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Book Club: Iron War

February 19, 2014

Book Club: Iron War


You hate triathlon. I get it. But don’t you want to read a book that isn’t about doping, for a change? (Of course, there’s always Mud, Snow and Cyclocross, but it’d be weird to review my own book.) So, this week, I’m reading Iron War: Dave Scott, mark Allen and the Greatest Race Ever Run, all about Ironman in the 80s, by Matt Fitzgerald.

Matt is the author of Race Weight, one of my all time favorite nutrition books (Main principle: Eat real, whole food. Train. Repeat.) and an all-around awesome guy. One of the best people to interview, and a really humble, fantastic author. He told me that Iron War has been the book that was the most emotional and enjoyable to write, and it definitely shows.

I grew up hearing about the triathlon legends of the day—Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinley—these guys were my dad’s heroes. He raced, and even though he never did an Ironman—I blame me being born for that—he still loved the sport, and was stoked when I got into it in my 20s.

Dad, in the 80s, when triathlons were super grassroots and badass.
Dad, in the 80s, when triathlons were super grassroots and badass.

Iron War is about a decade of racing when the wins were divided between Dave Scott and Mark Allen—an old veteran and a newbie, with whacky approaches to the sport. This was before TT bikes, before triathlon was commercialized, back when Ironman was 25 guys on a beach in Kona. Even if you don’t give a shit about triathlon, trust me, this book will make you care a little. If not about the sport, about what’s happening with these two guys as they duke it out.

Never in cycling has there been two racers this dominant, this close, for this long. This is about personalities, grudge matches, and crazy feats of endurance. It makes my training, and yours, look like a walk in the park. It reminds us how much the sport has changed, how much technology we have now. Training Peaks? Forget it. Heart Rate Monitors? Not so much. This was back when the sport was done by guesswork, trial and error, and heart.

“That’s what I was up against,” Mark Allen is fond of saying in public speaking engagements. “If I was ever going to win Ironman, I had to beat a man who rinsed his cottage cheese.”

See what I mean?

Another great line, and one I underlined the first time I read it:

People today don’t just want to escape their boring lives, Mike argues–they want to take pride in being among the minority that does.

Admittedly, I love this book because I get it. I dislike Ironman, but that said…

Case in point: Dad talking about the greats inspired this.
Ironman Kentucky. Case in point: Dad talking about the greats inspired this.

I’ll also add that if you’re a fan of the book Born to Run (which I love, not necessarily as a running gospel but because it is extremely well-written), you’ll love Iron War. I promise.

If you’re looking for inspiration to get you started on base training for the spring/summer seasons, check it out. You won’t regret it.

In an attempt to be more regular with this blog, I’m going to start a weekly book club post. I’d love to hear any and all book recommendations, comments, etc. You can read all of my previous book club reviews here.

You can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads page as well, so stay in touch!

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  1. case3696

    Thanks for the review! I cried through the end of the race, especially when his wife quit to see what happened. Really good read.

    • I did the same thing. Every time I race, or watch my boyfriend race, all I think of is "I'm Julie Moss and I have to see how this ends."

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