Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooler than me...

I really am one of the coolest people that I know. That's why I made a blog - for me, by me, about me. Obviously you think I'm pretty cool, too, or you wouldn't be reading this. Occasionally, however, I am reminded that there are people cooler than me. This reminder came in 3-5 business days from Los Angeles. I LOVE parcels, there's no way around it. Usually I'm best at sending them. This time I got got, though.

An innocent little cardboard envelope arrived, inside, two discs entitled "Payne Workout?" (The question mark is not a typo.)

Winter in Missoula can be a bleak and dismal affair: convection cloud cover (I think it's unrelated to the oven, but maybe not), dastardly cold weather, no sun, this thing in your chimney called "cold barrier", I think it might be fake. So when you get something from sunny Los Angeles you pay attention. These discs were intended to be musical motivation to get me to through this winter's workouts, and let me tell you, anyone who can get Mika and Biggie Smalls' "Big Papa" on the same album and make them sound like they were meant to be there is cooler than me.

So a hearty thanks to my good friend, fellow blogger (http://matthewknuckles.com/) , a gentleman and a scholar, Matthew "Knuckles" Johnson.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How to Fly First Class

Flying isn't what it used to be.

I don't mean to boast, but I will, nonetheless. There are few things that I am better at than air travel. My mom being an adventurous sort and a recreational pilot herself, we were always heading out for some destination. I, by law, should have repeated the 7th grade due to travel related absences. But what are laws if not to be broken?

When I was young, we flew an obscene amount, even logging over 115,000 miles in one year, and let me tell you, I was good at it. Not since I was 8 or 10 have I ever experienced as much success with the ladies (stewerdesses, as they were still called) or the boys (stewards), for that matter: upgrades to international business and first class, when stuck in coach, I was showered with first class amenities: milkshakes from the front, coloring books, toys and cards reserved for the fortunate first class kids.

So from a young age, I had a good grasp on what makes air travel elegant, fascinating, and luxurious, as well as humiliating, degrading, and unbearable. I was there when United Airlines first rolled out plastic cutlery (GASP!), and when airlines stopped letting kids wander around the cockpit. Fortunately for you, my good readers, I am here to share my experience and wisdom with you before the hectic holiday season of travel, albeit a somewhat unorthodox wisdom.

First, we must consider what makes air travel great, and, unfortunately, we must look to The First Class.

1) They board the plane first and are immediately showered with cocktails.
2) Free cocktails.
3) The look of utter disdain for the proletariat boarding the plane after them, forced to shuffle through their cabin like migrants in a deportation line. (Who are you kidding? You'd all give that look, too.)
4) More free cocktails.
5) Wide seats and more legroom.
6) Meals served with glassware and cutlery.
7) The plane is quieter up front.
8) Even more free cocktails.
9) A clientele of a more decorous nature.
10) And more cocktails.

So let's parse this out, bit by bit, to ensure that you, my readers, enjoy first class travel this holiday season without paying the first class price. What is required here, is a different approach and a bit more planning. The result? An inflight experience second to none, ... except REAL first class.

1) Why would you want to spend any more time on that tin, rattle-trap than you have to? When you get on, it's either too hot, or too cold. You're stuck breathing other people's air and not moving. So, wait until the last possible minute to board the plane, and if the plane is delayed at the gate, you are free to wait at the gate, but passengers who have already boarded are not allowed to deplane. By the time you do board the plane, the folks in First Class will be so soused and distracted by trying to read The Wall Street Journal, they'll forget to look at you with disgust. (Also, they're not really reading The Wall Street Journal. They wouldn't know an "IPO" if it bit them in their leather-clad seat bottoms. They've simply tucked a copy of USA Today in there and are looking at pictures of Britney's new boyfriend.)
2) More later...
3) There is an important facial expression associated with air travel. I call it The Airport Face. You must look so peevish, ornery and unstable (a similar but different look than the, I'm In First Class Face) that you may stab your seatmate with your pen if they try to get chatty, thus warding off lengthy conversations about your seatmates' bunions. This simultaneously accomplishes two goals. Firstly, It prevents loquacious individuals who may or may not be sitting next to you from getting started. I discovered this look in my early tweens while flying solo with long hair, Chuck Taylors and generally looking angst ridden. I noticed it prevented the nosy folks next to me asking me all kinds of dumb questions, but really only wanting to ask, "Where are your parents?". Secondly, the laity will mistake it for the I'm In First Class Face and assume you are disgruntled simply because they overbooked First and you were forced to sit "with them." As a side note, it is important to dress this part. No one will believe you if you are in sweatpants and a Yosemite Sam T-Shirt.
4) More later...
5) You can't change the dimensions of your seating area, but I offer two helpful hints to maximize the area you are allotted. The first is that you should pack lightly. The personal item you are forced to store in your preciously, scant legroom should be as small as possible. Additionally, pack everything you need in a roll-aboard suitcase that barely fits in the overhead bins. This will eliminate the checked baggage charge, freeing up $25 for items 1, 2, 4, 8, and 11, and since you boarded the plane last (Item 1), there is no more room overhead and they will check it through to your final destination for free! Secondly, lose weight. The skinnier you are, the more lateral position you will have at your disposal while seated in a standard coach class seat.
6) Sure it'd be nice to have something more than peanuts on your 4 hour cross country flight, but look at this as an opportunity to loose that weight so that you'll fit into your coach class seat better on your next flight. This eliminates the need for real cutlery. I do admit that the glassware is a problem given that you will be enjoying cocktails en route. Your two options at this point are to bring aboard your own double old fashioned glass (which I have done), or slum it with the rest of your cabin mates and use the plastic cups.
7) You're going to need to invest in a good pair of headphones. Earbuds are the best because they block out the guy snoring across the aisle and the crying baby, and are also small enough to rarely be noticed by the flight crew so you can listen to your tunes from the minute you board the plane until you leave. I realize it's a little illegal, but...
8) More later...
9) Here again, headphones are key to ignoring the less than stellar decorum of you cabin mates. Don't be afraid to throw disapproving glances at breastfeeding mothers (inappropriate) or loud sighs and snide comments when someone expels gas (gross). The only thing children should be eating or drinking on a plane is benadryl. Additionally, should you be seated next to someone who genuinely looks as if they could be your new best friend or the love of your life, break these rules as necessary. Buy her a drink or feel free to chat it up, just be aware that if things don't go well, you'll be sitting next to them for quit some time.
10) Airplanes are my favorite place to imbibe, the lure of a new destination or the comfort of going home, the excitement of what may come, introspection, retrospection. All of these form an exhilarating elixir. The first thing most people say is that it's too expensive to drink on the plane. FALSE. Even if you went for it hard on an all day flight, you wouldn't spend more than $35, which pales in comparison to a first class ticket of 2 or 3 times what you paid for your coach ticket. Also, the spirits which airlines serve are generally of premium quality and the best part is that you don't have to tip a flight attendant. So if you know of terrestrial bar where you always get a generous pour of Woodford Reserve for $7, tip and tax free I'd like to know. Here are some other money saving tips. Buy your own mini-bottles from your local package store and carry them on with you. Make sure to match brands with your air carrier though to avoid suspicion. Put them in a quart, zip-lock bag like your other liquids and gels for security. While this isn't illegal, it's frowned upon by the carrier. Always ask the male flight attendants for drinks, whether your a man or woman. Guys drink more and are more likely to understand that you are less likely to punch the 4 year old behind you who is kicking your seatback while he plays his portable game box if you've had a cocktail. If you're attractive or extremely witty, some flirtation will help your chances of getting a free drink, and, again, always ask the guy. Also, from 33,000ft, initial descents begin about 30 minutes before landing. If you order a drink about 40 minutes out, it's almost always free since the flight crew is busy getting ready to land, and won't want to stop what they're doing to run your card.

