Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Due to overwhelming outcry (Denise), I shall post something on the 'ole blog.

I'll start by giving you a brief update of my life: I am in law school and I am training.

Now, I shall revive my favorite blog installment:

...and here, again...

Thank you to Ben Horan for suffering with the most useless roadtrip companion for these photos.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Austin, Texas

I felt really pretty good heading into Austin. I was feeling quick and confident. I think I had my head on straight and was mentally where I needed to be. I set out on the swim at a fast cruise as I was planning on laying it down on the bike and run. By the first buoy I was away from the rest of the elite amateurs, except one, my new pal Frank. I got out of the water first from that wave and was feeling pretty good and thinking that this day might shape up to be a great race.

I got on the bike and didn’t feel that great, but figured it would come around, so I just stayed on top of my nutrition, put my head down and waited to find my top gear. I didn’t.

Even still I was feeling pretty positive, I had a good lead leaving the water and my bike wasn’t that awful, so a quick run would still keep me in the game. I hit the road and felt pretty good at first, but a few minutes in things just started to unravel. It was a two lap run. I tried to put in some surges to break up my tempo and hopefully light a fire, to no avail. As things continued to deteriorate, I checked my watch as I neared the second run lap. It confirmed the bad news so I retired from the race and promptly found the beer tent (and, incidentally, Frank who also DNF'ed) having accomplished my first DNF in triathlon. Huzzah!

This, on the heels of LA and Grizzly was a pretty big blow, especially given the work I’d put in over the past six months or so, and, truth be told, I am still struggling to gain insight into what happened and perspective on the race. More on that later…

I can’t say enough about Austin. I love Texas, I always have, and if I weren’t from South Carolina, I’d want to be from Texas. I was also treated to a visit and shenanigans with my good friend Annie, with whom I rode bikes across the country. We also met up with our fellow cycling adventurer, Donald. I enjoyed mint juleps served in pewter beakers, excellent food, stunning Southern women and, most importantly tremendous heat, high humidity and unrelenting sun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Peak Triathlon

So, one of the luxuries and one of the reasons I moved to Missoula is to be able to sit down face to face with my coach on a regular basis. Luckily, my coach in one of my best friends, too. At our weekly meeting he says, "Aren't you racing The Peak Triathlon this weekend?" "No, I registered too late," I say. It turns out I was racing The Peak and a mere 4 days later. I'm not sure what happened in the mean time. So that Saturday at 1:30PM I hit the water for a swim-light (this sucks for me) race. This time my morning nutrition was more dialed: french toast and peanut butter. I hadn't been on my TT bike in eleven days, I'd been celebrating a concert the previous evening and was just going to head out there, have fun and race. Ok, The Peak triathlon is a far and distant cry from The Grizzly as far as competition goes, and no one knows that better than I. Having said that, there were some talented athletes including a several time Ironman Hawaii qualifier and USA Triathlon All-American. Also, races in Missoula usually bring out some fast folks no matter what because there are so many here.

In any case, I cruised the swim, having not been allowed to race in the elite heat, I was out of sync with my competition. The bike leg was the bike. I did my best to keep pushing without anyone around me to mark and felt quick and fresh. I felt good on the run, which I think was a kinda tough course.

At the end of the day, I won with a course record (the race is 2 years old), as well as the fastest swim and run splits. There are more competitive races, there always are. For me, however, this was big. This was the first time I had a fastest split other than the swim. It sounds a little like the makings of an ITU racer, which is where I want to end up. Additionally, the course record was my first, so that's cool, too. More importantly, my discipline splits, regardless of the competition, gave me confidence for my Olympic distance abilities.

I felt primed for the CapTexTri the following weekend in Austin, Texas, a new addition to the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon Series, which just kinda throws money at the fastest olympic distance athletes in the world.

Onward to Austin with the cool head of Grizzly and the Confidence of Peak.

