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What’s the saying? “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper.”
That’s how a lot of things felt in 2021. That’s how triathlon felt for me, too. I very unceremoniously raced what was probably my last pro race after a couple of years of unceremoniously hoping it would end with a bang instead of a whimper. But, as they also say, hope isn’t a plan. And, anyway, I was not the only one whimpering my way to the finish line in 106-degree heat at Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
And just like that, I found myself very much without goals or the motivation to get any goals. I was tired. Here’s what my 2021 Training Peaks looks like. Can you spot when I finally gave into the tired? And then when I tried to get moving again, but life got in the way?
All of which is to say what I loved this year had more to do with whatever made me love doing stuff, whatever that was. Sometimes it was hard Ironman sessions back in the spring and feeling oh so fit. Sometimes it was drinks by the pool and not swimming. Sometimes it was new clothes (OK, a lot of times it was new clothes—I have an entire category below of clothing items I loved). And sometimes it was random races I was ill-prepared for but did anyway because why the hell not.
Thus, I present you with a list of things I loved in 2021 that includes both specific gear recommendations and abstract life recommendations, as is my right.
EnviLiv Advanced Pro 0 Disc
I’m going to tell you something crazy: I don’t really like gravel riding. I know it’s super trendy and I understand the appeal when you live somewhere with more good dirt roads than good regular roads. I certainly have done my share. But a nice road bike on nice empty country roads is just so much better. (And tip: you can ride your road bike on the dirt anyway.) This year, post-Ironman, I fully embraced my very nice road bike and found out a very nice road bike is just so much more fun than a not nice road bike. It is also much much more fun than a very nice TT bike—which is to say that my very nice TT bike is still sitting in my in-law’s garage. Does anyone want to buy a lightly used extremely high-end tri bike?
Salomon RS8 Nordic Skate Skis
One of the random races I did this year without really being in any way prepared for it was the Crested Butte Alley Loop Nordic Marathon. (I actually did the half-marathon.) I fell three times! I beat maybe 13 people! I only know one kind of cross-country ski technique! But, still, I highly recommend. Here’s the thing: My husband is a very good cross-country skier. I am a competent skier who only knows one kind of pole-ing technique. Technically, actually, I know one-and-a-half kinds. That, however, has not stopped me in the least. Confidence is key. And I’m a better swimmer than him; things even out. Also buying a full skate ski set-up this year made things infinitely easier, because now I can just pay a trail pass or jump on a groomed road or do whatever the hell I feel like doing—which in general is about 80 minutes and then calling it a day and having a snack. In full disclosure, here’s the complete set-up I bought to get going: the Salomon RS8 skate ski (it’s a mid-level ski that will do plenty for you if you’re not an elite racer), the Salomon skate binding to go with it, and the Salomon Pro Combi Prolink boots (which have the benefit of allowing me to swap also to classic or touring skis). That should get you skiing.
Then, of course, deserving of its own section, you must have good clothes. And by good clothes, I mean good gloves. You can get away with wearing layers of winter cycling clothes, but you need ski gloves. Like many women, I struggle with Raynaud’s and really poor circulation in my hands. Skiing can be brutal for me—since it turns out skiing mostly happens in cold weather, who knew. These Swix split lobster mitts are amazing. I have the Jesse Diggins branded version, of course, and mine say “your moment” on one side and “your race” on the other. Warm and confident.
Hoka Torrents + Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Hydration Vest
OK, this isn’t really a thing you can buy, but the trail running in Marin County (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco) is my favorite trail running in the whole world. Fight me. When we moved this summer and my weekend running buddy was preparing for a 50K on Mt. Tam, I ended up spending a lot (!) of time on the Marin trails—and then I decided to do the 50K too since who else was I going to run with that weekend? My #1 recommendation, then, is to find some amazing trails you love running and my #2 recommendation is to go with the goddamn flow when you end up in a six-hour 50K that you’re not really prepared for. Problem solving is key to trail running. Also key: good gear. I swear by the Hoka Torrent trail shoe for almost all of my runs and the Salomon S/Lab Sense Ultra 5 Hydration Vest, which a friend gave to me when she accidentally shrunk it in the wash (apparently, don’t put it in the wash), but which has turned out to be the only hydration vest I like.
