Hesitations and Celebrations: Broken Arrow Sky Race

Sarah lives in Northern California with her adorable rescue dog and two cats. She began running races at 8 years old. One of her favorite running accomplishments was setting her high school record in the 800 meters. Sarah loves running fast around a track and the on the trails, but 4 years ago Sarah learned how to slow down on the trails and start running ultra marathons. You can usually find her running up and down trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is a Running Coach and a Registered Veterinary Technician.

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A special thank you to race photographers: Scott Rokis Photography @scottrokisphoto , @letswanderphotography, & @dpcphotos .

This past October, I had the amazing experience of running the Broken Arrow Sky Race 50 kilometer distance. I had been wanting to run this race for the last four years because I love running to the top of big mountains. And this race was in my favorite local mountain range. At first, fear kept me from signing up for the race. I had never run a race with that much elevation gain and at that high of elevation before. So in 2019, I volunteered at the race. I was incredibly impressed with all the runners, but still incredibly scared to sign up. But I pushed past my fear and I signed up to run the 50k race in 2020. Then Covid happened and delayed the race until October 2021. I was disappointed that the race was delayed, but I understood the Covid safety concerns were to keep all of us safe. So I tried to think on the positive side and appreciate this race delay as it gave me more time to train and feel prepared.

All of 2021 I trained as much as I could. I ran at elevations above 7,000 feet. I ran as much vertical gain as I could. I ran up and down steep and narrow canyon trails. Over technical rocky trails. I tried to find new and challenging ways to try to prepare for this big race. Wild fires over the summer made air quality poor and unsafe to run in during the months leading up the the race. In order to keep up with training, I ran during some smokey weeks and then felt the negative effects on my lungs. It was hard to not feel frustrated with the poor air quality and closed trails due to the wild fires. The weeks leading up to a race always feel precious. If I can not complete a workout in those last few weeks I can feel myself start to feel like I am loosing my chance to get stronger. I have learned over the years that if I miss a training session it will not ruin my race. My body knows how to run. And times like these remind me that running an ultra marathon has a large mental aspect. So dealing with this frustration helped me practice my mental strength.

Race day snuck up on me fast. The morning of the race I was filled with excitement of the unknown. I put on my favorite leggings, made by an amazing woman owned, small business called Bewildher. These leggings are amazing and I knew they would help me stay warm in the freezing morning temperatures and then allow my body temperature to cool down as the day warmed up. They really are the best leggings. I then laced up my Altra Lone Peak shoes and loaded up my running vest with water and snacks. I braided my hair in my lucky braids (yes I’m superstitious). I fueled up with a bean and rice burrito and a banana. I then relaxed and focused on my mental strength while I drank some green tea.

The starting area was full of so much energy. It felt so good to be surrounded by other people who also loved running far in the mountains. As I waited for the race to start, I looked inward and reminded myself that I am running this race to challenge myself to try something new and to enjoy the beauty of it all. And then the race started and all of us runners began our accent up onto the mountain we all had been waiting to run up! With all of the excitement, I had to remind myself that I had many miles to run and I needed to remember my own pace. I just needed to focus on moving forward. Keep taking steps to move up and down the mountain.

Running the Broken Arrow Sky Race 50k pushed me to understand my love of running up and down big mountains. The steep terrain was more than what I was expecting. With 10,000 feet of elevation gain in 50 kilometers, I don’t know what I was really expecting. But thats a lot of up in not that many miles.

I like to think of myself as a very positive person, but in every ultra marathon that I have run, my thoughts will go to a dark place when I start to get really tired or have pain. During the last few miles of the race there was a lot of steep downhill and my knees were starting to really hurt. I really wanted to run fast down those last few miles, but it hurt so bad. So I decided to walk all the remaining downhills to help decrease my knee pain. And I was upset with myself. Walking meant I was going to have a slower time and I had set a goal for myself and I was not going to make it. I had to look inward and remember why I run in the first place. And I remembered that I run because it makes my soul feel good. And I also run for the views. And I was on an incredibly gorgeous trail. So I slowed down my thoughts and I focused on one step at a time and how beautiful the trail was. My slower pace allowed me to take in the beauty even more. And it felt so beautiful to accept and love myself even though I was not going to make my goal time. Being on a trail in my favorite mountain range on a beautiful blue sky day was what my soul needed to be happy. It really could not have been more perfect.

Below is a photo take by one of the race photographers (David Cervenka). In the photo I’m climbing up the Stairway to Heaven ladder on the race course that brings you up to the ridge line to reach Palisades Peak. The elevation is close to 9,000 feet and the cliffs drop off pretty dramatically on both sides. This is a part of the race I was really looking forward to and I think my favorite part! Behind me in the photo you can see big, beautiful Lake Tahoe tucked into the mountains. It could almost be mistaken for fog laying on the mountains. The views up here were truly breathtaking.

PC: David Cervenka @dpcphotos 

About the Author

Sarah lives in Northern California with her adorable rescue dog and two cats. She began running races at 8 years old. One of her favorite running accomplishments was setting her high school record in the 800 meters. Sarah loves running fast around a track and the on the trails, but 4 years ago Sarah learned how to slow down on the trails and start running ultra marathons. You can usually find her running up and down trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is a Running Coach and a Registered Veterinary Technician.

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