Gear

What We Loved in Tri in 2020

We asked our editors and a few contributors for their favorite things of 2020—what they loved in a crazy year.

Every week this year we shared the things our writers, editors, and colleagues were using and loving in their regular lives—what was getting them out the door, making their workouts smoother, or solving that problem that always comes up. Our staff spends a lot of time living the tri life, and they know what they like. Plus, they know what they don’t like.

This year was a rough one, not a normal year by any means. So as it wraps up, we asked our editors and a few of our regular contributors for their favorite things of the whole year—what they loved in triathlon in 2020. (Next week, we’ll be showcasing some our favorite moments, stories, and photos from the year; stay tuned.)

Unsurprisingly, there were a few common themes: Getting outside and finding new sources of motivation, of course. Creating our own adventures and battling the stress of the pandemic was something we all tried to do once races disappeared from the calendar—plus figuring out the gear we needed to do that. (Coincidence that two of our editors picked running hydration packs/backpacks as their favorite items of the year?) Plus, we all tried to find new ways to connect or keep moving—Peloton came up in our staff’s picks a weird number of times.

Here’s what we loved this year—new, old, and random. What were your favorite tri-related things of 2020?

The Feed Zone Portables Cookbook

A year of no racing morphed into a year of experimentation—with gear, training methods, and nutrition strategies. The latter has been my favorite to toy around with, since it allowed me to finally cook my way through The Feed Zone Portables Cookbook by Biju Thomas and Dr. Allen Lim. I’ve discovered I really love having real food in my jersey pocket on rides and long runs. Some of the recipes were so good, I found myself sneaking a few bites while writing stories (hey, journalism is an endurance event, too).

– Susan Lacke, contributor and author of The Endurance Geeks series

Peloton

My Peloton bike has been a complete game changer this year. After having trouble getting motivated during solo trainer rides, I switched to the Peloton and have become a devout member of the club! I love that I can ride with friends, or just hop in a class at any time, which works with my crazy schedule these days with four kids at home all the time. The power zone rides are my jam and I just raised my FTP by 12 points this year. Celebrating that little victory after a lot of hard work was just the boost I needed in this crazy year.

– Sarah Wassner Flynn, contributing writer

Hello Blue CBD Muscle Butter

My favorite thing of this year has been Hello Blue CBD Muscle Butter. Between having our first kid in March and COVID keeping childcare options limited, long training sessions are no more. I decided to make 2020 the year I recommitted to flexibility and yoga, something I haven’t done for ten years. I rub the Muscle Butter on my lower back and hamstrings about 20 minutes before an online yoga class or before my go-to stretching routine, and the difference is astounding, especially after sitting at a desk or chasing a toddler all day. I’ve regained almost all the flexibility I had in my early 20s (when I was a yoga instructor). As a result, I’m running better than I have at any point over the past five years, even though I’m running significantly less and carrying a few extra pounds.

– Brad Culp, Last Weekend Now columnist

Hills

Since I moved out of London, I’ve become obsessed with hill reps, both on the run and the bike. Where I live now—Cornwall, aka the UK version of California, though that’s a stretch—there’s basically no flat terrain whatsoever. I had to adapt quickly, but the conversion evolved into a true love for the incline.

– Nick Busca, contributing writer

Strava

I know, I know—I am incredibly late to the Strava game, and I’m well aware it’s been around for a long time, but it was really only this year that I “got into it.” Perhaps I’m five years behind everyone else here, but I became a total Strava Nerd, especially in the summer months when I was logging fairly decent run mileage. In a year of little to no racing, getting home from a run and realizing I’d inadvertently run myself onto a leaderboard somewhere was the perfect carrot on the end of the stick that was needed to get back out there and try to inch ever nearer to the QOM next time. Thank you, Strava, for helping keep us motivated in a year when it was sometimes difficult to get out the door. Oh, and if you haven’t already, head on over to join our very own Triathlete Magazine Strava Club where you’ll find workouts, gear reviews, podcasts, and more.

Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 Race Vest

Prior to this year, I’m not sure I’d ever used a hydration vest. I mean, triathletes don’t typically have much need for hydration packs when it comes to regular swim, bike, and run training, but as I started getting into more and more trail runs and adventures (all of which were self-supported), I realized I needed something more than a gel stuffed in my sports bra. The Nathan VaporHowe 2.0 race vest became like a trusted training buddy: always there, always delivering exactly what you needed when you needed it most. It’s a women’s-specific hydration pack developed in collaboration with elite endurance runner Stephanie Howe. I had never before liked the idea of running with something on my back, but I was continually amazed at how lightweight and intelligently designed it is: you almost forget it’s there. There are way more pockets than I possibly knew what to do with (well, up until I did the Grand Traverse Ultra, that is, and then I used every single inch of pocket space) and the 1.6-liter insulated bladder means you have easy access to plenty of fluids, which stay cool. This race vest is now hanging up in my closet, still with sweat stains of all sorts from a year of epic miles and adventures, and I will, most definitely, be bringing it out of hibernation come spring 2021.

