I’m so pleased to welcome Mark Allen back to the show!
Mark, aka “The Grip,” is also the greatest triathlete of all time, and he’s here today to share many of his unique insights and spiritual approach to grueling endurance sports. Mark, a contemporary of mine from the triathlon circuit, is now one of the most prominent coaches in the triathlon scene today.
Get ready for a wide-ranging conversation that covers everything from Mark’s early racing days and the things he would do differently knowing what he knows now to the adjustments he had to make at the end of his career to doping in elite sports. As the conversation winds along, you’ll get to hear more of the spiritual side of Mark that he has become known for as he talks about the many years he has spent working with a Huichol healer and the retreats they put on together, as well as what he has learned from the time he has spent with other native Huichol people in Mexico. Even if you are not a triathlete, the insights you will get from this show can be applied to all our peak performance goals in life!
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The human body is so complex that there’s no way that any watch is gonna be able to tell you everything you need to know.
Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life without taking ourselves too seriously. I’m Brad Kearns, New York Times bestselling author, former number three world-ranked professional triathlete and Guinness World Record Masters athlete. I connect with experts in diet, fitness, and personal growth, and deliver short breather shows where you get simple, actionable tips to improve your life right away. Let’s explore beyond the hype, hacks, shortcuts, and sciencey talk to laugh, have fun and appreciate the journey. It’s time to B.rad..
Hello, listeners. I’m pleased to welcome back to the show Mark Allen, the Grip, the greatest triathlete of all time, and how wonderful it always is to reconnect with him and get some of his unique insights and his spiritual approach to the grueling endurance sports. It’s kind of a weird balance, and I hit him with that at the very end of the show.
Like, wait a second. You’re promoting this message to the most uptight group of people around when you’re talking about highly motivated, driven goal-oriented athletes. But he’s doing a wonderful job. He’s been retired for many years. He was a contemporary of mine on the triathlon circuit and has been coaching athletes ever since then. And so he’s really one of the most prominent coaches in the sport of triathlon today. He’s had a nice career helping others with his unique approach, and we are going to have a wide ranging conversation going back to his racing days, learning about things that he do differently, knowing what he knows now with all the advancements in technology and coaching and some of the stuff maybe not even helpful. And I ask him, you know, way back when, when we were just training hard in a low tech approach. Well, there was a lot of things that were good about that and a lot of things we have to navigate through today with all this high tech quantified approach to athletic training.
So he shares some things that he would’ve done differently to go faster. These answers are going to surprise you and stay with you. It’s wonderful, incredible advice. Um, he talks about the adjustments he had to make at the end of his career when he was getting older and, uh, having a little child around and raising a family, kind of diversifying and how those things helped him to remain at the top of the sport with adjustments due to lifestyle From his training, we talk a little bit about the state of the modern elite athletic performances, and he shares his excitement for how the quarantine especially help people kind of refocus on their training and break through. To the extent that now we have a whole bunch of people battling each other at the very top of the sport. I’m wondering how they can go so fast these days and ask him a couple questions about the influence of doping in elite sports.
And I think you’re gonna appreciate our commentary there. And as the conversation winds along, you’ll get some of that spiritual side of Mark Allen that he’s known for. He’s been working with a Huichol Indian healer for many years, named Brant Secunda. They put on retreats together, and he talks about some of his time that he spends, frequently with the primitive living Huichol Indians down in Mexico. So you’re gonna love this stuff, even if you’re not a triathlete. The insights apply to all peak performance goals that we have in life. And if you’re into endurance sports and want to hear from the greatest, here we go with another in-person interview with Mark Allen. So if you wanna watch on YouTube, it’ll be fun. We were in the Power Project Studios in Sacramento. Mark had a great show with the Power Project Boys as well. So good content coming out from the Grip, still an endurance athlete doing lengthy back-to-back podcasts in a single day, and then driving back to his home by the waves in Santa Cruz.
The Grip Mark Allen. Thanks. It’s good to connect with you in person. I went to the shed, the world famous shed for shed talks, I think it was a few years ago. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, thanks for coming to Sacramento. Please listen to or watch Mark Allen on the Mark Bell’s Power Project podcast. They just rocked it. And in the spirit of a true endurance athlete, you’re going for podcast binge day, so I appreciate that.
Yeah, well, you know, how many times do I get to Sacramento?
That’s right. Yeah. There’s a reason now it’s on the way to Truckee where your son lives, which if we were recording, which we were, we’ll learn about that. Amazing. So I see you on social media and keep in touch and you’re so enthusiastic about the sport of triathlon. It’s so, it’s so cool. It gets me excited about it too. ’cause I’m distant from it so long.
My goals are in different areas now, but you’re picking the winners of the next big pro race. So let’s catch up with your, your role, your influence in the sport. I know you’ve been coaching for a long time, some of your observations about how this, how this thing has progressed in the time that you, you hung it up.
Yeah, well, I, I mean, I hung it up basically end of 1995. That’s a long time ago. And so, you know, I can’t even do the math to figure out how how many years that was. It was at least more than three or four. So, but interestingly, you know, I mean, every year in the sport there’s always exciting stuff that happens. Um, but then, you know, we had Covid and there was sort of this gap of a good, basically kind of two years literally almost three years of, uh, where there, where there wasn’t an Ironman World Championship.
And, in 2022, you know, last Ironman World Championship crushed just an men’s race there. And, we had Covid in 2020, 2021, there was no Ironman World Championship. Finally May of 2022, they held the Ironman World Championship for 2021, kinda like the Olympics. Yeah. So the, you know, the Tokyo Olympics a year, a year later, and, and I, I was always like, what year are we in for this Olympics? You know? Anyway, so, um, they held that in, in St. George, Utah, and then later last year they held the Ironman World Championship in Kona.
Good year to peak. I guess you got two Ironman World Championships in one year. That was kinda like 1982, huh?
There’s a precedent here, people,
Yeah, I mean, they have had two in one year, one at a time. So anyway, the interesting thing for me is that, you know, there were a lot of years where things are rolling along and there’s always something exciting about it, but somehow having that gap allowed a lot of athletes to really just hone in on their training without the expectation of racing, without, trying to jam in a bunch of races that maybe weren’t ideal for their, for their fitness progress.
And all of a sudden when we came back into racing, there’s like this whole slew of guys and gals that are just on fire, and it just, I swear it lit my fire as far as watching it and seeing these young guys and these young gals challenging the established stars. You know, Daniela Reef all of a sudden is, she’s beatable. Jan Eno all of a sudden is beatable, you know, and like Anna Hogg who won Kona right before COVID, you know, she came back and it didn’t look like she was doing so great, but then all of a sudden this year she’s on a fire, you know? And so there, it felt like all of a sudden there’s this whole chance that things are really, things are really evolving again, you know, and athlete, the young athletes are taking things to a new level.
And so it really, it really sparked my excitement and enthusiasm. And, you know, last year having the two days of, of racing in Kona, the women on Thursday, the men on Saturday, was, it was a real, that was also something that was kind of pivotal for the sport. And in the terms of, you know, the, the women got their own day out there where, you know, the first person across the line, the first woman to cross the line was the first athlete across the line. It wasn’t like she was mixed in with 20 age group dudes who were trying to out sprint her or trying to get their photo taken with her, you know, whatever it’s like on guys. And, because the men and women were not racing together, the coverage itself was unbelievable because the cameras could focus on all of the dynamics of things changing throughout the day.
And we saw how complex the race is as it unfolds, you know, because they normally, they have to split the cameras between the top men, top women. And so you miss a lot of the dynamics going on in the back of the race. And a lot of times, as we all know, the back of the race is where the the winner’s gonna come from. It’s not the person who’s out in the front with the lead for nine tenths of the day, and then all of a sudden they blow up. Right. And so it really just got me going, you know, as far as my enthusiasm for the sport. And, um, and then, you know, and I’m kind of rambling here, but there’s, you know, there’s like this whole string of stuff that happened. So, you know, all of a sudden we see this totally different way of portraying the Ironman World Championship for the two days of racing.
But it was a huge demand on athletes, on staff, on the island, residents. And, you know, the decision was made that, yes, it’s a good thing to have women have their own day. It’s, it’s not a good thing to have two Ironman days on the big island in a small town with a small community trying to support it, even with the influx of people coming in from all over the world. It was just too much. And so this year we’ll have another historic world championship. The men will be racing in September in Nice, and the women will be racing in October in Kona, and then, and then next year it’s gonna, it’s gonna flip flop. And they’ll do that for at least these next four years with between Nice and Kona. And, you know, a lot of people were like, oh, you know, I, I trained my whole life to go to Kona and, and now I’m gonna try to qualify for Nice, and I can just go do iron and like, people, you just don’t get it.
