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Broken Arrow Skyrace


Broken Arrow Skyrace

I feel weird writing a blog post like this. Usually they are upbeat and stoked. But the Broken Arrow Skyrace left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, and I can’t paint it to be something that it isn’t. I will say before I say anything else that the RD and all the volunteers were awesome, and I know everyone worked really hard to put on an awesome event. The course was beautiful and I appreciated the opportunity to come out and participate. Similarly, I strongly feel that this race will only get better in the years to come with hopefully a new and less confusing course. 

Skyracing. It’s a European thing. Essentially they try to jam pack as much vertical into as little distance as possible. I was intrigued by the challenging aspect of the race and the idea of traversing mountains. When they decided to start a skyrace in Tahoe I signed up without thinking twice. The Broken Arrow Skyrace in Squaw valley promised a 50k that wouldn’t disappoint. Unfortunately when the race course was released a month before the race I became less than excited. I never liked running track and field in high school because I despised the idea of being able to count the laps… being able to count the distance… doing the same thing over and over! This course was just that. A bunch of tiny little loops crossing and repeating all over the Squaw Resort ski hill. And no longer a 50k but now a 54k. The word around town was that the epic stellar loop they had planned fell through when the permits didn’t come in. Needless to say I didn’t care what there excuses where. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Still battling an injured hip from Alaska I had excuses to not do it. To take the DNS. Instead in silent protest I stopped training. I spent the next 20 days raging the cliffs of Yosemite and the 3 days leading up to the race being drug around by a paraglider. And still at 5am on June 19th I was in Squaw preparing to race.

I woke up that morning in the van and made a solid breakfast. I had been struggling with what would be appropriate to wear all morning but finally settled on an outfit that wouldn’t make me hot. Last minute I through a fleece and some gloves in my backpack. I do really hate being cold. I was using trekking poles which previously I hadn’t anticipated, but with my lack of training and hip injury it was a no brainer. At the start line I synced up with a few fellow Donner Party Mountain Runners. It was the first time I’ve ever raced and not felt nervous. I was planning on a DFL finish so what was to be nervous about?  When they asked everyone to file into the start I took the position which I thought I’d finish way at the back back. It was the first time I’d ever done this. My past racing strategy has always been to go out strong and hard and then you know exactly who is in front of you because they have to pass you. But this time I was giving a big zero fucks about strategy and finish position.

The horn sounded and we all filed out like a herd of cows. The fire road turns into single track really quick and I felt trapped behind some slow trotters. Initially I regretted my decision to start at the back. I felt like I was losing precious time behind these slow people but then I remembered that the the first 3 miles of a 32 mile race don’t mean that much. Crazy what a change in perspective will do to your attitude. I started moving faster once the road opened up again and then the first wrong turn happened. Everyone made it. This is how we ended up so high trying to make a decision to go down or up. Most of the pack went down so I went down. But then a man started shouting wrong way. So a lot of people turned around and went back up. I on the other hand stuck to my decision and kept going. Which turned out to be the right way. Everyone was pretty spread out now because of the wrong turn. This was only mile 2 and unfortunately was about to become a common theme. The first aid station came and went and I stashed my jacket in my pack.

In the next section we got our first tastes of snow. It was still very early in the day so the snow was frozen solid. Your feet wouldn’t punch through which made things very out of control going down and even more sketchy going up. The snow lasted on and off for the next 3 or so miles. Butt sliding was an awful and unwanted option because the ice would just cut the back of your legs and butt. The downhill went fast and I chatted here and there with a few people. I was feeling strong by mile 10 when we crossed back through downtown Squaw but the next uphill was just looming around the corner. I left downtown optimistic about the race but that quickly diminished. The trail becomes incredibly steep and loose and the uphill was relentless for hours. We went up for a long time and I was feeling low. Capitalize on your high points but keep moving during your low I kept thinking. I wanted an aid station by the time we reached Squaw Peaks summit and the helper just pointed off in the distance at a speck and said that’s your next one. The trail starts going down again and it felt good to open up my stride. This is where the next wrong turn happened we followed the flags across a snowfield which looked very well traveled only to realize we had seriously cut the trail. This resulted in the people who cut having to back track and go back up. As we came down I watched three more people cut the trail in the same spot. I told them they had cut but they didn’t seem to care. It was a substantial hill and mileage they missed.

