I like to think of myself as a dreamer. An ideas man. Sometimes these grand visions fail to come to fruition and remain just thoughts. Other times, they are attempted but for one reason or another, they fall apart. Such was the case when a buddy of mine in NC decided to hike from Mt. Mitchell to Mt. Pisgah. Things went smoothly except we spent the first day hiking in the wrong direction and wound up in Busick, NC (never heard of it? neither had we) only to call his parents to bail us out the next day.
A couple years later I decided to try to do a solo bike trip from Asheville to the coast of NC over 500 miles away. I covered 105 miles the first day but only got 20 the next day before an inflamed IT band ended my trip. After spending 8 hours sitting on the curb outside of a McDonalds, my dad eventually bailed me out and gave me a ride home.
So, as fantastic of an idea that the INCLINATHON was, there was perhaps some doubt in my mind that it would actually happen, especially after spraining my ankle on the Sunday before the original date. A black and blue right cankle forced me to make the call to push the event to April 14th. Luckily for me, Ed Baxter was my first accountability check when he completed the challenge in a blazing 13 hours 15 minutes. He may as well have been Neal Armstrong being the first to set foot on the moon! Ed set the bar intimidatingly high but after a steady dose of ibuprofen, voltaren (thanks Amy), rock tape, wobble boarding, icing, hot tubbing, massaging, mobilizing, and exercising, my confidence was slowly coming back. Patrick Stewart crashed at my place Friday night to get in some Hardrock 100 training with a planned 8 laps on Saturday and became my second accountability check, just in case I decided to sleep in and miss the 3 am start. And on top of that, Fred Baxter and Greg Cummings were guaranteed to show up so there would be no turning back now.
So at 2:45 am, Patrick and I met up with Alison and Greg Cummings (who had already set up the hideaway aid station) as well as Fred Baxter and Jeff. At 3 am, the four of us took off with Alison, a true saint, loyally manning the aid station and monitoring Greg's progress. I think I started in front but it wasn't long before my head lamp was illuminating the quick, deliberate footsteps of none other than Fred Baxter who made the first ascent in under 26 minutes. Fred would lead all of us until about five or six laps into it, all the while with me saying to myself "how the FRED BAXTER is FRED BAXTER moving so fast!" At that point I took over for a descent until Patrick began leading the charge. He was looking stronger and stronger with each ascent and I began worrying his intended 8 laps would turn into 13. Fortunately for me though, he stuck to his original plan. Perhaps he'll be there for the second annual INCLINATHON because I'd love to see what he could throw down, especially considering he'd only done the Incline once before!
As far as the rest goes, I'm not that good about giving a run down of the nitty gritty race details and honestly they're probably not that interesting. For you number geeks out there though, my ascent times ranged from 27:52 (1st lap) to 42:19 (last lap) and descents were between 15 and 20 minutes. I had bilateral quad and adductor cramps, but only going up and down on the 7th lap thanks to glorious, glorious salt packets. On the 10th lap, I distinctly remember that the game was no longer fun anymore. Up hurt. Down hurt more. I was moving as fast as I could but paradoxically, I couldn't possibly imagine going any slower.
Honestly, what made this event great was the fact that it brought so many people together. People who didn't necessarily know one another before, but found themselves linked by a crazy, stupid idea. Before INCLINATHON, I'd never met the Baxter twins or Greg and Alison but now we find ourselves forever bonded. Ed's fleet footed finish, Fred's emphatic hug, and the look on heroic Greg's face as he finished at 11:20 pm in the lightning snowstorm with his Golden Dragon trophy will forever be embedded in my mind. Be sure to read Greg and Alison's account here.
I'm also eternally grateful to the people I haven't mentioned yet who showed up and offered encouragement: Sean, Amy, Susie, Brandon, Michael, Marc, Amanda, Scott, Dave, Carson, Ed, Rick, Steve, Rebecca, Chewy, Tim, Roger, Andrew, Kristin, Brad, and Bethany (sorry if I missed anyone), as well as the people who sent me 50 odd messages on FB. You all are the ones that helped make the INCLINATHON a reality and reminded me once again what an incredibly awesome community this is.