Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things

Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
Paul in Books

“Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things” could be the subtitle for the new release, You are an Ironman by Jacques Steinberg, a long-tenured reporter for the New York Times.  Any time a mainline journalist tackles this sport, we all collectively hold our breath.  Too many times, the $900 entry fees, the $10,000 bikes, or middle-aged men with Porsches having mid-life crises will dominate the story.  As we all know, these plotlines exist, but are not the norm.  Steinberg breaks the mold.  Not only does he focus on the typical competitor, but he also shows a tremendous respect for the underlying desire of every entrant to push his or her personal boundaries.

In the book, Steinberg follows six very ordinary individuals who, for a variety of very personal reasons, choose to finish their first full Ironman in Arizona in 2009.  None of them are extraordinary athletes.  None are independently wealthy investors.  The six are the typical athletes we all know and with whom we train on the weekends – a teacher, two housewives, the wife of another triathlete who underwent a double lung transplant, a fitness center director, and a small businessman.

If you have completed an Ironman, you will feel like you’re looking in a mirror as the six confront a variety of issues and self-doubt.   Even ponying up for the entry fee is a big deal.  Tom, the teacher working on a $53,000 salary finds the costs daunting.  He justifies the expenses of the entry fee and equipment based on the automatic raise he should earn when he completes his masters degree.  Of course, two days after he turns in his final paper, he learns that the Phoenix school district has frozen all pay hikes for an entire year.  “I just thought it was ironic I found out about it during the very LAST week of my LAST class…only two days after I had submitted my LAST paper…EARLY,” he recounts in the book.

Then there’s the self-doubt.  For those of you who have done it, there’s a huge rush after actually registering for the event.  You typically volunteered for one of the races, drove miles to get in line the day after, or became extremely lucky on the Internet.  You boasted to your friends and colleagues about what you will do and get lots of praise for having the guts to take on the challenge.  Then about 7 months out from the day of the start, you realize just the enormity of the training challenge in front of you.

Tracy had that “moment” in mid-January 2009 while showering after an evening pool workout.  “I am signed up to do an Ironman this year, she thought.  What the fuck did I do? Seriously.  And I paid for it.”  All six work their way through the negative voices that creep into training and some real-life events that threaten to completely derail their objective – everything from injuries to new jobs.

This is not the book that will help you shave 15 minutes off of your next IM.  The competitors in this true story pay more attention to coaching advice from Jeff Galloway than Joe Friel.  It is a great read for anyone thinking about getting off their couch and doing something extraordinary that will truly change the rest of their lives.  It’s also an excellent book for the significant other who can benefit from  understanding what their loved one will likely experience.   Most importantly, it brings to life the reward on the other side of the vaunted finish line – and those immortal words – “Jacques, you are an  IRONMAN!”

Ah, what some of us will do for a free t-shirt.  For more information, or to order the book go to:  http://www.jacquessteinberg.com/buy-the-books/

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