In the weeks leading up to the San Jose Spartan Super at Diablo Grande, I was already anxious.
Last summer, mere weeks after Jay and I had moved from Pensacola to Temecula, we faced our first California OCR at this same venue.
With the combination of the heat (which had reached about 100 degrees by midday), the lack of water (the water stations were either out or what water they did have was hot), and the massive hills, that race nearly got me.
At one point, on one of the steeper ascents, I turned to Jay and asked “if I needed you to run ahead to call for medical, could you do it?”
Once I finished the race, I realized that I had come dangerously close to heat exhaustion. I don’t remember my time, but it was long, and I seriously considered not doing another California OCR after that race.
I did, of course, run more OCRs after that, but I was still nervous leading up to my rematch with Diablo Grande last weekend. At least I was until the previous weekend’s Toughest Mudder, but that’s a different story.
Even with all the hills of Toughest the weekend before however, I still found last weekend’s Super remarkably easier than last summer.
The biggest change was the course direction: they reversed the course from last year, so you started with the biggest hills. While some bemoaned this fact, I actually loved it. It got the toughest part of the course out of the way, and once you ran down that last steep decline, it was essentially smooth sailing from there. All the sweating and huffing and puffing was done, and I was able to hustle for those last 3 to 4 miles.
Another big change was the course itself. Thanks to the blessed rain California received all winter, Diablo Grande was green. Like, really, really green. It was like running through an entirely different course. Gone was the dead grass and hot sand that billowed up in clouds as racers went up and down the hills.
Instead, the entire course was covered with grass, from short to tall, which minimized the dust and made for a gorgeous view. The one downside was that it really chewed people up when it came to the barbed wire crawl. The crawl was long, naturally, and rolling and crawling in that grass brought out the allergies in everyone.
Once I got out from that crawl, my entire body felt like it was on fire, and I only have a mild contact allergy to grass. I had red welts all up and down my arms as well, but thankfully they were gone by the next day.
There was also way more water than last time (which wasn’t a difficult feat considering last time there was only the dunk wall). And that water came up quickly. Rolling mud was the second obstacle you hit, then shortly after that there was a short walk through knee-high water, then into the hills. Then in the back half, you hit water again as the course took you in an out of a stream that ran through the area.
I personally love water obstacles, as I’m one who generally tends to get hot quickly, so I loved all the water. I think it just makes the course more fun (as long as you have shoes that can drain it well).
As far as the obstacles went, this race actually felt pretty light. Most were in the back half, mainly due to the fact that you can’t really build obstacles in those hills, there was no tire flip or Twister (rumor has it they forgot to bring it), and the bucket brigade was ridiculously short.
I will say the sandbag carry was tough. They put it in the same spot as last summer – up a steep ascent at the highest point in the hills. It was a slow, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of climb, but on the flip side it made for a quick descent.
While the sandbag carry was tough, the bucket brigade was uncharacteristically short and easy. Completely flat and not even a full quarter mile, I was excited when I ran up and realized that, but at the same time, I found it odd. Were they compensating for last month’s tough Vegazona bucket carry? For the hills? I know it wasn’t due to lack of options, because it was right beside a steep hill (so it could have easily been miserable).
Whatever the reason, I was thankful for the reprieve, because my next race is Seattle and I know they’re not going to make that one easy.
The multi-rig was also all rings again, which I also found odd. I encountered that at the Arizona Sprint, but they changed it for the Super, and this time they had it both days. Not complaining – the minute I saw it was a ring rig, I got excited, because I knew I would for sure that was 30 less burpees I would have to do.
The slip wall was also ridiculously easy, namely because there was no water in front of it. I think it was due to the layout of the course, but I found it ironic that for all the water they did have out there, there was none before the slip wall so it stayed completely dry.
Overall, I only ended up missing two obstacles – Olympus (my perpetual nemesis – mark my words, I’m getting it in Seattle) and the spear throw – and getting my fastest Super time yet.
–THEM HILLS. If you care at all about your OCR performance, you need to be training on hills. I thought I was, but clearly not enough. I’ve got several more big elevation races coming up this year as well, so I’ll be upping that in my training considerably.
-If you’re still working on your speed on the hills (like myself), compensate by hustling on the flats and downhills. I’ll admit it: I was real slow on the ascents. But I sped down the hills (thanks Icebug for the traction!), and made sure to keep a good pace in the back half, and I believe that’s what contributed to my PR.
-While some parts of the course were easier, there were two noticeable changes right from the start: the wall getting into the starting corral was taller, and the hurdles we encountered a quarter mile in were definitely taller. Many struggled with those hurdles, and they become a major pile-up in the later waves.
-While it oddly wasn’t the most challenging race I’ve faced by far, it felt fantastic. Other than the hills, I felt quick, I felt strong, and I felt full of energy from start to finish. Maybe it’s because they made it easier, maybe because I’m getting stronger: whatever it was, I was a fan, and it was a great comeback.
Saturday’s Super Top 3:
Sunday’s Sprint Top 3: