Spartan Race HQ is settled in the Green Mountains of Vermont. The legendary Death Race is held there and the history of the small town is a rich tapestry grounded in good people looking to blaze new trails, get outdoors, and grow local economies for business owners and their families. In addition to Spartan Races, several ultra events are also held in this area put on by Peak Races, Spartan’s sister company in Vermont. Here is one story of the Green Mountain Trail system that spreads out from the back steps of Spartan Race HQ told by one of the men who maintains them, Matt Baatz.
The Green Mountain Trail System
by Matt Baatz
When Spartan Race Founder Joe Desena moved to Vermont and bought Riverside Farm his land sprawled well into the hardwood forest in the Green Mountains. By building trails on his land, he saw the opportunity to duplicate the type of gonzo ultra endurance races he’d grown to love. Pittsfield Bike Club president Jason Hayden was eager to help. An extensive trail system would be a major boon to the burgeoning mountain biking scene in the region. The resulting Green Mountain Trail System, and the race series Desena hosted there, would eventually spawn The Spartan Race.
Hayden and Desena marked off twenty miles of trails, and, in trail building terms, cut the trails overnight. Desena hired out an expert operator, a tough old Yank named Charlie Bowen, and a mini excavator. They spent marathon sessions cutting sustainable trails riddled with dozens of switchbacks on the steep hillsides. An equally irrepressible “retiree” Alex, who Desena hired as a summer caretaker on his farm, instead found himself with a new responsibility: He’d contour the excavated trails with a garden rake, and scraped so diligently that he wore the tines down to nubs. He’s known to this day as “Alex the Rake.”
Hayden secured a 20k grant from the state mountain bike association, VMBA, and he brought in the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp to build a series of bridges on the south side of the mountain. Andy Weinberg, co-creator of The Death Race and Race Director for the array of ultra endurance events on Desena’s farm, recruited members of a high school swim team that he coached in the heart of corn pone Illinois to buff the trails for a dollar a day. They came out of the woods that summer just as buff as the trails.
Andy Weinberg and Desena teamed up to develop a series of ultra endurance events, the Peak Races, on the trail system: a snowshoe marathon that was unheard of at the time, but proved surprisingly popular from the start; a six hour mountain bike race with a pig roast called, diabolically, the 666 Race; an ultra endurance trail run that followed fifty miles of the gnarliest terrain they could find, and as if that weren’t enough, they created a “Death Division” of the race involving the type of challenging farm and woodsman type chores common to rural Vermonters.
In fact, the race arose as both an attempt to create one of the toughest races in the world and a way to help Desena’s Pittsfield neighbors complete their most drudging chores, interspersed with barbed wire crawls, of course. This quickly evolved into The Death Race. Desena and the other founders created The Spartan Race to bring a comparable level of challenge to the masses.
The Green Mountain Trail System is growing in its own right. MTBVT.COM recognized the trails last June as “the best kept secret” in Vermont with some of the most awesome singletrack in the state for mountain biking. Desena has kept the trails free and always open to the public. Go to www.greenmountaintrails.com for more information and a map.
Tags: Green Mountain trails