Books, even though they’re not “gear” per se, are essential travel companions for many of us. Whether in print or digital form, their stories educate and entertain us on long flights, train rides, or even if we’re just eating in a restaurant by ourselves for the 15th time on a journey.

My argument for talking about this book—Swim, Bike, Bonk: Confessions of a Reluctant Triathlete by Will McGough—isn’t for merely any of the above reasons, but also because triathlons have become so popular that folks travel long distances to compete in them, and bring their best gear along. Having the most top-performance gear is essential to doing well in a triathlon, almost as essential as being in shape to compete in them in the first place.

Or, maybe not.

Will McGough takes us along on his training journey for the annual 140.6-mile Ironman in Tempe, Arizona—his first Ironman. Actually, his first triathlon, period. While he’s adept at adventure travel, early on in the book (the story starts 109 days before the Ironman), it’s clear that he’s not used to this level of training. Prior to committing to the race, the longest distance he’d run was only 8 miles.

Along the way, through McGough, we learn a variety of methods for training for an Ironman, from hardcore embracing the dedication to waiting until three months in advance to even thinking about it. He takes the reader through decisions to buy the most expensive, elite gear or budget gear for a freelance writer, as well as training locations: gym, road, and apartment while watching Netflix marathons of Lost.

Along the way, we learn just how popular the Ironman brand is, and how it relies on essential volunteers around the world to make the races happen—a drastic change from its beginnings in 1978 between just 15 original competitors (the first Ironman, Gordon Haller, wrote the book’s forward).

Swim, Bike, Bonk: Confessions of a Reluctant Triathlete is not only an entertaining account more than worthy to accompany you on your next trip, it’s a great read for dedicated and first-time triathletes, or even competitive athletes in general. While I’ve never attempted a triathlon (and never intend to), I have raced competitively in a variety of sports and found myself groaning and cheering along with McGough.

Is he successful in the end? I’m not telling. Buy the book and find out.

Categorized in: