Broken Arrow Skyrace Announces New Advisory Council
February 12, 2024
Independently Owned Broken Arrow Skyrace Launches Advisory Council
Tahoe City, California /ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – The Broken Arrow Skyrace, presented by Salomon, is delighted to announce a first-of-its-kind Advisory Council. The role of the advisory council is to provide ongoing community input to the three-day, multi-distance trail running festival, held each year at the iconic Palisades Tahoe, home to the 1960 Winter Olympics.
This diverse group of 10 athletes will provide their wisdom, counsel, and unique perspectives to help race organizers deliver an event that is not only reflective of the community we are but of the community we want to be in the future.
Co-race directors Brendan Madigan, Ethan Veneklasen and Geoff Quine launched the Broken Arrow Skyrace in 2016 with the goal of reinventing the multi-day, multi-distance trail running experience in North America. The goal of the Broken Arrow Skyrace was to create a world-class, uber-competitive, highly branded event, that also aligned with the old-school culture, traditions, and values that have always characterized North American trail running, namely the equal importance of EVERY runner. The brand ethos of the Broken Arrow Skyrace, one that has been the singular driving force behind the event since 2016, has been a celebration of both professionals AND back-of-the-pack runners in an equal and compelling fashion. The personalities and human interest stories are what make the trail and ultra community so unique and beautiful and at the Broken Arrow Skyrace, the goal is to celebrate everyone.
In seven short years, the Broken Arrow Skyrace has not only grown to become one of the largest trail and ultra-running events in North America, it is now mentioned alongside many of the iconic international events it originally sought to emulate. The race is profoundly humbled and grateful to everyone who has supported the event since 2016.
However, with success comes responsibility, especially as the sport of trail running is coming to be dominated by large, corporate race organizations. The Broken Arrow Skyrace Advisory Council will bring new voices and perspectives to a shared table, helping the race continue to maintain an intentional focus on the things that really matter, challenge us to be better, open our eyes to emerging issues, and ensure that the Broken Arrow Skyrace equitably serves ALL runners.
The Broken Arrow Skyrace is committed to a continual and relentless evolution as a race organization, one that also seeks to share lessons and best practices with other independent race organizations that embrace similar values.
In the weeks leading up to the registration for 2024, it became clear that some members of the trail and ultra-running community believed that the Broken Arrow Skyrace was itself owned by a corporate race management company. In reality, that could not be farther from the truth.
The Broken Arrow Skyrace is, and always has been, independently owned and operated. Co-Race Directors, Brendan Madigan, Ethan Veneklasen, and Geoff Quine share a commitment to the collaborative process and an unwavering belief in the transformative power of community. This has been the case since 2016 and continues to be the bedrock of the event.
All three partners live in the Lake Tahoe area and have other full-time jobs. The Broken Arrow Skyrace is a passion project that is supported by local families (wives, fathers, mothers, brothers, etc.), dear friends, and an amazing group of volunteers who TOGETHER make it possible to provide participants with a unique, empowering, and, hopefully, unforgettable experience. Teamwork does indeed make the dream work.
The race has always tried to stay faithful to the idea that the people are the single most important part of the sport and have always said that “whether you finish first or last, at the Broken Arrow Skyrace, YOU are a rockstar.” This isn’t just a motto, it is the central organizing ideal against which we judge every decision we make. YOU, whoever you may be, and your inclusion in the event is the North Star at the Broken Arrow Skyrace.
However, race organizers acknowledge the need to do more, and admit to being far from perfect. There is always work to be done, especially in such an important time and standardization of diversity, equity and inclusion.
ADVISORY COUNCIL MEMBERS
Born in Mexico, Romy fostered a deep love for nature, nurtured by the breathtaking beauty of Cozumel Island. But it was the call of the mountains that eventually led Romy to Snowmass, Colorado, where they discovered a love for ski-touring and trail running. These pursuits became their soul’s delight, providing them with both solace and serenity to contrast the exhilarating life as a professional DJ.
Having played many festivals and clubs in the US and Mexico, they took their talents to Aspen, Colorado, where they continue to provide uplifting, fun dance music for locals and visitors alike. Romy’s current inclusive party, Drag Queen Bingo Brunch – presented in partnership with The Collective in Snowmass – features Aspen Queen Kendra Matic and raises money for Aspen Out, a non-profit organization to help direct funds to vital local youth organizations that make significant impacts in already marginalized communities.
Beyond mountain adventures and Apres-Ski parties on the mountain, Romy remains deeply connected to their Mexican roots, often returning to the vibrant culture to visit family and friends.
Please follow @RomyAncona and their two dogs, Summit and Lego, on Instagram for mountain adventures in the Colorado Rockies and to see them baggin’ peaks and eating’ treats!
Zagdaa Baatar was born and raised in Mongolia.
