The Commissioner is 43 today
Echoing last year, I’ve saved the overall odds for 2 days before the event, giving everyone plenty of time to lobby, but also enough time to adjust, as needed. A few words on “odds” and scoring.
Odds of winning 1st Place Overall in the 2012 East Luray Liars Triathlon
Dan Moore (2011 champion, 2008 3rd place) — 87-1: Danno remains in contention for rock climbing (since he didn’t come in 1st in 2011). His golf game still sucks, he is out of contention for mountain biking, as only one other racer has even been to Stratham Hill and no one has previewed the time trial. In hoops, he’ll have youth and quickness, which may create some solid defense…but not sure any one of the Granite Staters can sink a shot. A win on the rocks and placing in golf and hoops….maybe, but pretty unlikely he’ll be the first repeat champion.
Eric Shimp (2010 champion) — 30-1: Eric will very likely medal in golf (provided Lapham’s math skillz don’t hold up). He is unlikely to medal in climbing (although expectations for him are now low) and unlikely to medal on the bikes. He’s lost his wicked fast wing man in hoops. A first ever repeat champion seems unlikely….but…Eric does lead the field in “Diminishing Expectations Through Reporting Injuries,” including photos and notes from his doctors…..so, a 1st, a 3rd, a couple solid performances…who knows.
JP Ratajczak (2008 champion) — 30-1: The only difference between JP and Eric is golf. And slightly lower expectations on the rocks. And JP has been training on the bikes. And through the wonderful miracle of birth, JP now has the inner strength that comes with being a father (but he isn’t an old man, yet, so he doesn’t have Cavanaugh-like strength). It’s been many years since JP even stood on the final 3 podium… JP could be the first-ever repeat champion.
Ben Moeling (2011 2nd place)— 30-1: The “Herat Handicap” which may have helped last year has been replaced by higher expectations. Much higher. For Ben to repeat he needs to, 1) climb something no one else can; 2) beat Chris Roy on the bikes by more than double the margin Chris beat him last year; 3) set at least on decent pick in every game of hoops. He nails that trifecta and he’s on the podium again.
Eric Lapham (2010 2nd place) — 350-1: Eric will miss two stages, but one of those is a team event. And the two stages he’ll race — climbing and golf — he could potentially medal in, if not outright win (in 2010, he tied for 2nd on the rocks and won at golf). If Lapham is sitting on two 1st place finishes and the next two stages produce 6 winners without another stage win…we’ll still text him with a picture of the overall winners (unless The Commissioner has a change of heart)
Steve Otto (2009 2nd place) — 8-1: Otto got screwed in 2011 because the field slanted heavily towards the rock climbers and mountain bikers, stages that Otto did well in, but faced crazy steep competition. This year, the golfing will be tougher, but expectations for the rocks and bikes will be higher, too. With plenty of training and the return of his wingman, Otto could medal in climbing, golf, and mountain biking. In hoops…well…one of his teammates was on a champion team once. And that same teammate coached youth basketball this year. If he doesn’t depend on hoops, Otto will be well-positioned for a return to the overall top 3.
Steve Ball (2008 2nd place) — 10-1: Steve’s podium finish in 2008 came from the perfect ELLT strategy: low expectations, a strong liver, and good luck. This year he adds training, experience, and a year off to rest. He also increased his basketball IQ by coaching youth sports, although that may prove useful on his team. He’s done a minimal amount of pre-race whining about his physical condition…he has improved his mixing skills…his odds look really, really good.
Steve Schukraft (2011 3rd Place) — 35-1: Last year’s podium finished was based on exceeding expectations and maintaining a steady, consistent pace throughout the race. This year, expectations are higher and the one stage that really pushed him onto the podium – hoops – may be a liability this year. Steve would need to medal on the rocks and the bikes to have any chance. No question he has been training, just uncertain whether that will pay off.
Mike Graf – 15-1: Every year the Young Liars are convinced Me-Mike has a shot at 1st place overall, which means Mike is terrible at setting expectations low (at least with the younger crowd). This year, Mike’s got an improved hoops team, 4 years of experience on the rocks, and a properly-sized mountain bike. If he trims a couple minutes off his time trial and puts that length to use on the rocks…this could be Mike first trip to the overall podium.
