Small but Mighty Yara Alves is Having a Historic Spartan Race Season.
High in the mountains of Greece, where myths of gods and warriors were born, there is a modern-day legend in the making.
Her name is Yara Alves – Insta-famous as “Yara Yara Yara” – an elite Spartan athlete with a relentless determination who has captivated the attention of competitors worldwide.
Alves will make history at the 2023 Spartan Trifecta World Championships in the shadows of the ancient city of Sparta, Greece.
There, she is set to tie the Spartan Race record for the most completed Trifectas in a single year – an astounding 33 – with her eye on setting the annual record at 34 in Fiji the following week.
If all goes according to plan, she will complete 39 Trifectas by the end of 2023, pushing the record further out of reach for her competitors.
“Yara’s an amazing example of grit and determination,” Spartan Founder Joe De Sena, who first met her at an Agoge race in 2017, said. “I’m inspired by how she’s used the Trifecta series to build a legacy in our sport.”
Spartan Trifecta Record Holder Yara Alves' Road to Trifecta History
How It All Started
A native of Rancho Cucamonga, California, Alves is the daughter of immigrants – her mother is from Brazil, her father from Portugal – who instilled in her an unrelenting work ethic.
She was athletic as a kid, participating in dance and cheerleading, and competing in karate and gymnastics.
After graduating from Cal State-Fullerton in 2008 with a B.S. and M.S. in Kinesiology and a Secondary Teaching Credential, she had planned to become a physical education teacher.
“I bartended my way through college,” she said, “and after having a hard time finding a job at the right salary level, I decided to go all in and buy a bar.”
She used a business broker to find Liam’s Irish Pub in Colton, California, and has owned and operated it for 15 years. She later bought Spectator’s Sports Pub in nearby Ontario, the same bar at which she'd bartended before buying Liam’s.
“I love running my own business and relying on myself and my work ethic, just like my parents,” she said.
Alves had always been active, but never showed interest in Spartan racing until a gym buddy suggested it.
“She showed me her Super medal, and told me all about this race she thought I would not only enjoy but be good at. I laughed and said, ‘There's no way I'll pay to run!’”
That night, however, Alves went home and researched every aspect of Spartan. She found a Super 10K race in Las Vegas, signed up, and did it alone.
“I got 10th in my age group in the Open category and was so emotional at the finish line, I couldn't believe I did it,” she recalled. “I was hooked.”
In January 2017, Yara won a free season pass by entering a code at a race, and “I went crazy and tried every race I could.”
That year she did 4-hour, 12-hour and even the very first 24-hour Hurricane Heats, and completed Agoges in Vermont, Scotland, and Iceland. She also knocked out 10 Ultras for 64 races total.
After that, the endurance athlete began to race competitively in Age Group heats and occasionally as an Elite for Ultra races, despite the challenge of being one of the smallest Spartans.
“Being 4-foot-10 has always been an internal struggle, mentally and physically, but I didn’t let it stop me,” she said. “The first time I looked at the obstacles, I thought ‘This is so unfair, no way I can reach that high.’ But I don’t make excuses, I’ll either figure it out or I have to do the penalties.”
Sheeing other Spartans overcome challenges, seen and unseen, inspires Yara every day.
“There are all shapes, sizes, colors, ethnicities, and backgrounds out on the course,” she said. “Getting to know so many Spartans, you realize everyone has strengths and challenges.”
Overcoming Life's Obstacles
And Alves has faced her share of challenges.
After 2017 she continued to race, but it didn’t become a way of life until 2021 during a dark time in her life.
While Yara was navigating a COVID-related shutdown of her businesses, she went through a difficult divorce. But she eventually realized that while one version of her life had ended, an entirely new one was opening up.
“In 2017, I went balls out racing,” she said. “But then 2020 hit, I almost lost my bars, and the one person that I thought would be there for me, my husband, wasn’t. Life really hit me in the face.”
