Ironman Champ and Shaman Return to Boulder for a Fitness and Spiritual Retreat

After winning his first Ironman World Championship in 1989, Mark Allen’s family and friends were eager to learn what helped him pull ahead of his longtime triathlon rival, Dave Scott, in the final miles of the marathon.

The answer surprised them, said the six-time Ironman champ.

“I told them, ‘Well, I saw this picture of these shamans…'” he said.

Allen is slated to tell more of this story, alongside one of those shamans, Brant Secunda, at two events in Boulder.

The first is a talk tonight about the key points of the book they co-authored, “Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 keys to a healthier, happier you.”

Then, during a weekend retreat at Chautauqua, beginning Friday night, Allen and Secunda will delve deeper into the keys, they said.

Secunda said the ideas are simple — like how to connect with nature, how to let go of stress, nutrition. And he says you don’t have to be an athlete — it’s for anyone.

“We emphasize that what we talk about are tools that anyone can use, from losing weight, to getting more fit, to improving in a competition,” said Allen, who lived in Boulder to train for triathlons for about 12 years.

“They’re all things that we live every day,” said Allen, “and we’ve seen the positive impact they’ve had in our lives, as well as the people who come to our programs.”

Allen sought out Secunda after Ironman in 1989, and they’ve been working together ever sice.

“I saw an ad in a magazine for Brant,” he said. “It happened to be in my hotel room in Kona (Hawaii) before the race. It was talking about connecting with nature to empower your life.”

The ad showed Brant and his grandfather, don José Matsuwa, Allen said.

“They just looked so peaceful and powerful,” Allen said. “And as an athlete, you’re looking for that. In Kona, I certainly didn’t have that.”

In the ’89 triathlon, Allen was neck-in-neck with Scott in the run.

“I was at the point where I were ready to give up in the marathon, because he was really strong,” he said. “This image of don José came back to me, and it just gave me the confidence to go for it.

“Here I am, racing against Dave Scott, and he’s probably not thinking about the two greatest shamans to live on this planet, he’s probably thinking of his splits,” Allen added, with a laugh. “After that, I went to workshops in Mexico that Brant was giving.”

Secunda, a shaman in the Huichol tradition from Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains, said it was natural to meet the triathlete — he’s worked with many types of people over the years.

“He was very humble, so it fit into the whole Huichol paradigm of how to be a good person and a strong person,” Secunda said.

After Allen stopped racing, he and Secunda developed a program they originally called “Sport and Spirit: Connect the Power.” A few years ago, they put together the book “Fit Soul, Fit Body.”

Boulder triathlete Barry Siff said their book isn’t at all about how to win an Ironman.

“It reaches a broad audience,” he said. “It’s great for athletes, but it’s not just for athletes, it’s for everyday living.”

Siff said he’s thrilled they came to Boulder.

“I knew they did (retreats) in Santa Cruz, and I thought Boulder would be really receptive,” he said.

“The Chautauqua setting should be so idyllic for what they espouse. It’s the perfect place to grasp the power of nature.”

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