Where do I begin with this review. I found Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald
to be just incredible and not only because of the storytelling of the greatest Ironman race ever but because of the scientific information that came with it. I have read Chris McCormack’s book I’m Here To Win as well as the book You Are An Ironman and Iron War is better than both.
For those that don’t know Iron War took place in 1989 between Dave Scott and Mark Allen. The race was great because of the suspense of it all. Scott and Allen raced nearly the entire race together from the water to the bike to the run. Both athletes came from different backgrounds and had faced each other enough times to essentially know when the other was going to burp after drinking water. You can get caught up in the emotion of the strategy of them and how they planned to race in 1989 but for me it came down to their personalities and what they put into their own training.
In reading the book I found myself trying to figure out if I were Scott or Allen when it came to my training and racing. Dave Scott is the consummate I will outwork you athlete. Each training session was an opportunity to go faster or longer than the previous session. It was an all or nothing type of work for Mr Scott. Mark Allen on the other hand was much more about the science of it all in terms of go slower to go faster. Heart rate training as well as holistic approaches made him the athlete he was back then.
When this book was released there were lawsuits brought against Matt Fitzgerald, author of the book, by both Dave Scott and Mark Allen. I believe it was in regards to his portrayal of them by interpreting his interviews of them for this book. At the time I recall people on Twitter saying that they would not read this book and I think they will be doing them a disservice. Regardless of whether or not you think this book is factual the chapters regarding the science of endurance athletes is worth the purchase alone. Read the book as if it were a fictional story about two athletes racing in Hawaii but really read the chapters on science.
I had written previously about the pain community that is discussed in this book and that was the first of the chapters discussing the science behind endurance athletes and specifically Ironman triathletes. The second chapter, titled Iron Will, or in terms we can relate to: mental strength. I found the chapter fascinating because both Dave Scott and Mark Allen had the mental strength but come from very different backgrounds.
If you had a certain amount of money that you wanted to spend on a triathlon book then I would suggest you spend it on this book. I could be found eating my meals with this book right above the plate as I ate. I did not want to put it down and finished it in approximately two weeks and that is only because I had to sleep and train. Each training session following the reading of this book had me thinking about how Dave Scott or Mark Allen would approach the training. When I get to Puerto Rico in 2 months I’ll be thinking about the mental strength it will take to hit my goals. I’ll be thinking that I amongst elite company that will push themselves through the pain to reach the finish line and then high-five them as we cross that finish line, smile and laugh about the course and the work it took to get there.
For another view on this book read this take by Dan Empfield in Slowtwitch. Click [HERE]
Have You Read Iron War? What Are Your Thoughts?