She immigrated to the United States 21 years ago and is a mother, grandmother, and wife. She loves to run and share her love of the mountains with others. In 2013, Zagda and her husband founded the Nomadic Adventure Club, a group of 200+ individuals that represent all ability levels and body types. At the time, most members were not runners, but now they love running and see the rewarding aspects of the sport and community.
Zagda first ran the Broken Arrow 46k in 2021 and, the following year, returned to run the Triple Crown. In 2023 she became the captain of the Siberia aid station, along with members of the Nomadic Adventure Club. Each year, she makes the pilgrimage to Palisades Tahoe with her whole family and Nomadic Adventure Club members. Almost all of her family members have now run the Broken Arrow Skyrace (except her little granddaughter Amelia, but we have been assured that she is next on the list)!
Zagda says, “I love the Broken Arrow family. It is not just a race, it is an entire community. This is the reason that I am so excited to serve on the newly minted Advisory Council.”
Luis feels most connected when he is on the trail.
He grew up in El Salvador and moved to California when he was 15. He served as a Medic and Military Police in the Army Reserves and just recently retired as a Senior Deputy from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.
Luis says, “I’ve seen a lot of trauma in my life. When I’m on the trail, I feel connected from within and have a lasting universal feeling of love for all beings and Mother Earth. Races like Broken Arrow offer a safe and supportive space for us to connect, explore, and heal. I look forward to being in the Tahoe mountains every June, and I’m honored to be a part of the Broken Arrow Skyrace Advisory Council.”
Born and raised in Southern California, David’s journey led him to the Bay Area after years of living abroad in Vietnam.
It was here in the Bay Area where David’s unexpected dive into outdoor sports sparked what he describes as “a dreamlike journey, fueling my passion for trails and mountains.” He has cultivated a vibrant community – in the Bay Area and beyond – using his running journey to support and uplift diverse runners. We came to know David during his time working at San Francisco Running Company, an experience that forged invaluable connections that continue to shape his path.
Based in San Francisco, David says that he “is navigating a tech job by day but is constantly seeking new adventures. You can spot me running the city’s streets or trails, engaging anyone in lively discussions about music, movies, or pop culture.”
Michael Li is no stranger to the ultrarunning scene.
As a running coach, he has coached athletes from couch to marathon and to complete longer distance events of 100k, 100 miles, and beyond. As a race director, Michael was instrumental in ultra-events, including the San Francisco Ultramarathon, Golden Gate Trail Classic, and most recently, the UTMB Canyons Endurance Run.
As a runner, Michael has completed over 165 career races ranging from 5k to 200-mile (specifically 68 ultras – 9 hundos and two 200-mile races). When he’s not busy with the above, you will find Michael volunteering at races or crewing, pacing, or supporting others or reaching their ultra goals.
Michael is best known for his recent FKT (Fastest Known Time) exploit on Mount Tamalpais dubbed the FKTam300. Over 12 consecutive days, Michael summited Mount Tam 40 times and racked up a staggering total of 320 miles and 102,880′ vertical gains.
Michael is semi-retired, having previously worked in software development, consulting, and public speaking. He now works with Bay Area biotechs, specializing in regulatory compliance.
PATRICK “PADDY” O’LEARY
Paddy O’Leary is, first and foremost, a proud Irishman. He is also a cancer researcher, professional mountain runner, community organizer, and passionate storyteller (he says, “the gift of the gab is in my blood”).
Paddy first ran the Broken Arrow VK way back in 2016 and has toed the line in Olympic Valley five more times (2017, 2019, 2021, 2022, and 2023). In total, Paddy has raced 10 different events at Broken Arrow, including at the VK, 26(ish)k and 50(ish)K distances.
Paddy says, “As someone who found his way into the sport by virtue of its enthusiastic community, I’ve always appreciated how Broken Arrow fosters the community and elevates every single runner from the winners to the final finishers. I’m excited to contribute to the Advisory Council helping guide the Broken Arrow team in continuing to elevate all participants but also keep bringing new faces into our community.”
Priscilla Rojas is a Chicana Mexican-American based in San Diego, CA.
Priscilla is the Co-Founder and Leader of Santa Mujeres Running Club, a safe space for BIWOC. SMRC is an inclusive run club and Priscilla has found purpose and passion in serving the San Diego running community.
Priscilla says, “I run to push the limits of what I think is possible and to inspire and empower other women to dream big and wild…and to take up space in places we don’t think we belong. I became enamored with the idea of running Broken Arrow in 2022 and participated in the 23K in 2023. I can’t wait to come back again stronger and along with powerful, strong Mujeres.”
Mirna Valerio is a native of Brooklyn, NY, a former educator and XC coach, ultramarathoner, cyclist and skier, DEI facilitator, and author of the bestselling memoir, A Beautiful Work in Progress.
