The vertical uphill race at Broken Arrow on Friday was made even more challenging this year by the record snowfall in Lake Tahoe, but how would it affect the 23k Broken Arrow Skyrace?

The race was to provide our second Gold Label event and first long mountain race of this year’s Valsir Mountain Running World Cup.

The conditions were sunny and cool (9 centrigrade/48 farenheit) for the start, but the biggest issue for the runners wasn’t the snow, it was the wind.

The route usually consists of a single loop with 1,533m (5,033 feet) of climbing, topping out at Washeshu Peak. However, the organisers made the decision that the high winds (gusting up to 70mph on the summit) constituted a safety risk for the runners, stating that ‘runner safety will always be our primary concern and today’s conditions leave us no other viable options’ and had to modify the course.

The start time was also delayed by 90 minutes to 9.30am.

The route would now be two laps totalling approximately 22km (13 miles) with approximately 1370m (4,500 feet) of ascent. The new route would avoid the exposed ridges and the famous ‘stairway to heaven’ ladder, which would pose a serious safety risk. The amended route still had parts that were under snow, so it would still be very challenging underfoot. However, as it was slightly shorter with slightly less ascent, we were expecting faster than usual times.

Photo: Nancy Hobbs

The big names who made the start line

Both the men’s and women’s fields boasted big names. Although she pulled out of the vertical uphill race it was announced on Sunday morning that Allie McLaughlin (USA) would be taking part in today’s race. She was second here in the 23k in 2022. Alongside her would be Anna Gibson (USA), the winner of the vertical uphill race on Friday, Sara Willhoit (GBR), third on Friday and other strong runners such as Janelle Lincks (USA), the 2021 winner here, and Rachel Drake (USA).

In the men’s race the winner of the vertical uphill race, Andrea Rostan (ITA), was also back, as was third placed Henri Aymonod (ITA), fourth placed Zak Hanna (IRL) and fifth placed (MEX). Zak’s fellow Irishman Paddy O’Leary, Eli Hemming (USA), Chad Hall (USA) and Liam Meirow (USA) were also expected to feature.

The starting push

Initially in the men’s race it was Hemming and Hall who made a break at the start. They were soon joined by Meikael Beaudoin-Rousseau (USA) The three of them started to open up a lead from the chasing pack through the first lap and it was Hemming in front, then Beaudoin-Rousseau, then Hall at the highest point, with just a few seconds between each.

For the women it was Gibson and Tabor Hemming (USA) who led it out from the front, but within a few minutes they were both passed by McLaughlin. Lincks was just behind them in fourth.

Gibson and Hemming remained together for a while on the first climb, but Gibson pulled away a little and by the time they hit the highest point it looked as if she was closing a little on McLaughlin. But it was still a significant gap.

The revised two lap format essentially created a 5k uphill (with a few flatter sections and slight downhills) up to KT22, followed by 5k of downhill twice. Would it be the stronger ascenders who opened up insurmountable gaps, or would it all be decided on the fast downhills?

Would the snow be a factor on those downhills? One thing was for sure – having the runners blast through the village at the halfway point was a real highlight for the spectators.

Photo: Peter Maksimow

Family pedigree shining through

Coming into the finish of the first lap Hall, a 2.14 marathon runner (and Ryan Hall’s younger brother) took the men’s lead once they got off the snow and onto the road.  Hemming was a few seconds behind and Beaudoin-Rousseau a few seconds behind him. Behind them were Aymonod (around 2 minutes behind) and Talon Hull (USA) a few seconds behind him. Patrick Parsel (USA) Hernandez, Rostan, Raul Criado Sanchez (ESP) and Hanna were all within a minute of fourth place.

McLaughlin had hammered the downhill and came into the village with a lead of 1.40 over Gibson. Hemming was another minute behind and Lincks was just a few seconds behind her. Another minute back was Willhoit. It was slightly more spread out than the men’s top 10 but after the first lap the other runners making up the women’s leaders were Annie Dube (USA) , Rachel Mow (USA), Gabrielle Orie (USA), Sarah Guhl (USA) and Andie Cornish (USA).

The second lap proves the decisive one

On the men’s second lap Hemming took the lead again and tried to open a gap again on the uphill, having seen how fast Hall was on the downhill. But there was still only 20 seconds between the top three men at this point.

Hemming continued to press on the uphill and started to open a gap on Hall of 90 seconds by the next timing point. Beaudoin-Rousseau was another 30 seconds back. It was all going to come down to the final descent on what was increasingly slushy snow.

Despite her lead McLaughlin didn’t let up at all on the second lap. Gibson continued to chase hard and we knew what a strong climber she was in the vertical uphill on Friday. It was no surprise to see McLaughlin hit the timing point at the highest point of the course first, but the main question was how far behind was Gibson?

McLaughlin had maintained a lead of just over 2 minutes at this point. Hemming was still in third place but 3 minutes behind her, with Lincks another minute behind and Willhoit seemingly out of contention for the podium now at a further 2.30 behind. McLaughlin’s victory was starting to look secure, but second and third would be interesting.

Photo: Peter Maksimow

Flying down the snow and first to ring the bell

Hemming was able to hold off Hall to take the win for the men in 1.34.46 (Hall in 1.37.13). At just 23 years of age Beaudoin-Rousseau took third in 1.38.33. Hull overtook Aymonod to take fourth in 1.40.27 (Aymonod 1.40.57). 18 year old Ali Papillon finished in seventh in 1.41.33, showing that he will be an exciting name to watch in the future.

McLaughlin took a few slides and tumbles on the snow on the final descent but the smile never left her face and she won in 1.51.46. Gibson struggled on the slushy snow, which served to show what a masterful downhill running display it was from McLaughlin, and took second in 1.57.50. Hemming was third in 1.58.55, Lincks fourth in 2.01.33 and Willhoit fifth in 2.03.33.

Photo: Peter Maksimow

It was an exciting weekend to start off this year’s Valsir World Cup and in just two weeks we will have our next Gold Label race at Montemuro Vertical Run in Portugal.

Full results can be found at: Broken Arrow Skyrace: 23K Results (