Did you spend the entire weekend at the Tucson Festival of Books? Two days of authors and entertainment - all free and all to promote literacy! I don't know about you, but I had a hard time planning my schedule because there were so many great presentations and workshops. How can you choose between Alice Hoffman, John Sandford and Luis Alberto Urrea? Each of them perfect, but all of them at 10 am on Saturday! One panel I knew I didn't want to miss was "Going to Extremes" with Amy Snyder, Naomi Benaron and Kathryn Bertine. I just recently finished As Good as Gold, a chronicle of Bertine's quest to make the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008. Just when she hits new lows in her professional and personal life, ESPN offers to support Bertine's efforts to make the Olympic team. The problem is she hasn't quite decided which sport will offer her the best shot.
Kathryn Bertine is an elite triathlete. However, her strength is in the longer races, rather than the shorter distances found in the Olympic triathlon. She knows she won't be fast enough to make it in her current sport, so she sets off to try various sports in the hopes she can make a team. If she can already compete in an Ironman triathlon (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run), how hard can it be for her to make the Olympic team in some obscure sport like handball? Well, it turns out - pretty hard! In fact, she tries 9 different sports over the next two years, including modern pentathlon, track cycling, rowing. The chapter on Race Walking is especially hilarious and aptly titled, "Hips on Fire."
This is a funny and inspirational book that athletes and non-athletes can both enjoy. Read it this spring and you will be well prepared for the Summer Olympics in London. As you are watching on television, you will realize that even the seemingly ridiculous sports are filled with tremendous athletes that have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of excellence. Bertine is still competing, hoping to make it to the 2012 games. You can follow her by reading her online column in espnW.