Peter Cummings ’63

A Scientific Approach to Winning

FromĀ Cornell Alumni News, 1987

How does an English professor and poet go about preparing for intensive triathlon competition? Research, my friends, research.

Peter Cummings ’63, professor of English at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, NY, is a self described madman about aerobic sports. He trained all of last summer to optimize his chances at the Seventh Annual Hamlin Beach Triathon – an event totaling a 1.1 mile swim, 56 mile bicycle race, and 13.2 mile run. His secret for success?

“I studied it like a student would,” Cummings says. “I dissected the triathlon and thought about it like an academic problem.” Not to mention that he ran in marathons and raced his bike like crazy.

Extensive research in the swimming department — scrutinizing the various complexities involved in achieving maximum kinetic output from “the crawl” — shaved almost five minutes from his time. Once on the road, learning to refuel with liquids became clearly imperative as solids are “bulky to carry, troublesome to eat and, in a way, too distractingly delicious.” Maintaining concentration was his final theory-turned-practice: “You have to focus on the work at hand. There’s no time to think about lunch.” The professor won the event, but that shouldn’t surprise. Research triumphed.