The Grizzly Triathlon

Yeah, I realize that it happened on April 23. If you want a prompt race report, write it yourself. Here is mine:

Racing at 2PM can be tough. That's about two meals worth of nutrition you have to get down before you hit the water. It's also the Montana World Championships, so all of that extra pre-race time gives you ample time to overthink things. Luckily, I didn't. I did, however, over saltify things... I think. I drank lots of a delicious sports drink (and, yes, I'd been training with it) before the race trying to get some calories down without having my usual bloody mary, eggs and bacon for breakfast, and salad with a slightly dirty gin martini for lunch. Poor choice. I would have been better off sticking with what I know works for a race morning: booze and cheese.

The swim was ok. There is one man in the elite heat that paces the Grizzly swim correctly from the push-off and he's done about one million triathlons, and (Jeff you rock) he races better than his fitness usually allows. I had the fastest swim split but felt a little "dirty" leaving the water. T1 was solid. The first half of the bike was solid but definitely diminishing. The second 1/2 of the bike was an introductory course to the way the run would go. Piss-poor. I usually am so pumped to get off that damned TT machine for the run that I don't care how fast I'm going. This time though, I had a cramp that went from my hip clear up throughout my rotator cuff. Basically I was listing like a sinking vessel, and I'd never experienced such a sensation. I think that the Indomitable and Injured Seeley could have easily outrun me in his union suite with one leg (Meg you rock!) while pulling a wagon full of his kids. A walker with tennis balls on the front and wheels on the back would have gotten me to the finish line sooner than my incorrigible stems. Had there been a bar at the run turn around, I would have planted myself there and waited for the paramedics. There wasn't.

FORTUNATELY, it was the end of Lent which signaled a time in which I could again consume alcohol. (No, I'm not catholic. Yes, I know it's not a biblical requisite. Yes, I did it nonetheless.) I celebrated my poor performance with some great friends and a view from the roof during the first sunny day in Missoula.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Go Pearl!

It's amazing how one stick-in-the-mud person can ruin it for everyone. It's also amazing how one awesome person can redeem even the sticks-in-the-mud.

Last year I spent almost $600 on run shoes only: racing flats, trail shoes, and training shoes. Since I don't have a shoe sponsorship or even pro-deals on shoes, I turned to Pearl Izumi which I can get through Missoula Bicycle Works because of our cycling relationship with them. Pearl made my favorite article of athletic clothing, a black and red riding jacket that keeps me warm even in Montana. It's so good that I even run in it. They're also relatively new to the run game but I figured I'd give them a try and see what they've come up with. The catch is that there isn't a Pearl Run dealer in all of Montana so, all I could go on was their website, reviews and research. It turns out I ended up with a shoe that wasn't ideal for me.

The warranties and exchanges guru at Pearl, essentially told me to piss up a rope when I explained to him the issue. The problem was that I hadn't purchased the shoes through an authorized dealer. When I asked him how he suggested I do that when the closest one is over 600 miles away, he just said, "Sorry, it's not our problem anymore." ...and he was right. He was doing his job and I'm sure he was conforming to some internal standards set by not-him. A company can't last if it's repeatedly taken advantage of. More deadly, however, is a company that alienates potential life-long customers by not standing behind their product and tells customers "it's not their problem" over a shoe that probably cost them about $20 to make.

Enter G. A consummate professional in both business and running. She not only had in depth technical knowledge of all Pearl shoes, guiding me to a more appropriate shoe, but also the other brands and models I've been running in. She also saw the opportunity to engender the lifelong support of a serious athlete and customer.

So to everyone at all those companies who are more concerned about supporting athletes rather than the bottom-line, thanks. Keep it up and take a page from Pearl.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Falling Down

Few things bring joy to my heart like watching (other) people fall down. Some of my favorites include fat kids carrying cupcakes, people in Vibram Five Fingers, fat people in general, and my all time favorite, fat people in Vibram Five Fingers carrying cupcakes. As a connoisseur of gravitational foibles, I would be remiss to not provide you with an account of a different kind, the hotheaded-skinny-ish-athlete-taking-himself-too-seriously-trips-and-falls-into-a-lamppost-in-front-of-patio-full-of-people-eating-burritos variety. Correct. I was not enjoying a burrito.

