Ironman Kona: Dave Scott

Oct 12, 2009
Outside Magazine


Dave Scott is the ultimate triathlete. This six-time Ironman Kona champion is only one of a handful who have won the coveted top spot three times in a row. And although he's no longer racing, he's still in the game. The proof: He guided both winners of this year's race, Craig Alexander of Australia and Chrissie Wellington of the UK. Here's his take on Kona.

--Aileen Torres

Who did you train for Ironman this year?
I served as an adviser for both Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington.I’ve worked with Craig on strength and recovery programs for the last year, andChrissie’s complete program for the last three months. I just help keep them ontrack.

What's a training regimen for the race like?
Most amateurs need to put in aminimum of about 13 hours per week--training in each discipline a minimum ofabout three hours per week, plus a strength session--that’s the bare minimum. Thebulk of the athletes train 17 to 23 hours per week. Chrissie and Craig aretraining about 40 hours per week for this race. They train just about everyday, doing about three sessions per day, covering all of the disciplines, plusstrength training.

How did you handle the transition from racer to coach?
Pretty comfortably. I’ve always felt I was a better teacherthan an athlete. I started teaching when I was relatively young. I taught a masterswimmers program when I was 19 and through college. By the time I left school,my program had grown to 400 people. I like the puzzle of putting together aprogram, and in this sport, everyone is unique. You need to understand thenuances of each athlete, and manage overload, progression, and recoverydifferently for each. It’s an intricate web when you’re putting that togetheracross three disciplines for a long period of time. You need to push theathletes sufficiently but allow enough recovery and recoil so they can do itagain. When I was an athlete, I didn’t have a coach--managing myself wasalways a little bit more of an adventure, trying to balance the tenacity with somecommon sense.

Any gear recommendations for triathletes in training?
Heart rate monitors have been utilized by athletes for wellover 20 years, since I’ve been involved in the sport. But today’s models allow you to do amazing things. The Timex Ironman Race Trainer allows you todownload the data to your computer, so we can do all kinds of comparative analysisand future reference. I use the heart rate monitors with all my athletes,and I cross-reference that with whatever gear they have, be it sports watches, powermeter, pedometers, or whatever.

Additionally, the bikes are far superior now to what I usedin my career. They are lighter, faster, more responsive. The new skin-tightsuits absolutely provide an advantage during the swim. I can’t make thedetermination of what’s legal in the sport and what’s not, but I think we needto be pretty clear-cut in our sport for what is allowed in the future, so itdoesn’t lead to any unfair advantages.

Who did you expect to win Ironman this year? Were you surprised by thewinners?
I wasn’t surprised at all. I have relationships with bothChrissie and Craig, and I know their work ethics. They were the reigningchampions, and they both repeated, so obviously I’m pleased with the outcome andextremely happy for them. But that doesn’t dilute the accomplishments of theother athletes. The struggle that they both went though to take the race wasinspiring, to overcome such huge levels of physical discomfort. Mirinda Carfraehad a fantastic run. She is someone to watch. Chris Lieto ran his best raceever and finished second--everyone respects him. So for Craig and Chrissie towin, it was an extraordinary effort.

What was your best finish at Ironman, and how did you get yourself into topshape for it?
I’d say the six wins were all my best. Most of the time, Idid all three disciplines every day, taking a day off every six to nine days.I’d also strength train three times per week. When I look at the race thatmeant the most to me as an athlete, it was coming in second when I was 40 in1995, after being out of the sport for five years. Finishing fifth in 1996wasn’t anything special on paper, but was a big victory for me personally.

How can we get Americans to care about Ironman again?
I think Americans do care. There are Americans out thereperforming at the highest level. For Americans to win the race again, they haveto have good coaching for a number of years. When I see theAmerican athletes here year in and year out, I don’t see the consistentcy I'dlike to see. So I question the advice and the training they are getting--withthe exception of Chris Lieto. He had an extraordinary day today. He made agreat mark.

Who should we watch for next year?
You have to go with the people who are consistent and whorun well. I always like athletes who are able to get off of their bike andimprove during the run. I always look for who’s going to be strongest near theend. You can’t overlook Chrissie and Craig, and you have to recognize Chris’s andAndreas Raelert’s races today. You have to go into this race with a blind faceand a certain kind of meanness that says: “I can beat anyone. I can override anyamount of pain.”

When most people ask me that question they’re befuddled bythe short list I give them. But the list is short because there are only a few who,I think, really believe that they can win when they get into a big race like theIronman.

The most popular annual Ironman event took place at Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii Saturday, October 10. Outside Online'sAileenTorres covered the race, and she'll be taking a look back at what happened, too. You can check out heraccompanying blog, "Hawaii Adventure," for tips on what to doand where to stay if you're planning to visit.


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