Dad participates in Ironman as tribute to son

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Hayden native Bryan Langford will compete in Ironman Coeur d’Alene to honor his son, Conner, who died in May 2011 due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy. “This is what Conner would have wanted me to do,” Langford said.

The hydrodynamic fabric of Bryan Langford's tri-suit will be bone dry by the time he begins pedaling.

After a 2.4-mile swim, Langford will then begin the 112-mile cycling portion of Ironman Coeur d'Alene in Sunday's 90-degree heat, the most physically taxing pursuit of his life.

At this point, the Hayden native expects his 40-year-old legs to feel heavier than when he dipped into Lake Coeur d'Alene earlier at the onset of the triathlon.

But when Langford pushes up Northwest Boulevard, he'll catch a glimpse of his motivating force; the reason he has subjected himself to a year-and-a-half of strenuous training he wouldn't have done otherwise.

Langford will pass the headstone of his 8-year-old son, Conner, laid to rest at Riverview Cemetery, adjacent to the Ironman bike route.

Conner passed away in May of 2011 due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, also known as SUDEP.

"It's a term my wife and I had never heard of," said Langford, whose late son was diagnosed with epilepsy as an infant. "And it's way more common than what people realize. (The research) is just very underfunded compared to other neurological disorders.”

Langford will be competing in Ironman in memory of Conner while also driving awareness and to raise funds for the Danny Did Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit aimed to help families affected by the disease.

More than 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy die each year from SUDEP, and if their seizures aren't controlled the likelihood increases to 1 in 150.

"This is what Conner would have wanted me to do," Langford said. "It's a message that needs to be told and can make a difference in other people's lives."

Langford believes the SUDEP toll is under-reported, that the number of deaths would be substantially higher if more doctors and coroners considered it when determining the cause of death.

"A lot of people with epilepsy pass away," said Langford, an MRI Tech at Northwest Specialty Hospital. "But doctors and coroners could point it to something such as respiratory failure."

He has raised more than $3,000 for the Danny Did Foundation with a goal of reach $10,000. This pursuit caught the eyes of Ironman officials, who've dubbed him the Coeur d'Alene event's feature athlete.

A short documentary about Langford was aired at Friday's opening Ironman ceremonies and a cinematographer and photographer will follow Langford throughout the triathlon.

All of this for a man who, less than two years ago, never owned a triathlon-geared bike and admittedly never swam laps in his life.

In early 2015, however, Langford applied for a triathlon training package giveaway by the Coeur d'Alene Tri-Team, explaining his reasons for pursuing the next Ironman. He won and has taken advantage of the extensive regimen.

"It was extremely overwhelming at first," said Langford, who is also sponsored by the Tri-Team. "But they put you on the right path."

Tom Stanton, executive director of the Danny Did Foundation, praised Langford, as the nonprofit that has provided grants in 48 states and eight countries has never had anyone raise awareness through an Ironman.

"It's great what he’s doing. The Langfords have been a big part of this," Stanton said.

Danny Did's signature program is helping provide a monitoring device for parents and caretakers to monitor seizures.

"It's not a silver bullet," Stanton said of the monitor," but it's a huge peace of mind for parents and enables a lot of safety,"

"We don't know if a (monitor) would have saved Conner's life, but it would have given him a chance," Langford said.

Follow Ryan Collingwood on Twitter at @RyanCDAPress. He can also be reached at rcollingwood@cdapress.com.

Conner Langford’s father is competing in Sunday’s Ironman triathlon as a tribute to him.

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