Spartan Race San Jose Super and Sprint

Spartan Race San Jose was no joke, even if it did fall on April 1st! Things were a little different at this race, beginning with the wall at the starting corral which was much taller. We started with an “Aroo, Aroo, Aroo” and came to the first obstacle which was a noticeably higher set of hurdles. A mud pit came shortly after which was very deep and didn’t have footholds. I was getting a little nervous to see what the rest of the race would bring as it was starting out more challenging than usual.

Next up were hills, hills, hills. The cumulative elevation gain was approximately 2,000 feet. It was a mental challenge as well as physical. When you climbed to the top of the first hill and thought you were done, you would look to the side and see the next hill. This happened about four times before finally receiving a much-needed break and spectacular view.

There was a short trail run and then, once you thought it was safe,  there was another hill which held a special surprise, the sandbag carry! It was steep, long, and enough to make you say shucks! They used wreck bags instead of sand patties.  I like both and this was a nice change of pace. I heard an unofficial weight estimate of 30-35 pounds for women and 55-60 for men.

Finally, the hills eased up and the trail was heading down. It was a perfect time to look around and take it all in. The cows that dotted the hillside seemed more like goats and were quite impressive on this steep terrain. One person did a shout out to them with an “AMOO”. I think the cows thought the farmers must have gone crazy!

We approached the festival area which included several classic obstacles such as the over walls, inverted wall, A-frame cargo net, and monkey bars. It was set up really well for the spectators, who were lining the course like a golf tournament and cheering everyone on.

One thing I kept thinking about was the bucket brigade. I had visions of straight up hills that never ended. I was completely shocked when I reached it and it was a fairly flat, short loop! I don’t remember when I was ever so excited about the bucket carry! One quick lap and I was done and heading towards some of the newer obstacles which included the multi-rig, which is now a series of rings, and the Olympus. I’m still trying to conquer these, but I get a little further each time.

We ended with the spear throw (made it…yes!), slip wall, and dunk wall. Both days brought two different gals who were a little hesitant to go under the dunk wall. We went together and they were both so excited when they got to the other side. They rocked it! A huge part of what I love about Spartan is the friendships you make along the way.

I was surprised to find there wasn’t a fire jump. That’s always such a perfect end to a race. I defiantly “fire jumped” over the finish mat and received my medal.

It was a beautiful venue and perfect weather. This is a race I definitely enjoyed and will do again!

Photo credit: Kim Collings and Spartan Race

Spartan Sprint Las Vegas NV/Littlefield AZ Race Recap

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!  Well, I guess it’s lucky for you then that the Las Vegas Spartan Race was actually just a stone’s throw across the Arizona border in Littlefield!

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Start

Our adventure starts on Sunday, March the 19th at 3am when I woke up to my alarm telling me to get out of bed & to get ready to head to Bellingham Airport for our flight.

To backtrack a bit..  My Wife Charity & I were planning on heading into Las Vegas where we were married 10 years prior & a few of our friends were planning on coming with us.  After we booked our flight tickets we found out there was a Spartan Sprint Race in Littlefield Arizona on the day that we were landing & that it was only about an hour drive out from Las Vegas.  I created a Facebook event to let all of our crazy running & non-running friends know of our Anniversary weekend & our intent to start the path to our very first Trifecta but running the Sprint in Las Vegas.  Well, we ended up getting a few more friends come along to run the Sprint with us & join in on the festivities.  Back to Sunday..  We got picked up by our friend Shelley & then we picked up our friend Troy & headed from our hometown of Vancouver, B.C.  Shelley was just coming to enjoy Las Vegas but Troy was also coming to run the Spartan Sprint with us.  We crossed the border & got onto our flight with no issues & we landed in Las Vegas at 10:30am where our friends David & Taylor picked us up & drive us to Littlefield Az. Our gate time for the Sprint was 1:15pm which gave us about an hour & a half to get there.  Luckily David had run the Super the day before & knew the route & where to park.  The drive was luckily rather dull & after showing our parking pass, finding a place to park & getting changed seems to have about 20mins until our start time.  Charity, Troy & I all wore most everything we were going to race in on the place as we knew we had a limited time if we wanted to get out on the course as the last heat was at 1:30.  It was hot!  The Thermometer in the car said it was approx. 36c/97f (Apparently it was a few degree’s hotter the day before for the super) but I could still hear everyone having fun & I could feel the energy in the air.  People driving by were honking & hooting & I could hear the call of the Spartan off in the distance “Aroo!”

