Book Review: You Are An Ironman
I was contacted recently to review a book on Ironman triathlons. At first I thought that this really doesn’t fit in with the spirit of the blog. But I know that some of my friends are now moving on from marathons and are currently training for their first triathlons. In at least one case an Ironman race is his long term goal. I know a little about the Ironman but thought this might be a good opportunity to understand what the race is, why people do it and what is in store for my friend. What I got was all of the above and truly one of my favorite books in recent memory.
In his new book, You Are an Ironman: How Six Weekend Warriors Chased Their Dream of Finishing the World’s Toughest Triathlon (On-Sale Date: September 15, 2011), Jacques Steinberg, New York Times reporter and author of the bestselling The Gatekeepers, created an engaging narrative of six weekend athletes working towards the same powerful goal of completing an Ironman race. In this case the Arizona Ironman race in 2009. For those who are unfamiliar an Ironman comprises of a 2.4-mile swim (the equivalent of about 175 lengths across a typical, 25-yard community pool), followed by a 112-mile bike ride (the length of the trip from New York City to past Philadelphia), followed in turn by a 26.2-mile (marathon-distance) run–all of which must be completed in no more than 17 hours. The title by the way comes from when an athlete runs across the finish line within this 17 hour time frame. Everyone who finishes in the official time has this said to them (from what I understand). How cool is that after all of that training that as you cross the finish it is announced You Are An Ironman!
The book at its core follows these six athletes for approximately a year as they decide to do the Arizona Ironman, through their year of training and through to the race. These athletes are a wide range of people with varied backgrounds and reasons for doing it.
Some are overweight; or looking to the next challenge and one what has a second chance at life. Even with triathlons being a fairly expensive goal to try the book shows that anyone can chase the dream. It is one of the only books I feel the preface does a great introduction to what we are heading for. Yes, it is long but from the start it sets the stage for the rest of the book. It does so by not only introducing the first athlete but the history and background of what an Ironman is, where it came from and why people want it so badly. It was a launch pad for the rest of the book and what a ride (pun intended) the book was.
The author does a great job describing and shaping the athletes which we will follow. All of these athletes in one way or another has a story that either you can relate to or tugs at your heart. I was hooked by their stories, there struggles and successes. I have recently read a lot of books that have a similar storyline to them. Whether they were about first marathons, first triathlons or whatever the connections to the athletes were not the same. Maybe it is because the author this time took the time to fully flush out the people for the reader, to make them real and to ensure that there was some connection. Whatever the approach I was hooked and easily found myself there with them.
I know personally that I will never do an Ironman or possibly even a triathlon. Currently it is not possible as I do not swim and have been told by swimming instructors I am a natural born rock. But any athlete at any level can relate to this book. In a sense it is like a modern day version of Homer’s Odyssey (OK, maybe a bit overstated but work with me here), where we follow these six on a journey full of adventure, challenging of their own bodies, spirit and will power. These six try and accomplish something that few will never attempt or possibly succeed at. Add to this the need to balance their training, their family and career and you have what the book is about. We as readers are allowed to travel along with them on this journey to see if they succeed.
For many of the readers of this blog it may seem like a book beyond your goals and interest. But I found it to be a good motivational book that shows the willingness to reach for something near impossible. This book really helped to settle me down over the last two weeks while I questioned if the marathon was still an achievable goal. In short, some of these athletes showed me the courage to try. More importantly it showed me the dedication that is required in the future to reach for such goals no matter what is happening in my life. It is not a how to book my any means, but a great view into endurance athletes especially triathletes. So whether you are a runner, cyclist or triathlete I highly recommend this book.
The publisher has been kind enough to provide a copy to the Sole Daddy blog. I am excited to be able to offer a copy to the first person to ask for it. I know you will enjoy it as much as I did. Simple email me and ask for it, it’s that simple.