This is the fourth year of the Broken Arrow Skyrace (BASR) in Squaw Valley, and the fourth year I’ve gone up the hill to help out. It’s a highlight of my summer, a great time for my family, and a race I expect will be a part of my life–and the greater ultra scene–for years to come.
(For transparency, they comp me a hotel room, but that’s it…I’m just a volunteer otherwise.)
Here are my quick thoughts from what turned out to be a fantastic weekend with picture perfect weather.
The elite field assembled for BASR was once again pretty incredible. Max King, Megan Kimmel, David Laney, Morgan Arritola, Coree Woltering, Rea Kolbl, Hayden Hawks, Taylor Nowlin, Mike Wardian, Joelle Vaught, Aaron Newll, Anne-Marie Madden…the list was extensive and–I’ll get to this in a minute–a harbinger of a trend that I’m happy to see.
Broken Arrow is stacked with elites, but it’s also a race that saves plenty of focus and energy for the mid and back of the pack runners. Every single finisher is celebrated with just the same amount of enthusiasm as the first and that feeling imbues the entire weekend. From Hayden Hawks to Myrna Valerio, there was no shortage of enthusiasm for each runner.
Because the race is right before Western States, there’s also a large contingent of elite athletes around waiting for the start of The Big Dance.
An example: Right before the start of the 52k, a few guys from Ontario, Canada were near the start line waiting for course instructions when a young lady tapped one of them on the shoulder and offered to help get his laces tucked into his Salomons. It was Lucy Bartholomew and she was there watching her dad Ash run the race (and prep for WS) but offered up her help and guidance to a stranger simply because they needed it. This is our community.
(And isn’t there a joke in there somewhere…”How many guys does it take to tie a shoe?” or something…)
Up until four years ago, I used trail racing and Skyracing synonymously, figuring, cynically, that the latter was just a trademarked version of the former. Boy, was I wrong. Broken Arrow takes competitors on ridge lines, up and down ski runs, snow and fixed ladders, and every other type of terrain possible. The race starts at 6600′ and caps out around 8800′ on Squaw Ridge.
Snow was once again a factor this year. Most estimates I heard was that runners ran on snow about 1/3 of the race, sometimes light, and sometimes allowing runners to slide down toboggan runs on the butts.
Hayden Hawks and Megan Kimmel crushed the 52k course (4:25 and 5:09, respectively) and showed what kind of shape they’re each in. Yowza! I didn’t expect those time from anyone before the race started, but the word from the course was that they were each flying…and they kept it up!
Max King once again won the VK, with Joe Gray taking a DNS with an ankle injury. I would have loved to see those two race this year. For the women’s VK, Morgan Arritola was 4th overall, first woman, in an event that she makes looks fun and easy. Second place was 18yo Tahoe local Sofia Sanchez who I’m expecting to see at more sub-ultra trail races..she’s got the energy for sure.
The 26k was a surprise, with OCR stud Lindsay Webster (more on that below) taking the win from Olympic XC skier and trail champ Morgan Arritola. Beating Morgan on this type of course takes a special performance and Lindsay showed us what she had! Andrew Douglas (HOKA) from Scotland won the men’s race by ten minutes. WOW.
Obstacle Course Racing and trail running have had crossover athletes for awhile, but this year’s field seemed to have more than usual, and that’s great news! Top OCR athletes Aaron Newell (2nd in VK, 15th in 52k, 11th in 26k), Nicole Mericle (F4 in 26k), Lindsay Webster (F1 in 26k), Steve Hammond (Race management), Rea Kolbl (F2 in 52k), and Johnny Luna Lima all ran and showed what excitement these athletes bring to more traditional trail running.
For the unofficial “Triple Crown” contest (VK, 26k, 52k) Newell left with the lowest overall time of 8:19:58 (44:30 VK/2:22:20 26k/5:13:08 52k.)
The kids race is still growing and it’s great to see. They get a real start and a bib and they blast out towards the same mountains their parents ran…but only for about a kilometer. They go out under the funitel, climb a decent hill, then come flying down the fire road and (try to) ring the bell at the finish. Tons of fun to watch and an excellent way to get kids interested in this sport. Best part? I didn’t hear one kid wine about a shirt or SWAG. Next year we’ll get better at announcing their names…it was tough this year.
We got the (kind of) OK from Sunny’s doc that she could run the 11k (I believe I carefully and vaguely asked “can she run?” with no mention of where or what) so we worked to find a female for her to run the 11k with. Why doesn’t my wife or I run with her? Check the Ladia link below for my explanation.
Stephanie Howe Violett is still on the mend from an achilles surgery, but she volunteered to run with Sunny and keep her safe on the trail. I begged, pled, and threatened Sunny to NOT run the downhills, (she’s in a full arm cast with some nerve damage and we’re leaving for Europe in three weeks), but every picture or video I’ve seen, she and Stephanie are flying downhill, squealing and hooting with delight. Hey, I tried.
Like Ladia’s run with Sunny last year, this is something that is important to. Sam and I as parents and to someone who wants to see more girls in the sport. Can you imagine the impact these moments have on kids and how these little acts of kindness will affect the future? Sunny wore her baggy “Courtney shorts” (her words) and Pixie Ninja socks, strapped on the only vest that’ll fit her (the UD Half Marathon), talked a lot and hopefully learned a ton, and that enthusiasm is contagious. Big huge thanks to Stephanie and the other women (Anna Mae Flynn and Caroline Boller) who had offered to run with her. Next year she says she’s running the VK and 26k.
More girls running trails –> More women running trails.
Big huge shoutout to La Sportiva for making a kids-centric trail shoe! The Jynx is finally available in the US and her 2.5 foot fits perfectly. This is a real mountain shoe–not a “kids” shoe that’s made to look tough, and that’s important. NFI, I just like to recognize brands that make gear for the next generation of trail runners.