Here are some other tips to help you this season:
1) On a three-seat row, the middle person ALWAYS gets both middle armrests.
2) If you are brutally hosed by an airline due to weather, malfunctioning parts or some other disaster and are waylaid for a long period of time, purchase a one-day pass to the club of your airline. There you will have snacks, better wireless, ambient lighting, leather chairs, more privacy, and, yup, you guessed it, free drinks!
3) Compression socks help you to arrive feeling fit and fresh, and, in long haul flights, help prevent the ole' Deep Vein Thrombosis.
4) Even today, flying is a privilege, you ought to dress like it.
5) The flight crew are deputized air marshals and can have you arrested, so watch your mouth, don't leave the plane without permission and try to be nice. They're as tired saying the same things as you are hearing them.

Here's wishing you safe, happy and tipsy holiday travels! And, if all other transportation fails, take a ride on the Payne Train.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Barbara Gayle

Mom in full cheering regalia at the South Carolina 1/2 Ironman.

For all intents and purposes, this blog is designed to be the story of my pursuit of athletic achievement, my athletic dreams, and one chapter's omission has become glaringly obvious. Last Saturday, November 13, was the first anniversary of my mother's passing from pancreatic cancer. In so many ways, without her, I would not have had the strength, discipline, courage or sense of adventure to sink myself, wholesale, into this dream.

When I began swimming, at 12, I was the oldest new swimmer. Everyone else my age was in one of the three more advanced groups and had been swimming competitively since they were able to crawl across the pool deck.

I think most people play several sports growing up and then choose their favorite. Then, if they seem to have a knack for it they'll take it more seriously. If they have a knack for it and they're disciplined they'll think about collegiate athletics. Then, if things go well there, they'll start thinking about international competition and, finally, The Olympics. As in most things I do, I went bass ackwards. Having just started swimming around the time of the Atlanta summer games of 1996, I decided that that was what I wanted to do. I never recall having a conversation with my mom about my lofty goals, but I guess she just kinda knew.

When you are in middle school, parents are the most hideously embarrassing thing, an extreme liability in the universal pursuit of looking cool. Even having a parent take you to my private school was terrible unless they were sporting a new S-Class or S-Type or S-anything-cooler-than-my-mom's-Honda.

Our trips to school were no different than any other time, to be used effectively, with maximal educational and inspirational benefit. Around this time she was on a self-help, books on tape (our Accord didn't have a CD player) kick, and she had "a special reading" she wanted me to hear. You know, the Zig Ziglar on Selling or Suze Orman sort of thing... All I remember was the narrator talking about normal kids, who turned out to be outrageously successful in their chosen fields; Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, head engineers for Boeing, etc. The "special reading" ended with the narrator asking his rapt audience through Dolby tape technology what was meant to be a rhetorical question: "Can you see your child directing the Boston Symphony? Will your daughter be the next Diane Sawyer? Can you see your son designing the next Boeing 747?"

"YES!" my mother exclaimed from the drivers seat of our green Honda Accord at the top of her lungs in rush-hour traffic with a hearty and well intention fist pump. ...I died inside.

I think it was meant to be a segue to, what I'm sure would have been a very motivational and inspirational dialogue about my innate talent being unlocked through hard work, discipline and time management. I'm pretty sure I ended it and quickly and quietly skulked off to another harrowing day at Middle School.

Now, you as readers, are obviously endowed with the wisdom of my objective retrospect and see the incredible value of what she was doing. Congratulations. I would have loved to have seen you in middle school.

So, as most middle schoolers do, I missed the point. I didn't realize that we very easily could have bought an S-Type if my mom hadn't sent me to a school that championed education. I didn't realize that my mom was speaking from her own experiences in drive, discipline, education, hard work and success.

It's ironic that now, without her here and 13 years after that terribly embarrassing incident, I'm banking on what she wanted to say that day and the fact that she is right. I know that she was though, she already proved it.

So thanks mom, you were pretty legit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How a Comedy of Errors Yielded the Best Toilet Paper ...Ever.

This winter is dedicated to my run. It's been a perennial weak discipline for me. Fortunately, I live in Missoula where I can say, "Hey, I need a 70 minute run and I want to get worked," and 4 guys and 1 dog show up to do the honors. Here is the story of an evening gone terribly wrong. The faint of heart should read no further.

A couple notes to set the stage: Montana is a very Northern state, and with the recent time change, darkness falls early. Even earlier in the many valleys and corridors, or, as we call them in the redneck South, "hollers". It is also especially cold in these corridors as they get much less sunlight throughout the day. Also, there have been about 20 black bears relocated from the neighborhood at the base of this corridor. Here, black bears are like opossums, just bigger and scarier. Additionally, mountain lions are not uncommon in these parts. I was never particularly concerned about mountain lions myself. I thought they were a kind of large, ornery cat until I saw one. This is false. In reality, they are slightly smaller, more cunning lions and closer to the size of deer than a house cat. Stage set.

Our 5:00PM departure is delayed until about 5:30 for generalized sitting around, chatting, lollygagging, and waiting for tardy participants. We set out heading North up the main corridor of the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area, following a lovely creek and wide trail. All are in good spirits. Our company consists of three fast running professional triathletes, Major, the intrepid mutt, Jeffro, and myself. Little did I know how close we were to finishing the evening out Donner Party style.

About 20 minutes in, Jeffro, whose heart is eager and outfit entertaining, settles into a slightly slower pace. Cupcakes (aka Adam Jensen) stays to run with Jeff. I sink everything into staying with Brendan and Matty-Ice. The three of us take a left which will eventually take us back to the corridor's main trail where we will meet up with Cupcakes and Jeffro. It is at this turn that I realize it's just plain dark out. I pick my feet up and try to hang onto Matty for dear life. I don't know the trial around here in the daylight, much less the pitch-black, Montana night. By the time we reach the main trail and start heading back South we run into Jeffro who fell off of Cupcakes' pace for the exclusive purpose of ralphing from the intensity. Cupcakes ran further North on the main trail to fetch us, but we weren't on the main trail. Now, here is where you are correct in thinking "Wouldn't it have been smart to discuss our route before we set out?" and the answer is "Yes." We, however, are not smart. I am limited to 70 running minutes so I let Matty, Major and Brendan reel Cupcakes back South. I take the opportunity to relieve my bladder. It's probably about 25 degrees where we are in the corridor, and, me being unsmart didn't wear tights. Not necessarily a huge deal, but a complicating factor in that the temperature prevents the accurate nerve messages being sent from my gentleman-parts to my brain and back to my bladder. Also not a huge deal, in that one would normally be able to visually ascertain the completion of his urination. In the pitch black dark, however, this was impossible. I made a "best guess" but was, apparently terribly wrong as a significant amount of urine was deposited onto the front of my shorts.