She began running in high school, recommitted to the sport after a health scare in 2008, and started her blog Fatgirlrunning – about her experiences as a plus-sized woman in a world of thinner endurance athletes – while training for her first marathon.
Mirna’s athletic story has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Runner’s World, on NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in the viral documentary short REI Presents The Mirnavator. Her writing has been featured in Women’s Running, Women’s Health, Self, Outside, and Runner’s World.
Mirna is a 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year, and in 2019 was featured on Good Morning America. Since then, she has appeared on the Kelly Clarkson Show, Access Daily, and The Today Show. Her partners include LLBean, Ford Bronco, lululemon, Salsa Cycles, Darn Tough Vermont, Hydro Flask, and Garmin.
She currently lives and trains in Vermont and says that she is “wholeheartedly enamored and obsessed with downhill skiing.”
Erin Vancellette (they/she) started trail and ultra running at age 38, a sport they chose to fill in the blank space that a long career of competitive rugby had previously filled. Erin’s competitive accomplishments include a first-place finish in the Golden Gate 50 miler in the Marin Headlands a couple of 50k’s in San Francisco and the Bay, and a bunch of top 3 and top 10’s in the 50k, 50 miler, and 100k distances in the Bay Area, San Diego, Malibu,and Colorado Springs.
Erin is a firm believer that the reason for their ultra-running success has as much to do – if not more than – the support from their loved ones, fellow racers, race directors, race volunteers, and the course itself, than from the person with the trail shoes on.
They stopped wearing a watch during races in 2018 when they earned 2nd place at the Quad Dipsea, which came after several days of being indoors due to smoke from intense Northern California fires. “I ran with joy in my heart,” they said. “The smiles, the landscape beauty and fresh, clean air were my crew.” This experience opened her up to the power of movement in nature. Erin wants everyone to feel this, too, and to feel safe participating in this beautiful sport.
Erin operated a personal training and running coaching business in San Francisco for 10 years prior to her current role as the stay-at-home parent to Ernestine and baby E (coming January 1, 2024). She continues to find joy on the trails and love for the ultra/trail community despite a decrease in mileage at this stage of life. Don’t worry, though; they’ll be back to their favorite distance (50 miles) when they get to sleep again.
Erin says they “hope to connect the queer, trans, and gender-expansive communities to the healing and nourishing sport of trail running. The Broken Arrow Skyrace is the perfect platform to make this happen.”
Born and raised in Montana, Joelle Vaught has lived in Boise, Idaho for most of her adult life. She is a Neurodiagnostic technologist and is married with one 19 y/o son and four crazy dogs.
Joelle started running in college and discovered trail running and mountain biking which both captured her heart. She got into adventure racing and was able to travel the country and even abroad, racing in short and multi-day events.
After giving birth to her son in 2004, Joelle no longer had the time for adventure racing, focusing instead on trail running. She secured a sponsorship with Montrail and has been racing as an elite trail runner since 2005. She has competed at distances ranging from 50K to 100 miles (but says that her favorite distance is 50 miles).
Joelle competed in the inaugural Broken Arrow Skyrace in 2016, where she finished 2nd, losing out to first on the final downhill.
Shortly thereafter, she completely ruptured her hamstring. After surgery to reattach her hamstring and a difficult recovery, Joelle lost her sponsorship and decreased her racing. She says “I still trail run every day with my dogs (and friends) but only run a few races a year, one of those being Broken Arrow because it is one of my favorites. I was unable to race due to aggravating my hamstring a few times, but I was able to race in 2016, 2019, 2022, and 2023. I always race the long course, which is now 46K.”
Joelle’s pictures of running with her pups are widely known in the trail running world. She always runs with her GoPro, trying to capture fun photos of the dogs, a practice she started when recovering from an injury.
Joelle has been a huge supporter of the Broken Arrow Skyrace, bringing countless friends down from Idaho to experience the event.
She says, “Broken Arrow quickly became one of my favorite races due to the enthusiasm of the race directors and the team that put the race on. I love the difficulty and beauty of the course and how it changes from year to year, depending on the snow and weather. The highlight of the race has always been the joy that you can feel throughout the whole event. The race staff makes every athlete feel like a winner no matter where they finish. It draws the best in trail running with prize money and notoriety but also makes the back of the pack feel celebrated.
No matter your gender, size, color, or anything else that differentiates the runners, each person feels like they belong at this event, and that is one of the main reasons I am so excited to be involved on the Advisory Committee. Running is one of the most accessible sports, and the opportunity to help more people become involved and find the joy it can bring is definitely a highlight of my long involvement in the sport. I put on a local trail race here in Boise, Idaho, and seeing people cross the finish line and accomplish something out of their comfort zone brings me a lot of happiness.”