Florida veteran takes on intense challenge: ’A hero should never feel alone’
Geoff Speyrer weighed 202 lbs. Friday.
He stepped on the same scale Saturday, this time weighing 183.
The U.S. Army veteran is 19 lbs. lighter after completing a challenge he created to raise awareness for veteran suicide, and raise money for Mission 22, a nonprofit that helps veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and substance abuse issues. His challenge, SET 22 (strength endurance training), involved a 100-mile bicycle ride from Destin to Panama City starting at midnight Friday, followed with a marathon that started at the Destin Athletic Club and a mile’s worth of tractor tire flips around the track next to Destin Elementary School.
“I felt like I was at 100% several times throughout it and I just had to dig deeper,” Speyrer said. “I knew there was no giving up; I knew there was no turning back. I was going to complete this challenge no matter what.”
Speyrer raised more than $9,000 by the time he finished at 9 p.m. Friday alongside fellow fitness enthusiasts Sean Kamm and Christopher Caravello. The fundraiser is still available for donations on his Facebook page at Facebook.com/geoff.speyrer.
Six months ago, Speyrer could barely finish a 5K.
He smoked cigarettes and averaged a winded 10-1/2 minute running mile on a good day. Then he met Zoltan "Zoli" Nagy, the owner of Destin Athletic Club and everything changed.
“I quit smoking cigarettes that day,” Speyrer said. “That began the process of getting to where I am now. I can run 40 (to) 50 miles in a day.”
Speyrer trains every day at that club – often running there from his Destin home before the sun rises and getting home after it sets. He bikes to Panama City weekly on his single speed bike and flips tires in the meantime.
Nagy, who does cross training with Speyrer, said the event Friday was a “very big” mental and physical challenge.
“Geoff’s work ethic is outstanding,” Nagy said. “He put the work in and that’s how he was able to accomplish it. If you don’t put the work in, halfway through you collapse. You have to put in the work and you have to believe in it, too.”
Speyrer came up with the idea for SET 22 because he wanted to inspire people amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is my purpose,” Speyrer said. “I wanted to do something with my training. “Whenever you see someone go do a huge event that came from absolutely nothing, that’s inspiring.”
It was hot and humid Friday. Speyrer downed four gallons of water throughout the 21-hour event.
His body was the freshest for the bicycle ride.
“The run was extremely hard, because it was in the middle of the day,” Speyrer said. “I don’t know very many people who ride 100 miles on a single speed and then go and run a marathon afterwards, where you’re going to be running through the hottest part of the day, and convert over to a tire flip.”
The tire flipping was the shortest part, but also the most difficult. Speyrer was already spent.
“My back was locking up; I had knots in my back,” Speyrer said. “My shoulder was giving me a lot of problems. I probably threw up about four times doing the tire flip. I tore a lot of the skin off of my hands.”
And Speyrer still went to the gym the next day, showing up a little late for him though – around 7:30 a.m. instead of his usual 4 or 5 a.m., he said. He treated himself to a whole pizza, too.
“It’s OK to splurge on a pizza when you burned 15,000 calories right?” Speyrer said with a laugh.
Finishing the challenge was the best part. Speyrer couldn’t have done it without all of his supporters and donors, he said.
“It’s probably one of the proudest moments of my life, because I know what I did was for something much bigger than myself,” Speyrer said.
Speyrer’s fundraiser was personal and important to him. He referenced the statistic estimating 22 veterans commit suicide a day.
“I’ve been there,” Speyrer said. “I’ve struggled with PTSD. I’ve struggled with suicide before. I ended up in the ICU twice (after) intentional overdoses. I was done. I had given up in my life, felt like I didn’t have a purpose.”
Speyrer has lost several friends to suicide, too, he said. He doesn’t want the same fate for others.
“A hero should never feel alone,” Speyrer said. “They shouldn’t feel like there’s no other option.”
This story originally published to newsherald.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.