The DQ-ing of Fatty, Part 3: Big Motor, Huge Heart

09.24.2014 | 8:17 am

A Note from Fatty: This is part 3 in my race report on the Jordanelle Triathlon. Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.

It was a strange feeling, being in a race and having every intention of racing hard…but also knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to say I had finished it. I had just put in a blisteringly fast ride, but I hadn’t done the official course. 

When I finished the race, I was going to DQ myself.

It was…liberating.

Like I Was Standing Still

But that didn’t mean I intended to amble my way through the race. No. I had worked hard to get ahead of The Hammer, The Swimmer, Cory, and Lynette; I was not going to let any of them come cruising by me during the run. 

If anyone wanted in front of me, were going to have to earn it.

I got rid of my helmet (aero isn’t that big of an advantage when you’re going only 6mph) and swapped bike shoes for my Altra Paradigms — the road version of the highly cushioned shoe that’s made it possible for me to actually enjoy running.

Or at least, to not dread it altogether.

I started out on my 10K run slowly. And by slowly, I mean, “by walking.” I’ve found that if I give myself fifty feet of walking between the bike ride and the run, the change of leg motion doesn’t feel quite so strange and achy.

Then I ramped up from “slowly” to “running so hard I was feeling like I was going to hurl.” But I didn’t care about the pain (OK, I cared a little, but not as much as I should have). I was running well. I’d go so far as to say I was pretty much having the run of my life. Check out my splits from the Strava of my run

Screenshot 2014 09 24 07 02 15

You see that? I (usually) kept my speed above nine-minute miles, and averaged an 8:50 pace. For me, that’s fast.

However, within the first two miles, a guy — a guy I’ve met before — came flying by me. Probably doing a 7:30 pace.

Heath Thurston, recently-retired pro triathlete and all-around good guy. 

It wasn’t surprising that Heath passed me. No. What was surprising was that Heath passed me while going uphill…and he was pushing a jogging stroller with what looked like a ten year-old girl inside.


My Favorite Part of the Race

The Jordanelle running course starts out on pavement, but then it turns off onto a dirt path, where you’re sent up and down and all around a picnic area. 

Which was great for me: I much prefer running on dirt.

But some of the sections in the run are steep. So steep, in fact, that a lot of the people I saw were walking them.

And Heath…well…even a powerhouse like Heath would have trouble pushing ninety pounds up that hill.

I managed to catch up with Heath, grabbed a side of the push bar, and joined him in getting the stroller up to the top of that hill.

While I did, he told me that this was his niece and he had actually been pulling / pushing her through the whole race.

I was astonished, and suddenly really glad I had DQ’d — if I had still been “in” the race, I doubt I would have taken the time to push along with Heath and talk with him about what he was doing. As it is, I got to have the whole story, which I asked Heath to write up and send to me, so I could pass it along to you. 

After retiring as a pro triathlete this past winter, I felt pretty lost. Being a pro triathlete was basically all I had known for the past decade.

NewImageBut I had an idea.

My oldest daughter has cerebral palsy and special needs; bringing her along with me through a race had been something I’d wanted to do for years and years…but she was always so shy and would end up not wanting to do it when it came right down to the race.

I asked her if she wanted to do the Echo Tri at the end of June; she once again said no. So I asked a friend of mine that has a daughter (Emery) with an undiagnosed disorder if I could pull her daughter through that race.

I then told Kida that she could babysit her in the swim part, so Emery wouldn’t fall out. Finally, she agreed to that.

At Echo, I pulled my daughter and Emery through the swim, then just Emery through the rest.  


At East Canyon Tri, I pulled Kida and another friend’s daughter Olivia through the whole Olympic race. That was a tough one!


Then at Jordanelle (where you saw me) I was pulling my Niece Kindra that has Sturge-Webber syndrome through that olympic course. It was so great to see you on the course that day and to have you run with me and my niece and have you help push Kindra up the hill and thought the weeds. That’s what triathlon and sport are about.



Finally I just had the opportunity to  be able to pull a good buddy of mine Carlos that I used to work with years ago through the Tri Utah Ogden Championships. We set out to do the Half distance but due to some complications and time, we adapted on the fly, doing the 1.2-mile swim, 35 miles on the bike, then the olympic 10k run course.  

All of these races this year have really saved me.  After retiring I felt extremely lost and depressed; I suffer from depression and anxiety but this year was extremely bad, because I use training and racing to self-medicate. Doing these races with and for these kids and friends was probably the best and most important thing i’ve ever done in Triathlon.  

Having a child with special needs is very difficult, but it’s also the most rewarding thing, because the spirit and personality of these kids is absolutely amazing and teaches me so so much about what’s really important in life.  

