I haven’t gotten around to writing up my report from Rocky Raccoon 100, but I figured I would get up quickly my Broken Arrow Sky Race Report! The Broken Arrow Sky Race takes place in Squaw Valley, California near Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The race weekend features a Vk (vertical k, that also happens to be about a 5k) on Friday, 52k on Saturday, and a 26k and 10k on Sunday. I did both the Vk and the 52k, both of which involve a lot of climbing, including over the famous “Stairway to Heaven” scary ladder. I ran these races with my friend Linda. Being from the Flatlands of Illinois, we knew that this race would be a challenge for us. It also was important training for the upcoming Never Summer 100k in Colorado in July, a race with a lot of personal meaning to me that I have been obsessing about for two years now.
Broken Arrow Vk
According to Strava, I climbed 2,793 feet over 3.39 miles in the Vk. The race started up a small ski slope and then just kept climbing. Much of the climb is on ski routes, that are essentially steep gravel chutes or roads in summer. The views were wonderful. Lake Tahoe could be seen off in the distance.
Near the top, was a view back over several smaller lakes.
And then the climb continued.
Eventually the course topped out at a narrow and exposed ridge with an attached cable as a hand hold.
Runners scramble up the ridge with the help of the cable and then climb an exposed ladder. The ladder looks worn, but was quite stable.
After the ladder there was a set of stairs carved out of snow with a guide rope to the peak.
Following the peak, was a rather difficult and steep, but short, descent. We then walked about 2 miles over to what is the High Camp aid station location for the 52k and 26k where there is a tram connecting Squaw Valley with the facilities at High Camp. Linda and I met our husbands there for lunch and rode the tram back down. I felt pretty good about the Vk and was not overly worn out or sore from it. They ran out of medals for the Vk though and took our names in order to ship them to us. So I hope my medal shows up at some point. They are rather nice wooden awards.
Broken Arrow 52k
The 52k consists of two loops of the same course and incorporates the same ridge and ladder as the Vk. According to Strava, I covered 9,647 ft of elevation over 32.44 miles. The race started with a short climb and then entered some beautiful and very runnable single track on the Western States trail through a lovely grove of pine trees. There were several miles of flat and downhill sections, and it was a great location to bank time on the first loop and make up some time on the second. Eventually it exited the pines and climbed a relatively short, but very steep, grassy hill. From there it proceeded up and down more ski hills and gravel roads, until it eventually steeply climbed to a location that met up with the climb from the Vk. That next section climbed to the ridge and the ladder along the same route as the Vk.
The back side featured several miles of runnable downhill, a climb through a wooded area on rocks and single track, followed by a climb up and over some more snow stair steps to High Camp. After high camp, it was pretty much all downhill, mostly on a rather technical and rocky single track, with a bit of road at the end. After the second loop, runners entered the finish chute to ring a bell to signal their finish. There were three aid stations. It was over 6 miles to the first, and the others are a bit over 3 miles apart, with climbs in between them. There was the standard aid station food, and the volunteers were all fabulous. There was a helpful prerace meeting on Saturday that covered what to expect from the course.
The 52k started out pretty well. Linda and I started at the back and stayed at the back. We rather quickly were joined by the Sweeper, Mark, who owns Ultrasignup. We chatted with Mark as we climbed, taking plenty of rest breaks. Linda was struggling with some of the climbing and her back was hurting her. We were DFL (dead f’ing last) up the ladder and then made some decent time down the other side. Linda knew that she was not going to do a second loop and gave me her blessing to go on ahead. From there I ran the downhills quite hard, power hiked the climb to High Camp, and went as fast as I could on the technical single track back to the start hoping to gain time ahead of the cut off.
I started the second loop DFL 30 minutes before the cut off and saw no one as I ran the single track portion as quickly as I could handle to make up time. But when I popped out of the woods at the grass hill, I saw a number of people climbing it. Some looked in not so great shape. I nearly caught up with all of them on the hill and passed several going down. The aid station volunteers at the bottom went to work smearing sunscreen on me, as I was burning, and feeding me fruit. I left with a handful of watermelon, and passed a couple of women on the next climb. I never saw the sweepers.
My second trip over the ladder was more difficult, as I was lightheaded, probably from the exertion at altitude. After that, I felt quite at ease and simply kept moving fast enough to ensure that I did not miss any cut offs. I finished in 12:21:46, well before the 13-hour cut off and close to last, but not DFL. Linda greeted me with Prosecco and a huge Pinecone. I had seen the pinecones along the trail and really wanted one!
Overall, this was a beautiful race and a difficult course. I think even those accustomed to altitude would find difficulty in this one. It also was very well run with one exception. The race had a ton of swag, but we got shorted on ours by not getting items that we were supposed to get from being registered in two races or not getting a few items (mostly small items) at all. Not a huge deal, except I like to get all that I paid for. We meant to go back and ask for the items and then forgot. The volunteers were all amazing, so I want to give a big shout out to them. The aid station support was fabulous!
If you want a scenic and challenging trail race take a look at the Vk, 52k or 26k next year. There is also a 10k, but it is tamer and does not cross the Stairway to Heaven ladder.
I’m hoping to get back here again someday!
We stayed at The Village at Squaw Valley, just a block from the expo and steps from the start. Our standard room was generally fine, but warm, and the bed could have been more comfortable. The website mentioned a/c but we did not have any. Linda had a one bedroom with a kitchen and balcony that was quite nice.