John Yatsko doesn’t have a smartphone, doesn’t care for computers and sleeps under the trees the night before a big race. He’s no frills, no big show and all drive. He’s also the newest addition to the Spartan Race Pro Team.

Coming from nowhere to blaze an impressive trail of podium placings and courses that begged him for mercy, the runner from Flagstaff, Arizona is a fierce competitor with a no-holds-barred attitude is aiming his sights high and doesn’t have any distractions.

“I try to waste as little time as possible on the internet, which isn’t hard since I don’t own a computer or smart phone. I really don’t care what people have to say about the sport. I see a lot of chest pounding and machoism, but few serious athletes. Let the talkers have the internet – I’ll be up on the mountain.”

This focused determination from the long distance runner has already yielded many impressive results. His footprints are on the Spartan Race podium any time he is found at a race, but what is most surprising about him is that he never aimed to be on the Pro Team. Winning Spartan Races was merely his way of paying student debt. He replies honestly, “My aim from the start has been to win Vermont and pay off my student loans, but making the team is an added plus.”

He continues, “I am very hesitant to accept any kind of sponsorship. Accepting support from a company as a sponsored athlete carries with it the expectation of promoting that company and usually helping them to sell some kind of material product. I am decidedly not a salesman and have no interest in promoting consumer culture any more than I have to.

“Working with Spartan Race is different though. As a company, they don’t seem nearly so profit-driven and they’re not asking me to push any product on anyone. I have seen firsthand what an effect these races can have on people’s lives, middle-age women losing 100lbs in training, that sort of thing. Our values seem to be in close alignment, so signing a contract with Spartan feels like a partnership rather than a sell-out.

“I was also surprised at how welcoming the Spartan community has been to a newcomer in the sport, particularly the other top athletes. Signing with the Pro Team feels like making the roster for the first time in college (I was cut my first seven seasons).”

Bouncing back from these cuts shows the resilience and determination of the man whose background lies in running. “Up until the Austin race with Hobie, I wasn’t actually training for Spartan Races – I was training for ultra-marathons. After that, I decided to put trail racing on hold for a while and focus exclusively on OCR. So my training has changed considerably since then.

“I incorporate a lot more obstacle-specific training into my regimen now, with the largest emphasis on sandbags, bucket carries, and tractor pulls. Although, I still maintain my aerobic fitness with a good long run each week and a high emphasis on vertical gain.”

John Yatsko is a man with determination and the drive to win. We’ll be sure to see him in Vermont. He’s upped his game and may have what its take to find himself a cozy spot on the World Championship podium.

We’ll just have to wait and see. See you at the finish line John!

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As Spartan Race continues to grow, we are excited to announce the arrival of another new Pro Team member, Orla Walsh. Never actually believing she would be rubbing shoulders with established names like Amelia Boone and Rose Wetzell-Sinnett, Orla is a racer to be taken very seriously. A remarkable achievement when one considers the past year is her first in OCR.

Of the signing onto the Pro Team she said, To be on the Pro Team can mean many different things to a variety of people. Soon after I started OCR – less than a year ago – I figured out who was who and what athletes were on the Pro Team. I never thought my name would be on the team roster. In the past year I decided to commit my training and workouts towards OCR.  The hard work and dedication I have put in the last year is being slowly showcased in my performances in the races I have competed in.”

“Being a part of the Pro Team makes me want to work harder, train harder, be stronger. I feel so honored to be a part of an amazing group of athletes and hope to continue to grow as an athlete. Making the Pro Team is surely an honor and I will work hard to prove to the team, to Spartan, and all the obstacle racers out there I belong on the team for a long time.”

But she’s not assuming that she’s “made it.” Like a true professional, she’s taking this as a reason to step up the training and not rest on her laurels. With her training background one of being a sprinter, she’s adapting her training, looking at nutrition, adding weights and transitioning her skills into Spartan Races.

Orla’s explosion on the Spartan Race circuit has impressed many.

Bringing this skill set with her to the races has helped Orla podium at a 50% success rate. This incredible stat of landing a podium position in at least one of every two races she puts down to her strengths at short Sprints.

I believe my strengths are the short sprints, downhill running and I am pretty quick on the obstacles. To be honest, I am still learning techniques to get over obstacles quicker, but that will come with time. I couldn’t even climb a rope or do Monkey Bars my first race! My weaknesses are definitely hills and long endurance as I have a 5k background. Even fueling and hydrating during races is all fairly new to me. It has been a great education learning about all these training additions I was never aware of as a short distance runner! I am willing to push myself and get the miles under me I need to race in the future.”

Looking ahead, Orla is hoping to strike up some banter and fun with the other female elites. While competition is clearly the most important factor, the bond of the team makes the whole thing so much more fun. “I’d have to say we are all friendly rivalries!”, laughs the Vermont-born runner. “The women’s elite is an amazing group of talented and super athletic women! Not too long ago, I never thought I would be able to run and hang with these women. I may not be in the lead yet, but I am closing the gap between us.”

