Iron War – a Book Review & CONTEST!

A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to receive in the mail a copy of the new book, Iron War:  Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run by Matt Fitzgerald.

The book is about arguably the best Ironman race in the history of Ironman – the 1989 race in Kona. 

Before I get into actually reviewing the book, I think it’s fairly important to lay the landscape for you.  Matt Fitzgerald is a pretty well-known triathlon journalist.  It’s pretty clear from even a cursory review of the book that he performed a monumental amount of research – including personal interviews with both Scott and Allen, as well as numerous other parties.  This is well evidenced by Fitzgerald’s inclusion of more than twenty pages of citations and references.  All of that said, Allen and Scott clearly feel that Fitzgerald created a work of fiction, and have sued for defamation.  Interestingly, not all reviewers agree that the book is a work of fiction.

While whether Fitzgerald defamed Scott and Allen is certainly up for debate, the fact of the matter is that this book is good

Fitzgerald commences his story at 2:59pm on October 14, 1989…the moment in time where a race that had been a race of equals finally became separated.

Iron War is not just about the most epic Ironman showdown; we also get a glimpse into the protagonists’ history.  We are exposed to Allen and Scott’s lives as children, their formative years, as well as how they got into triathlon.  A pretty compelling sub-plot to the iron war (the race) is the fact that prior to 1989, Allen had never beaten Scott.  Fitzgerald gives a really good view into the history between these two athletes, and the underlying rivalry that Allen no doubt felt towards Scott.

Fitzgerald does invest considerable text towards attempting to explain Scott and Allen’s motivations for racing…basically the psychology behind what they did.  I suspect that this is where the two athletes took exception.  Frankly, I have to agree with reviewer Dan Empfield that this portion of the book was pretty non-compelling.  I’ve always thought that world-class athletes had a few wires loose; the assertions in this book just confirmed for me that my perceptions (based upon MY reality) are likely correct.  You can form your own opinion.

The real gem in this book, however, are the robust descriptions of the race itself.  The pain and suffering, the strategy, the story arc.  The telling of this story gives insight into the race far beyond what we could see on the ABC special (ABC was the broadcaster of the race at that time) back in 1989 or on YouTube today.  It’s an insight that casual fans (and perhaps even athletes themselves) don’t often get.  And for that reason alone, the story was one I could not put down.

In short, I really enjoyed this book – regardless of whether it was fact or partially fiction. 

Iron War:  Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run by Matt Fitzgerald is available online and major retailers.  The book was published by Velo Press.  You can read the first chapter of the book here.


I enjoyed Iron War so much, I’d like to pay it forward and give it away to a reader.  Like most blog contests, you can earn yourself up to three entries:

1.  Leave a comment here about your favorite race, your rival, or about the Iron War itself

2.  Tweet the following:  “I just entered to win a copy of Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald on @TriMadness blog!  You can enter here:

3.  Promote this contest by hyperlinking to this post on your blog

We’ll run open entries through 11:59pm on Sunday, Oct 30th.  I’ll announce the winner sometime on Halloween.

Thanks, and good luck!


8 thoughts on “Iron War – a Book Review & CONTEST!

  1. As a newbie triathlete, I have spent a considerable amount of time researching training methods, workouts, plans, etc. I have also begun to uncover the history behind the sport, and the motivations and starting points to the greatest athletes. While I still have a lot to learn, the Iron War seems to be a telling race in the mainstreaming of triathlon and the Ironman distance. I too am excited to read the book, and determine on my own what is fact and fiction…

  2. I am interested to read it, I wont buy it, If I do win, I will be passing it along so someone else can read it. Mark Allen was my swim coach when I was a kid in Arizona, Wasnt till I was older and realized who he was. I use to have a rival, 2 seasons ago, in aquabikes, Dan, I didnt see him at all this season. Our Book would have been titled, “2 Slow Guys Who Think They Are Fast But Arnt and Cant Run War” Sounds about right Favorite Race is Tri for Joe because of the swim

    • Christina – thanks for the comment. I had read that open letter as well, and part of me thinks that it really relates to their defamation suit. One thing I specifically looked for in the citations of the book was how much Allen and Scott were directly quoted. The thing is, they both did contribute to the book via personal interviews. My opinion (and it’s only my opinion) is that neither liked the end product because it potentially exposes some of their background that they didn’t want to let out and/or they may not have shared in the earnings of the book to their liking. I see Fitzgerald’s writing style very similar to Jon Krakauer’s – which typically also pisses some folks off.

  3. Oops, forgot to include the important bit:
    I saw an interview recently by Bob Babbitt with these 2 legends, and the way they described their emotions throughout the race was spectacular; it was far different from the blank expressions on their faces when viewing the ABC video on youtube. Absolutely fabulous stuff. I need to find that video again… it’s somewhere on

  4. I truly enjoyed the Beach 2 Battleship triathlon as a spectator and a participant. My husband and I both have competed in the half iron distant event but would love to go back and do the full iron distance. I highly recommend this race.

  5. Pingback: Triathlon Coaching Options – An eBook by TriMadness « TriMadness!

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