A Life Without Limits

After reading Chrissie Wellington’s memoir I feel like I know her personally. The four time Ironman World Champion is candid about subjects that many people would be more comfortable avoiding (including eating disorders and diarrhea).

The amazing thing about her story is that she was much more of a bookworm than an athlete growing up. When I think of professional athletes I think of people with a natural ability who have been excelling from an early age. Chrissie Wellington did not pursue professional triathlons until she was thirty years old. Her humble  athletic background and late start give her a Cinderella-esque quality that I love`.

She talks in detail throughout the book about the mental toughness that it took to be able to make it through all aspects of the Ironman (training sessions, particular races when problems arose, missing her family, a less than receptive welcome). I can’t imagine anyone not respecting her mentality and I loved learning more about what she was thinking and feeling throughout her journey.

Overall, I thought this book was a great easy read, and I feel like I learned a lot from it. There were sections of the book that seemed a little irrelevant, but who am I to judge someone else’s experience.

Quotes:

“I will always remember my dad’s parting advice: ‘Just seize every opportunity you have, embrace every experience. Make a mark, for all the right reasons.’ I threw myself into it from the start, and I thrived.”

“Running day in, day out with somebody is the quickest way to forge a friendship…You see each other at your rawest, with no makeup or fancy clothes, just Lycra, sweat and sometimes tears.”

“Never imagine anything is impossible, and never stop trying out new things. My life has taken me to so many wonderful places and has truly enriched me. None of it would have been possible if I’d let timidity overcome the impulse to explore.”

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Eventful Evening

Well my day yesterDAY continued going swimmingly, but that NIGHT all hell broke loose. Things went from this…

to this…

in a matter of minutes.

Here is what happened… The roommate and I went to the gym at our apartment complex for a late night workout. Our gym is open 24 hours, but you have to have a clicker to get into it. Our clicker was not working properly, so we just went into the gym by way of the clubhouse (no big deal). After our workout we exited the gym the same way that we initially attempted to enter because at that point the clubhouse was closed. What we did not anticipate was that the gate to the pool was locked, and we found ourselves trapped in this little alcove between the pool, gym and clubhouse. I know that this sounds confusing, so I drew you up a visual.

So, we moved some patio furniture around in order to get over the fence and out of our prison. I hopped over the fence no problem (I’m pretty good at climbing on things. I chalk it up to my cheerleading/ gymnastics days). Then Kim tried to climb over it. The table she used was wobbly and threw her off balance. She slipped and got her leg caught on the wrought iron fence. She was stuck with the fence cutting into her leg. I went into cheerleader mode and tried my best to lift her up. I had to rip her pants because they were caught. Then, while I was doing my best to continue hoisting her into the air I lifted her leg off of where it had been penetrated (the official medical terminology used) by the fence. She was screaming the whole time. She obviously could not walk at this point and we were still trapped in a fence with all of the gates locked (see diagram). I called 911; they sent an ambulance and a firetruck, busted into the gate and carried my roommate off to the hospital where we spent the next five hours.

Although I tried my best to be a brave supportive friend throughout the process I actually passed out in the ER while they were cleaning her wound (so embarrassing).

The whole evening was so traumatic (we spent a good portion of our night in the “trauma bay”) and scary. It really put things into perspective. Here I’ve been whining and crying about not knowing about graduate school when I should have just been thankful for my health and safety.

Although Kim is still in a lot of pain, and dressing her wound every day is not going to be fun, I am just so so so happy that she is okay, and that her leg was the only thing was hurt. She could have easily hit her head on the pavement and things could have ended up so much worse.

Here she is all patched up.

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

I first came across Michael Pollan when he appeared on Oprah to talk about the documentary Food Inc. He was a consultant and narrator for the film. Once Oprah was over I found the documentary on Netflix and spent an unprecedented amount of time engrossed in my television.

Although I am vegetarian, (and he is not) a lot of the points made by Pollan resonated with me. (There was a lot of head nodding involved). I was pleasantly surprised when I happened across his latest (I believe) book Food Rules: An Eaters Manual. It contains sixty four “rules” designed to act as filters for the overly processed food products that Americans have come to rely on so heavily.

Here are some of my favorite rules:

  • Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not. (Example: artificial sweeteners, or margarine)
  • Don’t ingest foods made in places where everyone is required to wear a surgical cap.
  • Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk. (These cereals are full of refined carbs and additives)
  • Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks. (Just not like Americans)
  • Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.
  • Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
  • Cook.

 

Eating Animals- Jonathan Safran Foer

Eating Animals was a difficult book to get through. Sometimes I could only read a few pages before I would have to put it down. As someone who is already committed to a vegetarian diet, I was able to take comfort in the fact that I contribute less to the disgusting situations described in this book. But I am far from perfect. Cheese makes a regular appearance on my plate, my car has leather interior, and don’t even get me started on my shoes.

