I just finished reading Ironwar. While I feel like I’m not really going to do this topic justice, and I always get nervous about writing blog posts like this, I’m just going to do it and hope for the best. So, I read that Ironwar was not endorsed by Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Because of this I was actually going to just not read it. Heck, I’ve got a big enough pile of books waiting for my eyes as it is. But I was talking with one of my athletes Kelly and she had just finished it and her opinion made me want to read it. So I did. I actually found some of the chapters that weren’t talking about the race, just studies done on pain threshold and what not to be very interesting…but that’s for another blog.
Having read it, I can totally understand why Dave and Mark (am I allowed to use their first names?), I mean Mr. Scott and Mr. Allen weren’t too keen on the book. For one, they are portrayed as extreemly one dimensional…and not exactly of a good dimension. I think Fitzgerald plays into the average athletes desire to typecast the athletically successful as unbalanced, unstable, and cut throat. Not cool. These men paved the way for the sport we know and love.
What interested me even more than the personal facts about the lives and backgrounds of Mr.Scott and Mr.Allen was the differences in their training. I mean in 1989 these two duked it out side by side for a 139 miles, and the training they did was so different from each other. What is even more cool in my mind, is that now they both coach, and they both tout their philosophies as the way to harness your true potential. What’s even more crazy is that their two philosophies are the two major roads that athletes take to train for Ironmans.
Long and Slow?
Intense and less volume?
That is the question…which road will you take…because less and slow leaves you unfit, and more and intense leads you to a stress fracture. Yes, if you want longevity in this sport and you are doing Ironmans, you too (or your coach) will have to make this decision.
Not only were those two opposing forces responsible for two of the greatest athletes ever to bless the Ironman, but now they are responsible for oodles of athletes standing on the Kona start line every year. Mr Scott and Mr. Allen are still out there battling it out on the lava fields in the eyes and hearts of their various athletes.
What really got me thinking about these issues is where I stand in my own training. It’s no secret that I spent 2010 and 2011 under the guidance of Chuckie V (who’s blog I really can’t link to any more because he took it down, which makes me very sad…very sad). Chuckie was of the Mark Allen side of the coin. I have read every book that Phil Maffetone has written (advisor of Mark Allen) and I have recommended them to you all on many occasions, along with Brad Kearns book, that I love as well. I train athletes in a manner that will build their aerobic base and I watch them get stronger and faster as I do this. I watched myself go from a 10:47 at my first Ironman in Canada in 2009 to 10 flat at Cozumel this past november. That jump was via long and slow training. No intensity, none.
However, I now am trained by Dirk, who has essentially rocked my world (after he tipped it upside down). He makes me swim and bike and run fast and it was really uncomfortable and partially responsible for my less than enthusiastic blogging over the last few months. It’s bad form to write a blog post that says “WTF” over and over and over again!
I recently watched a Webinar that Dave Scott put on through USAT. Dave does not do these webinars…ever, so it was a rare glimpse into how he trains himself and others. Boy were there about 3 million ahh hah moments during that, and I finished watching understanding where Dirk was coming from a lot more. It’s another way to do things, a way that I thought I understood, but I didn’t.
I wrestled around the intensity versus aerobic model in my head many a night. Troy and I stayed up late discussing things over and over. When Beth was here last week we had such an enlightening conversation since she came from Mark Allen Online for 4 years before working with Dirk. It was such a fruitful talk.
My final feelings: TIME and PLACE….WHERE ARE YOU DEFICIENT….WHERE DO YOU EXCEL?
I look at Mark Allen Online and he got 29 athletes to Kona last year with 4 under 10 hours and 8 under 11 hours. That’s A LOT. I look at Dave Scott, he works with Chrissy, Crowie, and my personal favorite…Terry Nugent (who is an X NFL player, huge guy, and went 9:46 for 3rd in his AG at Kona last year). Dave…Mr.Scott I mean, seems to take strong consistent athletes and make them Va-Voom! Mr. Allen seems to take the masses and make them Kona worthy.
As I sit on the edge of these two training programs I am excited. I think from a coaching perspective, it’s exciting to be an experiment of one. I learn when I am challenged, and I have definitely been challenged. I wonder how many athletes have taken both approaches and in what order? How have they settled into what they know and believe and how do they adjust their programs for different athletes, backgrounds, and goals? Is anyone really using both Dave and Marks philosophies and applying them to athletes depending on where the athlete is in their own progression? Does a coach have one athlete doing Mr.Allen style and another doing Mr.Scott style? I don’s know the answer to that.
What was once a nervous spot for me to be in, has now turned exciting as I realize just how much my knowledge can be expanded over the next few years. I feel lucky to have this opportunity. One thing I know is that I am a beast, a diesel engine, and that makes me sturdy to trying different things.
Like all training changes, it’s a wait and see game. Make a change, stick to it, and watch the results.