What advice does she have for those starting out in Spartan Race? To not listen to the word “quit.”

“For newbies out there…DONT GIVE UP! I went out for my first race with my friends, I had no idea how to climb a rope, monkey bars or rings. I did my 90 Burpees and vowed I would hit the gym and learn how to conquer them. Be strong mentally, love what you are doing, train for the goals you set in front of you. You can achieve your dreams and goals by believing in yourself and getting after it!”

We are excited to have Orla Walsh on the Spartan Pro Team, keep your eyes on her, she’s making big moves and fast.

See you at the finish line, Orla!

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Spartan Race is proud to announce the latest addition to the Spartan Race Pro Team, Chad Trammell. Of 12 races, he has taken podium places 9 times. A highly enviable achievement.

Speaking of his signing onto the team, Chad said, “It feels great! I have so much respect for the athletes on the team, and am very proud to count them as teammates. I’ve always liked the team aspect of running, which many consider to be an individual sport, and it’s the same with OCR. Being part of the Spartan Pro Team gives that extra push, knowing that you’re representing The Spartan Pro Team, the organization, and most importantly everyone out there who races.”

Being on the Pro Team was something he has been working towards for some time. Noticing that he was sometimes finishing ahead of many recognized Elites since his first race in Arizona of 2013, he made the assumption that he’d be picked up immediately. When he wasn’t, his true character shone through and it only fueled him further to dig deeper, push harder and run faster. He understood he needed to prove himself over time. So that is what he did.

Now that he’s on board officially, he rubs his hands with glee, relishing the chance to pick up some friendly rivalries with members of the Pro Team.

“Absolutely!,” he beams, “one of my goals is to beat all the top racers in the sport at least once, and I have been able to best almost everyone at least once, including Hobie Call, Brakken Kraker, David Magida, Max King, James Appleton, Matt Murphy, Glenn Racz, John Yatzko, and Matt Novakovich. The two guys who are still on my list are Hunter McIntyre and Cody Moat, and I’ve come very close to both of them, so I’ll have a little extra motivation next time I’m in a race against them.”

Coming from a background where his strengths were running at pace with endurance, Chad quickly realized that he had weaknesses at some obstacles, especially around the heavy carries, such as the sandbag and bucket brigade. Such was his determination that he now considers them a strength, highlighted by wins in the heavy-obstacle driven race at Colorado and also in Monterey. His next target is to improve on his steep inclines so that he can compete with climbing specialists like Matt Novakovich.

Spartan welcomes Chad Trammell with open arms and looks forward to watching his growth as an athlete and member of the Spartan Pro Team. Congrats on your success so far Chad, we’ll see you at the finish line!

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It was the Virginia Super of 2013. Hobie was in his prime and the Spartan Pro Team were a very recognizable who’s-who line up of OCR. From nowhere, an unknown racer named Matt Novakovich appeared on the scene by not just winning the race, but establishing a crushing margin of over six minutes.

A flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder? 14 podium finishes since that race would beg to differ. The man from Alaska runs up hills at the same speed most people run across a football field. His almost inhuman ability to ignore pain married with his incredible muscle memory means that not only should his appearance at a starting line be respected, but feared. Add to this the way he breezes through, over and under any obstacles put before him, he is the complete racer. There is nothing, it seems, that is capable of slowing him down.

A heavy hitter within the elite ranks he is someone to be taken seriously, and with the additional training he is doing courtesy of Joe Desena – in the same way Hunter McIntyre did before him – only time will tell if Matt’s experience will defeat the youthful exuberance of those a little younger than him. The Vermont World Championship weekend is shaping up to be even tighter than last year.

But for all his firepower and strength, his cheeky sense of humor and trademark grin are the first things you notice about him. Just don’t mistake his friendliness for weakness…after all they do call him, “The Bear.” 

Matt “The Bear” Novakovich
DOB: 3/27/74
Weight: 148 height: 5’9”
Hometown:  Anchorage, AK

Current residence/location:  Anchorage, AK
Pro Team member since: August 2013
Podium finishes (up to end Dec 2013): 14
Best strength: Climbing and Heavy Grinding

 

1) What is your background?
I ran the steeple chase for Brigham Young University. I graduated with a degree in business and information systems. In 2000, I started Novakovich Roofing and have been carrying heavy roofing materials for 25 years of my life. From 2000 to 2009 I competed as a category 1 cyclist and then switched to sky running steep mountains from 2009 to 2013. In 2012, I set a record for climbing 24,000 vertical feet in 9 hours and then won Mt. Marathon in the same year. I switched to Spartan after beating Hobie by six minutes in the climbing focused Virginia Super.

