The 2020 Spartan race season continued last weekend in beautiful Diablo Grande, CA, with the San Jose Super, Sprint, and Trail races. I didn't know quite what to expect, given this was my first time competing at this venue, but I was hopeful that it would live up to the hype. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. And while I wouldn't say it was a championship-worthy course, it did have shades of the recent Los Olivos event held in December, which seemed to be one of the more popular and scenic courses of 2019.
The Festival Area
Course aside, I have to say that this was one of my all-time favorite venues as far as the festival area was concerned. While there weren't quite as many obstacles running through the spectator area as I would have liked, there was ample open space for everyone there to move around and socialize without fear of bumping into one another, unlike some of the smaller venues. The vendor tents and food trucks were laid out thoughtfully, and there was even a large area between the start corral and course viewing area, where several families had laid out blankets, and were basking in the glorious late-morning sun. Alongside the festival area, spectators could get a glimpse of several of the first few obstacles, including the inverted wall and monkey bars, as well as the last few obstacles of the race, including the multi-rig, dunk wall, and slip wall. For those who didn't mind a short walk, you could also cheer on your favorite athlete at the rope climb, atlas carry, and Herc Hoist, which were located nearby. Though the mornings were deceivingly cold, once the sun rose above the hills, the festival area warmed up quickly, and I dare say the weather could not have been nicer. On a technical note, cell service was pretty much non-existent at this venue, which is the downside of getting to run at some of these amazing, picturesque locations. That said, the Spartan team still did a great job of making sure the timing tent was up and running, and, aside from the usual minor delays for counting burpees, there were no major snafus when it came to results.
I ran both the Super on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. From what I understand, the course layout was changed this year, but being my first year at Diablo Grande, I didn't have anything to compare it with. Saturday's Super course began with an absolutely horrendous uphill climb that, quite frankly, I was not looking forward to repeating on Sunday. Lucky for me, that was one of the sections that were cut to make the shorter Sprint course. Aside from that first climb, the elevation gain was minimal and included several rolling hills, slight inclines, and, for the most part, runnable downhill terrain. This gave the course a faster feel, much like last month's Chino race, though slightly more technically challenging. If I'm honest, though, I'd have to say I preferred Sunday's Sprint course to Saturday's Super. Though there was obviously no shortage of trails at this venue, Sunday's course and obstacle layout felt like it just flowed better. One thing I did find curious was the distances of both the Super and Sprint. With Spartan announcing the standardization of race lengths for 2020, I think I was among the majority who expected all Supers to be an even 6.2 miles (10K), and Sprints 3.1 miles (5K), though this has not proven to be the case thus far. Saturday's Super came in at around 6.8 miles, and the Sprint on Sunday measured almost 4 miles. To be clear, I'm not complaining. If I had MY way, we'd go back to eight-mile Supers and five-mile Sprints, but it's hard to make an argument for standardization when the distances are not consistent.
There were not many negatives when it came to this event. The venue and course were beautiful, the weather was outstanding, and the West Coast team did a great job of creating a fun but challenging race. After their absence in Chino last month, both the rolling mud AND dunk wall made a return here in Diablo Grande, though separately, which I actually liked. Rolling mud came just after the race started, while the dunk wall was the second to last obstacle. With a simultaneous event in Arizona the same weekend, I did notice fewer people than normal for Saturday's Super event, though Sunday seemed to rebound nicely, perhaps aided by the fact that there was both a 10K and a 21K Spartan Trail race. Hopefully, next year Spartan can hold these two events on separate weekends, as I personally know a lot of Southern California friends who had to choose one over the other, where normally they would attend both. Last but not least, I'd like to give a shout out to Spartan for handling the parking situation. Though it was a short walk from general parking to the festival area, I never saw a long backup of vehicles, didn't read any angry posts about people missing their heats because of shuttle mishaps, and, most important, almost everyone who was coming from the parking lot still had a smile on their face. Be it their fault or not, Spartan seems to catch a lot of heat for making it difficult to get in and out of a venue, so, when they get it right, I figure they should be told as much. High five, Spartan…I'll be looking for Diablo Grande on the 2021 calendar.
This author is part of the Mud Run Crew and received a free race entry in return for an independent review. All opinions are those of the author and were not influenced by the race sponsor or Mud Run Guide.