As John Liebeskind keeps asking, what would Dave do? That’s the question a lot of us have been asking ourselves lately in our local community, since our friend, coworker, mentor, pacer and long distance companion Dave “El Condor” Bateham passed away recently due to complications from heart surgery.
Gabi named Dave “El Condor”, as she names all of us norawas (“friends” in Raramuri). At first she called him Periquito, which means parakeet, since he was so agile and beautiful to watch running lightly and fast. But Dave said “how about something a little less wimpy and flighty?” So she thought of the tough and soaring Condor but said to him “Dave, it’s so UGLY up close.” He just looked at her with that wry little smile and said “I’m just fine with that”, and so to us he’ll always be the Condor.
The Oregon ultrarunning community lost a great deal with Dave. He has run all the races in the Series and supported many of them by freely volunteering his time, not because it’s a requirement for Western States or Wasatch, just because he enjoyed helping. Dave loved to give back to whatever lit him up, like many of us being extremely passionate about his obsessions. You’d see him at the library Monday evenings after a full day at work. “Whatcha doin’ Dave?” “Oh, just shelving some books for awhile, somebody’s gotta do it.” For many years, he’s been in charge of the timing at the Mac. I’d always ask what kind of help he needed. “Just gimme a couple of volunteers to work with and I’ll take care of it, you’ve got enough other stuff to worry about.” He’d often have these little suggestions that never came across that way (not quite like Clem). “Hey Ken, you ever thought about maybe having a different colored bib number for the early starters so we give them all the right times?” What would Dave do? He’d think about the runners of course, and whether we got the times right.
Dave was known for a couple of running traditions locally. He started this thing called Torture Tuesdays (kind of like Queen Wednesdays), back when he was fast, involving sick stuff like how many 800’s can you do (16?) with 400s under 80. With Meghan and Linda, Dave also started the McCulloch Wednesday outings. Every week at 5:30 we meet at Oak Creek after work to power walk up 1500’ to the site of the old Mac aid station on top, and then jog back down. Quite different on the pitch black snowy January than in mid-summer, but there’s many a 100 mile runner around here that credits these Wednesday nights with improving their walking significantly. So all of you readers out there, come out and join us, but we are changing to Thursdays at 5:30. Details at the corvallistrailrunners Google group. What would Dave do? He’d get his butt out of work and get up there every week with his friends, that’s what he’d do.
At work at HP, Dave was known as the guy who just got stuff done, scrounging up whatever was needed to pull it together. A lot of Dave’s job was to break stuff, he loved that, and then figure out how to make it not break so easily. Engineers at HP were known to change projects just so they could work with Dave, he was so fun to be around and made everyone succeed. Dave is still the only person ever responsible a skinny dipping session at an HP “team building” event on South Sister, making his whole group vow to get to the top together, then abandoning them to run down with the Blender. What would Dave do? He’d build the team, whatever it took.
Dave felt extremely fortunate to be able to run several OTS races with his son Erik, who holds the U19 record at the Mac. Many of us would die to be able to run some ultras with our kids. Dave used to claim he could beat Erik at any distance, but we think that might have been when Eric was still in the U9 age group. If you get a chance, please check out Dave’s race report from running with Eric at the Mt Hood PCT 50 miler that I’ve posted at http://mac50k.org/dave.pdf. “It was a special day for me… having this opportunity to share this journey with Erik.” Here he is with Erik at the finish line of Waldo, not looking quite as happy.
We dearly miss our great friend, and Oregon trail running won’t ever be the same again. We still remember losing our buddy Scott McQueeney at the Mac. It’s been eight years and it still hurts but we’re lucky to be inspired towards “relentless forward motion” and running backwards across the memorial bridge at the Mac finish line. Dave was also often at that finish line timing you all, and now you can choose to run backwards or run FAST across that bridge. Just don’t run backwards fast please!
Dave’s motto was “run slow to run fast”. Ultrarunners of course don’t need an explanation to know what this means. For Dave it was doubly ironic. First of all, unlike most of us, Dave really was fast. Not many of us can run sub 40 in a 10K after age 50. Secondly, like many of us, Dave never started ultras slow enough, burning out too soon at many a race. Kind of like Clem, he was much better at suggesting great strategies and telling himself what he should do rather than just doing it. This picture is him just doing it, enjoying a cold one prior to pacing at Bighorn. For me, running slow means to attempt to enjoy every moment of my surroundings, every movement of being healthy enough to pursue this crazy passion we call ultrarunning.
We’re going to miss Dave forever, but try to carry him forward by our actions. Caring about others enough to cheerfully pace them through the night, always being encouraging, contributing to our communities, trying to give back half as much as we’ve been given, doing our very best whenever we can, to our children, our work, our passions and our friends. What would Dave do? All that and more. Here’s Dave after spending the night pacing Matt Nahorniak at Tahoe Rim.
So the next time you line up for your next race, remember how lucky you are, try to remember to run slow to run fast, and ask yourself every day, WWDD?