Saturday, March 14, 2009

Team USA Profiles: Clem McGrath

This week we have the pleasure to present Clem McGrath, who has represented the United States at the past three WOCs.

1) What's your name?
As the first question, this one is probably intended to be a layup. And, for most people, it probably is. However, I am not most people. So… some folks, and certainly most people reading this, know me as “Clem” McGrath. But, many more people know me as “James” McGrath. A smaller group, which I hope does not intersect with either of the other two, may apply various other scurrilous monikers. Luckily, I am mostly not privy to those.

2) What's your hometown?
Also, a very difficult question. I emanated from a place called Narvon, Pennsylvania, in the United States of America. On Earth.
That was a long time ago. Today, I feel somewhat like a quark, and my location is not precisely determinable (if and when one attempts to determine it.) My average location has recently been Tolland, CT, but I fancy my hometown to be Boston, and it soon will be in actuality.

3) Marital status/kids/pets
I am very happily married to the lovely Dasha. Status=happy. Kids = Ø. Pets, sort of, but only when subject to a charitable interpretation. You see, Dasha and I like wild creatures and we try to respect their wildness. Thus, while we would like to have moose, lions, rabbits, geese, etc. as pets, these creatures are not necessarily aware of our affection for them, nor are they willing to trade their freedom for a place in our apartment. Moreover, the apartment administration may not be amenable to the arrangement. While their (the apartment's) satisfaction is not our primary concern, we have had to satisfy ourselves with plush pets and houseplants, including two lemon trees, which we dote upon heavily.

4) What's your club?
My club is DVOA, despite lingering disillusionment, and CSU. I may join WCOC and/or GHO at some point the future.

5) What's your birthday?
The anniversary of when I arrived in this world kicking and screaming. This event is commemorated annually on January 29th.

6) What do you do when not orienteering?
Not too much. I do some training. Some reading. Some thinking. The relative proportions of each are not fixed.
I am now seeking a new professional challenge and am open to suggestions. However, I hope to be afforded an opportunity to think deeply as part of the deal.

7) How did you start orienteering?
I started orienteering in 1985 (I believe… or else it was 1986.) It was at a clinic held by Bob Putnam at Robeson Elementary School in Mohnton, PA. Orienteering presented itself to me as a way to expurgate my festering desire to go run around in the forbidden and mysterious woods surrounding my former elementary school. And which young boy would not want to do that?

8) What are your biggest orienteering successes so far?
I am not really satisfied with any of my accomplishments so far, but I am proud of the 1997 US Relay Champs, and to a lesser extent, all the other US Relay Champs I’ve won with DVOA. I also am proud of winning the DVOA Club Championships a number of times. On a larger stage, getting 3rd at the Classic Champs was pretty good, and I’ve occasionally medaled at some other races—Longs and the Sprints.

9) What are your goals for 2009? What are your more long-term orienteering goals?
To stay uninjured all year. To build upon my current conditioning and what I put in the bank over the winter. To be in the top 5 in the US rankings. Medal in at least one US Champs, excluding the Relays, which I intend to win along with my DVOA teammates. And, in general, to keep my head straight in higher profile races. If I do, everything else will follow.

10) What is your favorite place to orienteer?
Pawtuckaway, Delaware Water Gap, Harriman, Iron Hill Park, and Valley Forge Park. I can be dangerous if given a bunch of point features and small to medium sized discrete contour features. And, while you did not ask for this, my least favorite place to orienteer is any place more than 4,000 feet above sea level.

11) What are your favorite orienteering disciplines?
Relays. Then the middle. I’ve always had a comparative advantage in the longest races, but they aren’t my favorite.

12) What would be your ideal training session?
Hill repeats on a late spring afternoon or early evening with temperature about 65-70 and no insects getting in my eyes or stuck to me. Newish shoes and a comfortable shirt or maybe no shirt.

13) Can you describe a typical training week?
It depends on the season, but 8 hours in volume, with a 70, 15, 10, 5 ratio of level 2, 3, 4, and 5 in intensity. One 2 hour run, one strength session (hills or weights), and one speed session. And one race.

14) Unlike in many European countries, most orienteers on the US Team, including yourself have full-time (or more than full-time!) jobs. How difficult is it to combine such work with the demands of training and traveling for orienteering?
Well, I think this is difficult. They US paradigm is two weeks of vacation per year. While I recently have had three weeks of vacation per year, I could not take it in a large chunk without some negotiation. This obvious impedes just about all protracted summer travel.

But, then there is also the daily grind. I have recently worked at jobs of about 50 hours per week, which is down a bit from earlier jobs of about 60 hours. Needless to say, that is a bit tiring, and it is difficult to motivate to train when you leave work at 6PM.

15) If you didn't have to worry about money or jobs, where would you live? Why?
Maybe a place like Châteauroux or Giverny in France, Santa Barbara, CA, or Salerno or Siena in Italy. I like the countryside, or la paysage, and am an inveterate romantic. I also like wine and warm summer days and grass under my feet. However, of that list, I have only been to Santa Barbara, so those other places may fall short of my notion of them.

16) What would you take with you to a deserted island?
Dasha might resent being designated a “what,” but I hope she would agree to go. Aside from her, the Financial Times Weekend Edition, and my Blackberry or computer, provided I could get WiFi.

17) Do you think you're weird enough to be an orienteer? If yes, illustrate with an amusing anecdote.
Res ipsa loquitur.

18) A lot of people in the US orienteering community are familiar with your outrageously vast vocabulary. How have you come to possess such a vocabulary? What is your favorite word?
This is a beautiful question, because I certainly have many words that I like a lot. And I think of them often and reflect upon why I like them. My very favorite word is prolix and the next favorite is interlocutor; both are clearly self-referential. Other good ones, which I like for sundry reasons, include contubernal, crepuscular, and epiphyte.

Why do I possess this vocabulary? I read a lot and was/is a geek and had a few friends who were geeks, with whom I could use words like these. (I miss those days…) Unfortunately, there are a number of words I “know” that I do not know how to pronounce.

19) What kind of music makes you feel invincible against wicked course setters and Canadians?

“The Final Countdown” by Europe, of course. Listening to that song is to envelop oneself in a shroud of cheese, and thusly arrayed, I would be impervious to the mischief of an evil Canadian or malignant course setter (or anything else). However, if it is merely a Canadian (and not a course setter) seeking to vex me, I can listen to “O Canada” and be immediately reminded of inherent Canadian inferiority.

And for those of you who just can't get enough of Clem, here is a video of Clem's dance moves, published previously on this blog during WOC 2008:


Anonymous said...

That's awesome. Great questions and especially answers. Thanks, Clem!


Leif said...

As always it would be quite useful to have a dictionary handy when reading or listening to something out of Clem´s mind - so thanks for the extra links to some of the words :)
Nice article - keep them coming!

Eddie said...

Iron Hill?!? WTF? :)

Hey, the secret word verification for this post was "entspa." What is an entspa, Clem? Is it a whirlpool bath for large trees?

Leif said...


Well, about four minutes into this you have your whirlpool --> entspa...

Anonymous said...

It must be a spa for ents. They need a spa, too, and I would not want to share with them.

Yes, Iron Hill. It is a great place. It is a place to tee it up and rip it. Good things can come in small packages.

I did forget my other favorite area--Hickory Run. That was an unfortunate omission.