A collaborative recap of the SF Spartan Race brought to you by yours truly, Dick and Pootie.
Date: July 16, 2016 Location: Diablo Grande/Patterson, CA
Conditions: High: 95-96F; Sunny, no shade, “rolling hills”, dry (mostly)
Distance: 8.6 Obstacles: 26 Time: 5hrs 56min 53sec
Photo Album: SF Spartan Super Photos
Pootie: I started scouring the Spartan forums a week ahead of the race, trying to get a feel for what people were saying about the venue and course. Folks were starting to compare this to “Hell-mecula”, the so aptly named September Spartan Beast held in Temecula (So Cal) for it’s desiccating 90+ degree heat and soul crushing course. So what was this race to be called? Diablo Grande in itself is a good moniker. Translating to “Big Devil”, it was a fitting name as the hills toward the latter half were so big and so steep, and the heat was blistering making it so miserable one was almost willing to make a deal with the devil just to get out of it. I say almost, because we are all Spartans, and Spartans push on, we don’t make deals with the Devil, we spit on the Devil. I’d like to make my own suggestions… Being that it was in Patterson, how bout the name “Shatterson”, as in, “this course was so brutal it ‘shattered’ my ego”, or, “this course was so brutal I ‘shat’ myself”. Ok, that’s gross, but again, I am just brainstorming here. Personally for me, I am going to call it “Batterson”, as in, “this course was so brutal it ‘battered’ my body but not (completely) my mind and spirit.”
Dicky: And where the “hell” is Diablo Grande/Patterson???
Though the race was labeled as a “San Francisco” race, the venue was located 96 miles east-southeast of San Francisco. In fact, this, as you can see from map below, nearly due East from San Jose – in the middle of not much.
This location was a bit confusing for us because, not only was it nowhere near San Francisco, we also signed up for the BattleFrog in the “Greater San Jose” area – turns out, we are returning to the same park on August 6th. How do you have two different races, one labeled “San Francisco” the other labeled “San Jose”, be in the SAME EXACT location?? Riddle me that folks!! So with this in mind, not only was this Spartan a first in this area, but a bit of recon for us to figure just what the infamous Diablo Grande held in store for us.
To say the weather differs from SF to other areas is an understatement. We were expecting mid to high nineties, and Diablo didn’t disappoint. Driving into the park what immediately hits you is
a) the sun b) the fact that there was no visible shaded areas, and c) it was already 88 at 9AM – this was gonna be a hot one today.
Now, prior to race, I have to give a shout out to my life partner and Spartan comrade, Pootie, as she truly rose to the occasion for this race. She has been, since Bay to Breakers back in May, nursing a stress injury in her right hip/joint area – she’s been to the doc and thankfully nothing permanent but it has caused her some pain. She had been seeing a PT for a few sessions and both doc and therapist have said “let the pain be your guide”. So with that going on, she still came to race day ready to go and conquer all fear and pain along the way – she is an awesome inspiration to me!! 🙂
Pootie: What Dicky really meant to impress on you is how fucking awesome I am!!
Dicky: Moving on… the opening to this course was indicative of what to expect – no shade, direct sun, a scorched earthen path that moved up and down hills with some obstacles in the way. First bit of advice to those doing San Jose BattleFrog , wear comfortable but full sleeves and legs for this type of race, and don’t forget a hat!. Keeping the sunshine off direct skin contact is a must – it is hard enough in that heat as it saps you of all energy and causes cramps; but if you are getting sunburned on top of that, it is just suicide!! Suggest white as well (see how desert bedouins dress!!)
Hurdles, under wall, thru wall, and A-Frame cargo net/climb – pretty easy and standard opening salvo of obstacles to get you going – gentle, rolling hill climbs were not so bad but you could immediately tell that the terrain was scorched – the sun was a killer out here (think it was low 90’s at this point)
Pootie: Mile 2 we came upon Monkey Bars, one of my all time favorite Spartan obstacles because 1) I can actually complete it easily while many others can not, and 2) it reminds me of my childhood days of monkeying around on the school and park playgrounds. But now I am a full grown adult and these monkey bars are more fun and challenging so it’s that much better. We got a short reprieve from the depressing heat with a quick dip in a watery mud pit and shortly after I had the privilege of drying off for the next half mile with Mr. Muddy Suit Man.
For those of you who don’t know his story, he’s 62 years old and since beginning his journey at the age of 54, has completed almost 200 races, most of these being OCRs and all in a three piece suit, WITH a tie (tied appropriately by the way). How amazing is that?
After parting with Mr. Muddy Suit Man, we reached several shorter hurdles where we (actually, just Dicky) were inspired to pose for epic wall jump action photos.
Dicky: Was seriously still in such a great mood after snapping my “power method” like pose (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_snowboard_tricks) – but it wasn’t all fun and games as the heat was starting to take a toll even though mud was caked on. But was the start of the grueling and I mean all around leg bust climbs – the first hill (can we call in a mountain??) was pretty much straight up – the only saving grace was that we were covered in mud from the sloppiest barbed wire mud crawl.
Pootie: Just a stone’s throw away was the Memory test wall. As we were walking up, I took a quick picture and Dicky had the AUDACITY to ask me if I was trying to cheat. Exhibit A, this is his “you trying to cheat??” face.
