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The Reading List.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom Demerly, Ranger.

I love to read, and I guess I read a lot. For athletes reading is important as it provides an important intellectual balance for our otherwise physical existence. Also, reading is perhaps the most readily available method of gaining knowledge, insight and inspiration for the things you and I do. Especially inspiration.

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading. I read a book called "Annapurna" by Maurice Herzog. It is the chronicle of the French mountaineers who climbed the first 8000 meter peak in history, thus paving the way for conquest of Everest, K2 and other mountains as well as insight into the definitions of adventure and human endurance.

The men in Herzog's "Annapurna" were Gods to me, Limitless in endurance and courage. As a boy at home in his basement with virtually no hope of seeing the world they possessed unfathomable strength. More than anything I wanted to be at least something like them. "Annapurna" was one of the primary motivating factors in my life. Still is.

With that in mind I'll give you a reading list of books I hope you will enjoy. I have read them all, most several times, and found them very important directly and indirectly as a triathlete and endurance athlete. I hope you do too.

"The Long Walk" By Slavomir Rawicz. If you only pick up one book on this list, get this one. This book is incredible. A story so vast, sweeping and unfathomable I doubt you will be able to put it down. The suffering this man endured eclipses almost any chronicle of human endurance and suffering. Rawicz tells his incredible (true) tale with a detached indifference that only makes the message more powerful. It is the thesis of how important and precious freedom is and to what lengths humankind will go in its pursuit. The book will inspire you on those freezing cold days when you seem barren of inspiration.Touching, terrifying and inspirational all in one. Read this book. You won't regret it.

"The One That Got Away" By Chris Ryan. You must read this book. Another true epic of human endurance. Ryan is a member of an elite British Special Air Service reconnaissance team in the Persian Gulf war. His five-man team is dropped behind Iraqi lines to locate scud missiles. His team is discovered by the Iraqis. Some are captured, some die, some disappear. Ryan escapes. The story is even more incredible when you consider it is nothing new. Special Operations Soldiers the world over have endured what Ryan did and even worse, and many of them are never at liberty (or survive) to tell their fantastic stories. Read the book, think about Ryan's ordeal when you wake up at 5:30 a.m. and want to miss swim practice.

"Annapurna" By Maurice Herzog. As I mentioned above, the epic that started modern popular adventure writing. As a boy I pretended my friends Whitey and Bob were the hapless compatriots of Herzog- Lachanal and Rebuffat, and that I was Herzog himself. We explored the woods along the Rouge River in Dearborn while I pretended they were the Malaysian jungles. Not doubt this book has inspired thousands of adventurers to leave what is safe and comfortable behind. His story is an inspiration to all endurance athletes and adventurers.

"The Purple Runner" By Paul Christman. It will be difficult for you to find this fiction book from a little publisher and probably out of print. If you do find it through Amazon.com or at a used bookstore you will be thankful. The short little story is about a disfigured runner who trains in seclusion to compete in the London Marathon. He is reclusive because of his facial disfigurements (from burns) and devotes himself entirely to an unbelievable training regimen. Following his secluded training he has an amazing race in London and becomes the first person to break 2:00:00 in the marathon. It is a feel good story that reveals the "Purple Runner" in all of us.

"Iron Will" by Mike Plant. Absolute must read. The history of the Ironman Triathlon by the guy who was there. Tells the inside story of the first Ironman and traces the Big Three (Scott Tinley, Mark Allen and Dave Scott) through their duels during the early to mid eighties. Also chronicles the bizarre, behind the scenes business wrangling that went on with athletes, sponsors, insurance and appearance fees. This book gives our sport some sense of history and offers a written record of the greatest triathlon on earth.

"Hope for the Flowers" By Trina Paulus. If you are an endurance athlete you are either running to something or running away from it. After teaching yourself how to suffer and endure endless discomfort and difficulties this book will give you a different perspective on achievement and goals. For most people, the message will be lost or not even heard. For the intelligent person with that rare gift of self-examination, this child-like fable (that has nothing whatsoever to do with endurance sports) will offer a priceless insight into why sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all, and why the most valuable things are not things that can be found at a finish line but the journey along the way and who we share it with. On the other hand, if you're like a lot of endurance athletes, this will be way over your head- so just skip it.

"It's not About the Bike" By Lance Armstrong. Chances are you've already read it. If you haven't, what planet are you from? The lesson is here is one worth learning over and over: "Never, ever give up." You already know the story, but some interesting inside details include how Oakley sunglasses honored a commitment to Armstrong during his darkest hours when his other sponsors abandon him. Not only an incredible survival tale, but an interesting insight into the world of high-stakes pro cycling.

-Anything by Reinhold Messner. (Doesn't matter what). The grizzly super mountaineer and Italian retro-grouch is a certifiable weirdo, but his self-serving ramblings make for interesting inspiration from an athlete who has his principles and lives them. Unless you are a climber it may be difficult to understand the insane things Messner has accomplished. Years before it was cool to climb Everest Messner had done it alone, without oxygen. Part of his, errr, ahh, "eccentricity" may be do in large part to his time spent above 8000 meters (26,400 ft.) without oxygen. Then again, it may also be from the hash bong hits he did with a vengeance while climbing in central Asia. Either way the man writes some interesting stuff.

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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