Like, Nice is iconic, you know, I raced there 10 years, 10 different years. I did the international triathlon, two different wins, 10 different wins, 10 out 10, perfect, 10. I was like, how did I do that? Dang. Anyway, a lot of good luck and, uh, a lot of fitness, a lot of good luck for sure. But you know, it’s, it’s so different from Kona, obviously, you know, you don’t have the, it can be hot, but it’s a different kind of heat. You don’t have the wind, even though there, there can be this steady headwind on a lot of the course, but it’s Europe, it’s the <inaudible>, it’s the Southern France. You swim in the Mediterranean, there’s this, there’s climbs, there’s, it’s mountainous, you know, and the run is on thePromenade des Anglais which is, it’s like, you know, not, it’s not like, but it, it’s on par with any major, like, you know, Fifth Avenue or, you know, you name it, you name the street in a big city that’s Promenade des Anglais you know, with these historic buildings in the background and, you know, the Mediterranean on the other side.
And, the other thing, you know, a lot of people are like, oh, you know, I can just go do Ironman, France. Why, why, why would I wanna pay more money to go Ironman? World championship, the world championship that the Ironman puts on is like, on a whole other level from their normal races. And their normal races are amazing, as we all know. You know, anybody who’s done an Ironman knows that they’re pretty, their, their world class races. But the World Championship event is on a whole other level as far as not only the experience, but you’re racing against people from all over the world who have qualified. And so the competition is like nothing that you’re ever gonna see in any other Ironman. So it’s, anyway, I know there’s, people are probably gonna go, dude, you just, you just like Ironman too much.
Well, I do, you know. But I think, you know, once we, once we see the world championship Ironman World Championship in, in September, and then we complete the women’s race in October in Kona, people are gonna step away and kind of go, Hmm, okay. That, that was pretty darn cool. So, you know, I’m excited about that change in the sport. I know that there’s people that don’t agree with me on that. But the sport is, it’s also had its share of some other stuff that’s taken place. Like, about a month ago, Colin Chartier, American triathlete who won the PTO Dallas Open US Open last year, amazing race, won that. He won Ironman Mont-Tremblant about a month before that. And then all of a sudden he tests positive for EPO.
So it was an unbelievable performance, <laugh>,
Unbelievable two performances, breakthrough performances. And then all of a sudden in February tested positive for EP out of competition testing. And he said, yes, I took it, I started in November, you know, in my off season because my off season was not going well.
I love these, I love these caveat confessions. It’s so funny. We can have the third mic could be a psychologist saying, why don’t you just, I mean, and I love his virtue signaling where he said, I’m not gonna offer some BS excuse, like a tainted burrito <laugh>. And if you’re familiar with the Shelby Houlahan story, it’s a tragic story of where she tested positive for nandrolone, and they forced you to come up with a reason and an excuse. And she guessed maybe it was this burrito. And she got teased and ridiculed about it. It was a bad legal strategy, but she didn’t know how it got into her body. She said that. And so they mounted a defense as they were compelled to, but it’s like, I feel like I believe her, and I feel like she got, you know, railroaded by this extremely precise testing protocol. And then this guy mentions her as like, you know, tossing her to the garbage can where you cheated in what by and large appears to be a clean sport.
And the reason I say that now is like the, the anger and the backlash from John Feno and these guys making postman, John Feno riding the bike up the hill with his dad and saying, I compete in sports to challenge the honor and personal growth and improvement. It’s like, if everybody was dirty and cheating, they’d be pretty quiet. Like they were in the Peloton when some guy got picked out and tested positive. And everyone’s like, well, that’s too bad. Floyd Landis, you know, no one came to his def defense, you know, no one was like, you know, screaming about it. I’m gonna ask you, though, to put you on the spot. Like, is this an isolated case or what is your perception of, you know, these performances are extraordinary by any definition, what these mm-Hmm. What these top athletes can do, and we know what a extreme advantage performance enhancingdrugs, especially EPO can do for endurance athlete.
Yeah. You know, it’s a slippery slope to assume that any great breakthrough performance is because they took, somebody took a drug. You know, like in 1989, Dave Scott broke his, in our, our classic battle together. His, he broke his personal best pre the previous world’s record by almost 18 minutes. I did my best performance to that date by nearly 30. If that had taken place today in social media era, in social media era, people would’ve been just all over it saying, what did these guys take? You know? But, so it’s I, you know, 1000, I don’t have a skeleton in my closet, you know, fortunately, and, and I, that’s a whole other story of what I had to do to, to make sure that my body was healthy. You know, the attention that I to everything that would positively benefit my fitness growth, my overall health, my balance was not easy. You know, I sacrificed going to races that I could have raced at to make money, make money that would’ve cost me health benefits. Mm-Hmm. I gave up training that probably could have gotten me faster in the short run that would’ve injured me in the long run, would’ve cost me health benefits. There are a lot of things that, you know, I took time away from the sport to recover at the end of the season. You know, nowadays you look at, like last year, literally last year after Kona, like two to three weeks later, almost every pro was posting how they’re back at it in training. I’m like, wow, that’s not recovery. You know, my, my recovery season started in October or after Kona, and it went until January. So, I had two and a half months with nothing structured or put into a fitness basket..
And so there was a lot that I did to be able to make that kind of improvement that was, was frigging hard work and very meticulous and tedious and slow Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> That people nowadays are not doing. So anyway, is it rampant? Like, you know, we’ve seen it appear to have been in cycling or maybe in running in certain mm-Hmm. <affirmative> parts of the world or whatever. I don’t think so. And I, like I said, it’s a very slippery slope to look at any breakthrough performance and go, oh, well that’s because he took drugs. There’s something he’s taken. He didn’t get that. He smarter than the system. Mm. The other side though, you got, and this is I think why the thing with Colin got so much media coverage is that he was training with Lionel Sanders.
He, he was training in Gerona where John Fino trains and so many other athletes train. And, you know, he was in and around so many other people. And so, you know, it begs the question, well, did these guys not know, you know, did his coach not know a numbers guide? Did he not see anything that indicated that just getting fitter <laugh> as always, wow, my training’s really working,
You know, so what time we going tomorrow? 6:00 AM Okay. I’ll be there.
Yeah. And so, um, I think part of it that, that’s why there was a, a big outcry from some of the athletes who truly probably are clean. Like really? Yeah. You know? Yeah.
Well, Lionel Sanders wrote like, this guy stayed in my fricking bathroom. Was it, so was he breaking the law on my premises? Like, it was, it was heavy. And that also could be manufactured if you’re a real skeptic where, you know, you sound really good if you get super angry. But it was interesting, and I’ve been interested in, you know, looking back into the, the, the cycling years where I, I truly believed that Lance Armstrong was clean because he was so much better and more focused and trained harder than all the other athletes. So I’m the biggest idiot out there. I thought Liver King was clean ’cause he lived this super regimented lifestyle with the most perfect diet and extreme training regimen. But of course, how do you get there? If you get some assistance, you can certainly come back and, you know, recover fast and put in those hard workouts. So it’s, it’s rough to see this littered into major modern sport. And, like Tyler Hamilton’s book described how easy it is to beat the testing.
So, you know, these athletes have come out and said, well, I’ve been tested 17 times in the last two years, and I passed every test, so how dare you accuse me? It’s like, well, um, on page 178, Tyler talks about microdosing, where you pinch your skin and, you know, uh, you go in every night and then, uh, you know, that you better hide for 12 hours. And all that kind of stuff was pretty heavy.
You know, when I, when I raced, I had something that I, I divided my year into two, two basic seasons. And you know what? I’m actually doing a thing right now, and I’m trying to label it so that people are become more aware of it. And I call it the second season. Hmm. And, uh, you know, I’m gonna ask you actually if you kind of followed this too, but, you know, I would spend the winter and I would really build up for some key races that happened in May and early June.
Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and so I had a big chunk of fitness that took place that, that I got then. And then after that first really big part of the season, then everything sort of started to shift toward summer racing. And then, clearly Kona looming, you know, for months out there. And I learned right away that, you know, as you, if you’re somebody who can start training like in January, February, by May, June, you’re really, you’re in really good shape. And if you continue to do the same exact training that got you in that shape, by the time you get to October, you’re gonna be fried. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And so the second season, something that I’m really focused on right now, because we’re in that June window, is how do you take that fitness and then continue to build it without burning yourself out?
You know, and some people, they just wanna, they just wanna keep going the same trajectory with the same training all the way through. But once you get in really good shape, you’re not gonna be able to get in the same quantum leap shape by the end of the year. You’re gonna only make an incremental shift. Let’s make that incremental shift. You’re still gonna have to be consistent with your training, but, you’re, you’re that much closer to being overtrained also. Mm. And so recovery is super important, making sure that you’re, you’re, you’re pushing yourself into that overreach zone, but really making sure that you don’t go too far into it, because otherwise all of a sudden you really are in a depleted state. So, I mean, did you have like a second season or were you just like, powering all the way through?
