Book Review: Surfacing by Siri Lindley and Julia Julia Beeson Polloreno
I really wanted to love this book (I pre-ordered it back in August). I’m a huge fan of Siri Lindley,
both her accomplishments as an athlete and as a coach are crazy impressive. She came back from not making the Olympic triathlon team to dominate ITU racing for two years. She then retired from competition and was the first female coach to coach an Ironman world champion. She’s had two different athletes at the top of the podium on Kona. She’s the real deal. The book however is woefully short and lacks the depth of introspection that I read memoirs and autobiographies for. Siri had her struggles with the mental aspect of her training and racing. She is also a lesbian and was not always at peace with that. The book touches on the inner conflict she had with this when she was racing but just scratches the surface of what was going on. She speaks about hiding her being gay from a sponsor but does not delve into things like what she was risking or gaining to do so. Would she not be able to eat or was the sponsorship a nice to have? Did other sponsors approach her and she just didn’t talk to them because she did not want to address her sexuality with the them? Did she feel it was none of their business? What emotions were driving her decisions? When did it longer matter or is it still an issue with athletes and sponsors? I would have loved to have been let deeper inside her head as she navigated this issue.
Her training is treated similarly in the book. In another section she speaks about tearing her plantar fascia on a treadmill workout right in front of her coach. It’s stated matter of factly but we get no significant insights into how she felt about it or what was going on insider her head as it happened. Was she mad at her coach for letting her continue? Was she more angry at herself for not sticking up for herself to prevent the injury? How did this incident affect the coaching dynamic she has with her own athletes? There was a lot of presenting of facts about her racing and training, but a lack of critical analysis and reflection regarding the salient events in her life and triathlon career.
When speaking about some tension between herself and the governing bodies of the sport the treatment is again superficial. There was animosity between Siri and both the USAT and ITU. She hints that it was because she trained on her own rather than with the rest of the national team. This animosity is never really delved into. How did it affect her day to day or was the impact just around big races? Did her sexuality (or her hiding of it) impact this relationship? Did this relationship ever improve or change over time? If so what were the catalysts to the change? Does she have a better rapport with the governing bodies as a coach? How did that experience influence the advice she gives her athletes with regards to governing bodies? None of this is addressed in sufficient detail in the book.
Surfacing had the potential to be an extremely powerful book. There just seems to be so much material that could have made this book so much more impactful. Overall I enjoyed learning a little bit more about one of my favorite people in the world of triathlon. I cannot however honestly recommend this book. I really think Siri’s life and career deserves a more in depth look and believe that she has a lot more to say on so many topics.
Siri has a great story. This book simply does not tell it very well.