Book Review: Operation Ironman by George Mahood

A couple of weeks ago I finished Free Country by George Mahood (read my review here) and enjoyed it so much that when I noticed that he had written a triathlon related book I had to purchase it.

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As the front cover says, from hospital bed to the starting line of an Ironman. For those of you who don’t know what an Ironman is, it is a continuous race (or event) consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, finished off with a full 26.2 mile marathon. There is also a time limit, generally 17 hours, but as George finds out on his journey, the particular Ironman that he has entered has a 16 hour time limit.

George isn’t unfit. He played 5-a-side, cycled to the shops, ran a bit, including a few marathons, so when his back started hurting it put a stop to all these things, as well as impacting upon looking after three young children. Eventually, his back problem is diagnosed and an operation is scheduled. Convalescing in hospital George comes upon the idea of completing an Ironman later the same year, as motivation to recovering. Ironman UK at Bolton would have been at the ideal time, but was full, so a race in France was entered.

The book is very funny, especially when George realises that he has been swimming wrong all these years, and then finds out the same with cycling and running. I often find adventure or sporty books more fun when the protagonist doesn’t really know what they are doing, making mistakes all over the place. His training is sporadic, to say the least, with very little running, not wanting to place a strain on his back. George also doesn’t have all of the expensive kit, borrowing a bike from his father. He does join Strava, and I have requested to follow him, although he hasn’t accepted my friend request yet.

What I also loved about this book was that George wasn’t looking for a respectable finishing time, he was only looking at finishing, making notes about cut-off times. There is a great deal of pressure to perform well at an Ironman, which is one of the reasons that I haven’t done one for over 20 years, but George has put the idea into my head that maybe when I turn 60 I should do another. I would follow George’s lead and simply aim to finish and try to enjoy it as much as possible.

This book isn’t just for triathletes, it is that fun to read, and I gave it 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Added to that I will also be purchasing more of George’s books.

Book Review: Free Country by George Mahood

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To give the book it’s full title, Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain. I first came across this book when I was reading the Oxfam collection of travel stories contained in The Kindness of Strangers (read my review here).

It often feels that if you’re going to write a travel book, especially something like Land’s End to John O’Groats, which has been written about at least a hundred times, you need a hook to pull people in. The ‘hook’ in Free Country is that George and his friend Ben intend to cycle the classic LEJOG route without spending a single penny. To add to this they start at Land’s End only wearing Union Jack boxer shorts, and without bicycles.

Their first port of call is the Land’s End hotel to see if there are any clothes left in the lost property box, and to see if the hotel would be prepared to give them any food. The pair of them have a knack of blagging stuff as it doesn’t take them too long to have acquired a couple of old bikes and an odd assortment of clothes. They also manage to find places to sleep; sometimes in an old barn, other times in some quite nice B & Bs.

The book is great fun to read and as with all travel books it’s the people you meet on the journey who make it all worthwhile. Most often the pair of them offer to work in return for food and lodgings, which one hotelier takes advantage of. They also stop for lunch in Lancaster, where we live, although they aren’t too kind about the place. It doesn’t take much for a city to give a bad impression; some dodgy traffic, a drunk wanting to fight or the local Greggs not wanting to give away any baked goods. Anyway, they make it all the way to the top of the country without knowingly paying for anything, and in just under three weeks, which is very impressive when you think about it.

I gave the book 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, and as I have said on many an occasion, the measure of an author is would you buy any of their other books. In  this instance I have, as George has written a book all about having a go at an Ironman, which I am looking forward to reading soon.

Currently I’m reading Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare and 65 Proof by J. A. Konrath.