It feels hard to justify writing here these days. It seems sort of self-indulgent. With my newsletter every week and the pseudo-race reports on Instagram, how much more could you all really want to know about me?
This came in the mail a few weeks ago and I was going to call that week one of year two of being a professional triathlete, but I still wasn’t training and was just doing the waiting to see if I got better thing, which meant sometimes instead of swimming I would end up drinking margaritas and feeling bad about myself, so it didn’t exactly feel like week one of anything.
Only now it’s 2018 and yesterday everyone posted their inspirational well-filtered photo declarations of how this year will be different and better and more. AND. I’m back on an actual training schedule now, albeit a light one. So let’s go ahead and call this week one.
Did you know I trained 640 hours this past year? Even with the fact that the last two months have been minimal at best. That’s a lot of hours.
Generally, I’ve done year in review posts about what I achieved, what I raced, where I went, what I did good and what I did bad. But Dec. 31 is sort of arbitrary. It feels delayed, behind the actual race season we care about. I already looked back at my first year as a pro. It happened. There were some things learned, some successes. The best thing about the year? And this will sound hokey as fuck, but still. I made a lot of friends. I think I only paid for a hotel at one race, because friends put me up and homestays let me crash and teammates gave me their extra bedrooms. I saw the same people over and over, and we went through the same things, and then we saw each other again at the next race. Who knew there really is a community in pro triathlon? At least a little bit. And thank you to Smashfest Queen and Dimond Bikes and Freeplay. This year was the first time I felt like a real sponsored athlete and actually knew the individual people who were behind the companies. It was like they were invested in me as much I was invested in them.
I went to L.A. and San Diego and Arizona and Seattle. Canada, of course, but Victoria and Mont-Tremblant/Montreal this year. I got to go to Costa Rica and visit New York for the first time in well over a decade. I don’t know how much traveling all over Northern California counts, Tahoe and Santa Cruz and Monterey, and wine country is basically every one of my long rides. Then there were a couple weeks in Chicago and Kentucky. Things happened.
I made a concerted effort this year to focus on triathlon, which meant a lot of the time I felt like I wasn’t doing as good a job in the other half of my career. Freelancing is defined by cycles of crises, and the cycles came so frequently this year I almost learned to just let them wash over me. But in between, I actually did some work I liked. And a lot of that had to do with finally doing more work in and about triathlon, almost as if I have some sort of expertise in the sport and industry.
- You should read my monthly ‘Salty Triathlete’ column in the print version of Triathlete Magazine.
- Not to mention the other stuff I’ve written for them.
- My LAVA Magazine story about Costa Rica, in the Sept. issue, was one of my favorites this year. ‘Going to Work in Coco Beach.’ You’ll have to subscribe to read it.
- I wrote a ton of training stories for MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal. Almost as if I know stuff about this stuff.
- And I wrote about ‘Why whitewater racing world champion Juliet Starrett turned to CrossFit — and to standing desks’ and ‘Jesse Shofner, the first woman to play pro ultimate frisbee, now hopes to be a voice for change’
- I also got to be on the radio this year, a couple of times. Even if pouring through reams of studies on plastic bags was mind-numbing, I was really proud of answering this question: ‘Are Plastic Bag Bans Actually Helping the Environment?’
- And I finally started my triathlon-ish newsletter I’ve been wanting to start. If you haven’t read any: last week’s episode was a pretty good breakdown of the new Ironman pro system, the issue on the Wanda Group I thought was decent, and this essay I wrote for ep. 7 may be one of the better things I wrote this year.
- Oh, and we have a podcast.
People keep asking what my plans are for this upcoming year, what races I’m signed up for, where am I going, what am I doing?
I don’t know. I don’t know because four weeks ago I didn’t even know if I’d be racing at all. I don’t know because even though I’m back to training and starting to half-form plans, I still need to take it day by day. I don’t know because I’m really not *that* Type A.
I’ve gone a month now with no heart issues. I’m back on a training plan. Three weeks ago, it felt like I was exercising and working overtime just to go backwards, to still lose fitness. Now I’m actually starting to see efforts and times I sometimes normally see. I’m signed up for Way Too Cool 50K in March. I’m planning to do it, if everything goes according to plan. It’ll be my first 50K. My first real race back will be Wildflower, though. Everyone is doing Wildflower. It’ll be awesome and the start of my triathlon season. After that? Who knows. I’ll probably do Santa Rosa, possibly some other random stuff in there. I have a vague idea I’m going to race later into December after such a late start to the season, do a half or two down in S. America. I want to do Swimrun, and one of the races that sounds crazy and fun, maybe IM Wales, maybe Challenge Roth, maybe Super League, maybe something else.
