Sunday, May 27, 2012

Snapshot Book Review: A Life Without Limits

A Life Without Limits: A World Champion's JourneyA Life Without Limits: A World Champion's Journey by Chrissie Wellington

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considered within the category of "inspiring memoirs by athletes," this definitely ranks among the best. (Unsurprising, considering that it is written by a woman who is admittedly driven to be "the best at everything.") Chrissie's story of Muppet-to-World Champion is made believable relatable and even, to some degree, relatable, by the self-reflective nature of her writing. It was an excellent choice for her to have written the book autobiographically, rather than allowing someone else--even someone who is a better storyteller--to tell her story for her. The pictures are an ideal companion to the narration (although I sincerely wish there were more of them, since her life goes through so many stages that remain visually undocumented), and the story begins and ends exactly where it needs to. Chrissie picked a perfection point in life to write this book.

All of this being said, I must admit that I am not the ideal reviewer for this book. As an amateur, even beginner triathlete, I know enough about the sport to recognize some elements Chrissie left out of her story, but not enough to give an ideal critique of the elements she did share. I will express my displeasure at her neglecting to mention the crucial elements of "form" in her "The Life of a Triathlete" chapter, where she details her weekly schedule, how not to recover from an injury, and other how-to pieces of advice and information that are of particular interest to triathletes. When she describes her races, she often mentions the points at which her form "breaks down" due to fatigue, pain, etc., but she never mentions the steps she and/or her coaches took to develop that form in the first place. If she is going to spend any part of the book telling athletes what to do or not do, I think advising them to learn proper form is one essential part that she left out. (And again, I must admit this is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do sort of criticism, because I do not spend nearly enough time developing my own form in swimming/running/biking! But then again, I'm also not attempting ironman distances, either.)

Also, while I deeply admire the raw talent and determination that earned her entry to the elite level of triathlon in the first place, I am skeptical of her sparse account of acquiring her first bike and any/all issues she had with learning to use it. From everything I have learned about cycling, fit is a crucial component, and simply "going out and picking up a second-hand bike" strikes me as a very risky and inadvisable way to go about entering the sport. I speak from experience here, because I am still pounding out on a bike that doesn't fit me ideally, and I'm paying the price for it with "niggles," sore body parts, and numb feet. And that's not even riding more than 40 miles at a clip!

Lastly, while I personally find Chrissie's to be a very inspiring story, it's hard for me to tell whether it would be equally inspiring to someone who doesn't train or compete in the sport of triathlon. I read Andre Agassi's memoir Open with unbridled fascination, having picked up a tennis racket only a handful of times in my entire life. I'm not sure if a non-triathlete would read Chrissie's memoir with equal interest or enthusiasm. But that does not stop it from being a wonderful, uplifting, well told story.

Now it's time for me to go out and do a brick workout before I lose my motivation!

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