Jeffro and I then began a slow, Northward jog, assuming they had since caught Cupcakes. They hadn't. At which point we began a slow Southward walk to to let them catch us, not using up my 70 minutes of alloted run time. I then became cold due to the afore mentioned lack of tights and recent excessive moisture deposit on my trousers. We then resumed our Southward run, deciding to just head back. Jeffro abandoned his mountain lion fighting, bear scaring stick back onto the ground and we ran on. Several minutes later, Major the mutt then showed up. Huzzah! We now had a trusty ally in the fight against, The Nature (as my friend Katherine Todd would put it) and would soon be reunited with our group. So we turned North again to quickly close the gap. No luck and no sign of our trusty companions. It is then that both Jeff and my thoughts turn to the violent travesty which must have occurred that evening in The Nature, so, again, turn South to head back in case we needed to get help. Once this thought enters your mind, it becomes a full-on mental war to stay calm. Not being accustomed to such wildlife, I proclaim to Jeffro, "You know I'm probably just naive, but I'm not that concerned about the deadly wildlife," which is, in my mind, stalking us at that very moment. Jeffro, who has zero verbal filter then says, "Oh, well you should be. Mountain lions are deadly and scary and you know Sam just saw one on his bike up here, and ...." "Jeff!, now is not the appropriate time to rectify my naivete." We run on, beginning to grieve the undeniable loss of our dear friends, high in corridor. In the vain hope that they aren't dismembered, bloody carcasses, being fed on by untold wildlife, we periodically yell their names, we also hope this hollering will frighten away our predators. To lighten the mood, we then take to yelling other funny words: "Panis!" "Ovem!" "Palin!" ...our words falling back to us off the canyon walls, cold and dead in the nameless Montana night.

About 40 minutes later, a headlamp bobs behind us. Major turn and runs. It is Brendan, Matty and Cupcakes! We all run jauntily and quickly. We laugh and exchange stories from our time apart. Matty thought Major had been slain, but he was with us. Brendan and Cupcakes left Matty to search for major, ran ahead, hid in the woods and scared the bejesus out of Matty. All is well that ends well...

My ordeal, however, had just begun. When you don't grow up running, there are several reason that you build your long run incrementally. The main one is injury prevention. A secondary and often overlooked reason is to acclimate your body to burning that many calories over a long period of time without voiding them... so you don't crap yourself. We were already about 25 minutes beyond my most recent long run. The combination of the duration, the emotional toll of having lost some of my best friends and then having them resurrected, the downhill running, the high intensity, and the jaunty running presented itself in a rare and unprecedented form of gastric distress.

My pace slowed and stride shortened to minimize vertical acceleration as my sphincter prepared for what would be the fight of its life, its defining moment. It's important that you know, bowel movements are the absolute worst part of everyday of my life. I find them base, demeaning and sensorially offensive. Matty and Brendan again ran ahead. Cupcakes generously remained with his headlamp. An emergency pull-over.... a false alarm. Several minutes later, it was the real deal. Like the levies in New Orlean, sphincter failure was eminent. I grabbed the light, and took a hard right into the woods. Quickly scouring for wiping implements... too late. Drop trou... Done and done. My favorite pair of Smartwool socks, the only casualties in what was destined to be a disastrous night.

You may scoff at at this crass experience, but you've either been here, very nearly been here or you're fat and will die of heart disease in about 6 years, so scoff away. Have you had the pleasure of using $15.00 toilet paper?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Offseason: Phases 1-4

I've been in several offseason phases as of late. They have involved varying degrees of not working out, shenanigans, costumes, cocktails, working out and traveling. Offseason: Phases 1-4 have also, evidently not involved blogging. This post, therefore, is to inform you that I will be blogging at my leisure about that which may or may not be triathlon related.

Cheers, Until-A-Time-I-See-Fit

Friday, October 8, 2010

Please welcome our guest...

Topics Discussed: Sunglasses Indoors, Gluten, Algebra

Hi, my name is Matthew Johnson and it is nice to meet you. I see that Ryan has provided an introduction, let me by way of beginning say a few quick things about myself. I am not a triathlete. Ok, that's it. So, my thoughts and observations are in no way from a "athlete's" perspective. This is not say I have not participated in the occasional organized sporting event. I have been known to "Shoot some hoops" now and again. I have also been seen to walk at a brisk pace. I believe you athlete's call it, yogging or is it jogging? Who can remember?

But, the real reason I am here is to report on your friend and mine; Ryan Alexander Payne. Well, let me tell you. I have known Ryan creeping to the 6 year mark and this was the first time I have had the opportunity to see him race. Also, this was the first time I had seen him in almost a year.

So, this was a weekend of anticipation.

It began like most weekends do, with a friday. I found myself overly concerned with things I normally spend no time considering. For example, Gluten. Recently, I have moved to Los Angeles and I discovered many different things, one of them being this substance called Gluten. Apparently, this is contained in some, but not all, of my food. This is problematic for some people. It is always surprising to see who has an allergy to this devil substance. Ryan doesn't have a Gluten allergy, but this was the gateway concern to other, larger concerns. These athletes and their eating habits are confusing to us non-athletes. Something comparable to Parliament and their operations. For example; Michael Phelps eats a dump trucks worth of Little Debbies. Other's eat boiled cardboard because of its high fiber content.

No one really understands.

The real fun was the Saturday meeting. I have never seen more physically fit people in my life. (Keep in mind I live in L.A. and there is maximum weight limit to live here.) I'm confident that 75% of the people had not even looked at a trans-fat or a carbohydrate since kindergarten. Ryan checked in while I explored the Expo. This is where I acquired free pens and water-bottles. I also entered a drawing for a Toyota. (I think my odds are pretty good.) Once Ryan found me buried under a pile of stickers, pens, pencils and coozies, we went to the informational meeting. Here's where certain words become appropriate to be used as adjectives that in a civilized society are deemed unacceptable. Words like tool, douche and ass become common place. Here's a few helpful hints to know when it is ok to use the words listed above, if you ever find yourself in a post-carbohydrate society. First, if anyone is wearing sunglasses indoors and they are not Ray Charles...Tool. When people come to a meeting already dressed for the race the next day...Douche. When an individual asks questions that clearly do not apply to the meeting they are attending...Ass.

At last, Raceday. We arose at the ungodly hour of 4:45. I woke up around 4:20 in a panic, sweat everywhere. "Oh my God, I overslept and Ryan is late, I RUINED IT!!"

An aside: I did not realize the amount of pressure there would be on me as the host to a racer. I was not ready for this kind of commitment, but I think I have grown a lot from this experience. But, if I don't have to do it again, I won't complain.

