For a long time, Rachel Jones considered herself something of a “tour guide” on the Manitou Incline.
“For people who’d never done it before,” she said of the Pikes Peak region’s notorious, vertical set of steps gaining more than 2,000 feet in less than a mile. “I always went up, talked about the history and pointed out legends and what they’ve done and what their records are. I kinda became a fan girl of the Incline.”
Now, she’s among those legends.
The Incline’s record keepers have welcomed Jones into small company: She recently became the fourth person to track and verify 1,000 laps up and down the Incline in a calendar year.
She is the first woman to be counted for the mark.
“Being the first woman to accomplish something so big was really exciting to me and something I wanted for sure,” Jones said.
There was “a challenge within the challenge,” she said. Overcoming this, she said, was her attempt to not only prove her strength to herself but also to others.
“I hope to be an example for other women that they can have an active, strong, healthy pregnancy,” Jones said.
With her doctor’s approval, she said, 440 of her 1,003 Incline laps were done pregnant. While already emotionally drained and physically beat from long days and nights on the Incline — she spent as many as 18 hours straight on the mountain — the second half of her pursuit was mixed with side effects of childbearing: morning sickness and fatigue.
Jones had done her best to manage work; she runs her own business as a massage therapist. She had done her best to manage time with family. Now, toward the end of her mission on the Incline, pregnancy was slowing her and making time tighter.
“I was uncertain if I would be able to finish (1,000 laps in 365 days) on time,” Jones said. “There was some really rough days, where I only got two laps when I wanted six or eight.”
But she never felt like quitting, she said. “I feel like my mind has gotten strong enough to where I don’t go through those thoughts.”
That’s been the power of the Incline, she said.
Her first attempt in 2011 resulted in her and friends bailing at around the halfway point.
“Deep down, I knew I could do it,” Jones recalled, “but in my mind it was like, ‘No, it’s too hard, this is not for me, I’m not an athlete, I’m not strong.’”
She resolved to return and block out that negativity.
“That first experience of failing when I listened to my head, and then succeeding when I listened to my heart, that helped me fall in love with that trail,” she said. “It became this tool. ... It made me mentally stronger every time I did it.”
She scaled the Incline about 100 times in 2020. She made 500 a goal. She felt good enough to try for another 500.
Then she wouldn’t feel so good. The pregnancy had a way of making her feel like that Incline newcomer years ago.
“It was like time travel back to day one,” Jones said. “That was a really special and humbling experience.”
She was slower. But she was stronger.
She set another stunning mark along the way: 10 “Inclinathons,” 13-lap sufferfests amounting closely to a marathon length.
That was counted as another female record for Jones — another story to one day tell her child, due near the end of May.
And maybe there’s a lesson somewhere.
“I think it’s cool to have that powerful energy at the start of life,” Jones said.