We had already filled in all of our waivers & printed out our scan/barcodes to make check-in go the fastest it could & fast it was!  One quick scan, review of our ID & another scan of the kit bag & we were told we could join the 1pm heat.  It was 12:50pm, so we had to get moving!  I quickly brought the bag that we all placed our change of clothes into with the Drop Bag crew & joined my friends in the corral.  We were at the back of our group as we were pretty much the last one’s in.  After they closed up the gates, I realized that I hadn’t had the chance to run to the restroom or get any water, this “decision” would be one I regretted for most of the course.  After a quick pep talk with a shortened version of the Spartan Credo we were released into the fray of the course.  The course was well laid out I thought & used the lay of the land & the MX Course quite well.  Up & over a few humps, then some short walls, then O.U.T. (Over, Under, Through) meanwhile we had to trudge through sand that was dry and loose as heck.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Sand

I swear you lost more than half of your forward momentum due to the sand just moving out of the way when you placed pressure on it & tried to move forward.  We then got to the first classified obstacle, it was just a trudge through a stream that went through the property.  The stream was moving at a good pace & only about passed knee height for me & was rather warm.  I am a wimp when it comes to cold.  I rarely ever participate in the cold water obstacles.  I’m getting over that slowly now with the addition of proper OCR gear & time.  Just doing them more often & slowly working them in seems to be helping me get through more and more of these obstacles.  The cooler water was nice, as trudging through that sand & not having water before the water really dried me out.  Next was Atlas Carry, this was the first time I had ever come across this obstacle & I wasn’t sure how I would do as I have no grip strength, but I got passed it with little to no issues at all.  After a few other various obstacles we came across our 1st water station, it was a welcome sight!  A few more obstacles came & went & we were then greeted with another water station at the bottom of a rather large hill that we were going to have to hike up.  The water station honestly should have been at the top of the hill, or better yet after the next obstacle which was the sandbag carry.  After hiking up that darn hill & then carrying the sand bag all over hell’s half acre I was incredibly thirsty already, unfortunately water wouldn’t be had for at least nearly another mile & 8 or 9 more obstacles.  This is where the course changed a lot, for the first 3 miles/5 kilometres we had conquered about 10 obstacles that were quite spread apart, now we had about 12 or so obstacles left but only 1.5 miles/2.5 kilometres to do it in & doing it in the hot mid day sun was taking it’s toll in on me.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Barb-Wire

We got to go back down the hill a bit & crawl under some barbed wire, I was able to use some new side walking techniques I had seen someone try in a Facebook video, with that, and crawling & cinching through it, I got through it unscathed for once!  Technique on a lot of these obstacles are key, especially when you’re a guy like me & you’re not very fit or athletic.  The Rolling Mud Obstacle was a nice relief & I wallowed in it like a little piggy would & covered myself & had a good ol’ time.  If you can’t have a good ol’ time at these races & unleash your inner kid, why do it!?!  Well, that’s my opinion.   I’m not here to finish in the top half, I’m here to have fun, help others & enjoy my time with those around me.  Next, onto a first for me, the Dunk Wall!

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Dunk-Wall

Again, I was kinda worried about this one, every time I have tried to go into water past my stomach as soon as it hits my check my body just locks up.  Well, hello warm water!  Other than pausing because I thought the water was just too muddy to submerge myself into I realized just how ludicrous that sounded & under I went!  I was rather surprised, for the first time ever I tackled the Inverted Wall on my own & got over it, although cramping up my calf by bashing it into the top of the wall when I heel kicked myself up & over.  Oops, forgot the Mustard, oh well!  A few stretches and some lunge type steps while walking I was good enough to go again.  Climbing the hill after that took quite a lot out of me, they were rather mean & tossed a bunch of larger tractor tires on the hill & they were “fun” to climb over.  They were also rather hot so that kind of helped add to the pace.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Tire-Hill

We could see the finish was coming upon us rather quickly.  We got through the Herc Hoist, an A-Frame Cargo net, a Plate Drag & then onto Twistah.  It’s a rotating bar with hand holds on it.