Ryan, Sam (my roommate and photographer) and I drove to Venice. Still dark outside, listening to a pre-race mix Ryan had prepared. If you have never participated in something like this before, you should. There is something special about it. You have the entire gamut of person there. Everyone from professionals representing their country to the Athenas and Clydesdales, who I learned are a larger variety of athletes. (Unfortunate but funny names)

Ryan, participated in the Amateur Elite group, he wore a purple hat in the swim. I think its because the race people wanted to have a laugh, but he says thats the "group color". The swim began like any swim. Before the professionals began their swim, the soundtrack from the Pirates of Caribbean played. I can't think of a better way to go for a mile swim or secure a beachhead.

After Ryan, emerged from the water. I went downtown. Let me tell you something, there is not a more proud moment than seeing a friend participate in something like this. Ryan emerged in the top three swimmers of his group and disappeared into the bike transition. While I drove downtown, I could not help but think about his trip. I found myself speeding to get downtown before he did, thinking he would beat me there. I blame the lack of sleep, but I did not really consider the fact that I was going 70 on a freeway. Ryan didn't stand a chance against my 2003 Ford Explorer. I'm sure there's a algebra problem that would have helped.

I arrived downtown and parked shortly before Ryan blew by me. His fancy, alien helmet seemed to help. I can't say for sure. But he looked good doing it.

After Ryan completed the race, being the high quality southern host I am, we had some BBQ. I can't really think of a better way to celebrate a .9 mile swim, 24 mile ride and a 10K than with cornbread, mac and cheese and a brisket at http://www.babybluesvenice.com

Overall, this an excellent weekend. Seeing and reminiscing with a dear friend is something that the older one gets and miles become states, weekends like this are worth their weight in gold or carbon fiber (For you triathletes out there).

I am deeply proud of Ryan, as I am sure you are too, and I would gladly do it all over again, just give me the chance. I don't think he could've asked for a better driver.

It was nice meeting you all and I hope to see you again soon.

Mr. Johnson is a second year graduate student at the renown Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, where he is the J. Skelton Brower Fellow of Interdisciplinary Magnanimousness, and all around nice guy. He has been this bloggers friend for long and storied tenure which has mainly been based on food, music, cocktails and high-brow discussions of things which don't really matter very much. He writes http://matthewknuckles.com.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Ok folks, you should all be very excited about this announcement. My good friend and host in LA, Matthew "Knuckles" Johnson will be reporting on my trip from a non-triathlon perspective. If you are easily offended don't read it. I can only imagine that his comments may or may not touch on subjects such as the pretentious lunacy of most triathletes, what a poor method of transportation triathlon actually is, the innate proclivity of triathletes to get bad tattoos, and the inherent danger of having so many over-caffeinated, hungry, Type-A people in such proximity. Stay tuned...

Until then, enjoy this picture of Matt ("Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Showers) and me (Michael "Marfans" Phelps).

Monday, October 4, 2010

LA - The Land of Bruised Dreams

You may have noticed that my race in LA went quickly the way of Nick Nolte's career. If you hadn't, now you know. For whatever reason, I just didn't have it. I felt as though it might be a rough day when my legs were tired by the time I reached the water, a full 15 seconds after the gun. In an effort to salvage them from the get-go I didn't kick very much in the water. After getting caught behind the group (due to bonking on the run to the water) it took some doing to get back to the front. Trying to stay positive and hoping the race would come to me I decided to just motor in the water. Then after the third turn my arms just fell off. If anyone finds some arms, one with a puffy hand, on Venice Beach, they're mine. Getting up to my bike from the water nearly sent me straight into cardiac arrest and cooked my legs. That's right, a mere 22 minutes into the race I mounted my bike as a proverbial quadruple amputee. Hoping I'd find my legs on the bike I settled in, caught my breath and set about using Linsey's trick, to eat when you're having negative thoughts. I polished off my Heed and Hammer gel supplies by the first half of the bike, at which point I noticed my front tire had a slow leak. I pushed hard trying to get off my bike before I was riding on the rim. The run was pretty much the same story, slow and painful and I may as well have had a flat tire. I finished in a truly remarkable 2:18. Remarkable in the way that Lindsay Lohan is back in jail and Britney Spears shaves her head, not in the Cool Runnings/Rudy sort of way. ...a classic Los Angeles implosion.

So, I'm looking for the bright side here, and, to be honest, it's a tough hunt. I achieved nothing that I wanted to. I didn't qualify for Dallas. I definitely didn't get my pro card. I wasn't within 8% of the winners time. I didn't even have a race that felt good. It is a crappy way to end a season of hard work and high expectations.

But I've been here before. I started swimming later than most kids and from the start, I wanted to go to the Olympics. It was an outrageous goal and few people took it seriously or supported it. In fact, most people laughed at it. By the time college rolled around, Stanford and Michigan's coaches weren't calling me. I just couldn't make up the deficit in that amount of time. So I had to make a choice, redouble my efforts and hold fast to what I believed about my potential or believe everyone else. I decided that maybe everyone else was right. It is one of the few regrets I have in life, and I didn't know it until years later. After Ironman Florida, I gave my masters swimming coach, the venerable Bill Irwin, one month to get me ready for the US Master's Swimming State Meet. We were at the pool at 5AM every morning, and after one morning's workout, a test set of 100's, he told me something that changed my life. "Ryan, I'm not saying you would have ever gone to the Olympics, but you are every bit as talented as every person on that team." What a talent and opportunity I had wasted on indulgent self-doubt.

So the bright side is this: This race does not have the power to break me as an athlete, but it wasn't long ago that it would have.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas A. Edison

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What to do...

Now it's important that you know I don't really care for LA. It's filled with smog, traffic and people from LA:

But, my host, Matt, ever the Southern host, would like me to come up with three things I must do while in LA. I've just found the first one:

I need help finding two more. Suggestions?

Maybe a visit to Lindsay in rehab is in order?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

LA - The Land of Broken Dreams, Hopefully Not Mine

Racing in this is healthy, right?

It's exactly one week until my race in LA. I'm super pumped to get down there and leave it all in the water and streets of Southern California. I, obviously, don't know how things will turn out but I do know that this is the fittest and fastest I've ever been. I think I've trained harder, smarter and more consistently than ever before. I've made some good advances in my run. I'm ready to toe the line with some really fast kids and see where I stack up.

In other news, I'm also ready for some fried food and whiskey. I'm tired of salads and salmon and chicken (non-fried) and water. My next goal is to weigh 200 lbs. by Christmas. Everyone should do his or her part and prepare me delicious meats, and cookies and buy me copious drinks to make up for this drought I've been suffering through.

Thank you all in advance for your contribution of vittles and potables.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

"Do it or don't."

You likely haven't noticed that I've been MIA in the blogosphere over the past few weeks, but in case you did and were curious as to what was going on, I'll tell you. I was in throes of a late season motivational slump. Every ounce of activation energy in my possession was mustered for workouts. The dishes piled up. The dirty laundry bag exploded. The bathroom mirror became spackled with toothpaste. Even with all of this, my workout completion began to fall. I think that a combination of several things precipitated this near fallout of athletic discipline. The weather here in Montana, has taken a decidedly winterly turn. My race in Coeur d'Alene left a sour taste in my mouth (pun intended). Generally, this season has been the longest and the most intense I've ever had, and I began showing signs of mental fatigue. Other athletes and training partners, from whom I gain so much discipline and motivation have begun to wrap their own seasons.

