The sun rose slowly over the hills of Southern California Saturday morning. Blue shirts swarmed the hills of Vail Lake in order to bring the Spartan Race to life. Saturday marked the first time that Spartan Race had done both a Super and a Sprint in the same day and the weekend promised to be epic.
Tony Matesi launched the days activities off with the morning Hurricane Heat. The HH is a different kind of event. Not so much a race as a challenge to be taken on. It forces people to work together as a team to overcome obstacles together. Tony took the participants that signed up through his various tortures starting at 6am for a full four hours. For a complete rundown on the HH look for Tony’s report coming later in the week.
Cars filled the parking lot as the Elites began warming up for what promised to be an epic battle. The men’s elite had high-octane racers in Spartan Pro Team members Hunter McIntyre, Matt Novakovich, Miguel Medina, and Chistopher Rutz. The women’s Pro Team showed up in the likes of April Luu, TyAnn Clark, Juliana Sproles, Jenny Tobin and Tiffany Novakovich. The rest of the field outside of the Pro Team was stacked. Rose Wetzel who stormed through Malibu was in attendance as was Laura Messner, and as was expected the legendary Hobie Call came to push the men to their limits and beyond.
The weather on Saturday was sunny, warm, and not a cloud in the sky. It promised to make the course fast, but dangerous as was seen through the day where people cramped up from a lack of sufficient hydration. The Amphib Medics crew, as well as Spartan Race Staff, was there to help those injured on course to safety or to help get them back into the fray.
The Elites took off early for the Super where money was on the line for that event. With the men first out of the gate it was a tight bunch until coming to the first gamble where racers could choose to either take the shorter harder route or the longer faster half of the course. Hobie and Matt “The Bear” Novakovich veered to the right while Hunter took the left shorter route. As Hobie and The Bear came out of their gamble they caught sight of Hunter and the group that went left far up ahead.
Ever the fierce competitor Hobie caught Hunter making it another epic showdown between the two friends. Newcomer John Yatsko form Arizona was right on the heels of the two titans for the men. At the end of the day it was Hobie first, Hunter tacking second, and John in third.
It was universally considered to be one of the toughest women’s fields people had seen in awhile. It seemed to be that only reigning World Champion Amelia Boone, still recovering from a hamstring injury, wasn’t on course. Rose Wetzel and April Luu promised to make this women’s race one to remember trading back and forth on the course until April missed the spear thrown and Rose stuck hers resulting in just the break she needed to take the win. April cruised into the finish line in second place with TyAnn Clark placing third.
The Saturday Sprint was not a money heat but still saw Laura Messner dominate as she warmed up for the Sunday Elite Sprint. Saturday also introduced the first time Spartan Race recognized the top age group finishers from the open heats. 14 year old Josh Novakovich dominated the Under 20 open taking first place overall while placing fourth overall on Saturday in the open.
Sunday the money heats for the Sprint were run and the podiums didn’t look too different. Hunter took first for the men with newcomer John Yatsko in second and Glen Racz in third. For the women it was a tight race. Kk Paul came through the finish line ahead of Rose Wetzel to take first place. A battle between April Luu and TyAnn Clark decided third place. The epic finish came down to the wire as April barely edged out TyAnn for the last podium spot.
The weekend wasn’t just about the Elite’s however. Families spread out on Saturday to cheer on their loved ones as well as soak up some of the beautiful weather that graced the event. New sponsors Core Power Protein delivered much needed post-race beverages to racers at the finish line.
Spartan Race began the year trying some new things with team results and rankings. Each team that signed up were ranked according to the average time of the top 4 finishers on their team. P4L Fitness took top in the team standings with an average time of 53:05 with the mighty Weeple Army (who had 269 racers in attendance) in second and Warrior Showdown placing third. Looks like it’s time to get serious about team racing.
Lastly the great medal question of 2014 came to an end with Spartans receiving the new medal and being told they would need to perform an additional round of burpees for their second medal. The second medal being of course the one everyone had come to expect from previous events. No one walked away disappointed, and the beach by the lake was a swarming mass of muddy bodies flying through burpees in order to collect not one, but two medals. Some even wandered around with four.
As mentioned earlier the 2014 SoCal Spartan was the first time racers could take part in not just one race but had the option to run two distances in one weekend. There were those brave souls taking up the gauntlet thrown down by Spartan Race and running both courses in the same day while others chose to run the Super on Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday. Either way these brave Spartans are two thirds to their Trifecta with only one weekend of racing under their belt in 2014. As we talked to some that had done both they made it abundantly clear that they would be finishing out their Trifecta before the year is out.
The kids races were amazing to behold, especially the Special Needs kids race. Seeing the families going around the course together made it hard to not feel that pull on your heartstrings. Spectators dried their eyes as these amazing families came rolling through the mud together with smiles a mile wide.
All in all the weekend was a huge success with tons of muddy smiling faces, a few cuts, some bruises, but a huge sense of accomplishment and satisfaction by those who raced. Next sop on the Spartan Race calendar, Arizona. Will we see John Yatsko make another appearance and if so will Hunter and Hobie be there to take him to the limit? The best way to find out is to be there. Sign up for the Arizona Sprint and we will see you at the finish line.