The good news is J is doing well on his Shuksan expedition. He was actually able to call me from base camp! It’s cold up there, but he is getting some good practice on mountaineering skills. They should be attempting their summit Thursday night into Friday morning, so keep those good vibes coming.
The bad news is, the night before he hit the backcountry, we got some unbelievably sad news. Our good friend, Chad Denning, an accomplished endurance athlete, died while running on the AT. He was 39. He was in the best shape possible. He leaves behind a wife and 2 kids. He was ridiculously optimistic and energetic and therefore an inspiration to all who crossed his path. It is all very tragic.
For me, it made hearing the news harder with J not by my side, and instead in the backcountry in a could-be-dangerous scenario. But, J’s plans would be exactly what Chad wished. And I told J that at least he knew he had a guardian angel looking after him this week.
Chad was more J’s friend than mine. They go back to J’s parks and rec days in NH. They met in early 2008 at a local parks and rec conference. J came home from that conference boasting about Chad’s accomplishments. He hiked all of Colorado’s 14ers in Teva sandals. There isn’t a race he hasn’t participated in (or placed in). Everything Chad did was riddled with adventure. To J, Chad was just the coolest guy in the world.
We got to know Chad (and his wife) well while we lived in NH. Post-NH, Chad was always curious to hear what we were up to. And we would always argue that his life was WAY more interesting than ours. In fact, he had just run into our other active NH friends on Saturday and asked about us, again saying he admired us for living out our dreams.
I interviewed him a few times for magazine articles I wrote and he was always a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. One of my favorite quotes from him for one of my articles was this: “Gotta have fun while working out or
else, why do it?” And that was just it. He made working out seem fun. He made you want to get outside and wonder what you were missing. He spearheaded so many recreational programs and inspired so many to up their active lifestyle that we’ve lost count.
As I said, it’s just so tragically sad. I am so grateful we had Chad in our life. And as another friend reminded me, life is qualitative, not quantitative. Chad’s life was fulfilling and though he had to leave this Earth far too early, he could say he led a quality life and helped others to do so as well.