“Or If It Were Sublime…”

Handshake 2.0 High-Tech Athlete Profile

Anne Giles Clelland, 49

For what high-tech company do you work, what is your area of expertise, what is your position, and what specifically do you do in your position? 

I am the to-be president of to-be incorporated Handshake Media, Inc., the originator of Handshake 2.0, a high-tech business news site offering brand-building blog services to local high-tech companies.

I awake each morning between four and six, steep a pot of tea, settle in with my cat, and write content for Handshake Media’s sites, including Inside VT KnowledgeWorks.  The best word for my area of expertise is “engagement.”

In the afternoons, I work in and on the business with the guidance of advisors associated with business accelerator VT KnowledgeWorks, of which Handshake Media, Inc. is a member company.

What is your sport, how long have you been doing it, and how did you get started?Anneswims_3

At Blacksburg High School in Blacksburg, Virginia, I played on the basketball team and threw the shot put and discus for the track team.  In the 80s, I wore fuzzy ankle warmers at aerobics classes.  In the 90s, I jogged.  From a back injury in 1998 (lifting the corner of a mattress to make a bed), I recovered poorly until I started weight training with a private coach in the mid-2000s.

When I met my husband-to-be at the very end of 2006, he was training for something called a triathlon, an event I associated with the Olympics.  A mild-mannered, bespectacled guy, I felt a tad sorry for this nice guy with a mid-life crisis.

A supportive girlfriend, I went with him to Lynchburg, Virginia to the first triathlon of his 2007 season.  The temperature was in the 50s and the rain poured.

Over 300 athletes of every age and shape swam, biked, and ran within inches of spectators packing the transition area.  It was the most intense, engrossing, heart-pounding, sports-watching experience I have ever had.  Clark Kent transformed into Superman and finished 3rd in his age group, 44 out of 188 men–all but a dozen or so younger than he–and 50 of 308 individuals.  But I'm not really keeping track.

I never thought, “I can do that.”  I thought, “I would cherish the ability to do that.”

In honor of her 50th birthday, a friend biked the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.

I thought, “Should I do something wild and crazy to commemorate my turning 50?”

We went to a Roanoke Valley Triathlon Club party celebrating the end of the triathlon season and a young woman showed us the scrapbook she had made upon reflecting on completing an Ironman.  She had an Ironman tattoo on her ankle.  She said she was a triathlon coach.

One relay and five solo sprint triathlons later–the story of which could fill a blog–expertly coached by Kati Derrick and Clark Kent, I am still not 50, am doing my best to organize a triathlon locally–the New River Valley Triathlon–and have started pre-training for the 2009 season of the Virginia Triathlon Series.

Why aren’t you playing Wii instead?

I admit:  I am fun-challenged.

What is your favorite equipment and why?

I love the fingerless bike gloves.  I feel like a character in a Dickens novel.

What was your greatest high–your peak experience–in high-tech?

Passing the NT Server 4.0 exam in 1998 to become a Microsoft Certified Professional.

What was your greatest high–your peak experience–in your sport?

After 15 minutes of flailing in a men’s shorty wetsuit in the middle of a cold, cold lake in Culpeper, Virginia, sensation leaving my hands and feet, arms and legs stiffening, I realized I needed to change.  If I didn’t, I would drown. 

I stopped worrying about “doing it right” through lifting my head to see the buoys, and I stopped worrying about “being a burden to others” through lifting my head to make sure I was out of the way of other swimmers. 

I didn’t scold myself to the shore.  Instead, I felt a pure, clear resolve.  I put my head down, trusted my intuition and my coaching, and swam.

Granted, I put myself in jeopardy and I did it for a sporting event, a non-essential reason.  That’s foolish rather than heroic.

What lingers, nonetheless, is a sense of both peace and joy from having decided to, and having been able to, save my own life.

If applicable, does your significant other understand your passion for your sport?  If yes, how do you know?  If no, how do you handle this?

Look at my cool new road bike!  It's light!  I used to ride a hybrid.  I cut 10 minutes off my bike time!  It's a gift from my husband!  ‘Nough said.

Anne Clelland's new triathlon bike.

How has what you know about high-tech helped you in your sport?

Of the five, not three, triathlon disciplines–swim, bike, run, transitions, and core strength–it’s the last I love.  Coding, programming, using WYSIWYGs calls forth complete absorption in me.  Weight training does the same.  Constant practice in each helps strengthen my focus in both.

What question would you most like to answer about the relationship between your high-tech work and your athleticism?

The question I most want to answer is “Why, why do you do triathlons?!”, which isn't about the relationship between my high-tech work and my athleticism.

I’ve got to rethink the value of the question about the question.  I thought Gordie Zeigler did a fine job of rewording it to make it meaningful.

(If you’re thinking of creating a Handshake 2.0 High-Tech Athlete profile, feel free to use the questions in any way that fosters your creativity and insight.)

What is the answer to that question?

These words from Thoreau have woven through my life more than any others since I first read them studying history with Dr. Doreen Hunter at Virginia Tech in 1978:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived….I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartanlike as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Doing a triathlon reminds me of going to the movies alone, sitting in the middle of the front row, arms open in welcome, face upturned. 

I want to live deep.  I want the whole of it.


Added 7/1/2010.  Coach Kati Derrick's Ironman tattoo:

 Triathlon coach Kati Derrick's Ironman tattoo

Web 1.0 Quote from 1997 - "Attention of the Busy People"
Mailtrust - "An Entrepreneurial Success Story"


  1. Anne, I enjoyed how you walked readers through the various sports you have dabbled in all the way from high school to present time. Your athletic resume is impressive and I am still in awe that you mastered your first triathlon this year, let alone going on to do four more in just a couple months! I look forward to hearing details about the NRV Triathlon. Keep up the great training!

  2. Lindsey, when I wrote about you here http://www.insidevtknowledgeworks.com/2008/08/asklindsey.html, I could have added this:

    “If in doubt–or in self-doubt–ask Lindsey. She can always see the good in you.”

    Thank you, Lindsey. There’s no one like you.

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