Mark doesn’t realize how much of a setup this was. You’re, you’re so funny. You’re like the standup comic on the side. <laugh>, and I indeed had this second season concept, and it was completely inadvertent. And that’s why you were the smartest triathlete as well as, you know, the fittest and most successful. But we could all see how you work the rhythm much better. And I think that point about the economic drive of like, Hey, I, you know, I can go to this race and make a few thousand dollars, and that’s important to me as a young athlete who’s trying to make ends meet. And so I’d make decisions based on economics rather than, you know, the big picture. And so, if I look at my triathlon historical results, I had all these great successes, like in April and May, and then in June and July I would fly to Chicago and drop out because I was exhausted and it was hot and sticky, and everything had caught up to me from this great training path.
And so, you know, inadvertently I had these horrible troughs during the season, and then, you know, I was undefeated in Israel in December, the last race of the year. I kicked Mike Pig’s ass when he was triathlon of the year. And it’s because I had so much rest. And then I’d have a little bit of freshness left over from bombing out, and then I’d, you know, have some good weeks of training. And now reflecting back, and for the people listening that are striving for those goals, there’s so much competitive intensity and drive and focus and desire to, like you made, if you’re watching on video, Mark made his hand go up and up and up through the sky. And it’s like, we all wanna do that. We wanna continue to excel, but it’s almost impossible. And so then you gotta sit back and go, okay, where am I gonna get some breathing room? Describe what overreaching means too.
Well, overreaching is, is doing workouts where you’re, you’re going just a little bit beyond where your fitness is. Mm. So let’s say, you know, let’s say it’s the beginning of, of the year. Like not everybody starts training in January. A lot of people actually just starting now because it’s actually summertime. Right? And so maybe you haven’t been doing much, and you go out for your first sort of long run and maybe that long run, you know, you, you make it 40 minutes and your toast <laugh>. Okay? So that’s, that’s your upper limit of your endurance fitness running, let’s say. And then the following week, maybe you go 45 minutes or 47 or 50. So you’ve, you’ve overreached where your sort of fitness limit is. And so you go beyond that point and, and you, you’ll know where that point is because all of a sudden you’ll start to feel, it gets a little harder to hold your form together, you know, and maybe you start to slow down and your heart rate starts to go up even though you’re slowing down.
And that’s your overreach point. That’s where you’re pushing into that, that zone where you’re not quite that fit yet. And as you do that, and then when you recover from it, then you put, you rebuild or replenish, you rejuvenate, and then it, it, your fitness actually starts to go up to that 47 minutes, 50 minutes, and then a week or two later, then you go 55 minutes or an hour. And that’s how you, how you sort of overreach in the same with that. So that’s like an endurance aspect. And the same with speed. You know, you, you set up, you’re gonna do eight quarters on the track or something, let’s say, and you, you, you think you’re holding a pace that you can hold the entire way. And then you get to number seven and all of a sudden your form falls apart and you’ve got it back down to speed, and you’ve gotta increase the recovery in between that one and the last one.
That’s your overreach point. And then, you know, you recover from it. You, you take a nap, you take it easy the next day or two, you know, and you come back maybe a week later, two weeks later, do the same workout. All of a sudden you get to, you get to number eight and you’ve done all of them at the pace you want. And maybe you even got faster as you went through them and the following time, then you can go mm-Hmm. To another level of overreach. Mm-Hmm. So it’s going beyond sort of your fitness point where, and like I said, you can notice it because things start to fall apart. They start to get tight because you’re trying to hold it together. Okay. That’s my overreach point for this point in time. And then you’ll see that that changes as your fitness builds.
Were you ever fooled by the cortisol cocktail of pushing your body really hard and then the body responding with fight or flight? Like, this happened to be a lot where I felt fantastic for an amazing six week binge of training. And I wake up the next day, I’m recovered, I’m not sore, I feel great, I go and do another great workout, and then at some point I fall off a cliff. I dunno if that’s, you can relate to that.
Yeah. You know, I, I actually just wrote a blog about that and it’s about that. I call it the unseen injury. And it’s, I read it. Yeah. Yeah. It’s fatigue. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> <laugh> the unseen injury. Yeah. You know, it’s, it’s not a, it’s not a specific pain point, like a, a knee that hurts or a shoulder that, that, you know, hurts when you’re swimming. It’s not a, a lower back that gets tight when you’re cycling. It’s like this sense of like, man, it’s, it’s getting a little bit harder to get up for the workouts.
Or maybe you get up for the workouts, but then you notice the next day you’re really like overly wasted from it. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And, you know, so there’s this fatigue that it’s like a, a slow draw down on your internal battery, on your recharge on your, on your adrenal system that takes place when you’re doing a lot of that overreaching, you know, you’re going to those new levels and you’re going and you’re going and you’re going new level, new, new level, new level. And it’s super exciting. And, you feel like, whoa, you know, I am on top of it, dude. Like, I’m gonna crush Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> because I’m gonna keep going like this forever. Well, if you’re not recovering, meaning, and, and like you said, you don’t feel sore because you’re fit. Right. And you’re not, you’re not sore. Like there’s, there.
Could be because you’re inflamed because of the hormone imbalance of being in chronic fight or flight.
And you should be sore, but you’re not. Yeah. Because you’re on a cloud and then you.
Yeah. And then eventually you, you hit the superhero to zero is what I call it <laugh>.
And like, can we trademark that phrase? Okay.
From superhero to zero. You, one day you’ll have this like complete your, you feel invincible workout, and then for the next two or three days, you really, you just feel like you got ran over by a truck. And then that’s, that’s kind of at the far end of that invisible injury of fatigue where your, your adrenal system is trying to, it’s trying to somehow keep you going. And yeah, one day it super pushes you, and then there’s nothing left in the tank. And that’s, that’s when your recovery isn’t gonna be just like an easy day, two days, it might be three or four weeks.
Or like you were talking about, you know, you were on fire through April or May, and then you’re like on the couch for a month or two, and then all of a sudden everything’s been recharged. And so that, that second season, it’s, it’s, um, it’s easy to get to that point because you’re super fit and you can keep pushing. And, you know, our mind has a way of working of, of ignoring those little fatigue symbols. And so two of the big signs for me that there’s really, uh, a fatigue thing going on are an overtrained situation going on where you, you really need to back off number one, arrogant trash talking. And number two, <laugh>.
number one, arrogant trash talking. And number two, <laugh>.
Mood disturbances, <laugh>,
Continued self-aggrandizement to the extreme. Okay. Number one, excuse me.
Number one. Yeah. Your, your partner says they’re gonna leave you if you keep going like this <laugh>. Um, so somebody said, if your, if your relationship isn’t in trouble, you’re not training hard enough, I’m like, oh my God, that is such a triathlete mentality.
Another triathlete quote for the wall.
Yeah. Yeah. The whiteboard. So, you know, one of them is you’re finding the, the first thing that goes is you’re swimming. Ah, really? You’re, you start to slow down in the pool. And the, one of the reasons for that is that swimming takes the most fine motor control of any of the sports. And your fine motors control coordination starts to go with fatigue first. You can override, the big muscles can carry on beyond that. Second thing that happens is you’re like, you’re on the bike and you have a hard time getting your heart rate up, even though you feel like you’re pushing really hard.
Like you can’t, you can’t get your heart rate up there, which is like, whoa. And your, your watts aren’t that high. It’s not like you’re super fit and your heart rate’s low. Your, your heart rate’s low and heart’s tired, your heart’s tired, your heart rate’s low, and your watts are low. But you feel like, oh, I’m pushing and I can’t get up there. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> third sign is you go out for a run and e even as nice, easy start of the run, you’re completely full of. lactate. And it’s like,
Hmm, okay, I listened to the podcast. So what am I gonna do with this <laugh>, you gotta recover. Cold plunge. Yeah. Yeah. Also, on that note, Joel Jameson, HRV expert blew my mind with this one. You know, another symptom of extreme over training is, or extreme overreaching, is abnormally high HRV, which for those of you familiar with HRV a higher score means you’re recovered, your cardiovascular system is fit. But if it’s too high, that indicates parasympathetic dominance because your sympathetic system is suppressed because you’re so exhausted. We want parasympathetic sympathetic balance. And so all those celebrating their super high HRV score, they just had a breakthrough, it could mean that you’ve just trashed yourself so much that now you’re in ultra rest mode and it necessitates rest rather than my own apps says, you’re okay to train today because you’re in the normal range, or you’re above the normal range. So I think sensibility is, um, a big, a big factor here to, to make decision. If, you know, now knowing what you know and having all this database of people that you’ve coached successfully and people have struggled and then turned it around, all that, would you do something different with your career? You think you could go faster if you’re rewinding the clock with all your knowledge base to your prime time?
Yeah, I think I could, I could go a little bit faster.