No one really knows what’ll happen in the next 365 days, even if they say they do. I’m just being honest about it.
What changes when a woman becomes an athlete? Everything.
This year was a big deal for me. Not that anyone else cared, but for me. I made a very conscious decision at the end of 2015 to create space in my life to see just how good I could be at triathlon — which makes me sound like the Oprah of triathlon: you get extra recovery time and you get more sleep and you get some mental focus. And now that the original pilot project proved its viability this year, it’s time to actually start planning long-term. You can tell I’ve committed to this because I bought new cycling clothes for the first time since 2008. (Obviously, I went with Chisel. Because you just keep chiseling. See.) And we’re going to be replacing the six-year-old bike. Not that it’s not the sturdy Chevy that was your first car — just keeps hanging in there — but it’s time to upgrade to a…I don’t know, that’s the extent of my car metaphors, some fast car…a Porsche?
This year was a big deal for me. But the last few months have been hard. And also some of the other months in there too. I’m not really very happy with a lot of things going on in the world. I’m worried about the hard coldness that seems to be permeating our ability to care about each other. I feel like I should be doing something to make things better. I don’t know if creating space in my life is that thing. I have friends who help asylum-seekers whose families have been killed by the drug cartels. I have friends who do investigations into the disproportionate number of prison deaths for mentally ill inmates. (I have friends who have shitty jobs too.) And what do I do? I write about triathlon and I exercise.
But this last 365 days (or really 367, since it’s already Jan. 2) were a bit much — Steve jokes that if we wrote a Christmas newsletter it’d end with “oh, and Kelly also got her Masters” — and I didn’t really keep a detailed log of my training the whole time, so I can’t tell you how many miles I biked or how many yards I swam. I kept an approximate log in the spring, but it got a little loose after the L.A. Marathon fiasco. And after I handed the reins over to Hillary, I stopped thinking completely (I mean, for me). This, by the way, is my secret, if I have one. Stop thinking, be boring, get faster.
So I don’t really have a lot to say about this year. Or I don’t want to say anything, rather. I’m just going to keep doing what I do.
Instead, here is a list of the books I read this year:
- The Ten-Year Nap – Meg Wolitzer
- *Fate and Furies – Lauren Groff
- *Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon – Ed Caesar
- Atonement – Ian McEwan
- Leaving Before the Rains Come – Alexandra Fuller
- Funny Girl – Nick Hornby
- Reamde – Neal Stephenson
- *The Oyster War – Summer Brennan
- *Us – David Nicholls
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
- The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. – Adelle Waldman
- One More Thing – B.J. Novak
- The Financial Lives of Poets – Jess Walter
- When to Rob a Bank – Steven Levitt
- Seige and Storm – Leigh Bardugo
- Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo
- *Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing – Erin Beresini
- Man of My Dreams – Curtis Sittenfield
- *Run – Ann Patchett
- The Best American Sports Writing 2014
* means I’d definitely recommend it; some of the others I’d also recommend depending on who you are
And I re-read The Hunger Games (because, obvs) and I’m pretty sure some other books, but I don’t remember what. And now I sort of want to re-read all the Harry Potter series (because, why not).
I also wrote stuff, since that’s what I do. Some of it I liked; plenty I didn’t. Here are my favorite things I wrote this year, in case you want to read about sports that aren’t football or baseball:
- How Did the U.S. Women Get So Good at Triathlon (espnW)
- The Man Who Won and Lost American Ninja Warrior (VICE)
- Forced Upgrades: Make the Best Amateur Triathletes Turn Pro (TRS Triathlon)
- Inside Crossfit’s Weird, Cultish, Moneyed-Up Rival: The Grid (VICE)
- Obstacle Course Racing’s Unlikely Star (espnW)
- Who U.S. Women’s Soccer Wants to Be (Beacon)
- Women’s Triathlon is an NCAA Emerging Sport — So, Now What? (TRS Triathlon)
- Tips for Running an Overnight Relay Race (Competitor)
- How the 86-Foot-Tall Union Square Christmas Tree is Built (KQED)
I also liked a few of my blog posts this year (most of which are about triathlon, hah):
- I’m Not Getting Into the 50 Women to Kona Debate (Because It’s Not a Debate)
- The Slowtwitch Question
- The Case for Incivility
- Escape from Alcatraz: Let the Pros Race
- Why Don’t You Write More About Training
- I Do Not Understand the Kona Obsession
We’re in Tahoe right now, which I find slightly funny (and picturesque, etc), because I’m pretty sure four or five years ago I told Steve, “Of course, I don’t ski. Skiing’s for rich people.” And now I’m the proud owner of hundreds of dollars of ski clothes. (Not that I downhill ski more than once every four years. I am not the biggest fan. But after the last time we were up here and I was wearing Vans with holes in them and multiple sweatshirts as a coat, I insisted that I needed some actual winter clothes.)
