See that mountain top? Run to it.
By Meggan Wenbourne
I recently found myself at Squaw Valley Ski Resort outside of Lake Tahoe, California for a good ol’ fashioned footrace up the mountainside. This would mark my first race at elevation and having now completed it, I do not think it is going to be my last.
This race series is the type of event you would expect to see in states like Colorado and Wyoming. However, with the increasing popularity of trail running in the Sierra, the Broken Arrow Race Series made an incredible debut in this mountain community and seems to have been very well received.
Arriving at the village at Squaw, we were suddenly surrounded by giant mountains with snow still on their summits. With a rainstorm the morning of my race, I felt my confidence level dropping and felt more out of my league than when I had signed up three months ago.
I knew there would be snow, they told me to bring “traction devices,” but had I listened? No. I was feeling ill equipped at this point and already feeling slight side effects of being at elevation.
My warm up was brief (I am not a runner, so besides running back and forth a couple of times I had no idea what to do). We lined up at the base of the hill and as the whistle blew I realized I could not see the top.
The hill never ended, seriously, it just kept going. My lungs were protesting and were definitely the limiting factor in this race throughout the entire course. Ascending the mountainside, we found ourselves dodging falling rocks that people had unknowingly dislodged and gearing up for the first of several snow crossings. Course Marshalls were at every major obstacle and were welcoming and encouraging, which made me tired face light up.
The snow portions were my favorite. Running in snow is hilarious and you feel like you are going to deck the entire time. I found the traction on my trainers to be just enough to get through the snow/talus fields and trudged onward and upward although never fully confident in my footing. My race had turned into a hike and I just wanted to finish.
The finale of the course was a spectacular traverse along the belly of one of the main peaks of Squaw. With a healthy serving of snow on one side and steep descent on the other, footing became increasingly important. I was by myself for a majority of the race and the last thing I wanted was to be hurt and stuck on the side of a snowy slope, so I chose my footing and headed for the summit.
The timers were enthusiastic and waiting with my arrowhead and my supportive better half somehow ended up on the summit to cheer me to the finish as well! Smiles all around and a victory beverage at the finish left me feeling accomplished and eager for new challenges.
To those thinking about entering a sky race: make sure you read up on it. There are incredible courses out there and eager organizers who can answer any questions you may have about the course or any potential prerequisites you may need to have under your belt.
The adventure is always there, you just have to find it.
Meggan Wenbourne is an avid climber, mountain biker and backpacker who works and plays in Santa Cruz, CA. She spends her time traveling to the mountains as often as possible to get lost in the pine trees and explore the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada range and has recently developed an obsession with the desert and its red rocks. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, riding amazing trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.