Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Steve Scott’s The Miler: A Book Review

Steve Scott’s The Miler takes a trip through his life, but mainly through the never ending cascade of running and racing that a world class track athlete endures. Scott starts out from unlikely circumstances: a baseball player by preference who is cajoled into running cross country and eventually then finds his way onto a track. His future home, the place where he will make his name, earn most of his money, and find glory, came reluctantly. Like many who enter the sport of running stateside, Scott describes a series of random events that led him from reluctant high school runner, to division two athlete, and to multiple Olympics (and one missed shot due to the USA boycott). This ascent came when track was not quite a pro sport and long before the first real running boom.

That said, this is a biographical account on running. Scott never was a champion on the international stage. He always came up a hair short or was just off his game at the most crucial moments. A predicted Olympic gold never happened and he always found a way to be on the outside of the podium. One can take a lot from reading about these exploits, likewise, one can also understand the pressures of racing, the number crunching game a great, but not elite, athlete must endure in order to support himself. Scott lived up to this task, basking in the unending race, stacking the events, and seeking glory, even if fleeting at times.

While not life changing, the memoir is a pleasurable read, especially for a runner. And while the move to inspire is not fully there, the move to remind one of the pain of training and the pursuit of glory rings true.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Travis Macy's The Ultra Mindset: A Book Review

After hearing Travis Macy on the podcast Endurance Planet, I picked up his book The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion's 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life. While the narrative has the staples of the genre—the life story, the reveling in career accomplishments, and the sudden aphorisms learned through long, painful sport—Macy does an amazing job of setting himself apart. Perhaps his use John Hanc (a frequent contributor to Runner’s World) as a coauthor plays a part, but the text inspires, educates, and pushes the reader to explore not only their own singular life, but the life of those around them.

Macy gives us his life story in about ten parts, one part being an introduction and focusing more on his parents and the final part more of an afterword. The other eight sections are tied to the Ultra Mindset. He is not heavy handed with these ideas, instead he seeks to first offer an anecdote about his life. Each story provides insight to the psyche of an accomplished man, but also one who openly admits that he is just trying to figure things out as well. These accounts have Macy mountain biking up hills at age five, making the track and cross country teams at University of Colorado as a walk on, and then embarking on a career in both adventure racing and ultra marathoning. His life has taken him across the world, pushed him to the limits, and while he has sought to rise to the top in each and every instance, most of it while holding onto a career in education as an English teacher.

After his chapterly tales, Macy works to show how each of his chosen stories creates a pillar of his Ultra Mindset. He then provides a setup for each reader to engage with the text, to alter their point of view on life, and practice using the mindset. There are pages to detail your experiences but not before you read Macy’s own template, for he filled out and published the results of each exercise in a surprising candid manner. Afterwards, he brings in an outside perspective, showing a case study of another individual, some of them are athletes, some not, and in doing so he once again works to expand the mindsets of his readers, seeking to both push and inspire.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Margaret Atwood's The Tent: A Book Review

Margaret Atwood’s 2006 flash fiction collection The Tent delivers poignant prose, witty logic, and comedic reflections. While it is hard to discuss the collection as a unit, each piece comes in under a thousand words each and thus is perfect for single serving fiction. That said, Atwood accomplishes a great deal of work in a small space, packing a poetic, economical punch in prose form. Whether it is reimaging fairy tales as the orphans within them react to their predicaments, exploring the inner workings of not just a warlord but those who live in a warlord’s society, or discussing the species names we have thrust on animals from their point of view, Atwood never fails to make the read ponder, consider, and in most cases laugh. Reviewing a collection of short stories is always difficult—but this collection is not lacking in either complexity or enjoyment and will make a great compliment to anyone’s library.