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Twistah

Well, due to my lack of grip I only got about 2 rungs in & dropped.  The Monkey Bars were about the same distance, by this time I was just wiped, but, the last obstacle was upon us, the Fire Jump!

Spartan-Sprint-Las-Vegas-2017-Fire-Jump

We all gathered together in our group and took our last few strides together & jumped that fire!  Victory!  We finished off with our very well deserved beer, talked to a few fellow Spartans & then we headed out.  It had been a very long day for some of us & we just wanted to get back to our room & rest.  After all, the next day was our 10 year wedding anniversary & we still had 3 more days in Vegas that we were going to have to use our legs for.  In the end, we traversed about 4.5 miles/7.5 kilometres & had about 24 obstacles to pass & we did it in about 2:20.  We may not have been the fastest out there, but we didn’t want to be.  It was hot & we took it at our own pace & had a great time!  I hope to bump into ya sometime in the mud, if you see me, be sure to say hi!

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Spartan Race Las Vegazona 2017

Picture by Taylor Mullin (@taylor_mullin_)

Spartan Race came back to the Mesquite, Arizona Motocross Track for their “Las Vegas” race this year. The Las Vegas event has been a fast and furious race course over the last three years. The long stretches of running on sand, as well as a pretty decent amount of river running took many by surprise in 2016.

Course designer supreme, Steve Hammond, had shared some hints in the week leading up to the race that we would get treated to a repeat of last year’s course style:

Course Map

The course map supported the flat and fast statements as well.

Spartan Race - Las Vegas Course Map

Race Venue

Parking at this venue is fortunately close to the festival area. As usual, there was a lack of shade (pavilions, vendor booths, etc.) so people started to huddle in every little bit of protection from the desert sun they could find, and many did receive their first sunburn of the year.

The SGX area received some improvements and now features climbing holds added to a pull up bar, Gormax flips, as well as the usual rope climb and over wall.

Everyone who paid attention did not encounter any surprises as Steve delivered on his promise. The terrain was flat, however, the start gave a great indication of what racers are going to see a lot of: death by a dozen little bumps on the trail.

Spartan Race Las Vegas Startline

After this rough start, one mile of fine, loose sand was waiting. Fortunately, there was an opportunity to cool down during a bit of river running (~0.1 mi), which was followed by another mile of loose sand, and finally the last half of the course finished out on the motocross track. The treacherous part of those motocross venues is that the little hills and bumps don’t look intimidating at all.

However, the steep grade of these dirt mounds, along with the hard packed ground and slippery dirt on top, suck the energy out of everyone’s legs, especially since there are usually three or more of them in a row. The biggest single climb on the course can be seen behind the dunk wall, leading up to the top of the mesa.

Spartan Race Las Vegas Dunkwall

In summary, the Mesquite MX venue may be flat, but it does make up for it with its loose sand and frequent, short, steep hills.

The Twister

In recent races, as well as in Vegas, it appears as if the Twister obstacle becomes more of a menace than the rig, which was completely absent from the Sprint, but part of the previous day’s Super. For those with strong grip, it poses no problem and requires just a bit of practice to figure out which technique suits them best… and then there is Veejay, the youngest Spartan Pro Team member, doing this.

Here is another perspective on the Twister. In the front is the side-by-side grip technique while the racer in the back is going hand-over-hand, which requires more grip strength and technique, but is also much faster.

GPS Data

Everyone interested in the data can find the GPS track below, more details can be found on Strava directly.

All pictures and videos owned by the author unless otherwise noted.

