Monday, April 27, 2009

the race

a few months ago, bill lent me a book to read. it was a novel about cycling called the race. its cover shows a picture of a man on a bike, his muscles tensed and rippling, and has the following teaser: a novel of grit, tactics, and the Tour de France. the book is written by dave shields, a utahn, and bill thought it was a pretty good read.

a few months ago, I started reading the race. it begins with our protagonist, ben, cycling up a steep climb in south central utah at 14 years old. the writing is good but not in the literary or award-winning categories, and I followed along until ben crashed his bike, cascading down a rocky hillside. I even read a little further, until the author described ben's injury in much too graphic of terms, and I shuddered at the thought of flapping skin and exposed muscle and bone and had to put the darn book down.

where it sat.
until it moved to a different stack of books on another piece of furniture, where it sat.
for another month or two.

bill eventually mentioned he'd like to get the book back, as it was an autographed copy that he'd given his son a few years back . . .

so a week or two ago I picked up the book again. I'd almost forgotten the vivid pictures my brain had created for me, really not remembering why I'd put the book down. so I started at the beginning again, and was once again barely able to make it through the description of the carnage.
but this time I kept going.
and going.
and found my heart thumping away and my eyes glued to the pages that I raced through and turned as quickly as possible, almost begging for resting points so I could calm myself back down.
this book was good.
and it all --- well, almost all --- made sense to me.
I could relate to it all, from fueling to strategy to exhaustion to that victorious feeling that keeps you doing it again and again.
I even learned a little about the tour de france.

a few years back a friend of mine gave me a copy of the tour de france for dummies book.
which intimidated me.

but now, thanks to dave shields, I think I'll be able to dig that book out, look through it, and maybe even learn a few more things about the greatest cycling event on earth. dave wrote a great book that really gets to the heart of racing, which even I --- notable non-racer I am --- found thrilling and absorbing.

and the lesson it reinforced is that sometimes (okay, almost always) you have to plow through some muck before you get to the good stuff.
read and repeat, because that's darn good advice.

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