So here is when I started to loose all hope in this race. The course was easy to cut and nobody was tracking. What are times? What are distances? What are places in a race? They mean nothing if people are cutting the course intentionally or unintentionally. We continued to run and the men who had cut passed me. At this point I didn’t care. I told myself they probably would have passed me anyways. We started to go down again and then back up. It was the final long uphill. Charting along I see my friend Julia coming down the trail. Confused I ask if she changed to the 27k. Even more confused she said no. She had taken a wrong turn which ended her up going down the wrong trail and actually adding more mileage and elevation gain. Things just weren’t adding up. How is this course so confusing? Even from looking at my map I couldn’t decipher. I got to the high point and started to go down again. A lady passed me and was asking a lot of strange questions about the course. I gladly answered but was very confused because she seemed to not remember coming up this entire section only a few hours earlier. But again I just brushed it off. Maybe she just didn’t remember. I was so happy to reach the final aid station. Then the final uphill happened it was all down hill from here. There was no-one behind for a long while. So I settled in the idea of finishing right where I was. We crested up the final climb and I watched the woman and man in front of me cut a big part of the course. I couldn’t believe it, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt it was a hard turn to see but we just went up this a few hours ago!!!??? How do people forget??? I took the correct trail and started to become paranoid. I knew the guys behind me were going to cut this and then probably catch me. I started to question my decision not to cut. It would be easy. No one but I would know… But I had morals and I also cared little about this race. What would cutting do? Solidify my current position? I was like dead last any ways why did I care? If I cheated I’d be a cheater. I’d always be a cheater. I couldn’t live with that. 

As the final stretch came into view I opened up my stride and finished right where I should have finished. Though my superstitions about the legitamentness of this race continued when a man I had passed and I very clearly remember did not pass me was already at the finish line chatting me up. I finished in about 8 and half hours which is what I expected to do based on all of the runs of half the distance and half the elevation I had done in Yosemite in about 4 hours. It’s a strange feeling to be given a rank on a piece of paper based off of something nobody can confirm all these people actually did. All that matters to me though is that I know I did it and I did all of it. So fuck yeah! But honestly a little piece of me wishes I would have just run 32 miles with 12,000 feet of vertical on my own and then none of this would even matter.

At the end of the day it’s a good reminder of why I hate racing. Racing is why people dope. Racing is why people cut course. Racing turns good people into people who will do anything to win or anything to place a few spots higher. Now it’s time to return to the purity of the mountains. Colorado is my next stop. 


First 100 After Math


First 100 After Math

I'm trying to recount everything that happened that night I finished the Susitna. It feels like my recovery has taken an eternity and I want to capture all the details of what happened to my body.

So here is my trip report Link. In summary I was in motion for close to 37 hours straight with no rest. I was moving over undulating icy and snowy terrain with a 30 pound sled strapped around my waste. Every step was deliberate and forceful.

Here is what I remember from those days post race. When I finished at 9pm I was wide awake I was afraid to take my shoes off so I sat inside eating and drinking for about 30 minutes. When it was time to go Corbin pulled the car around but I couldn't stand. I had no control over my lower legs. I couldn't straighten my knees or bend them so they always stayed at a slight angle. Corbin lifted me from the chair and I put an arm around his neck. Though honestly he was supporting all of my body weight while my legs slid on the icy ground beside him.

Once in the car I finally removed my shoes and socks. Immediately my feet swelled to an abnormal size and the pain on the bottom of my feet was so extreme I started to moan. I couldn't tell if they were frost bitten, and I was convinced I would never walk again. I had over 20 blisters covering the bottom of my feet. I quickly placed them under the heat and fell asleep. When I would wake up I realized I was still hallucinating. I saw faces in every object that passed and the sound of snow machines still echoed in my brain.

By the time we got to the hotel I wasn't even able to use Corbin as a crutch. Unable to bend my knees my legs stuck straight out in front of me as he sat me in a wheel chair and wheeled me into the elevator. I was so swollen at this point I looked 30 pounds heavier. Once we reached the hotel room Corbin laid me on the floor where I was convinced I could crawl to the shower. My knees were so sensitive that I resorted to an army crawl but only an inch of dragging my legs uncovered the pain all over and instead I laid helpless on the floor. At this point still fully clothed in what I had run in I was going in and out of shock. My teeth would chatter uncontrollably and my body and muscles would convulse. By now it was almost midnight.

My clothing smelled of piss and sweat an extremely foul smell, and I wanted to shower immediately. I had been moving for two days and had peed countless times without wiping with anything but snow. Not to mention a few times I may have peed on my shoes at wee hours of the morning. Needless to say I smelled bad and I couldn't move. Corbin returned from putting back the wheel chair and assisted me in my clothing removal. My body was in worse shape then I had imagined and I found that the sides of my thighs were extremely bruised from the poles of my sled rubbing. Not to mention the horrible chaffing around my waste from the sled belt.

