Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Book Review: Thoughts on Rusch to Glory

Here's the deal:  I love a good book but the problem I have found over the last decade or so is that if it doesn't immediately catch my interest, I have a very difficult time finishing a read. I wish I could count the number of books someone has recommended to me that I started and gave up on during the first 50 pages (I will say that I can't count them all on my fingers and toes combined because the number has far surpassed that total). I have the attention span of a small child sometimes, so there has to be some pull that makes me want to continue on and learn more about the characters, the idea(s) being shared, or something that excites me about moving forward. If that doesn't happen, I find the book in a drawer many months (or years) later and it inevitably ends up in a donation pile or given to someone else in the hopes they will enjoy it. Note to self: The library is my friend - Stop buying books you're not going to finish.
A real-life spotting of The Queen of Pain
While in Leadville in August for the LT100, Rebecca Rusch was in town participating in the ride and promoting her book, Rusch to Glory (You'll recall that I got one brief glimpse of her during the ride as I stood on the sidelines - you know, waiting to miss getting decent photos of Sam). Sam and I walked by the tent where she was signing her book many, many times over the course of the weekend. Did I stop and buy a copy? Nope. Did I even begin to walk by the tent with the idea that I was going to buy a copy? Not really. We did have one brief conversation in which we discussed the possibility, but it was more of a fleeting thought than anything else. I had the opportunity to be face to face with The Queen of Pain herself, and I passed. I can always get a copy at home, I thought. Do I really need to stammer my way through an awkward conversation with a celebrity during which I will likely make a giant jackass of myself? Since I didn't really want to find out, we decided to get a copy later.

I think it's safe to say I saved myself some embarrassment because I have no doubt I would've said something completely stupid (I just can't seem to help myself), but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted a copy of the book. By the time I was ready to brave the possible foot-in-mouth syndrome, the book signing was over. Oh well, I thought. It's not like I need a personal autograph. I would pick up a copy later. When I got home and took a look at Amazon, I realized that I wouldn't be able to get a copy until mid-October. [Huge sigh] I placed the order anyway and figured it would give me something to look forward to as the season started to get cooler and less riding would be taking place.

When I arrived home one gorgeous early September afternoon, there was a package from Amazon waiting for me. What the hell did I order? That was the thought running through my head, truthfully, but I soon realized it was my copy of Rusch to Glory inside. I would like to say that I kept my cool and just let the book sit there for a bit, but I immediately dropped everything and started reading. I mean this literally; all other items that were in my hands just plunked down to the floor. I was really excited to get into this book.

There are times in life when something comes along just when I need it. Sometimes it's a passing person with a message they may not have been aware that I needed. Other times it's been a job that financially I couldn't have done without.  In this case, it was a book. I spent the first quarter of this book reading through tears - not because it was anything horrendously sad, but because it was causing me to take a look at my own life and path, and wonder a bit where the journey took a turn.
*Image from Velopress or Rebecca Rusch's site here
Early on, Rebecca notes that we (the reader) will likely have more in common with her than we might think. I have to say I didn't find much of significance that we share in common based on what I learned. Let's see, we are both Virgo's, we've both lived in our old cars at some juncture in our lives, we both have lived in southern California, and we both ride bikes - granted for different purposes and at extremely different levels of speed. At one point, she referred to her genetic line as "more oak than willow," which I could certainly identify with, but her "oak genes" are definitely not the ones I received, as it is apparent her physique has suited her well throughout her career and she definitely doesn't deal with the battle of the bulge that is ever-present in my life.

Even with little in common, there was something that drew me into the story of Ms. Rusch. The path her life took, the choices she made, and her career in endurance sports and mountain biking are amazing, and I appreciate that she has found a way to push past any obstacle that appeared to get a task completed.  Let's face it, she's broken down barriers. What I did identify with in the book is Rebecca's easy style of writing that allows the reader to feel a part of all that takes place. It's been reported by those who know her personally that she is an easy-to-speak-with individual, and if her writing is at all an indicator, I would have to agree. She has on paper what feels to be genuine and down-to-earth qualities, despite her incredible drive and endurance. Two things that one would think are at odds with each other, somehow come together in The Queen of Pain.

Throughout the book, no matter what adventure she is engaged in, Rebecca makes it seem as though it (whatever the current adventure is) is something anyone might consider doing if they had interest. I actually started to find myself thinking things like, why haven't I ever tried 'x' or believing that anything really is possible. A good chunk of the tale is a re-living of her adventure racing days and while that section perhaps contained a bit more detail at times than I needed, I can see how it must have influenced her and led her down her current path, helping make Rebecca the woman so many admire or look up to today. Throughout the read, Rebecca feels like an everyday sort of person who just happens to complete incredible feats of strength and endurance, and as she reminds the reader at various points, she credits so much of it to being able to overcome mental barriers - the biggest of which most of us experience (including The QOP) is fear.

I don't want to provide too much information on the book itself because I really don't like reviews that give everything away, especially when it comes to books, so rather than offering up specific tales from Rusch to Glory, I will simply say that I think Rebecca is correct when she states that there is something for anyone to identify with in her book. We may not all be winning endurance athletes or even have the desire to do all that she has experienced, but we have the ability to take the lessons and apply them to our own lives and our own goals. Maybe we'll even find ourselves wanting to imagine bigger in regard to our personal goals and stretch for something that seems a little out of reach. For me, the book provided a period of self-reflection and caused me to take a good gander at what I'd like to see as I move forward - tough as that can be sometimes. If you've been wondering if you should pick up a copy, I can say I believe it is definitely worth the easy and fun read. It has its down moments, but that is the roller coaster of life. If nothing else, perhaps you'll discover a bit of your own adventure racing spirit!

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