Book Review: Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself

Jeff Nelson, | 08/05/12

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This is a plant-based book like none other out there.  I have to say, I did not expect this book to go where it did.  I want to be careful not to give any spoilers here, but you won't find anything like this in any other plant-based or fitness books.  You'll have a hard time putting it down.

Finding Ultra 's author Rich Roll lives his life like a guy on a mission.  He wanted to become a high school swim star, but his high school had no swim team, no swim coach, and no pool.  Oh and yeah, the school administrators said there was no way he could swim somewhere else during high school. 

Rich Roll, not being one to take no for an answer, was able to convince the administrators to change their policy. He ended up being recruited as a senior to schools like Princeton, Harvard and Stanford – based on his Olympics-level high school swimming wins and feats.

Fast forward to Rich at age 40, finding himself out of shape and 50 pounds overweight, unable to climb a flight of stairs without stopping, his new mission: getting fit. 

So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that Finding Ultra opens with Rich on a bicycle, on Day Two of a 3-day, 320-mile, double-ironman distance triathalon called the Ultraman World Championships – where he is in first place.  

rich-roll-headshot2.jpgBut Rich's dream of ultramarathon fame go up in smoke on page one -- when Rich's bike slips in the rain and he goes down hard into gravel at 40 miles per hour, crushing his shoulder and knee, shearing skin off of most of his left side, bloodied and broken from face to foot.  Not to mention his left bike pedal has been snapped off and shattered.

As he manages to get back on his feet, pick up his bike and start limping on in the hot rain, he thinks about all the months and years of training to get to this moment, the personal sacrifices and missed time with his family, and the missed income from skipping work leading up to this event, all gone in the blink of a bloody eye.

The sun is just coming up on the Big Island of Hawaii, and during the next hour Rich has to come to terms with dropping out of his dream.  His painful injuries, his bike rendered unridable, he is headed toward the inevitable "did not finish" classification.

He tries to resist the meaning of this failure, faced with the shock and denial of what has happened, his pain and grief, anger, embarrassment and guilt.  But at the end of the process, Rich has nowhere to go except resignation.  There is no way humanly he can continue, and he finally accepts it as other riders are speeding past his stumbling form.

Except when Rich reaches the next checkpoint where his family and friends and others are waiting – someone Rich doesn't know says he actually has one of the kinds of pedals Rich needs to make his bike work again.  Rich's wife doesn't seem to understand how Rich has been defeated, or won't accept it, and encourages and tells him he can make it, and even dominate the race again!  But Rich has already lived the defeat, he knows there's no way he can continue.  His friends don't see it that way.  Could he be wrong, and could actually get back in the race and make it?

finding220.jpgYou're going to have to get the book to find out what happens.  But it would be selling this book way short to just describe it as it is: an edge-of-the-seat series of jaw-dropping plant-powered athletic feats, from someone who transformed himself from sick and fat to “one of the world's 25 fittest men,” according to Men's Fitness Magazine

In reality it's a book that is a testament to desire, and determination. 

Whatever you're doing in your owm life to try to improve your health and spirit, reading Finding Ultra will touch and inspire you.  

Get a copy.  I guarantee you'll love it.



FINDING ULTRA -- Hardcover




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