Foer discusses the sacrifices involved in eliminating meat including being viewed as a difficult person by others, and being unable to partake in meals that are considered family tradition. Both are reasons that I continue to be vegetarian rather than vegan.

He is honest about how he enjoys the taste of meat and has struggled with removing it from his diet. It’s a constant conflict between enjoyment and morals. Something that I believe most people would agree with. Most people like animals. They would have very conflicting emotions if they were forced to kill one themselves. I have several friends who tried to go vegetarian after they learned about what actually goes down at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Their intentions were excellent, but after a couple of weeks the shock wore off and they began adding meat back to their diet. Much like the author did several times prior to writing this book.

It’s very informative. My only complaint is that the descriptions are too gruesome, but it is hardly the fault of the author for presenting his research. The fault lies with the system that we have all enabled to take over the industry.

Quotes

“What our babysitter said made sense to me, not only because it seemed true, but because it was the extension to food of everything my parents had taught me. We don’t hurt family members. We don’t hurt friends or strangers. We don’t even hurt upholstered furniture. My not having thought to include animals in that list didn’t make them the exceptions to it.”

“There were things she believed while lying in bed at night, and there were choices made at the breakfast table the next morning.”

“Because there are so many animals, it takes me several minutes before I take in just how many dead ones there are.”

“That’s the business model. How quickly can they be made to grow, how tightly can they be packed, how much or little can they eat, how sick can they get without dying.”

“When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”

“Whether we’re talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that’s not the question. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That’s the question.”

“Not responding is a response- we are equally responsible for what we don’t do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife handle.”

“Compassion is a muscle that gets stronger with use, and the regular exercise of choosing kindness over cruelty would change us.”

Finding Their Stride

I was hesitant to pick up this book. It is about a high school cross country team, and because I did not start running until I was in college (and not part of a team) I was not sure of how relateable it would be to me.

I loved it. It was written by the coach of the team, and the way she describes each event is beautiful. You can tell that she loves each of her students, and is very dedicated to her team.

 

Quotes:

“You run with your legs and arms; you run with your heart. But you win with your entire self.”

“Bodies are miraculous. Like bodies of water, they flood, recede, but do not lose their integrity.”

“That tiredness, though, is satisfying: it is the result of desire, of strength. of pushing the body further than it knows it can go, and of saying to pain, churlishly, “I’m watching you.”

“Do we have too many or too few seconds? Have we used our seconds wisely? Will seconds logically lead to firsts? My mind is a chaos of questions, but my stopwatch can’t answer them accurately until the district race is over.”

“Second is not always lesser than first, nor first greater than second. Numbers seldom fall in an orderly pattern.”

“The body, sometimes, makes its own choices, regardless of the dictates of the mind. It’s needs are just as profound as those of the mind, and its poetry is just as stirring.”

“To win, really, is to surpass, not others, but ourselves.”

“The point is to be better than you thought you could be.”

 

IRON HEART

I regret reading this book so shortly after reading The Long Run because the plot lines are very similar and I found myself constantly comparing the two, which is not fair. Each book is great and deserves to stand on it’s own.

Shortly after graduating from high school Brian Boyle is in a car accident with a dump truck. He hovers on the precipice of death for months in a chemically induced coma and undergoes multiple surgeries. Basically every organ in his body suffered some type of damage in the accident.

When Brian wakes up he has to relearn how to do everything, and put all of his goals on hold. Through perseverance and family support he goes on to achieve his dreams of being a collegiate swimmer, and an Ironman triathlete.

What I think makes this book special is that Boyle was still a teenager when he was dealing with these overwhelming obstacles.  The maturity and determination showed by this young man to hang on to his dreams despite a setback is incredible. I would recommend this book to anyone.

The Grace to Race

This is the memoir of Sister Madonna Buder, a Catholic nun, and champion triathlete. She tells the story of how she became both. What I really loved about this book is how she breaks the stereotype of what I think of when I think of a nun. Not only is she involved in these races, she actually competes and has won many age group awards. She is not afraid to get sassy in the heat of competition and I found her feisty attitude  both humorous and personable.

I was surprised that I actually found the beginning of the book, where she talks about making the decision to become a nun more interesting than towards the end where she chronicles her races. Sister Madonna has traveled the world to compete in hundreds of races, and I think that it would have been an easier read if she had not tried to include so many of them.

This is a quick read. I found it very inspiring. If an 80 plus year old can achieve these accomplishments, then there is really no excuse for us young whipper-snappers.