Sunday, 27 December 2009


Since arriving in Whistler, I've been on the slopes three times, and done two indoor cycling sessions at the local rec center, which is more decked out than most high-end gyms. They even have legit spin bikes with SPD pedals. Given the mediocre snow conditions, I'll probably put in another 90 minute spin tomorrow.

I don't mind too much. I've got a ton of podcasts to keep me company, and started Born to Run by Christopher McDougall on audiobook. I'm only 20 minutes in, but give it a big thumbs up so far. For me, running was never more than an efficient workout, a means to an end, even before my foot problems started. But I can still appreciate the stories of athletic achievement, and sympathize with the author's struggle with injuries over the years.

Another book review: Ten Points, Bill Strickland. My sister sent it to me for Christmas. The book draws parallels between Strickland's relationship with his wife and daughter, his desperate bid to win points at the local crit, and the gut-wrenching abuse suffered at the hands of his father.

Strickland is the editor-at-large for Bicycling magazine, so it's no surprise that he successfully evokes the rush of the pack at 30 miles an hour - better than any other book I've read, actually. His feelings for his wife and daughter are also nicely drawn, if a bit mawkish.

I wonder, though, can a memoir be too personal? Strickland lays bare his soul in this book, and at times I felt like I had to turn away. Rape, physical abuse, animal cruelty, Russian Roulette (!) - it's all there. While writing about these events in unflinching detail requires real courage, at times the pieces seemed gratuitous (do we really need half a page on what it's like to literally eat shit?).

My biggest issue with the book, though, is that the links between Strickland's childhood, his family, and bike racing are often ham-fisted. The best writing appears seamless; in this book the nails and glue are just a bit too apparent. Strickland regularly uses images from his current life to trigger flashbacks to some terrible experience with his dad. This device begins to feel like a literary crutch after a few times.

So in the style of Bicyling's product reviews....
Buy it if: You crave the thrill of the pack - from the safety of your armchair.
Don't buy it if: Oversharing makes you squirm.

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