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It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, a time when we should all be required by law to subsist on cookies and out-of-office messages. Let’s all say the December 27 prayer:
May your cookies be full of chunks and free of raisins. May your out-of-office messages say that you will not be responding to any of these emails in the new year. Praise Dauwalter.
What a perfect time for a list article of 10 of the best things of 2022! My co-coach Megan and I went into much greater detail on our final podcast episode of the year . I am mailing it in, as should we all, amen.
RELATED:The 2022 Carbon Trail Shoe Roundup
When the Nike Vaporfly debuted on roads a few years ago, the entire sport was turned on its axis. The average athlete saw their running economy improve by 4% with the high-performance clown shoes, but it was more complex than that. Some athletes saw even bigger jumps! The front of races all around the world got absolutely SHOOK, and we’re still sorting out the new world order in road racing.
It’s time for the trails to be upended too. Technology will keep marching on, I say, as the AI chat bot takes my writing job and a few percent of cars on the highway excel at self-driving or murder, depending on the day.
For me, the HOKA TectonX is the first trail shoe to really change the game. While they aren’t a 4% shoe, they seem to be 1-2% for my particular form, based on heart rate data on set trail routes. And that difference is especially relevant for trail shoes, where many of the past models are so clunky and unresponsive that they seem to be negative-4%. I’m looking at you, [deleted brand name].
Nike is entering the fray in 2023, and with the trail shoe arms race underway, I expect the shoes of 2026 to be unthinkably fast. We’ll look back on this year as the technological spark that initiates a thermonuclear reaction in trail shoe tech.
RELATED: Reviewed:The Tecton X, Hoka’s First Carbon Trail Shoe
After the credits rolled on the best movie of the year, I was reminded of the finish line of an ultra. People just sat there, stunned and satisfied, processing what happened. Slowly, people got up and whispered about what they experienced.
Ultras are life in a day. Everything Everywhere All At Once was life in a movie.
Full disclosure: the science on nose strips is not fantastic. Some studies show that they can increase a variable called nasal VO2 max–perhaps my favorite exercise physiology measurement. But that increased nasal airflow does not correlate with better performance.
The study participants must have noses that are less screwed up than mine.
My nasal passages approximate the track of Space Mountain. Back in 2016, I faceplanted in back-to-back trail races, with the second instance leading to a schnoz that moves to point at the North Star. Nose strips have been a revelation for me. And even if it’s the placebo effect, you can inject the placebo effect directly into my nose veins.
The 2022 revelation for me was that the Breathe Right extra strength tan versions stayed on with submersion in water, which is extra important with 2022 also being the year of the cooling revolution in endurance sports . There are other brands out there making even more advanced options too! Try a nose strip and see how you feel. We can all be nasal VO2 max superstars, even if you are like me and your nose looks like the Great Pyramid eroded for 4500 years and then got struck by a meteor.
RELATED: Four Takeaways From The Training of Eliud Kipchoge, Marathon GOAT
It’s pretty damn awesome that the 2 athletes who will be the Ultra Runners of the Year in 2022– Courtney Dauwalter and Adam Peterman –are also known as two of the kindest people in the sport. There are so many stories about people having random run-ins with Courtney on the trails, where she gives them the biggest smile and encouragement, even at the lowest points in races. Adam is known to wait at the finish lines of races after he breaks course records, asking everyone how it went out there and sharing the experience with the whole community.
And I think that mirrors a general pattern of the world seeing through the facade of people trying to present themselves as courageous truth-tellers, when they are actually just pompous assholes. Whether it’s the success of Ted Lasso over the last couple years or politicians not being as rewarded for being horrible humans, it seems like kindness is cool.
We need more Teds, and fewer Ruperts. Let’s be real though–the Ruperts will still go around acting like they are God’s gift to humanity and everyone else is dumb or weak. But kindness will win. And the Ruperts probably just need love too, so let’s try to give them kindness most of all.
RELATED: 8 Training Takeaways From Courtney Dauwalter, Ultra Legend
An athlete I coach made a stunning revelation in his training log last week: in all of 2022, he had ZERO mid-run poops despite averaging 70 miles per week. WHAT IS THIS DARK MAGIC? If I had one of those signs that said “__ Days Since Our Last Mid-Run Poop,” I’d only need to have room for a single digit.
His response? He moved to liquid fueling and liquid gels this year. I joked about the sign, but I noticed a similar change for myself, with liquid options more conducive to reliable gastric emptying. And it’s not only for short events. When Magda Boulet won Western States, she did it just off Gu Roctane drink. Near the end of tough, hot stages, Tour De France riders are often seen slurping down liquid gels too. Gels that don’t require water for digestion may reduce GI distress and improve absorption for some athletes.
My personal favorite is the Science in Sport Beta Fuel Gel, which was so popular that it’s just back in stock after a few months of being sold out. I am such a believer that I almost bought a pack that was marked up 10x on Ebay! It probably was a fake package full of Pert Plus! Gu makes Liquid Energy, which is fantastic too.
Give liquid gels a try in 2023. Prepare yourself for The Year of the Slurp.
RELATED:The 3 Keys To Race Day Fueling
I am obsessed with Laura Green’s humor videos about running, which she posts on Instagram with the handle @lauramcgreen . She is hilarious and incisive, but also kind and open. Beware clicking on that link, though–you might find yourself watching every single one, losing track of time and waking up in a pool of your own urine from laughing so hard. Wear a diaper just in case.
Yaboyscottjurek is another great follow for trail-specific humor. Creator Tony Darracoté is the reigning king of the memes, providing great laughs while also educating us all on the importance of Pepto Bismol Ultra.