I don’t really have much in the way of what I’d call a life philosophy, but I do have one pretty simple personal rule that helps me a lot: Find a way to make the world a better place by doing what you love. 

Heath owns that rule. That guy obviously has a big motor, but — a lot more importantly — he’s got a huge heart.


Heath and I parted ways — he re-passed and gapped me, stroller and all — and I continued my race on my own, looking over my shoulder and hoping that I wouldn’t see any of my own crew bearing down on me.

And I didn’t. I crossed the finish line first of my friends and family, then walked over to the timing table and told them to DQ me, and why.

Apparently, the DQ didn’t take, because I got called up to the podium — I had placed third in my age group. So I walked up and said, “Hi, remember me? I DQ’d myself.” 

As our group drove home, we talked about what an incredible day we had all had. The Swimmer had won her age group, The Hammer and Lynette had each taken second in their age groups, Cory had taken first in Clydesdale, and Amber had taken second in women’s overall.

I, in fact, was the only one in our group who had not got on the podium. 

But I had had such a great day.


  1. Comment by Mark in Bremerton | 09.24.2014 | 8:39 am

    Just makes you feel good, doing the right thing. And the cool thing for those who truly appreciate it. Great story!

  2. Comment by Daniel Weise | 09.24.2014 | 8:48 am

    Damn you Fatty, something has gotten in my eyes here at work and they are watering…Well done for the whole crew, not only for their finishes but also to you for maintaining your integrity with the self DQ.

    I absolutely agree with your life philosophy and I just wish many more people felt the same.

  3. Comment by Jeff Dieffenbach | 09.24.2014 | 9:07 am

    I rode a pretty cool ride in Boston this past weekend–the Hub on Wheels. The highpoint is the closing of Storrow Drive/Soldiers Field road to make them bikes only. But despite my love of ride reports, there simply wasn’t anything all that interesting. Tops, perhaps, was the guy towing the sound system and blasting Vampire Weekend.

    So what I want to know, Fatty, is whether drama chases you, or you chase drama?

    I’d like to propose a third option: I have a gift for noticing and telling the story of high points / low points of an event. Nothing happens to me that doesn’t happen to other people. I just look for the story in everything I do. If you and I rode side-by-side in the Hub on Wheels, I guarantee I’d have a massive story to tell. And some of it might even be true.

    That might have come off as boastful. OK, it WAS boastful. But you know, I think it’s OK for me to acknowledge and be proud of a gift I have. – FC

  4. Comment by Doug (Way Upstate) | 09.24.2014 | 9:27 am

    Thanks Elden. You helped me smile just a little today.

  5. Comment by BigRedClydesdale | 09.24.2014 | 9:34 am

    So were you officially DQ’d or did they decide you were better off on the podium?

    I think they forgot to DQ me when I first told them. (I don’t blame them for that, the timing tent of any race is a pretty hectic place.) When I went up to the organizer during the awards and reminded them of my DQ, they called up the new 3rd place guy instead and made my DQ official on the results. – FC

  6. Comment by NancyJBS | 09.24.2014 | 10:17 am

    Thanks for messing up my mascara again. Oh wait! I don’t wear mascara… what the heck?

    This story was made so much better by taking it slow. Another gem!

  7. Comment by Welnic | 09.24.2014 | 10:31 am

    Wow. What a great story.

  8. Comment by Heidi | 09.24.2014 | 10:42 am

    Oh, how lovely. Bless Heath’s big fuzzy heart and wishing him all the best. I love – and am happily living – a version of your philosophy.

  9. Comment by Cyclingjimbo | 09.24.2014 | 10:42 am

    Big motor, bigger heart. Kudos to Heath for putting himself out there for others.

    Thanks for the great write-up – nice combination of entertaining banter / edge of the seat thriller and reminder of why so many of us do what we do.

  10. Comment by Bigscrod | 09.24.2014 | 10:51 am

    Dick Hoyt recently retired from a long run of taking his son through the Boston Marathon and several Tris. Others have followed his example and there are more and more parents of special needs kids taking this up.

  11. Comment by Liz M. | 09.24.2014 | 11:31 am

    Congratulations to Heath and Kindra and thanks to both of you for telling this story! Very inspiring. Heath has found a great second act. Best wishes.

  12. Comment by Jacob | 09.24.2014 | 11:38 am

    There’s a local race I do every year on the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp and it’s a fundraiser for a charity that works with kids in similar situations. This year they had several volunteers to help some of the kids helped by the charity to do the race exactly like that. It was awesome seeing guys who normally would have been smoking me on the course tooling along well behind me (bike and run were out-and-back courses so I always saw them at some point) looking a lot happier than normal with these kids either behind or in front of them.