– Emma-Kate Lidbury, managing editor

My Home Gym (And Two Very Specific Products)

Everything I’ve loved this year has been a direct result of shifting routines as a result of the pandemic. The first is my home gym and two key pieces (one old purchase and one new purchase) that have helped me keep my sanity without stepping foot into a gym. We had a spare bedroom that we had always hoped to turn into a gym, but just didn’t quite get around to it. It mostly served as a junk room for boxes and various items to hide from the kids (like Christmas presents!). In April we completely cleaned it out, got new flooring, and revamped it as a solid home gym. We had purchased these Bowflex adjustable dumbbells years ago and—until this year—they mostly collected dust. In 2020 they have seen thousands of reps between my husband and me. They are amazing and I’m so grateful we happened to have these lying around. The second item is my Peloton. I got some (lighthearted) hate when I originally included this as an item that I love, but I’m holding strong. The instructors, the programming, the quality of the bike—it’s all pretty great. Joining a ride with Cody Rigsby (Vogue called him the “King of Quarantine” and I agree) takes me away from any pandemic, kids-learning-from-home, work stress that I’m dealing with. If you have a Peloton and haven’t done his “XOXO, Cody: Festive Fantasy” ride, you must.

The Power of Walking

Aside from my home gym, I’ve embraced the power of getting outside and going for a walk. The Strava data shows I’m not alone in this. When you can’t go, well anywhere, you can always go for a walk. I’ve taken my dog on more frequent and longer walks, and our favorite family activity has been going on leisurely family hikes on the weekend. It’s made me appreciate our neighborhood and the beautiful trails where we live and it’s a habit I hope to carry into 2021 and beyond.

– Liz Hichens, senior digital editor

Running Projects

Even though I haven’t been much for racing in the last few years, the lack of any races at all has made it tough to get out the door and run. Even more than that, the lack of travel has really hit me right in the running adventure bone pretty hard. To combat both of those voids in my running life, I’ve been creating little “projects” to both keep me motivated to run hard (sometimes) and to give me something to look forward to.

While a running project will look different to everyone, this year, I set my sights on various Strava KOMs—both trying to knock out super hard/popular ones, but also trying to stake a claim to an entire area, in one run if possible. I also did a 5K time trial on the track, and a throwback 3200m time trial as a part of the Tracksmith Alumni Run.

I’ve also keyed in on some unique long run projects: In June, a buddy and I tackled the entire Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains—72 miles and 14,000 feet of climbing over two days, with some camping in between; in November I did a spontaneous 20-miler on Catalina Island that really tested me; and in January, I’m hoping to tackle a particularly brutal, unpredictable, and remote 40-mile section of the Santa Ana Mountains.

The mixture of focused fast for the sporadic KOM assaults and track time trials, and the long runs and elevation required to do the adventure stuff has kept me in shape to tackle almost anything. It’s kept me healthy, and it’s kept me motivated to get out, run, and explore!

Osprey DURO 15

OK, so obviously I’ve been doing a lot of running this year, probably like a lot of triathletes, but I’ve also been carrying a lot of stuff when I run. With so many public fountains either shut off, or not really such a good idea, I’ve been bringing my own hydration, but I’ve also been bringing along hand sanitizer (for restrooms), various masks, and extra shirts because I’ve learned that getting sweaty and cold actually tires me out more than nearly anything else.

All of this means that I need a bag that holds a ton of stuff. I took the Duro 15 with me on my two-day 72-mile camping-in-the-middle trip, and it held everything with no problem. There are only a few bags that carry the same amount or more, and none of them do as well when you’re carrying substantially less than a full bag. I’ve also abused the heck out of this bag (see above), and aside from a small, unimportant busted zipper, I haven’t had any issues. But why would I recommend a bag that has a busted zipper? Well, because Osprey has a ridiculous lifetime guarantee on their bags, so I’m confident it’ll be fixed/replaced when I finally get around to calling them.

– Chris Foster, senior editor

Hiking

I do not like hiking. I pretty much would always rather be running. And sleeping outdoors? It wasn’t until college that I really realized this was something people actually did for fun. Like not because they had to.

But this was the year I finally cracked. After a quarantine injury stopped me from running for far longer than I’d like to admit and the daily trips from my bedroom to my office back to my living room got tedious, there weren’t many options left. So we walked. We walked up things and around things, in giant circles and figure eights, but mostly up things and back down. There’s something about standing at a peak that feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. This summer, my husband and I did the 28-mile Four Pass loop in Maroon Bells outside Aspen (hands down, one of the best trail loops out there, though next time I’ll probably just run it and skip the backpack) and then in October we did Rim2Rim2Rim in the Grand Canyon along with every other triathlete and ultrarunner who was bored.

I’m not totally sure hiking will stay in my schedule once full Ironman training actually hits, but there’s something to be said for simply accumulating time on your feet and seeing new places while you’re at it. Hike Your Way to Ironman Success—book coming TBD. (Pro tip: Always get yourself a higher cut nice pair of socks. It’s worth the money.)

EnviLiv Advance Pro Disc Road Bike

Yes, I know, everyone else was going on running adventures and riding on Zwift this year. But with my running limited and my distaste for being indoors any more than necessary high, I spent a lot of time this year riding random new routes—going after QOMs (and mostly failing spectacularly), converting an old road bike to a “gravel” bike, and enjoying not being in TT position for a change.

While I’ll ride dirt and gravel, I’m not really that into the slog of it. My preference is always empty country roads. This bike ended up being a godsend this year. I tested this Liv as part of our cycling road bike buyer’s guide, and then I just sort of kept riding it, and riding it, and riding it. Granted I haven’t had a nice road bike in years—my nice bike is always my time-trial bike—and I haven’t had a road bike specifically designed for someone my size—ie. small—ever, so I may have been easily wow’d. But. It was such a refreshing change of pace to have a comfortable fast bike that I could go ride anywhere. Let me recommend, if you haven’t invested in a really nice road bike just for the hell of it, do it. It’ll remind you what’s fun about this in the first place.

– Kelly O’Mara, editor-in-chief