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When It’s Time To Reinvent Ourselves

We’ve all had them…points in life where it was time to reinvent ourselves. They become defining periods when we changed something core about how we did things and what we focused on.

I had two critical periods of reinventing myself during my career. One was 1989. I’d failed six times at trying to win the Ironman in Hawaii. It was time to either give up on my dream to win the IRONMAN World Championship or to reinvent how I prepared. Fortunately I took the path of reinvention!

I trained for six-weeks in the early part of that season in New Zealand. It was a place I’d never been to before that became key to reinventing myself. In those six-weeks with a simplified existence I put together huge volumes of training and was absorbing them. I finally saw what it took to be ready for the IRONMAN. I saw what I was really capable of doing with the right focus.

We could joke and laugh once it was over, but the race was extremely intense.

My first test that year came at the season opener on the Gold Coast of Australia in April. It was a race about three quarters of an Ironman distance. It had a 3km swim, a 130km ride and a 30km run. I ran away from Dave Scott averaging 5:22 miles for the 30km run. That was a pace if kept up would turn in a marathon time of about 2:20. It sent him notice about my reinvented fitness. My overall time broke the course record by over 30-minutes. Reinvented yes! It was a breakthrough race.

The second came in 1995 when I was getting ready for my final IRONMAN. My body was older and I was tired. I had to completely reinvent how to prepare.

The old ways would have burned me to a crisp. I shifted my preparation focus away from all the physical training and dove head first into preparing my internal landscape. The goal was to be more steady, more calm and more willing than ever to go full throttle no matter what. My commitment was to put forth an effort never before seen regardless of how that placed me in the race at the end of the day.

I still did the most essential workouts but I cut the fat: all the sessions that were just there to boost my confidence but did nothing to add to my fitness. I spent several week-long periods away from the physical training at retreats with shaman Brant Secunda who was helping me charge up my body but also get my mind and focus in the right place.

The Huichol Indian tradition that Brant teaches is centered around many of the qualities that would be critical to me being able to win one more time in Kona. The Huichols value the ability to quiet their minds, to trust in life and then go out and see what comes from one’s efforts fueled with that trust. Brant told me many, many times that “it’s not over until it’s over” meaning no matter what goes on in the race, take the next step and then the one after that.

He said, “There is no puzzle too great for the Great Spirit to solve”.

The impossible made possible through reinvented preparation that was like no other year. IRONMAN 1995.

That was what I was armed with going into the IRONMAN in 1995: a reinvented internal landscape, the courage to give everything I had no matter how impossible things looked, and the trust that “impossible” was solvable.

And I needed all of it to close a 13:30 gap between me and the leader starting the marathon. But I had reinvented myself and prepared for the seemingly impossible. It took twenty-three miles of chasing to finally make the pass on the leader, Thomas Hellriegel. But it did happen and only because I had reinvented myself starting on day one of that season. It was this blending of sport and spirit that eventually lead to Brant and I helping others experience what took me to victory that day at our Fit Soul, Fit Body workshops.

Experience the perfect blend of Sport and Spirit to help reinvent your life.

Reinventing ourselves always seems to be a convergence of the world changing and our desire to stay at the forefront of that change.

Old patterns are only old if they no longer work. And if their effectiveness does slips, it becomes a choice: reinvent or see the impact of what once worked slowly fade. It was like that when I raced, and continues to play out in my coaching. When I started helping others with their training very few coaches existed in the sport. Now there are triathlon coaches everywhere. Many use their social media presence as a calling card to validate their skill as a coach.

A long-time friend Scott Zagarino who does marketing consulting pointed this out. He said, “Make some noise out there! Tell the stories from your career. They are stories that have mostly been dormant memories that fewer and fewer new athletes have ever heard.” I took his advise. He’s gotten me to tell the stories of when everything came apart with just as much passion as the tales of when it all came together.

Scott came up with the numbers of my “resume” to help remind people that my racing was more than the 1989 IRONMAN. They are 1-6-21-Infinity.

Those represent:

  • The First Ever ITU Olympic Distance World Champion in Avignon, France 1989.
  • Six Hawaiian IRONMAN World Championships, 1989-1993, 1995
  • A 21-Race winning streak from the end of 1988 through the beginning of 1990.
  • Infinity represents being voted “The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time” by ESPN in a worldwide poll they conducted in 2012.


The new MarkAllenCoaching blog sharing stories to help inspire and reinvent your direction and focus.

My new website is highlighting these stories to help you reinvent yourself with new passion and inspiration. Check out the IMX12- My Stories From Kona. They detail each of the twelve IRONMAN World Championship races I competed in. And for sure keep an eye on the continually updated collection of pieces I have in my Stories From The Road Blog.

If you enjoy these stories, tell a friend. Go to the MarkAllenCoaching Facebook page to Like and Follow the page. You’ll get notified when I post more stories and share my thoughts there. And if any of these stories help reinvent your experience in triathlons, drop a note to let me know. You can always reach me at:

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