Saturday, October 22, 2011

Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run

 The 1980's was the decade of the triathlon (at least in my mind). The modern sport of triathlon had its beginnings in San Diego, California in 1974, and eventually the first Hawaii Ironman triathlon was held in 1978 with 15 participants. In 1979 a Sports Illustrated article drew some attention to this strange endurance race which was followed by ABC starting to televise the race in 1980 with Dave Scott achieving his first of six victories. I recall watching the race while at college and wondering whether a runner (my pick) or a cyclist (my roommate's pick) would be the victor. Little did we know that a new type of athlete was being born at this race; a triathlete. It wasn't until 1982 that triathlons really captured the imaginations of athletes and people around the world as Julie Moss painfully stumbled and crawled towards the finish line just at the same time that she was passed by a fresh looking Kathleen McCarthy for the win.

I watched that race on ABC Wide World of Sport and then watched it again when it was rebroadcast (due to so many people talking about the incredible finish) in complete awe. I told myself I would have to try this new sport and I became one among thousands of others that had a new goal to pursue. Triathlons suddenly started to take off! As soon as I heard about an Ironman distance triathlon taking place on Cape Cod in September 1983 I was in, even though I had no bike or swim background. I did three triathlons on Cape Cod during the summer of 1983. My first was a local sprint triathlon held on my hometown of Falmouth on Cape Cod with less than 100 track club participants taking part, the second was the United States Triathlon Series race held at Old Silver Beach in Falmouth. Julie Moss showed up to MC a workshop on triathlons the day before the race that had over 900 participants (all in one swim wave on a stormy day). The third was the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon where I swam and biked further than I had ever done in practice to complete an Ironman distance race. I competed in triathlons throughout New England for 5 more years ending each season with my favorite, Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon.

It was exciting to participate and to be somewhat of a pioneer in such a new sport. New athletic heroes turned up, including the "big four" of triathlons. Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, and Mark Allen. Both Tinley and Molina would venture to the Cape Cod Endurance Triathlon and win it in the 3rd and 4th editions. Dave Scott showed up one year to race at the Bay State Triathlon in Medford, Mass. I came out of the bike transition to find myself running directly behind the awkward stride of Dave Scott himself. I held on for about 1/4 mile before I let him go. He was a lap ahead of me anyway! Other than those appearances I had to catch the big four on televised triathlons or on the pages of new magazines like Triathlon and Triathlete. These guys were aerobic and endurance animals of a completely different nature than the runners and marathoners I was used to. They had strengths and skills that were beyond the world class runners, so that while they may have been very good at each sport individually, they became great when combining sports together.

Magazines and television shows didn't always tell you all of what made them tick. This is why it is nice to finally read a book that delves into the biggest two of these stars: Mark Allen and Dave Scott. Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Runis a book that looks at these two athletes and their physical and inner struggles as they race in the epic 1989 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, a race where Mark Allen finally defeats the 6 time winner Dave Scott in a side by side dual to the final minutes. I enjoyed the read as I recognized the names of the triathletes and races from the 1980s when I was following everything that I could about the sport. There was a familiar feel to the book as I was revisiting past events that I began to recall and in fact since many of the the author's retelling came from the pages of magazines I have read or the televised shows that I watched it should sound familiar. The retelling of the 1989 race is augmented with stories of prior events in the lives of Dave Scott and Mark Allen and because of this the book and author have come under fire from these two men themselves. They are not happy with the book at all and together wrote a letter and  have filed a lawsuit against the author and publisher.

