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

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

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