Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Longest, Steepest Slog

Another Saturday, another 5am wake up call. I had decided earlier in the week that, despite the fact I had an 11am appointment up in Denver to have my running stride analyzed, that I would climb the Incline.

Side note: I've been a little loathe to say anything, for fear of a setback, but it appears that I am back to running. I am almost 5 weeks in, and things are going ok. I run 3 days on, then one day off. I started at one mile, and started out just adding a half mile a week. It's a slow process, but so far it's working and I haven't reinjured myself. 

So, the Incline, for those of you who don't live in Colorado, is the remains of the old cog railway that took visitors to the top of Pike's Peak. There is still a cog rail, but the track has been redone in another location. Left alone for years, the Incline became a popular, if illegal, spot for hikers and runners to traverse, as at the top, it intersects the Barr Trail. Barr Trail, in its own right, goes to the top of Pikes Peak (after a 13 mile slog, usually done in two days), or back down to Manitou Springs, the hippie town just to the west of Colorado Springs. I should note that as of 2012, it is now legal to climb the Incline. The Incline gains 2,500 feet of elevation in .85 miles. Essentially, its the biggest, steepest staircase you are ever going to climb.
Start of the Incline. Yes, that tiny bit in the distance is the top.
Ok, let's be honest. When the alarm went off at 5am, I seriously thought about not going. To the point where I got up, washed my face, then went back to bed. Eric was leaving for Oregon, and well, I had the appointment in Denver, and shouldn't I be in better condition than worn out. (Yes, I've done the Incline a couple of times before, so I know what "after" feels like.)

However, apparently when I make up my mind to do something, I do it. 5:22am and I was back out of bed, putting on my running gear and heading out the door. I parked about .6 of a mile away from the trailhead, and took off running. Ok, so I started running, then decided part way up to make it a fast walk. I hit the trailhead and the sun was already up, so I was racing time to get to the top before it got too hot.

Up I went.

You have to understand, the Incline isn't an easy hike. In some places, the steps have eroded away, making for an insecure footing. In others, the steps are tall enough and/or pass over a 3 foot water pipes so you are literally pulling yourself up and over. More than one person has puked on the way up (not me, thank goodness!) It's challenging, even for well-trained runners. Except, apparently, for the bad-a$$ 60-something who passed me going DOWN the Incline, then passed me again going UP, then passed me a freaking THIRD TIME going back down again. I'm fairly certain that guy is Batman, keeping up his training.

One hour, 3 minutes later, I was at the top.
Top of the Incline
I sure did break any land-speed records, but at least I did it. Really in-shape athletes claim they can do it in 30 minutes, and there was an Ultra-marathon held on the Incline several weeks ago, with the winner declared as the person that made it up and down the most in 24 hours. The guy that won did it 23 times. I am not him.

It was, however, 13 or so minutes fast than I did the Incline last year. So, while there is room to go (and not much time, since the Incline is closing for repairs for several months starting Aug 18 - which I guess is what happens when you make something legal...) I'll take the time.


For me, the event isn't over at the top. The reward is getting to run the 3 miles back down Barr Trail and then the additional .6 to my car. I can't tell you how good downhill running feels after slogging up the Incline.

I'd ask if anyone wants to join me, but really, I'm not ready to do this with someone else yet. I'm not sure I want anyone to have to hear the wheezing elephant noises I make going up hill, see the amount of water I consume, or witness the number of times I have to stop and catch my breath. But someday... join me!

Of course, if I'm being totally honest, I'd tell you that while I did  get a run in today (Sunday, the day after the Incline), I am getting up and down stairs a might bit gingerly...

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