Not talking about, I asked Dave Scott, why are these guys breaking aid in Hawaii? I’m gonna ask you the same thing and we’ll, we’ll put out some of his reasons were they got rid of the cattle guards, they paved the Queen K highway. So much better now. The bikes are better, the springy shoes are three to four minutes better in a marathon. And so you start adding that up because I do wanna propose this question like, you guys trained hard and were pretty good, and we’re at the top of your game and destroyed the records that many people have trained so hard to try to beat when you did the 8:09, 8:10 mm-Hmm. <affirmative> time. So how are we seeing seven 40 with a dozen guys between seven 40 and eight if we’re gonna propose that there’s not a lot of performance enhancing drugs?
Yeah. I mean, nowadays, you know, the, you look at any semi, even semi-decent field in a men’s race in an Ironman, and the top five, if not top 10, are all under eight hours. You know, eight hours wa was the mythic barrier when I was, when I was competing. And, uh, I think they first did that at Challenge Roth, and then finally, yeah, finally they actually, well, it was Ironman, Germany at the time. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. But, and then, uh, and then finally they did it in Kona. And now, you know, last year Gustav Eden going whatever it was, seven 40 or something. And so, um, yeah. So you’re asking yourself, how is that possible? What would I, if I was using their, if I had the technology of today, what would I do differently? You know, one thing that would, one thing that would’ve helped me would’ve been having a power meter Mm-Hmm.
You know, it just would, it would give you that nice way of sort of just sort of fine tuning your cycling efficiency. So like, if you can get a few more watts by maybe moving, moving in a slightly different space on your seat, or noticing that your upper body’s a little tight and you relax it, and all of a sudden your heart rate’s the same, but your watts goes up by five watts. You know, those are, those are cool little feedback things. It wouldn’t have, it wouldn’t have allowed me to go under four hours, you know? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> on the same equipment, but it would’ve been an improvement.
Would you wanna put out the exact same power, the whole race? Is that, is that the ideal Ironman cycling event putting out the same power? Yeah. Like, would you wanna go 312 watts the entire time, uphill, flat, uh, to disperse energy correctly? Or how do they do that?
I would’ve, I would’ve measured my watts against heart rate.
So maybe I had a goal of pushing 280 watts for the Ironman. Right. But pushing 280 watts at the beginning of the, the bike ride. My heart rate might’ve been 140, and then it goes up to 510, and then to hold watts by the end, I’m, I’m at 165. No, no.
You wanna, you wanna, you wanna solve for heart rate?
I would’ve wanted to solve for heart rate because, um, you know, that, that’s an indication of how the stress overall is adding up in your body, you know? And so when you’re in the heat, you’re getting dehydrated. If your heart rate starts to really go up, there’s stuff going on in their physiologically, even if your perceived effort has not changed that much. And so that was, that was actually something that I was very attuned to when I was competing.
But yeah, you know, I look at the shoes and, you know, I, somebody sent me a pair of the super shoes about a year ago, and I put ’em on. I’m like, oh my gosh, game changer. This would’ve been like so much faster. Crazy.
Pass that lady in the stroller now.
Yeah. But anyway, I was curious because I, you know, now I’ve been watching, um, some of Mark Sisson’s with his new shoes and just like, yeah. So, you know, that’s a, that’s a pretty cool concept. I hope he does well with that. It’s interesting. Um, you know, he’s always been so much into like, how, how can we work with what the body’s meant to be? How do we keep its homeostasis and, and health in a real natural way because our, our modern world is not a natural environment.
And you’ve done a lot of work with Mark.
So Yeah, it’s a, it’s a daily battle. I mean, that’s what the obsession with the ancestral health movement is try to recapture some of these practices that we know are so beneficial. But then we have all these constraints in modern life. And I think sometimes we even take it to the extreme where, you know, we’re saying, you know, our ancestors, they never ate fruit all winter. And I had this sticky note on my door, it said, you know, don’t eat fruit in the winter because it’s against the ancestral example, but it’s like, what freaking winter are we talking about now? ’cause I, I got a Southwest airline special to Hawaii, $80 one way, and we went to Hawaii three times last winter, <laugh>. So I’m on the beach and the hot sun sweating, there’s no winter. And I’m gonna go to the farmer’s market and get some fruit <laugh>.
So, um, it’s nice to kind of honor the example of our ancestors, but then we have to adapt to modern life. And like training for a long distance triathlon is decidedly against our genetic expectations for health. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So I guess up up comes another question. I know we have a few left to answer, but, can you do this sport such that it’s designed now in a manner that’s not destructive to your health straight up?
I think you can. Um, but it requires, like I said, it all goes back to recovery. You’re going really slow instead of trying to break eight hours. Yeah, yeah. Or if, if that’s your goal and you do break eight hours, you, you really have to recover from it. Mm-Hmm. And, um, you know, but the thing that has taken place in my mind is that, um, Ironman, the distance of an Ironman has become a little bit more normalized.
Mm-Hmm. Like, so many people have done Ironmans now, like, oh yeah, I know 200 people who’ve done an Ironman. It’s like, oh yeah, they did one here and then then doing another one there, and they’ve done 18 and, you know, mm. When I was, when I was competing, you know, we, we were, I I would say intimidated by the distance. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And we had a healthy respect for the recovery it took to truly recover from it. And, and there were, there were those who didn’t and they burned out quickly. You know, those of us who actually really had that healthy respect for what the true recovery was. And when I’m talking about true recovery, I’m talking about, you know, our, like I said, our adrenal system is sort of like that internal battery that gets drained down when we’re doing our over distance training or high intensity training.
You know, you’re drawing down the energy that’s in that reserve inside your body. And when you actually do the, the Ironman race, you really draw down on it and putting the energy back into that adrenal system in your body. It’s sort of like replenishing the water tables under underground. They takes a while, you suck them dry one rainstorm, then you fill ’em up. It takes a long time for everything to seep in and to fill ’em back up. And it’s the same with that adrenal system. So, you know, two or three weeks after Ironman, yeah. You are not sore. You feel normal when you’re sitting around. But then if you really go out and try to train hard, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re tuning in, you’ll realize, Ooh, yeah, I’m actually still, there’s still something that’s not quite back in there, but it’s not, at first it’s not dramatic.
And so you try to ignore it. And that’s, I think the pattern that’s happened with a lot of the athletes nowadays. And you know, exactly. Kind of to your example when I was talking about the second season of how your second season often kicked off with being completely exhausted. Mm-Hmm. That’s what’s happening to a lot of the top pros now. They’re getting their, they’re getting their off season because they get injured <laugh>, they’re not ill or whatever. Yeah. Yeah. They’re not like Lucy Charles was injured for quite a while. Jan Ano has, you know, he, he completed his first official Ironman last weekend since 2019. You know, it’s been four years. I mean, he did Battle Royale try Battle Royale with Lionel Sanders 2021, but that was a very different kind of low stress in a certain, anyway, so he’s had a number of injuries over, you know, over his career.
So clearly he’s not, also not getting quite as much recovery as getting old sucks.
Yeah. Come on. Now, was he 40 or something?
Yeah, I think he’s like 41. So amazing to keep going like that. But I, I wouldn’t, I dunno where he is getting a desire. That’s the Yeah.
But anyway, maybe the financial incentives are there just like a aging major sports star that, you know, can take it or leave it except for the $17 million on the table, then it’ll take it maybe,
or, or keep dribbling. Or maybe it’s, like I said, maybe the distance has been a little bit normalized and so it doesn’t sound like as big of a deal to come do another Ironman as, as it as it did when, you know, you and I were competing back in the dark ages.
So it seems to me during your career that you nailed some of these objectives about stress, risk balance. You raced like 10 times a year and other people did 15 or 20 or 27 like Mike Pigg or whatever. So how, what, what changes did you, would you make to go faster from, you know, your education over the decades?
One thing I would’ve done is cut out some of the training that I did in my early years that was purely, to sort of boost my self-confidence that had nothing to do with actually getting more me more fit.
Wow. Like, you know, like being a grip of death on a bike ride.
Yeah. Not as, not as often as I would. Yeah. You know, like some of the key sessions I had, I would have to do regardless because that was truly what was, what was required to get to that level. That would be hopefully at the top of the podium.
Yeah. You know, you don’t get there by going easy <laugh>, you don’t get there by never overreaching. You have to do that at certain points. But there was also a lot of training that I did that I was just doing because either everybody else was doing it. So I thought, oh, lemme just go with them. Or, or it was, it was just workouts to sort of say, oh yeah, I can run that fast or that long, or that far, do this hill repeat, or whatever it is. And I, and I really didn’t start to get that until the final year that I competed in 1995. Wow. Because I was, I was 37 years old. My son Nats had been born, you know, almost two years earlier. And because of those two constraints, having a child and being older, I was forced to cut back because I could see that when I went into that final year of, of Ironman racing by away, I tried to do the stuff that I had done for the past 10 years or whatever, and I was like, okay, this is not working.
This is way too much. I can’t handle it. And so I cut out all of the fluff,
The ego workouts.
Yeah. You know, and so I would’ve cut those out way earlier on. Much earlier on,
You reminded me of a Phil Maffetone quote where he explains, you don’t really need to train the brain to suffer. The brain knows it doesn’t need to be trained. If I come put a gun to your head right now, we’re gonna run 57 miles back to Santa Cruz. We’ll, we’ll both make it. The brain doesn’t need training. the anaerobic muscle fibers don’t training because they’re explosive by nature. So they need minimal training. And so that was the argument to just emphasize aerobic development, which you were the, you know, the, the trendsetter and the leader there. And you helped shape my career in the right direction, as did Dr. Phil. But it was, it was a blow away insight. ’cause you’re like, yeah, what, what is all this suffering day, day out? Because we wanna get tough and resilient enough for the race. No. When the race comes and you, you know, put your toe in the water, you’re gonna be in that heightened peak performance state where you’re ready to suffer, even if you’ve, you know, kind of had a gentle being good to your body through training. And of course you can’t win by going easy, but I felt like when it’s time to go hard and you’re feeling great, and it’s time to go hard, it’s a great experience. You feel great. You’re not, it’s not like, when’s this workout gonna be over? It’s like, I’m kicking ass today. ’cause I’ve waited this whole week to, to throw down once on, you know, on the weekend. So you saying that I could, you could just could’ve just called me up.
I’d say, Mark, you’re really good. You don’t have to do all those extra workouts <laugh>, have fun with your son. Take him to the park. Swing. Swing. Yeah. Lemme show you some of your times. But that’s interesting thatyou had, that took a long time to get that reflection if you’re saying it’s at the end of your career.
Yeah. And, you know, and I, I didn’t think I was doing any of my workouts for the wrong reason, or I thought every workout was right. Of course. Yeah. You just, but you know, once it, once the light bulb goes on and you’re like, Ooh, okay, I guess I really don’t need this one. And it’s like, huh. Geez,
That’s so funny. I’m, I’m now thinking of what, when Andrew MacNaughton and I went up here and drove up from LA to, to this area to interview Dave Scott, and he’s explaining some of his training philosophy where, you know, you can cut out those, those long slow workouts and everything needs to be in a chosen heart rate. And I’m like, you know, why, why, why is that, Dave? Why don’t you go longer than the bike course to, to build your over distance? And he goes, oh, I got bored doing that stuff. And then on the five hour drive home with Andrew, I’m like, he might be bored, but I just wanna be good. So if you tell me like to go at an easy heart rate and go for seven hours and that’s gonna help me. Yeah. So I kind of rejected some of that. But like, his training philosophy was driven by boredom, which is awesome. ’cause if you’re bored, you’re bored. And he knew what, what worked for him was an 88 mile bike ride at time trial pace rather than going 140 and coming at the direction differently.
Well, I guess there is where some of our philosophy diverged, you know, like for me, for me, training is not entertainment. You know, and, and, and I, and I try to emphasize that with my athletes, especially the ones that, the ones that are really trying to optimize their performance and fitness. It’s like, I’m not coaching you for entertainment. I’m coaching of getting better over and over and over. And, and secondly, as you do that, it’ll train your mind to be used to staying on task when it’s boring, when it’s not entertaining. And when you’re in a race, then when you are in a race, you’re gonna be so excited because racing is exciting. Mm. But if you have done all your training with excitement and tons of music and switching everything up, <laugh> and occupying your mind with all these complicated workouts, you’re gonna get in a race and you’re gonna feel like something’s missing because you can’t use your music. You’re, you’re not, you’re not having this structured mixing up of different zones and all this kind of stuff.
So you’re not gonna have anything to watch other than like a heart rate or a Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> wattage or a pace. And so, you know, a lot of, a lot of training for me was actually training my mind to deal with boredom. Mm. And so my ultimate boredom workout that actually Ken Souza came up with was in Colorado and it was, we did this for the first time a couple times in 1989, where we would start in Boulder and we would ride 70 miles due east away from the Colorado Rockies through the flat to rolling corn fields of eastern Colorado to a little town called Wiggins. And there was a small gas station where we would turn around at 75 miles and we would ride back. And as you’re riding back, you’re so far east that you, at first you can’t even see the Rockies.
And you know, that’s a scary proposition when you’re like the only two dudes biking out there in the middle of a cornfield. Right. So anyway, but it was, there was so much of that that was teaching us to just stay on task hour after hour after hour mentally. And, you know, your body needs a certain amount of training for that. But again, also that, that’s where like some people say, well, if you train at super high in Tennessee for low periods, you’ll get the same mitochondrial changes in your cells and all this kind of stuff, which might be true, but it’s not training your mind to deal with yourself for hour after hour after hour. And that’s such a key element.
I’m also thinking of my penchant for setting PRs and workouts, and I would get so psyched in the pool if I could come in at a better interval or, you know, make it up to the top of the trail in a faster time. And so that’s the, you know, that’s the opposite of having the patience to, to be okay being bored and not going for PRs. And I wonder if it’s like, you know, personality insight, they talk about your YP where certain athletes need variety and Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, some of them thrive on consistency. And maybe in that example of you and Dave, you know, people have known that your approach is different in terms of the training. And then here you are side by side for 140 of the 140.6 miles. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So both guys figured out what worked best for them. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, there’s probably a lot of value in that, but I think if you, if you kind of overdo it, let’s say overdo it on the side of volume where there’s a real, you know, workhorse out there that just likes to go all day or overdo it on, in my case, I think I was jumpy and distractible.
And so I wanted to go try a new route and set a new best time on this route rather than just go to Wiggins back and forth every week. You know, there’s, there’s some, there’s some nuance there that’s really important to figure out. I think.
Yeah. Strava would’ve killed you. <laugh> you, you’d always be trying to set PRs on this route or that router that climb. Really, you’ve been, you would’ve been your downfall.
Luckily it was all before that age. So you mentioned, um, some of these modern athletes getting into their holes and getting sick and missing races. And so, have we progressed in 30, 40 years, uh, of figuring this stuff out? Or are we still bumping our head up against the wall in terms of the type A endurance community? And maybe even that filters over into the CrossFit community and these places where the reports of overuse injuries and burnout are common. Um, seems like the performances have taken a jump, but maybe not so much of a jump as we think. And is there another horizon where we could see people thriving and having, you know, seven great races a year and wonderful training cycles? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and two seasons with a distinct family vacation in the middle where we’re going camping and then back at it, you know.
Yeah. Um, yeah, I mean, some things have progressed, like the technology of the sport obviously has progressed. You know, I had a heart rate monitor and a speedometer on my bike and a stopwatch that I’d on the track, and that was it. Obviously now there’s things that about everything, so has, has progressed, but has it, has it,
Has it helped?
Has it fundamentally changed much? I don’t, I don’t think so. Um, like I said, you know, if the aspect of recovery had progressed as much as the aspects of training have, I think, I think we’d see even more amazing results. You know, and so, like, just an example of why I don’t know if all of these devices have actually changed much, is I, I was watching a podcast that was about, um, Gustav Eden and Christian B’s coach talking about their training and what they were doing and what they were measuring and, and, you know, it was very scientific. And they’ve got all this stuff that’s measuring like their, you know, their, their, their body temperatures during training. <laugh>, the body temp.
Well, listen, sleep during training, <laugh>.
Well, no, I mean, it’s, this is kind of interesting. Like we’re measuring body temperature during training to see where the point was where if the bite temperature goes up above it, then they can’t sustain their effort. They were looking at the amount of calories they need to take in so that they can keep absorbing without it being too much or not enough.
They were looking at, you know, the, the pace that they can hold for long periods of time before it’s, it’s actually too fast. And they, and they have to drop it down. I mean, and so ultimately I’m going, this is the exact same stuff that we were, we were trying to optimize. We were trying to figure out how many calories, what do we need to take in, how fast can we go when it’s hot? Mm-Hmm. And the only difference is that so much of that, the integration of all that knowledge was done over time by sensing it in our bodies. Whereas, you know, Olaf and, you know, his athletes there, they’re able, they’re able to gather all that knowledge in like one year or two years <laugh>. And so it, so it looks like these guys just went, which they did.
And a lot of it is because I use that technology, but it’s not like they’re looking at anything different than we did. It just took a few more years for us to gather that knowledge in, in the core of our cells so that we understood it, and so that we could sense like, okay, my body’s getting a little too hot here, hot, I’m a little dehydrated, or this is too fast, I need to slow down, you know? And so, like in Kona, um, you know, there’s the energy lab, right? And the energy lab is, when we did it, it was basically a mile down, a mile along the coast, a mile back, and then a not quite a mile back out of the lab on an upgrade and on that last upgrade. And when you come outta there, you’ve got about a 10 K to go to the finish.
So you’re, the reason his tone of voice changed a little there is like, you’re heading back to town after this long run on the lava fields, and you have to make a detour, basically.
A brutal detour.
