Bend High boys lacrosse coach is living his lessons

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Around mile 175 of his first 200-mile ultramarathon, Dan Brostek said he entered a dreamlike state.

“I could not tell anymore whether I was awake or sleeping,” Brostek, 43, recalled with a laugh. “My initial reaction was, ‘This is kind of cool.’”

Brostek survived the surreal remainder of the Tahoe 200, which navigated trails and peaks around Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada over 3½ days earlier this month.

The 205-mile race was emblematic of Brostek’s determination. Entering his third year as the boys lacrosse coach at Bend High School, he chose to do it because he wanted to test his physical limits and show his players how to deal with adversity, not to mention raise more than $8,000 for the team’s operating costs on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.

Brostek also had a deeper, internal motivation for taking on this challenge.

“Running, for me, has become very therapeutic,” he said last week while reflecting on the race. “The last two decades I’ve dealt with horrible bouts of anxiety and panic disorder, and exercise in nature became a real positive way to deal with that. I like to call it my mountain therapy.”

Brostek grew up playing lacrosse in the suburbs of Syracuse, New York. In 1996, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served in the U.S. Army until May 2001 before moving to Hartford, Connecticut, where he spent 15 years in what he called “corporate America.”

One day in the not-too-distant past, Brostek recalled, he was sitting with his two preteen sons in their Connecticut home when he asked the boys what they thought his job was. One said he worked at eBay because he was on his computer all day. The other thought he had a job with winter apparel company The North Face because of the clothes he wore. Neither son was correct.

“That made me realize I wasn’t doing something impactful on a daily basis,” Brostek said. “I had this opportunity to restart my life and start working for a veterans’ nonprofit called Team Red, White & Blue. My wife, kids and I moved from Connecticut out to Bend (in 2015) and started all over.”

The Brostek boys are 15 and 13 now, and their dad is the chief digital officer for the Bend chapter of Team Red, White & Blue when he’s not coaching lacrosse or traversing 200-plus miles of rocky hills.

Brostek said moving to Bend was a “great decision,” adding that his jobs with both the nonprofit and the Bend High lacrosse team are constantly rewarding. Through running, working and coaching, he said, he has reached a point of reflection.

Brostek’s job — which includes marketing, communications and branding, among other duties — allows him to meet and share stories with veterans at both national and local events hosted by Team RWB. He said the stories of combat veterans and military families give him perspective.

“It’s opened up my mind about being vulnerable,” he said. “I’ve seen people overcome major challenges in their lives and find their new normal.”

Adversity can be a sports cliché, but the real, tangible adversity Brostek has dealt with in his life — along with the obstacles overcome by some of the veterans he works with — provides an excellent example for the young athletes he coaches. From making a change in his career to addressing his mental health, Brostek lived and continues to live the lessons he passes on to his players.

A common joke among endurance runners, Brostek said, is that a 100-mile race is like experiencing one’s entire life in a single day. He added that a 200-mile race, like the one he recently completed, can help a runner find the meaning of life.

“You try to find meaning in the pain and suffering you go through, and know that it’s not a bad thing,” Brostek said. “In a world where everything is happy and easy, you don’t grow. If you want to grow, you’ve got to experience some level of stress or adversity.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0307, rclarke@bendbulletin.com