We’re writing this because we believe that the soon­‐to-­be-published book from VeloPress, entitled  “Iron War,” inaccurately  and  inappropriately  portrays  us. As  an example, in the advance copy sent to the media for review, the author stated, “In  a sober, clinical sense of the term, Dave and Mark are both somewhat psychologically unbalanced.” We have never been diagnosed as “psychologically unbalanced” by any medical or mental health professional.
 And there’s a lot more where that came from—too much more for us to simply look the other way. Indeed, “Iron War” author Matt Fitzgerald has written an endless stream of inaccurate and defamatory assertions about our lives, our thoughts, our motivations and what drove us to such a high level of athletic excellence in what he spitefully and negatively describes as “the showdown that left one battling his inner demons to emerge victorious and one devastated on the pavement and unable to forgive his loss.”
In respect to the author, the book, and the two athletes to whom it is about, it leaves one to question whether to read the book or not. I decided to read it. My observations is the Matt Fitzgerald is a fan of the sport, the Ironman, and these two athletes. In reading the book I got a sense of the respect he had for their achievements. As the author, I guess he took some liberties, because he quotes conversations and small details, like the songs on the radio the morning of the race or actual quoted conversations, that I am sure are not accurate, but help propel the "story" that he is trying to tell. I think that is what all authors do, as long as they remain true to the story.  He also makes a case that both had some type of "psychological imbalance" (as noted above quote from the letter) that drove each man to his athletic greatness. Without coming out and actually saying it, except for one mention of the word, he hints that Dave Scott might be bipolar. He also talks about the relationship that Mark Allen had with his father. It sounds like the father was pretty much absent in Mark's life until he achieved his fame, and that Mark was on a type of "spiritual" search throughout his life that culminated with Mark looking into shamanism due to events and "visions" leading up to the race in 1989. With the recent revelations that Frank Shorter made about his abusive father, it was hard to tell from the book exactly what the extent of Mark Allen's relationship with his father was and what difficulties they shared, but it does add a bit of mystery and uncomfortableness with the remarks made in the book.

If you read the book for the excitement of the race and for the background information about triathlon's beginnings and first heroes, I think the book is a purely enjoyable read. I believe that Matt Fitzgerald was reaching for writing a book that might rival the popularity and excitement levels of Chris McDonald's "Born to Run". He, like the author in "Born to Run", even added chapters that related to the science behind the pain and the brains that make athletes achieve great things like these two men. As for the athletes being "psychologically imbalanced" I think that may apply to many if not most great endurance athletes. As for Dave Scott and Mark Allen, these are not really new definitions of their character or inner demons.  I decided to take out all my old VHS tapes of the Ironman races and other triathlons from the 1980s and 1990's after reading this book. While watching my copy of the 1987 Nice Triathlon a segment mentioned Dave's "down period" in the previous winter when he gave up on competing and training due to being in a funk. It also mentioned Mark Allen's forays into spiritualism and shamanism which marked his spiritual search and while not mentioned in the book, it would certainly denote a need and search in Mark Allen to find a mentor, guide, or fatherly figure to help him bring clarity and meaning in his life in replacement of his own father. So Matt Fitzgerald is not saying anything new or revealing. He is just organizing a book around a race and the personalities of these two men to sort out their "greatness" among lesser athletes.

I found it to be a worthwhile read and it has me revisiting my days and races in the 1980s when being a triathlete was full of excitement, physicality, coupled with a spirit of adventure and testing of my own bodies strength and resources. Fans of the sport should find as much inspiration when reading the book. I am not sure how much the book will do for those who know nothing about these two athletes (can that really be so?). Mark Allen, Dave Scott, and the early triathletes should not be forgotten. These were the days when the sport was full of a kind of wonder and bravado that is missing from the modern day triathletes, who to me seem overly scientific, clinical, and spend-happy. Who cares about getting online coaches, data from meters and computers, as well as bicycles, gear, and entry fees that cost exorbitant amounts of money? Just get out there and train all that you can, have fun,  and see where your body can take you. That was the spirit of the 1980s! A better book is waiting to be written. Maybe Mark Allen and Dave Scott can add some input, but I would like to know about what drove all the stars as well as the common athletes to suddenly pursue a sport with so much passion. It must be noted that "cross-training" wasn't even a word on the mouths of athletes until triathletes started and people decided to be more that one-sport athletes.