Yeah. You, you had this little four mile, basically four mile detour. It’s slightly different now, but basically four miles. And so when you’re running out of the energy lab, it’s this long gradual upgrade to get back to the Queen Kao highway. Right. And the, the prevailing wind is always blowing in the same direction that you’re running, and it’s basically blowing at the same speed that you’re running. So as you’re running up this upgrade, upgrades naturally raise your body temperature. There’s no conduction because of the wind. Because the wind, it basically, it’s, you’re running in still air. And so your body temperature starts to rise and it rises and it rises.
And on that hill, I went as hard as I could because I knew that when I got to the top, I was gonna be ready like a radiator ready to blow. But the second I made that right turn to back, get back on the main part of the run course, the wind would be aside and my bite core temperature would drop. And all the other guys were very conserved. Take it easy. Yeah. They were taking it easy on that uphill. And so that was, that was always a point in a number, number of the Ironmans where I made huge gains on everybody else and was able to use it, utilize it to be, uh, a, you know, winner there.
So it’s like transcending the sensibility and the, and the, and the, uh, logistics to get a competitive advantage.
Yeah. So like, you know, if I was Gustav or Christian, I might, if you guys are listening, think about that. If you guys are listening, y’all listening out there up in Norway, you know, they, they might look at it like, oh, I can’t let my core temperature get higher than X because if I do, I’ll blow up. Well, you’re not holding it above X for more than Right. A very short period of time. Right. And that was a huge difference. Yeah. So wild. Just another intuitive thing that came that maybe wouldn’t always show up on those numbers.
It’s sort of like, you know, going too fast because you’re in a pack and it’s worth it because if you drop off to honor your heart rate, you’re not gonna be, there’s no one gonna be breaking the wind for you. So that’s where competition and mechanics kind of diverge, I guess. So yeah, it seems like these Norwegian example is, is great because they’re setting records and, and doing amazing feat. So it seems like some of the athletes have progressed via the, the scientific advancements. But I feel the general sense that we’re still battling the influence of the ego and things of that nature, that even with all this data and maybe too much data, I don’t know. And in the population that you coach, you have to like sometimes fight some of these battles where you want people to break free from the constraints of technology and type A personality.
Yeah. Well, my coaching now is all on TRI DOT, and it’s a, it’s a platform that, that takes all of that data that happens in athletes training and integrates it in a way that would be very hard for me to do with just my brain. It’s sort of like, um, you know, the, the AI that they’ve created really takes it and it, it, the training in the future continually changes based on what’s happening.
In the short term and the long term for the athlete. And so, you know, when they do certain assessments, if, if, you know, they do assessments so that periodically, you know, if they’re going down the other side, it’ll show up and their zones will be reduced so that they, they don’t try to stay at that same level or keep going further. They’re gonna back it down so that they do recover. And, it’s super interesting. It’s kind of like, you know, way years ago, you go to the doctor and they pull out the stethoscope and they’d stick it on your heart and your lung. They say cough.
And then they have to try to figure out what the heck’s going on. Well, now they put, put you in the MRI and they really see what’s going on. And then the still and all different sports is gonna take place where you take all of this data and you, you analyze it in a non-biased way. Mm. Like, you don’t, you don’t, you know, the AI doesn’t care whether the person has a race or, or whatever. They’re just looking at going, okay, they’re on track. No, they’re not on track. We need to change the training based on that. But then there’s also, there’s also that art and human element that, still needs to be integrated in with coaching and helping athletes. You know, like the human body is so complex that there’s no way that any watch is gonna be able to tell you everything you need to know and watch isn’t gonna ask you some of the questions that will help you be introspective enough to understand what it is you’re doing with the sport.
Why are you doing it? Why are you, um, you know, what’s your purpose? What’s your, what’s your bigger goal in this? How is how is this enhancing your life? Or is it adding stress to your life? Is it enhancing your health? Or is it detracting from your health? Are you being fulfilled from the day to day, or are you waiting for some result to give you the joy that you’re looking for? You know? And so as a coach, I can continually bring that, bring people back to kind of like a, a healthier perspective on, on, on everything. And, you know, interesting talking sort of back backtracking to, you know, what you were saying with Mark Sisson and gonna, like ancient genetics and what you’re doing for sure. A competition is, it’s an unusual stress on the body. Mm-Hmm. Like, you know, for sure. Um, there were periods like if you’re a hunter-gatherer society, maybe you had to run for quite a while to catch a gazelle or whatever it is, you know, well, yeah.
You’re, you’re running and your temperature’s going up and, and you’re getting hotter and you override it because you gotta eat. Right? But beyond that, our world is so, in my opinion, so much more stressful than it probably was way back when. Like, you know, if, if you have ever been in an indigenous cultural setting where people are living very simple lives, similar to the way that that’s been going on for thousands of years, they’re not busy from the time they wake up until the time they go to sleep. They have time where they’re chilling, hanging out, laughing by the fire, talking with each other, just daydreaming. And and I’ve seen this with myself. Like, you know, I, I could occupy myself day and night with coaching, you know, I could, I could be on there 24 hours a day and still not feel like I’m giving everything that I have, you know, I can to the office. Right. And so I’ll just walk outside for five minutes. There’s a value to daydreaming. Mm-Hmm.
Like, you know, and they’ve, they’ve shown through science that when you’re daydreaming your creative problem solving part of your brain is working at peak capacity. It’s not happening when you’re at the chalkboard trying to figure something. It’s happening when you’re daydreaming. And, you know, and Einstein actually echoed this. He said some of his greatest insights came when he was riding a bicycle because he was daydreaming. He wasn’t at the chalkboard. He’s just cruising along and he’s daydreaming. And all of a sudden, you know, oh yeah,E equals MC squared. I dunno what that means, but <laugh>, I’m sure it’s cool. Lemme go back to the lab and figure that out. It just came to me on my bike run. Yeah.
Oh, man. And it, it’s, it’s, I think about it weighs heavily on me this this concept because especially like in our age group, we have this reference point of half of our lives where we didn’t have the hyperconnectivity and the technology, and, you know, the people, the age of our offspring, they don’t know any better than being completely stimulated at all times. And I have so many lost memories of, you know, positive experience of having downtime and, you know, allowing insights to arrive naturally or reflections. And we’ve just, we’ve just squeezed that outta life now. Mm-Hmm. Like even in the athletic example, these guys are posting on social media after the race. I remember just going back and crashing out and eating three pineapples in a row or something. You’re not punching the keyboard, you know?
Yeah. I, I was speaking with Tim O’Donnell a couple years ago, and, um, he’s, he, he was second, uh, in his best finishing Kona went under eight hours, still didn’t win. Crazy. Right. Anyway, um, you know, I was saying to him, I cherished that offseason time from the time Kona was done until basically January 1st, where I was, nothing was structured. I didn’t have any training that I did that was designed to put fitness in the bank. If I trained, it was because I wanted to be outside moving. And he goes, we don’t get that time anymore.
He said, there is no downtime with social media. You’re constantly having to post stuff and talk Strava, <laugh> Yeah. Talk about stuff. And, I’m like, I, I think, I think that, um, that’s one aspect that also people don’t think about as far as interrupting their recovery. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, thinking about it too. Yeah. You know, there’s, there’s less time where people are just taking it easy, you know? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And, like, you, you, you’re reading something on your laptop or you’re scrolling through Instagram or whether you using your brain. And that’s very different than like, in the old days. Like, you know, people would, back in the old days when you’d read a book right before you went to bed, you know, you’re still using your brain. But when you’re reading a book, mind is just, it’s daydreaming. It’s creating the scenario of what the words are talking about, you know?
And so it’s, it’s such a different way of using your mind, you know, to read a story. Yeah. Than it’s to like, scroll through Instagram or scroll through Twitter. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, the biggest time sink for me is like, one, if you start going through TikTok, you know, you’re looking at this stuff and eventually you go, what is, this is so stupid. <laugh>.
Yeah. I like the, what’s the book? I’m, uh, the, um, I forgot the name of this book about, um, hyperconnectivity and distractibility, uh, come to think of the, the effects of modern life. I can’t remember the book’s name. Um, but he says, you know, you lose that capacity to focus and then you get drawn in. And so, like, we cannot win this battle, is the idea loaded? And so instead you have to, you know, you have to plug your phone into a different room instead of saying, I’m gonna use my motivation, discipline, and willpower to not scroll through the thing. He goes, forget it, that they’re gonna beat you every time. And it’s a nice way to look at it rather than thinking, oh, I’m such a loser. I didn’t work on my book again today. I scrolled through social media. It’s gonna happen again and again until you build in, like you talked about going outside and taking a breather from your screen. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. Well, you weren’t on the screen at that point, but otherwise you might have been stuck on your screen for longer.
Yeah. I mean, there’s, I, you know, there’s def there’s some value to like, social media. Like I see some stuff on there that would be very hard to have ever learned about or seen back in the day. But it’s just like training. You know, you, you do some, it’s okay. You do a lot, you do, you overdo it. It’s gonna be too much like anything.
