Competitors gain more than they give up at Spartan Race in Burnet


BURNET — As Max Cardenas slogged his way through the four miles of obstacles and trails during the 2012 Spartan Race at Reveille Peak Ranch, the restauranteur didn’t realize how the three-hour ordeal would change his life.“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” he said. “It took me about three hours to finish. But I felt incredible when I crossed that line.”

Compare his time to some of the top finishers, who wrapped up the course in less than an hour, and one might think Cardenas would be better off giving up such events. But as he crossed the finish line, Cardenas knew he would be back — and he would be better.

Now, about 12 months later and less than a week before the start of the the 2013 Spartan Race, Cardenas is 40 pounds lighter and can cover a 5,000-kilometer run in less time than his trainer and friend, Greg Lopez.

“We held the Mad Dawg Fitness run (about two weeks ago), and he actually beat me,” said Lopez, the gym owner of Mad Dawg Fitness ( and a Spartan competitor. “I think that’s one of the things about the Spartan is it motivates you to get better. And that’s something you take with you in all areas of your life, not just your fitness.”

Even Lopez has accomplished goals the past year in preparation for the upcoming Spartan event he never thought he could including running eight miles a day three times a week. His gym members also are seeing the benefits of the race. About 20 have signed up for the Mad Dawg team that will compete in the 2013 Spartan Race on May 18-19 at Reveille Peak Ranch, 104 CR 115.

Cardenas said the race changed his life. He had already lost 15 pounds leading up to last year’ event, but the Spartan motivated him to dramatically change his lifestyle to one geared for health and fitness.

The Spartan Race is the brainchild of co-founders Joe DeSena and Andy Weinberg. The race, which attracts several hundred thousands of competitors at events across the country and around the world, is one of the most well-known in obstacle-course racing. The Burnet event draws 2,000-3,000 participants during the weekend alone. Competitors face not just running but many obstacles along the course. Organizers don’t tell participants which obstacles are on the course, but let the competitors “discover” them along the way.

While the Spartan looks like a weekend race filled with fun and frivolity, DeSena said it was always something more.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” he said. DeSena and Weinberg drew on their backgrounds and experiences in creating the Spartan.

“I’ve been hiring people all my life, and he had been training swimmers all his life. But we found that people quit all the time, and it just got frustrating,” DeSena said. “We said, ‘Let’s create an event like no other that will break people.’ At the end, those left will be like Joan of Arc, Rocky Balboa and Russell Crowe in ‘The Gladiator.’ We wanted something that would challenge people and make them want to work harder.”

In 2010, the Spartan Race hit the ground.

“We thought a few hundred might show up,” DeSena said. “Now, we have (several hundred thousand) a year who show up.”

And he’s seen the changes it’s made in competitors’ lives, over and over.

“We have one guy who has lost 460 pounds,” DeSena said.

Angie Robinson, a military wife and mother of two, has lost 150 pounds since adopting a healthier lifestyle. While she began transforming her life by simply walking and then participating in Zumba, Robinson said events such as the Spartan definitely helped her along that road.

“It’s a motivator to see what you really can do,” she said. “But you have to prepare, and that means getting up and doing something. You start with small goals like I did and just keep going for the next one. My daughters, they see what I’ve accomplished (she once weighed 300 pounds), and they now see it’s a lifestyle and fitness is fun.”

Beyond the fitness, the race and training help people dig within themselves and go a bit further.

“I like to say a little suffering every day is good for you,” DeSena said. “Sometimes having everything too easy is not good for you.”

The Spartan forces people to overcome obstacles during the race. Each one moves them closer to the finish line. People can give up at any time during the race, but the rewards come to those who don’t throw in the towel and push through.

The same holds true in other parts of participants’ lives, DeSena pointed out.

“Life is full of obstacles,” he said. “If you just keep going, keep pushing yourself and keep working at it, you’ll get there. Just like in the Spartan.”

Lopez agreed.

“I think what’s important about the race is if you step out of your own comfort zone as a person and finish the race, you get a tremendous boost of self-confidence. And you realize that if you can do this, then there’s nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it,” the trainer said. “The race teaches you so much about going further than you typically do.”

Cardenas recalled crossing the finish line last year with his wife, Amber Cardenas.

“It was an awesome feeling,” he said. “The race was a brutal, but I thought, ‘Now I can do anything.'”

He plans on crossing in less than an hour this year.

The Spartan experience even impacted his business, the Maxican Restaurant in Burnet, where he’s added a page to the menu featuring healthier items.

DeSena isn’t surprised by any of it.

“That’s what we wanted it to do,” he said.

For more information on the Spartan, go to For more information on the venue, Reveille Peak Ranch, go to


WHAT: The Spartan Race

WHERE: Reveille Peak Ranch, 105 CR 114, located west of Burnet off RR 2341

WHEN: May 18-19; on May 18, remote parking opens at 6 pa.m.; ranch gates open and shuttles begin at 7 a.m.; race heats are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Biggest Loser Off-Road Challenge is 9:15 a.m.; and Kids Challenge hosted by Kids Fit Foundation is noon. On May 19, remote parking opens at 6 a.m.; ranch gates open and shuttle begins at 7 a.m.; race heats are 8 a.m.-noon.

COST: Race registration closes May 15 at; spectators are $20 online or $25 at the gate; parking is $10. Volunteers get free access. Volunteers can register online.