Without a steady string of races thanks to COVID, she missed her support network.
“The Spartan community is very big, yet very small," she explained. "It's a place you can go to and forget about work and anything else going on in your life."
“It's a positive outlet. The community is so supportive. Everyone is battling something in their lives, but at the race everyone is equal, no judgements and everyone supports everyone else.”
To jump-start her re-entry into racing, in April 2021 Yara signed up for the Spartan Death Race, realizing that the race day fell on her wedding anniversary – July 20th.
“When I saw that, I said ‘I’m going to go and die and be reborn,’” she said. “For the rest of my life that date will represent my rebirth, the new me.”
The race itself was brutal but transformative.
“We went up and down that mountain so many times,” she recalled. “I cried, I let shit go, I was hallucinating. It was the most insane event I’ve ever done. Emotionally, physically, psychologically. Tough, but it sparked a fire in me.”
The next race season, altered due to COVID, was actually 14 months long (from Nov. 2021 to Dec. 2022) and Alves completed 33 Trifectas – two more than the previous annual record.
“Most people acknowledged it as a record, but I got shit online since, technically, I had two extra months,” she said. “But all that did was inspire me to break it this year.”
Breaking the Record
Alves knew she could break the record in 2023 if she could handle the beating her body would take.
“Trifecta chasing has put my body through hell," she said. "There's little to no time for recovery, let alone training. I race, work, travel, race, work, travel.”
Her secret to keeping up with the training load? It might surprise you.
“I hate running. Hate it. Don’t do it,” she said. “I train by racing almost every weekend."
That means her weeks are spent working at the bars and recovering with Pilates, another passion, before hitting the road again.
On the Road
The travel and logistics of getting to so many different destinations are a whole other challenge.
“I typically travel alone and love to see how big the world is outside of our little bubble we call ‘home,’" she explained. "As a daughter of immigrants, I am comfortable with different cultures. Racing has given me the excuse to go places I would never have thought about going.”
She also feels lucky that she has a loyal group of employees to run her business on weekends, and a supportive group of Spartans to help share the cost once she arrives at a race destination.
“I’ll post where I’m going to be and groups of us will share hotels rooms and rental cars to manage cost,” she said. “I sleep on an air mattress on the floor and use credit-card points earned through my business to pay for flights.”
A Legacy of Inspiration
After earning the record and continuing to stack Trifectas, Alves will cap her year at the 2023 Spartan World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in December. But she’s tempering her expectations.
“I'm not expecting too much since all the other athletes have been training for this for months, but I would be very happy with Top 5 in my Age Group,” she shared.
What will 2024 and beyond hold for the newly crowned Spartan Queen of the Trifecta?
“I’d love to be the first person to hit 300 lifetime Trifectas, and continue to travel and be part of the Spartan family,” she said.
Spartan Trifecta Record Holder Yara Alves, By the Numbers
Time Spent Spartan Racing:
1,204 Hours, 27 Minutes, 10 seconds
Total Distance Covered:
5,407 KM or about 3,360 miles
100 (33 just in 2023 as of the 2023 Sparta Trifecta World Championship, where Yara is her own record, and 39 by the end of 2023)
What is a Spartan Trifecta?
There are three types of Trifectas: weekend, annual, and lifetime.
- To record a weekend Trifecta, an athlete needs to complete one of each Spartan distance – Sprint, Super, and Beast (or Ultra) – over one weekend.
- For an annual Trifecta, an athlete needs to complete one of each race in a calendar year: Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
For a lifetime Trifecta, a Spartan just needs to complete one of each race type with no deadline for completion.
- Trifecta World Record Holder with 33 in one race season, 2022.
- First Spartan to 100 career Trifectas (only one other racer has reached it since)
- Most Ultras in one year, 2021, with 11 (tracking toward 14 by end of 2023)
- 2nd Place: 2021 World Championship Abu Dhabi
3rd Place: 2021 Ultra World Championship Telluride