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Somewhere in the middle, false summit in sight.

The Manitou Incline has been on my Colorado bucket list for several years, after a few of my friends tackled it as part of a cross fit workout they were doing. I remember the first time I heard about it—a trail, less than a mile long, but with a 2,000 foot elevation gain—my response was, “That sounds absolutely insane. I wanna do it.”

And so, for whatever reason, seeing a friend post Instagram photos on Saturday evening triggered a reaction in me that told Alissa, “we are doing this tomorrow.”

And we did.

But even getting to accomplish that goal wasn’t so easy. What my spontaneous self didn’t realize was that the Pikes Peak Summit Marathon was that day and access to the incline was temporarily cut off (on a side note, while I do have a goal to summit a 14’er, I do not have any desire to literally run to the top and back down. Why anyone else would is beyond me). I also didn’t realize that was the same day that the incline would be closed for repairs for 4 months.

Not to be deterred, Alissa and I hung out in Manitou Springs for a few hours before heading back to the trailhead. I may or may not have completely lied to the “gatekeeper,” who still wasn’t letting anyone through to hike the incline, even after the designated period of time that we were told we had to wait.

Once we got on the trail, I took a look up the steep climb ahead. Naturally, it seemed easy enough, but I figured that with all the stories I’ve heard, the one about appearances being deceptive was likely true. I don’t think we made it but 40 or 50 steps before Alissa decided that we should give up and go back down. I baited her with the promise of ice cream and we kept going. We were passed at regular intervals by more ambitious climbers, we relayed back and forth with another couple who was taking their time like we were, and we stopped regularly to look back and enjoy the views. At one point, we started setting short 5-10 step goals to focus on the ascent, and I think that was what got us to the end. It was a grueling climb, and I was impressed that we both managed to summit without injury.

As we hiked back down (the much easier Barr Trail) and were passed by latent marathoners, I tried to talk to Alissa about the metaphor for life that the incline represented:

At the summit of the incline, looking down on Manitou Springs

We’ve all had challenges laid before us, without the end necessarily in sight. We knew it was out there, but even when we thought we were close, we realized we’d hit a false summit and still had an even more grueling path ahead of us. But sometimes, you just have to focus on what’s right in front of you and keep moving forward. Eventually, you’ll look back to see how far you’ve come and be motivated to keep going. And when you reach the top, the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming.

Or you could always get what Alissa did out of it — “I don’t feel any different at all.”

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