Mud, sweat and tears at grueling Spartan obstacle race
Midway • Flinging off mud and sweat, John Yatsko climbed the wooden wall and pushed across the finish line of the 12-mile obstacle race. At 1 hour 41 minutes and 24 seconds, he finished with the best time in Saturday's Reebok Spartan Race.
Yatsko was one of six racers from the Elite Group who won prizes and points. Following behind the top finishers were more than 6,700 people registered for the Spartan Race, which is considered the world's leading obstacle race series, with over 130 events in 17 countries planned for 2014.
Saturday's contenders participated in the Obstacle Beast, the longest and hardest race, which tests competitors' physical strength and mental resolve.
"There was a lot of hills, and the view was awesome," said Alex "Chikorita" Roudayna, 24, of Mexico City.
In her first race in the United States, Roudayna won first place in Elite Women Group. She considered the Beast Obstacle an "investment" because she got to compete against the best racers and she qualified for the world championship.
"I used all the money from past races to get here," Roudayna said. She plans to attend the Vermont Beast World Championship, Sept. 20-21.
"[Roudayna] rocked it," said the second-place Elite Women runner, Rose Wetzel, 32, of Seattle. "She started off strong and continued to aggressively expand her lead the entire race on a very tough course."
Loud chants and grunts sounded from the starting line every 15 minutes as a new heat of about 300 runners began. Each athlete faced 29 obstacles on a 12-mile trail. Obstacles included a tractor pull, fire jump, sandbag carry, tire drag, spear throw and a rope climb.
Regardless of each participant's time, everyone received muddy hugs and wet high-fives at the finish line.
The Spartan Race has three levels: Obstacle Sprint, which is 3-5 miles; Obstacle Super, 8-10 miles; and Obstacle Beast, 10-13 miles. The Sprint and Super were not offered in Utah this weekend. There is also a race for children under 13, between a mile and a half-mile, depending on their age.
Abbi Barron, 11, of Springville, said "jumping in the mud" was her favorite part. She enjoyed the kids' race with her two younger sisters.
Kevin Jones made his first trip to Utah to participate in the race with 20 of his friends.
"Elevation is a big difference," said Jones, of Mason, Ohio. "We have a lot of hills to train on [in Ohio] but these mountains are insane."
Jones was attempting this season to complete two trifectas, meaning two races at each level. Last year, he completed one trifecta.
"It's not crazy, but it's not something that the greater population will do," said Jones. "Most people are happy with one."
Some racers are not as ambitious as Jones; some just want to cross the finish line.
"It's about survival. I am hoping to finish in about five hours," said Nicole Lyman, 34, of Salt Lake City, who was racing with her co-worker, Stephanie Cooper, 32, originally from Charleston, S.C.. They planned to stick together throughout the race.
Race results for the Elite Group
1st • John Yatsko, Flagstaff, Ariz. 1:41:24.48
2nd • Cody Moat, Fillmore 1:43:52.35
3rd • Glenn Racz, Vista, Calif. 1:52:42.38
1st • Alex Roudayna, Mexico City 2:23:19.69
2nd • Rose Wetzel, Seattle 2:26:52.50
3rd • Jenny Tobin, Boise, Idaho 2:32:27.57