Report and photos: Angel’s Staircase 60k ultramarathon, near Winthrop, WA

LcP1010838Wow, what a race! Dave has already posted a video of the race, which you can see here: Angel’s Staircase 60k Ultramarathon video.

So my report will be pretty brief – more photos than words, other than the photo captions. Basically, our run went quite well… one of my first races that I actually have done some race-appropriate training for! I have had more than my fair share of injuries the last two years, which have interfered with my training. I have also recently found out that I have a dairy sensitivity, which definitely causes muscle fatigue and affects my energy – and which leaves me wondering if it perhaps has something to do with my injured ligaments, tendons, and nerves (all basically caused by inflammation, perhaps by certain foods…?) too.

LP1010821Anyway, my most recent injury is metatarsalgia, an inflammation of the nerves between the metatarsal bones, at the front of the foot – which started on the flight home after our Guadeloupe ultra, last April. It hurts! When it’s bad, I can’t even walk – only on my heels. This last month, once I eliminated dairy from my diet, my energy increased and my metatarsalgia finally started to mellow out. I could run again – and even do some hilly training runs! I am still figuring things out in that department.

I really needed to do those hilly runs… because Angel’s Staircase is a 60k ultra with a total of 10,000′ / 3,000 m of elevation gain and loss. And its lowest point is 2,000′ / 600 m (going up as high as 8,000 / 2450 m) so altitude is a factor, too.

LP1010823Dave and I ran it together. The first cut-off was 17 km in, 4:30 hrs after the race start (11:30am) at the first and highest peak at the top of Angel’s Staircase. That doesn’t sound hard – you just need to average 3.8 km/h – sounds easy, right? But when I looked at the next two cut-offs, if you cut the first one fine, you would need to average >6 km/h to make the next two (when you are already up at around 2400 m, and still pacing yourself for the second half of the race). I knew that I could have trouble making those cut-offs, so I told Dave I was setting myself a personal first cut-off of 4 hrs, rather than 4:30, and I would aim for making it in 3:30. If I didn’t make it to the top in 4 hrs or less, I didn’t have a hope in making the later cut-offs – and I would turn around and just do the 35k out-and-back route.

Well, check out my little chart here:

Screen Shot 2013-08-16 at 10.12.11 PM

We made the first cut-off pretty much on track with my goal-time, in 3:35 – so with 55 minutes to spare. But, as I figured we would, we lost time to each of the subsequent cut-offs… finally finishing the race in 11:42, with only 18 minutes to spare before the 12 hour deadline! There was actually one guy behind us through most of the race – and just knowing he was there, behind us, and that we weren’t last, really motivated me to keep going, to stay ahead of him. (And thank goodness I was motivated… maybe we wouldn’t have made all the cut-offs otherwise!)

LP1010822Anyway, my foot with metatarsalgia held up really well. I had to use a different shoe/insole configuration (sturdier and more protective shoe, and thicker more cushiony insole) in order to keep my foot feeling well. That combo ended up resulting in some big blisters on both heels… but that’s OK, they are minor compared to aggravating my metatarsalgia and they will heal. I am OK with that.

So, all in all, we are very pleased. We finished… as usual, not fast, but in good shape, and we are recovering well as we get ready for our two races coming up in Whistler (my 10k trail run on Saturday the 24th, and Dave’s Ironman triathlon on Sunday the 25th). OK, hope you enjoy the pix!

The start line - 75 of us heading uphill at 7am.

The start line – 75 of us heading uphill at 7am.

The 35k runners started an hour after us - the first one passed us 2:35 in (i.e. 1:35 for him).

The 35k runners started an hour after us – the first one passed us 2:35 in (i.e. 1:35 for him).

From road, to trails, to an alpine meadow - climbing constantly for the first 10+ miles. We didn't know it at the time, but Angel's Staircase is the rocky knoll you can see on the ridgeline in the centre of the photo.

From road, to trails, to an alpine meadow – climbing constantly for the first 10+ miles. We didn’t know it at the time, but Angel’s Staircase is the rocky knoll you can see on the ridgeline in the centre of the photo.

We were still on our way up when the first 35k runners came down. I think this is Dustin Gilbert, who won the 35k race in 3:38!