    Yeah, I would love to do this myself. The problem is that the only event I’m strong enough to do it is the bike (and maybe kinda sorta on a run if it’s not too long). For the swim, I’d be a non-starter, unlike Heath, who was able to pull TWO kids in a raft. – FC

  13. Comment by blair | 09.24.2014 | 11:41 am

    dude is some sort of superhero. no wonder they wear spandex. it’s to be like him.

  14. Comment by centurion | 09.24.2014 | 11:50 am

    After reading Heath’s story, I don’t really care about yours. Sorry.

    Awwww. Not even a little bit? – FC

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 09.24.2014 | 12:11 pm

    Fatty, what a wonderful story. Thanks for noticing it, and for have Heath share.

    Now back to my regularly scheduled weird remarks…

    “…where you’re sent up and down and all around a picnic area.

    Which was great for me…

    picnic area, huh? Yeah, I bet it was great for you!

  16. Comment by Slo Joe | 09.24.2014 | 12:20 pm

    Entertaining and more importante: Inspirational!

    One question: When you weren’t sure which way the course went, why not stop and ask the marshall? I know: You’re a man and there is no way you’d ask for directions, eh?

    I did in fact yell “Which way?” at the marshal. She didn’t answer; my guess is she didn’t understand the question. There was a lot of noise with all the cars, and she was mostly occupied with directing racers who were coming from the other direction. There probably should have been more people managing this intersection. – FC

  17. Comment by Corrine | 09.24.2014 | 12:24 pm

    What a great story! Thank you for sharing. And I think you do have a talent for finding the story in all of your adventures. That’s part of why we all keep reading your blog. Heath is a hero in my book.

  18. Comment by Jeff Bike | 09.24.2014 | 2:26 pm

    I like the way you point out the need for better marshaling with out throwing the individual under the bus. That would be easy to do and you took care to be kind to the volunteer even if the job was not completed. You get points for that but Heath gets a lot more points for his whole race.
    Sorry you got Dairy Queened but your Banana Split times are impressive. (can’t help it, thanks @bikemike)

  19. Comment by Christina | 09.24.2014 | 3:41 pm

    Athletes in Tandem does the same thing. They are located out of Fort Collins, CO, and Dennis who runs it has completed multiple IronMan competitions while partnered with an athlete. I did my only triathlon last spring because it was to benefit his organization. The smiles on the athletes faces are always so awesome.

    And I like that you’re a stand up guy who doesn’t cheat.

    I’m going to have to look into that. Sounds like a good organization. – FC

  20. Comment by PNP | 09.24.2014 | 4:26 pm

    Okay, point and laugh if you want to, but there’s something I don’t understand. You went off course, but then you went back and got on the course, right? So didn’t you just add distance, but really did do the whole course (which would making your placing even more impressive)? Or did you cut across somewhere to get back to the course? Or is there a rule that if you deviate from the course at all, you’re disqualified? See, this is important, because if I’m ever crazy enough to enter a race (yeah, that’ll happen…), I need to know these things!

    The way I left the course and then re-joined it meant that I probably did about 0.25 miles less distance than the official course. The time difference would be negligible, though (maybe), because I had to come to a complete stop and wait for traffic to clear before I could make a left turn to rejoin the course. In the end, though, longer or shorter / more time or less doesn’t matter. I was at a race and didn’t ride the defined course. – FC

  21. Comment by BamaJim | 09.24.2014 | 8:56 pm

    Big motor, huge heart – that’s something we all should aspire to. Great story!

  22. Comment by PNP | 09.24.2014 | 9:51 pm

    Thanks for the information. Now I know!

    Still, the way it worked out was amazing. Funny how things work out sometimes, isn’t it?

  23. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.25.2014 | 6:58 am

    FatCyclist – Doing good since I don’t know when!

    Thanks for the story and the story within the story and so on and so forth…

  24. Comment by Tom in Albany | 09.25.2014 | 6:59 am

    Look out, Fatty. Alpha Genix is accusing you of taking nice knowledge… :-))

  25. Comment by Dave T | 09.25.2014 | 9:11 am

    Wow didn’t see that one coming. Great job Heath indeed a huge heart and what power to have caught fatty and passed him pushing Emery. Congratulations to you all.

  26. Comment by J | 09.25.2014 | 12:32 pm

    “If anyone wanted in front of me, were going to have to earn it.”

    I think your typing mishaps are overshadowed but how touching the experiences are…

    There seems to be some karmic law that causes people who point out typos to make at least one typo themselves. – FC

  27. Comment by J | 09.25.2014 | 10:39 pm

    I blame autocorrect. As I typed, my phone wanted to alter “blame autocorrect” to “balm auto current” as a predictive suggestion. Not too sure what that says of me though.

  28. Comment by slo joe | 09.26.2014 | 5:55 pm

    Belated kudos to Heath and you. You do end up a winner in more ways than one.

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