Midway • Dressed in green shorts and a green shirt, with died-green hair to match, Salt Lake City's Andrew Dransfield approached the first obstacle at Saturday's Reebok Utah Spartan Beast race without fear.
"Into the trenches, boys!" Dransfield yelled, diving headfirst into a shallow, 12-foot-wide ditch filled with dark, muddy water.
He scrambled out the other side to continue the race, only to return to the trench to help a friend look for his shoe, which was stuck and lost momentarily in the mud.
Dransfield, a 20-year-old college student who break dances to stay in shape, had no problem with his own shoes getting stuck in the mud – he ran the race barefoot.
"I wanted the hardest challenge possible," Dransfield said after finishing in just over two hours.
For most competitors, the Utah Spartan Beast race was difficult enough even with the proper footwear.
The Reebok Spartan Race series holds races year-round in locations across North America, Great Britain, Australia, Mexico and Slovenia. There are three race distances that the series contests: the Spartan Sprint, a 3-mile long course with 15 or more obstacles; the Super Spartan, an 8-mile course with 20 or more obstacles; and the Spartan Beast, which is roughly 12 miles with 25 or more obstacles.
"Our goal is to empower people to do things they normally wouldn't do," said Mike Morris, Spartan Race's vice president of production. "We want to provide a medium to rip people off their couches and give people motivation to do better things."
Saturday's race at Soldier Hollow in Midway was a Spartan Beast, with racers traversing a course that weaved up and down 12 miles of mountains, with 28 obstacles scattered throughout. Obstacles ranged from swimming through mud, carrying buckets of rocks up and down a hill, and throwing a javelin – an homage to the Greek warriors after which the race is named.
Erda's Hobie Call won the race with a time of 1 hour 29 minutes, but it wasn't just because the race was in his home state. Call is the current overall points leader in 2013 and is a veteran Spartan racer.
While most racers weren't competing for points like Call, there was certainly a sense of accomplishment, and exhaustion, at the finish line.
Bobby Long of Lolo, Mont., is a skier and said that the Spartan races help him keep in shape for the winter. He and his girlfriend ran a Spartan Sprint in Montana earlier this year and decided to come try the Utah Spartan Beast on Saturday.
"I hit a major wall and just crashed in the middle," Long said. "But I found some extra strength and picked up my pace near the end. It's all mental."
Long called the Spartan Race series, with the difficult obstacles and new challenges it presents, "his generation's version" of distance running. "Those are boring because they're so monotonous. This is more stimulating."
The last mile of the Utah Spartan Beast race was far from boring. Competitors had to swing across 12 monkey bars, climb a 15-foot knotted rope, crawl or roll through mud under 50-yards of barbed wire, climb a 10-foot wall, jump over a fire pit and finally cross the finish line while being hit by volunteers wielding pugil sticks.
So what was the hardest obstacle?
"The whole damn thing," Long said.
"It was super challenging," Dransfield said. "But it makes you feel like a champion."