Spartan Winter is Here – Greek Peak 2019

Greek-Peak-2019-looking-at-the-finish

Playing in the snow is in our blood. As adults, we dislike the snow because it makes driving to work inconvenient. But growing up, snow days were the best. Spartan Race lets you relive that childhood excitement with its now third annual Winter Sprint event at Greek Peak Mountain Resort.

What makes this a Winter Sprint? Every single inch of the course is covered in fluffy white snow. The temperature at this year’s race was in the high 30s, but it was mostly sunny so it felt even warmer. That was basically a heatwave if you consider the first year Spartan was at Greek Peak, they dealt with single-digit temperatures and below zero-degree wind chills.

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Parking and Registration

General parking this year was off-site, with two options. One of which was in Cortland, for racers coming from north of the venue. The other was about 15 minutes west of the venue, in Dryden. There was a VIP option for $30 which got you right on-site in Greek Peak’s parking lot.

As with last year, registration was inside, which made sense after the first year’s temperatures caused equipment malfunction at the outdoor registration tents. Spartan does registration really well. The earlier you arrive, the shorter the lines. But even later in the day, it didn’t seem like the lines were too long. As far as I could tell, everything was moving smoothly.

Greek-Peak-2019-part-of-the-course

Early or Late?

I ran my first lap in the Elite wave, mainly to get done in time for my second lap. At most races, running Elite or Age Group is an advantage. You’re one of the first groups on the course, which means no obstacle lines, a less sloppy course, cleaner obstacles and, in the summer, more favorable temps. At a Winter Sprint, it’s almost the complete opposite, with the exception of obstacle lines.

During the Elite wave, which started at 9:00 am compared to 7:30 am that you see at most Spartan races, the air temperature still remained under 20-degrees. Most of the running was through several untouched inches of snow. The only footprints came from racers ahead of me and volunteers/staff who helped put the course together.

Greek-Peak-2019-A-frame-Cargo

Later in the day, I ran in the 10:45 wave. The sun was out a bit longer and temperatures made their way into the 30s. It did help a bit that I was already warmed up from the first lap, but there was a definitive difference in the air temperature before and after the Elite wave. On the course, lots of the previously untouched snow was now packed down, which made running a bit easier. There were still plenty of areas that made it difficult because, well, snow is still snow.

I didn’t notice the obstacles being anymore wet or slippery between the two waves. One thing that remained true of later heats was the lines. I’ve definitely seen worse, but there was at least a little waiting at obstacles like the Spearman, Monkey Bars, and Multi Rig.

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The Classics

Speaking of obstacles, I was a bit disappointed to see that none of 2019’s new obstacles made the trip to New York. Seeing recent posts of Helix, 8’ Box and Beater made me anxious to give them a try. Other newer obstacles like Olympus and Twister also missed the trip.

I do understand that the snow and cold weather probably makes it pretty difficult to set some of the obstacles up, so it’s easier to stick to ones that have stood the test of time. Hopefully, in the future, maybe one or two newer ones will be brought out. I will say though, there is something special about trekking up and down the slopes with all the classics.

Greek-Peak-2019-Winter-Medal

Not Your Average Spartan

Greek Peak Winter Sprint is truly a unique experience. And a unique experience deserves unique swag. Last year’s finisher shirts added long sleeves to the standard sprint finisher shirt. This year, Spartan added a nice twist. The shirts have a similar design to the usual 2019 Sprint finisher shirt but, in addition to having long sleeves, had a nice light blue color, really making it look like a winter race shirt. The Spartan Winter medal was distinct as well, with the same light blue coloring and a few frozen pieces “missing” from it.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

Winter Has Come – Greek Peak Spartan Sprint

Spartan’s 2018 season thus far has consisted of races in SoCal, Arizona, Miami and Las Vegas, so it only makes sense that next in line was the snowcapped mountains of western New York – namely Greek Peak Resort, for the 2nd annual Winter Spartan Sprint this past weekend. Both racers and weather alike descended upon the mountain on Saturday, ensuring there was plenty of snow pelted tracks to traverse, as frosty obstacles to navigate.

The day started inside the ski lodge for registration and packet pickup – a welcome change from last year, where the cold weather outside brought registration proceedings to a literal standstill as the electronics succumbed to the weather. Racers were huddled inside staying warm, comparing layers, and questioning whether they actually wanted to go outside and pin themselves between the trials of Spartan, and the tribulations of Mother Nature.

At the end of the day, over 3,000 Spartans took on the challenge of the Winter Sprint in Courtland, NY – with well over 400 Age Group competitors vying for precious podium spots, while the Elite field dwindled down to only a hundred entrants. It seems that Spartan has found what drives competitors, and that’s their desire to compete, but not against everyone, more specifically against individuals in their same age groups, and fitness level. The Age Group category has consistently sold registrations quicker than Elite in 2018, and the chance for a podium presentation and shot at social media fame continues to pay dividends for Spartan.

Course Notes

The course at Greek Peak has turned up a notch from last year. We traversed roughly 4.5 miles up, down and across the resort, including a 400-meter uphill trudge straight out of the Start Line. Running uphill is a standard in any Spartan event, but running uphill in 16″ of fresh snow is a new kind of frosty hell most have not been exposed to in prior events.

Spartan showed no quarter in their lineup of obstacles, just because this was a Winter race. The usual pain points like the Sandbag Carry, Herc Hoist, and newly capped Bucket Carry were all there to punish racers as they navigated the mountain. Particularly difficult in the snow, was Olympus – positioned in a wide open field where wind and snow added to the difficulty. Monkey Bars, a Rig made up of just rings, and the Rope Climb were all there to punish competitors grips in the bitter cold. The Spear Throw seemed like it was positioned further away than in past years, although that may have been because my contacts were frozen over by the time we reached the last few stretches of course.

The course finished over the A-frame, with a short climb, before heading down to a true to name “Slip” Wall, and a “Dunk Wall”, sans water – thankfully, and the Fire Jump, which comically, dropped about 2 feet into the snow as the fire melted the base it rested on.

Summary

Winter Spartan Race events are few and far between. So few and far between that there’s only a single event out there – Greek Peak. Spartan had attempted to elicit interest in events in both New Hampshire and Utah, proving unsuccessful, so they were abandoned. Whether you live in warmer weather or inhabit the Great White North, you’ll most certainly enjoy a Winter Sprint. Some obstacles like the Barbed Wire Crawl are tamed by the snow, where others are made more intense. It’s a welcome difference from the muddy sweat fests we’ve become so familiar with throughout the race year.

Unlike 2017, we didn’t have an event unique finisher shirt, but the new Spartan tech shirts were available in both short and long-sleeved versions and accompanied an event-specific winter-themed medal.

Gear Note: The Inov8 X-Talon 230’s that I recently reviewed here on ORM performed absolutely amazing in the snow and mud. As others were sliding down trails on their behinds, I was confidently upright, with each step. Bravo to the Inov8 team for what will most likely be my main shoe for the 2018 season.

I’ll be bringing you coverage from all of the major players (and maybe a few you haven’t yet heard of)  in the OCR industry all year long, so be sure to follow me on Instagram here, and be sure to check out Obstacle Racing Media’s OCR Recap, now on CBS Interactive’s Sports Live website.

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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