Sign of the Hawk, Revisited

Dan Keitz, runner, finishing Pikes Peak Marathon.
This was the poster created for a fund raiser benefitting Dan Keitz, trail runner, dad, and good friend.Photo credit: James Nyfeler

Do you believe in fate, kharma, God…some force that pushes, pulls us along a path that we are too small to see? Or is it all just fantastic coincidences that our minds turn into something else?

I don’t believe that there’s a conscious force out there guiding my destiny, nor do I believe my fate is preordained, but I do believe there are forces bigger than me at play that I may never understand. And if I am lucky, I make sense of things every now and then.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the last year because of several different things: my injuries, big life changes, my friend Dano’s illness. I guess when you’re close enough to 50 that sometimes you forget you aren’t quite there yet, it causes you to reflect.

Dan Keitz: Fighting the Good Fight

Last week, I had gone to the hospital to visit Dano. As I was heading down the hall, I bumped into our mutual friends Kelley and Doise. We all trooped in and joined the party going on in Dano’s room; he was in great spirits, enjoying the company, smiling and joking despite not being able to speak aloud (lip reading for people who don’t actually lip read can be pretty entertaining).

Dan Keitz crossing finish line in his wheelchair
Dano, shown here finishing his Hokahey 5K in 2009.

At one point, Kelley and I were chatting on the side and she casually said, “You’re registered for the 50 miler at Rocky, right? Because it’s full now.” It was like a punch in the gut; all the air went out of me. Why, NO, I hadn’t signed up for my goal race of the year. I actually fought back tears.

When I got home, I checked and yes, the 50 miler was full. There was a waiting list but I slumped over at the thought of “maybe.” And I didn’t want to sign up for the 100 and then DNF for the 50. Yeah, it’s kind of trivial; there are a million races and this one comes around every year. But I’d been talking it up and planning. I blamed the foot for throwing me off schedule and focus.

I was posting on Facebook when, out of the blue, I got an email from  trail-runner Stephanie asking if I would pace her at Bandera; she was going to go for the 100K. Bandera…I LOVE Bandera. I replied back that I had screwed up getting into Rocky and had no idea what my plans were. Originally, I’d planned on doing the 50K as prep for Rocky, but that was all up in the air. She wrote back, suggesting that I sign up for the 100K. Her reasoning: It’s only 10 more miles, I love Bandera, it could be “our year”!

It clicked; my heart sang; I signed up. Done.

That was Wednesday; by Saturday night, my friend Dano was gone.

Another punch in the gut, of a different, bigger nature. Yes, I had come to terms with his dying over the last months but Saturday felt too soon…I was floored. Since then, I’ve been working to come to grips with this and a comfort has been that Dano called the shots; he was Commander Dan to the last breath.

I’ll never forget the year that Dano and I ran the Crossroads aid station at Bandera for Rogue…so many planning meetings at Sandy’s and then 21 hours straight on our feet, supporting runners. I’ll never forget the Pikes Peak training runs and campouts we had there. I’ll never forget the photos Dano showed me that he’d taken at Bandera, beautiful black and white pictures that captured all the things we two love about the place; I even tried to convince him to write a book with me, photos and comments about Bandera.

Black and white photo of trail in Bandera Texas
Photo by Dan Keitz

We just ran out of time for all the things we wanted to do and the places we wanted to go.

And it hit me. I needed to go to Bandera for Dano. It doesn’t matter how well I do or if I finish; what matters is that I see the sun come up and go down, that I brush past the sotol and feel the rocks under my feet, that the trail rises up to meet me and rolls ahead of me like a promise of a better day.

We’ll run it, my friend, for the joy, and because I can.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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