2) What does Spartan mean to you personally?
Spartan racing is a new challenge to me. I’m enthralled by the premise that the skinniest of runners can be beat by the 200 pound juggernauts and vise versa. I also love how the Spartan experience challenges everyone in a very special way. Everyone has a weakness at the Spartan venues and we all have to try to overcome them without giving up what our original strengths are.

3) How do you prepare?
I believe that there is no substitute for volume. I train my aerobic system twice as much as the 20 year olds and I am willing to grind out 3 hour sessions on the treadmill unlike the younger athletes. I believe in the concept of experienced muscles getting better with age. I believe that years of endurance training and racing cannot be substituted with short cuts and I take pride in crushing younger, cocky athletes ☺

4) What is your favorite WOD?
My favorite WOD is to climb 3000 vertical feet. Then do active stretching, drills and strides and begin 5×5 intervals on the incline trainer at 40% at 3 plus miles per hour. I believe that this is my gold standard and the 40% is equivalent to sub 5 minute mile pace without the pounding.

5) What is your favorite single exercise and what is you least favorite exercise?
My favorite exercise is climbing mountains fast and light. I love the scenery, fresh air and being away from people. I love taking routes that typically get me lost or at least delayed by hours from my original “plan.”

My least favorite workout is running. I used to enjoy it obviously as that was my background, however as I’m older I find that the cons of running for me include, stomach distress, knee surgeries and repetitive boredom.

6) What is your favorite FOD?
My favorite food is anything I don’t have to cook. I never have followed a recipe and I don’t plan to start. My breakfast is typically 2 packets of instant oatmeal, yogurt and diet coke.  Lunch is a sandwich that includes lots of veggies and hopefully egg whites for the protein.  Dinner is whatever we are doing for dinner. My wife, Tiffanie, is a really good cook so this is my weakness:  Pushing the plate away before I’ve had 2nds, 3rds, and 4ths.

After 7PM is the curse of the athlete trying to lean up for major events. If I can avoid the gram-crackers and milk, Coke, cereal and yogurt in the late hours I can generally be lean and mean going into important events.

7) Advice for newbies going forward that have no idea where or how to start.
It is never too late to start.  If you have become overweight through years of poor eating be patient and realize time and consistency are your friends. It is okay to “feel hungry” when cutting calories and starting a new training plan. “Feeling hungry” is our bodies way of saying “it’s working.” If you are not overweight, but just a little out of shape, realize this:  Trained properly most of us are a mere six months away from our best fitness ever.  

8) What is your favorite Spartan Race to date?
Vermont World Championships.

I had a lot of pressure to win and I fell flat on my face. Google “Vermont World Championships” and watch the footage of me shivering and cramping and considering quitting. I did not quit. However, through pushing to my 16th place finish I learned a lot about my will power, my desire to succeed and what it takes to be a champion.

9) If someone was on the edge about doing a Spartan Race, what would you say to them?

I’ve never been to an athletic event in my life where 1st place looks like they are having as much fun as the person finishing last out of 20,000 people. The Spartan experience makes everyone feel like a champ because everyone is.  Until completing a Spartan Race one will never understand the fulfillment that comes from completing one. After finishing one your friends will unfriend you on Facebook because that will be all you ever talk about anymore.

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With only four months to go before the championship decider rolls around to the glorious and never-ending mountains of Killington, Vermont, Spartan Race looked at the elite standings and what met our eyes made for very interesting reading.

Although leading the pack by 40 points, April Dee is well aware of who is behind her and whilst not throwing nervous glances over her shoulder, she’s certainly not resting on her laurels.

Hailing out of Chicago, Illinois but now residing in Peyton, Colorado, April is best known for her aggressive attitude on the courses and her background in the military has enabled her to focus and harness that aggression into a formidable tool for crushing courses, regardless if they are a Sprint, Super or Beast. With numerous podium finishes – many of which being wins – we ask who can match her ferocity. With names like Amelia Boone, Tyann Clark, KK Paul, Laura Messner, Rose Wetzell-Sinnett, Karlee Whipple and numerous others all having the ability to not just take advantage of a slip or mistake, but to take a lead and hold on to it, the competition is fierce.

But who is April Dee? In a short question and answer session, April Dee gave us the insight into what makes her tick.

Name: April Dee

DOB: 04/24/1979

Pro Team member since: 2013 season

Height: 5’3” Weight: 128 lbs

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Current: Peyton, CO

College: Troy State University

Points placing finish- #3 Overall & #2 Female in 2013 .

Best strength: Hills, Strengths Obstacles in Sandbag, Atlas Carry, Tire flips

1)    What is your background?  Cross country, Track & Field, Military. I just started racing in local races and I was hooked.

2)    What does Spartan mean to you personally? Psychologically it reminds of the friendship & camaraderie that I had in the military and the feeling of competition that I had in the military really transitioned into OCR. Spartan Race really provided me with the competition to push past my limits physically like I did in the military.