No dear, unlike you (ahem in Montana), I do not cheat and was merely taking pictures for the blogging audience.Putting “Bravo 386-1557” on repeat in my brain was a very nice and much needed distraction from trying to get my a$$ up the first killer hill encountered on this Spartan course, which came immediately came after the memory test wall. Bravo 386-1557, hike twenty steps, feel the ass and quads burn, Bravo 386-1557, hike twenty steps, feel the ass and quads burn, repeat. One had to feel proud trekking up that hill, so proud you had to document your feat in a #shamelessselfie at the top
On another note about this hill, I kept thinking this would have been a prime spot for Spartan to insert sandbag or bucket carry. It would have been misery for sure, but also true Spartan fashion to make obstacles as brutal and challenging as possible. Spartan race where do I sign up to be on the course design team?!?!
The hill dumped into the z-walls/horizontal wall climb at the bottom and I am more than POed that I failed the obstacle since I normally am able to complete it. Was it the heat that was stripping the grip strength from my itty bitty fingertips?!?! My first set of burpees =(
Dicky: All righty – the course is really split into two sections with the start/finish area in the middle – we were on our way back to the mid point (well, a little longer) and into the upper body gauntlet that was more American Ninja Warrior section than typical spacing for Spartan racing – so, not sure what happens when you pit a Ninja against a Spartan, except that it would be an epic battle!!
Back to back to back to back… the tyrolean rope crossing, onto the hercules hoist, then rope climb just a skip away and then spear throw – my lord – total arm, shoulder, back pump!! And this was setup so that all the folks can watch – you momentarily forgot about the sun as you had to navigate these obstacles, but you just suck it up and do it!!
Pootie: Mile 6 came with milder upper body strength obstacles plate drag, inverted wall, stairway to sparta. While the upper body was taxed less here, this was also the starting point of the lower body battering as you were tasked with climbing hills on top of hills where the steepness was unkind and the heat was getting even more evil. Shade was scarce, but where there was any, swarms of Spartans dropped for cover.
Dicky: Mile 7, will go down as one of the more brutal hill climbs topped off with a gut wrenching sand bag carry at the apex of the climb – what sick son of a B&TCH does that to you??? Oh yeah, Spartan race directors!!
At this point, people were truly dropping like flies – cramps, heat exhaustion, and all around fatigue – the climbs were brutal and non stop – one foot in front of the other – you just needed to press onward and upward. Now at one point, I found myself a bit in front of Pootie, so decided to find a quick rest stop in some shade – an oasis of shade – oh boy did that feel good.
Pootie: Mile 8 was empty of obstacles, all a Spartan had to contend with were the hills, the heat, and a battered spirit, trying to will yourself to keep going. I can’t speak for Dicky, but this was my own experience. It was around this point I was dehydrated, near exhaustion, my hip AND knee were paining me, I was past the point of being whiny, and just trying to put one foot in front of the other. Looking to the fellow Spartans around me, I was not alone in these feelings of near despair. Thankfully, though not good for my knee, it was also at this point that it was all downhill and you could let gravity do its job.
It was right at the 8 mile marker that you found yourself at the Bucket carry. This was probably the shortest and smallest hill of a bucket carry we have done (save for Chicago Spartan). It could have qualified as one of the easiest, had it not been placed near the end of the course and on a scorching day when you were already beaten up from the previous 20 or so obstacles and 8 miles of neverending hills.
After a long, recuperating water/shade break, we reached the mud mounds and dunk wall where we found further relief from the burning sun before lifting heavy sh*t at the atlas carry.
Just before the finish, you had to swing your way through multi-rig and scurry up the slip wall. Richard is consistently getting through the multi-rig, I on the other hand yet to find success. This time was the worst because my last swing on the horizontal bar I slipped and ripped up some serious skin on my hand. Now, I am fine with losing some skin, but at least I’d like to have some good progress on an obstacle to show for it. In this case I wasn’t even a ¼ of the way into multi-rig. To rub salt on the injury, I had to do burpees, one handed because of the skin rip, albeit, they were really crappy one handed burpees.
Finish: Diablo Grande, our own Spartan “hell” and personal “Batterson”. It was a tough, brutal, hard fought battle… our only triumph was the crossing of the finish line. But, we finished as we always do and earned another prized Spartan medal for our collection.
And now, it’s on the BattleFrog August 6th, where we do it all again, at the same venue; same hills, same (if not worse) heat. Stay tuned Spartans, AROO!!!
Epilogue: Like I did pre-race, I again scoured the Spartan forums to get a sense of how finishers felt post Diablo Grande. A string of posts all had the same message…
The course was brutal: the unforgiving heat, the hills on top of hills~~~ I was beaten and battered ~~~ Not the best time or the time I wanted, but I finished ~~~ This medal has to be one of my hardest ones I earned ~~~ I was tested physically and mentally! I proved that I can! ~~~ I had to bow out early, but I gave it everything I had
As tough as any standard Spartan race is, this particular course, with it’s monstrous hills coupled with temps reaching near 100 degrees humbled many Spartans, no matter their athletic ability and level of training.
I’ll to close by quoting one my fellow Spartans who commented about Diablo Grande and sums up the race and embodies the Spartan spirit perfectly:
“This course was not meant to embarrass great athletes, but to identify them. Great job to everyone who finished. Great job to all who DNF’d, but left it all out there. Keep crushing it Spartans – keep fighting, climbing, clawing and crawling and I’ll do the same. AROO!! #BatteredandBruisedbutnotBeaten” ~ Stephan Marvin