Little victory today - lasted over an hour in the hotel gym, splitting my time between the stationary bike and treadmill. Thanks to the poussiere (dust storm) it was a coolish 90-something today, making for a much more pleasant visit to the gym than yesterday (where I only lasted 30 minutes flinging sweat on the treadmill before calling it quits). The upside to all this heat and sun - I am slowly but surely erasing my bike shorts tan. I am sure it will be back, but for right now, it is fading.
I've been remiss on adding to my booklist lately, but I HAVE been doing some reading. A couple of weeks ago I finished Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo. An American woman spent about 4 years observing, researching, and interviewing people from a slum just outside of the Mumbai airport in the late 2000's. This was an eye-opener of a book. I've never spent time in India (the closest I've ever come was visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha in southern Nepal, right next to the border with India), and I've never witnessed everything the things she describes in her book, and it's difficult to imagine how people are able to live day-to-day in those conditions (both physical and mental). The book talks alot about the bribery and, I can't think of the right word for it, but the overall corruption of everything from the education system, judicial system, police system, etc. And I understand that it's just how things are in some parts of the world, but it makes life pretty hard for those people at the bottom who can't pay bribes and are at a disadvantage 100% of the time - namely, the people described in this book. I highly recommend this well-written novel.
Over the weekend I finished Chris McCormack's book, I'm Here to Win: A World Champion's Advice for Peak Performance. Macca won the Ironman World Championships twice - in 2007 and again in 2010. People at tri camp were talking about his book and had good things to say about it and I'm game to read anything that might give me insight into the mental side of the sport. I've always thought of Chris McCormack as being pretty cocky, and even after reading this novel I still feel the same way, but now I do think of him as less abrasive. One of the aspects I found to be most amusing was how he kept referring to himself as one of the bigger guys in the sport, in height and weight. I remember seeing him in passing at the Columbia Triathlon a few years ago and being surprised at how small he was - so if I think he is small, I can't imagine how much smaller the other guys are that he is comparing himself to. Anyway, the book did offer some decent thoughts on the mental aspect of the sport. I especially liked the line, "The more you suffer for something, the more you value it. What you get is worth what you paid for it" I've started to learn that doing well in a race should not make you feel good - you should actually feel pretty terrible and you need to learn to be OK with that. I still have a long way to go when it comes to figuring out how to suffer and still push the pace, even when it hurts. But few things feel worse than finishing a race where you gave a mediocre performance because you didn't want to push the envelope. There's a feeling of regret that just can't be erased. Bottom line - a good read (I was a little irritated with the style of writing, too colloquial, but that aside, it was a good book).
And yesterday I finished the book, Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. This is the same author that wrote Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (I preferred the latter over the former). It was an interesting story, but with two story arcs, it was sometimes difficult to follow. And sometimes I just felt like I was missing the point. It skipped between his modern day search for his grandfather's old Ukrainian village (told from the point of view of his tour guide who had a comical grasp of English) and the old history of the village. It also didn't really have an ending. It just kind of... ended. Basically, the book is an expansion of his senior thesis from Princeton where he travels to the Ukraine to learn more about his grandfather's life, a survivor of the Holocaust. I couldn't tell which parts of the book were fiction, non-fiction, etc. One book review called it, "harmless multiculturalism for the perenially bored" and "a more pretentious magical, realist novel was never written." I kind of agree with that reviewer. Pretentious. I had a hard time getting into the book - I bought it back in February and got about a quarter of the way through it over the past month and a half. Then this weekend I picked it back up, the storylines picked up, and I finished the rest of it in a little over a day. Eh, it isn't a book I would read again and I could take it or leave it.