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Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Demerly During the Eco Challenge.

This Sunday, January 4th, a legend turned 50. Dave Scott, six times Ironman winner, hit the half-century mark.

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 and over.

No doubt, Dave Scott is and remains a hero to me.

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 up.

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 his victims.

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 after another.
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.
Until 1989.
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.

Thank you very much Dave, and have a happy birthday.

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