Editorial by Tom Demerly.
This Sunday, January 4th, a legend turned 50.
Dave Scott, six times Ironman winner, hit the half-century
Dave Scott is an enormous part
of the reason I got into triathlons. He won the
Ironman from 1980 to 1987. I saw his performances
on TV and read about him in magazines. When his
first book, “Dave Scott’s Triathlon
Training” came out I bought and read it over
No doubt, Dave Scott is and remains a hero
At my very first triathlon, the Big 10 Triathlon,
a half-Ironman outside of Lansing, Michigan back
in the very early ‘80s, Dave Scott was there.
That was over 20 years ago.
I was second from last in the
Big 10 Triathlon. I had an old Schwinn Continental
and had run a couple marathons and was an OK swimmer.
I figured that might get me through the day.
Dave Scott won that race easily of
course, returned to his hotel, showered, came back and went
out on the course on his bike to cheer on the stragglers.
I was the second to last of those stragglers.
I so clearly remember Dave riding along me saying, “That’s
the way, looking good, never give up. Just keep going and
you’ve got it. You’re looking good. Keep it
Imagine what that was like for me. The
hero of my newfound sport cheering me on in my very first
race even though my performance was downright pitiful. He
was right there when the run was getting really tough. I
couldn’t believe it. I was a fan of Dave Scott before,
but now he was a legend to me, and he remains one.
Dave Scott is a bit of
an anachronism. I clearly remember hearing the first interview
with him. His voice is moderately effeminate and gentle. It
is totally out of character with his style of racing. When
you hear him speak you believe he is a fine father and husband,
but you have a tough time visualizing him as a cannibalistic
competitor who pummels his competition and does not take prisoners.
He has destroyed the best triathletes in the sport. Sent them
to the hospital. When Dave Scott won Kona, he sometimes left
bodies on the pavement behind him. Ask Mark Allen, one of
When you see him race, he is frightening.
Dave Scott seemed to race
in one of two modes: Complete control of himself and the race.
At the peak of his fitness and strength when his performances
were masterful or; in a state of physiological destruction
where his movements appeared tortured and zombie like. He
could destroy his competition, but more importantly, he could
destroy himself. He was like a kamikaze pilot who could fly
his plane into the side of a ship but then miraculously walk
away. He was unaffected even by his own destruction. It was
as if his body was the servant of his unflagging determination,
and he frequently took his body to Kona and beat the hell
out of it. His body was strong, his determination stronger.
In 1983 Dave Scott won
the Hawaii Ironman by 33 seconds over Scott Tinley. Dave Scott
had to reach deeper into himself for that victory than (I
believe) any Ironman winner since. If you’ve seen the
tape of Dave Scott winning the 1983 Ironman or you’ve
seen photos of him in that race you know what I am talking
about. He raced to destruction that day. The problem is, his
destruction came at mile 22 of the marathon and he still had
4.2 miles to go, a long way to go when you belong in an emergency
room instead of in 90 degree heat banging out 6:30 miles one
On the outside, Dave Scott
did look demolished in 1983. It was as though he had lost
most control of his running stride. It looked painful and
jerky. The expression on his face looked like he was having
an amputation without anaesthetic. When he hit an aid station
he yelled in desperation for fluids. He threw cups of water,
Coke, Gatorade- anything into his mouth. He was melting down,
but he wasn’t slowing down.
That day his mind did something
no machine could ever do: It kept him going when he was physiologically
incapable of continuing. Exactly like a test pilot breaking
the sound barrier for the first time or an astronaut landing
on the moon or a climber reaching the peak of Everest for
the first time Dave Scott had descended deeper into the abyss
of human determination than anyone I had seen.
When he reached the finish
line his brain knew he was done and he collapsed. One second
he was an invincible endurance athlete, the neck second an
emergency room victim. The only difference between the two
was what was happening in his head.
Mentally, Dave Scott was
stronger than anyone out there. The other Ironman competitors
saw this. They knew they could never go that deep into the
frightening place that is your own mind.
There are many frontiers
in the universe, but none so vast, so simultaneously terrifying
and promising as our minds. What lurks in there? What is possible?
The boundaries will never be fully explored within the relative
nanosecond of a person’s lifespan. But Dave Scott broke
new ground that day. He left the frailty of his body, even
though it was meticulously and rigorously trained, behind
and relied on the one thing so incredibly powerful that anything
is possible- his mind.
I’ll never forget
that performance. It has been a source of inspiration for
me many, many times in life and sport. I'm not the only one
who feels that way. A lot of people owe a lot of inspiration,
wonder and awe to Dave Scott.
In 1989 Dave Scott was
once again back in Hawaii, and once again made history. But
this time he was second.
There had been a rivalry
between Dave Scott and Mark Allen for years. The two were
both exceptional endurance athletes. Both won major races
around the world. But Mark Allen had never won in Hawaii.
Dave Scott had won it six times.
Why hadn’t Allen
won? Dave Scott’s mental game was better. Allen had
weird runs of “bad luck”. Dave Scott’s race
always seemed to “come together”. It was bizarre.
People talked about curses from Madam Pele. She was the wicked
Goddess of the Ironman course who lurked in the lava fields
and rained bad luck on Mark Allen, collecting her “dues”
while he returned for year after year of purgatory before
he passed into the heaven of being a race champion.
But the fact was Dave Scott
was just tougher, more determined and more experienced. Physiologically,
both athletes were probably very similar. Their physical capabilities
where probably almost identical. But mentally, Dave Scott
was the master.
Mark Allen had some kind
of epiphany. He spoke of seeing shamans and becoming at peace
with himself and the race. Whatever it was, Allen addressed
the mental aspect of the race in his own way. Once he did,
he cracked the mental code that was Dave Scott’s secret.
The two raced for over
eight hours right next to one another, within feet of each
other. They swam together, biked together and then ran on
each other’s shoulder. At no time during the race were
they separated by more than a couple seconds or a few feet.
For eight hours they raced
next to one another. And never spoke.
It was so obviously a war
of wills. Dave Scott had done this before. This was Mark Allen’s
first time mastering the mental game.
In the end Allen pulled
away and beat Dave Scott. Both men shattered the previous
course record by an enormous margin. It was and shall remain
the greatest Hawaii Ironman ever. The Duel.
It took two titanic characters
for such a duel, Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Allen went on
to become a legend at Kona winning time after time.
But Dave Scott was first. He was the first man on the triathlon
moon. He was the first legend. And there is only one first.
So Dave Scott turns fifty
today, and I hope he looks back on his accomplishments and
luxuriates in them. They are amazing. Also, I hope he takes
a few moments to consider how many people his performances
touched, and how deeply they touched them.
I looked at what Dave Scott
did and said, “See. Anything is possible. Look at that
man. The only limitations are the ones you have in your mind.”
When you buy an official
Ironman hat or tee shirt now it says, in quotes, “Anything
is Possible”. That has become the tag line for the World
Triathlon Corporation who owns the Ironman trademark. I like
that tag line because it speaks to the possibilities.
Dave Scott was the first
person to show me that in a triathlon, and that is why I started
the sport 22 years ago.