Beast Code Community: The Inspiration Behind SET 22 — Speyrer's Story

Note: Beast Code is a proud partner & sponsor of Healing Paws for Warriors, for which this SET-22 event is benefiting.

Veteran Geoff Speyrer endures physical challenges to heal himself, inspire others

Google the word “endurance” and you’ll find the following definition:

  • (noun) The fact or power of withstanding an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way. 
  • (adjective) Denoting or relating to a race or other sporting event that takes place over a long distance or otherwise demands great physical stamina. 

Geoff Speyrer checks all the above boxes. He’s endured plenty of pain and trauma in his life – some self-inflicted, most not. Through it all, he’s endured, he’s overcome, and he’s been victorious. And now, he chooses to endure even more — a second SET 22 Challenge — so that others can witness and learn. The Saturday, May 22, event will do more than raise awareness – donations and funds raised will benefit Healing Paws for Warriors, a local nonprofit organization that trains and pairs service dogs with combat veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Military Sexual Trauma (MST) — at no cost to the veteran. HP4Ws uses dogs from shelters, thus potentially saving two lives in the process!

Speyrer’s SET (strength, endurance and training) 22 Challenge is not a walk in the park fundraiser. He will complete a 100-mile bicycle route, a 26.2-mile run/walk, and then flip a 200-pound tire about 600 times all within a 24-hour period. So, endurance is a key word, for sure.

Like a comic character, (Speyrer) has an incredible backstory that can be used to educate and inspire. He has a gift for bringing people together — it’s his superpower.

“Some people do this for time or to go super-fast,” Speyrer said in his slight South Louisiana drawl. Sporting long hair, a bushy beard, and a body well-adorned with tattoos, he is one of the most authentic and personable people you’ll meet. “I’m not super-fast, but endurance is about not giving up. Life is the greatest endurance race there is. I’m doing this for life to keep going.”

There was a time when Speyrer wasn’t sure he wanted to keep going.

Speyrer suffered an injury during his 18-month tour of duty in Iraq as an elite lead vertical gunman and rear vehicle gunman in the U.S Army. Working on an EOD security escort detail responsible for creating a three-hundred-meter safety zone to prevent the bomb-diffusing team from being ambushed, he put his body in harm’s way so that others could do their jobs of keeping everyone else safe.

But one day things went a little more sideways than usual, and Speyrer suffered brain injuries from the percussion of the blasts. Medication to treat the TBI and PTSD caused compartment syndrome, and Speyrer nearly lost his leg from the dangerous levels of swelling and pressure in his muscles. Doctors were able to save the leg, but he was left with a titanium rod, multiple amputated muscles, and ongoing struggles with PTSD and TBI. The unnerving environment of bomb sites, and the carnage from PBAs (post blast analysis), left him with night terrors and thoughts of suicide that led to two attempts at taking his own life.

Wounds and scars heal, but the memories and experiences remain. So Speyrer uses them as lessons for himself, and as a source of inspiration and encouragement to others — particularly his fellow veteran brothers and sisters.

According to a U.S Department of Veteran Affairs study, 22 veterans commit suicide each day.

Speyrer is all too aware of these statistics; he almost became a part of them. And now, he is doing all he can to make a difference in people’s lives and improve those statistics.

“The tough truth about this is — in the time it takes me to do the SET 22 Challenge, 22 veterans will take their lives,” Speyrer somberly stated. “Look, this isn’t for fun. It’s hard, and it will wreck my body. But there’s a very worthy purpose and cause, and that’s why we do this. Sometimes when the uniform comes off, we (combat veterans) lose purpose. Let’s help them.”

HP4Ws

Speyrer discovered HP4Ws through a birthday fundraiser. “I wanted to support a local veteran nonprofit, so I scrolled through the list and I see Healing Paws for Warriors. I looked at their mission, and I was immediately sold. Something I believe in firmly is that we all need purpose in our life. I feel like Healing Paws does that for our veterans.”

So, when Sheila Hale from HP4Ws reached out to Speyrer and asked if he’d be interested in visiting the program, he jumped.

“My first impression was, well, I was very impressed,” Speyrer said. “Veterans telling me their stories — and I know very well how PTSD and TBI can keep a person in a very anxious state where you don’t want to be around anyone. And then I see everyone out and working with their pups. I knew I wanted to help support them going forward.”

But the support works both ways — Speyrer says that co-founders Michael (Arena) and Sheila reach out frequently to ask how he’s doing and if he’s feeling ok. It’s a true connection and support system.

“We participate in veteran peer groups on social media to help our fellow veterans, we meet up for lunch frequently just to see each other,” he said. “We are family. I’ve gone to some of the training sessions and spoken with the veterans, and some of them are my best friends now.”

Motivation 

He didn’t choose strength and endurance training because he loves the physical activity. It’s painful, and he says he loses a ton of weight when he trains hard. Instead, he found it to be an unlikely source of inspiration rather than achievement or health rewards.

