Mark Allen - six-time Ironman World Champion

Daily Camera Review of Fit Soul Fit Body

Six-time Hawaii Ironman triathlon winner authors book

By Michael Sandrock
Monday, February 2, 2009

BOULDER, Colo. — Meeting Mark Allen is a bit like chatting with a wise monk, someone who has just come down from the mountains carrying a message for the rest of us.

He is calm and tranquil, carrying himself like the great athlete he was. And at any moment, you expect him to drop some pearl of wisdom.

Six-time Hawaii Ironman triathlon winner Allen does just that in his new book, “Fit Soul, Fit Body,” written with Native American healer Brant Secunda. It is laid out in a way to provide advice that I think will resonate in Boulder because of its emphasis on the mind/body/soul connection.

Many local runners and triathletes will likely be anxious to hear a first-hand account of what has become known in triathloning lore as “Iron War,” the epic 1989 battle between Allen and perennial Ironman winner and Boulder resident Dave Scott. There have been many stirring marathons over the years, and perhaps the best-ever run at the end of a triathlon came in that¤’89 Hawaii Ironman.

That day, Scott and Allen dueled side by side for hours through the swimming and biking portions of the race. Then, after running step for step under the hot Hawaii sun for 24 miles of the marathon, the final leg of the triathlon, Allen finally pulled away to defeat Scott for the first time. His time, 2 hours, 42 seconds, remains the Ironman marathon record.

It is the kind of marathon still talked about on training runs, when runners bring up racing grittiness and toughness. I had heard about the race over the years from fans of Scott and Allen, including local Ted Kennedy, who says, “Most would agree that Allen’s battle with Scott in the lava fields of Hawaii in 1989 was the greatest triathlon race of all time.”

Allen, who lives in California, recounted the story during a visit to Boulder last fall. Allen explained that just as he was getting dropped by Scott halfway through the marathon, he glanced up and saw a large face appear in the lava field to his right.

It was Secunda.

Allen had never met the shaman — who was born in the United States and taken in by the Huichol of central Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains — but had seen his photo in a magazine before the Ironman; and Secunda appeared at just the right time to give Allen the edge to surge away from Scott at the final aid station.

“That day marked the end of a long journey at Kona,” Allen writes. “It also signaled the beginning of another.” It is that new journey that he details in “Fit Soul, Fit Body.”

One lesson we “regular” runners can learn from Allen’s marathon, he told the Camera, is that “great race performances go well beyond the numbers in your logbook. Certainly it is important to do the training to get your body ready. No amount of visualization or positive imagery can overcome a lack of fitness.”

However, he added, “Once the fitness is there, what turns it into the performance of your life is what goes on in your thoughts and in your heart during the race.”

Secunda appears to know Boulder well, as he said his advice for us includes connecting to nature.

“Probably many people who live in Boulder were drawn there because they already have a connection to nature and use that as a tool to motivate them for their life,” he said. “Having this realization makes us more complete people who have positive thoughts and trust in life, and with that trust comes an even stronger ability to connect our body and soul into one cohesive whole.”