Incline x 3: a training update

One of the things I worry most about doing the 100 mile run is that what goes up, must come down. The uphills are work, but the downhills will destroy your legs. If you don’t train to to run down, you will be toast. Ok, doing a 100 miles you will be toast anyway, but it is the downhills that will break and destroy you. So I suggested to my coach that I do the incline three times, not because I love to climb the incline (I don’t really), but because it allows one to get in a lot of elevation gain in a short period which means lots of downhill running on the trail.  

Last weekend I had done a 5.5 hr run on Saturday, then a 50 mile moutain bike race on Sunday. As this was my 3rd mountain bike race in less than 2 weeks, my legs were feeling pretty toasted. So I did an easy week and skipped a couple of interval workourts in the hopes that my legs would come around and be ready for the incline x 3. The goal was also to get in 6 hours and to do some flat running at the end on tired legs. 

The incline ascends 2,000 feet in just under a mile. It is an extremely popular climb. When I got there at 6am, there were already tons of people heading up and not a parking spot to be found. My plan was to park close to the base so that I could refuel and refill my pack after each loop. I drove around in frustration but soon realized I would have to park in Manitou Springs (about a mile from the base of the incline). So I parked in Manitou, paying $13 dollars for the privilege, and lugged my cooler up to the base of the incline and hid it in some bushes hoping that no animal (or human) would discover or devour it.  

Round 1: The incline was already packed with people. There are people on there that you would never see on any of the easier trails, yet here they are on one of the toughest hikes around. They are there in all shapes and sizes with their iPods and kids and dogs, it is really a bit of a zoo. I even saw one guy off to the side, pucking his guts out. I suppose it is good that people are out getting some exercise, but many are just not prepared for how difficult it can be. After I got to the top I continued on up and eventually got onto a single track which winds its way through the Experimental forest, a lovely area with pine trees, deer and wildflowers. It was so peaceful and beautiful and there wasn’t a person in sight. This loop is about 3-4 miles longer than the normal route down Barr trail (where the crowds were). 

Thankfully it was cool, with a hint of rain in the air, perfect temps for running. From the Experimental forest, I descended Longs Ranch road, a steep dirt road (closed to traffic) that drops down to highway 24 in about 3 miles. Right before highway 24, I hung a right onto Ute Indian trail which winds its way back through a lovely forested area to the base of the incline. I was guessing that this loop would take about 2 hours. Sure enough, it took 1hr and 55 min. I stopped at my cooler (still intact) refueled and started up the incline again.

Round 2: If it was busy the first time, it was a freaking traffic jam this time round. As I was navigating my way through the crowds, I passed a CCL colleague. We exchanged greetings and he said that Lisa, another friend and CCL colleague was up ahead. I whipped out my phone and called to see if maybe she would join me for my 3rd round. She declined but did wait for me at the top. During these long runs it is always a nice to have some company. So I joined Lisa on the descent down Barr trail just for that little boost that some camaraderie can provide. It was nice to have the company, but the trail was super crowded, so there was more company than I bargained for.  

Round 3: When I got back down, I noticed that there was a large group of people gathered at the base. I didn’t really pay much attention as I headed up to my cooler. After refilling, I cut over from my cooler to the incline, and saw there was almost no one on the incline! I pretty much had it to myself. Then quite a ways up, I saw a bunch of search and rescue people and the penny dropped. There was a rescue operation going on. As I headed up I could see them coming down with a stretcher. Sure enough there was a young lad laid out cold on the stretcher. Like I said, many people just don’t realize how tough of a climb this it. Hopefully he was ok. Luckily they didn’t turn me back and I continued on up. I later heard that there had been 4 rescue operations just the weekend before. 

This time, I repeated the loop up to Longs Ranch road. By this time the sun was out and things were warming up. I was sucking down fluids like there was no tomorrow. But surprisingly my legs still felt pretty good. I had been dreading this third descent as I expected my legs to be destroyed by this point. Luckily they weren’t. As I contoured the mountain on Ute trail I tried to pick up the pace and do the prescribed flatter-end-of run on tired legs. At the end of my loop I headed down the road into Manitou Springs. I got to my car in exactly 6 hours. Perfect. My legs were tired, but weren’t completely destroyed. I felt like I could’ve kept running if I had to. Even so, I will be drinking a lot of tart cherry juice the rest of the weekend. 

This was a big confidence booster as last weekend I had felt really trashed after my long long. The only thing was a hot spot on my big toe. Hot spots are something I need to pay attention to during the 100 mile run, as those can quickly turn into painful blisters. 

My garmin indicated I had done over 8,000 feet of climbing and descending and just over 21 miles. For a 3D visual of the run, click here:

Next weekend, I plan to do a 50 km race that starts about a mile from my house and covers a lot of trails close to home. The great thing about doing that, is that there will be aid stations and support along the way. This will be my final long run, 3 weeks before the 100 miler. Gulp, hard to believe it is almost here.