What a fun weekend! I finally made it up to Glendo State Park (about 100 miles north of Cheyenne on I-25) for the 3rd annual Glendo Trails Fest… a fun packed weekend of racing (lots of racing), trail building, and just plain celebration of the extensive single track trail system at the park. I’ve always been meaning to get up there for riding, but never had the perfect excuse until this year!
I arrived about 5:15 on Friday evening, excited to be camping once again! Due to flooding at several other campgrounds, Two Moon Campground was pretty darn full, but I secured a spot after a phone call and chat with the rangers. I wanted to be among the ponderosa pines, but settled for what I found and set up my little campsite. Then I headed out for a short ride and openers for Saturday’s XC mountain bike race. I was always told “Glendo is just like Gowdy.” OK, I’m not sure which Curt Gowdy State Park everyone is riding, but Glendo is nothing like it! Glendo is very technical in spots, and otherwise rough and chunky… very Pennsylvania like, just a whole like drier and higher in elevation. I had started out on my Fate, then realized that, duh Heidi, I had a brand new bike fit on the Epic that I needed to get use to before racing on it – my seat was raised nearly 1.5″ inches and some cockpit changes were made so the bike was feeling completely different. So after switching bikes I rode the Reflector Loop (some chunk then smooth single track through sage brush) and then the Two Moon loop that actually circles the campground – I LOVED this trail!
I awoke Saturday morning about 7am, cooking in the morning sun in my tent. I registered for the “23 Mile Technical” race, also known as the Expert race. I had never ridden these trails, so I was racing sight unseen, and didn’t even know what to expect. Sometimes that works out in my favor, sometimes it doesn’t. Since I was going up against the super woman known as Christy Olsen, I knew I’d be racing for 2nd Place unless something insane happened to Christy (heck, she got lost last year on the course and still won with a big cushion). My biggest fear was the heat, something I struggle with year after year.
I quickly learned that this was going to be hands down the most technical race I have ever done! Yes, moreso than Bear Creek in PA! (Which, to Bear Creek’s defense, was half the distance.) After dropping down Gigawatt, we ended up on a steep rocky switchback climb that gained over 200 feet in 0.3 miles. The stale, breezeless hot air got to me, and heat is my kryptonite for knocking out my actually great technical riding skills. But I kept chugging on. Some of the descents were sketchy with a lot of steep exposure, and of course it was hard not knowing what was coming around every corner or climb or rock. About 8 miles in I was ready to call it quits as it seemed like I was walking more and walking. But then I’d cool off, and my technical abilities would come back and I’d clear climbs people were walking, and then I’d get hot and have to walk. I finally came to the aid station maybe 9 or 10 miles in and turned onto the 23 mile course. No quitting for me, even though it was a good idea! I was riding all by my lonesome, way off the leaders, and unsure who was left behind me. More descending, more climbing. And repeat! And more rocks! I was riding quick, but cautiously since I didn’t want to take myself out, but at the same time had to remind myself on some stuff that I had the skills to ride it.
A guy, Adam, in the expert race caught me and we laughed about how at the rate we were going we were going to miss out on lunch, and he told me to find him for a beer afterwards. Shortly after that a tree caught my grip, then my right pinky finger and flipped me off the bike. After some swearing, kicking my bike, I cried for 20 seconds, and then pulled on my big girl chamois and vowed that I would finish this stupidly technical and hot race with a smile on my face. I think that run in with the tree reset my mind for what I needed to finish. Luckily it was the only mishap of the day as well, and even though I couldn’t wrap my right pink around my bars for the rest of the race and my right knee was skinned (again… rough year for the knees), it wasn’t that bad.
The heat was taking its toll on a lot of racers, and I started coming across 13-mile intermediate course racers that were suffering. One guy was in the middle of the trail all cramped up, but wouldn’t take some of my Osmo hydration mix, saying that he had water and was fine – electrolytes are important, people! I was racing with a Camelbak of water and a bottle of Osmo to make sure I was getting those salts (and took 4 Endurolyte tabs before the race to preload). Others were resting in the shade, or just flat worn out and pushing their bikes. Soon enough I was upon the second aid station which was 3.5 miles from the finish. I grabbed some cold water to drink and pour down my back while they commented on the bloody knee and my arms that were getting ever so sunburned. Assuring everyone I was fine, I hoped back on for the final push. More climbing up from the wetlands and then it’d be all over. On Root Canal was the cruelest thing of all, a steep rock face scramble to climb up. I literally spent several minutes trying to get up it, too cooked to get the 25 pound Epic up it with any sort of speed! At the intersection with Reflector I checked the trail map and saw it was less than a mile to the finish and celebrate, and encouraged a 13 miler that we were almost to the finish! I wound up the legs and pushed to the finish.
I came in at 3 hours and 27 minutes… about an hour longer than I was expecting to spend, but then again I had NO idea it would be rocks after rocks after rocks! It was good enough for 2nd place with a 14 minute cushion over 3rd place.
A few hours later was a time trial around the Two Moon Campground. I really didn’t know how I’d feel, but turns out my lungs hurt worse than my legs, and I was able to push pretty hard until I got hung up on a portion I hadn’t ridden. Still good enough for another 2nd place to Christy!
After some dinner, beers, and hanging out with new and old friends, it was time to get ready for the pump track competition under the lights in the dark! Yes, the campground even has a pump track! Now, I am no expert at anything like pump tracks, but figured I’d jump in on the fun, even though I was pedaling more than pumping.
After seeding rounds, we started the competition, which was almost like a pursuit on a velodrome… two of us starting on opposite sides trying to catch each other. And it was HARD! Nothing like sprinting for a few minutes in a tight circle! I was no match for Christy, and finished out the day with another 2nd place, and really no better pump track skills than I started with, ha!
Sunday morning I awoke worn out with a severely blistered and sore left palm… quarter size blister appeared during the XC race for some reason right in the middle of my palm. There was going to be a group ride and enduro competition, but I decided since it was already hot to do a short spin around the campground trails and the Reflector Loop, and then break camp and head home, satisfied with an amazing weekend!
The trails at Glendo are definitely not for the lighthearted, especially the further you get out from the Two Moon Trailhead. I wish I had known how technical they were as I would’ve come up last year for training for nationals! I wouldn’t mind coming up another time, but probably not in the summer since it’s so darn hot (about 1500-2000 feet lower in elevation than Cheyenne, and almost 4000 feet lower than Happy Jack!). I’ll definitely be back for the Trails Fest next summer if schedule allows… nothing like professionally run racing right in my home state! I’m super happy I chose GTF over some of the out of state events I originally had planned. And damn, I gotta return anyway to try to better than time in the race!