Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Can't Sleep, Can't Train, Can't Stop - More Misadventures in Triathlon by Andy Holgate

I became a huge fan of Andy Holgate's after reading his first book, Can't Swim, Can't Ride, Can't Run: From Common Man to Ironman. I did a short review of it here, and looking back just now, I happened to notice that I finished it up by writing, "I sure hope Andy comes out with a sequel." 17 months later, an autographed copy of 'Can't Sleep, Can't Train, Can't Stop' arrived in my mailbox!


What I love about Andy's books, what you get from them that you don't get from other tri books, is the true, unadulterated picture of what it means to juggle triathlon, family, and full time work. He describes with great candor and humor the calamities, joy, discoveries, frustrations, and sacrifices that are part and parcel of what we do. In this sequel, he changes jobs (he's a university reference librarian), has a daughter with his beloved wife Em, moves, deals with serious medical conditions with his wife and mother (and ultimately, her passing), manages his own injuries and thyroid condition, addresses eating issues, faces his fears, writes this book, and tours as an author. Oh, yeah, and in there....he's training for and racing a marathon, multiple iron-distance races, and other triathlons and road races.

The backdrop to the training is some very tough British weather. Oh my word! They face some cold water swims and inhospitable bike weather with ice-slicked roads. But the strength of the triathlon community, like the COLTs (City of Lancaster Triathlon), carries Andy and others through challenging weather, difficult races, and even personal struggles.

Andy is able to capture and illustrate so many universals among triathletes: the pit in your stomach from surveying a lonnnng swim course; the annoyance of the pre-marathon hoards of people; the pick-me up that comes from the encouragement of family and friends on the race course; the sinking feeling when you realize something is wrong with your bike; the elation of a run in beautiful exotic surroundings; the self-talk that goes on throughout a race; and the frustration of shoe manufacturers changing designs!

While his triathlon journey is rife with ups and downs, Andy never stops encouraging others to start or continue on in triathlon. This book, more than anything, is a depiction of the strong sense of community and support that seems to be unique to triathlon because ultimately we are competing against ourselves. Even here across "the pond" I benefit from his tenacity, perspective, and humor. No matter how rough a bike ride is for me, I just think to his chapter on 'A Pain in the Arse' and I buck up!  The cast of characters described in this book is pretty awesome too. I can see how easy it would be to be swept up in iron-mania amidst them all!

Just when you think 'Can't Sleep, Can't Train, Can't Stop' is winding down, a final surprise pops up. The last chapter is written by Andy's wife Emma. It's equally honest...and she had me laughing out loud! All triathletes and triathlete spouses should read her chapter as a reminder of (1) how difficult it can be to be married to a triathlete and (2) all that our spouses do to support us physically and emotionally to make our lifestyles possible.

Readers will enjoy the easy style and British tone of the writing that includes the occasional new word or phrase - chuffed, sot, knackered, fettler, pear shaped. Be sure to set aside enough time to read this book cover to cover because you will be drawn in by poor Andy's ongoing misadventures and not be able to put the book down.

Get both books. Read both books. Then follow his blog, IronHolgs, and Facebook page for the ongoing journey! Oh...and....

I sure hope Andy comes out with a sequel!