RELATED:Here’s What We Loved about Trail Running in 2022
The Western States 100 expanded on their transgender athlete inclusion policy to add provisions for non-binary athletes. They are leading the way for love and community in the sport, with the International Olympic Committee and other sports organizations doing the same.
Inclusion is also being upheld in the courts. In mid-December, the 2nd Circuit dismissed a case arguing that Connecticut violated Title IX by allowing transgender girls to compete on sports teams. The judicial opinion slapped back at the (very loud) voices arguing against inclusion: “This mismatch between Plaintiffs’ alleged injury and requested relief is fatal to establishing redressability.” In other words, there is no injury that could establish a cause of action, especially when balanced with U.S. constitutional protections of individual rights. It’s the most recent example in a long string of court cases that support inclusive policies, with both conservative and liberal judges making the rulings.
RELATED: An Open Letter to the Trail and Ultra Community From Non-Binary Athletes
These cases are a good reminder that the real-world legal and ethical context support inclusive policies as the default setting across sports. I am not saying that inclusion without limitations is the only option forever. I’m only echoing what the courts are saying–that arguments categorically against inclusion are often grounded in an alternate factual reality that is not representative of real-world outcomes, and that cannot be used to curtail individual rights in a democratic society. Let’s remember that in 2023 when the very loud voices argue otherwise, using anecdotes and slippery slope arguments that might be upheld by a few people on Twitter, but are dismissed out of courtrooms.
RELATED: Our Editors’ Favorite Articles This Year
I think we’ll look back on 2022 as the year when the hours of live trail race coverage hit an inflection point and started heading to the moon. UTMB, Western States, the Black Canyon 100k, and the Golden Trail Series led the way, with plans for way more coverage in early 2023.
For Western States, the first portion of the livestream had 145,000 total viewers! There’s clearly an appetite for drone shots of beautiful mountains and close-ups of athletes begrudgingly eating another handful of potato chips. Over the coming few years, I expect the coverage to expand, as the hunger for live feeds increases and highlight shows help distill very long races into bite-sized morsels.
I feel like trail-race coverage is in a similar spot as cycling coverage in the late 1990s. Back then, I remember watching 30-minute nightly recap shows on something like ESPN 8 during the Tour de France. Now, every stage is covered live, with options to stream hundreds of smaller races for a few bucks a month. The Ocho better get the trail rights before it’s too late.
RELATED: Top 10 Most Read Training Articles in 2022
Megan and I watch a lot of live sports, often on silent as our baby sleeps. And every time the commercial comes on for Papa John’s Epic Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Pizza, we go wild like our favorite team just won the Super Bowl. It has become a meme in our house, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we are eventually flipping over our Subaru before lighting it on fire like we’re Eagles fans.
Somehow, we haven’t tried it yet. Art is meant to be appreciated, not consumed. But the existence of this monstrosity, with cheesy pepperoni within and outside the crust, brings us the greatest joy. Obviously, we aren’t saying that it’s “healthy.” We’re just saying that life is so much more fun when you enjoy all sorts of foods (including occasionally partaking in some monstrosities, if that is what brings you joy).
Athletic performance requires adequate fuel for healthy functioning of every physiological system. All food can fit into the heading of “fuel.” And while general guidelines are important for health, strict rules for athletes can often morph into constraints on their progress, even when those rules fall short of disordered eating.
In 2022, the community celebrated food more than ever before, without demonizing fueling choices with a projected morality that was often superstition masquerading as science. People should eat foods that they enjoy to fuel the work they are doing in order to find their personal definition of “strong,” whatever that means for them. Eat enough, always. Eat too much, sometimes. Eat too little, never. If following those guidelines for performance fueling occasionally means stuffing pepperoni where the sun don’t shine, then let’s give a big HECK YES to that.
RELATED: Eat Food That You Enjoy
Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” dropped one of the most ear-catching lyrics of all time when she sang about sexy babies. I have avoided reading think-pieces about it, just so I can retain my initial wonder. My rough guess on the meaning: it’s easy to go through life thinking of others as these innocent and perfect souls, while you’re the gross lurker with dark secrets.
Whether that’s the actual meaning or not, I think this certified pop-bop exemplifies a continued push toward openness and vulnerability in describing how we relate to the world. Every time I write one of these articles, even after all of these years, my heart sinks to the floor with fear that I messed something up. Every time we publish a podcast , I brace myself for negative feedback from people that may hate us. There are times when I doubt who I am and whatever it is that I am doing.
I imagine you feel like a monster on the hill sometimes, too, watching all those sexy babies who listen to indie records much cooler than ours. And it’s that vulnerability that brings us together.
In her wonderful book Dopamine Nation , Dr. Anna Lembke summarizes what it means to move forward with openness. “Telling the truth draws people in, especially when we’re willing to expose our own vulnerabilities. This is counterintuitive because we assume that unmasking the less desirable aspects of ourselves will drive people away. It logically makes sense that people would distance themselves when they learn about our character flaws and transgressions.”
“In fact, the opposite happens. People come closer. They see in our brokenness their own vulnerability and humanity. They are reassured that they are not alone in their doubts, fears, and weaknesses.”
And that’s the message to end 2022: no matter what you are going through, you are not alone. You are so loved because of your flaws, not in spite of them.
Let’s make 2023 the year of being so damn flawed, and flaunting that shit. We are all the sexiest monsters on the hill, ready to do lots of sexy monster hill strides.
David Roche partners with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play . With Megan Roche, M.D., he hosts the Some Work, All Play podcast on running (and other things), and they answer training questions in a bonus podcast and newsletter on their Patreon page starting at $5 a month.
Curated running advice, news, and perspectives for people who love to lace up.
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