Tuesday, July 3, 2012

2012 Wintergreen Adventure Challenge

     I had always looked at obstacle courses and similarly styled events as a legitimate alternative to the trail and street races that usually fill my calendar. Still, I had never actually done one until July 1 2012 because I wasn't entirely sure how to adjust my training schedule to prepare for it. Multiple circumstances surrounding my participation in the 2012 Wintergreen Adventure Challenge set a very accommodating atmosphere for me to view this event with more focus on fun and much less focus on challenging myself to achieve some arbitrary performance standard.

     In race circles a common expression is how over half the battle is reaching the start line. Usually this references the above average injury potential associated with  high intensity endurance training for longer distance races. My overall fitness is not exactly peaking right now, but reaching the start line turned out to be a major challenge for other reasons. A massive storm swept through the area knocking out power to the host Inn we were staying at, consequently the event organizers decided to cancel the Saturday event and only run the course on Sunday if power came back on.

     We had only planned to spend 2 nights at the resort, so our plan was to just buy our meals as we got hungry. With no electricity the restaurants did not open. Multiple sources informed us that it could be days before power was restored to some areas. Having spent a miserable night sleeping on the floor next to an open screen door and then waking up hungry with no accessible food, followed by the cancellation announcement...we decided to pack it up and head back to our air conditioned house.

     The ride home was an adventure too. Many stores were without power and many that had power were having problems processing credit cards. We did find some fast food shortly before arriving back home.

     Finally, arriving at home, we just enjoyed being in the AC and chillin' out around the house. Then came the announcement that power had been restored at Wintergreen and that the Adventure Challenge for Sunday was looking highly likely. I considered driving up Sunday morning to participate, but I called the hotel and they made me a sweet deal if I would come back and resume my previous reservations. We went for it.

     Turned out to be a huge adventure getting back to Wintergreen. Gas stations with no power, no gas, or operating on cash only made for a very high anxiety start to our journey. What should have been a 2 1/2 hour trip ended up taking 5 hours as we searched for gas and cash, then eventually decided to dine in town before setting out.

     Happy to say that Wintergreen's Mountain Inn was a super nice place to stay with the power on. We got a good nights sleep and I awoke ready to tackle the unknown stresses that participating in an obstacle course might present. 

     My strategy was to keep pace with Aaron C., who was doing the course with his wife Cheryl. He had done a Tough Mudder at this location and had a good idea of what to expect. We started with the 8:20 am wave and had a good time keeping a comfortable pace and tackling the obstacles as we got to 'em.

     I stayed disciplined in my strategy for the first 13 obstacles, but I just couldn't stop myself from wanting to test myself by running up the ski slopes. I never could go more than about 2/10ths of a mile before I had to fall back into a standard hiking pace, very humbling for a seasoned long distance trail runner like myself.

Click HERE for video.

     The 14th and the 16th obstacles were the big stamina zappers. I have ran so many miles over the years that it was almost inconceivable that terrain existed that could slow me down to what I'll estimate as a 30 minute mile. These 2 ski slopes were no joke. Just hiking it represented a huge challenge.

     I finished the 7 mile course in about 5 hours. I wasn't racing it at all and I don't need an "official" time. I suspect a hard steady effort could probably yield me a 3 1/2 hour time, but I don't see me ever doing it for time. I do recommend this course for anybody into endurance events though as I found it to be quite challenging and humbling. A great "just finish" event where time should be of no consequence. Do it with friends and/or family and just have fun with it.

     I will wrap up with a big "thanks" to the volunteers who were very courteous and attentive with plenty of water and bananas at the aid stations. As a suggestion I hope that in future years the event directors might see fit to add a few more food choices at every other aid station and a sports drink option at at least one aid station. 



  1. What a crazy experience all around. I'm glad that Wintergreen was able to get its power back so quickly. Being so remote, that's kind of a surprise! Congrats on finishing what sounds like an adventure!

    1. Thanks, it was a good time all around. The extra 8 hours in the Chevy Blazer will be laughed about in hind sight.