namely, fit for a dog

it is good medicine

with 10 comments

This post may seem a bit irrelevant given it has been three weeks since the race, but it took me some time to process what exactly happened at the Leadville 100.  So consider this my race report.

Those of us who participate in endurance events get this question a lot:

“So why do you do it?”

6 years ago, when I was attempting the Wasatch 100 endurance run I would tell them “it’s family peer pressure”, because theWife’s father and brother have run that masochism every year for as far back as I can remember.

After Leadville, however, I started to understand exactly why we do these things.

It’s about the people.

We’ve all seen the inspiring story of Rick and Dick Hoyt:

Similar accounts have become television specials or screenplays, but there are thousands more stories happening in races across the country every year that only those who were there can attest.  For those of us participating, there is something incredibly intimate about witnessing such manifestations of life…in person.

You want to know why I twice toed the line of the Wasatch 100?

It’s because of the 70 year old man who crossed the finish line 30 minutes past the 36 hour cutoff time.  Shuffling along, bent over at the waist from exhaustion, but determined to cross that line.  The rest of the finishers and their families were already spread about eating the post race dinner, sharing stories of their two days of suffering on the trail when a collective hush came over the entire crowd as eventually everyone began to notice what was playing out at the finish line behind the post race scene.  The hush turned to rousing applause and cheers as the crowd stood to give everything they had to help will that man across the line.  It didn’t matter that it was unofficial. He finished. He inspired.

Or because of theWife’s dad, who on his first attempt of the Wasatch 100 hobbled into the last aid station at mile 92, well past the cutoff time.  The race volunteers told him he had to abandon, he would never make it, the race for him was over.  David –  exhausted, discouraged, but not beaten – looked the volunteer in the eyes and said “you don’t tell someone who has come 92 miles, to stop going.”  He then picked himself up and hobbled on a bad knee across the last 8 miles in the dark to what 5 hours earlier had been the finish line.  By the time David arrived, everyone had cleaned up and gone home.

Every day I see bad examples of the human spirit.  In the headlines, during the commute, around the office, even in some of the same races that bring out the best in people.

But when, DT crossed the finish line at Leadville in 12:01, despite no one (and I mean NO ONE) giving him any odds of finishing, those bad examples are wiped from memory.  Especially when you hear DT, in tears, tell you it was the words of his daughter echoing in his mind that compelled him to finish:

“Win the race, Daddy, win the race.”

That’s why I do it.

My friends Dug and Holly had a similar experience at Leadville…only they didn’t see the ending, just the drama.  After the final gun went off, signaling the official end of the race, they noticed a wife and two small children still waiting for their dad to finish. In Dug’s words:

“Holly and I turned around and saw her. Standing just over the finish line, holding a hand-scripted sign of pride for her man. And her two small children standing next to her, their hero-dad’s race number painted on their foreheads. All of them openly weeping, standing stock still.”

I don’t know if the guy they were waiting for actually finished the race. But as he suffered along those final miles, using every ounce of strength he could muster to turn those cranks just one more time.  Then one more time.  One. More. Time. I am certain, in his mind’s eye he could see his family waiting at the finish line and he could probably hear them saying…win the race Daddy, win the race.

That’s why I do it.

During one of the Ironman specials NBC airs each October, Al Trautwig said something very insightful during his voice over for the Hoyt segment:

“If you have ever searched for the meaning of life.  Stop.  The answer lies right here.”

Can I get an amen?

P.S.  we had the greatest crew in the history of crews.  thanks to Cicely (one of my inspirations to finish), Dad, Mom, JDub, Dug, Holly, Rachelle, Gina, Rachel.  couldn’t have done it without you all.


Written by eber

September 3, 2009 at 5:32 am

10 Responses

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  1. I shouldn’t be crying this early. Thats a great account of endurance events that unfold all over. Huge props to DT for rising above the pain. I’ll be there next year, if I get in. Great post.

    Nate Kingdon

    September 3, 2009 at 6:42 am

  2. Beautiful. I’m with ya. Jason

    Jason Hess

    September 3, 2009 at 7:13 am

  3. In the comments to dug’s Leadville post, “mtb w” said the dad did finish and it was an emotional moment.

    Doing something hard is noble. I appreciate what you’re expressing, but I have to say Susan has shown me greater nobility. It’s one thing to suffer for hours to complete a race, it’s whole different realm to endure daily pain and be confronted with the imminent end of your life. To battle fear and despair so you can focus on the better things of love, family, creativity and compassion for others – that’s a real champion.

    Perhaps events like Leadville are an homage, a preparation, so when real life challenges come our way we’re better able to deal with them. And participating (competitor, spectator, etc.) in events like Leadville allows us to celebrate the striving of the human spirit without such dire consequences. So while in the grand scheme of things Leadville isn’t a big deal, it’s a whole lot more meaningful than the minutia and fluff that fills most of our days. And that’s worth doing.


    September 3, 2009 at 9:25 am

  4. Amen.


    September 3, 2009 at 9:43 am

  5. Great post man, perfect summary.


    September 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

  6. Well said eber (& KanyonKris as well)! Being a cancer survivor as well as a Leadville “survivor” I have to agree with both of you. Endurance racing is indeed a metaphor for life (at least for me). It is painful and hard and sometimes feels like it will never end, but when the suffering is over and the rejoicing begins, we understand the purposes of this life a little better. I have lost many friends as well as my grandmother to this insidious disease. I will keep racing to honor those whose race was cut short, often in the prime of life. Win like Susan!

    Derron Tanner (DT)

    September 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm

  7. well said (err…typed) KK


    September 4, 2009 at 5:08 am

  8. Zeph – way to go out there man, you put in one heck of an effort and ride – Big props and congrats!


    September 8, 2009 at 10:29 pm

  9. […] days of main-lined awesomeness riding with friends in Fruita. Prior to that I had completed the Leadville 100 in August and LOTOJA in September and was feeling pretty svelte (if I do say so […]

    22 « theZeph

    April 11, 2010 at 8:26 am

  10. […] few days after finishing Leadville last year Sam called and we had this […]

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