“I’m not a huge fan of swimming, and I also originally didn’t like bike riding or running,” explains Speyrer. “But I noticed that when I would cycle or run, I started doing a lot of visualization. Visualizing my goals and thinking about what I wanted to do with my life.”

Injuries will likely prevent him from ‘winning’ a competition, but it’s not about that for Speyrer. It’s about giving people hope — people like veterans having suicidal thoughts, inmates or addicts trying to find their way, or maybe someone who has suffered an injury and thinks they can’t do anything anymore. That’s a true victory and is worth far more than a trophy or a title.

“If I can be a beacon of light or hope to help someone believe in themselves to do better — that’s what draws me to endurance training. I’m not out there to beat anyone. I’m just out there battling demons, facing my fears, and overcoming addiction. I’m showing those (who) believed in me while I was (struggling with) my addiction and was in and out of incarceration, that I figured out a way to do something with the pain and trauma that I allowed to hold me down for so long.”

It’s full circle for Speyrer, as things quickly spiraled out of control when he returned home and tried to fit back into civilian life. After being a fugitive who escaped capture for five years, Speyrer “got tired of running,” was captured and incarcerated. But then he got the help he needed from assistance and rehabilitative programs.

Now, he gives back and shares what he has learned. And he wants to help others.

Training challenges

Training for an SET event takes constant work to build and maintain muscle, but he’s had to lighten up because two months ago he strained a pectoral muscle and injured his groin and lower back.

“That threw a serious monkey wrench in being well-trained for the event. But guess what? That’s life. Life isn’t (always) ideal perfect situations,” said Speyrer.

Being able to recognize and accept a truth in stride and turn the negative into a positive is a key point in his message. Focus on what you can do. Finishing a race is the victory – you don’t have to win it.

“I’m not one-hundred percent where I want to be, and that’s ok. That mentality is key to success and being on top of your game. Look, it’s not fun or easy. Because if it was, then everyone would have 26.2 magnets on their vehicles,” Speyrer, whose intense eyes belie his laid-back nature.

Speaking of intense, Speyrer will finish the SET 22 Challenge with a bang by flipping a 200-pound tractor tire for a distance of one mile at the Destin Elementary track. It’s symbolic – saving the shortest distanced event for last. “Sometimes in what we think is our easiest tasks may come our greatest adversity or challenge,” he said.

While the shortest distance on his legs, he knows his hands will bleed and his upper body will burn.

“But, there is a flag out there, and that flag helps me tie into why (I’m doing this). It’s a constant visual reminder of the love I have for my country and the people in it. I’m truly grateful and humbled to be able to do this, to move my body and to be able to help others.”

Goal & Future Plans

Last year’s event probably blew out some muscles, but it also blew Speyrer’s mind by raising more than $10,000 through private and corporate donations.

“I’m just very grateful for everyone’s support, and that people also believe in what I believe in — helping others get better. Especially our heroes who have given so much.”

And when this year’s event is complete, Speyrer already has big plans and a vision for much more.

“I would love for the SET 22 Challenge to grow into a massive national thing – I want to grow it bigger and better every year. I want SET 22 to become a 501(c) nonprofit across the nation,” he said. “I want people in other cities, heck, in locations across the world, to host a SET 22. Maybe even have three different people form a team to complete it, like one person does the running, another person does the cycling, and a third person does the tire flip. Because this isn’t meant as a competition. My whole thing is about spreading positivity and bringing people together.”

That last point really sums up Speyrer. Like a comic character, he has an incredible backstory that can be used to educate and inspire. He has a gift for bringing people together — it’s his superpower.

“It’s all about finding and making connections,” Speyrer said while pondering his past and how it paves the way for his future. “I’m really not the most outgoing person, but I get asked all the time now to speak to groups, business functions, fundraisers, and even at prisons. And that’s where I find the connection angle is the key.”

Speyrer recalls a speaking event where his superpower really clicked for him for the first time. “This one time I started by asking the group ‘How many in here have been to prison?’ And I was the only one who raised their hand. They were all dressed nice and there probably wasn’t a single tattoo or stray hair in the room other than me. So, I thought ‘oh man, I have nothing in common! What am I gonna do? This is a tough crowd’,” he said.

But then he reflected upon his time in the military and the lesson of “adapt and overcome,” and he used it to turn a negative into a positive.

“So, I looked back up and asked ‘Anyone here love dogs?’ And almost every hand went up. Then I asked ‘Anyone know a veteran?’ And about half raised their hands. And I was like “Ok, there we go. That’s why I’m here. Let’s talk!’,” he said.

  For additional details about the event or the specific route & locations, visit https://beast-code.com/news/posts/enduring-pain-wounded-warriors-gain. For details from the organizer and how to donate & get involved, visit https://www.healingpawsforwarriors.org/set22.