We were still on our way up when the first 35k runners came down. I think this is Dustin Gilbert, who won the 35k race in 3:38!

More of the 35k runners on their way down from Angel's Staircase.

More of the 35k runners on their way down from Angel’s Staircase.

And this is Victoria's Alex Gillett, in her way up. She ended up finishing first female in the 35k.

And this is Victoria’s Alex Gillett, in her way up. She ended up finishing first female in the 35k.

At the top of the Staircase - Seattle's Christi Masi, who finished 2nd woman in the 35k.

At the top of the Staircase – Seattle’s Christi Masi, who finished 2nd woman in the 35k.

The 35k people turned around at the top - but we 60k people continued down on the switchbacks on the other side of the ridge. Nice photo of me, thanks to Dave!

The 35k people turned around at the top – but we 60k people continued down on the switchbacks on the other side of the ridge. Nice photo of me, thanks to Dave!

We ran down to the next valley, where we miraculously encountered an unmanned water station in the middle of a meadow, around the 21k mark.

We ran down to the next valley, where we miraculously encountered an unmanned water station in the middle of a meadow, around the 21k mark.

Then the next big climb, up to Horsehead Pass, over some gnarly talus slopes. Hard to run on those jagged boulders.

Then the next big climb, up to Horsehead Pass, over some gnarly talus slopes. Hard to run on those jagged boulders.

Then the next big downhill. Things start to get fuzzy around here (note, I am no longer taking photos!). This is me, eating on the run - pretzels! Approximately 30 km in - only about halfway!

Then the next big downhill. Things start to get fuzzy around here (note, I am no longer taking photos!). This is me, eating on the run – pretzels! Approximately 30 km in – only about halfway!

And then... miracle of miracles... another aid station in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this whole family had camped here o this cliff-edge the night before, htrough raging thunderstorms, just so they could help us! Good food, very nice people who helped us fill our water bags. 34 km in, still a long way to go.

And then… miracle of miracles… another aid station in the middle of nowhere. Apparently this whole family had camped here on this cliff-edge the night before, through raging thunderstorms, just so they could help us! Good food, and very nice people who helped us fill our water bags. 34 km in, still a long way to go!

OK, and now we get to the part with really no pictures at all. The never-ending uphill, another 2000′ climb, with thunder thundering above us (luckily it never did actually rain). That uphill toook a few more hours. And then there was still another steep switchbacky downhill to the final aid station.

I had a crazy fall on the downhill after that aid station – was extremely lucky to get thrown a bit sideways into a bunch of bushes which broke my fall, rather than skidding straight down the rocks. And then…

...we made it! 60k, with 3000m of elevation gain/loss, in 11:42 (18 whole minutes to spare). Dave's and my longest and farthest run yet.

…we made it! 60k, with 3000m of elevation gain/loss, in 11:42 (18 whole minutes to spare). Dave’s and my longest and farthest run yet.

And then some relaxing at the Foggy Dew Campground - mainly enjoying the custom-made pizza (note the wood-fired oven brought to the site) and beer provided by the organizers.

And then some relaxing at the Foggy Dew Campground – mainly enjoying the custom-made pizza (note the wood-fired oven brought to the site) and beer provided by the organizers.

This was an absolutely fantastic event. The course was nothing short of spectacular, and the organizers are on it and experienced (great aid stations, too, with wonderful volunteers, always appreciated when you are pushing your limits like this). You can find the Angel’s Staircase ultramarathon website here – I highly recommend this event!

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  1. #1 by activeharmony on August 21, 2013 - 8:29 pm

    Wow … such a great post! I have a growing interest in running an ultra and posts like this just make want to do one even more!

    Thanks for the detailed recap and CONGRATS on absolutely incredibly accomplishment!

    • #2 by Jacqueline Windh on August 21, 2013 - 10:49 pm

      Thanks! We’re having fun with it all. We may be slow, but we have time to take photos! You should go for it… pick a 50k that suits you in terms of travel-time from home, course level of difficulty, etc. And then just go for it, not much longer distance-wise than a marathon though perhaps a bit more time-wise because of the terrain. But all of your training doesn’t have to be running. Day-hikes and backpacking trips are great cross-training to prep for a 50k ultramarathon.
      Have fun!

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