While wrapping up a 70 minute run the other day I was feeling pretty good. I had some shiny new kicks. One of my favorite running trails was now free of snow. I was treated to stellar views of the valley. I was rocking some new tunes. It was a good run. I had some tempo work to do. I was doing my speed work back on the flatlands near the end of my run. While cookin' down Higgins St. I approached a roundabout (or "rotary" if you're from B-ah-ston, Mass.). I decided I was up to the task of navigating the complicated maze of sidewalks, curbs, intersections and turns at full speed. Now this roundabout happens to be on a busy road, at a busy intersection which houses a busy burrito shop, and, it being a sunny day, an even busier front patio. I was not up to the task of navigating said obstacles and began a rather slow and eminent full-face fall after a bit of curb jumped up and grabbed my new shoe. It was one of those falls that just hasn't happened yet - an inevitability as there is no chance the bottom half of your body will ever catch up with the top half. Unless, the top half of your body is violently arrested by a lamppost thus allowing the bottom half of your body to catch back up. The price of preventing a full-on, flat-out fall? An attention grabbing bang, a shaking lamppost and a bruised arm.

Yeah, there's really no way to recover from that so, deciding not to look over at the patio full of people, I just continued with my tempo as if it were some kind of new parkour move that the plebeians eating burritos just hadn't heard of yet.

But no, I really just tripped and fell.

And now to feel better about myself:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


When it comes down to it, I really am just a fat kid stuck temporarily in a skinny man's body. My first school uniform was "husky" sized as I'd spent several weeks with my grandparents before 6th grade. I had not yet discovered exercise. So it's pretty natural that given 2.5 hours of daylight, 768 ft. of snow this year, an average temperature of -29, and diminished exercise that I'd put on some, let's call it, "necessary insulation" over the winter.

My training partners and friends here really are the best, they pull no punches. My co-workers recently had to tune my suspension on my mountain bike to what they called "fat Ryan" setting. Several weeks ago, I also saw something I've never seen before 161 lbs. on the scale. Granted I was dressed and it was in the afternoon but even so, that would put me eeking in at just under 160. The real blow came yesterday though.

My friend Jen, a fellow winter warrior, and I were doing a swim set in which we exited the pool on the deep end every 25 to dive back in. She offered to switch sides of the lane with me. "Why?" I said. "So you don't scrape your muffin-top on the diving board," she glibly said. As I peered towards the other end of the pool, I saw the diving board encroaching on my much needed deck space. Out of sheer stubbornness I refused, and, yes, endured some scrapes on my muffin-top. Desperate times...

I have appointed Jen Luebke, Professional Triathlete, as my Under-Coach charged with muffin-top dissipation. She will use state of the art techniques, cutting edge science, and high maths to track my progress, including walking jigowatts, running wattage, swimming miles-per-hour, perceived rate of exertion, and frequent humiliation through the poking of my back fats.

Here's to a fitter, faster and more insecure me!

In all seriousness though, a special thanks to Elliot, Jeff and Jen for helping me to weather a tough and long Montana winter!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

PayneTrain Express

I'm kinda too tired to craft a clever blog right now and it would be 1,000 pages long if I did. So here's what's been going on in a brief and efficient bullet-point format:

