Greek Peak Winter Sprint


Me at the Fire Jump

Hey, everyone! As the culmination of the Couch to Sprint Training Plan which I did in February and early March of 2017, I decided to complete a Spartan Sprint. Doing a Spartan Sprint was on my bucket list, and as I detailed in my post about the Couch to Sprint Training Plan, there happened to be a Sprint coming up at a location only 45 minutes away from me so I couldn't pass up the opportunity. If you want to learn more about how I found out about the race and the signing-up process, please refer to my Couch to Sprint Training Plan post, linked above.

Mom at the Bucket Brigade

As the day of the race approached, I became increasingly excited and a little nervous. Having been training for four weeks already, I felt confident in my ability to complete the race successfully, but nevertheless, I knew it would be a challenge. That and my desire for organization and control made the logistics of the race somewhat stressful. In the week or so before the race, Spartan released a course map that listed the different obstacles we would encounter on the course, as well as the total length of the course. Spartan also sent out e-mails with information on our start time, parking, vendors at the event, registration, and what to wear and bring.

Dad at the Bucket Brigade

I found all of these logistics complicated and stressful. The race was on a Saturday, and I had to help teach a dance class for 3 and 4-year-olds in the morning. I had purposely signed up for a heat in the afternoon, and our start time was 1:15 to be exact, so I had time to go to the class and still make it to the venue on time, but it was cutting it a little close. Also, my late start time meant that I had to pay attention to headlamp and race cutoff times. After a particular time, all racers are required to have headlamps if they are still on the course, and at a later time, all racers who have not finished yet will be removed from the course and declared a DNF (did not finish). Though I was sure I could finish in time, my late start time (the second-to-last heat) made me worry that I would need a headlamp, something which I had not purchased.

Me at the Deep Freeze

In the end, though, I stressed far more about these factors than I needed to, as everything worked out very well. That and Spartan made it very easy to figure out exactly what I needed to bring, from waivers and IDs to cash for parking and warm jackets. The night before the race, I printed out all relevant paperwork and filled it out along with my parents, my fellow participants. I printed out directions to parking, I made a schedule of when we had to leave and what we had to do when we got to the venue, I discussed our plan for completing the race itself, and I laid out my clothes. Every factor was taken care of by the time I went to bed, so excited that it took me a while to fall asleep.

Dad at the Fire Jump

The morning of the Sprint, I woke up at 7:45 a.m. to get ready and go to my dance class, only to find that it was snowing rather hard. After all, it was early March in New York state, a time when winter is still in full force. While getting ready to go, I anxiously watched the weather. The snow did not let up. As the time to leave approached, I began to be nervous about the prospect of driving up and down the hills in between the dance studio and me since the snow plows had not yet come by. At the last second, I called the studio and said I could not make it because of the snow, as I did not feel comfortable driving in that kind of weather. That turned out to be a happy accident as it gave me more time to get ready for the Sprint that afternoon.

Mom at the Fire Jump

The next order of business was getting dressed. Since this was a Winter Sprint located at a ski resort, snow was an integral part of the experience, and temperatures were supposed to be in the low teens (Fahrenheit). That combined with the prospect of being out in the cold with no chance to warm up for several hours meant that we needed to dress warmly. Frostbite was a real concern, and several racers later reported in a Facebook group I am in that they developed frostbite from the race. Thus, I made sure to layer up well. I ended up wearing more clothing than I have ever put on at once in my entire life. On top, I wore a thermal underwear shirt, a t-shirt, a zippered sweater, and a ski jacket with two layers, plus gloves and a winter hat. On the bottom, I put on one pair of capri-length leggings and three pairs of full-length leggings, one of which was made of a thick, fleece-like material. Finally, I put on three pairs of socks and my running sneakers. To keep snow from getting in my shoes or up my leggings, I alternated the socks and leggings, layering them on top of each other. By the time I had put all this on, I was sweating inside my warm house, and when I tested the whole outfit by standing outside for a few minutes, I could barely feel the cold at all, so I knew that I was set for the race.