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Train Like a Pro: Robert Killian

Robert-Killian-2017-Spartan-Pro-Card

Success came early in Robert Killian’s Spartan career. In his fourth Spartan event, he won the 2015 Spartan World Championship. Most of his success from that race can be traced back to his first event, a Spartan Beast he ran four months earlier in Breckenridge, Colorado, where he placed 3rd overall. Breckenridge is known for having a high elevation gain and being one of Spartan’s toughest races.  “When I did that race, I kind of was like, ‘Okay, this must be what all the races are like. This is how I have to prepare,’” he recalls.  Because of Breckenridge, Killian immediately began running more mountains, carrying everything from sandbags to logs, and increasing his grip strength.

Although, at the time, he’d only run in four Spartan races, that doesn’t mean he was inexperienced. Before ever attempting a Spartan race, Killian had already won numerous triathlons, competed internationally on the Army Biathlon team, and won both the individual and team categories of the military division at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He was also named 2010 Army Athlete of the Year. 

Robert-Killian-Obstacle-In-Fatigues

Killian has served in the United States military for about fifteen years. During that time, he was able to participate in numerous competitions, gaining experience moving through obstacles. Though they were urban obstacles, Killian had to learn how to properly navigate terrain, move through windows and tunnels, repel, and even climb chain ladders. “It just kind of became second nature,” he explains. “We’d do it so much that once I was introduced to OCR on a normal course, it was just a combination of all the running and orienteering that I had done in the military.” 

After winning the World Championship, Killian joined the Spartan Pro Team and was able to use 2016 as the first year he could dedicate to being a professional athlete. In the inaugural Spartan U.S. Championship series, he finished 2nd overall and never finished worse than 3rd in any of the five series races. When it came to the 2016 Spartan World Championship race, he narrowly missed defending his title, placing 3rd, under three minutes behind winner Hobie Call. Six weeks later, Killian and partner, Chad Trammell, placed 2nd at World’s Toughest Mudder, completing a remarkable 100 miles in 24hrs. Outside of OCR, Capt. Killian won the 2016 Best Ranger Competition with partner, Staff Sgt. Erich Friedlein, becoming the first National Guard duo to do so. 

Robert-Killian-Cycling

To maintain such a high level of performance, Killian continues to focus on cycling, swimming, mountain running and cross training. Many days, he does what he refers to as “power hours.” “Every hour I take five or ten minutes just to do one OCR task,” he explains. This includes carrying a sandbag, spending time on his rig, and climbing his rock wall. In order to help prevent over-training, Killian sticks to workouts that involve what he would see in a race.

The below workout is one that Killian includes in his training program on LeaderBoard. He uses it to practice throwing the spear and performing heavy sandbag carries during stressed effort levels. You will want a station set up for the spear with two or three spears and a 40-pound sandbag (or bucket) ready to go. For more information on LeaderBoard, stick around at the end of the article.


Robert-Killian-Spear-Throw

WARM UP

  • 5-minute progressive warm up jog. Start easy and build up to a moderate pace.
  • Dynamic Drills (10-15 minutes)
    • Two or Three 50-Meter Strides – Run just shy of max speed for the allotted distance.
    • High Knees – Concentrate on ensuring your knees are getting at least as high as your waist. Make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.
    • Butt Kicks – While keeping your upper body straight, run while bringing your ankles up to touch your butt. Try to keep from kicking your whole leg back. Your knees shouldn’t pass behind your body.
    • Skips – Like high knees, try to get your knee to come up to your waist. While one knee is up, the other foot should “skip” off the ground. Alternate between left and right legs.
    • Walking Lunges – Step out with one foot, keeping the knee at a 90-degree angle. Try not to let your opposite knee touch the ground. Bring the back foot forward so that leg is now the front leg, again, keeping your knee at 90-degrees. Don’t let it pass in front of your toes.
    • Karaoke – Move side to side, crossing your trailing foot in front of the other, then behind it. Allow your hips to twist as you go. Alternate going to the left and then to the right.
    • Progression Sprints for 100 Meters – Slowly build up speed until you are running at almost a full sprint.
    • Jumping Jacks – Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Bend slightly at the knees and jump a couple inches off the ground, bringing arms up above your head and your legs out to the side. Jump again and bring your arms and legs back to the starting position.
    • Side to Side Ski Hops – Stand feet together, bend at the knees and bring your hips back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle. Bend your arms like you would if you were holding ski poles. Jump up and to the left. As you’re jumping, allow your arms to come up, bringing them back down when you land. Repeat to the right.