One further note. I stopped competing in triathlons in 1987. I got married in 1988 and no longer had the time to train plus my body had completely fallen apart due to back pains that I guess are related to the hip surgery that I finally had this summer due to a torn labrum. I trace all my pains and problems over the past 20+ years to my faulty cleat and bike positioning. Post surgery I feel better on the bike than I did in all five years of triathloning.  In 1990 my son Andrew was born. The day after his birth I watched the Ironman broadcast of this 1989 race at the hospital and held my newborn son on my lap watching his first television show. I was hoping that my interest in the sport might rub off on him at an early age. Last year he completed his first triathlon just for fun! I guess it worked.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Getting greedy

Last week total running miles: 16 miles
Monday: 10 miles mountain bike/ 3 miles elliptical
Tuesday :6 miles mountain bike
Wednesday: PT
Thursday: 8 miles running
Friday: nothing
Saturday: 6 miles mountain bike/ 8 miles running
Sunday: nothing

Wednesday, I told the physical therapist I would keep the daily runs to around 4 miles, and then the next day I went and did 8 miles and then I did the same thing on Saturday. The run feels good, but the next day I end up being sore.I have to stop being so greedy and be happy with more limited miles.

I took out my box of old VHS tapes after reading Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen, and the Greatest Race Ever Run hoping to see if I have a copy of the 1989 Hawaii Ironman. I guess I didn't always label things well. I have a bunch of tapes that just have "Ironman" printed on them and there are tapes with all types of races from the 1980s and 1990s including triathlons, Olympics, World Championships, the Tour de France and other bike races and more. I am slowly going through them to see what it on the tapes and digitizing them. Here are two interesting segments I have found. The first is from the 2000 Boston Marathon when my school district would not allow me a personal day to run the Boston Marathon as the superintendent called it a "free and leisure time activity" that should not interfere with the school day. Instead of running the race, I taught a full day at school and then I went down to Hopkinton at 4:00 pm where I met racer director Dave McGillivray and I joined him in his "midnight shift" running of the Boston Marathon. I should have a few other news interviews from before and after the race on other tapes. This is the first one I found.

The other clip I found comes from the 1986 Bruce Jenner Classic 3000m race. I must have popped a tape in quickly while watching this race as I missed the beginning. My former Wheaton College teammate Danny Henderson was in the race. He is the guy at the back of the pack who quickly moves to leading the race as the tape starts. When I googled the race to find out more information, I found out that this was the last race run by Jeff Drenth. He suddenly died two days later according to this Sports Illustrated article.

 Jeff is the runner second from the right at the back of the pack at the first corner with the short arm swing. He is one of the Athletics West runners .

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Gait Guys on Hip Mechanics

 I am trying to strengthen my hips and straighten out my stride and mechanics after surgery for a labral tear in my hip. I have been doing PT and hearing and working on the same dysfunctions that I previously had (inward rotating knee and outward flared foot as well as post run glute medius problems), I have returned to The Gait Guys (they have moved their website) to find some interesting videos.

The first shows how to do a single leg squat as well as how not to do one (that collapsing hip and knee!).

How to (and how not to) do a single leg squat, CORRECTLY ! Here Dr. Allen has one of his elite marathon and triathletes demonstrate how to correctly and incorrectly do a single leg squat. The single leg squat can show many of the pathologic movement patterns that occur in a lunge. The single leg squat is more difficult however because it requires balance and more strength. Many people do not do the single leg squat correctly as you will see in this video. Many drop the opposite hip which means that there is an inability to control the frontal plane pelvis via the stance leg gluteus medius and the entire orchestrated abdominal core. Most folks will drop the suspended hip and pelvis and thus collapse the stance phase knee medially. This can lead to medial knee pain (tracking disorder in the beginning) , a driving of the foot arch into collapse and impingement at the hip labrum. We know that when the knee moves medially that the foot arch is under duress. This problem is often the subliminal cause of all things foot arch collapse in nature, such as plantar fascitis to name a common one. Remember, optimal gluteus medius is necessary here. And the gluteus maximus is working to eccentrically lower the pelvis through hip flexion. So, if you do not consider the gluteus maximus a hip flexor then you are mistaken. Everyone thinks of it as a powerful hip extensor and external rotator. But do not be mistaken, in the closed chain it is a powerful eccentric controller of hip flexion and internal hip rotation. We are The Gait Guys, Shawn and Ivo (visit our blog daily at some more information that they added:

Here is some more information that they added:

Now, Lets take another look from a little different perspective....