Mom and Dad with Their Medals

Then it was time to leave. My parents and I hopped in the car after grabbing the rest of our gear and headed out. By this time it was about 10:45 a.m. and the snow had subsided a little, so driving was less treacherous. Plus, when we got out on the main roads instead of our secluded neighborhood street, the snowplows had cleared enough snow that it was safe to drive. We arrived at the parking area without incident. Because the race venue, Greek Peak Mountain Resort, had limited parking, Spartan had arranged for racers to park at two different sites, depending on where you were coming from. As New York racers coming from the west, we parked at TC3 (Tompkins Cortland Community College). Signs made it very easy to find where to park, and several shuttle buses (traditional yellow school buses, in fact) were already waiting, so we were able to immediately get on one and go to Greek Peak.

Bus Ride to Greek Peak

The bus ride took about 20 minutes, and we got to the venue at around 11:45, an hour and a half before our start time. This turned out to be just right, as the lines at registration were horrendously long. At least it all took place inside the Greek Peak lodge so we could stay out of the cold. Still, the entire room where registration was held was absolutely stuffed with people; it was genuinely hard to move. It probably took us about twenty minutes to finally get our race packets, and when we did, we immediately found an empty corner to deal with their contents. Each packet contained three wristbands--one with a timing chip, one to exchange for a free drink post-race, one indicating start time--and a headband with racer number. After putting all these on, my parents and I went to the Spartan merchandise booth and sat against the wall, where we waited in the warmth for the next half an hour. We had no intention of being out in the cold for any longer than we had to.

At the Starting Line

Finally, it was time to start. At about 12:45, we headed out of the building and walked to the starting line. Even in that short walk, I was already starting to feel the cold, as wind chill made the outdoors seem even more frigid. Nevertheless, my many layers kept out of much of the cold, and I wasn't worried about the weather. Getting to the start line and watching earlier heats head out was very exciting, and I couldn't wait to start--that is until we found out that the heats were running 30 minutes behind. We had to wait another 30 minutes before we could finally get into the starting corral, and those in charge of letting people into the corral were not very clear about which heat was going, so it was somewhat confusing to figure out when we were supposed to go. Eventually, they began to let 1:15 racers, and we climbed over the starting wall. A few minutes later, the announcer let us go, and we started charging up the first incline.

Greek Peak Winter Sprint Map

The Greek Peak Winter Sprint by the numbers:
  • Distance: 3.2 miles
  • Number of Obstacles: 23
  • Time Taken: 2 hours, 39 minutes, 22 seconds
  • Burpees Done: 110
  • Swear Words Uttered: 2
 
Dad and I at the Deep Freeze
Distance/Incline: The distance and number of hills on the course was just right in my opinion. There were some steep inclines since the course went up and down the ski slopes, but there were also flat parts that allowed you to catch your breath and give your legs a break.  Still, the hills were definitely difficult at times since they were covered in snow. Plus, the ground was frozen solid, so half the time coming downhill was spent sliding like an ice skater until you could grab a tree to stop yourself. This was particularly bad on the Sandbag Carry. The Sandbag Carry is an obstacle where you have to carry a sandbag (I'm sure you never would have guessed) for a short distance on the course, and for this race, that section of course went uphill for half and downhill for the other half. Now, this would have been fine if it had not been for the fact that the downhill section went down an incredibly slippery ski slope completely free of trees to slow your progress. Nearly everyone, me included, had to slide down the hill on their butts to keep from falling over, and some people slid down so fast that they crashed into others and completely took them out. Still, it was actually a lot of fun to slide down that hill, and it certainly made the sandbag carry a lot easier. 

My Muddy Shoes

Mud: Since this was a winter race, there was a lot of snow but not much mud on the course. The trail was somewhat muddy since repeated use had melted the snow, but the only times I got muddy were doing burpees in the designated areas.

