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Book Review: The Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity

The-Relentless-Pursuit-of-MediocrityIn the world of triathlons, Brian Goodyear isn’t anyone special. Actually, he says, he is quite mediocre. But that didn’t stop him from writing a book that any endurance athlete will find helpful and enjoyable.

In The Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity, Goodyear says that most athletes should accept their lack of greatness, even celebrate it. And with a lot of hard work and dedication, one might, at times, transcend it. Goodyear calls these times “black swan” events.

Transcending mediocrity doesn’t mean an Olympic gold medal; it doesn’t necessarily mean an age group medal. Goodyear’s “black swan” was qualifying for and completing the Iron Man World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. For others, it may be finishing a 5K. Regardless, “If you know that you have indeed given it your best shot, then you have, without a doubt, done something extraordinary.”

Goodyear divides his book into three parts: a discussion of mediocrity, his own story, and advice on training for a triathlon. The memoir is by far the longest section. Reading Goodyear’s own progression from an AARP sprint triathlon to the full Iron Man serves as an interesting and fairly complete “how-to” by itself. Readers get a first-hand account of what it takes to train for such an event, along with the setbacks one might encounter in training. One of the author’s, for instance, was a bike wreck that resulted in “a broken clavicle, ribs broken in five places, and a punctured left lung.”

Most of us can relate to Goodyear’s mediocrity. There are some areas, at least for this reviewer, where it is hard to relate. While Goodyear trains year-round in the clear water and beautiful mountains of Hawaii, others of us train in muddy, half-dry lakes and on littered interstate access roads. To his credit, Goodyear expresses appreciation for his privileges more than once, and it’s nice for the rest of us to at least imagine training while watching sea turtles swim through the coral reefs below.

Goodyear’s story is generally quick moving, but can get repetitive; reading the specifics of training for one event after another becomes an exercise in endurance itself. But that endurance pays off.

The Relentless Pursuit is inspiring; the author has an obvious passion for encouraging others. One of his goals in writing this book was to give us the thought, “If this guy can do it, I can do it too.” And he accomplishes that. We are left believing that if we “train with passion” in our relentless pursuit of mediocrity, we might, on occasion, achieve the extraordinary.

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