KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii– While other endurance athletes his age have long ago traded their athletic careers for fatherhood and business pursuits, Dave Scott has yet to accept the competitive limits of middle age.
The six-time winner of the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon, will compete Saturday in the 20th edition of the sport’s most well-known event for the 10th time and at ripe old age of 42.
Scott, who claimed the first of his Ironman titles in , believes he can still thrive at an elite level.
“It’s a strange thing as you get older, you think you’re going to lose it all, and certainly your priorities change,” said Scott. “But I still have the desire to go out there and make myself uncomfortable.”
After winning his six titles and never finishing lower than second in the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, Scott and compatriot Mark Allen battled in the event’s most famous duel in 1989.
Scott and Allen, the course record-holder who also now has six titles, ran stride-for-stride in the marathon until Allen surged with two miles left and won by 58 seconds over Scott, who registered his third runner-up finish.
Beset with lingering leg injuries, Scott announced his retirement after the race.
Five years later, however, Scott returned to Hawaii in 1994 and at age 40 finished second to Australian Greg Welch with a time of 8 hours and 24 minutes.
Now, after not competing last year, he’s returning again to compete against rivals 15 years younger.
While he’s unlikely to improve his swim or cycling, Scott believes a fast marathon is the key to success. Allen ran a 2:40:04 marathon and Scott 2:41:03 in 1989, the fastest two marathons ever in the Ironman.
“As you get older, it certainly takes longer to get fit,” said Scott, a former collegiate swimmer and water polo star. “All these young stallions will recognize it as they older. But I still have the eagerness.”
This year, while Welch and other perennial top finishers such as Cristian Bustos of Chile, Peter Kropko of Hugary and Americans Ken Glah and Jeff Devlin are expected to provide Scott’s competition, Germans have made the biggest surge in the sport in recent years.
Last year in Hawaii, nine of the top 25 finishers were Germans, including runner-up Thomas Hellriegel.
Last June German Lothar Leder clocked the fastest Ironman distance race time in history when he claimed his country’s Ironman in 7:57:02. Leder’s time eclipsed Scott’s previous all-time mark by four minutes set in Japan in 1989.
“I didn’t lose any sleep over losing the record; it was inevitable it was going to fall,” said Scott.
Still, Scott feels good about his chances.
“Everyone has a plan and part of the plan is your own plan, your own preparation,” said Scott. “You have to have confidence in where you’ve been before. The confidence I have is that I’ve done the training.”