Thursday, January 27, 2011

A lot of stairs

While in Colorado Springs for a recent PROTA board meeting, I decided to check out the Manitou Incline. Dave Messenheimer had told me about this epic staircase a few years ago and a friend of a friend reminded me about it at a recent dinner party. I think that conversation went something like this:

DUDE: There is this really difficult staircase in C Springs that you should check out on your trip. I used to hike up it in like 50 minutes, but I hear that it’s been done in forty.

ME: Wow, sounds tough. I wonder if I could beat forty. Actually, I think I’ve heard of that before. What’s it called?

DUDE: The Incline. The Manitou Incline.

ME: Hrmmm…

ME (via text message): Hey Mess, what’s the OTC record for the Manitou Incline?

MESS (via text message): I think [Mark] Fretta’s done it in 14:30. My best was more like 16 or 17 minutes.

ME (back at the dinner party): check this out. This guy I know did it in 14:30!!

Yeah, I can be a bit of a punk…

So anyways, after our board meeting I had not-quite-enough time to go run the Incline before taking Jesse & Rebeccah to the airport. Really, they almost missed their flight because of me. And here I said that I would stop being so self-absorbed about training during my “semi-retirement…” but this wasn’t training. This was silly masculine competition.

The Manitou Incline is about 0.9 miles long and has an elevation change of 2000 feet, for an average grade of 42%. I think that the peak grade was in the 60s. My goal was to get up there in twenty minutes. Not even close.

The Incline as viewed from Highway 24

View of the Manitou Incline from Hwy 24, shamelessly stolen from I didn’t bring my camera up the hill.

I started off at sort of a “casual jogging” and hoped I could build into it. But after a minute I was already winded. Did I mention that the Incline *starts* at 6600 feet above sea level, and that I live in Seattle? Urgh. It hurt.

I plugged away at a pace that could only be described as “a brisk walk.” The steps were rather uneven at times, and some steps were above knee height, requiring a pretty big step up.

Oh, and there was a lot of snow up there. It was mid-January, after all.

I thought I was going to come close to my goal, only to realize a bit of a “false summit” at 20-21 minutes in.

The Incline

Incline profile shamelessly stolen from See that “false summit” around 0.8 miles…

I finally reached the top at 26:45 and checked my pulse: 160! not bad for a retiree whose heart always runs a bit slowly!

Incline as viewed from the top

View from the top, shamelessly stolen from

The way back down was painful and dangerous. I was short on time to get to the airport, and I think that I slipped and fell at least three times. Not smart. It still took longer to get down than it took to get up. The snow and ice didn’t help. My quads were sore for about four days afterwards. Very sore. Don’t run down stairs.

In other news, I’ll soon reveal my racing plans for 2011… as well as what I’ve been working on during my extended break from high-volume training!

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