Triathlon: Hey, You Got Cottage Cheese Fat on My Prayer Flags

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, October 1995

Triathlon: Hey, You Got Cottage Cheese Fat on My Prayer Flags

What it takes to be the next King of Kona. A Hawaii Ironman Preview.
By Martin Dugard

Like so many in the once booming sport of triathlon, you, too, may have packed away your Speedo and body marker. But, knock on wood, the Hawaii Ironman lives on. (Could there be a more riveting afternoon of televised lactic-acid buildup?) Herewith, an insider's guide to the front-runners in this month's competition, consisting, as always, of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon run. The women's race, as if you needed any help, can be handicapped thusly: Paula Newby-Fraser.

COMPETITOR: Mark Allen, aka The Grip.

Pedigree: Known for a flaky brand of SoCal-Buddhist spirituality, this five-time Ironman champ was annually drubbed by Dave Scott before finally prevailing in the epic 1989 race. Pulled a Michael Jordan in 1994 by switching to marathon and failing miserably. (He dropped around the 20-mile mark in the Berlin Marathon, a qualifying race for the Olympic Trials.)

Bedtime reading: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, The Tao of Pooh.

Prerace ritual: Burning feathers at a Kona temple in homage to the island gods.

The skinny: At 37, he's still the race favorite, but he must be wary of a slew of up-and-coming young Germans.

COMPETITOR: Dave Scott, aka The Man.

Pedigree: His sport's answer to Jack Nicklaus, the six-time Ironman champ is loved by all but hectored for his anal perfectionism. (He goes so far as to rinse cottage cheese before eating to wash away excess fat.) Came out of a three-year retirement last year and took an astonishing second place. Has hedged about racing this year, but experts say he's obsessed with beating Allen one last time.

Bedtime reading: Winning Through Intimidation, anything by Tom Clancy.

Prerace ritual: Top secret, but reputedly involves shaving his entire body and rearranging his sock drawer to keep the whites well away from those pesky colors.

The skinny: A long shot, though certain to bring tears to the eyes of sappy over-the-hill types who think it's just great that the 41-year-old Scott is "out there at all."

COMPETITOR: Greg Welch, aka Mighty Mouse.

Pedigree: The first non-American to win the men's Ironman, the 30-year-old Australian may be the most talented--and most erratic--athlete in the field. Worships Allen to a fault; it's no coincidence that his only Ironman victory came last year, when his hero was off playing marathon man. Rowdy beer lover and practical joker. He separated his shoulder in a "partying" accident just hours after his victory last year.

Bedtime reading: Mark Allen's Total Triathlete, any guide to the pubs of Kona.

Prerace ritual: "Whatever comes to mind," he says.

The skinny: A real threat. Look for Welch to be right at Allen's side through the bike leg, and then to outrun him--assuming he can keep those nagging I'm-not-worthy-Master thoughts at bay.

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