The Camel's Heart:
From Fitness to Death in the Adirondacks
by Jack Papa
This 500 page plus book is non-fiction about bicycle ultra-marathoning in New York. I know Jack, and stayed at his house in 1989 in preparation for the RAAM Open East qualifier. I didn't actually ride in it that year, but I did crew for Cathy Ellis in the race. Not only did she qualify, but she also competed in RAAM later. I made a number of trips to New York, for both 24 hour marathons and RAAM qualifiers and did finish one of my own qualifiers there. I can't say that I know Jack real well, but I have seen him enough to respect and love him. He is a wonderful person.
The book is about how Jack used bicycling to get fit. His story parallels mine, although he's just a little older than me. One thing led to another until he was riding in marathons, and then managing them. I first met Jack in 1987 in Capron, Illinois, at the RAAM Open Midwest. Because our stories overlap somewhat, I'm even mentioned in his book (but not much). The book evoked a lot of fond memories for me.
Unfortunately, his race directing ended when not one, but two bikers were killed by drunk drivers in separate accidents during the same race. I wasn't at that particular race, and didn't find out about it until months later. My heart would have been broken, too, if someone had been killed during a race I directed. I know from personal experience that Jack is big on safety, and the accidents were not a result of anything Jack did or did not do, they just happened.
Read the book, and feel the excitement of racing. Perhaps you can relate to his story like I did. I enjoyed each and every race I did, whether or not I finished, and for me, the race was anti-climatic. I enjoyed the training as much or more than the races themselves. The journey was more fun than the destination.
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