I decided to make my OCR season opener a fun run with the Spartan Race San Jose Super/Sprint weekend. There is something special about running in the open heat to start the season with smiles, new friends, and singing through obstacles!
I have heard many curse the San Jose Spartan Race for its brutal heat and boringly brown venue. That was not at all the case this year! The damaging California rains the past month have made this area stunningly green with chilly creeks to run through and soft ground to trot through. Let’s focus on the super, as the sprint was just the super with the first 2.5ish miles of hill work cut out.
Location: Diablo Grande, Patterson, CA
Length: 8.3 miles
Elevation: 1,900 ft, a few big rolling hills in the beginning, back half relatively flat
The Olympus: Debuting in 2016 Tahoe, this obstacle seems to officially be at all races now. It’ll be a challenge, but nothing you can’t handle if the rig hasn’t been an issue. Be mindful of 2
things: 1. If it’s wet, it becomes a bicep game and the feet are pretty useless. 2. Not all sides had the chains. Most people will suggest avoiding the chains regardless, but still something to be mindful of.
“Multi-rig” Rings: With the addition of the Olympus obstacle, the Multi-Rig seems to now be a second monkey bars using all rings. They are smooth, so this can be tricky when cold and/or wet.
Spartan Sandbags: Note-worthy because of the change this year. The Spartan Pancake seems to be heading into retirement for this new, long and rectangular bag. There is much more bag than filler in these, making it comfortable on the shoulders.
Rope Climb: The ropes are slowly being changed out and the replacement ropes are thinner and more nylon-based it seems. This means they can be a little more work to tackle, for those of you that use all arms to climb it. Keep in mind, this is a multiple attempt allowed obstacle.
Headgear: Swapped between cheapo glasses and my Rudy Project Fotonyk. They handled the mud incredibly well
Top: New Balance tech t shirt
Shorts: Lululemon speed short
Hydration: Camelbak Marathoner w/GQ-6 Flooid
Fuel: Munkpack Peach Vanilla Chia, Huma Gel Chocolate
Socks: Reebok Spartan (DO NOT BUY. Instant holes. I’ll stick with Swiftwick from here on out.)
Shoes: Topo Athletic Terraventures handled like a dream, especially on the Olympus
Misc: Rock Tape H20 on the left ITB. Works like a charm.
Diablo Grande was a beautiful choice of venue. The downside? It’s far from, well, everything. Nearly any place you’re driving from, you have a minimum of an hour commute. Air BnB was useless in finding anything nearby.
The upside? The main exit had food options, a Starbucks, gas, and a very easy and obvious drive from the freeway to the venue parking. Cell phone reception is useless for anyone other than Verizon users, however, so prepare yourself to jack your friend’s phone for social media posting.
If you can’t do heat, this may not be the venue for you, but it’s also completely inconsistent. Last year people griped about it being for 100 degrees, but this year was a perfectly sunny and 50 at elite start. It didn’t get above around 75 the entire day. Fluke year, maybe, but I was pleasantly surprised at my love for this venue.
The start of the super was rolling mud, and a few decent hilly climbs. These weren’t unreasonable for anyone working the Stairmaster or hill repeats, and it helped stretch out each heat. I was pleased to see that bottlenecks only barely started to form for the later afternoon open heats, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with the initial hills. Nearly all the elevation is gained within the first 3 miles and the back half of the course was relatively flat (even some concrete running, oddly enough) with comfortable ground and grass.
The sandbag carry was cursed by newer racers, but for anyone that has done east coast racing or Montana, you were thanking the sandbag gods for the quick climb up and sure footing down with the new bags.
I tend to roll my eyes running up to the farmer plate drag, but (as seen in the picture), it was on GRASS!! GRASS YOU GUYS, GRASS!! This meant that puppy just slid right up to you with EASE. Oh, the plate drag glory!
The bucket brigade was a bit laughable with less than a ¼ mile flat loop (and I mean FLAT). In fact, I was positive coming up to it that there must be some hidden section. Nope. It really was that simple, people. I don’t mean to sound insulting to the course builder. If anything, it was a nice surprise to see that they didn’t HAVE to make it some excruciating BB to compete with the worst of the worst.
Thanks for the break, guys.
This course might hold a record for the least amount of injuries, with great ground to run on and smooth, rolling slopes.
One thing to note:
California has ticks, in case you didn’t know. They happen. You will most likely not come across them, but I had one on me at one point in the race. It’s worth being aware of, but rarely will cause problems. With how much movement you’re doing, they would have a hard time staying on you, but it’s worth noting to brush off and check each other post-race.
Simply put, this was an incredibly enjoyable course and may be my favorite to date. 2016 felt like every race was an attempt to be HARDER than the one before it. I get the concept of “sufferfest” but at some point, they just stop being enjoyable. San Jose showed that they still can make these challenging and FUN, whether you’re racing elite, competitive, or open. Not every BB and bag carry has to be the hardest ever. Not every climb has to be the steepest or longest ever.
Spartan Race San Jose was what an OCR should be: mixed terrain, some flat and fast pieces, challenging obstacles, but leaving you feeling great at the finish line instead of questioning why you do these anymore (I’m looking at you, Montreal.).
Had it been hotter, my recap and review wouldn't be so kind, but this was the golden year for SJ. AROO!