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The Competitor In Me - A Book Review

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Today, I woke up feeling not quite right. Something was wrong with my stomach and I was just feeling nasty. I tried to remedy it with healthy food, plenty of water, caffeine, rest. The feeling still remains and additional symptoms have presented as the day has worn on. In short, I feel like crap.

It must have been fate because I was perusing my Facebook newsfeed and noticed a post from a friend, Francie Van Wirkus (who I added because she'd made some funny or great comment on one of SANDIEGOJOHN'S posts awhile back). From the time I added her, she's been great about occasionally commenting on my FB stati and encouraging me in my running, working out, etc. I quickly began to think of her as a real FB friend, not just a friend of a friend.

I knew she had written a book because, well, she's been plugging it on her FB page. I've eyed the posts lazily, not sure if I wanted to invest the $0.99 to buy it.

The REAL reason I resisted buying it is because I worked for a full year in self-publishing. I was the authors' first contact when they bought a contract and I helped them get all their materials prepared for editorial or for print. To be quite honest, that awful year in self-publishing taught me one thing: just because someone calls herself an author does not mean they even know how to construct a sentence or write in the English language. I'd say 98% of the materials I saw on a daily basis were absolute JUNK.

There was an overwhelming sense of guilt in that job - on the one hand, the fact that these people plunked down thousands of dollars to print their book and they had no idea our company was mercilessly taking their money and their book had no chance of ever selling more than 10 copies to friends and family and on the other hand, that we were marketing these books on Amazon, etc as something worthy of some hard working person's money. It was despicable and, frankly, evil.

So...it is with deep mistrust that I view ANY book or any author these days...especially eBooks and especially books on Amazon. I have to be honest...I have no idea if Francie's book is self-published.

But today I decided to go for it. I mean, it's $0.99. And, well, I really just had a good feeling about this. I have learned today that it doesn't matter whether Francie's book was self-published or not. If my experience with the self-publisher has scared you...then it also ought to tell you that if I ever do recommend a book highly, it is absolutely QUALITY.



Francie Van Wirkus is a REAL author! Not only can she string together a sentence and do great things like...you know, spell and stuff. Her material is riveting for any aspiring runner, swimmer, biker or triathlete. Or for any parent who finds it difficult to balance career, family and health.

The book is about her journey from basically no fitness to running to doing triathlons and, ultimately, to her experiences with the ultimate of all races, the Ironman.

Although I am not a triathlete (I refuse to say I'm ONLY a runner...a good friend, ABSOLUTZER0 once told me to never use the word ONLY in regard to my running, because every bit of it is a personal accomplishment and I agree), I was able to relate so closely to so much of Francie's story. She has a way of describing things in a way that makes you feel you are there, racing beside her.

The chapter called "Bee Sting" made me laugh out loud several times. Her story was anything but predictable. I found myself trying to guess the outcomes of certain relationships and events and races and I was wrong every time. I love when that happens!

Throughout the book, what struck me most was Francie's outstanding determination and strength. I mean, she's an Ironman for goodness sake...of course she's an amazing athlete. And yet, she was so candid and vulnerable about her shortcomings, her doubts, her fears...so completely and unbelievably HUMAN. It's impossible to read this book and not feel at the end that she is your close friend.

So much of what she said struck me deeply. Becuase so much of it is what I have thought and felt in the past few months with my own metamorphasis from average mom to athlete.

This excerpt, in particular, speaks to me regarding the training I've put in for my half marathon thus far:

"I learned the hard way that no one else was going to prod me to do it or make time for me. I included my family in my progress, to help them be a part of my success but ultimately, they were fair weather fans. On a cold winter day at 5:00am, they wouldn't be the ones to kick my rear out of bed and get on my CompuTrainer. Or head ot the pool when I didn't feel like it. I owned my goals completely and the only excuses were mine."

Along the way, Francie suffered so many injuries and setbacks (as athletes do). This was, in some strange way, so soothing for my soul. Reading this, along with watching the Olympics this week, has taught me that I am not alone in this injury business. And nothing is over for me. This is just a temporary issue to handle. I may need to think about it in every training period and every race for the rest of my life or I may not. Either way...it's not going to be a barrier to cause me to quit.

Running isn't all there is. I had the best workout in the pool yesterday. I did some laps, but also some deep water running and some shallow water running with a 50-lb kid on my back. I burned 700 calories. But, even better, I realized that I don't have to waste away physically while my ankle injujry heals.

Francie says:

"At a time when I was working on healing, my competitive spirit still had an outlet for working hard and building fitness. Now that I'm a born again swimmer, I notice others who are like me, forced into the pool due to some other injury but coming out the other side with a new love for the water."

I can only hope that I get there with swimming. At this point, I'm still scared to death to do anything in the water if any people are around. I am plagued by self-consciousness and feeling like I'm just out of my league. My trainer said, "This is a great opportunity for you to learn to swim and gear up for a possible sprint tri next year." I was like, "Are you freaking kidding me??? There's no way in hell I'll EVER be a triathlete! I'm having enough trouble being a regular old runner!" But, if there's anything I've learned from running...it's this: never say never.

The other angle of Francie's book that was just so touching and beautiful was how she weaved her family into the story. No, strike that...they weren't weaved in....they WERE the story. Her athletic career was weaved into THEM. And I so respect that.

A couple of my favorite excerpts on this that hit me pretty hard:

"I learned the hard way that as parents, we should put our kids first, but not at the expense of our own essence. In no way are we helping our kids when we let ourselves erode into near nothing for their sake. They need us as their best resource for healthy growth now and for years to come."

"You can have your family be your priority and still do something for you. It does not matter if your goal is a marathon or a musical instrument, if your vision for success is strong, it can withstand just about any challenge. It takes a big effort to be capable of doing this but the payback received is enormous. Balancing it all in a healthy way takes practice and a willingness to make mistakes."

Today I spent 12 hours reading this entire book. It was my personal marathon for the day. I was completely immersed in another athlete's life all day long and to say I was inspired would be an understatement. I think this excerpt from one of the last chapters so perfectly encapsulates the spirit of this story:

"Forget the excuses of not having the time, the support, the money, whatever. Anything worth having must be worth fighting for. Taking time for me is always going to feel weird and be hard because I work 40 hours a week at my job and at least another 60 hours a week as a Mom. Giving time to me is a premium that I must not waste. Putting my children first doesn't mean I have to die inside. What good am I as a Mom if I am constantly muddling through mediocrity? How can I expect to raise kids who will reach for the stars if I'm not doing the same?"

I highly recommend this book for all my running/athlete friends and family. It always helps to hear about someone else's journey. We all need inspiration and I know I'll remember nuggets from this story as I run my first half marathon....and then my first full...and who knows what after that? Don't we all need a little inspiration?

So, go on...buy the book. If you don't have a Kindle, but do have a smartphone (like Android or iPhone), you can get a free Kindle app for your phone. Yep, I read an entire 194-page book on my phone today. Haha. Now...you KNOW that was a good book! Haha.

Check it out! Let's all go and make Francie a hundred-aire overnight!!! (If you become a millionaire overnight, Francie...you better tell me. Because that will mean that I have a million readers...and then I will just die. Ha!)

I promise, friends...you won't be sorry.

www.francievanwirkus.com
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