Sunday, March 19, 2017

New York Spartan Winter Sprint 2017

November 4th, just a few days after completing our first trifecta, my son and I registered for a new type of Spartan Race, the Winter Sprint.  We knew this would be challenging in typical Spartan style but since we live in Ohio we know a bit about snow and cold. It seemed like a really good idea for a unique challenge and we (literally) ran with it.

We thought about it quite a bit and started to collect the gear needed for cold weather running. What worked best for us was UnderArmour Infrared top and bottoms as a base layer and then layers of stuff on top depending on the temps. We experimented with gloves and without gloves with the thinking being finger dexterity for grip obstacles, carries, etc. We thought about different footwear but knowing Spartan, we felt our existing trail shoes would do the trick.

A big part of our training was running in the cold. If you’ve tried to run in the cold, the air can really hurt your lungs at first and make it difficult to breath. The first cold weather run I did I was thinking “This was a really bad idea” but as we persevered with our training it was a little easier each day.  We signed up for two trail races at Rocks and Roots to test our mettle before the big day at Greek Peak. The first race was in single digit temps and my oldest daughter joined me and my son. We had a great time - it was frosty and a good gauge of our preparation.

Fast forward to March and we felt we were pretty prepared for the big day.  I rented a 4x4 for the trip as we expected inclement weather. I am glad we did as the 8 hour drive we had 4 hours of snow and sleet to drive through on our way to Ithaca. We checked into the hotel and looked at the weather report for the next day.  COLD!  I needed to go to the store to get some tape for my foot which I forgot at home and while we were out we picked up some thinner wool socks and a neck gaiter for me. We had brought heavy hiking wool socks but thinner seemed like a better idea.

The next morning broke and we got up, headed to the car and hit Panera to get some bagels for breakfast. Their cinnamon crusted bagels are so bad yet so good. Spartan Race had sent an email that due to warmer weather earlier in the week we had to park off-site and be bussed in. We drove to the designated spot and boarded our bus to Greek Peak.  We arrived and were *so* happy that registration was inside! We stood in line and got our packets and bought some unique location specific shirts and delta. We killed some time before we went out to the start line to get the party started!  We watched a wave take off and as we were getting ready to load into the corral when we learned that due to issues earlier, waves were taking off 30 minutes behind schedule.  We thought about standing around in the 12F cold for maybe 2 seconds before we headed back into the lodge to wait out the time.

While waiting in the lodge we scoped out a spot for my son to meet me (he’s MUCH faster at these things than his old dad) and ran into some more Corn Fed Spartans.  They were from Rochester and it was good to know this would be yet another Spartan race with Corn Fed in it. I promise I’ll write more about Corn Fed in the future.  We talked with some locals who signed up for the Sprint earlier in the week and this was their first event. There are always so many interesting back stories to the other racers.

Once it was closer to our new start time we walked back out and loaded into the corral. Once again that freeking wall stymied me. I swear it is mental now. My son gave me a quick boost and we were off.  The initial run to the first obstacle was straight up a ski slope. I am from Ohio and skiing isn’t something I do and I was impressed by the angle of the slope. Of course with it being a Spartan event it wasn’t going to be the bunny hill.  😉   We climbed up and then over and down through some
woods before getting to the first obstacles. I was having a great time and the winter training paid off as I was nice and comfy even as I rolled around in the snow under the barbed wire. It wasn’t long before we were back up the hill and then down again (this would be a recurring theme of the day!) and more obstacles. As usual the carries were a positive for me but the upper body ones were a challenge. Luckily Spartan racers are a helpful sort and I was never left hanging when assistance was needed.  Note – by the end of this season I won’t need any help on any of the obstacles. I am working upper body to address this shortcoming.

I was worried that when I slipped into the water under the bridge my foot would get frostbite or freeze up, but my trusty trail shoes and wool socks worked well to keep me warm and moving. As we approached the festival area I knew I had to climb the mountain one more time. It was a really steep grade and parts were like bear crawling. We got to do some unique winter Spartan obstacles like the ice/snow slip wall with a wicked sandbag carry even further up the mountain. The way down to the finish line was awesome and we did snow pits/trenches to replace the normal mud ones and finished with a slip wall. I jumped the fire and collected my medal.

It was an amazing race and I couldn’t wait to find my son and see what he thought. I knew when I found him in the lodge that we enjoyed it as I could see his smile from across the room. We let the family at home know we all survived and didn’t lose any digits before loading on the bus to head back to the hotel.  We got back to the hotel, cleaned up and went to lunch at Chipotle and decided we should head back to Greek Peak and see if we could get some pictures of the venue.

We did get quite a few pictures and they are scattered around this post.  Also fun for us was to see the winter Hurricane Heat participants headed out as we drove up. These brave souls endured an additional 4 hours of endurance events and most of them raced earlier in the day!  AROO to them!   We will do a Hurricane Heat in May at the Ohio event so that’ll be a good time. We ended the day seeing “Logan” (really good movie) and hitting the hay early as we had a long drive to Ohio in the AM.  The drive back was uneventful, thankfully. 

The Winter Sprint was a great event and we really enjoyed it. It was challenging, as any Spartan Race should be, and the location was fantastic. I have never been to Ithaca and it looked like a nice city and we might return with the family when the weather is nice over the summer. Spartan Race did a great job putting on the first of these events and even though there were some challenges with registration they knocked it out of the park in my opinion. The unique winter snowflake medal with the inscription on the back was awesome and the finisher shirt was sweet as well! We look forward to making this an annual thing for us. Overall I was happy with my time and performance. As always, there is room for improvement but considering other Spartan Races have left me physically decimated and barely able to move, I can see the improvements my training is making. Am I Superman?  Not by a long shot, but a little better every day. 

The path to the first of 2 trifectas in 2017 has begun! See our race schedule on this post.

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