Breakin' Records: Last Hike to Incline Peak as a 39-year-old

Updated: Aug 1

During the summer of 2020, I hiked up to Incline Peak by myself several times – each time trying to beat my previous time to the top. In October, I had my personal best time to the the top and I felt pretty good about the improvement I'd seen over the course of a few months last year.


On June 1, 2021, we hiked to Incline Peak in the snow and it was tough going, but we still managed to make excellent time, considering the conditions. Last weekend, we hiked up to Incline Peak on our route back from hiking up to Rifle Peak via the Tahoe Rim Trail.


Today, I resumed my "Friday solo hike to Incline Peak" routine. It will be my last time hiking up to Incline Peak before I officially turn 40 years old on Tuesday.


It was a good day.


For starters, when I parked the Jeep at the trailhead, I realized I'd forgotten to bring my hiking poles. Not a huge deal, but a little disappointing. Then as I got out, I looked at my fitness watch that I use to track my hikes and it had a mere 14% battery left. My heart sank – kind of an anticlimactic way to kick off the maiden voyage of this summer's routine.


I messaged my husband and told him about the battery life. He responded, "The race is on." I laughed and replied, "You got that right." I was really going to have to hustle today if I wanted to complete the entire trek before the battery died.


The weather was absolutely beautiful, but it was also absolutely hot – at least 80º F. Because of some tasks I had to complete this morning, I got a late start on the trail, which meant I ended up being out during the hottest hours of the day.


I didn't have my hiking poles. It was really hot out. I had very little battery life remaining in my watch. And I had eaten breakfast but no lunch. This should be interesting.


I was definitely going to have my work cut out for me today on this 4-mile hike, so I didn't waste any more time.


I completed the first mile up (about 365 feet of elevation gain) in just 18 minutes. I thought to myself, "Hey. That's pretty good. Maybe you'll beat your record today."


But as I kept climbing during mile 2, I was already feeling quite burned out. I was breathing very heavily and audibly. I was moving along slowly and I had to work pretty hard to keep going. In fact, I ended up taking numerous brief breaks to provide both my legs and my heart and lungs with a reprieve, which for me was disappointing.


Last summer, my goal every time I hiked up to Incline Peak was to 1) not take any breaks and 2) beat my previous time to the top. I guess, secretly, I was hoping I could beat my best time from last year today, but I really didn't have too high of hopes.


I periodically checked the time on my watch to see how I was tracking. When I reached the spur that leads out to Incline Peak, my watch read 38 minutes. That seemed pretty good, but I was exhausted. Usually, when I reach this point, I feel invigorated and super motivated to finish strong. And I never take breaks on this stretch. I always push myself and amp up my pace until I reach the top to try and edge out the best time. Today, I stopped twice on this stretch. They were brief breaks, but breaks nonetheless.


When I rounded the final "hill" on the way to the peak and reached the final sandy stretch, I don't know where I found the energy, but I jogged to the top of the peak. When I arrived, I looked at my watch. 45 minutes. Meh. That still felt like an accomplishment, especially with all things considered against me today – not the least of which were the numerous breaks I took – and the fact that it's early in the hiking season.


In the end, the joke was on me. Throughout the entire hike today, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking about my best time to the top last year in October and for some reason, I had "44 minutes" stuck in my head as the time to beat, when in reality, it was 49 minutes.


I had just beaten my best time by a whole 4 minutes and I didn't even know it.



I messaged my husband when I got to Incline Peak and he asked me if I had beaten my personal record. I had to use my phone to confirm the time from October and when I saw that it had actually been 49 minutes, not 44 minutes, I laughed out loud. I responded to him, "Yes. Yes, I beat my record."


Crazy!


I didn't spend a lot of time at the top today, because my watch battery had such little power remaining. I stopped long enough to have my snack, drink some more water, and look at the lake a little bit.




The skies were a little hazy around the lake today and I think I saw thunderstorms in the distance.


Just then, I noticed one of the huge military airplanes flying super low along the shoreline over Incline Village. I quickly grabbed my phone to take video.


Despite scouring the landscape, I lost sight of it after that and so I decided to continue on down the trail. A few minutes later, I heard a loud noise approaching in the distance. I grabbed my phone out of my pocket and looked up.



So cool. What an unexpected capstone event to top off this maiden and now notable hike!


A little while later, I called my mom as I was descending the trail to tell her about my new personal best time to the top. Then I diverted off the main trail to view some colorful wildflowers my husband alerted me to after his mountain bike ride through that area yesterday.





I made it back to the trailhead feeling pretty darn pleased with myself, despite the whole "you're dumb for thinking it was 44 minutes when it was really 49 minutes" running through my head. After all, my mistaken fact pushed me even more than I thought I could go today, so I'd call that a win.


When I returned home, I was really looking forward to a shower after that hot and sweaty hike. While I normally wear crew socks and full-length pants that cover my ankles and partially my shoes, with the heat today, I decided to wear pants that roll up a few inches along with low socks. My reward was a couple of souvenirs I didn't know I had until I removed my socks. Just made me chuckle a little.



I was also reviewing some recorded stats and I was surprised to see that for 36% of the hike, my heart rate was in Zone 5, which means greater than 162 beats per minute. My max heart rate was a whopping 190 bpm. I'm guessing that is why I was feeling so exhausted by the time I reached the spur to Incline Peak. Great cardio workout today, for this 39-year-old, and it was an unexpected surprise to beat my personal record!




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