So this weekend my friend invited Mr Ham and I to climb the Manitou Incline with her and her boyfriend.
For those of you who don’t know about the Manitou Incline, up until February of this year (2013) it was illegal for hikers to be out there climbing it. The Incline is an old railway that used to be used to get folks up to the top of the mountain, and now that it’s out of service, all that’s left are the railroad ties. Someone, probably breathing the thin mountain air, had the brilliant idea that these ties, now resembling stairs, should be a fun weekend activity for fitness enthusiasts everywhere.
All that being said, I had no idea what we were getting into.
Before we left I happened upon a site that had some information about the hike and what all it would entail. From the description on this site it appeared that we should be able to get up the incline in about an hour. Awesome.
We packed our water belts accordingly and headed down to the springs.
As we pulled into a gas station in town we saw the incline in person for the first time…
It was at this point that I realized we may have under-packed…
We finished up at the gas station and made our way to the trailhead. Lucky for us our friend had gathered a ton of information about the hike, including the warnings about where not to park. It became evident that we would not be able to get anywhere near the trailhead and instead we opted for parking downtown Manitou.
As we walked towards the start of the incline the expansive stairs towered above us, as if they led straight to heaven.
We posed for a quick team photo and got on our way!
We started our hike feeling great about how we were doing and the pace we were going. The incline hadn’t gotten steep yet, so we were making really good time. The part that caught me off guard was the people running up the incline, past us. I suppose some folks use the incline as a training run!
Slowly but surely we plodded up and it started getting steeper and steeper.
I would be able to go about 10 steps and have to stop to let my muscles release. I pushed off my knees with everything that I had.
I tried a few different methods to keep my pace going and about halfway up I started to follow a girl who was using a step-pause-step-pause method.
I got in behind her for a while and continued my uphill battle.
About two-thirds of the way up we paused for an extended break, wherein I turned on the cheese (my defense mechanism?)
I was feeling good so I took off a little before my team and connected with another person from our run club, which was awesome.
She and I hammered up the incline little by little.
There was a part where we thought that we had reached the top, only to discover that it was a false summit. If you have ever encountered one of those, you know it’s a hard mental block to overcome. We paused for a bit and decided to push on.
We were SO high up!
Finally after 3 hours of pushing on and heading up up up into the heavens, we summited!!!
I was so happy and proud and just beside myself to stand up at the top! (Truth be told, even though I knew that I had been right to not go all the way to the top of Long’s Peak a few weeks prior, having not summited that day was slightly heartbreaking and needed to be redeemed.) The hike was 3 hours and a mile long, straight up in some parts.
As I sat on top of this gorgeous mountain waiting for my friends and hubby to finish, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the life that I have.
I really don’t have enough words to describe how full my heart is. I’m so lucky to be alive.
The way down, if you choose to not go the way you came up, is a nice 2.5 miles down the side, with easy switchbacks. My hubby and our friend went to check on the car meter, and the ladies were behind me, so I was all alone. I started a slow jog/ trail run down the hill and caught a nice cadence that made my run easy.
I came upon some college kids and one shouted “watch out guys, runner behind us.” Well, that was a bit overstating things, but I replied “I wouldn’t say that.” with a smile.
I don’t know why I can’t just accept that I have changed, and I am that athlete I dreamed of being all those years. I spent a lot of time on that silent run alone down the mountain reflecting on things. It took me about 40 minutes to get down the mountain, and the amazing feeling of accomplishment was so worth all the pain I’m feeling (2 days later…)
Life is good. So good.
*ps* if you want more information about how to keep the Incline sustainable for generations to come, visit The Incline Friends!