Watch carefully. Did you pick up the bunion forming on both feet (Hallux Abducto Valgus)? This tells us that this individual has a faulty foot tripod, and is not able to get the base of the first metatarsal to the ground (remember the tripod is the base of the 1st metatarsal (big toe), the base of the 5th metatarsal (little toe) and the center of the heel). As a result, the muscles which are supposed to be assisting in forming the longitudinal and transverse arches are pulling the big toe (hallux) laterally. This also means that the medial side of the tripod is collapsing and unstable. This can be seen at :05 as she descends into the squat. You will also notice that this drives the knee medially and is causing some collapse of the arch. You also see the big toe flexing to try and create some arch stability through the flexor hallucis brevis.

As Dr Allen Points out, keeping the arch stable requires core stability, muscular strength and good proprioception. It also requires adequate flexibility (ie Range of Motion) of the 1st ray complex (the proximal and distal phalynx of the great toe and the 1st metatarsal). This range of motion can be seen from :12 to :20 and again from :42 to :51

Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys discusses Gait Biomechanics again, this time pure hip biomechanics and how it applies to gait and running and compensation patterns. This is Part 1 of the Hip Biomechanics. This is essentially applied biomechanics.

In this second installment of applied hip biomechanics, Dr. Allen of The Gait Guys delves deeper into a complex topic and attempts to bring it to a level that everyone can understand and implement. Here he talks about the hip mechanics in relation to pelvic stability and gait. It is our goal to share as much of our collective 37 years of clinical experience as we can in a medium that is usable, friendly and understandable to all viewers. Thanks for taking time out of your busy lives to care about watching our videos. Shawn & Ivo, ....... The Gait Guys
I have read a lot about the mechanics of the hip, but these videos are starting to give me a clearer picture of exactly what is going on. Dr. Allen helps demonstrate the workings of the hip in an easier to understand way. Here is another set of three videos showing you how to engage your glute medius and abdominal muscles to create a pattern for correcting form patterns.

Here Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys works with elite athlete Jack Driggs to reduce a power leak in his running form. The Cross-over gait is a product of gluteus medius and abdominal weakness and leaves the runner with much frontal plane hip movement, very little separation of the knees and a "cross over" of the feet, rendering a near "tight rope" running appearance where the feet seem to land on a straight line path. In Part 2, Dr. Allen will discuss a more detailed specific method to fix this. You will see this problem in well over 50% of runners. This problem leads to injury at the hip, knee and foot levels quite frequently. To date we have not met anyone who had a good grasp on this clinical issue or a remedy quite like ours. Help us make this video go viral so we can help more runners with this problem. Forward it to your coaches, your friends, everyone. Thanks for watching our video, thanks for your time. -Dr. Shawn Allen, The Gait Guys

Here Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys further discusses this gait problem in running form. The Cross-over gait is a product of gluteus medius and abdominal weakness and leaves the runner with much frontal plane hip movement, very little separation of the knees and a "cross over" of the feet, rendering a near "tight rope" running appearance where the feet seem to land on a straight line path. In Part 2, Dr. Allen will discuss a more detailed specific method to fix this. You will see this problem in well over 50% of runners. This problem leads to injury at the hip, knee and foot levels quite frequently. To date we have not met anyone who had a good grasp on this clinical issue or a remedy quite like ours. Help us make this video go viral so we can help more runners with this problem. Forward it to your coaches, your friends, everyone.

Here Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys summarizes this gait problem in running form. The Cross-over gait is a product of gluteus medius and abdominal weakness and leaves the runner with much frontal plane hip movement, very little separation of the knees and a "cross over" of the feet, rendering a near "tight rope" running appearance where the feet seem to land on a straight line path. In Part 3, Dr. Allen will discuss a more detailed specific method to fix this. You will see this problem in well over 50% of runners. This problem leads to injury at the hip, knee and foot levels quite frequently. To date we have not met anyone who had a good grasp on this clinical issue or a remedy quite like ours. Help us make this video go viral so we can help more runners with this problem. Forward it to your coaches, your friends, everyone. Thanks for watching our video -Shawn and Ivo......The Gait Guys
Just be careful about how much work you do!