Chris Doyle — 9-1: Returning from a couple years off, bringing mad mountain bike skillz and blessed with solid hoops teammates…even a crap golf game and less-than-expectations on the rocks probably won’t be enough to keep Fes off the overall podium (shorter: expectations are way high)
Eric Marshall — 8-1: Here is your 2012 Easy-Money-Lock Grey Horse contender, a true mudder. Rocks and hoops are question marks, but golf and mountain biking should not only be guaranteed medals, but improved over last year, which is always a significant factor in the overall standings.
Jason Madden — 15-1: By running the entire race this year, Jason’s odds improve significantly. He’ll be a rookie on the rocks (sometimes an advantage in the scoring) and I have no idea what his golf game is like. For hoops, he’s got the home court advantage. It comes down to the bikes — a better time trial and he could reach the podium.
Chris Heffernan — 15-1: Seriously, this could be Chris’ year. Low expectations for everything except hoops, but a basketball team that could cause trouble for the favorites. Improved golf skills. Always dangerous on the rocks. And coming off a magna cum laude performance.
Gary Cavanaugh — 80-1: Skipping climbing diminishes Gary’s chances, but I think The Commissioner would make a qualified exception if Gary wins golf and he medals on the bikes and his team pulls out an unimaginable hoops victory. Possible? Yeah, about 80-1 chance…
Chris Roy — 200:-1: Last year’s assessment is almost still all true — “Chris will only join us for hoops and his team is top-ranked in all the pre-season polls (again). He needs total chaos in the first three events to take first overall.” His hoops team is no longer top-ranked in the pre-season polls, but lowered expectations could help. Chaos on day one could help him.
Tom Gustafson — 150-1: Although a rookie (which usually translate to better-than-expected podium finishes), Tom is not climbing, skipping the first 2 stages of the race and severely diminishing his overall chances. Rumint says he is a better than scratch golfer and may topple both Lapham and Otto. His biking skills are based on 2am rides home from the pub. And he is rumored to play hoops like a skier. Just hope the green jacket fits him.
starting to think about Saturday’s race…this pic is from Louisville, 20 years ago, spring of 1992…after mountain biking…
for obvious reasons, moving now to Mike Graf, a Chicago-based Rho Bandit
Past Performances: In 2008, Mike Graf took second in rock climbing, which was considerably impressive as we were outside at Rumney, climbing some pretty tough stuff. Looking back now, 2nd on the rocks outside was really impressive, since we haven’t been back outside since. Truly a solid performance (by the way, the scores in 2008 for climbing were determined by Steve DuPre, the guide, not the Race Director). But Mike’s golf game and mountain biking didn’t get him on the podium again.
In 2009, during a torrential tropical monsoon-ical rain storm, Mike was the only one to get a par on the third hole at Bradford, the hole we all remember because it was a par-3 over a mass of marsh and wetlands. JP actually took video of Graf’s tee shot and the three of us watching reacted like it was a hole in one. He then neatly putted it home – I know some of my scores were a little flexible as I didn’t always take the stroke penalty for losing a ball or hitting it into another world, but I know without doubt that Graf’s par on 3 was legitimate. For nailing that one memorable, stand-out hole, Graf was 3rd in golf (Eric Lapham please note — this is how Golf is scored in the ELLT…got an issue with that, talk to The Commissioner). Graf ended up third in golf, his only 2009 medal.
2010 was a crazy year. Mike was on the winning soccer team, although that was only an exhibition event (as has been mentioned previously). In rock climbing and mountain biking, Mike scored “Honorable Mentions,” which had never been given out previously, but were necessary based on his efforts and accomplishments on the rocks and trails. But for the third straight year, Mike missed the overall podium.
In 2011, Mike was again on the winning soccer team (again, only an exhibition event). Like the rest of the field, Mike was overwhelmed by the climbers and golfers and bikers, but recovered for hoops, anchoring the 3rd place team. No overall podium finish, but a hell of a good year.
