If you've been following endurance mountain biking in recent years, you've probably heard the name Rebecca Rusch. After years of adventure racing around the globe, Rusch reinvented her athletic self and burst onto the mountain bike scene to win three 24-hour solo world championship titles. More recently, the Specialized rider drew plenty of attention by winning four Leadville 100 titles.
Now her experiences are captured in "Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled", a memoir written with the help of another well known rider and accomplished pro health and fitness writer, Selene Yeager.
If you pick up this book expecting it to be all about Rusch and her mountain bike racing experiences, you'll be disappointed. The book takes a much more thorough look at Rusch's entire competitive life, starting with cross country running in high school and college, then moving onto rock climbing, whitewater rafting, adventure racing and eventually, after the half-way point, it gets to the part of her career that's about mountain bike racing.
However, if you're up for a book that tells the story of a talented and motivated aspiring young female athlete from the Midwest making the not-so-easy transition to the pro athlete ranks and then succeeding in many different sporting endeavors, then this is a good book for you. The fact that only part of the book is about mountain biking may make it much more relevant to a wider audience.
Rusch's entire career is a lesson in perseverance, determination and good planning. That's not to say she doesn't have some very obvious natural talent; it's just that the book showcases how important those other factors are in making it as a pro. For example, learning about handling the amount of logistics that goes into an adventure race makes us just tired thinking about it.
Rusch was a normal kid from Chicago who went west and abandoned a predictable life for one of adventure. The book weaves her life's story among the exotic locales and extreme conditions that forged an extraordinary athlete from ordinary roots.
If you follow the sport from a distance, Rusch's story may seem like it's about just another superhuman rising effortlessly to the top of one sport after another, but the book goes much deeper into her psychology, honestly showcasing both the ups and the downs of her development as a pro athlete.
She's not afraid to reveal her deepest struggles through intimate challenges like facing eating disorders, managing difficult interpersonal relationships and dealing with times of deep self doubt. She's also honest about what a shoestring budget many pros have no choice but to live on, even once they become successful.
First turning heads with her rock climbing and paddling skills, Rusch soon found herself spearheading adventure racing teams like Mark Burnett's Eco-Challenge series. As she fought her way through the jungles of Borneo, raced camels across Morocco, threaded the rugged Tian Shan mountains, and river-boarded the Grand Canyon in the dead of winter, she was forced to stare down her own demons. Through it all, Rusch continually redefined her limits, pushing deep into the pain cave and emerging ready for the next great challenge. The book lets readers vicariously re-live Rusch's biggest races with both good and bad outcomes in plenty of exotic locations - some pleasant, some not so pleasant.
At age 38, Rusch faced a tough decision: retire or reinvent herself yet again. Determined to go for broke, she shifted her focus to endurance mountain bike racing and rode straight into the record books at a moment when most athletes walk away.
The book is an easy read - just sit back and relax and follow Rusch through her various endeavors. She does all the suffering, so you don't have to. It may be the perfect book to give an aspiring young female athlete who is or will soon confront her own demons. When facing or about to face these kind of obstacles on the path to success, it's nice to know you're not alone and have a good example to follow.
Information about the book
Title: Rusch to Glory: Adventure, Risk & Triumph on the Path Less Traveled
Author: Rebecca Rusch with Selene Yeager
Details: Paperback with color photo section, 6" x 9", 256 pp., $18.95,
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.