Writing a biography of an athlete and human as accomplished and prolific as Lew Hollander is no simple task.

It’s no wonder that the project required five years for Redmond author Dana Burnett.

The result is “Use It or Lose It: Pathways to Healthy Living,” a comprehensive account of the adventures of Hollander, a 92-year-old triathlete and longtime Central Oregon resident who is still competing.

“It’s probably been rewritten 200 or 300 times,” Burnett said of the book, which was released last year. “With somebody like Lew, I’ve never met anybody like him, and I just felt there was a treasure there. The essence of Lew is just something that you don’t find very often. There’s something to his manner. He’s very low-key, he inspires people and he never quits trying.”

A world-class endurance horseback rider in his younger years, Hollander started racing triathlons when he was 55.

Eight years ago at the age of 84, Hollander became the oldest person in the world to finish an Ironman distance race. Two years before that, at 82, he became the oldest person to finish the prestigious Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.

In 2010, at 80, Hollander finished the Ironman World Championship in 15 hours, 48 minutes, a time that nobody else in their 80s has come close to.

Hollander has recently switched to the shorter sprint distance of triathlons, but he estimates he has competed in some 70 Ironman-distance triathlons over the past 35 years. (Ironmans include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run.)

Hollander is set to race in the Pilot Butte Challenge on Friday at 6 p.m. Part of the Pacific Crest Endurance Sports Festival this year in Bend, the Pilot Butte Challenge is a running race to the top of the butte. In 2015, at age 85, Hollander reached the top in 15 minutes, 56 seconds.

This past Saturday, Hollander competed in the Oregon Dunes sprint triathlon in Dunes City on the Oregon Coast, finishing 37th overall in 3:18:52. He plans to compete in about one race per week through the summer, finishing with the Portland Half Marathon on Oct. 2.

“It’s persistence,” Hollander said of his ability to keep competing at 92. “I have no talent that anybody else doesn’t have. You fall down and you pick yourself back up and keep going. A lot of people are much better athletes, but they fall down and they’re done. I guess I’m not done yet.”

Explore Text Alerts

Find your next adventure in The Bulletin’s Explore Central Oregon. We offer top picks for where to hike, bike, fish, climb or paddle, as well as the region’s most comprehensive conditions report for whatever you want to do. You can also text us your favorite spots to explore.

Burnett said that what Hollander is doing now is just as remarkable as anything he has accomplished throughout his long racing career.

“He still out there,” Burnett said. “He’s still pushing it. He’s showing that it is possible. It’s inspiring to think that if you work hard you can improve the quality of your life through exercise.”

Burnett got to know Hollander through endurance horseback riding in Central Oregon. Hollander is in the American Endurance Ride Conference Hall of Fame, but he started running marathons in his 50s.

Then he transitioned to triathlon, though he had no experience as a cyclist.

“The challenge is when there’s that much to capture,” Burnett said of writing Hollander’s biography, which is available on Amazon for $19.95. “He’s a bit of a philosopher. When you’re talking to him, you just can’t forget how much he’s accomplished in so many different areas.”

Hollander is also a physicist who has not fully retired, as he says he still has some patents pending, one that uses liquid nitrogen to help put out wildfires and one in the semiconductor field.

Hollander had lived in Central Oregon since 1974, but six months ago he moved to Florence on the Oregon Coast to, he said, mostly escape the smoke from wildfires that ruins the Central Oregon air nearly every late summer and early fall.

He and his wife — Karen Hollander, 70, whom he married in 2019 — still own an 86-acre ranch near Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne.

With his first wife, Hollander has six children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Hollander estimates he has competed in some 3,000 races throughout his life. But he said his greatest accomplishment is the ability to get out of bed each morning at 92 without any pain.

“I can wake up in the morning, jump out of bed, and go out for a run or walk or whatever, and I don’t hurt anywhere,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about that.”

Sign up for our Daily Headlines newsletter

Reporter: 541-383-0318,


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.