Me at the Fire Jump

Failed Obstacles: I completely failed three obstacles and partially failed one. My first failure occurred at the Multi Rig, a series of rings that racers had to swing through without touching the ground. Despite my childhood aptitude for monkey bars and rings, I fell on the third ring, probably because I was moving too quickly and transferred all of my weight to one hand before I was ready to swing. Two more obstacles I failed were the Spear Throw and the Rope Climb. In the former, the goal is to throw a spear at a bale of hay and make it stick on your first attempt. As someone who has never trained in spear throwing and has absolutely terrible hand-eye coordination, this was a disaster. Then in the rope climb, where you have to climb straight up a rope and hit a bell at the top, my lack of grip strength and already exhausted upper body got me about a foot off the ground before I slid back down. After each of these failures, I completed the required 30 burpee penalty. The last obstacle I failed, the Hercules Hoist, was not a complete disaster. In this obstacle, the goal is to use a rope and pulley to hoist a heavy sandbag up into the air until it hits a bell. At Greek Peak, it had rained the night before the race, and the wet sandbags froze overnight to make them somewhat heavier than normal the day of. I was barely able to move the bag at all, but luckily the volunteer stationed there said that we could pair up for the obstacle as long as we did it twice. Together my mom and I were able to complete the Herc Hoist exactly once. Since we had managed to get it up once out of the two required, we thought it only fair that we would do half of the normal amount of burpees, so we each did 15 as a penalty.

Mom at the Bucket Brigade

Favorite Obstacle: Though I liked a lot of the obstacles, my favorite was the 7' Wall. This was simply a 7-foot-tall, wooden wall that racers had to climb over. At first, I thought I would need help to complete it since I am not particularly tall and I do not have enough arm strength to brute force my way over the top. Then on my first attempt, I thought my suspicions would prove true when I jumped, grabbed the top of the wall, and then hung there unable to pull myself up. Still, I could not give up so easily, especially not when my parents and the nearby volunteer were cheering me on, so, still hanging on, I moved my feet upwards until I was practically hanging upside down and was able to get one leg and then the other over the top of the wall. At that point, the added support from my legs was enough to get me to the other side. It felt so good to complete what for me was a difficult obstacle successfully and without any help.

Bucket Brigade

Least Favorite Obstacle: Not counting the obstacles I failed at, my least favorite was definitely the Bucket Brigade. This is similar to the Sandbag Carry, except that racers have to carry a plastic bucket partially filled with rocks and with no handle around the course instead of a sandbag. I have a weak upper body, so this was agony, and I probably had to put my bucket down and take a break about five times before finally getting to the end.

So Proud of My Medal
  So after over two hours of sweating and working our way through the obstacles, we finally reached the end of the course and did the legendary Fire Jump, where you jump over a narrow line of fire. (Let me point out that we were not running this race for speed, and we walked most of the way. We probably could have done this a lot faster if we had tried to, but my goal was merely to finish.) It felt so good to cross the finish line and receive one of the snowflake-shaped winter medals. We also got free long-sleeved shirts and then, using our wristbands, free beer, and hot chocolate. Interestingly enough, we had finished after the cut-off time for having headlamps, but nobody approached us for not having one.

Dad at the Bucket Brigade

After a short rest, we headed back to the main lodge to wait for our bus back to the parking lot. When a bus finally came, we hopped on and relaxed in the warmth, glad to be heading home--at least, until we realized that the bus was not going in the direction we had come from. As it turned out, we had forgotten that there were two different parking lots for Spartan racers, and we got on a bus to the wrong parking lot. 40 minutes later, we were dropped off back at the lodge where we had to catch yet another bus back to our parking lot. Luckily, this time everything went smoothly, and we made it back home at around dinner time. At least the ordeal gave us time to relax.

Me with Medal

All in all, I had a great time doing this race. Although it was definitely a challenge and every part of my body was in pain the next day, it showed me that I can do a lot more than I think I can. It also showed me my weaknesses, specifically, my arm strength and my grip strength. Now I know what parts of my body to focus on in upcoming workouts. Would I do it again? Absolutely, though I think I might aim for a Super next time instead. Onward and upward, as they say.
 
Dad and I at the Deep Freeze

Thank you so much for reading! I do not claim to be an expert but merely wish to share my experiences so others can see that regular people can achieve dreams.

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