Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Review: It's Not About the Bike

It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Lance Armstrong 2001.

I'm not a cyclist; I didn't have cancer. That being said, this is my second favorite book of all time, and there were times I cried with empathy and other times celebrated the comeback right along with the story. I, too, came back from the brink of death, against every possible medical odd--a story someday I'll tell. But, not yet.

Lance tells in vivid detail the harrowing story of his surprise diagnosis (I had no idea it was this severe), every horrible aspect of chemotherapy to become whole, and his triumph against every possible odd along the way. It's a story of friendship and teamwork. If you think you can beat cancer alone, or win the Tour de France alone, you'll feel differently after you read this. If you haven't picked it up, and need some inspiration, this is a MUST read!

Certainly one of the greatest endurance athletes of all time--if not THE greatest--Lance has captured the epitome of the mindset: "Why did I ride when I had cancer? Cycling is so hard, the suffering is so intense, that it's absolutely cleansing. You can go out there with the weight of the world on your shoulders, and after a six-hour ride at a high pain threshold, you feel at peace. The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain. At least for a while you have a kind of hall pass, and don't have to brood on your problems; you can shut everything else out, because the effort and subsequent fatigue are absolute."

And for me, he's captured why I run: "But now I knew exactly why I was riding: if I could continue to pedal a bike, somehow I wouldn't be so sick." "As long as I could move, I was healthy." "Move. If you can still move, you aren't sick." I embrace this thought daily; the fear of being sick again, regressing, somehow letting my illness take hold of me and pull me back down means that I run almost every day. I panic when I don't run for this very reason. If I can still run, everything is OK. If I can run faster than last month, I'm getting better... not sicker.

I'll close on one of his final thoughts: "I would just like to say one thing. If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you've got to go all the way." Enough said.

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