In 2005, my freshman year of track, Winters High School sent a 110 high hurdles runner to the CIF state championship meet. In an unfortunate turn that would become an infamous WHS legend, Nick decided to wear new socks for the race, slipped in his shoe, and fell during his final race.
At least once a year, our coach would heatedly repeat the story as a warning against ever racing in anything new—in track and field, consistency and predictability is crucial in such a controlled environment where milliseconds make all the difference.
Despite this (or maybe because of it) I have developed a gnarly spending habit brought on by race anxiety. I’m always ripping the tags off of some piece of equipment like 10 minutes before the gun goes off.
This has turned out real bad more than a few times. I puked up A LOT of salted caramel Gu at The North Face 50. I rolled my ankle three times in new shoes at The Canyons. I got a giant blister (my first and only from running) in new socks at Bishop High Sierra.
Mostly, I think this is just a manifestation of the anxiety that you could always be doing something more, something better, and race faster. The same delusion stops me from resting enough the week before the race; I’m always thinking of another perfect last workout.
Broken Arrow, however, was a prime example of me not learning my lesson, and absolutely not getting punished for it. Maybe the gear that RD Brendan stocks at Alpenglow is just that good, or maybe I’m slowly becoming invincible, but I ran in new shoes, pants, socks, and used trekking poles for the first time in my life, and everything went great.
Great, considering the parameters. I’m on a maintenance chemotherapy treatment that will continue for the rest of my life, and the Broken Arrow 54k? 52k? 53k? (I got lost) was to be held 2 days before my hospital appointment. Typically for a few days before I get juiced, I feel really lethargic and pretty swollen; most of the time my training is on hold until I feel better.
Here’s the catch: I’ve been dying to skyrace and when I saw Brendan was starting one on my training ground I had to do it.
Some of you might remember my epic fail in my first and only road marathon attempt, where I got sick and could not walk a step past mile 17—that was the day before my chemo, and my body was a wreck without enough meds in my system.
In an effort to not repeat that experience, I took a light-hearted approach to the race, told myself I was dropping as soon as I feel weak, dizzy, or nauseous, and took the opportunity to test out a ton of new gear as a distraction,
Although I was pretty tired waking up (unusual for me), I felt ok, so I drove to Squaw and suited up and chatted with friends. I had done some really quality steep and snowy training with Hilloween champ Jodie, and we had a lot of chatter about what to wear/gear to use for the race. I decided to wear pants, she was in shorts, I left the poles in my drop bag, she took hers to the start.
Naomi P also gave me a hard time about ditching them, which would turn out to be quite accurate.
The first ten miles of the race were awesome and pretty technical, I used my hands a bunch and slid down the snow. I knew that glissading was going to be the triple crown of: more fun, faster, and an opportunity to rest, so I had decided to wear some water resistant running pants to make it easier.
Every mile I did notice my body getting more fatigued, and it seemed like my normally faster turnover was going in slow motion. I had some joint swelling by the time we went through the village, so I picked up the poles to take some pressure off my legs. There were a ton of people out cheering, and the energy was awesome, so I left rejuvenated. This lasted for a quarter of a mile when we started going uphill again. My head kind of went at this point and I had to slow down to feel under control, which was pretty frustrating.
The poles were lifesavers. I’m a total convert and I really think they were the only reason I was able to finish on a day I normally wouldn’t have run.
I felt ok as long as I moved slowly, so I decided to just finish it. I took a wrong turn and picked up extra miles while forgoing the easiest part of the course by running down switchbacks instead of the fire road next to them. I have no regrets. It was fun.
We ended up high on the ridge again, when I started to feel really particularly awful. This is totally relative, however. I was having infinitely more fun than if I had stayed at home to rest while watching Law & Order. Although I was mostly hiking, I didn’t need to stop at all. It’s possible the whole going to the doctor thing is finally panning out for me, and I’m getting stronger.
Jodie caught up to me, in her natural habitat of short shorts, a sports bra, no pack, and no poles, having ditched them all, running and looking awesome! I picked up my pace to go with her, and noticed that chatting totally picked me out of a mental slump and I started moving better.
By the time we got up the last hill, I was resurrected and wanted to run the next miles into the village fast. Jodie and I passed a few runners on the way. Every time we hit even the slightest hill, my heart rate jacked up and I had the urge to puke, so my race turned into sprinting mixed with slow hiking. I’m sure it looked absurd.
Jodie went in front, and egged me on to cruise into the finish with her, and after a few seconds of waiting and some strong encouragement on her part, we finished stride for stride in about 9 hours.
I almost threw up immediately, but my mom came to the rescue with fizzy water, the only thing I ever want after a run.
I got free sandals, which was totally worth it. My dad has since stolen them to use for working in the field (he’s Filipino). This was after I had already generously gifted him the coveted trucker hat for Father’s Day.
Broken Arrow is definitely one of the coolest races I’ve ever done! I don’t race often, so I usually pick ones that I can get really excited about. I like technical, and I like steep, and I like views. This race has it all. It was really cool to be a part of the hype and see so many photographers and spectators on the course, it almost gives the impression ultrarunning is popular!
Thanks to Brendan and Ethan, and all of the volunteers who lifted this first stab sky-high!
Hopefully running a 50k with trekking poles was a good tune-up for Mt. Marathon next week. Stay tuned.
P.S. Thank you JODIE for being an awesome training partner, and teaching me the ways of shedding my recluse life.