-It snowed a lot in Missoula
-I learned to ride my trainer like a big boy
-I stole some of Linsey's ClifBloks (Mountain Berry)
-I learned to run on a treadmill
-I accidentally stopped drinking alcohol for Lent with my friend Chris (big mistake)
-The mechanics at work had to set my suspension to "Fat Ryan" setting
-I was accepted into every law school I applied to (one)
-I was given the prestigious award of Photo of the Year by the Helena paper, reminding everyone to swim pretty.
-It was overcast in Missoula
-I was fired and subsequently re-hired at Missoula Bicycle Works
-Pratt ate a sweater
-I accepted a seat in the University of Montana School of Law's Class of 2014
-USA Triathlon gave me an honorable mention in their rankings
-I turned 27 and had the best party I've ever thrown
-Two of my favorite training partners played snowbird this year and are in Tucson (lame)
-I was able to snowboard a lot
-I went to Big Sky with awesome friends from home
-I went to Seattle for a bachelor "partay"
-I nearly killed my oldest friend at Snowbowl (he ate snow to survive)
-My oldest friend has a renewed interest in physical fitness and Snowbowl's plan to be more "beginner friendly"
-I began working for International Justice Mission as a Justice Advocate
-There was some drama
-My first race will be the Grizzly Triathlon on April 23
-I get to go to LA to see my friend Matt (author of the most popular post on this blog- I pretend not to be jealous)
-I'm racing Wildflower May 1, a Montana tradition
-I got to live with the Rochesters for January!

And the highlight of this bleak and desperate winter:
-I saw an individual fall down the stairs while donning Vibram FiveFingers: The Barefoot Sports Shoe

Thank you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tight Fitting Jeans

This is Chris Cordingley of chriscordingley.com, and yesterday at my birthday party, his dancing was hampered by his tight fitting jeans.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It Doesn't Matter What You Do, Just Be the Best At It

I don't know about you, but I think watching truly talented people, who have worked hard to perfect their skill, whatever it may be, and who love what they are doing, is one of the most inspiring things. It doesn't really matter what they are doing, it's merely a medium. I first noticed this in high school. Many of my friends were in bands, and I remember watching them and being so proud of their work and talent. Even then, watching my friends perform in some nasty, sweaty, smoke-filled club made me want to be a better athlete. I now see this in my business savvy friends Adam and Bill. Though their careers are less spectator friendly, it is no less inspiring to see them perfect their skills and do work to achieve their goals. To hear Philip, a Special Forces medic and sniper, talk about his job fills me with pride and excitement, less because of what he does, and more because he is so good at it. Watching my training partners and friends here in Missoula is just the same, I mean who gets to ride 65 miles on a bike cheering for all of your friends for an entire day?!

Over Christmas I had the opportunity to head to the San Francisco to see my cousin dance. In high school I remember skipping school to go to West Virginia to watch her perform. In college I remember driving her to auditions in Washington and visiting her for far-flung summer programs and performances. As I flew down there I didn't really know what I was in for. When I landed in LA, I started to do some research on her company and read reviews of the The Nutcracker. I was blown away. A review by the San Francisco Chronicle showered the staging and my cousin with praise: "Steph Salts impressed as Marie, as much for her fresh, spunky acting as for her clean technique." The reviewer went on to say that "It may be the work that helps to restore the Oakland Ballet Company to its former glory." More astounding than anything, however, was the photo. There in the Bay Area's largest paper, was my little cousin, front and center, everything else paling around her, with the most contented and fulfilled smile on her face. This is what she was made to do.

Even with high expectations, the performance was nothing short of awesome. The theatre was one of the most beautiful I have ever been in. It's not modern or supremely luxurious, but is more of a preserved, anachronistic morsel from the annals of the gilded art deco age. Little Steph, as we call her, never really left the stage. Throughout the ballet I thought back through everything she has been through and overcome to be where she is. She left home at 14 to chase down this dream. She's fought through multiple rejections because of her height, and often struggles to find the money to support herself, she lives lean, works her ass off, both on and off the stage, and makes it work. More amazingly, however, is the fact that she does it with such humility, thankfulness, and grace.

Though she hasn't "arrived" she is closer to fulfilling her dreams than almost everyone I know, because she has poured everything into her passion. That afternoon 3,000 people stood to applause my Little Steph. Tears filled my eyes and pride filled my soul.

Therefore, 2010's most inspiring person of the year, at least according to this blogger, is "Little" Steph Salts. Cheers to you. You make me better at life.