Sensing my season about to fall off the precipice of general laziness, and all the work I'd done this season circling the toilet bowl, I called in some big guns. Meetings with Coach Elliot and Linsey were immediately scheduled, and I came away with one lesson and several corollaries. "Do it or don't do it." Meaning give it everything, 100% for the next five weeks, or call it quits now and end my season early, no sense dawdling in some tepid, netherworld of motivation. Buoyed by their clear objectivity and reassurance that my fitness had not diminished as much as I perceived, I committed to the next five weeks with clear purpose and resolute goals.

Yesterday I raced in the Garden City Triathlon, a notoriously fast Olympic distance race here in Missoula (it's actually in Frenchtown). While I didn't race as well as I had hoped and achieve every goal I wanted, I had a solid race. I'm not where I want to be, by any means, but it was another marker that I'm headed in the right direction. I was able to pull out another five minute PR, my second in as many races, and break the two hour mark for the first time in my life. 1:57:30.

So while I am satisfied with this performance, I come away from the past week with something incredibly more powerful, the realization of how close I was to throwing this season away.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas A. Edison

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Life in Opposition

“The only thing that tastes better than a proper mint julep is the taste of victory.”

It’s hard to believe, but this racing season is on the cusp of wrapping up. It seems that I spent the first half of the season dealing with some small, nagging injuries in order to be in a position to do work, and now that they are mostly under control, and I’ve just started doing work. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress and garnered a lot of momentum this season that will carry me through the end of this year, the winter and into, what hopefully will be, a hit-the-ground-running, fast spring.
I am in the final push for this season and my sights are set on the L.A. Triathlon on October 3. It is an Olympic distance race and part of the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Series, which simply means, that due to its huge prize purse, it attracts some of the fastest Olympic distance (many of whom are also ITU) racers in the world. While I won’t be racing these speedy folks head to head, we will be racing on the same course, allowing me to see where I am in relation to the big boys of the sport, and unfortunately some of the big girls, too.
I chose to target this race for a number of reasons.

1) I will have the coolest homestay, EVER. Mr. Matthew Johnson, (www.westcoastmatt.blogspot.com), a transplanted Southerner in graduate school in L.A., who “has the city on lockdown”, will be providing lodging, transportation, and motivational support. He has already started to scout the course for cheering (Ironfan, what!?).
2) Allegiant Air, one of the cheapest and sketchiest airlines, provides hilariously inexpensive, nonstop service from Missoula to LAX. “Getting there is half the battle… the other half is getting home.”
3) I will be racing in a separate category called Elite Amateur, which, as cool as it sounds, doesn’t mean anything, except that should I finish in the top 3 of this category, I’ll get stuff. I love stuff. In this case, I’ll get a $500 travel voucher to fly to Dallas the following weekend for the Toyota Cup, which is kind of like the championship of the Lifetime Fitness Series. (I tried to think of a ball-sport analogy for my non-triathlon readers, but I can’t). I’ll get a free entry to the Toyota Cup and a cycling kit. This would be super cool. The competition for this will be ridiculous.
4) This race will provide two different opportunities to get, or get started on, my Pro racing license (an all important step in getting me where I need to be). If I finish within 8% of the winner’s time, this could by the first of three races needed to qualify. The second chance is that given the prize purse is so big, this race falls into a different category altogether, called a Pro Qualifying Race. This means that if I am one of the top 3 amateurs, I’ll automatically qualify for my Pro card. (Coincidentally, this would also get me the aforementioned free stuff!)
5) Mr. Johnson has also promised that I will be able to makeout with Taylor Swift at the finish line. While this claim seems dubious, it is still worth checking out.

So, final push… big race… must go fast… yadda, yadda yadda. Here’s what you don’t know:

My race at Spring Meadow was a huge confirmation that I’m headed in the right direction and within spitting distance of the next big milestone in my triathlon career. During this final push, I will ask more of my body than I ever have. Intervals will be faster, mileage and yardage will be bigger, recovery will be more important, and avoiding injury will be at a huge premium. In order to facilitate this, there will be some small and large changes implemented to carry me through the end of the season.
1) I will be doing lower leg exercises to a previously unprecedented level to prevent the posterior shin splints which have been stalking me this whole season. One of the prices of spending all of my formative athletic years in water rather than land.
2) Stretching will also be a huge part of the next 12 weeks.
3) I will eat at least 16 ounces of Spring Mix or similar green leaves every week. (80 proof mint leaves at the bottom of my julep cup don’t count.) This doesn’t sound like much, but it really is. While this, in and of itself, is probably not hugely impactful, it will force me to plan what I eat and eat at home more, where I can control more precisely what I eat throughout the week.
4) Here’s the real doozy. Two of my favorite things in the world are good cocktails and good workouts, and I love lots of both. I would be the guy whose two lifelong pursuits are in direct opposition. So, after much deliberation with Elliot and consultation with other athletes I have arrived at The Drink Freedom Plan (it was formerly Drink Restriction Plan, but that sounded negative.) Under The Drink Freedom Plan, I am free to enjoy seven adult beverages every week, on the condition that I do my lower leg exercises as prescribed by Elliot. I am free to split them up throughout the week however I want, but they cannot be carried over from week to week. Drinks may not be borrowed from the upcoming week. Cocktails made by Ben Horan count as two (2) drinks. Should I host an out of town guest, I am allowed two (2) drinks per day during their visit. I am free to not drink for the week preceding any race. There will be one wild card day in which The Drink Freedom rules are suspended in addition to the day of the party of Betsy Cincoski’s birthday (as per her request). In the unlikely even that Linsey Corbin decides “to make an evening of it”, I am free to accompany her drink for drink. The benefits of The Drink Freedom Plan include a constant reminder of and, thus, more focus on, my goals at hand. The beverage alcohol is calorie rich and nutrition poor, therefore limiting the calories from alcohol will help me get down to racing weight and increase quality nutrition, a key component to going fast. It will allow for better recovery through higher quality sleep. It will also allow, generally, for higher intensity workouts.

…and now, a gratuitous picture of Elliot sleeping after an XTERRA race, provided by my pal James.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Double "U" #2 - "I Potts'd 'em!"

