Adventure Xstream Series hits Glenwood
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Until five years ago, classic Colorado pastimes like mountain biking, trail running and hiking weren’t exactly staples of Ryan Thomas’ life.
Now, an avid adventure racer, there’s no keeping Thomas off the trail.
“I never owned a mountain bike, I never went trail running, I never went hiking, until like five years ago,” he said.
Thomas, a firefighter in Fort Collins, teams up with co-workers for adventure races three or four times a year.
It’s the challenge, the camaraderie and the variety that keeps him coming back. And it’s what forged his instant connection with the growing endurance sport, which blends a plethora of outdoor activities into one long race.
“It was immediate,” Thomas said of his affinity for adventure racing. “As we were driving up here yesterday, we were saying, ‘Hey, that’s where we had our first race.’ It hooked me right away.”
“It’s just something new,” said Dave Chugg of Clinton City, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City. “I’ve done Ironman Canada. I just did the St. George Ironman. I’ve done Silverman down in Lake Mead.”
Stories like those are common ones. By all accounts, adventure races are addictive.
More than 150 athletes – Thomas and Chugg among them – fed their adventure racing habit at Saturday’s Adventure Xstream Series stop in Glenwood Springs.
The day began with a bright-and-early run up the brutally steep Transfer Trail to Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, where racers rappelled down a canyon wall, trekked through caves and took a ride on the park’s coaster. From there, cycling on the Rio Grande Trail and riverboarding and kayaking on the Colorado River awaited.
All told, 50 miles of course presented quite the challenge for the brave souls who signed up to test their physical boundaries on a sunny September Saturday.
“This course has some elements in it that you can’t find anywhere else,” said Jenny Newcomer, who along with her husband, Will, operates Gravity Play Sports, Adventure Xstream’s parent company. “The caving, you can’t get that anywhere else in Colorado or Utah. With riverboarding, it’s hard to find a fun enough stretch for riverboarding. … This race was fun. We were able to throw in some of those fun extreme sports, which I think excited some people and frightened a few people away.”
Glenwood is a new stop on the Newcomers’ adventure racing circuit, which is in its 10th year. Each year, the couple puts on a handful of races, most of them in Colorado. Saturday’s race was the Newcomers’ 44th adventure race.
That kind of longevity is a testament to the sport’s popularity, which no doubt has a lot to do with adventure racing’s team environment. On Saturday, the vast majority of racers signed up as members of two- or four-person teams. And it’s not a relay event. Team members tackle each and every discipline side by side.
“Some people like to race to be with some of their buddies,” Jenny said. “We have a lot of husband-wife teams. Adventure racing started as a team sport, back in the day when Eco-Challenge was around. … We’ve branched out to allow single-gender teams, co-ed teams and to allow solo racers. There are some people who prefer to be out there alone and have some peace and quiet, and then some people who like the team dynamic and the camaraderie of a team.”
Thomas and teammates Ross Reinking and Ryan McLean are all about the team dynamic.
“The teamwork kind of runs parallel to our job,” Thomas said. “It does appeal to guys in our profession, just because of the challenge, teamwork and camaraderie of it all.”
Challenge, teamwork and camaraderie are just a few of the many addictive forces adventure racing offers. It’s an addiction that keeps folks like Thomas, Reinking and McLean coming back, and it’s what keeps the Newcomers’ decade-long venture successful.
“The majority of people have 9-to-5 jobs and have kids at home,” Jenny said. “They’re training four to eight hours a week and maybe get in a couple longer rides before the season starts. They choose a couple races to do each year and a lot of teams do it because they want to be a little more adventurous. They want to get out of the city and come to the mountains for the week. It incorporates so many sports that you can get that fix.”
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