Now came the hard part getting to the shower. Corbin lifted me on to the toilet while he sat a trashcan upside down in the tub so I could shower without standing. This is when I realized how severely dehydrated I was. My pee was the deepest color of blood orange. I was unable to support my own body weight and as hard as I tried I couldn't left my legs over the side of the tub without using my arms. Corbin sat me on the upside down trashcan and started the tub. I couldn't figure out how to clean my self while sitting so I got rid of the trashcan and laid horizontal in the tub. I splashed water over my body and soaped as much as I could while Corbin sat near by making sure I didn't drown.

Then came the shock again. My teeth started to chatter and I started to convulse. I felt helpless as I urgently asked Corbin to get me warm. I was unable to free myself from tub. He lifted my body out and held me over his legs while he used the hair dryer to blow heat on my skin and toweled me to get the water off. I slipped some clothing on and he placed me in the bed.

The pain and swelling was so extreme there was no position that didn't hurt. I wanted my legs elevated because I still couldn't feel any of my toes mostly from the swelling at this point. He stacked all 8 pillows from the bed under my legs and made me some dinner. He was forcing Skratch Labs Recovery powder down my throat and making me eat even though I didn't want to. My left knee was worse then my right and the swelling and pain was strangely behind the knee. I think from the heel first walking I did in sections. So Corbin filled a few bags of ice and I iced my left knee all night. At this point it was now 1am.

Corbin was tired and I was set for a sleepless night anyways so he passed out in the bed beside me while I shifted and moaned all night in and out of small pockets of sleep. At 6am I realized I need to urinate and it was an emergency. I woke Corbin up and he quickly carried me to the toilet and back to the bed. He then snuck down to the lobby and grabbed me a big breakfast. By the time the sun rose it was shaping up to be the first bluebird day in awhile. Corbin got my trekking poles close to the bed and I urged him to go skiing.

I was now alone tossing and turning in pain. I needed to unpack and repack the sled for the flight that night. I couldn't sleep so I called my family and talked on the phone most of the day laying in bed with my feet propped up the wall. But then it hit again. I needed to pee. I positioned myself sitting at the edge of the bed with the trekking poles in each hand and stood up. Still unable to straighten or bend my knees I shuffled with the trekking poles to the bathroom. I was mobile now so I used my hands to lift my legs into the tub and used the railings to hold on while I took a solid shower. I could stand without the trekking poles now but I couldn't walk without them. I dried myself and put fresh clean clothing on. I felt good and wanted to put my compression socks on in hopes of making my feet feel better. So I sat on the couch with a knife popping some of the bigger poorly positioned blisters. Puss oozed out all over my feet and I applied as much Neosporin as I could.

I got the sled packed and unpacked and then Corbin showed up. Now was the true test. Could I walk without the poles? It was slow painful and awkward, but I could hobble unassisted. We went to the award ceremony and I got the belt buckle before heading back to the hotel. It was 9pm at this point an entire day after finishing the race and I could finally sleep. While Corbin packed his ski gear I passed out into the best 3 hours of sleep I could have asked for. We then headed to the airport for our 2 am flight back to Reno. I hobbled through the airport and to the gate where I fell asleep on the floor. Corbin woke me and I got onto the plane where I immediately feel asleep in Corbin's lap. Off this flight and on to the next a similar story. I was so destroyed I couldn't interact with other human beings. I couldn't formulate thoughts or words.

Corbin drove us back to Truckee where I laid horizontal on a couch unable to operate my car or move quickly for 3 days. I couldn't sleep. I could barely work. I couldn't walk Lopi without becoming extremely fatigued. Everything was a chore I was drained. The most empty I've ever been.

But I picked myself up on the fourth day and drove back to Incline. I showered and did laundry. I unpacked the sled and packed myself for my next trip to Boulder. I took Lopi on a walk and I enjoyed the little improvements in mobility that I gained daily. I still couldn't feel two toes on my left foot and my feet needed to be lotioned daily. But life keeps moving on even if your not ready for it to.

I flew to Boulder 5 days after returning from Alaska for work still unable to walk without limping. But everyday seemed to get just a little bit better and I found myself walking 1 to 2 miles everyday limp free after day 8 of no running. But I still couldn't sleep. It wasn't till my final night in Boulder that I got a goodnight sleep. I account it to the late night and good conversation with friends. Or maybe it was the climbing I had done that morning. Non the less I finally slept for the first time in 10 days.

I feel like I went through hell with this recovery and I've finally come out on the other side. I've learned so much about my body and what I need. I know next time things will be different.