What a great day to conquer the infamous Incline "run" in Colorado Springs today. A balmy 71 degrees with sunshine met me at the base of the Incline. Since completing this my first time a couple of weeks ago, I pledged to include it in my training once a week when I am not traveling. I parked about 1/2 mile away to allow for a nice warm-up but during my walk up to the base of the trail, I noticed my heart rate was already near my threshold pace! Yes, that's how steep it is before getting to the trail!
The incline: 1 mile up, 2000 vertical feet of climbing, 40% average incline with a peak of 68%. It's a burner for sure. You get about 1/4 of the way up and realize that the sound you are hearing is your heartbeat...in your head! It's pretty intense to say the least.
Nonetheless, my focus was to PR this time. Yes, I am a bit on the competitive side! Last time I finished in 30:22. My goal today was to break 30:00 and I would not let anything get in my way! I started pretty fast passing people. I'm sure I got some good looks along the way and when one guy said "see you at the top", I acknowledged him but didn't want to mention that once I get to the top, it was an all out run back down the 3 mile trail...fun, fun, fun! No stopping this time. I was out for time! I reveled in the beauty during my first trip up!
Halfway up my heart rate is at its max. Seriously, it's about 4-6 beats off the highest I have ever seen it in a VO2max test. I keep trudging along, seemingly getting slower and slower with each step as the railroad ties become farther and farther away and the air gets thinner and thinner. Imagine doing repeated step-ups on top of a bench...that's what it is like for the 1 mile! I don't stop the entire time. Just a few arm shifts from swinging to resting on my hips. I pass person (and dog) after person and keep my head down. In fact, if you lift it up too much, you will fall backwards down the Incline due to the intense grade of the climb! Believe me, I almost found out the hard way!
Then comes the false summit which once you know about it, you can navigate it easily. I turn on the burners here knowing that my heart rate will drop to my high threshold zone so I can get a little "breather" and really focus on my foot cadence. Right, left, quick, quick. Then comes the last big push to the top.
About 1/4 left to go. I look up and see the summit. I check my watch and know that I am going to break 30 minutes. But by how much I wonder? I begin to pick up the pace a bit and just like crossing a finish line, I start running (yes, running!) the last 10 steps or so. That was fun, let me tell ya!
I summit for my second time and feel pretty lightheaded from my last "sprint finish" effort. I hit my watch, look down and head for the trailhead that will take me 3 miles down to the start.
28:03 from bottom to top. I'm elated but left unsatisfied knowing I can go faster. I speed down the 3 mile singletrack in under 21 minutes (do the math, I was clipping along pretty quickly!), get back to my car and look back at the "scar" on the mountain that they call the Incline. "I'll be back" I say outloud, "and under 27 minutes!
Total roundtrip time: 48:59.
Until after my long run this weekend...