The other thing I returned to this year was my local Masters swim group. Now I am the first person to make fun of Masters, especially during a focused block of triathlon training. (Why is it that grown adults can never figure out or remember a workout? Why?) But, it turned out my solo swim motivation tops out around 2,000y and I have no focused blocks of training anymore anyway, so Masters is perfect. I swim hard or hard-ish, get out when I feel done, and stop at the bakery for my to-go order on the way home. Honestly, sometimes I go to Masters just to stop at the bakery after.
The Clothing I Loved
Clothing deserves its whole own section in my life. You see, I have this theory: Wear the clothes that make you feel fast and you’ll go faster. This theory has led me to buy endless amounts of running and cycling gear (these were my favorite cycling kits this year), to race in ill-advised spandex shorts and sports bras, and to show up to the pool in Jolyn swimsuits with questionably high cuts. This theory has also extended to my life: Wear clothes that make you feel awesome. My entire wardrobe could be defined as ‘things you can wear to coffee meetings and also to do yoga in, if you ever did yoga.’ So here are the pieces I absolutely couldn’t do without this year:
Vuori Performance Joggers
My husband calls these my “fancy sweatpants.” I call them my “work pants.” As a very small person, I’ve never been totally sure I can pull off joggers, but these are perfect. Light, soft, cool, warm enough. I’ve been on a lot of driving ski trips lately, and have basically lived in these pants for weeks.
Rabbit EZ Tee
You want to know how much I love this shirt? I now own two different colors of the short-sleeve version and one of the long-sleeve. A few years ago, I found the perfect long-sleeve at Gap (which they no longer make) and bought it in four colors and never regretted my choice. So when I found myself wearing my Rabbit tee over and over and over, I figured it was time to double down. It’s super soft and comfortable, exactly the right amount of fitted without being too fitted, and you can wear with jeans or throw on a pair of shorts and go for a run.
Patagonia Fleetwith Romper
Clearly, versatility of clothing is important to me. So when I had to go from an exec presentation at our company headquarters in Boulder straight into driving to St. George for 70.3 Worlds, what was I going to wear? Boom, this romper. I know, I too was skeptical of rompers. But this one is made of wicking performance material, light and cool, and honestly looks good on everyone.
Birkenstock Arizona Essentials EVA Sandals
At one point this year, I also got concerned about potential injuries. OK, I’m always concerned about potential injuries, but I got concerned about the role my footwear could be playing in that and I wanted to have a non-flip-flop option. (I love my flip-flops.) Plus, I’d seen all the cool people wearing these foam recovery Birkenstocks. Turns out they’re not just cool, they’re also great for the pool or post-workout because you can jump in the shower with them or easily wash them off. Pair with the above joggers and t-shirt and you have my basic fundamental summer outfit.
Northface Thermoball Traction Booties
These, on the other hand, do not look cool. But, oh my, you will thank me. Like warm slippers for your feet, these booties ended up being the perfect thing for after every cold weather workout, when you want to slip on something soft without thinking about it. My husband made fun of me for buying them, but who’s laughing now?
Things I Hated: Running shorts that do not fit
A special bonus section for you on a piece of gear I could have done without in 2021: running shorts that chafe. A super fun byproduct of getting the most out-of-shape I’ve been in a long time is that none of my shorts fit anymore. After 20+ years of running, all of a sudden I’m back to doing the why-are-my-thighs-chafing-already hobble after just 30 minutes. It really kills my vibe. My long-time go-to for this has been the tiny Nike spandex shorts, but they changed their length and now I hate them.
So, I am currently on a quest for 2022: Find shorts that do not chafe. If you have any you love, let me know.