May 2, 2014
Hello, Rest Day Book Review Day! This month’s focus will be on Individuals and their stories of completing (and often winning) Ironman races. There was little question who I would feature first! Today’s book review is: A Life Without Limits, by Chrissy Wellington.
If you haven’t heard of Chrissy Wellington yet, you need to! She is a 4-time Ironman World Champion, winning in 2007-2009, and 2011. And the only reason she didn’t win in 2010? She was sick and couldn’t race! And who can forget how in 2008 she overcame a flat tire she couldn’t get fixed for 10 minutes, and required a CO2 cartridge from another rider to fix, to comeback and still win the race (here’s a video and article about it). In fact, she’s won all 13 Ironman races she’s entered. She also has a whole score of other amazing wins and world records, in a variety of different distances, often defeating her nearest competitors quite handedly. And, I may or may not have a huge crush on her. But this review isn’t about me, so….moving on…(Call me, Chrissy!)..
This book tells her life story, starting with a discussion of her childhood. Chrissy was never identified as an amazing athlete as a child, though she was a competitive swimmer, and she spend her early adulthood alternating between higher education and humanitarian work. It was clear throughout the book, not just during this portion of the book, that Chrissy has a real passion for helping people and an interest in helping improve the world. It really speaks to her character.
As soon as she began racing triathlons in her mid-twenties, she began doing very well and winning many races. She eventually turned pro at 29-years-of-age and continued winning races and smashing records. This sets the stage for her obvious natural athletic talent. I don’t think it qualifies as a criticism, but I have to admit finding this aspect of her story a little annoying. I absolutely hate any story of any great person that goes like “I just tried it once or twice and accidently became the most awesomest person at it EVER at it!!” It’s hard to read this while I’m dying just trying to finish races. Of course I recognize I’m just totally jealous and being a small person…but there you have it.
But I didn’t really think the book was as much about her athletic talent as her mental prowess, which is truly stunning. I know, surprising that a psychologist would enjoy that part the most! It’s probably why I didn’t want to stop listening to it (I own the audiobook version, and listened to it during several long runs). Her determination and obsessive nature totally permeate every aspect of her story, even outside of triahtlon. And while this is clearly a major part of her amazing triathlon success, it also has its downsides. Chrissy writes that part of what got her into exercising was a history of an eating disorder and significant body image issues, which come from the same perfectionist place inside her. She does so with an honesty and candidness that I deeply respect. Getting to hear her perspective on her life, racing, and her serious and total dedication to everything she does kept me totally captivated though. You really need to read this book though, really.
Chrissie retired from professional triathlon in January, 2012. Triathlete Magazine just published a great article about what she has been up to since, read it here. Hint: She’s still amazing!