Last weekend, this guy had the pleasure of attending the first ever Winter Spartan Race held in the United States. Apparently they had held this style of race in Europe before, but never in the US (news to me). I definitely had my doubts about this and was pretty apprehensive in the days leading up to this event. I was mostly nervous about what I was going to wear. I haven’t really spent any extended amount of time out in the cold since I was in Boy Scouts and it was certainly a different time back then. I usually snowboard in the winter, but that’s a whole different set of gear. Furthermore, I don’t run at all in the winter because my lungs won’t allow that. So you get the point. I wasn’t prepared.
So let’s start from the beginning. The race was held in Cortland, NY (which is housed in a valley in the middle of Upstate NY). This was my second Spartan Race (Yea I said I wasn’t doing this again) and I chose to do it was a partner (IG: @Hold2o) this time. We set out on this noble pilgrimage on Friday afternoon. This five hour quest left us famished so we had no choice, but to stop in Schenectady and eat Bombers Burritos. After slaying some Mexican style cuisine and battling some demons in a crowded parking garage, it was time forge down Interstate 88 and find the Comfort Inn that had been booked in Binghamton.
Long story short, we went to bed pretty early and awoke early the next day. I ended up wearing: a fleece hat, googles, a 1/4 zip fleece sweater, a UA long sleeve (which I realized after was “heat gear” after the race), a Nike moisture wicking shirt, poly-blend leggings, my black silkies (really short shorts), polyester no shoe socks, and a pair of beat up duty boots (picture above after the race).
The Comfort Inn provided a pretty decent continental breakfast. Ever wonder where that term came from. “If you don’t know, now you know….” Anyways…I had a two servings of eggs, two sausage links, two Greek yogurts, a bagel with peanut butter (didn’t see the cream cheese till after), a cup of coffee, and a bunch of water. We let that settle and then we drove a short distance to Cortland.
And then the race. The line to register was long and out the door. Felt like Black Friday waiting for a door buster deal. There were easily more people at the mountain for the race than for skiing/riding. After registration was complete, Matt and I spent as much time as we could standing around because it was much better than standing out in the cold waiting for our 12:15 start time. However, these efforts were futile because all race start times were delayed for 20-30 minutes. So we paced around and did light warm up to pass the time. The temperature was in the negative after the windchill at this point. It became obvious that the reason why the start times were delayed was because the starting line was around 50 feet before one of the steepest hills on the course. Many people didn’t have the traction or conditioning to make it up this hill efficiently. By the way, Spartan Race specifically said that participants were not allowed to wear cleats or any time of spikes on their shoes (more on that later).
The rest of the course didn’t feel all that challenging. The most challenging part was getting traction on the icy ground when climbing up hills and otherwise. I saw several people break themselves because they didn’t have proper footing.There were a lot of hills that were so icy that people were sliding down them. I mean literally not even trying to walk or run down them. And as cold as it was, there was still thick mud over many parts of the course. The course was three and half miles long and had 23 obstacles. It left us wanting more, but at the same time we just wanted to get to the end where the warming tent was. The finish line seemed less dramatic when you aren’t going at it 100%.
Let’s talk about the finish. They handed out the standard Clif bar and beer, but the banana and FitAid was missing. Maybe it was too difficult to keep this stuff from freezing. The Clif bar almost broke my teeth and my Camelbak froze within the first mile of the race, so this is plausible. They did give out nice, long sleeve participant shirts with standard registration, so that was a plus. There was no finish line photos at the end, so it must of been too cold for that too.
Overall, I’d say the race was a hit and I enjoyed it for the most part. So I guess its time for the complaints.
–Crowded: This had to have been one of the only Spartan events ever that was only held on one day. They are usually held over two days due to the high turnout. Spartan Race said this was a limited registration event, but it seemed like there was a good amount of people there. There were times when the course was so crowded that you would have to stop and wait or be in fear that you’d fall and take out someone else in the process.
–New obstacle?: Matt was under the impression that Spartan Race was adding new obstacles, which included tire flips for 2017. This wasn’t the case for Greek Peak however.
–Cleats?: As I stated earlier, Spartan Race specifically said that they didn’t want anyone wearing cleats or spikes. Most people assumed this was a safety measure. However, there was a vendor selling spikes for your shoes at the race.
I foresee Spartan Race doing a couple of these races regionally in the winter from now on. I would do another Winter Spartan, but I’d hope that its a multi-day event and they allow spikes for those that choose to bring them with them. It wouldn’t hurt if they set up the event at a larger mountain as well.