This new book from the author of The Entrepreneurial Patient blog is a must read book for anyone with hip problems and is thinking about about arthroscopic hip surgery or has had arthroscopic hip surgery for a labral tear or FAI.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Total: 20 miles running this week

Monday: 11 miles mountain bike
Tuesday: 2 miles on Treadmill (first time post surgery on treadmill).
Wednesday: PT
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: 6 miles
Sunday: 6 miles mountain bike followed by 4 miles running.

The goal this week was to try to hit 20 miles of total running without doing any 8 milers. It wasn't easy. It still feels like I need a full day off after each run, so to do four days in a row of running was stretching it. I feel OK when running, it is after running that the muscles around both hips get really tight. I have been doing strength work using ankle weights to work on the hip muscles, but there is a lot of work yet still to be done.

I am still very happy to be out running as I am way ahead of schedule. I have an appointment with my hip surgeon at the end of this month and I thought then when I had surgery and was given this appointment back in July that I would not start running until after seeing the surgeon.

My main goal is to be able to run pain-free and to get back to the conditioning that I had a year ago. Being able to run each day would just be great. Of course, I would like to be able to run as fast or faster than I had been doing before the surgery. Unless some setback happens, I can't see why this would not happen, although I am giving it a year post surgery to regain what I lost in my year off from running (and paradaoxically to lose what I gained in the year of not running- ice cream weight!). I feel I am well on my way towards this goal as the surgery seems to be a huge success for me. Before surgery, I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to run again.

I do have specific time and race goals I would love to reach once I am fully recovered. If I get to that point I would be thrilled, but I know it will take time and a lot of work. I won't publish those as some may think I am nuts. I do have one specific goal for the next couple of years that I truly wish to make as long as I remain injury free and can run more efficiently . I would like to go sub 3 hours in a marathon again. If I can do the training without the pain and imbalances that I have had for years, then I think that after 2-3 years of solid running I could reach this goal. In May of 1980, I ran my first sub 3 hour marathon and if I run another one I would make this international list of longest time spans between first and last sub-3 hour marathons. I am a long way off from even racing a 5k, but a healthy me will definitely put a year or two of dedicated effort to reach this goal.

Back in 1985 I could swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles,
and run 26.2 miles in 10:20:13, could I ever
do those same distances again?
This week, I finished reading Iron War about the epic Hawaii Ironman battle between Dave Scott and Mark Allen back in 1989. It reminded me how much I loved doing triathlons in the 1980s and being somewhat of a pioneer in the sport in New England during that time. I completed 5 Ironman distance triathlons between 1983 and 1987 and always wished to get back into triathlons again. I have also come to realize that the way I set up my bike and pedals for triathlon racing probably is what started to destroy my hip as I have been fighting that bad hip ever since that first year of triathloning. It would be a a great statement to my body to complete another Ironman distance triathlon one day in the future. I could get truly behind that goal, but I am not sure I want to make it a real goal as I have already done that in my past. I do think once I have done a marathon again, that I could do a 2.4 mile swim (easy), and then get back to biking and build up to complete 112 miles on a bike. I wouldn't have to do the events on the same day in race, but to do all three distances again in the same year, season, month, or week would be a goal that I could someday certainly accomplish and I think that doing so would be a wonderful goal for me. So I have goals, they are a long way off as I just try to get a few miles in at a time right now, but I have goals, and that makes for good motivation!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Slowly buildling up mileage

Total of 17 miles of running this week. Probably should not do the 8 milers just yet, but a run doesn't feel like real training if it is not at least 8 miles. Saturday's run felt pretty good stretching out my legs for the first time to a somewhat decent pace. Sunday and Monday however, I felt the efects of the run in various muscles surrounding both hips and the lower back.

Monday: 3 miles recumbent bike, 1 mile run, 2 miles elliptical at the YMCA
Tuesday: 8 mile run
Wednesday: PT
Thursday: 0
Friday: 0
Sat: 8 miles 7 minutes faster than previous two 8 milers
Sun: 0 miles

I am enjoying doing all my running post surgery in the Hoka One One Bondi B. They look huge, but are lightweight and feel very good when running in them. I wasn't sure how I would like them, as I usually can't stand built up shoes and always like lightweight racers, but these feel surprisingly more like a lightwieght racer than a built up shoe.

The Purple Runner