Book Reviews, Latest articles, Triathlon

Thinking of doing a triathlon? Three books to get you motivated

Chrissie Wellington A Life Without Limits 

The problem with achieving enormous feats, not just once but four times, like Chrissie Wellington is that it is easy for others to think being ironman world champion is all a bit of a breeze.

But not so, her autobiography ‘A Life Without Limits’ is full to the brim of her agonising battles to succeed in the sport which  which asks more than any other;  a 2.4 mile swim,  a 112 mile bike ride and then just the small matter of a marathon to finish.

What you have to love about Chrissie’s book is her total balls-out honesty on everything from her struggles with bulimia to her often difficult relationship with her coaches, most notably Brett Sutton.

She gives in-depth detail about her race preparation and training, showing just how incredibly hard she has to work.

Her complete honesty, probably best shown when she describes her second time competing at Kona where a doesn’t shy away from the truth of what I guess many iron-man competitors have to face.

“I approached the race in good spirits… that said, I shat myself at the start. Literally. Diarrhoea struck as I was in the water.”

She also never seems to take herself too seriously referring to herself as ‘muppet’ for her many clumsy antics.

Her strength of character and outright determination are highlighted at many of her races which see her facing huge set backs and injury often in the run up to the events, including a serious bike crash, shingles and a coccyx injury.

Her eye-watering account of her own typical training week is truly remarkable and gives a flavour of what these athletes have to endure.

I absolutely loved Chrissie’s book, it is a remarkable tale of a girl from Norfolk who had the grit and determination to achieve what she did.

You can not help but be totally in awe of her and inspired by her achievements, not just in her own field but for women’s sport in general.

I was fortunate enough to meet Chrissie, now Global Lead for Health and Wellbeing for Park Run, at a health event in October. She is as I expected, extremely down to earth and bursting with enthusiasm.

If you have any interest in triathlon, or just want an inspirational read this really is the book for you.

Louise Minchin Dare to Tri 

Looking at Louise Minchin on BBC Breakfast with her pristine blonde bob, professionally delivering the day’s news you would never imagine she spends her weekends flinging herself into lakes, hurtling down hills on a bike or running across the North West’s landscape.

But just check her Twitter feed and she really is the action woman we all want to be. Not only that she’s a mum to two girls and holds down one of the most high-profile news jobs on television.

Louise’s book Dare to Tri tells the story of how at 44, she fell in love with competing follow a cycling race with BBC Breakfast presenters at the velodrome in Manchester.

A friend then suggested she gave triathlon a go; this kicked off an adventure which led to her competing in the Great Britain team for her age category.

Dare to Tri is one of those books you start with a bit trepidation; oh no here goes another book about an over achieving super-woman who has it all.

But actually Louise’s story is a really honest account of juggling family life, negotiating the challenges of her job and the realities of the brutal training regime needed for triathlon.

She talks in detail about her struggles, including her nerves which get the better of her on more than one occasion; most notably when she locks herself in a portaloo before a race and has to be extracted by one of her daughters.

“I turn from being a supremely able, happy-to-lucky multitasker into a shambolic and chaotic scatterbrain.” She explains.

She also doesn’t shy away from how physically and mentally hard both the training and competing in each individual discipline is. Including getting bashed in the face during a swim and panicking in the water due to lack of visibility, falling off her bike numerous times and her struggle with running which she found the worst discipline of all.

One chapter lists the things that can go wrong in a triathlon – obviously taken from her own experiences. This includes putting her helmet on the wrong way around during transition, forgetting her sports bra and losing a contact lense in the swim. She always attaches one to her bike now should the same thing happen again.

There is no doubt what she achieves is amazing, done so with hard work, grit and determination.

She is quick to point out without the support of her family and her trusty Labrador Waffles she would not have enjoyed the success she has.

Louise’s book is both endearing and inspiring as well as being a practical guide on how to get started in triathlon and what pitfalls are along the way.

She shares her swim, run and bike times throughout each of her events which is a useful reference for anyone doing or thinking of doing triathlon.

Dare To Tri is a great read, not just for triathlete wannabes in their 40s juggling kids and a job, but for anyone dreaming of a big challenge who  needs to take that first step.

Chrissie Wellington To The Finish Line 

To The Finish Line is the follow up to Chrissie’s autobiography and is an absolute bible for anyone thinking about taking part in the sport.

She leaves no stone unturned when talking about how to get started, how to train and race and how to recover. 

The book gives incredible detail on all areas of triathlon from the emotional aspects of confidence and race nerves to the nitty gritty of equipment buying, training and nutrition.

Scattered throughout are really useful question and answer sections which provide insight in many things that put people off taking part in this very challenging sport.

Chrissie answers questions on everything including the practicalities of fitting in triathlon training with a full time job, children and shift work along with the merits of on or off road running and winter bike training. 

Woven into book is the story of competition winner, Katy Campbell, who Chrissie mentors for the Alpe d’Hues Long Course Triathlon. This is really helpful to have a mere mortal talking about training, as there is tendency to feel rather intimidated by Chrissie’s achievements. 

She also explores the issue of coaching, how necessary it is and what benefits it will provide for budding triathletes. There is a great section on nutrition, cutting through the masses of information out there on what to eat with the addition of some great recipes.

If you are putting off triathlon because you are worried about something it will definitely be covered in this book with common sense advice from Chrissie.

I really can’t imagine a better book for someone thinking of taking on triathlon, or indeed someone who has done it for a while but needs some expert input. 

Can’t recommend it highly enough.   

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