Before I get into the race report, let me set the stage. In triathlon there is a pervading belief that longer is better, and the iron distance is the be-all, end-all of the sport. This is largely an American notion. All to say that it isn't uncommon for the most talented athletes to focus on half- and irondistance races. Throughout the rest of the world there is a much larger focus on the Olympic or International distance race, it's even measured in kilometers (1.5K Swim, 40K Bike, 10K Run), thus it is this distance used during the Olympic games in a draft-legal format. Draft-legal racing refers to the bike portion where one is allowed to ride in packs and draft one another deriving an advantage from the athletes in front (imagine a small NASCAR race on bikes between the swim and the run). In everything, except draft-legal racing, athletes are required to maintain a set distance behind other athletes on the cycling leg, eliminating the advantage of drafting (that's why we ride the goofy looking bikes and wear douchey looking helmets). Also in Olympic distance races the swim comprises a larger portion of the race and in draft-legal racing, the advantage of a strong swimmer is even multiplied by the dynamics of the race. So, it's no surprise that I have decided to focus on the Olympic distance race and hopefully one day make my way onto the draft-legal (often called ITU) circuits. Well, that was boring, on to the race.

I went to Helena, Montana, our fair state's capital. They love it if you call it "Hel-lane-a". Not really, but it's funny. The Spring Meadow Triathlon is held there and it is an Olympic distance race (refer to history lesson above). How they squeeze 1.5K out of that little arsenic rich pond is pretty incredible. The bike course is an out-and-back, generally up on the way out and down on the way back. The run is a two lap affair around the arsenic pond and some other places, mostly on gravel and some pavement.

I decided, with the help of Elliot and Jen Luebke (a strong swimming pro here), that I should be less conservative on the swim. After settling into a good rhythm on the first lap, I decided to punch it for the last half, yielding a 2:30 lead and a 18:00 swim (a new PR for an open water 1.5K). I then went for the bike armed with the knowledge the first 1/2 would be slow (thanks Linsey)... and it was. I also realized that I was talking to myself to get up those hills, that's a first. I had really hoped to ride 1 hour but I didn't. Instead I rode 1:03, not bad considering my somewhat inconsistent bike training and rough road surface. Then the run! I love the run. It's, by far, my favorite part of every race, which is odd because I'm not super fast. My goal here was to run 38 minutes. After the first lap, I knew that I had a comfortable lead so I set about trying to get across the line in under 2 hours (which incidentally would also break the course record held by my first triathlon coach and former ITU racer, Brandon Fuller). I didn't. I had some ham-string issues and figured it'd be better to win by less of a margin than keep pushing, pull a muscle, fall over in the weeds and get passed a lot. I ended up running a 39 lowish which is also a 10K PR. All in all, I finished 2:02:36, 3:40 ahead of 2nd place and 2 1/2 minutes slower than the course record (not 4:00, thank you Helena Independent Record). Basically I'm like a shorter, fatter, slower version of my hero Andy Potts.

This is my second win and first Olympic distance win. This is hugely encouraging for me. I feel as though I'm garnering some vital momentum in the directions that I need.

I would like to thank my sponsors: .... umm, .....

and some other folks:
Thanks to Chris Cordingley and Team Chrissy for cheering me on. I love you all, too.

Thanks also to Chris and Linsey for reminding me to not "save anything for the swim back." (Refer to prior Gattaca post.)

Here's what the Helena Independent Record said about things (they even used my picture!):

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I'd like to cover a lot of ground in this post, much of it unrelated to the rest.

1) With great reluctance and excitement, I've become a Montana resident, and have even registered to vote here.

Giving up my South Carolina voting rights is like changing the station from Jerry Springer to C-Span. We are, after all, the home of the "Appalachian Trail" hike, Strom Thurmond, Confederate Flag,

state monument to the father of gynecology,

State Senators who think that "raghead" is an appropriate appellation (for both Indian Americans and African Americans), and Presidential candidate of the American Nazi party. While I support very few of these extremes, they do provide a glorious and trashy conflict that I will miss participating in. Though a resident of Montana, I will always be a Son of South Carolina.

2) I have found a new way to humiliate myself. I have purchased a Kona Major Jake cyclocross bike. Western Montana is filled with nearly endless dirt roads that are accessible by neither road bike, nor mountain bike. A "cross" bike will allow me myriad new training routes and, hopefully, delay the onset of madness which happens with too much T.I.T.S. (Time in the Saddle). The humiliation, will commence when I will be forced through peer pressure to race said, cross bike in cyclocross races this fall.

3) This is just kinda cool:


Thanks for the help!

4) I will be racing in Helen this weekend at the Spring Meadow triathlon. It is an Olympic distance (1 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6 mile run) triathlon with past winners including Linsey Corbin and Brandon Fuller. I'm really pretty pumped about this race for a few reasons: 1) I haven't raced in awhile and I love racing. 2) I've done a lot of good work especially in the water and on the run, since I've raced last and am excited to see what it looks like. 3) I have a new bike fit on my TT (time trial or triathlon) bike thanks to Alex and Missoula Bicycle Works and his trusty intern Kipp.

5) ...and Ben Horan fell over:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Race Report

Here's what we know: Dr. Jensen put together an impressive top-ten effort, J. Carlson struggled through some bad luck for a solid finish, Brent Ruby ran in a skirt, Matty bent his first Ironman over a rail, Emily soldiered through a long day and made some friends along the way, Jeff had a rough day but did work and finished, James was pummeled in the swim, tuned-up in transition and managed a good sub-11 hour day, Geoff L'Hashdgoasoidfjaodijf of Mountain Endurance qualified for Hawaii, and Linsey lived a dream...likely for all of us.

Here's what you don't know: Ironman is dumb. The swim comprises only about 8-10% of the race, the bike is just really long and it hurts your legs, and on the run, like a battlefield in the War of Northern Aggression, people starve, vomit, fall over, die, and defecate on themselves. And to make things worse, you have to deal with the "M-dotted" uber-type-A, narcissistic a-holes which are triathletes, AND their families. Ironman is a fools errand.

So the best way to spend an Ironman is cheering, as an Ironfan. One doesn't have to train too much. One needs no taper. One doesn't have to stop drinking the beverage alcohol or go on strange diets. It's like cramming all of your first college spring break into one weekend... at least that's how it is if you're from Missoula, Montana and the race is Coor 'Da Layne. Being my first Kore d'alane experience, I will provide journalist objectivity and photographic perspective of the tough, thankless, exhausting, and often hung-over work of an Ironfan.

Ironfanning starts several days out with careful statistical preparation of the competitors, their opponents, their goals, and trying to figure out what their racing kit looks like. Also, route planning for cheering must be undertaken before race day. A good Ironfan will ride bikes 50-70 miles the day of the race. Coach Elliot is really good at both of these things. Next, a suitable outfit must be worn. You can't ride 70 miles in just anything, but you also can't cheer in just anything. I opted for rolled up Carhartts, a JV women's track jersey from Ryegate, Montana circa 1986 (which I later switched for a Sharpied bare chest (more on that later)), a cowboy hat (thanks Brendan), cycling shoes and a cow bell.

The night before is generally a mellow night... FOR THE RACERS. Ironfans, however, hang out with the racers, encourage them, taunt them with the Gin & Tonics that they can't have (sorry Matty, I owe you a bottle), then head downtown Chord Alane" for shenanigans.

This is an infectious and exhilarating time (even Dr. Jensen's mother was caught up in the moment)

in which one gets carried away and thinks it is a good idea to order 30 shots of tequila,

light a bar table on fire, give ones underwear to a bachelorette party,

be kindly asked to patronize another bar, and generally wreak havoc.