Robert-Killian-Sandbag-Carry

MAIN SET

800 meter runs should be performed at a 10k race pace. Do 10 penalty burpees for each missed spear throw.

  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw.
  • Run 800 meters, then perform a spear throw followed by a 200-meter sandbag carry.
  • Rest two minutes.

Writer’s Tip: Try to maintain the 10k pace, especially early on. You may be tempted to run the first couple 800m at a quick pace.

COOL DOWN

  • 5-10 minute light jog or walk. Then stretch the major muscle groups.
  • Go for an easy one-mile run.

 

Robert-Killian-and-his-son

 

Writer’s Note: Thank you to Robert for providing this workout. You can follow him on Instagram and Facebook.

Check out past Train Like a Pro articles:

LeaderBoard is where Killian and fellow Spartan Pro Team member, Brakken Kraker, coach elite athletes. Anyone can sign up for a free LeaderBoard Takeoff, to get an idea of how the program works. During the two-week Takeoff, athletes will complete five “Benchmark” tests. After completing a few of these tests, the athlete will be invited to a one-on-one chat with either Kraker or Killian in order to personalize his or her training.

After the Takeoff is complete, you can book a free seven day trial of either one’s program, plus a discount after the trial is up. The full program is personalized and includes a community chat, so you can communicate with other athletes or the coaches at any time. For more information, go to www.leaderboardfit.com.

For those just getting into OCR, or looking to take the next step beyond an open heat, Killian recently introduced his 12-week SGX program on LeaderBoard. Included in the program are detailed workouts, instructional videos, plus technique and pacing tips. Athletes also receive discounts on gear, nutrition products and non-elite wave races. To sign up go to https://leaderboardfit.com/signup-sgx/.

Photo Credit: Robert Killian, Spartan Race, NBC

Spartans Take on the Cold at the Winter Sprint

Be careful what you wish for.

Last year I grumbled that the heat at the Tri-State Spartan Sprint slowed me down. In general,  I don’t like the heat and humidity that comes with many races each summer in the Northeast. If only there were a race where that wasn’t a factor! Spartan HQ must have been reading my mind, because this year, they organized their first US Winter Spartan Sprint after trying out the concept in Europe.

When I signed up for the race, I saw that at the Greek Peak Ski Resort, where the race took place on Saturday,  the average temperatures topped out at about 30 degrees this time of year. Chilly, but certainly not the coldest race I have done, and doable with a few layers. As the race approached, I kept checking the weather. Earlier in the week, temperatures were hitting an unseasonable 70 in the Northeast, which made me wonder how they were going to handle any winter-based snow-dependent features. Mother Nature had other ideas. A few days before the race, Spartan sent out notices warning racers that temperatures were going to start out in the 20’s and that we needed to dress accordingly. No such luck.

When I made it to the venue, the air temperature was 10 degrees. That’s minus 12 in Celsius, for those who use the metric systemI was grateful for the extra layers I had packed.

The sprint course was similar to those that take place at other mountain venues in warmer months, only with the added elements of snow and ice. A handful of obstacles were adapted for this: Rolling Snow instead of Rolling Mud, for example. Some were removed (no Dunk Wall, no water crossings). The rest were the same, but frostier.

Obstacles that are easier in the winter:

Barbed wire crawl: usually I loathe this obstacle, as I end up putting my entire body weight on every single rock as I crawl along, piling on the scrapes and bruises at every yard I advance. This time? I could pretty much drag myself along the frozen surface, and while I wouldn’t call it smooth, the bumps were cushioned by the extra layers that protected me from the cold.

Plate drag: I had hoped that this area would be like a skating rink, and while I was disappointed, it turns out that it’s still easier to drag a heavy object across a frozen surface than a dusty, rocky one.

