Customer Reviews: Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
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on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've really come to enjoy books about healthier living, from fitness to improving one's food intake ('diet' is a dirty word!). I've lost a lot of weight myself through improved eating habits and more exercise. Roll's life story is similar to a lot of folks, who struggle with bad diet and addiction (in his case primarily alcohol, but food can obviously be an addiction too). He makes radical changes and voila, he's one of the fittest guys on the planet, competing in ultras.

I generally liked the book, particularly some of the information about becoming vegan, and the hidden dairy in products one wouldn't expect to find in some everyday foods- the dairy thing really opened my eyes and has made me begin to look even more closely at what I eat. He reaches a point where he decides to make wholesale changes in his life, and that is a moment I reached as well. It was the point of the book that I most identified with the author; the single moment when we decide that we must make sacrifices to grow and become better people spiritually and physically.

What I didn't like was that early in the book, he details his struggles with alcohol, and subsequent stint at rehab for several chapters, but then suddenly there's a chapter about his PlantPower diet, and how great it will make you feel. The enthusiasm for his diet did not match the preceeding chapters and felt really out of place- almost like a commercial break. The diet really had nothing to do with his recovery, since the fitness bug didn't truly hit him until several years into his sobriety. Also, it struck me as somewhat bogus that after having been a college swimmer at Stanford before succumbing to alcoholism, he suddenly remembers that he's this amazing athlete after going out for a casual run (that happens to be a near marathon in length). I think beginners will struggle mightily if they think they will try to exercise and get fantastic results immediately. There's never any acknowlegement by the author that his previous athleticism might have played a factor in being able to pick it back up easily, and this omission to me seemed glaring.

Overall, there's a wealth of good information about healthy eating and lifestyle changes, and for that reason I give it 4 stars. Taken for what that's worth, there are some good ideas that can be used to improve one's diet, regardless of whether you want to go vegan or not. I admit I've been critical of some of the points in the book, but I want to clarify that these are small gripes. I don't discount the author's experience one bit, and applaud him for pushing his body to new heights.
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VINE VOICEon June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Finding Ultra is like two books in one.

There is the first half where the author's life falls apart and and is then rebuilt. It's the basic, and always fascinating, story of personal recovery from addiction. I wanted to hear more about this.

But this story is abruptly dropped and the second half of the book is all about the author's drive to excel at ultra ironman competitions. This part is far too ego driven for comfort. The hero is very heroic and his followers are faithfully supportive and that's about it.

Throughout his life, as chronicled in Finding Ultra, vast numbers of people help Rich. But it hard to find any examples of Rich helping anybody else. "Hey Dude," I wanted to shout, "tons of people helped you straighten out. How about you give something back?" But it was not to be. This book is a pure paean to the glory of self.

The sections on diet and health were interesting but lacked substance. The author more or less says, "I chose to eat this way and look how amazing it made me. Therefore it is THE BEST way to eat."

If you really enjoy reading about a guy running and biking insanely long distances and don't mind an author with a massive ego you will probably enjoy this book. It's well written and easy to read. But if you like to see a fair amount of depth, balance, introspection and a certain awareness of others in an autobiography then this book is likely not for you.
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on January 22, 2013
I'm going to be harsh, because frankly I just didn't like this book. I found it boring, albeit I did read the book in it's entirety, probably because it actually starts out well in the first page or two and so I guess I kept hoping it'd get better; however it actually just kept getting worse.

To begin with, (I could be wrong) but I believe that one main premise of this book is that the author starts out in "middle age" being fat and out of shape and then through a miraculous transformation becomes an elite endurance athlete. Or in other words, he was once just an average Joe down on his luck who found endurance sports and then "beat the odds" to become a racing pro.

I would argue that this just isn't true.

For one, the author tells you about how in college he was a world class swimmer, almost beating some of the best in the world, only to then "fall from grace" because of alcoholism. Now... > 90% of all triathletes will tell you that they suck at swimming, "it's my worst event", they'll tell you. So, anybody who can go out in the open water on any day and swim 2.4 miles in 50 minutes (which will get you out of the water in 1st to 3rd place in any Ironman in the world) just doesn't get credit in my book as someone who is an "average guy".

In addition to this, the author tells about how he went out on his first run and just kept going for 2 hours or something like that. So, he's lucky to have either good genetics or natural form to allow him to run long without injury unlike most people. Again, this isn't a story that an "average joe triathlete" will tell you. Some people are blessed with excellent recovery times, it's obvious that the author is one of those people; this makes a world of difference.