The catch is that sometime around 1 AM one realizes that he or she has no place to sleep (premeditated sleeping arrangements are prohibited for Ironfans) and must be on the beach for the pro-start in 5 hours. In another Montana first, I slept in my car:

Others slept in a yard:

Ironfans then embark on a day of cheering.

It is an exhausting endeavor which requires good hydration and nutrition (this should also be planned out ahead of time). ...but there are no aide stations for Ironfans. No, Ironfans are on their own. There is no one to cheer on an Ironfan and you don't get a medal at the end of the day. At the end of the day all an Ironfan has is chaffing from riding 50 miles in Carhartts, tendonitis in his wrist from excessive cowbell ringing, no voice, a sunburn, a headache, and a long drive home.

... and the knowledge that you played a small part in what is, no matter what, an epic day for everyone involved. When Ironman Champion Linsey Corbin finds some breath in a blistering 3:05 marathon to say "You guys are really helping me out," or an Ironfan's hero recognizes him as the guy with his name emblazoned on his chest after the race and thanks him for cheering, an Ironfan doesn't need a medal.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Restaurant Review

I was encouraged by a coworker to lunch at The Missoula Senior Center which also happens to be conveniently located just across the street from my work. I had originally thought that The Senior Center was a kind of exclusive club for old people, and being not old, I was unwelcome. Not true! While it is a type of club for old people, they are welcoming, and in fact eager, for young folk, like me, to eat there. Likely all of the old people there are tired of hearing ad infinitum the other old people's stories, and young people represent a previously untapped audience. The ambience is terrible, imagine your high school cafeteria with, well, more old people, but old people can't see well anyways so they probably don't mind the aggressive commercial lighting.

However, the food is more than able to compensate for the lack of mood or padded seating. The menu is a rotating one of home-cooked goodness. When I was there polish sausage and sauerkraut were served. When the old man asked me "How hungry are you son?" and I responded "Very" and ever increasing pile of "goulash" was heaped upon my plastic plate. When I asked what was in it he said, "I don't know," and you know, after eating the entire pile of it, I don't know either, but I don't much care. It was delicious. While the entrees are a la carte the side salad of, surprisingly, mixed greens and no iceberg lettuce, and desserts are served buffet style. I had cherry cobbler that was really just perfect, buttery brown sugar and just enough crunch. The value is also unbeatable. All of this for $5 and milk, coffee and lemonade are complimentary.

Not used to the social atmosphere of The Center, I elected to sit alone. A decision which I soon realized was wrong and I now regret. Having a particular dearth of old people in my life, I realized that I had missed an opportunity to hang out with some. It is now my goal to eat there at least once a week for a good home-cooked meal and some geriatric socializing. There's even a thrift store in the basement so if you need to pick up a new Harlequin novel, belt or costume, it's a one-stop-shop. It's very much like Cracker Barrel, just better.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A New Series!

For the next few posts I will write about things, other than swimming, biking and running, because, as much as I love them all, they, at times, do become monotonous. Stay tuned for a travel blog, an automobile test, a restaurant review and other generalized commentary on things which amuse me. (Please note that I have little to no experience or authority to comment on... ...anything and will likely enrage several people. Please accept my future apologies.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Calamity of Errors

Montana, as far as states go, is not comfortable. She is harsh and often cruel, with her relentlessly overcast skies, burning summer sun, massive mountains, vast expanses of space, temperatures which are rarely nominal, soul piercing wind, and fire-driven summers, it is a place of extremes. Here there are few respites. The last time I lived here, I learned simply that any given worst case scenario will yield a good story, and usually some other boring life lessons.

Yesterday I participated in my first cycling race, the Cow Country Classic. It did not go well. Actually, it went worse than that, it was abysmal, "having immense or fathomless extension downward." Nothing in the race went my way, and I caught no breaks (of either the luck or cycling variety). This happened for a few reasons, but as Homer Simpson would say, it's all just "loser talk", and while I am a loser in many ways, this is my blog and I don't really want to talk about that.

On to the race. I suppose I should first start by explaining why I would do a cycling race. Well, the biggest reason is that my goal is to one day be an ITU racer which entails a draft legal bike leg (as in bike racing) as opposed to the standard time trail style. While they seem somewhat similar, aside from being accomplished on two wheels, they aren't. I essentially spent the 50-mile race getting dropped from each consecutive group, unable to muster the power to stay with breaks (as lame as they were). Yesterday I dug more deeply than I ever have on a bike, then I did it again... and again. Having lost the two main packs of my Cat 4/5 start around mile 40, I spotted a slight Junior who seemed to be all feet and legs, maybe he could pull me to the finish? No, the 13 year old dropped me like his pre-algebra text book and I was all alone. I had gone supernova in a most dramatic fashion, and had I any energy at all, the black-hole left by my prodigious bonk would have consumed most of western Montana. I was done, alone in the Montana mountains, 10 miles from the finish, struggling into a headwind, and I decided to make the best of it. I sat up, tried to enjoy the scenery (which was amazingly beautiful), felt the sun and set about composing clever witticisms for this post. My leisure cruise was then interrupted by this:

a bunch of old men, the Master A's. As pleasurable as my ride was at that point, I wanted to be done so I tried to sit in and let them pull me back to the line. As they had started behind me this was, I think, technically illegal and I began hoping and praying for a lifetime ban from cycling. No luck. Then they dropped me. Then this caught me:

a bunch of slower old me, the Master B's. ...and left me.

Then I saw the 200M sign. Apparently most people start sprinting at this point but since I was in survival mode and hoping only for a good story, I was content simply to document it, which made some spectators laugh.

Relieved that the race was over and eager to end my humiliation and drink a cold beer, I set about the 5 mile commute from the finish line back to the race start. My humiliation, however, was not in fact over, the two Master A's I was following then dropped me on a little hill. I rolled in by myself, a fitting end to my day. Here's hoping that my next bike race will be sandwiched by a balls-out mile swim and a bleeding-eye 10K run, although I'm sure I won't be so lucky.

...and then Elliot fell asleep on the way home.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Another Accident

I have accidentally decided to compete in my first bike race ever. It is called Cow Country. The goal: keep it rubber side down. More on that later...

Good luck to Linsey in her "little race" in Kansas against Beef Wellington!

Monday, May 31, 2010

A Son of South Carolina at Home in Montana


I’ve spent the past nine days in South Carolina, and there really isn’t anything like going home. The wave of heat and humidity I felt stepping off of the plane seemed more like a welcome home hug and kiss from my number one (and only, for that matter) girl. I was home for my good friend Justin’s (aka Dr. Marsh) wedding. He was married in the same church where we attended elementary school. Sipping Jack Daniels on your elementary school swing set is a good thing and I recommend it. It’s as if every sensory input at home has a story or feeling which accompanies it. My friends there are tested, loyal and true and we have years of history. I was constantly reminded that South Carolina is, and always will be, my home.

