23 hours 36 minutes
52,592 stairs climbed
38,000 ft of elevation gained
33.5 miles on my feet
It all began asking Andrew if he thought I could do 16 laps on the incline, given 3.5 available weeks for training and immediate recovery from a broken foot. To no shock of my own, his response was “of course you can can do it, easy.” So I wrote out my projected splits for 16 laps. Was this even possible? How much of this is truly mental?
My legs still have to move at a pace that allots me to finish on time. I thought I was setting myself up for failure. For the first time in all our adventures, I actually didn’t know if this one was possible, but I still had to try.
Game day. The weather was the first indication that it was going to be a great day, 65, breezy and partly cloudy for both days. WHAT?! I spent the morning packing up, and Andrew laughed at me when he saw all the food I bought. He knows me better than I know myself apparently, because I got defensive when he thought I was crazy for all the food I thought I was going to eat. All the bars, cookies, chips, candy, gummies I could ever want, and so much more, I was stoked, Andrew was doubtful.
Andrew, Axel and myself drove to Colorado Springs, parked at Jill’s house, and headed to the base of the incline, Ron had checked us in before we even arrived at the tent. We set up, and I got started at 3 pm on the dot. My main goal was to not start off too fast, Andrew kept reminding me “just go as slow as you can the first 3 laps” my aim was to keep all my ascent times in the 40s if I could, but for the first few laps, the goal was upper 40s. It was difficult to time that, and find my rhythm, but i successfully timed my laps exactly where they needed to be. It felt too slow, so by lap 3 I was desperate to find a rhythm I could settle into.
I realized quickly that my fuel for this will be primarily liquid. I couldn’t stomach hardly any solids except a few skratch chews and waffles. By the time this was over I went through 24 packets of gu, hammer nutrition powder, endurance electrolyte lemon lime powder, 3 waffles and 5 packets of chews. Andrew, you were right.
Lap 3, 4 and 5 were done in perfection. Seeing Jill at the top of 4, I remember telling her how great I felt. I was so happy to be feeling as good as I was, as I didn’t expect that. I expected to feel that I was in over my head, wondering how I would ever finish.
Lap 6 was my first night lap, and it will be dark until the top of lap 12. I thought I would have to find my rhythm again in the dark, but to my surprise I was incredibly consistent, to the point where Andrew was able to predict what time I would get back down to him, by the minute. Mentally set back from mild achilles pain, I took some ibuprofen and was back on track & fully focused.
I remember at 1:30 thinking to myself “it’s only 1:30?, I can start to feel the hard of the night.” I wildly underestimated how many laps I would be doing at night, but thankfully I had Andrew, Axel, and Lisa to push me through the darkest and toughest hours, which surprisingly were some of the best laps I had! The night was the most pleasant. It was cool, not windy, quiet and went just about as smoothly as it could have.
Numbers- always running numbers in my head, it was at this point I knew I would be doing more than 16, but I didn’t know how many more. 17, for sure. Andrew kept throwing numbers out telling me “get it in your head, you’re doing _____ laps now.” This helped a lot, because like we always say, if you have the physical, the mental is an even greater component of success, starting with what is in your head from the beginning.
Lap 15- started rough at 8 am. This was the start of the mental battle, and where I needed Andrew the most. I felt sluggish, and slow, but to my greatest surprise my times remained in the 40s.
My emotions were unstable, causing tears after every lap, but I found the persistence to keep going. How did I keep it up? It was because of Andrew, his lead on the following laps, and everyone else and their encouragement that really pushed me through. Everyone in passing on the stairs, believing I could keep going, encouraging me, cheering me on, rooting for my completion. There were even the awesome locals jumping in to climb with me. By lap sixteen, my goal was officially 19. Even though I argued with Andrew that I really liked the number 18, it was nice and round. For me, the tables have now turned, and this time, it was Andrew who wasn’t hearing my complaints. 19 laps were a must, he knew how much I would regret it if I didn’t push myself as much as the 24 hours allotted.
I could only think about one lap at a time, because 3 more laps almost seemed too much to think about, but lap 17 and 18 came and went, and FINALLY I was on 19. 1 more stair climb, I would never have to do step 20, 200 or 2000 again once it passed. I just had to shove one more pack of chews in my mouth at the top, and make it down. Andrew and I topped out on the 19th lap with a little less than an hour remaining- it was THE GREATEST feeling knowing I didn’t have to rush the descent, because a lap 20 was not even in the realm of possibility for 24 hours.
Feeling sore as ever in my muscles and tendons, I still somehow had a high that carried me through to the finish with joy!
A huge thank you to the incline community for encouraging me and supporting me along the way. I’m so grateful for the community surrounding us, and can’t wait for more adventures to come!