Conquering the Manitou Incline

If you’ve learned anything about me from my posts, you might noticed I like to do things, just to try it, at least once, for the challenge. The Manitou Incline is no different. Except, I may do it again and again and again…

The Manitou Incline, a scar on the side of the mountain. Seen as we drive to get started!!!

The Manitou Incline, a scar on the side of the mountain. Seen as we drive to get started!!!

First, let me explain what this Manitou Incline is….

The old, working, Manitou Incline Cog. Photo found on:

The old, working, Manitou Incline Cog. Photo found on:

The Incline was originally a one mile cog railway tram that was build in 1907 to get workers up the “hill” to build a hydroelectric plant. The plant was never build and a guy named Dr. Brumbach turned the tram into a tourist attraction to bring visitors up to see the views and hike in Mt. Manitou Park.

The railway tourist attraction was rebought by a man name Spencer Penrose in 1923 seeking to increase traffic, he upgraded the cars.

It was very popular and constant upgrades were made over the years to both the top and the base to attract new and willing to pay customers.

The incline and it’s attractions finally closed in 1990 due to a rock slide. They decided to discontinue any repairs to focus on the development of the Cog Railway which takes people up to the top of Pikes Peak, a notable mountain above 14,000 feet. As a kid, I have taken the Cog Railway to the top with my Mom. It was really fun and has great views along the steep train ride and at the top.

Since the closure of the Manitou Incline, the short, steep and challenging route brings runners, hikers and joggers from around the state. It used to be private property and technically illegal to hike, but people did it anyway.

Actually, February of this year made it officially LEGAL to hike. I have no idea what the battle was to make it legal, but I’m guessing the owner of the land was reluctant to give up his property.

Now that you’ve had your history lesson…

At the bottom looking up!

At the bottom looking up!

The Manitou Incline now is a trail/challenge that attracts many people. Here in Colorado, it’s well known and talked about. When you complete it, others will congratulate you and ask what your time was.

Being nestled just next to Colorado Springs (and thus near the Olympic Training Center) it has offered many olympic athletes an intense addition to their training; taking them less than 30 minutes to reach the top. Even soldiers from the local military bases (Fort Carson the Army base and the Air Force base are both in Colorado Springs) will use the incline to build endurance and train throughout the year. I know for fact that a few guys in my boyfriend’s unit go up it at least once a week.

As nature’s stairclimber, the trail is a made out of the old railway wooden ties that once held up the tracks for the cog rail cars. In less than a mile, you will climb 2,000 feet!

At it’s steepest point, the trail is at a 50% incline. Standing at the bottom, it’s quite overwhelming, and for any future attempt-ers, beware, you are looking at a false summit. Beyond what you can see, there is still 200 feet left of the trail.

Once at the top, you can see spectacular views of city below and look down on the trail that you just accomplished. There is no way that you wont feel powerful standing at the top.

At this point, you can continue on a little bit along the extended route. This will take you a little bit higher (at less of an incline) and meet up with the Barr trail which will give you access to the base again or for those crazy enough, lead you to the trail up to the top of Pike’s Peak. This way (without climbing the 14er) is 4.5 miles.

The three different "routes"

The three different “routes”

Half way...and Joe's finger

Half way…and Joe’s finger

The normal route has you just drop right off onto the Barr Trail. If you take this route your total travel is 3.7 miles. This is what most people do as well as ourselves. I climbed the manitou incline with the boyfriend. After reaching the top, we went off to the south to hop on the Barr Trail. It is quite steep at the beginning, going down, and I advise those who do this to be careful because I did indeed fall on the slippery, sandy trail.

I got up, brushed myself off (with only minor scrapes) and we continued on down. The path doesn’t stay so steep, and leads into a gradual decline…Perfect for trail running! Joe and I elected to amp it up and run the rest of the way back, enjoying the freedom of the decline and the fun of a trail run; one of my favorite things to do. We jumped over rocks, branches and the natural curves of the trail until we reached the parking lot.

There’s a third route as well: The Bailout. It’s only a half mile up the incline but still covers an elevation gain of 1000 feet. The Barr trail comes right up to the stairs as an easy escape for those not tough enough to make it to the top.

Finished time, looking at what we climbed up.

Finished time, looking at what we climbed up.

I do highly recommend coming down by way of the Barr Trail. I would not attempt to hike DOWN the incline. It is a very steep trail, as you can see, and it would be really dangerous to hike down it. Signs posted around advise the same thing.

