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.
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.
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.
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