Catching Up With Dave Scott

Dave Scott chats about his take on nutrition, the future of the sport and whether he thinks we’ll ever see Chrissie Wellington race again.

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Back in the 1980s Dave Scott earned the nickname “The Man” for turning in a record six wins at the Ironman World Championships. Today, he’s coaching top triathletes including Ironman stars Eneko Llanos and Rachel Joyce, plus Julie Dibens, Lauren Goss and his son Drew out of his homebase in Boulder, Colo. We chatted with Scott about his take on race-day nutrition, the future of the sport, and whether he thinks we’ll ever see Chrissie Wellington race again. You just signed on to be a spokesperson with sports supplement X2 Performance. Tell us why you’re backing this product.

Scott: First off, I’ve been a skeptic about any nutritional product since I started racing more than 30 years ago. You always wonder, “Was this created in a back room? Is there an inherent liability? Is it tainted?” X2 Performance gets audited twice a year, so athletes know it’s going to be clean. It’s a simple product that doesn’t have a lot in it. It does include a compound that enhances vassal dilations, which increases blood flow and transports oxygen faster for better exercise and recovery. And it includes two types of sugars—glucose and ribose—so it’s easy on the digestive tract.

Of course, everyone knows that there’s no secret formula for making you faster, but, simply put, X2 allows you to perform at optimal levels and rebound the next day without prolonging the recovery process. Sounds like you know your stuff. Do you work with your athletes on nutrition plans, too?

Scott: I’ve always had a strong interest in science—my background is in exercise physiology—and looking at the technical side of nutrition is paramount for me as a coach. I try not to source out my athletes to nutritionists. I have them take blood tests twice a year, and I look at their panels to figure out any deficiencies they have. That helps us come up with a customized training and race day plan for fueling and nutrition. How has fuel changed since the days you were competing?

Scott: It’s evolved so much. I thought I was a smart guy coming out of college! But we honestly didn’t know anything. I ate mounds of simple carbs, and we’d grab a bucket of bananas and figs and try to survive an Ironman. I used to tuck six to seven bananas in my back pocket during a race, and they’d just be bouncing around, getting soft. I also thought all fat was bad, so I avoided foods like nuts, avocados, salmon and coconut oil. I didn’t eat eggs or cheese for a long period of time. As a result, my training fluctuated a lot, and my recovery was impaired and stunted. What other differences have you noticed in the sport over the years?

Scott: Obviously, the technology has changed a lot. Look at the bikes we rode back in the 80s and 90s—they were dinosaurs! But probably the major difference is the athletes. Many of the men and women who have success in Ironman are coming from short course and ITU races. There used to be this concept that Ironman was long and slow, but the next wave of triathletes are changing that idea. They have bigger engines, they’re faster on the swim, they have huge power outputs on the bike, and they’re running faster. At least on the women’s side. Just look at Rinny [Carfrae] and what Chrissie [Wellington] have done. It’s amazing how fast they can run.

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Scott: It’s interesting. If you look at the men’s times, they’re pretty consistent over the years, but not faster. My sense is that most of the men aren’t doing proper strength training. A lot of athletes have really strong Ironman quads, and they are pretty much coasting by the time they get to the run. I really try to stress strength training with my athletes, it’s what we—myself and my coaching partner, physical therapist Christine Bell—focus on all year long. A lot of the athletes I’ve worked with, like Julie Dibens, Eneko Llanos and Chrissie, were weak and very asymmetrical. So we do a lot of single leg exercises to get equal bilateral movements, strengthen the glutes, and stabilize the core. It helps them to be stronger all over. You just mentioned Julie Dibens and Chrissie Wellington—two women we haven’t seen in action in some time. Will either of them be back this year?

Scott: Julie will. She’s such a talented athlete who’s been battling some tough injuries for a couple of seasons. She was ready to race Ironman 70.3 Panama this weekend, but she broke her finger and had that pinned and stapled together, so that’s taken some time. She’s not ready quite yet.

As for Chrissie, I’m not coaching her anymore, but we keep in touch as friends. She honestly has no desire to come back to triathlon. At least, it’s not going to happen this year. Maybe she’ll change her mind, but certainly not any time soon.

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Scott: He’s still recovering from a stress fracture that’s been both a mental and physical battle. He had mobility issues in his foot and lost a staggering amount of conditioning. He’s since had a good four or five months of training, and he has his pro license, so we’ll see what he can do in the Olympic-distance racing. His training is going well—we have a great group here in Boulder. He’s keeping up with them, and he’s really strong on the bike. No one’s going to drop him. You’ve been pretty vocal about the need for stronger youth triathlon programs in this country to foster future athletes. So what are your thoughts on the NCAA’s recent decision to include women’s triathlon as an emerging sport?

Scott: I think it’s a great thing. Younger girls are going to realize they can compete in college, and I think that’s awesome. Right now, we just don’t have solid youth program in this country. There are spotty areas here and there, but number-wise, we’re not seeing middle or high school kids doing triathlon like you do in Australia, Germany and the UK. That’s why on the global front, we’re backpedaling. We’ve had some great athletes on the women’s side with ITU, but the men just haven’t had the same consistency. Isn’t there a concern about burnout if you start kids in the sport too early?

Scott: I don’t believe so. Look at the Brownlee brothers. They started young, and by the time they were 16, they were world class. A kid can do three sessions per discipline per week, with strength training on top of that, and they’ll develop quickly. As long as coaches aren’t overzealous, if we start these kids in the sport when they’re 10 years old, we’d have some phenomenal athletes in a few years. Speaking of phenomenal athletes, what about you? Any plans to race again?

Scott: Right now, I’m recovering from knee surgery, so I’m not doing much training. But who knows!

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