of a different issue – thinking too much can be counterproductive at that stage of a running race and with as much trail practice as I have – just have to let it flow. Opted for the heel-clicking jump except my execution was not as good as the thought. Photo: Martina V
After the race I briefly hopped in the creek, and then the next day I hopped in again, to ice the legs and speed the recovery.
Recovery sunning the day after the race – putting the feet up and enjoying a salad and a whole lot of other things that I’d already consumed by this point! Not that I just sat out in the sun either – I went for a nice double pole first. When you can be active and are in a cool place, you’ve got to get outside!
Last day in California, cruising above Lake Tahoe. I raced with and trained with this Salomon running vest for the first extended time during this trip, and it’s one of my new favorite running accessories – so easy to carry water and snacks comfortably.
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Podium ceremonies underneath the historical Olympic rings of Squaw 1960. Thanks for reading and following my adventures! May you create and find many great adventures of your own too!

 

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