Mark Allen responds to Tim Don with open letter after being told ‘the game has moved on’

Last week Tim Don told six-time IRONMAN World Champion Mark Allen that “the game has moved on” in response to Allen’s thoughts about Norwegian stars Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden dropping back down in distance to bid for Olympic gold at Paris 2024. This is Allen’s response to the Super League triathlon pundit:

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your recent observations regarding the possibility that I may have lost touch with modern methods. I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to look at my coaching experience through a new lens. I understand that four decades in triathlon may seem like a long time to you, but let me assure you that from just the other side of 60, the whole thing goes by in the blink of an eye.

One of the thoughts that your article provoked was how often in 40 years of triathlon I have witnessed “performance revolutions.” About every five years or so an athlete, or a group of athletes steps up and raises the performance bar. On some occasions this “revolution” can be attributed to breakthroughs in equipment, other times because of nutrition and now more often than in past years because of coaching. Not for a moment do I want to minimize the impact of all of these factors, but more often than not the “revolution” is less “breakthrough” and more a natural “progression” and refinement of core training and racing principles that are inescapable. 


Mark Allen on ‘Norwegian ‘Method’

In the case of the “Norwegian Method” I am hard pressed to declare a “new” era in coaching because two or three very gifted athletes who have been at this sport for a very long time have done very well. Again not to diminish the athletes or their coaches, but are a handful of stellar performances by a tiny sampling of athletes really indicative of a “revolution” in coaching methodology? 

When any method starts producing consistent results in athletes of any gender and any age it is officially a breakthrough. Until then it’s always going to be the genetically advantaged who win. When the few using a new “method” don’t have bad days, it’s a breakthrough. When others who try the new method also have great days using it, it’s a breakthrough. Those last two elements are not there yet. My 40 years of study and experience tell me that the “Norwegian Method” certainly deserves being looked at, but declaring a new era as you have done, may be a little premature. 

Another point that you brought to my attention is where the real breakthrough in triathlon coaching is coming from, and asked if I am in step with the coming era? In my humble opinion the current revolution in coaching is not coming from any one individual coach but rather from AI. The sheer volume of data today’s athletes are able to generate through wearables is completely beyond the scope of raw data that can be evaluated and assimilated by any one coach without advanced technology to help. 


AI the true game changer

AI technology will give coaches and athletes a 10,000 foot view of performance and recovery, whereas without it coaches and athletes have what I refer to as a “tree line” view. No amount of experience in coaching can come close to the power of AI as a tool for assessing, predicting and developing athletic training programs based on data collected and analyzed from not just one coach with a handful of athletes, but from hundreds if not thousands of coaches and even more athletes. And I am well aware that by advocating for technology I am putting my individual coaching experience on the table for all rather than clinging to my past.

The best thing about the AI revolution is that it provides its full range of benefits for every athlete, not just the elite who already have the best coaching. 

Tim, given the choice of flying to Norway to observe and learn about the “Norwegian Method” as you suggest, or flying to Dallas on a regular basis to immerse myself in the AI revolution, I think I’ll choose Texas and keep working on the Mark Allen Edition where TriDot’s AI helps me and my athletes make breakthroughs daily. I may be out of step, but I’m pretty sure I’m at the right dance.

Best regards,

Mark Allen

6X Ironman Triathlon World Champion

10X Nice Triathlon World Champion

Olympic Distance World Champion

Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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