Saturday, June 22, 2019

Broken Arrow 52K Sky Race: June 22, 2019

Pre-Race, the calm before the pain!
Sky race trail running events are popular in Europe and have gained  a lot of attention in the United States within the last five or six years.  They are unique and challenging due to taking place in mountains at high altitude and also involve a lot of elevation gain / loss throughout the races.  I have followed the sky races in the US but I never thought I would sign up for one.  That is until Shaun peer pressured me into signing up for Broken Arrow 52K.  The timing of the event actually lined up nicely with my training plan for Kodiak 100 so I agreed to do it.  Broken Arrow starts around 6,000 feet above sea level and tops out at almost 10,000 feet.  There is over 10,000 feet of total elevation gain throughout the two loop race which starts and ends in Squaw Valley ski resort.  From certain vantage points on the course you can even see lake Tahoe in the distance.  Leading up to this race I was in pretty good shape from all my training over the last few months so I was excited to see how I would handle the difficulty of the course.  I was also interested in seeing how my body would handle the higher altitude since my goal race in August, Kodiak 100, was also going to be in the mountains at a higher altitude.

The First Climb
High enough for leftover snow in late June

The super steep rope climb!
We arrived to Olympic Village in Squaw Valley and got our bibs and all the great race schwag.  The race started in the cool mountain air and after parading down the main brick street of the ski resort we hit the first climb.  Then the next few miles of the course are rolling hills through a wooded section and you come out into a big opening.  That's when you face the first really tough climb, basically a very steep grade up to the top.  Then there is a big decent down to the first aid station.  This is followed by a few more long steep climbs.  Then you get to the steepest climb of the day, in fact, it's so steep they installed a rope to assist the ascent.  There was snow here making it even more difficult.  On the rope section on my first loop I used all upper body strength to get myself to the top.  In hindsight that was not a great idea because my shoulder and arms felt like they were going to fall off.  There were a lot of other people on the rope at the same time since it was the first loop so we had to keep moving in order to not break everyone's flow.  It was super hard and I had never experienced anything like it in a race.  I can't explain how happy I was to make it to the top of the rope climb.  This was my least favorite part of the race however it's all part of the challenge so I have learned to embrace it.  The next hard part was a steep climb up to the highest point on the course where we had to scale some rocks and climb up a shady ladder.  I'm not gonna lie it was kind of terrifying but the views from the top were incredible.  We could even see Lake Tahoe in the distance and that mental reward makes all the difficult aspects worth while.

Shaun on top of the world

Lake Tahoe in the background

Climbing up to the shady ladder

Then we started descending and came to a huge steep downhill.  The hill was covered in snow and going down was treacherous.  Some runners were sitting and sliding down the snow hill on their ass, including Shaun!  There were some complaints of burning skin after that because the snow was flying all up in there!  Climbing back up this hill was very difficult as well because the snow provided slippery footing and it was so steep that we could only do slow steps.  Luckily Shaun and I both had shoe traction for the snow which really helped with this section.  After this climb it was mostly all downhill back to the start finish area to end the first loop.  I had to reapply some sun screen after that loop because the sun was blazing down and it's easy to get burnt on an exposed snow covered mountain.  The second loop was the same route as the first loop.  Towards the end of the race I made it a priority to beat another runner who was playing music out loud on the course.  I don't mind if people listen to headphones during a race but it's disrespectful to play the music out loud.  Anyway this person was really gaining on us and I took off down the service road running as fast as I could ffor the last mile and a half or so.  I ended up accomplishing my goal but some older guy passed me right at the finish line.  I was a little deflated by that however it did not ruin the fact that I had a great time and I truly enjoyed the sky race!  It was super rewarding and this particular race is put on by Salomon so it was a very well run event.  After the race we smashed some pizza at the ski village and then headed back to the AirBnb in North Lake Tahoe for some beer and TV wind down. 

Strava Data:

A hard fought finish but got it done

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