A Day at the Races | Archive | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

A Day at the Races 

Faster, Speedycat! Thrill! Thrill!

Thursday, Aug 25 2005

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Love Is a Battlefield
Speed Dating

From Mexican Cantina to Good Fellas Restaurant to the Radisson Hotel, speed-dating singles (we hope) sign up to get it over with as quickly as possible. Generally, 10 to 12 people of each gender within roughly a 10-year age range attend — sorry, Nicolas Cage. The women wait daintily with pens poised above “match sheets” to judge each man who lands across the table. The men make notes of potential interest as they scurry to the next waiting woman. Each couple is given just six minutes to bond or nauseate. Organizers suggest coming up with questions in advance: “What are your hobbies?” or “When was the last time you lied?,” they recommend. We prefer: “Do you have a need for speed?”

If the less than two-hour process ends and you’re officially considering either suicide or an arranged marriage, the company offers a guarantee: Next session is free — yippee! Also, no one gets your contact information until after your matches are tallied — bad news for stalkers. Assuming a few pre-dates seemed promising, after 24 hours you’re free to make a love connection. Cupid’s arrow may have an odd trajectory, but it is fast and painless. www.pre-dating.com/speeddating/LA.php.

Knock Down, Drag Out
Pomona Raceway

These days, there are no shoddy cars to be found at Pomona Raceway; in fact, cars must be specialized. Driver sponsorship comes at the hefty price of $2.5 million and up. Though the track was originally established as an alternative to racing signal to signal, keeping drag teens like Danny Zuko off the streets, Pomona Raceway hosts some of the industry’s most important events. The National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) February season opener, Carquest Autoparts Winternationals, has been held at this, the oldest venue on the circuit, since 1961. The season closer in November, the Auto Club of Southern California Finals, has unfolded here since 1984. In 1992, a $4.5 million renovation project was completed, which included a new timing tower and 40,000 grandstand seats, inviting even more attention.

At the major races, 300 cars may be competing. When the starting signal goes off, drivers shoot down a half-mile straightaway track, accelerating to 330 miles per hour. In an instant, $3 million worth of cars may be destroyed. In an instant, one zooming speed demon is deemed the winner. 2780 Fairplex Drive, Pomona; (909) 593-7010 or www.pomonaraceway.com/trackinfo/.

Team in Training

They say L.A. has no seasons. But at Southern California’s Team in Training headquarters, the year is definitely divided. In four-month training sessions defined by winter, spring, summer and fall, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society guides athletes of all skill levels to competition in half/full marathons, 100-mile bicycle century rides, triathlons, and adventure racing, which includes sports like kayaking and mountain biking.

Each participant works toward a specific event, receiving coaching and Saturday-morning workouts with Team in Training to improve form and technique, develop race strategies, and strengthen against injury. The organization supplies room and board, airfare and a “Pasta & Victory” dinner at each event. In exchange, the athlete must choose an inspirational honoree and raise money, 75 percent of which goes back to cancer research and patient services. In fact, the Society donated a large sum of money, raised in part from Team in Training, that resulted in the development of Glevac, an important new cancer drug.

The exercise and training increase strength and, of course, help control weight. So, in a way, you could say participants are running for their lives. And since the proceeds go to cancer research, in a way, you could say they’re running for other people’s lives as well. Contact Mary Lee Walsh, campaign coordinator, at (310) 846-4720 or (310) 216-7600. 6033 W. Century Blvd., Suite 300.

Dragon Slaying
Killer Guppies Dragon Boat Team

“The dragon dares not cross the river if it is not the most furious one,” says an old Chinese proverb adopted as mantra by the Killer Guppies, a Southern California Dragon Boat team. Established for a 1999 Long Beach tournament, the team has grown from an untrained motley crew to a winning motley crew, with uniforms.

Although the name “Guppies” might suggest gay urban professionals, the team is actually made up of people from all walks of life. Mostly they employ the “Friendster” method of recruitment: pals of current paddlers most often join. Still, outsiders can paddle with the fishes via the team’s Web site. Prac­tices are at 8 a.m. on weekends in Naples — Naples, Long Beach, that is.

Under the guidance of Filipino coach Nathan Salazar (whose name even sounds hardcore), the Guppies have begun to compete internationally, traveling as far as Shanghai, China. China is, of course, where the sport originated, when Qu Yuan, a statesman, warrior and poet, was wrongly accused of treason and drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. Fishermen rushed in boats to recover his body. The sport began as a re-enactment of the historic event. Now “racers” (never called rowers, because rowers face backward) compete to “get some tin” or win medals all over the world. During races there are 16 to 20 paddlers onboard, as well as a drummer, who guides them and sets the cadence.

Just as the sport has been made more contemporary, the Killer Guppies have modernized their inspirational Chinese proverb. Their new motto is much simpler: Kill . . . kill . . . kill! (213) 473-6200.

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