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Brandon Stapanowich nails 22 Incline ascents in 24 Hour UltraInclinathon

Ultrarunner Brandon Stapanowich of Manitou Springs completed the first 24 Hour UltraInclinathon on Saturday having ascended the gnarly old railway bed 22 times.

With friends gathered at the bottom of the Incline, he hopped off the final railroad tie and grabbed an orange-flavored popsicle. Encrusted in dried, salty sweat, he was obviously exhausted with various body parts protesting the massive effort.

"I was holding it together until about 19 or 20 (ascents), and then things started to hurt a lot," Stapanowich said.

He began his day-long challenge at noon on July 4 and managed to make 18 round-trips in 18 hours, enjoying night views of the city and a great fireworks show in Manitou Springs. He said he was concerned about climbing all night, but ultimately found it to be peaceful. His friends kept him company on nearly every ascent. Steve Stermer had finished nine laps of the Incline and was going for more on Saturday afternoon.

At daylight, Stapanowich was ready for the UltraInclinathon to be over.

"Once the sun came up I was a little disappointed," he said. "The Incline was still there, it hadn't gone anywhere. We still had six hours to go. But the last six hours were icing on the cake. So it was good."

The Incline ascends about 2,000 feet in the foothills above Manitou Springs, though the exact elevation gained is debatable. At the most, Stapanowich climbed a total of 44,000 feet, and it's likely that he has set the "known" record for elevation gained in one day. He said he had heard that the record might be 40,000 feet, but didn't want to get bogged down in the details.

He nearly called it with 21 round-trips completed in about 22 hours, but gutted-out one more push to the top.

"I'd stopped with two hours or so to go," he said. "My knees were really hurting. And I said, I'm done. I've done 21 in 22 hours, that's enough for me. But right after I typed that and sent it, it didn't feel right to me. It felt like quitting. I mean I still had two hours, what am I going to do, sit here? So I figured as much as it was hurting, I'd do another one just for fun."

Stapanowich is an accomplished ultrarunner with a seventh-place finish in the Leadville 100 in 2012. He was 13th in the Western States 100 in 2013. But he also enjoys creating events - all of which he has won - including the first "Inclinatahon" (13 roundtrips on the Incline for a total of 26 miles), and "The Stank," four consecutive summits of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, for a total of 100 miles. He and Incline regular Roger Austin collaborated on the creation of the UltraInclinathon.

"I'm not a painter or a writer or a musician, but I feel like it's a form of artistic expression coming up with these creative ideas," he said. "It's neat that you inspire people, then you draw inspiration from others, and the cycle keeps perpetuating. So I think that's the cool part of it."

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