Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Review

I just finished reading Scott Thigpen’s “ Trail Magic and the Art of Soft Pedaling”.  This is Scott’s 1st hand account of his 2013 TDR race. It is basically a detailed 'section by section' account of his race. 

Get it here--
I would highly recommend this book to any rookie TDR racer.   Because of its ‘location detail’ there is a lot to learn. IE Scott mentions by name many of the establishments where he re-supplied (or tried to).  It’s easy to google up these locations/establishments and include them in one’s own list of possible re-supply or shelter places.

I would also recommend it as entertainment; Scott tells a solid, funny story with professional illustrations, a few of which really ‘grabbed’ me.  You might notice a few ‘minor’ miss-identified locations or events but these do not detract at all.
I would also recommend it as a somewhat cautionary tale.  Like all TDR racers Scott makes some mistakes (including mistakes about magic-see below) but rather than hide or minimize them Scott lays them out for all to see, laugh about, and perhaps learn from.  See if you can pick out the minor vs the major mistakes.  As I was reading along one of the things I wondered was how many days (days not hours) Scott good have shaved of his strong mid-pack finish had he been able to race with fewer self-inflected mistakes.  Kudos to Scott for sharing with us such an honest, open and entertaining account.

Perhaps more importantly, along with a comical array of miscues and mistakes Scott also gives us an exemplementry lesson in perseverance and determination.  Over and over he beats back things that would stop many.  Most rookies and many Vets, myself included can learn from Scott’s tales of determination and grit!!  If we can eliminate most of our mistakes and race with as much perseverance as Scott did we very well may approach a personal best!
Reluctantly I must offer up one very tangible criticism of Scott’s book and the manner in which he conducted himself during his TDR race.  The book’s title mentions Trail Magic.  And Scott’s book has many many accounts of real trail magic, hence the title.  However several times Scott mistakenly confuses his asking, begging or soliciting shelter, water, food, navigation or mechanical help etc from noncommercial and non-race related strangers or fellow racers for real trail magic. 

Real Trail Magic is not a complex concept, yes it is sometimes shades of gray but most times it’s not.  If you have to directly ASK or BEG or deliberately place yourself in a position to SOLICIT help it’s NEVER trail magic.  On the other hand if some form of help or support is offered unexpectedly or randomly then it most likely is real trail magic. 
Scott’s account has mostly real trail magic incidents, many of them in fact.  But while reading his otherwise excellent TDR primer, see if you can’t pick out some questionable non-magic events.  Ones where Scott forced or attempted to force magic to occur.

Of course whether one does or does not accept real magic is purely a matter of style and personal preference.  Some racers accept magic and some do not.  But either way, every TDR racer should strive to avoid winding up in situations that ‘require’ you to beg for help.
Trail Magic Qualifiers:
It shouldn’t need to be said but for any nitpickers—
·         Yes, I agree, at one time or another most if not all races, myself included, wind up in a situation where we feel the need to directly ask for help.  But hopefully few and far between.
·         If you truly need help then do what’s needed to secure it, even if it means begging on hand & knee.  No ever argued that we be stupid about securing required/un-anticipated help.
·         Emotional support over the phone—yes I understand the nitpicker’s argument here but get real and don’t be a nitpicker…phones are allowed so it’s a level field. Period!  Just get over it.
·         Just because your personal style might exclude you from accepting real trail magic doesn’t make you somehow more pure or your results any more legitimate than racers who for whatever reasons accept real magic.

Finally, please do not any criticisms as a reason to not buy and read Scott's book.  In fact I invite you to get the book, enjoy it and learn from it, and make up your own mind if my criticisms have any validity.  Because sooner or later all self-supported racers bump directly up against situations of real and false magic and you might want to think about and pre-prepare for how you are going to deal with it.


  1. I bought this book a few months back and it was a good read. I did find myself tut-tutting a few times when I saw rule violations and cringing a little with the way he treated some others but hey, we are all different.
    Overall an enjoyable read. In a similar vein, have you read Paul Howards book?

  2. Yes I read Paul's, and Jill's, book. Can't get enough of that ol TDR stuff..........