Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Incline at Manitou Springs

A month ago, my husband and I tackled the Incline, which is something of a Colorado hiker’s rite of passage. To say it is a hike, however, is rather misleading.

Not exactly your average hike in the woods.

Not your average hike in the woods.

The Incline is a mile-long staircase that takes you up 2,000 vertical feet, from a base elevation of 6,035 at the start to 8,035 at the top. Think stair-stepper, not treadmill.

Some locals climb the Incline every day, and there are insane people who can run it in under 30 minutes. For some perspective, it took us 1.5 hours. Towards the end of the “hike”, as oxygen became increasingly scarce, we were taking a break every 20 steps, and that was a struggle.


From The Manitou Incline Website: “Completed in 1907 the Manitou Incline was a 1 mile cable tram built to support the construction of a hydroelectric plant and it’s waterline.” Once the plant was completed and the cable car’s function complete, an enterprising man named Dr. Brumbach (fun name, right?) purchased the line and marketed it as a tourist attraction.

Click for source.

Dear old Dr. Brumbach took the cars that were used for dragging construction equipment up the mountain, added benches, and voila! Instant money maker. Eventually the cars were upgraded, a station house was built at the top, and the Incline remained a popular tourist attraction for many years. At one point, a competing Incline opened on another mountain, but the views and hiking trails weren’t nearly as good, so that business went under.

In 1990, a severe rockside damaged the tracks and put the cable cars out of service, so locals began using the newly abandoned trail for a tough workout. Until 2013, it was privately owned, and hiking up the line was technically illegal, not to mention more than a little treacherous, as those pesky mudslides frequently washed away steps and walkways. Finally, in 2014, the trail was closed for extensive repairs and then reopened to the public. The Incline is now once again marketed as a tourist attraction and is just as popular now as it was in its heyday.


To “hike” the trail on a Friday, we left Denver around 7:30AM and arrived at the Incline just after 9. It was already busy, but not too crowded. We came prepared with water bottles, Cliff bars, and sunscreen. There’s a paid lot at the base, but we were lucky enough to find a metered spot, which was considerably cheaper than the $10 being charged in the lot. There is a free shuttle service if you want to park farther away for less money, but we didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

From the parking lot, you can follow signs and people towards the start of the climb. There are port-a-potties at the base, which I suggest you take advantage of, because once you start your ascent, there aren’t any facilities.

Though the Incline was recently repaired and improved, the stairs are quite steep and missing or broken in places, so wear good shoes, pay attention, and take your time. “Thin air” is a real thing at 6,000 feet above sea level, so if you aren’t acclimated to the altitude, go slow, and drink lots of water. There’s a “bail-out” point about half way up, where you can cut over to the winding, gently-sloped trail that will take you back to the base.

Barr Trail

Once you reach the top (don’t be fooled by the false summit), there’s a 4-mile path that will take you first to the bail-out point mentioned above, and then all the way down to the base (and some actual bathrooms). This was a great relief for me as I can’t imagine having to descend back down the stairs with legs of jelly.

The Incline

The hike up starts at a moderate pitch, and gets steeper as you go. For the first few hundred steps, we had to make ourselves take breaks to save our legs. I quickly learned that it’s all about pacing, and it was better, for me at least, to take short climbs (50 steps or so) followed by short breaks. That number quickly dropped to 30 steps, then to 20 by the end. Groups of people were constantly leap-frogging each other as we climbed and rested, climbed and rested. (With the exception of a group of middle school boys who passed us with ease, never looked back, and as far as I could tell, never stopped for a break. Damn children and their endless endurance.)

At the half-way point, still smiling.

At the half-way point.

For the most part, everyone is concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other, and there’s too much huffing and puffing to be doing much conversing. Despite the crowds, it’s a peaceful climb with great views, not to mention an awesome workout. At the end, everyone who has finished it stands at the top of the staircase and encourages you on; there’s a very real bonding experience that occurs between people who have just climbed 2,000 steps.

We made it!

We made it!

After we’d chatted with a few other Incliners, we walked around the summit, my husband peed behind a tree (because men can do that, the bastards) and found more stuff to climb on (he’s half-mountain goat, I swear), and then slowly made our way down the 4-mile trail. We made it back to our car right at lunch time, and our first priority was to consume all the calories we had just burned in the form of beer and pizza!

Total time, start to finish – just under 3 hours.

If you ever find yourself in the Denver area looking for a an excellent Colorado workout, check out the Incline!

Memorial Day Murph

One mile run

100 pull-ups

200 push-ups

300 squats

One mile run

Complete while wearing a 20-pound weight vest, in as little time as possible

We’re now just one day away from one of my favorite holidays of the year. While most people associate Memorial Day with cook-outs, pool parties, and beach days, the thing I look forward to most is the workout above, named “Murph” in honor of U.S. Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. “Murph” Murphy.

If you’ve seen the movie Lone Survivor or read the book by the same name (I haven’t), you’re already familiar with Lt. Murphy and his story of heroics. Or maybe you remember hearing his name in the news back in 2005 when he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Or maybe you’re like me, a year ago – completely new to this workout and this man’s story.

His acts of courage and valor are well documented on the internet, so I don’t feel the need to recount them here. I doubt I could do his story justice. Suffice it to say that the man gave it all for his country, and died in order to save his team.

When you read the workout, you might be like me and think – hm, that doesn’t sound so bad. Then, Memorial Day arrives and you start the workout. At the 15 minute mark you’re only 1/10th of the way through the rounds of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, and you think – wow, I’m never going to finish. At the 30 minute mark, you can start to see the finish line, but your legs are burning, your shoulders are like jello. Eventually, eventually, slower than you even thought possible, you finish the 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, and 300 squats. The last push-up took all of your strength. But now. Now you run another mile. You’re not even sure you can walk any more, but you head to the door and on to the sidewalk. You take a right, following the designated 1-mile course, and start to jog, slowly, painfully, legs moving awkwardly because your body has no idea why it still has to be moving, after all those squats.

And somewhere along the way, during the 1+ hour workout, after your 50th pull-up, or your 227th squat, or maybe after the first 1/2 mile of the first run, you realize – this man, Lt. Murphy, did this workout. All the time. In a 20-pound weight vest. In the dessert. And that wasn’t even his biggest accomplishment.

He didn’t do this workout to look better in a bikini. He didn’t do this workout because a bunch of his friends were doing it, and there was a cook-out after it. He didn’t do it on his day off and then limp home to recover poolside with a few cocktails. He did this workout to survive.

And there are thousands of men and women, all over the world, away from home, away from family, away from almost anything familiar, doing similar workouts, in similarly horrible conditions, so they can survive the demands of combat. To protect this country. To protect me. And if you’re anything like me, and a good workout gets you a little emotional, you have tears streaming down your face as you finish that last mile. Tears of pride, tears of gratitude, tears of sadness, for all the Murphs who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedom.

Tomorrow, all over the country, gyms, Crossfit “boxes” (a weird Crossfit term for gym), and community centers will host the Memorial Day Murph challenge. Thousands of people will participate, and (hopefully) thousands of dollars will be raised for scholarship funds, PTSD research, and other veteran’s programs.

“Murph” is a long, grueling, painful workout, but it is do-able and infinitely scalable (I do ring rows rather than pull-ups and use a box for push-ups). Most people forgo the 20-pound weight vest, myself included. Other scaling options include half-Murph, and no-run-Murph. It’s not about doing the workout as written, it’s about gaining perspective and completing the workout, in any form, with a grateful heart.

You certainly don’t have to do this workout, or any workout, in order to properly observe the holiday. But all too often, we, myself included, seem to treat Memorial Day as a holiday dedicated to shopping and grilling, without giving pause. Tomorrow, let’s all take a moment to remember, to reflect, and to be grateful. If you can, please consider donating to the Veteran’s charity of your choice (the Wounded Warrior Project is ours).

And then go out and enjoy that pool party 😉

(Click for source)