By: Angie LaPenta
Freezing temperatures, icy terrain, and so worth it. Spartan Race held it’s first ever Winter Sprint at Greek Peak in upstate New York on March 4th and, at a whopping 12 degrees, this course was a nothing short of intimidating.
We looked up suggestions for how to dress prior to the race and everyone had suggested minimal layers and only materials that were weather resistant. Also, we had stuffed some hand warmers into the back of our gloves as an added bonus. However, when we first arrived on the mountain, the piercing cold wind made us believe that perhaps these suggestions were an early April fools joke as we were shivering within seconds. Surprisingly, after the hearty ‘AROO’s’ and the sound of the buzzer indicating the start of the race, you very quickly forgot how cold it was. Frankly, freezing wasn’t a single factor I was worried about until the last mile when the cold kicked in from being wet.
Ice was the real monster factor in this race. The entire mountainside was a sheet of ice and you had no way of knowing which areas were icy and which were stable. Imagine driving through a parking lot 75% full of black ice, and that’s about the same scenario as running this race. Many racers were passed with broken or sprained ankles as early as the first mile marker. I had even slightly sprained my wrist during the sandbag carry. Making it up or down the mountain, you had to either slide on your hands and feet in certain areas or run/walk like a penguin to keep yourself vertical. I will say of all the Spartans, this probably left the most bruises and cuts. At points, the layers of my clothing had frozen to each other and a thin layer of ice had accumulated on top of my gloves. The ice on the gloves certainly made aspects more challenging, such as finding any kind of grip on the rope climb or the Hercules Hoist. On the cargo net A frame, my gloves were even freezing to the straps as I climbed, regardless of how quick I was going.
However, ice wasn’t a complete negative factor. In some obstacles, the slippery slopes helped. For the barbed wire crawl, although it was torture to be pressed against the icy surface for an extended period of time, it was a lot easier to crawl or slide across the ice then it was to do in the mud. Also, it created quite a fun experience for the sandbag carry, not so much on the way up as most people were caught falling and sliding back down the slippery hill, but on the way back down the hill, you could catch many people using the sandbag as a sled as it was the only way to get back down.
It was pretty fun to see how different this race was from a regular Spartan Sprint. All of the typical mud obstacles were replaced with snow obstacles and many of the other obstacles were challenging in a very different way because of the winter weather conditions. As a special event race, the medals and shirts were different then normal Spartan Races. Finishers received a snowflake Spartan Medal with the normal trifecta Sprint piece attached and a very cozy and light long sleeve white and blue t-shirt. These are probably my favorite finisher medals and shirts that I have received thus far in my four years of participating in Spartan Races.
Although I have more bruises and cuts than I can count and the post-race shower was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, I believe this was one of the most fun races I have run. Mud is something you can find in any OCR race, but snow? Now, that was cool. Since everyone was struggling to keep on two feet, I will also say it was one of the biggest displays of humor and support I have seen from participants. Everyone on the course was laughing, bonding, and encouraging one another to continue and, for me, that makes any race amazing. If you prefer cold weather races over hot weather races, this is definitely a Spartan I would recommend.
The goal for 2017 is to complete a double trifecta, and this was a great way to kick it off.