Expectations for 2012: In 2011, we expected a medal in rock climbing, not realizing Ben and Danno would crush the field. On the bikes, we expected a high finish, maybe not anticipating the time trial and, again, Ben and Danno crushing the field. Hoops was as expected — top 3, just not quite enough…so 2012? The rocks are wide open and Graf still has mad crazy reach. Golf….ehhh…not likely. Bikes…going from 13th to 3rd, at least, requires a tremendous ride, although it is entirely possible. Hoops…Graf will be teamed up with fellow Rho Bandit and a player to be named later. Fes is a natural PG and Mike plays like Parrish. They should walk into a top 3 finish, easily. High rocks score, high hoops score…we could have the first Chicago-by-way-of-Ingomar overall champion.
(the following comes from 2010 Overall Champ Eric Shimp and 2011 Rock Climbing Master Ben Moeling…it is all true, some parts even more very true)
While many of us can spend the early summer months targeting peak fitness, the Race Director must balance training with preparing to serve as Control Officer for a CODEL on crack. As usual, he does it all. But the question remains, while revolving the world around us for that long weekend in July, will he have enough left in the tank to make a run at that ever elusive title?
• Sleep Deprivation Quotient: we’ve rarely seen someone do so much on so little shut-eye over the course of a week; pair that with the sadist’s flair for dragging everyone with him over that particular cliff, and you have the essence of ELLT;
• Doggedness, determination, stick-to-it-iveness, stubbornness, sand. Call it what you will, but Patrick has just enough of the Terminator in him to keep going when most rational people would have realized the odds and shut things down for a nice gin and tonic in a quiet corner – this is especially reflected in his incessant attacks up the rock wall as if it were the cliff at Pointe du Hoc;
• Freak Biology: the little known fact that Patrick was born with not one, but two livers should go a long way toward a better understanding of his legendary feats of recovery;
• A survivalist’s reliance on caffeine and alcohol (but see below);
• A stealthily improving golf game (lightning in a bottle) – having played with the Director as he parred 5 holes at Amesbury GCC this past August, I know firsthand his ability to find Zen in all phases of the game. That plus the shaker full of Bloody Mary’s in his bag certainly steadied his hands and slowed a swing that, under normal conditions, may only be generously labeled as “violent”. Plays up to the competition, so has no excuse to play with the “bottom foursome” in 2012.
• It’s not about the bike: a perennial top mudder on the bike, the Director will spend the spring and summer months training on the home track at Willowdale as well as on the road with Tom McParland. He may not be rested, but he will be ready. And if you think he’s not motivated by just missing the podium after the time trials last year, well, then you’re not thinking.
• Boxes out for rebounds zealously, in fact, relishes the “contact” part of contact sports with a glee bordering on malicious;
• Proven ability to drill the soccer ball from 30 yards through the outstretched arms of a suddenly overmatched keeper;
• Self-identifies as a jump-shooter despite ample evidence to the contrary; refuses to use his size and strength to bull his way to the hoop for easy points; cuts without the ball with all the haste of a man getting up for his 3rd cup of coffee over the Sunday paper; screams like a little girl when Chris Roy steps out to defend the perimeter;
• Fitness regimen recently limited mainly to long walks with a small, yellow puppy – he could be sandbagging, or he could be Paul Pierce trying to play his way into shape during the first month of the season – all of us out-of-towners will be in the dark about his true fitness until race day;
• Ability to channel golf Zen frequently frustrated by a) Coors, b) cigars, c) desire to reach the 19th hole as quickly as possible and d) playing partners who gleefully join in debauching the royal game;
• Deep-seated love for bluegrass covers of 1990’s era rap songs;
• 1990’s era rap songs;
• Over-reliance on caffeine and alcohol. At some point, that fine balance of chemicals may well betray him. And Steve Ball will be standing by with an IV bag of NattyBo and one of Lapham’s Red Bulls…
• Note past performance is not an indicator of future success;
• By his own admission, the Director peaked in 2008 and claims he’s never approached those lofty heights since. But was last year’s ferocious assault on the rock wall; near miss on the bike; and late-blooming golf game an indicator of a pending market mover?
Expectations for 2012
Frankly speaking, the return this year of Steve Ball – and his potent potables – is cause for worry. The analysts think the Director will be at match fitness, though, so the question could well come down to damage control. And at that, Patrick excels. His recent basketball coaching experience should help too on the court, at least in theory. Placing highly in the climb, the bike and in hoops are distinct possibilities. So it just may come down to golf, and how well that swing responds to mid-afternoon doses of frozen vodka.