DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
BURNET — If slogging through three-plus miles of mud, dirt and obstacles seems like a fun way to spend your off time, then the next couple of weekends are just for you. The Spartan Race Series returns to Reveille Peak Ranch on May 9-10 and May 16-17 with both the Sprint and Super events.
John Berkman is eyeing his first Spartan Sprint on May 16. He’ll take the challenge along with his wife, Lauren, two other couples and the media tech person from his church, Hill Country Fellowship of Burnet. Berkman, who brings to the table an athletic background, admitted this was definitely a bit out of his regular routine, which, to some degree, is the point.
“So often in life, we come across things that are new to us, but we’re not always willing to step out of the box,” he said. “But taking those steps and trying something new or out of our comfort zone, it helps us grow as a person. It helps us to see what we are capable of.”
Berkman makes it clear he’s not heading into this Spartan Sprint expecting to win. In fact, the three couples and tech are running it together — as a team — to help each other along the way.
“Our goal is to finish and help each other,” he said. “Plus, have a good time.”
Damon Beierle has a different approach this year. Since entering his first Spartan Sprint in 2013 at Reveille Peak Ranch, he hasn’t missed one and has even traveled to compete in other Spartan Series events. This year, he’s set a tough goal: race across all four days. That means he’ll open May 9 with a Spartan Super of eight or more miles and 20 or more obstacles and turn around May 10 and hit the Spartan Sprint of three or more miles and 15 or more obstacles. The next weekend, he’ll return and do it again, but in reverse.
“Yeah, it does sound a bit tough,” Beierle said.
But he’s not going full bore in all four. Instead, his plan is to race hard in the May 9 Super and the May 16 Sprint. During the May 10 Sprint and May 17 Super, he plans on hitting the course and helping others along the way.
The Spartan, after all, has changed his life in several ways, and he wants to make sure others get the same opportunity.
In 2012, Beierle was working the beverage area at Reveille Peak Ranch the first year the facility hosted the Spartan Series. Like many people from the outside looking in, Beierle thought the participants were a bit, well, crazy.
But as he watched them cross the finish line and start sharing their experiences, he began to have a different view. Something began taking root inside of him. At the time, Beirele was overweight and wasn’t working out. Not long after, he began working out at Mad Dawg Fitness in Burnet.
In 2013, with several months of working out behind him, Beierle entered his first Spartan Race in Burnet. His two coaches from Mad Dawg Fitness ran alongside him.
“I was by no means an athlete or in perfect shape,” he said. “It was a tough race. It was a rough race. I didn’t do very well.”
Despite the struggles, Beierle found something in obstacle-course racing that he enjoyed. Later that year, he competed in a Spartan Beast at another location. The Beast punishes competitors over 12 miles and 25 or more obstacles. Though he’d been working out regularly, the Beast brought Beierle to his knees — literally.
“I finished the last bit on my hands and knees,” he said. “The Spartan staff was telling me to quit, but I just couldn’t.”
Enough is enough, one would expect. But Beierle explained competitions such as the Spartans aren’t just about the race; they help you grow as a person. They give you the tools and motivation to take on anything in life, not just a patch of mud or a wall with a rope hanging down from the top of it.
Last year, Beierle returned to Reveille Peak Ranch and competed in the Sprint and Super. Then, several months later, he tackled the Beast again.
This time, the outcome was different. He slashed more than two hours off his first time and crossed the finish line strong.
As much as the race is physical, Beierle said a lot of it is also about the experience. He talks fondly about running with the rest of the Mad Dawg Fitness team.
Those experiences are something Berkman added as a big reason he, his wife and the others from his church are jumping into the Spartan Sprint.
“It’s something that challenges yourself, but it’s also a great chance to build relationships with people,” he said. “We’ll go through this together, helping each other along the way. And when it’s over, we’ll have this great experience that we shared. We’ll probably laugh a lot about it, too — I hope.”
Berkman admitted he hasn’t spent much time training for the Spartan.
“It will be interesting being it’s the first time,” he said.
Beirele, who entered his first Spartan almost on a whim the day of the event, offered a bit of advice to folks hitting the course for the first time.
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” he said. “Stop saying that and say, ‘I can do this.’ People’s physical limits are way beyond their mind tells them.”
Second, he said, is hydrate well before the race. He wears a CamelBack with Gatorade or a similar drink in it to replenish electrolytes. Along the way, Spartan Race officials set up water stations. Beierle doesn’t miss a water station.
He also advised having a reason for running the race. Beierle said one of the reasons he steps on the Spartan course is for his daughter.
“When my daughter sees me finish these races that I start, I think she’s at the age where she understands how much you can do something if you’ll just keep working at it,” Beierle said. “So I think one of the things that keeps me going out there is I want to be an inspiration to my daughter.”
Go to www.spartan.com for more information on the series or to register.