And then, on top of all of that, he's a lawyer. Albeit, he describes some financial difficulties, but one of the biggest obstacles in triathlon (or at least cycling) is cost; this guy is going to have some extra cash to spend for gear that other people wouldn't have access to. Oh, and he apparently is able to afford a WORLD CLASS coach... find me an 'average joe' with that. A few years ago and really nobody in triathlon even had coaches.

There are a few other bits that bug me, for instance I highly doubt he would have completed EPIC5 if it wasnt for his friend, Jason Lester, who in my opinion was the true star of this book and deserved much more attention than he got in the book. Something else is that the author is far from a pro or elite endurance athlete (in my book) and just doesn't deserve the ego driven credit that is the basis of this book. I'm not aware of him winning anything. Finishing first in the first stage of his second Ultraman is not surprising given his swimming background.

Lastly, two items:

1. This book is a long string of product placements. Think about those movies where every shot has the star holding a Coca Cola can in the middle of the screen and that's how I felt reading this book. I actually checked the website for his own line of products which he is obviously trying to sell in this book and find it very underwhelming.

2. A good chunk of the end of the book is the author's rant on nutrition. As someone who is a physician and with a degree in nutrition science and an endurance athlete, I found half of this to be plain bizarre and misleading. There was nothing 'scientific' about this section (despite the author's attempt), rather, I found this to be consistent with how I could imagine a lawyer approaching this topic with anecdotes and trying to make a case solely on testimony and a firm presentation rather than real clinical evidence, research, and data. To the author's credit, I do think he made a statement to the effect "try this yourself and see if it works for you" and also I don't necessarily disagree with some of his underlying claims (i.e., I, too, am a vegetarian), I just strongly disagree with the info-mercial style of presentation.

Anyway, if you're bored and have nothing else to read, then get the book, if for no other reason then skip to about halfway through and just read about EPIC5 and become a Jason Lester fan too. Otherwise, read something much, much better like Eat and Run or Born to Run.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After reading Rich Roll's memoir/ode to veganism, "Finding Ultra," the reader is left with one undeniable conclusion.

Rich Roll is insane.

This is not a criticism of Mr. Roll, who may have saved himself through his insanity. But even though Roll writes as if anyone who converts to a healthy vegan diet can achieve the same endurance feats he has, the fact remains that he has transformed himself into one of the most unique athletes in the world.

Consider: in less than half a decade, Roll transforms himself from a cheeseburger-slurping couch potato (recovering from a decade of major-league alcohol abuse) into one of the first two guys to complete the EPIC5. What is the EPIC5, you ask? The EPIC5 is a flat-out nightmare - completing 5 Ironman Triathlons in 5 consecutive days, each one on a different Hawaiian island. To put this in perspective, an individual Ironman is the feat of a lifetime and includes - in one day - the following:

2.4 mile swim - in open water
112 mile bike race, followed by
a full 26.2 mile marathon.

Most fitness fanatics never even bother with an Ironman, while for others completing a single race is their life's defining moment. Roll slightly misses his goal by needing two rest days, but he still completes the EPIC5 in seven days.

This is insane, and something that only a truly unique personality would even consider, much less finish. Indeed, the most frustrating part of Roll's book is his unwillingness to accept how special he is, even as he's telling you this remarkable story. And it is remarkable. Ultimately Roll's repeated insistence that he's just a regular guy - Roll is invariably "amazed" when he does well or when he sees that someone is cheering on his athletic endeavors, so much so that I started blacking out the word each time he used it - smacks of false modesty. However, it may give some insight into his character, as Roll drops many hints that he likes drama and craves attention.

(Full disclosure - if Roll had stricken "amazed" from his narrative and used about half as many adjectives, I'd probably give this book 5 stars. Read "Finding Ultra" for the story, not the style.)

Roll gives the credit to his mid-life transformation to his PlantPower diet - a self-generated diet based solely on plants. Roll goes to great lengths to explain how you can be "vegan" and still eat incredibly unhealthy foods. "Finding Ultra" is replete with recommendations for a variety of foods and their benefits, both for general nutrition and for athletic training. Roll skewers notions that athletes must get their protein from animals, that eggs and cheese are good for you, and that much sports nutrition wisdom is actually misinformation.