Obstacles that are harder in the winter:

Anything where you need to take your gloves off, such as the Rope Climb or the Hercules Hoist. The layers I was wearing were good at keeping my core warm, but as soon as the wind hit my hands, there was little else I could think of.

Between the obstacles, my main concern was not losing my footing. On other courses I have worried about slipping because the surface is muddy or wet or dusty or loose. Here, the same instincts applied, and I spent a lot of time crab walking down slopes, figuring that the sacrifice in my personal dignity was worth it to avoid a broken wrist or collar bone. There were also a number of muddy patches, which was baffling – how could there be watery soil when it was 10 degrees out? But I spent most of the time making sure that my feet would not slip out from under me in the loose ice and snow.

The sandbag carry up the slope was challenging because the sandbags were frozen rather than pliable, but some of the open wave racers figured out a way to put the snowy conditions to good use by sitting on the bags and sliding down the slope to the end of the carry. A Spartan volunteer tried to put a stop to this (“No tobogganing on the sandbags!” he shouted repeatedly), which was probably the appropriate safety instruction, but racers did have some fun with this while they could.

My biggest take-away from this winter event was that I never stopped enjoying myself. At other races I have caught myself thinking “this isn’t fun anymore” as I climb up yet another steep rocky trail, but this time I was happy from start to finish. Even the burpees were less unpleasant, as the ground, while not soft, was not as sharp under my gloved hands.

Some logistical observations: when I arrived, check-in had been moved indoors, causing a long line which snaked out the door. Apparently, registration was supposed to take place outside, but the computers had frozen, both literally and figuratively, and the operation was moved indoors, causing delays. The weather had also caused Spartan to move the parking for the event off-site, but when I arrived at the satellite parking I was told that, on the one hand, the lot was already full but, on the other hand, I could park at the venue after all. Rain the week before had caused the lot to be too soft, but it would seem that the sudden freeze had fixed that problem. In both cases, Spartan staff and volunteers adapted and fixed the problems.

Bling (because there are some readers who take this very, very seriously): yes, there were special Winter Sprint medals in the shape of a snowflake. You’ve seen the pictures, but what I didn’t know was that they also have “Nothing burns like the cold” stamped on the back. I’m not exactly sure what that’s supposed to mean, but it sounds intense. Aroo.

The finisher t-shirts (white, long sleeve, miracle fiber) were unique to this race. They also caused a bit of a stir. I noticed that mine looked a little dirty, but I assumed that I must have dropped it at some point. On Facebook I read a good deal of chatter saying that, in fact, the shirts had been exposed to water at some point and had gotten a little moldy. Racers were reporting that the mold stains weren’t coming out in the wash. Yet another Spartan t-shirt controversy in the making?

[UPDATE: on March 21, Spartan HQ sent out the following e-mail: 

“Hi there,
We appreciate your patience regarding the Finisher Shirt discoloration at the Greek Peak Winter Sprint. Spartan Race is committed to providing the best possible experience from the parking area all the way to earning that coveted shirt. For that reason, we are working with our vendor to have all of the shirts remade from this event and shipped to you at our cost. We simply need you to fill out the form below to confirm your size and shipping details. The estimated arrival time is 60 days to allow for reproduction of the shirts and shipping. Please do not reply to this email, as we will touch base as soon as we have the shirts in our warehouse to let you know when we will be shipping them to you.

(link to form to input your data)

Thanks!

AROO!”

Seems that Spartan heard the complaints and is working on fixing the problem.]

What does the future hold for the Winter Sprint? There are already two more on the calendar for 2018, one in New Hampshire and one in Utah. The racers I spoke to were willing to drive over six hours to get to this event, and despite the cold, cold weather, seemed to enjoy themselves. Many already had other plans to complete a Trifecta, so it would appear that they were doing this race for the novelty, not just for the sake of doing a Sprint distance. It is unclear at this point whether Spartan will come back to Greek Peak, whose name must have resonated with Spartan founder Joe De Sena. There are references to Classical Greek themes throughout the area (I flew into Syracuse, the ski resort is not far from Ithaca, etc.), and the trails we used for the race were named “Odyssey” and “Olympic”. How could Joe not come back here? However, I have to wonder at how effective it is to host an event at a ski resort while it is open for, you know, skiers. OCR as an industry has done a great job of making use of venues that are otherwise empty, providing revenue for the owners and the local communities. Hosting a large event that could displace the regular customers doesn’t seem to be as clever a move.

