Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: Running With the Buffaloes

I'm in the throes of moving (to get all Victorian on you; yes, moving IS like an illness), and so I haven't had any time to post anything decent. The running has been going well this week (really nice 10-miler last Saturday and an even better 5x1000 speed session Monday).

I'm vacillating about tomorrow's run: do I do 8 miles with 6 at tempo (as my program for the 10K suggests) or do I do my Boulder Classic run up Mt. Sanitas? I'd do Sanitas in a heartbeat, but I've been spooked by the book I'm now reading (The Beast in the Garden), which is about mountain lions, in Boulder, attacking people. The lions are described as "crepuscular" hunters...meaning they hunt at dawn and dusk. And I am a "crepuscular runner." In other words, prey. And lions *have* been seen on Sanitas.

So do I do it, or do I go the safe route? Keep in mind...a week ago I wouldn't have even asked.

Since we're talking about books, I thought I'd post my review of the last running book I read. It was a doozy!

This book is a Boulder classic. I tweeted that I was reading it, and unlike most of my tweets, which go out into a great black hole of no response, this one got an enthusiastic reply. While shopping at our new Alfalfa's grocery store last week, the cashier noticed it tucked under my arm. "Great book," he said. "I read it years ago."

The book details (and I mean details!) every day in the life of the 1998 University of Colorado men's cross-country team. It starts in the hot summer months, when it wasn't clear what the season's outcome would be, and culminates with the team's third-place finish at the NCAA championships, a race that CU's star runner, Adam Goucher, won in spectacular fashion after long years of striving. The testosterone is so thick at times you can almost smell it--these aren't the gentlemen athletes of Chariots of Fire. The reader goes along on tough runs ranging from lung-burning long ones at 8,000 feet to puke-inducing track intervals, and also on all the team's meets. You meet Mark Wetmore, the program's idolized coach, getting his impressions and worries as the season unfolds. And you're there when a beloved senior team member dies in a biking accident, plunging the team into grief.

The book reads like the author's journal. This is good at times, because it all feels immediate and intense, but also bad, because anyone's personal journal could use an editor. A steady editor here would have excised or explained jargon, cleaned up sentences and smoothed out transitions. I love good narrative non-fiction and would have liked more narrative flow here. Also, to me as a woman and a decidedly average runner, Wetmore's fretting about his runners "getting fat" and his disparaging remarks about average folks who come out each year to run the big local race, the Bolder Boulder, were disheartening (I hope he doesn't talk about his female runners' weight like that).

But overall, I enjoyed this unique book and learned a lot from it about competitive running, about the town I live in and about young and talented athletes. They are, as one team member put it toward the end of the book, "incredible people with the incredible and audacious agenda to discover their own talents," who "run our asses off and do what we do so well that we defeat all kinds of people that are supposed to be better than us."

Hopefully Wetmore won't begrudge some of us average folks (who may also be a little fat!) adopting just a smidge of that attitude, toward running and life


  1. This one's been on my list for a while. Almost finished with another, so maybe I will stick it on the Kindle--you've inspired me! Now about those mtn. lions...I'd be a big 'ole chicken!

  2. I love "Buffaloes"! I love Goucher's competative nature, and some of his "don't disrespect me" moments.

  3. I'm with Zippy, it's on my list too. I'm sure it's more interesting since you live there. I am in love with Adam Goucher's wife.