Monday, April 26, 2010

A Lesson in Man-Strength

Saturday I had the most unbelievably bad attitude. It’s not uncommon that people say I’m “an all or nothing kinda guy” or use the phrase “go big or go home” to describe me, and I would even self ascribe these kinds of ideas and take pride in them. Apparently, having a bad attitude is no different. I can’t just be mildly annoyed with someone or a little frustrated at the situation. No. I commit 100% to reveling in the situation, carrying on a campaign of shock and awe about whatever it is that irks me. It started Saturday morning when the sun went behind the clouds, the wind picked up and blew in some god-forsaken cold weather front, just as I was leaving for a ride. Two blocks into the ride I had to turn homeward for more apparel. I feel like I can handle most things in life. On the list of things I cant? Sunless skies, cold, hunger and being sleepy. This morning every single one of these things collided in a maelstrom of frigid drear, caloric deficit and fatigue.

Once I had decided that Saturday, April 24, was in fact the worst day in the life of Ryan Alexander Payne (something I repeated several times throughout the ride), there was no going back. I was angry we had to wait to pick someone up. I was angry we were climbing the hills out of order. I was angry that roads in Montana haven’t been improved in the last 100 years. I was angry that one person on the ride went home to take clothes off because he was “hot” while I was freezing. I was angry someone went home to sleep instead of riding, despite the fact that his last workout would put most elite athletes into some kind of damned cardiac arrest. I was annoyed at what seemed like an excessive amount of sniffling and spitting and snot rockets from my companions. I was angry my coach was on the ride and he would know if I went home (see last post for irony)… and then things got bad. I posses a certain sensitivity to audible inputs. My sister-in-law, Julie, often says I need “life earplugs” to wear throughout the day to block sounds which annoy me like whistling or people who chew with their mouths open or heavy breathers. During the first climb we encountered a particularly audible bird with a loud and caustic call which sent me straight over the edge. In short, I had completely imploded in a disaster of narcissistic irrationality.

I managed to make it 3 hours before I called it a day and headed home. Two friends continued on to climb another hill. As I thawed out in long hot shower afterwards I reflected on the ride and realized two things. 1) How ungrateful I was to be with friends on a ride, riding in such awesome place and healthy enough to climb those hills. 2) I missed out on a more riding and climbing because I was pouting about a slight temperature decline and caloric deficit.

This is how Montana endows athletes with man-strength. Next time I will do better. Thanks to Jeff for rewarding my efforts with cheese fries!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chasing Elliot

I spent my long ride for the week climbing mountains around Missoula on Sunday. More specifically, I spent the day chasing a very capable, and small I might add, Cat 2 cyclist on these myriad climbs. Needless to say I spent some of the ride alone, wheeling my hefty 155lbs against gravity towards the peaks(a little sarcasm here, but not wholly). Fortunately I had beautiful views of Missoula to keep me company when the wily little guy left me. It was during one of these climbs that I realized how fortunate I am, to not only be riding with one of my best friends, but also a fast cyclist, and my coach, Elliot "Satchmo" "Smelliot" Bassett"i".

Elliot has been my coach for over five years, and coaches under the moniker of Mountain Endurance (fitting given our efforts for the day). His objective, experienced and studied approach to endurance athletics has gotten me across the country on my bike, through Ironman Florida and countless other races in good health and with respectable results. It is a rare athlete, on any level, who not only is frequently able to work out with his coach, but more importantly is friends with his coach.

Hearing "Good job. You can go home now," from this coach after our last ascent into the Southhills on Sunday, meant more to me than it would to most athletes because it also came from a respected athlete and friend.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Mother of all Bricks to Missoula World Champs

Saturday I raced the Grizzly Triathlon, my first race of the season. This race also marked my 5th year of racing triathlon as it was the first race I competed in. Back in 2005 it was a different race. Our UM triathlon coach, Brandon Fuller described it as the mother of all bricks (a brick is a workout which combines two disciplines, usually running and riding). Over the past 5 years with at least 7 new pros coming from the Missoula valley, the race has transformed into the Missoula World Championships. As a marker, I got 7th both times I raced it. With a couple days of processing my results and talking it over with my coach, Elliot, and some other athletes I've accepted my result as a strong and solid initial performance given my training, however, I'm, in the words of swimming great, Old Man Weston (who beat me in the swim and taught me a hard lesson in man strength), "hungry for more."

I set a couple loose and ideal goals before the race. 1) Win the swim. 2) Swim under 10:45. 3) Be the first amateur to finish. 4) Run under 20:00. 5) Not get chicked (sorry, Linsey). I accomplished none of these, except that latter and it was by the skin of my teeth, and had Linsey seen me 8 seconds ahead, I feel certain she would have caught me.

Congratulations to Coach Elliot and Mountain Endurance whose athletes locked up 3 of the top seven spots, including the win. Thanks to Ben for catching me on the foot bridge and laying waste to 13 years of swimming in a mere 30 seconds. Fellow Big Kids Swim Loungers Matty Shryock, Adam Jensen, Jeffro, and new course record holder, the indomitable Moose Ox, Linsey Corbin. Also, a big cheers to fellow Mountain Endurance athlete Geoff L'Heureux who outsprinted me for the finish.

Huge thanks to Shaun Radley and Joel Brown for calling the race on the world wide web so my family could listen in from South Carolina.

The real kudos and thanks though are for Giles and Elliot for putting on a fantastic race and even ordering perfect weather.

The Grizzly Triathlon, as most things in Montana, takes all kinds of man-strength and my man-finesse desperately needs some hair on it's chest.

Montana: 3
RAP: 0.5

Connie, donning new white Profile bars, and Scotty flirting it up after the race.

Post race ice bath: reduces inflammation, speeds recovery, keeps champagne cold

Monday, April 5, 2010 a bad habit.

Today I rode with my friends Adam (in the picture) and Bryce, two outstanding athletes and cyclists. I was dropped and dropped hard. It wasn't a gentle pedagogical drop as much as an ass-kickingly decisive and unceremonious drop. I know the whole "size of fish/size of pond" thing and say what you will, but this has never happened to me in this way nor to this degree. I didn't bonk. I didn't have a mechanical. I didn't give up. They didn't out descend or out climb me. I didn't pull through once and every available muscular fiber in my legs was screaming to stay on their wheels, and just like that they up and rode off without me. They outgunned me in a big way. It was at once sobering and motivating. Again I am reminded of how far I have to go to be where I want to be, but now I'm one drop closer. Montana: 2 Ryan Alexander: 0