So you, you hung it up after that great victory, the, the sixth consecutive in Hawaii, that back in 95. And then tell us about your, your fitness journey since then to date. And also, I’m curious if, you know, you’re the most competitive guy on the planet in an incredibly grueling sport. And so is that in a pocket now? Do you live through the performances of your athletes? Are you, are you charging those ways with that same competitive intensity? Or do you feel like, hey, here’s a healthy new chapter where I don’t have to be the grip of death anymore. But how do you extinguish that, that flame that of course, burned in you for the first 37 years of your life?
I, you know, there’s, there’s a big distinction between being a very successful competitor and being somebody who is very successful in competition. Hmm. They’re not necessarily the same thing. So you can be a very successful competitor, meaning, like, you thrive on, on that. You intentionally go out and you seek competition to prove something, to be a competitor. For me, the biggest thrill outta triathlon was the training and I would make those small, incremental changes in my fitness. Those, so the small gains or in efficiency or speed or strength or endurance, that those moments that really, I was the only one who knew it or saw it, but they meant a lot to me. And those were really fully, really satisfying. I was not the kind of person who sought out competition. Like, I didn’t, I didn’t wanna go out there every day with training people and have it be a race. Some people, that’s how they trained, you know, I could name the names.
You probably, you’ve known some of them, but they’re just hardwired that way. But, when I was in a race, I also didn’t like to lose. So, you know, I would give it the best that I had. And I felt like that was, that was why I was in a race, was to find out what the best I had was to give on that day. And it just happened that, you know, obviously I had a few, it was the best of anybody in the field on the day. So when I compete, when I competed, when I stopped competing, when I retired from competition, there wasn’t a hole in my life because I didn’t miss, you know, the competition part. But I, and so, but I still have that quest to be the best that I can be on any, any given day.
And so how that gets expressed is much different, different than it was years ago. For many years it was trying to get a little bit better, a little faster, a little stronger. But at 65, you know, if I’m competing against my 37 year old self, I’m losing every day, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So what’s the goal? What is, what is that measure of being the best you can be? And it simply is getting out there each day and moving my body, whether it’s surfing or doing strength training, or walking or riding my stationary bike, or doing core work or balance work, whatever it is, trying to get the best out of it that I can, and getting the best out of it means moving in a way that invigorates my body, helps me to feel alive, helps me to maybe learn a little bit different way of moving than I did yesterday, or doing something different on the wave than I have ever done before.
Or maybe just doing the basics better than I’ve ever done before, or as good as I can do on that day. Because not every day is gonna be a best ever. For sure. Most days are gonna be worse than 10 years ago. So on a, on a very measurable level. So it’s all about, for me, everything now is about consistency. And I, and I have seen this with, um, athletes in a lot of sports now, Santa Cruz, I see a lot of surfers as they age, they’re not consistent with their, with their activity. Like, if the surf’s not happening, they don’t do anything. And so, you know, without consistency as you age, your body falls off quickly and it’s hard to get it back. And so for me, I really try to have my mantra be consistency. You know, each day do some kind of exercise, some kind of movement, something outside.
And some days are longer than others, others are shorter. Some are days where I’m like, yeah, I was on it other days I’m like, God, I could barely stand up or whatever. But just getting the best outta me that I can on that day and using it to refresh and, and regenerate and revitalize me as a human being.
Would you say that the endurance is in your blood? Or were you using your endurance sports as a vehicle for personal growth and challenge? Because I think there’s a distinction there. And what I’m getting at is like, you know, Pete Kain, your neighbor, he’s been competing every season since 1987. Ken Glau did 30 in a row in Hawaii. Ironman, that blows you away, that blows you outta the water, dude. You’re not even, not even halfway there. I feel like it was never in my blood in that sense, where a day’s not complete without beating my heart for three hours up in the zone. And I wonder how, how that all plays in with what you’re doing now. ’cause you’re doing all these varied activities. You weren’t describing 50 mile bike rides or dropping into a half marathon run to see how your 65 year old division is.
Yeah. I don’t do anything to the point where I get home and I’m like, I’m wasted. That was a great workout. I’m wasted. I went so hard or so long, you know, and it, it took a while to find the right balance. You know, when I quit, quit competing, I went from this massive level of training, and right away I dropped it to a half or a third. I thought, oh, this is sustainable. You know? And then as I kind of went over time, I realized, wow, this is still like, in the outer limits.
Wow. So, so you dropped it down to a half or a third for, for no reason. I mean, you weren’t, there was no races on your calendar.
No, but I was so used to swimming and cycling and running, you know, so.
I mean, that’s a lot, is what I’m saying. Yeah. Some 38 year old dude to go out and do a half would be, you know, 2,500 in the pool, 40 mile ride. That’s a lot.
Yeah. Well, at that point, it sounded like nothing.
You know? But then over time, as my sort of scale got more realistic, I realized this is still, this is still a lot. And it took a, so it took a number of years to pare it down to a level that it’s like, okay, this is, this is now sustainable. This is not depleting me. This is energizing me. This is keeping my muscles strong, keeping me flexible, keeping my joints healthy. It’s helping reduce my stress. I’m sleeping better at night because of the exercise that I’m getting. All the positives and none of the negatives.
Right? Yeah. Instead of sleeping worse or sleeping better.
Yeah. Hey, how about that? Let’s write that down on our notes for my training,
Training suggestions by Mark Allen, do you sleep better or do you sleep worse? Uh, and so I guess you consistency if we’re longevity and, and, and keeping healthy fit active. So a consistent experience with nature and physical movement is, is your checkpoint.
It’s, and, you know, I, I actually experienced how this can be a challenge. And, to explain it, I had a, a period, um, just a few months ago where I had a lot of travel. And then, um, it was in the winter, and we had the most rainy winter ever that I’ve seen in central California. So in the wintertime usually is when I’m in the best shape of the year, because I’m surfing all the time. And surfing in, you know, decent sized swells gets you in pretty good shape. Right? Well, I was hardly surfing at all because there were so many stormy days. And then even a lot of the days without storms, there was just no surf. It was the weirdest swell pattern. So anyway, I had about a month and a half of pretty inconsistent exercise, and I could tell I was getting outta shape.
Mark Allen getting outta shape. It took till 2023, but it happened.
Yeah. Yeah. And I, you know, and, and then finally after this period of getting, feeling like I was getting outta shape, then I saw, then all of a sudden one pound went on and two pounds and three pounds. And you have to understand, I have been 160 pounds basically every day since I, when I race, and ever since then. And so for me to put on any weight is very unusual. And so I was like three or four pounds heavier. And, um, finally the surf slowly started to come back a little bit. And, and I just got more committed. It’s like, okay, you’re traveling. That’s no excuse. You know? Mm-Hmm. You’re, you’ve got all these excuses of why you’re not exercising, being consistent, which has been your core thing, and you’re not doing it. And so even though the surf wasn’t great, you know, some days I’d go out, but a lot of days I was adding in my other stuff that I do my plan B stuff, right? Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And it wasn’t as exciting for me as my plan A, but it was still exercise. But as I was having to start get back to get back into consistency, I would start out the workout.
And instead of that feeling of this feels good to work out, it hurt and it wasn’t comfortable, and I didn’t wanna do the workout. And even all the way to the end of it, I was like, this, this didn’t make me feel better. And I realized, wow, this is, this is how people feel. This is the battle who don’t have that consistency of exercising and, and training. And it took, it didn’t take long, you know, it took about a week of me just doing stuff, and then all of a sudden there was a shift that took place. And all of a sudden when I would grow out to exercise, it started to feel good again. And that was a tipping point. And so, you know, for anybody out there who is maybe not exercising at all, all or as much as they want, and when they do, it’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel good.
You wanna back off, you wanna cut your workout short because it’s, you’re not feeling good from it. Get it done anyway. And do it tomorrow and do it the next day, and do it the next day. And at some point soon it won’t take long. You’ll reach a tipping point, and all of a sudden you’ll be in that workout and you’ll, it’ll start to actually feel good. And then you might have that feeling like, oh, I wanna pick up the pace a little bit. Mm-Hmm. You know, and that’s the magic right there. And I didn’t understand it until just this year, this year, how, how that could be for people. Because I’ve had, I’ve, I’ve, I talk lifestyle stuff with a lot of people, and some people are like, I just don’t like exercise. It doesn’t feel good. I’m like, what do you mean it doesn’t feel good? It feels good. You know, you feel good. You go out and you do it and you feel good. I’m like, no, I get it now. It was an interesting learning curve. An interesting learning thing for me.
Yeah. I mean, it’s, that applies to learning a foreign language or learning a software program. This thing’s so annoying and frustrating. I hate it. Well, pretty soon it’s gonna cut half your workday. But you gotta persevere. Uh, is is the message, which is a tough ask today because we can pick up our phone and scroll without needing to persevere. Yeah. You asked me interesting question, especially for someone who’s been writing about ancestral health for a long time, if you’ve ever spent time with a primitive population. And my answer is no. I just write about it. But I wanna know about your experience with Huichol Indians. You spend time with them regularly, right?