…but, if her denizens will let me be presumptuous, so is Montana. I’ve never felt such an ethereal connection with a mere locale as I do to Montana. I feel like John Denver:

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

The timeline is off but the gist is the same. What my friends in Montana and I lack in history and longevity, we make up for in the inherent promise of the future and mutual passions.

People, not geography, make a home, and I simply can’t help but feel an inordinate amount of gratitude to be able to call two places home and have the friends to go along with them.

Highlights from the past week include a charity bocce ball tournament in Greenville with the Titan Group of Adam, Bill and Kacie (here’s hoping we’ll be better at business than bocce), a dinner party thrown by my bestest cycling buddy in Columbia and his stellar wife, the best Bordeaux I’ve had in awhile thanks to Patrick and Karen, excellent grilled steaks with siblings, a slumber party with Owen (Kenny and Shari were there, too!), a Columbia Master Swingers margarita dinner, an Old Skool Outspokin’ party which also quenched my craving for live jazz, fried Chicken-n-Grits at Yesterday’s with an old friend and new friend, drinks on high at The Roof Top with Newberry’s soon-to-be “it couple,” a lower leg massage by South Carolina’s best sports massage therapist, a great wedding and rehearsal dinner, lots of swim, bike, run with the best training partner in the world, and a quasi Ben Lippen School reunion at Carolina Wild Wings, one of the worst bars in Columbia with the best service in the world, courtesy of “Hey-Hey-Hey”Aaron.

So as I return back to Missoula it is with a mass of conflicting emotions, all of them, however, overridden by gratitude. …special thanks to Adam for doing what Delta couldn’t, to Jackson and Julie for first class accommodations at Guilford Street, and my WALG’s (Western Adoptive Legal Guardians), Betsy and Jeff for Montana airport transfers and open arms.

Up next will be a welcome return to my training routine in Missoula (unwelcome, however, is news of the paving of the Kim Williams trail), a break for the liver (thanks everyone for the drinks!) and some dedicated training to undo what the South does to people, make them happy and fat.

Ryan Alexander Payne
Carolina Made, Montana Made Better

The Good Doctor

Owen ready for vacation.

The Roof Top

Kevin and me before a 1 hour, wetsuitless open water swim.


Supper Club

Outspokin' Old Garde

The Quasi-Reunion of Ben Lippen School (2002)
Carolina Wild Wings

Monday, May 17, 2010

"I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today..."

I went to Canada. It wasn't as different as I had expected. They drive on the proper side of the road, speak a mildly understandable dialect of English, and real estate agents still smatter their pictures everywhere, but it also just wasn't right. It was too similar to the United States to be exotically interesting, yet different enough to just be annoying. But in the spirit of fully embracing the "culture" of Canada, I made a rule that while in Canada we were only allowed to listen to Canadian artists (thanks Matt for the suggestion). When I set about ensuring we had music to listen to in Canada, I bought a Bryan Adam's record with hits like "I Want to Be Your Underwear" and "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You".

Also in the music quiver: Alanis Morisette, Celine Dion and Tanya Twat (Shania Twain). As it turns out this was unnecessary since even Canadians don't like Canadian music, thus prompting their queen or emperor or whatever they have to make a law which necessitates that fully 1/3 of the music played on the radio be that of Canadian artists. Capitalism fail.

In any case, on to the races. On this trip I was accompanied by Elliot (who fell asleep), and special guest Christopher Cordingley of www.chriscordingley.com. The trip was great! We had a sweet camping spot right next to the race, thanks to Elliot, and there was even a hot tub. My usual routine is to swim a fair amount the day before races. This didn't go so well. The water was 15.9 degrees. Apparently they use different degrees there, too. I got a brain freeze and really couldn't put my head in the water. It felt like chugging a milk shake, just without the good flavor. I quickly realized there wasn't much to do about it this close to the race except double cap it and hope for the best. The day started cool and overcast when Elliot, triathlete tracker extraordinaire, came up to me and said "Tom Evens is here," and I said "Who is Tom Evans?" Elliot then said, "He's never passed anyone in a race." This is not an uncommon occurrence for swimmers, I have probably only passed 2 or 3 people in my entire racing career, but then the other shoe dropped "and he's won 3 Ironmans." Hmm, this would be an interesting day. Tom Evans was out of the water a full minute ahead of me, so I just put my head down and went to work. There was a ghastly hill about a mile into the ride and the hills didn't let up. The ride was actually very scenic, through the wine country of Canada. Then it began to rain...in Canada's only desert. I slowly lost places on the bike, but then I went from 5th to 9th in 30 seconds as an unapologetic paceline flew by me. Lame. There were no officials at all watching the lead of the Olympic distance race. I was really pretty happy with my run, I dug deep and tried to keep my form together and managed to only get passed by one person. I finished 10th overall and went 2:10. All in all I had hoped to place higher and to have gone faster, but given the competition there and the course I was really happy to be within 6% of the winner's time, who, as it turns out, was not Tom Evans. Elliot, managed an extremely solid 2nd place finish in the Sprint distance race, fully 4 years since his last race, and Chris Cordingley, of www.chriscordingley.com, placed 3rd in his age group, but was unfortunately outsprinted by a girl; a girl who was very angry because I yelled "Chris, you're being outsprinted by a girl." She then gave many angry looks to me and Chris.

As an uninteresting side note, on the way to Canada we retraced a day of riding from the Habitat Bicycle Challenge, Spokane to Grand Coulee. It was much faster and more comfortable in a car, but made me reminisce about the good times on that trip and the worst laser light show in the history of the United State (sorry J).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Adventure

I accidentally signed up for an Olympic distance race in Oliver, BC this Sunday. Let me unravel this for you. British Columbia is apparently a province in Canada, which is a country to our north. I am told that a province would be analogous to a state in the United States but because they're Canadian they called it the wrong name. To my surprise, Canada does more than maple syrup and put on snowless winter Olympics; they are also in the triathlon business. My profound apologies to Mrs. Olshine (8th grade geography teacher), but I was unaware that Montana is next to Canada until I drove out here in 2004 and turned the page of the atlas from Idaho to Montana and saw an enormous swath of green on top of Montana. I initially mistook this for Glacier National Park, it was, unfortunately, Canada.

On to the accidental part. Having been dealing wish some small nagging injuries over the past month, I was reluctant to sign up and had in fact decided not to race for a couple reasons: 1) I was most fearful of re-injuring myself. 2) I feel as though I'm not ready to put together a good Olympic distance race (1 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). Having decided that my injuries are sufficiently under control I talked it over with Elliot and Linsey.

When Linsey Corbin gives you advice on training or racing, it's probably a good idea to listen. Over coffee after a Big Kids Swim Lounge she said, "you should race." So I'm going to race. Worst case scenario, I'll learn something new about racing this distance, get in an awesome workout, and gain a significant amount of information about where my racing fitness is. Best case scenario, I'll be able to wrangle each discipline into a quality race and surprise myself.

I am excited though because as Canada is a completely different country, this will be my first international race... how cosmopolitan. Now just to learn to drive on the other side of the road, speak Canadian and figure out what the heck a "mounty" is.

Wellspring of knowledge and profound advice, Linsey Corbin:

(she's the one on the left)