Review: It’s Not About the Bike

I have to give high praises to Sally Jenkins once again for her writing skills. Like the previous book I read which was co-written by her, this one is well done. This time she teams up with Lance Armstrong in his first book It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.

I have not previously known much about Lance Armstrong other than he is an amazing cyclist and the winner of 7 straight Tour de France races. I also know him as a marathon runner in the last two New York City Marathons.

The first of the book outlines a bit of his childhood. It does not dwell too long on it, for which I was thankful. Lance proved himself to be a angry kid with a chip on his shoulder, a typical jerk. The quicker we moved away from that, the better. Unfortunately, I think that is a character trait that he never outgrew. He may have softened in some areas, but, by his own admission in the book, it lasted quite some time. He bares it all in the book.

The fascinating thing about the book is his journey through cancer. He had testicular cancer which was not discovered until it was in a very progressed, late stage. By the time it was found in October 1996 it had already spread into his lungs and brain. Though I knew he had cancer, until I read this book, I did not know how severe his situation was. The whole process of chemotherapy, physically and emotionally, was inspirational as well as very emotional. I had no concept of what chemo did to a body. I know that not everyone goes through the same type of treatments for cancer, but I have a new appreciation for the emotional strength it takes for someone to endure such events.

The book then covers his physical recovery from the cancer and details his emotional hardships to overcome the fact that he was a survivor. His “jerk” status that he established as a kid (for me) was confirmed in the year after his fight with cancer. He basically lived the next year totally defeated. This was taken out on everyone around him who tried to help him through the struggle. Eventually he was able to snap out of his funk and get back to what he loved doing.

The final part of the book is his account of winning his first Tour de France in 1999. He talks a great deal about his wife during this part of the book. He emphasized the fact that he was going to be the best husband and father he could be. Since the book was written 7 years ago he has royally failed in those areas. Though I said I don’t know much about him, I have heard about some of his relationships since his break up from his first wife. Not much of a model father and husband.

I found it ironic tonight as I was thinking about writing this review, I looked up his wife to see what she is currently up to. She is now living life as a committed endurance runner. She writes for Runner’s World and while Lance was running the NYC Marathon yesterday, she was running a half marathon in California.

While I may not think very highly of Lance Armstrong as a role model, I do respect him for his amazing feats of athleticism. I cannot fully put my stamp of approval on the book since the amount of cursing was way more than I was comfortable with. However, if you are curious about the toll taken on someone’s life in the process of fighting cancer, I don’t know of a better introduction to the subject. It is an inspirational read.

It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, Lance Armstrong and Sally Jenkins, Putnum, 2000, 275 pages.

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