Yeah. I’ve studied with Brant Secunda who was shaman healer, ceremonial leader iHuichol Tradition. Many, many years ago. He was led through a 12 year apprenticeship by 110 year old shaman. .
That’s it. 12 was all, yeah. Okay. 12 year.
It’s a 12 year apprenticeship, kind of like medical school residency, you know,
it’s back to law school.
MBA at the end,
it’s a, it’s very arduous. There’s a lot of I guess you’d say suffering that goes on along with it. But through that, he learned how to do the traditional healings and lead ceremonies, you know, to like bring the rain and to, um, you know, bless an area or bless, do wedding, you know, do a lot of stuff. Anyway, very, very powerful tradition. Uh, the Huicol people have basically kept their, their shamanic tradition going for thousands of years. They were never disrupted by the Spaniards.
Their culture maintained their ceremonial ways, and they, they, their ceremonies have continued. They continue today as they have for thousands and thousands of years.
Are they based in inaccessible area or something?
They’re in Central Mexico. They have their own land. Like you can’t just walk in and go, Hey, I’d like to be, you know, no, you can’t do that. So, but through Brant, I’ve been able to go down and experience their, a lot of their key ceremonies that they do each year, throughout the year. And it’s just, it’s so cool to see people that don’t have a lot of material things, but they’re happy and they’re steady and they value community. And when they do their ceremonies, everybody’s there from the little kids to the grandparents. And there’s, you know, there’s so few sort of sacred things that we have in our culture that all generations take part in.
And they, they have these, this one ceremony that they do in the fall where they, it’s to bless the crops that have grown their corn and their squash and stuff. And it’s also to bless the, the children the first five years that they are alive, they go through this ceremony, and then at the end they kind of graduate and it’s a whole thing. And, um, I was looking around at all the people and going, wow, they’ve all gone through this ceremony, you know, every one of these people. And I’m thinking, what ceremonies do we have to honor life periods here in, like, in America, you know, you get your driver’s license, you, you turn 21 and you go get drunk, you know, you <laugh>. It’s like, we don’t have, we really don’t have, you know, may maybe a wedding little bit a wedding ceremony, <inaudible>,
We have Quinceañera, the Yeah, that’s, that’s from Mexico, Bar Mitzvah, you know?I a little bit sprinkled in
Yeah. Yeah. We, . Yeah. Yeah. But there’s so few things like that’s.
few and far between.
Yeah. And it’s, it’s really, it’s pretty cool to see. But anyway, that, that’s also been a big part of the ease with which I transitioned outta the sport because, um, you know, I saw that the sport is one part of life. It’s, but it’s not all of life. Life is not dependent on whether I race fast or slow. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, the seasons are gonna change. And I’m, I need to be a part of that. The, you know, nature has so much power and energy, and I wanna be, be able to tap into that as a human being. You know, I have a role here too, you know, em embrace my family and community and this earth and all that lives here.
And to sort of honor that position as a two, two-legged, you know, that’s a two-legged, you know, we’re all,
except for sometimes when you’re crawling, you’re, you go down to four and some of those worst Ironman moments.
Yeah, yeah. Like Brant said, we all, we all have the same mother, Mother Earth. We all have the same father, Father Sun, you know, where no matter where you live on this earth or where, how you were born or what, how you were raised, we’re all part of this earth, and we’re all influenced by the sun. And, you know, the air doesn’t know borders. It, it flows across the entire planet. And, you know, and, and in general, you know, we, we can’t, we don’t control the rain. So if the rain doesn’t come, our life will change immeasurably. And the Huichols have never had a, they’ve never had a drought because they, like they say, they, they do their ceremonies for the rain before there’s a drought, so that there isn’t one, you know, and California, we certainly can’t say that we’ve never had a drought. But anyway,
That’s a beautiful closing. But something amusing comes to mind since I’m such a wise guy like <laugh>, you have this amazing message and you’ve chosen to dispense it and interact with the most tightly wound community that you could imagine on Earth, which are these extreme endurance athletes, which are universally type, A motivated goal-oriented, driven, focused, focused on results quantified. And, it’s an interesting blend and it’s, it’s making an impact. So it’s so cool. ’cause I, I think the message is super important. We have enough, you know, tech expertise of people telling you about your lactate thresholds, but do you ever kind of have to, um, you know, recalibrate and rejuvenate your own energy as you’re dispensing it out to the population that just wants to hit the times that you did on your track workouts?
Yeah. You know, Brad, that’s a, that’s a great, and.
No offense to those tightly wound listening.No, I mean, I’m, I’m part of the, I’m part of the crew too, so, yeah.
You know, obviously I did really well in the sport, and so I have some, I must have some aspect of that because, you know, you don’t become a world champ by being a slacker. Right? You gotta be pretty driven and on focus on certain levels. And, so as a coach, you know, one of the things I actually have to do is to temper people’s sort of enthusiasm and temper their, their need for perfection for perfectionism. You know, like, they wanna hit all their numbers and hit all their workouts, and it’s like, don’t worry about that perfectionism, <laugh>, just go, go with what I call consistent. You know, think about if you do that workout today and you’re wasted and you can’t get up tomorrow, that’s not consistent.
That’s, that’s perfectionism today. That’s gonna cost you tomorrow. And so thinking, think today about what you wanna accomplish today, and will that allow you to also accomplish what you wanna tomorrow? So a lot of times I’m, as a coach and of triathletes, I’m having to sort of temper the enthusiasm a little bit. And then I also, you know, not everybody obviously, is gonna hit a PR or a placing that they want in the race. And so a lot of times they get, they can kind kind of get bummed or maybe their training’s not going the way they hope. And, and that’s where I really try to bring it back to just that sense of, you know, this, this is not about a result. This is about the journey. This is about you feeling fulfilled and satisfied and enriched by what you’re doing day in and day out with your training.
Because if that doesn’t feed you, no result is gonna fill the hole. Mm-Hmm. No result is gonna make up for what you’ll feel like you had to sacrifice to get that goal. Mm-Hmm. Like, if your training feels like a sacrifice, the result will never be fulfilling enough for you. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, you know, and so, and Covid really brought this around for a lot of the athletes, like all of a sudden racing was ripped out from underneath them. Mm. And so they’re like, what am I training for? What am I training for? And I’m like, whoa, it’s fun. Step back for a second here. Yeah. How do you feel when you train? Yeah. Well, I feel good. You know, it’s, it’s a personal goal. Like each day when I get out that, there you go. It’s something that day to day is, is that journey. And, and it sounds ooh, the journey, you know, but it, it truly is like, and it’s the community of people that you train with and, and, and just those, those moments where, like I said, you know, I would do something that I had never done before that nobody else will see.
It’ll never show up in a magazine. Nobody will know I did it. But it’s, it’s in my DNA now. I did something a little bit better than I thought I could today. Mm-Hmm mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. And that’s pretty cool. And that’s ultimately, that’s what I try to sort of embark on the athletes that I coach through Tri Dot, you know, it’s like, this is, there’s definitely numbers in here, but this is a human experience that you’re going through. And I just wanna help you be, have a great experience here,
Mark Allen, people where do we, uh, connect with you and sign up for coaching if you’re inclined in the endurance activities, I strongly recommend, in fact, insist that you hook up with Mark to do it. Yeah. Mark, do it on the journey, man.
If you go to TriDot com and look up Mark Allen Premium, I’m still taking personal clients for this year. I’ve got a lot, I, I’ve created a lot of space this year for my personal clients, and part of the reason is going back to the very beginning of our conversation when we were talking about how this year in Kona, it’s gonna be an all women’s race. Hmm. So there will be a significant, a significantly greater number of women racing in Kona than have ever.
Oh sure. Right. You know, bigger field. That’s cool.
Bigger field. I mean, last year, you know, I should take it back last year and this year, but this year it’s gonna be kind of different. Like, just because it’s purely a women’s race, I think it’s gonna have a lot more gravitas kind of feeling. So there’s gonna be a lot of women who are going there that probably never thought they could qualify for the Ironman World Championship when it was both men and women, because there’s only 2,500 slots total.
Now all 2,500 slots are going for the to women. And so exciting as that is for those who are now qualifying for the first, oh, what I get myself into, you know, because Kona does have its own, its own gravity, its own intensity, its own anticipation. And so I would love to help a lot of those women who are especially going there for the first time to, you know, give them the training that’ll get them across that finish line. And also give them the ease that they’ll need to just go, Hey, you know what, this is gonna be frigging awesome.
Wow. That sounds like, I love the idea. That’s great. Is Paul Huddle gonna cancel the underpants run <laugh> subsequently since it’s all females?
There you, that’s a darn good question. I dunno.
I mean, they have it every year, right? The tradition has to stay. Yeah, I guess so. Okay. Mark Allen, thanks for joining us. Bringing it.
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