Greek Peak Winter Spartan

The first ever Winter Spartan Race on U.S. soil was held March 4th at the Greek Peak Ski Lodge in Cortland, New York. The logistics of the race with start time temperatures around 10 degrees and the wind chill just below zero with light snow were extremely difficult. Registration computers outside were frozen up, literally, and the whole registration process was brought inside causing the whole race to be an hour behind schedule. Spartan told me after the race that they asked the resort numerous times to hold registration inside but were continually told no until there was no other choice. This also caused numerous slight bottlenecks along the race due to people jumping the gate and overcrowding waves. The 3.45-mile course climbed up just under a thousand feet and wound through the ski runs and surrounding forest in typical Spartan fashion. Volunteers were just as frozen as the water at the aid stations and the footing was treacherous at best making this the longest quick sprint I’ve ever raced.

At 9:30am, the first wave of the day finally started off with a dash up one of the ski slopes that had the effect of immediately thinning out the herd of racers before making a right turn away from the festival area and into the surrounding forest. A single lane path of ice led racers down the distance we just raced up until we were presented with our first “hurdle”. Yes, the Spartan 5 foot hurdles were our first obstacle to navigate over before being presented with our first wall to climb. Once up and over, a short jog took us to a short barbed wire crawl on a sheet of ice where the wind was blowing chunks of snow and ice chips right into our faces. Now back on the icy trail, Spartan led us through another short jog through the woods and another wall climb leading up to the Spartan Rig. This was the basic ring only rig and we all were happy about that as the brutal temps had our hands frozen and stiff. The more difficult multi-rig would have been brutal to traverse under these conditions, and I feel Spartan made the right choice only using the rings.

Spartan now led us away from the festival area and ski slopes to more moderate pasture type terrain where the sled drag and carry was located along with the Atlas Stone. The Atlas Stone ended up being one of the tougher obstacles on the day because they were all covered in ice! It was truly humbling trying to get a grip on that sucker. A frozen creek crossing was next up on our way to the bucket brigade along a single path through the prairie type terrain. After dumping our buckets, we were on our way back towards the festival area where the vertical cargo net and rope climb sapped our strength before hitting the Herc Hoist. The frozen ropes seriously tested a racer climbing skills and grip strength. Ice on the rope with frozen hands made this way tougher than usual. The spear throw was next up after a short jog and the strong winds really played tricks with the spear’s accuracy. Now Spartan led us back towards the festival area for an inverted wall climb and then back up the ski slope where the A-Frame cargo climb was set up.

Now climbing our way up the slope, once again Spartan created a unique snow quarter pipe with ropes anchored from the top to help an athlete get to the top. Now athletes were led through the forest where the frozen sandbag carry was located. Up the slope through the woods along a single path filled with ice and downed trees along the way made the climb a tough one. The way descent back down the slope with the sandbag was almost as bad as going up because the footing was so slippery! Now, finally on our way back down towards the festival and the finish Spartan placed a series of icy snow mounds for athletes to climb over before a steep, speedy, and slippery decent down to a very slick slip wall. The normal dunk wall was replaced with a wall over a dugout snow pit where the hardest part was trying to climb out before finally getting to the fire jump and finish where, once I crossed, I promptly slipped and fell on my rear end. First time ever I received my medal while seated.

I consider the first Winter Spartan to be a huge success. After the initial delay described above, I found the course and conditions to be plenty tough. The weather really made the normal Spartan obstacles much more challenging. All the racers I spoke to afterwards agreed that they all had a great time and really enjoyed the course. Hopefully this success will lead to more winter OCR events around the country. My personal view is that OCR is tough, and that’s why we do it. But OCR below zero really will test what you’re made of!


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