But "Finding Ultra" is not a fascinating read because it's got dietary suggestions - it's because Roll makes such a tremendous shift to become an elite endurance athlete. True, he pays mere lip service to the impact Roll's fitness mania has on his family - he says how much he loves his kids, even as he more or less ignores them. But "Finding Ultra" is a rare glimpse inside the head of a world-class athlete who appreciates the second chance he gave himself to be the kind of man he always wanted to be. Highly recommended for anyone caught in a middle-age fitness struggle or who wants a little dietary inspiration.
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on March 23, 2014
If you bought this book expecting to read a book like Born to Run or Eat & Run, you have purchased the wrong book. The first third of Finding Ultra is the story of how a privaleged kid discovered alcohol and began his journey into medocrity even though he went to Stanford for his undergraduate degree and thenbarely got into Cornell by the skin of his teeth and perhaps family connections for his law degree. The second third of Finding Ultra is Rich Roll's unusual journey into the world of Ultra Racing and the Ironman as a fat and out of shape forty year old, which is interesting of itself, but it does not give much training advice for the average Joe or Jane. And the final third of Finding Ultra is Rich Roll's nutritional advice and product line plugs.

I liked the first two thirds of Finding Ultra but overall I was disappointed. I'd rather read Born to Run for the umpteenth time, or Eat & Run a second time than Finding Ultra. If you are a vegan, or think you want to become a vegan, then I think this book might be for you. Otherwise, keep looking.
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on July 11, 2016
I usually don't write reviews for books because I think books speak differently to each reader. This is the exception. I was eager to read this book after recently switching to a vegan lifestyle while maintaining distance running and cycling. After I slogged through the first couple of chapters I got to the ridiculous part that many other reviewers also pointed out which is his infamous almost marathon distance after not running for years. Really?! Now I am not a gifted athlete as Rich Roll seems to be but I have thousands of miles under my belt and I have a hard time believing that he felt super awesome running those miles and that he ran those miles at all but I digress. I made it another 100ish pages before throwing in the towel. I have NEVER read another book that attempted to "humble" brag like this book did. It was unbearable. I found myself getting irritated by even the thought of giving it a few more pages. This one is not for me and not for anyone that can't slog through 200+ pages of out right bragging and whining about all the problems that come from a privileged background.
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on February 22, 2015
I wanted to like this book. I've been to his website and listened to several of his podcasts, some of which are great. But, the writing just wouldn't let me like it. It's a thin line between using your own story to inspire others and banal self-promotion, but when you're advertising your own products throughout the book, you've definitely fallen over into the self-promotion side. Plus, it seems like he's not telling the whole story, even though he lays some parts of himself bare (though even these parts are designed to give greater self-promotion for his turnaround). He'd be a great late-night infomercial host.

I'd actually be more interested in reading his wife's story. Sometimes Roll portrays her as if she's just wallpaper in the background of his hero's journey, but she's apparently also overcome a great deal, and must genuinely be a saint overflowing with unconditional love to put up with him.
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on July 22, 2013
Perhaps the greatest challenge yet for Rich will be to climb his mountainous ego. This absurd work details the 1st world difficulties of a man who was given everything on a shiny silver platter and then decided to smear it with chia seeds and acai berries. I can't help but think that the people who are truly enjoying this book are experiencing some sort of vicarious sense of self-fulfillment, and it's just sad.

This is a terrible book.
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on September 28, 2013
I was recommended this book by a friend and actually ordered the audio CD, and then the book. It is a great motivating story of a man's quest to be healthy and live a life that is truly inspired and inspiring. The only thing I didn't like about the audio CD was that there was no additional list information of the foods he mentions in his book, so I bought the book to see the lists.

I would have liked a more comprehensive list of foods somewhere, instead of all of them broken up, but all in all, it was a good story, he is informed about nutrition and has learned what he knows both by trial and error and research.

If nothing else, if you don't change your diet or exercise, or anything else, it inspires you to look at your own life and see where changes might be in order.
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on September 16, 2015
Summation: I was going up steps was tired,non-athletic, was a hopeless alcoholic gambler but was an Olympic swimming hopeful. Oh yeah and a Yale lawyer......, then I fell into a veggie shake. I started do "short" workouts...only 1hour each..... then I had more veggies. Out my back door in the USA I ran, found boundless energy before I know it I had run across Europe in 3hours... then I ran to... Narnia... where the great Lion King said I must be trippin on Veggies. End of book with recipes for veggie shakes.
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