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After a successful campaign on Kickstarter.com, six-time Ironman world champion Mark Allen (this year marks the 25th anniversary of his “Iron War” race with Dave Scott) released his new book, The Art of Competition, in August. An intriguing juxtaposition of nature photographs and Allen’s philosophical musings, The Art of Competition addresses themes such as overcoming challenges, dealing with fear and embracing possibility in improbable moments.
“The book came out of years of racing triathlons, out of immense personal reflection, and addresses the simple premise that behind all great performances there is a personal or human element that is a great force we can all learn to embrace and harness for creating excellence,” Allen says. Here’s what we like about this new coffee table book.
1. The inspired quotes from a triathlon legend.
Allen came up with the idea while on a retreat with shaman Brant Secunda in Japan. “The day before we were going to do our pilgrimage to Mount Fuji, I was resting at the countryside hotel where we were staying. Just as I was about to fall asleep, a quote came to me that seemed to speak about the mindset that so many people had asked me to explain since I have retired from racing,” Allen says. “Then another quote came, and another! In about two days I had written down almost 50 quotes about competing that were more thought-provoking than I had ever been able to describe before, and I added another 40 over the next month.”
2. The epic nature photography
Each quote is paired with a gorgeous two-page photograph taken by photographer Nick Borelli of Santa Cruz, Calif. The two met while checking out a local surf break, and Allen later gave Borelli tips for an upcoming century ride. “Some months went by, and one night I got an email from Nick that he had completed his ride and that he wanted to thank me for the suggestions I gave him on how to train for it,” Allen recalls. “At the bottom of the email was his web address. I clicked on it assuming it would be a bunch of surf photos. But they were all incredible photos from nature. They captured the ‘feel’ of how you are affected when you immerse yourself in a natural setting; they were what I was searching for.”
3. It’s about life.
In fact, there isn’t a single triathlon race shot in the book. The themes Allen addresses are universal and can be applied in everyday life. “There is not one photo of a person, not one reference to a number in this book,” Allen says. “It addresses the human experience and ways we can all move toward really embracing that in any endeavor to experience life at its fullest.”
4. It gives back.
Brant Secunda, a Huichol shaman and healer, was Allen’s mentor who helped him find the internal strength to become an Ironman champion.
“Secunda teaches a way of life that comes from the Huichol Indians in central Mexico,” Allen says. “And a huge part of that emphasis is to connect with nature to empower and enliven you as a human being.” The Huichol Foundation, founded by Secunda and his son Nico, will receive 10 percent of all profits from book sales. The foundation helps preserve the Huichol Indian culture and traditions in Mexico.
5. It was crowdfunded.
Allen may be long retired, but people have a hearty appetite for his wisdom and experience. His Kickstarter.com campaign was funded in 33 days. Depending on the pledge amount, supporters received one of 3,000 copies of the 10-inch-by-10-inch hardcover regular edition, or one of 600 limited-edition copies signed and numbered by Allen.