New York native David Jones started off his 5th year of obstacle course racing with the blustering Greek Peak winter Spartan Race. This sprint-distance race first debuted in 2017 and features its own, unique medal, unlike the standard trifecta pieces. David has now run both years of this race and offers insight to the 2018 course.
You can follow David's adventures and racing on Instagram @captdavy25.
Location: Cortland, NY
Length: 4.1 miles
Designer: Woody Peters
Pants/Shorts: North Face Motus Tight leggings, Roadrunner shorts
Top: Baleaf Long-Sleeve compression shirt; Arc’Teryx Argus Jacket; T-shirt
Gloves/Hat: Nike Running gloves (took off during grip-oriented obstacles); lightweight tonque
Shoes: Inov-8 Mudclaw 265
Pre-Race Breakfast: Oatmeal with cinnamon, maple syrup, and chia and flax seeds
On-course Fuel: Hammer Gel pre-race
Post-Race Meal: egan burrito at Viva Taqueria & Cantina in Ithaca
The Snow of It
I had run Greek Peak last year when it was in single digits and leading up to that race, I had never run a race, let alone OCR, in those types of conditions. My biggest question was how to stay warm without losing mobility, especially when it came to obstacles. Between last year’s race and a Winter ½ Marathon I ran in January, I had a pretty good idea what I needed to stay comfortable. I took my gloves off for all off the obstacles requiring grip (i.e. monkey bars, rig, rope climb, spear throw) and talking to others, some learned that the hard way! I just had running gloves, so it did make me wonder whether some of these OCR-designed gloves worked, or even if football wide receiver gloves would make a difference!
The cold does throw a curve-ball in determining how much clothing you want to wear, but you run into that with other races towards the end of the year, like Dallas, Atlanta, and Tri-State. I actually think that this is easier than those cases because they will still put you in water with those races (I heard they broke up ice for the Atlanta water pit one year???), but there were no water obstacles here. They did run the course through a creek, but between the stones and boards that were put down it didn’t affect anything.
The snow was probably the trickiest part of doing a Winter Sprint. The first racers through had to plow a trail through knee-deep snow, but the others had their own issues. As more runners would come through, the snow either became packed and uneven for footing, or slick and slippery. Also, branches and logs were sometimes hidden, which increased the hazard of diving headfirst down the trail!
Slips and Buckets
The most dangerous part of the winter race vs. a regular Spartan Race is the higher chance of someone slipping on the descents in the woods. I did see a guy almost trip headlong into a tree after his foot got snagged on a hidden branch. The ski patrol was out and actively monitoring the course, both for the racers and with skiers and snowboarders using the other slopes. A situation would likely have gotten handled in a faster response rate as rescues on the hill in the snow are regularly trained for, rather than accessing a fallen runner in the summer via 4-wheeler.
It was a pretty standard Spartan sprint. A little chillier, some snowflakes in the air, and the ability to slide down the mountain, but no major surprises. However, for the bucket carry, those who are more liberal with what is *above* the holes, beware! This was the first race I’ve been at where the buckets were pre-filled and covered. Personally, I enjoyed not having to fill and then hoist/dump the bucket immensely!
Elite Vs Age Group
I signed up for the race last year before the Age Group change had been announced. I was tempted to switch to AG, but at $25 to make the change, I decided to stick it out. I’m really excited for the AG change, though! I think it’s a great way of keeping the event competitive at all levels. I may not ever be able to beat Hobie and Atkins for a podium at the elite level but placing top 3 in my age group is a realistic goal to shoot towards. I think a lot of people are realizing that as well and my guess is that we’ll see the elite wave begin to shrink in size as more people will opt for AG and a legitimate shot at qualifying for the Championship series.
Monkey bars are always trickier when it’s cold and wet, but for me, the toughest part was the plate drag, O-U-T, sandbag, Olympus, Atlas carry combo within 800m of each other.
It was just a mile into the race, so our heart-rates were elevated due to the first climb. It’s a great gauntlet of elements and that’s where my lack of cross-training showed the clearest.
In hindsight, if I were to prepare specifically for this race, I would have focused quite a bit on anaerobic training, running hill repeats, tempo runs, and conducting heavy carries quickly over short distances. There was no trudging on a death march like Killington – everything was in short bursts. I’m hoping I can build that into my current training as I will be needing that for the races I have lined up this year.
Training itself has been tough since recently moving. When I asked a co-worker where they run for hills, they gave me a location that’s a 25-minute drive away! Where I previously lived, I was a mile from the local park which provided a variety of loops to gain elevation. Aside from a 130-step staircase that I would do sandbag carries on (yes, I counted every single one!), there was a ½ mile hill with an 8-10% grade, making it great for hill repeats. So, appreciate what your area has to offer and take advantage of it!