By Dr. Kim Smith
The most important thing a prospective reader needs to know about Dr. Kim Smith’s Triathlon Workout Thoughts is that only a few of the essays contained therein have to do with triathlons. The essays may have been hatched during workouts, but are seldom about workouts. The subtitle is more appropriate.
A recent article in Runner’s World magazine mentions “monkey mind,” which describes the continuous, random thoughts often experienced during running. Some people, myself included, are always afflicted with monkey mind. After reading only one of his books, I can’t claim to know the state of Dr. Smith’s mind, but I can say that his essays are as diverse as the scattered thoughts I have during a ten-mile run fueled by coffee.
This is not a criticism. While I bought the book thinking it to be about triathlons, I ended up with a book I enjoyed more than I expected. Smith quotes Sir Francis Bacon: “Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable.” And that’s what Smith does. His subjects include university faculty life (he retired after 30 years of being a university professor), depression, alcoholism, politics, news reporting, sex, cycling, sex while cycling, triathlons, and aliens (really).
While it may be a challenge to find readers interested in such diverse topics, Smith has found at least one. But it’s his writing—his sense of humor, wit, honesty, and not giving a flip—that makes him interesting, regardless of the topic.
Triathlon Workout Thoughts would benefit from an editor, as long as the editor understands the work and does nothing but correct the few typing errors. But, then again, Smith’s undoctered version may be best as is. I usually don’t review self-published books, but I’m beginning to see that some of the most creative and honest writing comes from authors who don’t want to waste their time with the hassle of a publishing company.
This book is not for those who are easily offended, regardless of political or theological views. No absurd behavior is exempt. For instance: “If you are older than 50, don’t walk around the locker room naked.”
Smith also defends those whom others love to hate. He defends both Sarah Palin and President Obama. And if that isn’t bad enough, he’s still a Lance Armstrong fan—one of the reasons, by the way, that I like this book. In his essay, “People Who Ought to Just Shut Up,” Smith includes:
“Anyone who calls for any winner to fail. Some folks enjoy watching highly successful people fail publicly, howling for their demise while they sit on their butts in their living rooms. A failed champion somehow validates their own failures.”
One of Smith’s favorite targets are people who take themselves too seriously, whether politicians, university department heads, or crabby older women at the swimming pool. One of the reasons that Smith’s writing is so enjoyable is because there’s no trace of self-importance:
“I have done most things in my life for the same basic reason: just screwing around to see what happens. It’s a philosophy that has served me well in life, whether jumping off a high rail road bridge, attending the University Wisconsin-Madison, earning a doctorate, running a marathon, or publishing this book….I do write about some serious situations needing change…But mostly these essays and satires were written for fun. If you get something more out of them, don’t blame me.”