In this shot from the 1984 IRONMAN World Championship, I was way behind Mark Allen in Hawi (the halfway point on the bike leg). Mark had set a blistering pace that I couldn’t match during the first 56 miles of the ride and, by doing so, had accumulated an 11-minute lead on me. By mile 75 as we rode into the town of Kawaihae, his lead was still 11 minutes, so I had stopped the bleeding!
By this point in the race, my thoughts and motivation were actually buoyed; Mark and I were now riding an even pace!
I sensed that he was tiring and I was possibly going to gain time over the final 37 miles of the bike leg. Was he truly fatiguing or was I just trying to bolster my psyche?
During those final 37 miles of the ride, the winds were wicked. My expectation of chiseling into Mark’s lead never happened. But at least we had the marathon!
At the start of the run, I never calculated the math; I didn’t know what pace I needed to run in order to claw my way back to the lead. However, from hearing occasional splits along Alli’i Drive, I realized that Mark was in trouble and I was gaining large chunks of time in every mile. By the time we reached the Queen K Highway at the 10 mile mark, the deficit was only 3 minutes. My confidence soared and the fatigue that had been pressing in on me was forgotten due to the excitement of the pursuit.
Just prior to catching Mark at 13 miles, he came to a walk and I surged by, hoping that he wouldn’t rally and jump on my feet. Mark had gone too hard and I was able to win my 4th title.
When I look back on that 1984 IRONMAN, I remember that my admiration for Mark had grown immensely that day. He was willing to race to his limits. It didn’t work out for Mark that year, but I was now on high alert: his tenacity and willingness to endure a massive amount of discomfort were clear signals that he would be a formidable rival in the near future.
This World Championship also reinforced my belief that my ability to race at my very best was heightened by my competitors, but that my tempo, strategy and tactics were governed solely by me.
I repeated this quiet mantra throughout the race, “Let me race my race and the others will lose their confidence and ultimately become mentally and physically exhausted.” I was confident in my race plan, and had faith that the race would eventually come back to me.
After winning again in 1986, Mark and I battled in 1987 and 1989. Most of you know the outcome of those races but I’ll save these stories for future posts!
I always tell my athletes, never lose hope and never give up. In the 1984 IRONMAN — and whenever I toed the line — the ultimate game for me was to always manage and resist the emotional, psychological and physical fatigue. I never allowed it to control me. In my mind, no matter where I ended up on the podium, I would have lost the race with myself had I allowed the fatigue to win over me.