3)    How do you prepare? It depends on the distance and the field of the race as I periodize my strengths and weaknesses around a specific event. So if it was a hilly race I would do my majority of my time training on hills.

4)    What is your favorite WOD? I live in Peyton, Colorado and my biggest advantage is being able to go run in Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak. So my favorite workout consists of me doing hill repeats up and down the Incline. Using the elevation training mask is also a plus when it comes to interval workouts.

5) What is your favorite FOD? Anything Italian, I do an equal amount of my macronutrients a day that balances my Protein, Carb, and Fat ratio. The body needs these to be equal so the body can perform at its absolute best. Spartan also offers the FOD so I definitely pick and choose from there.

6) Advice for newbies going forward that have no idea where or how to start. Always start out slow & look for your comfort level. In Spartan Race the first race you want to start out with is a Sprint. So train your body to be able to run at least 3-10 miles a week and then work on your weaknesses and work on your strengths when it comes to lifting, so you can be well prepared for the obstacles in a Spartan Sprint.  Once you have been able to feel comfortable, start working on running 6-10 miles once a week to prepare for a Spartan Super and or a Beast. It’s not about logging miles it is more about getting the proper time/speed on your feet that will help you get further/better.

7) Single most favorite exercise. Burpees of course!!!

8) Favorite race to date? That would be Fort Carson Military Sprint!! Where it all started and where I use to be stationed in 10th SFG (Special Forces Group).

9) If someone was on the edge about doing a Spartan Race, what would you say to them? I would tell them to stop thinking about it and go do it. If something excites you and scares you at the same time it means you should probably do it!! It will change your life and make you realize you are much more capable then you thought you were!!!

Sign up for your next Spartan Race right here and we’ll see you at the finish line!

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And just like that, another powerhouse bursts onto the scene leaving a trail of destruction behind him. Spartan Race is proud to announce the newest addition to the Pro Team – Glenn Racz.

Perhaps more recognizable as the man from American Ninja Warrior and the man that can run a 4:12 mile and a 5K in 15:12, Glenn boasts not just an envious running pedigree, but amazing agility and strength. Despite having only ran 5 Spartan Races so far, he has never placed lower than 5th place and with each race has seen his placing rise each time, including the latest – a victory at the Las Vegas Super Spartan. 

“I’m stoked to be given this opportunity to represent Spartan Race! My first Spartan race was just 4 months ago, so I am enjoying the ride one race at a time! The other Pro Team members have been very welcoming to a newbie such as myself.”

Reflecting on how quickly everything has happened and how his background helped him get to where he is, Glenn smiles at the thought of all the work he has put in.

“Growing up in SoCal, I grew up playing roller hockey, snowboarding, and surfing. Then after graduating from UCSB, I began my career as a Mechanical Engineer – but in order to not weigh too much for surfing, I started running, which was about 10 years ago. The next 9 years I surfed less and ran more and trained hard to be competitive at road races primarily at the 1 mile and 5k distance (4:12 mile/14:59 5k PRs). Then last year, just for fun I applied to American Ninja Warrior (ANW) and to my surprise I was accepted to try out the course in Venice Beach.  After failing an obstacle in the preliminary round, I was determined to try it again this year so I began to do some upper body/gymnastics training and started learning about obstacle training and that was when I started to be interested in the Spartan Race – in order to supplement my obstacle training. But once I did the Malibu Spartan a few months ago, I knew that this was the perfect blend of running/obstacles that best fit my skill-set (plus my wife wasn’t too impressed with the skinny runner’s physique!). Then last month when I didn’t get the call back from ANW, I converted my backyard obstacles from ANW to Spartan obstacles and focused solely on Spartan-specific training.”

“I do a lot of the running with obstacles mixed in, but I also have a garage and backyard full of fun stuff to train on, so I feel like the convenience is key since I am able to work out and play with my 3 kids at the same time. I feel like this type of home-gym arrangement is beneficial for everyone since it is cheaper than a gym and it allows for more family time, which is one of the things that takes priority over my training!”

But don’t let the smiling face of the Californian let you think his kindness is weakness. Behind it all is a determined and focused individual.

“I want to be a part of the Spartan Race because:

1) It offers a challenge in both the running and obstacle aspect of racing; plus I enjoy learning and adapting my training after each race

2) Spartan Race is always progressing & evolving to keep every race exciting and new, unlike your run of the mill road race

3) Compared to running, the Spartan Race exposes weaknesses in my overall fitness, which encourages me to become a better all-around athlete as well as a guard against injury

4) Now I can finally beat my wife at arm wrestling!”

“I am planning to focus my training for the Spartan World Championship Race in September. But during the next few months, I hope to have some good battles with some of the other top Pro Team guys who have set the bar high.”

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