It took us about an hour to get to the top and 30 minutes to run to the bottom (including the time it took to recover from my fall). It was a very challenging hike! But I highly recommend to the hiking enthusiast, the challenge seeker and the every day runner as an addition to their weekly workouts.

Below the Incline is the actual city of Manitou Springs. I love this place! On a separate day, Joe and I had spent the the day exploring the area. It’s a super cute town with lots of shops from the local homemade candy store (with freshly made fudge…that I ate…a lot of) to local artists selling their work. There’s plenty of delicious restaurants to choose from and even an haunted building or two!

One of my favorite parts of this town is the Penny Arcade. Featuring a ton of modern arcade games for the children, penny arcadenestled in between the guitar heros and skee ball, you’ll find old, antique penny arcade games that still work. There’s the old, creepy fortune tellers (like in the movie Big) and old shooter games where you have to move the entire game up and down to aim. There’s also the old “peeping tom” that costs one penny and you “get” to a flip card series of scantily clad women. Weird, huh?

My favorite was the old games like, “What’s your future career” or “what’s your love sytle.” By the way, my career is Hot Air Artist. If anyone knows that that entails, please let me know so I can get started right away.

The city now recovers from recent floods and the penny arcade took lot of damage. We visited a little over a month ago (as tourists) and two weeks ago (hikers) and the city was flooded from rain storms last week. I just hope there’s not too much damage. This is a great place to spend a weekend or even just a day!



Additional Info:

An ESPN article about the Olympic athletes using the incline from 2012

The Manitou Incline Website – includes the history of it, photos, and trail information.

The Half on the 4th….blah

half on the 4th logoWorst. Race. Ever. I’ll just start it off with that!

This is the tale of my worst race ever. Like, even counting cross country meets back in high school.

I hated this race….but that’s not to say this event wasn’t great. Actually, this event was fantastic. I’ll start with the good…

Back in July, the 4th to be exact, I did a little race called The Half on the 4th in Colorado Springs. It was the day after the last day of school for me, and that’s how I wanted to celebrate, by running a half marathon (I’m weird, I know).

The boy ran with me, so I drove down to Colorado Springs late the night before after my last class of personal training school and a celebratory beer (just one) with my classmates.

We woke up bright and early and made our way down to the race start. Yet another race I’ve done with little sleep (for those of you newbies to the Racing the States World, I do that a lot; usually I do quite well after little sleep. This time: not so much).

It was the first year they were doing this race and a little more than 300 people showed up to participate.

It was an out and back course, pretty flat, starting in Monument Valley Park and running along the Greenway Trail. The path followed a creek and wound through the shade of the trees. It was very lovely.

half on the fourths copyNow the bad: the first half of the race actually went well. I felt alright and was keeping a good pace. Distracted by checking out my boyfriend’s fantastic calf muscles talking to my boyfriend while running, we made it to the half way point before I started complaining.

I walked through the aid station at the turn around and didn’t want to start running again. I hurt. I hurt bad. My hips were tight, my knees were aching and my heel was hilling me. I was in bad shape. For the remaining part of the course, I really had to push myself.

I felt really bad for the boy. I told him that he could run ahead and finish with a good time; I promised I wouldn’t get mad. But he didn’t, he chose to stay with me and push me into the finish. If only he could have LITERALLY pushed me. (I later told him that he did his due diligence and finished one race with me. From that point on, any more races we run together, he can run at his own pace and finish faster. And I swear I mean it!!)

He was very sweet and keep encouraging me even though I was fighting the pain and the tears back. I don’t have much more to note on the race, really, we kept at it until the end. After all, it was an out and back course, we had to go that way anyway to get to the car.

Once I could see the finish line, I told myself it was just a few minutes of pain and then I would be done.

I’m not going to tell you my time, it’s pretty awful, but I will tell you it is the slowest I have ever run, including my very, VERY first half marathon on a very hilly course. Bleh.

If anything good came out of this race is was that we found a good trail to do training runs on.

And my medal. It may not have been a good race, but I still earned that medal!

And my medal. It may not have been a good race, but I still earned that medal!

We followed the race by inhaling a Qdoba burrito, napping then making our way to Memorial Park to watch some fireworks. It was a very good 4th of July if I do say so myself!

Additional Information:

Half on the 4th Website

A YouTube Video of the Race….go to 0:37, you’ll find a happy runner named Whitney proudly wearing her Vermont City Marathon Shirt (I’m smiling, which must mean it’s close to the beginning!):