This past year involved a lot of traveling places — living in L.A. for part of the year; racing in San Diego and San Luis Obispo and Clemson, South Carolina and Wisconsin; going to Ireland and Vancouver and Seattle and Eugene and pretty much everywhere in Northern California; Ragnar in Utah and family reunion in Florida; and weddings in Phoenix and Boise and L.A. (again) — so you’d think 2016 would be less hectic. But you’re wrong. Plans are already overwhelming. That’s OK, though. I’m just staying the course. The only thing I’m hoping to do differently in the next 363 days is ‘be more me,’ which sounds stupid, but basically means that I want to actually say the things I want to say and do the things I want to do. Which you probably thought I was already doing. So, hah.
With everyone getting all excited to share their Facebook photo montages and blog posts about how totally super amazing their year was, I started to feel down. I didn’t do much this year, I thought. It was sort of lame. And, then, I realized I guess I did a lot actually. I crashed the car; I shattered my teeth; I did an Ironman; I moved down to L.A. for this grad program; I started school (which means I had to quit a bunch of work); I went to Turkey, Canada, Boston, Chicago, Wisconsin, Arizona, Seattle, Kentucky, other places; I wrote some stuff too. So. That’s a year.
I’m not a New Year’s Resolutions person. This may come as a shock, but I generally find the whole exercise a self-congratulatory pointless, well, exercise. If you want to draw a line in the sand after which you will raise your fist to the sky and declare that now, now things will be different, then that’s your right and that’s fine. Mostly, though, it’s just annoying for the rest of us that the gym is full for the first two weeks of the year.
But, since December usually coincides with off-season, it’s always been a convenient time anyway to make plans and sketch out schedules. The problem this year is that none of those things are true. I have no plans past May. Or, rather, I have plans, lots and lots of plans, but no sense of which of them is going to work out. No timetables or checklists. Nothing to write in your little journal and underline, to pin on your vision board.
This means I’m not thinking too hard about 2015 yet. I’m just going to put my head down and work for a few more months, get things done and learn and explore ideas. And, then I’ll draw my arbitrary line around April or May, my New Year’s Eve, after which I will declare that now, now, things will be different.
In 2014, I…
Ran: 774 miles (plus a little water running)
Biked: 3,266 miles
Swam: 256,050 yards
This amounted to about 455 hours, give or take — the biggest obvious difference over last year is that I started being a triathlete again and stopped being a lifestyle runner.
- Couples Relay (whoo two miles)
- Not really the Boston Marathon
- Wildflower Triathlon
- Auburn Triathlon
- Marin Memorial Day 10K
- Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
- Ironman Canada
- Big Kahuna Triathlon
Then, after almost two months of nothing, I went on a racing binge from late October to early December and did:
The biggest months were probably this month (clocking in around 50 hours) and late February through mid-March, when there were the training camps but before I shattered my teeth. The lowest month was August when I’m pretty sure I counted walking from the train station to class as “exercise.”
This year was some of the most concentrated, consistent and highest volume training I’ve done, but it also included some of the biggest drop-offs mixed in. That kind of thing is so frustrating, because it’s so easy to just keep thinking ‘what if…’ I was pretty fit in May/June. What if I hadn’t torn a muscle and face-planted off my bike before that? What if I could go a whole year without any major injury or accident? I raced really well at Alcatraz, but ended up a few seconds off the places I wanted to be. What if everything just came together? What if…
In case you were wondering, yes, I have those thoughts about work stuff too. What if one of the great things I wrote (which are rarer than the average things I write) actually got into the right hands? In that vein, here are a few things I wrote this year that I actually liked. There was other stuff I wrote, lots of it, that was quick and fun and light and easy, but these are the things I’m kind of proud of:
- “It’s Not Just About the Oysters” – California Lawyer
- “Women’s Triathlon Becomes an NCAA Sport — But At What Cost?” – Beacon
- “Obstacle Course Races Get a Governing Body — Whether They Want One or Not” – Beacon
- “Changes Coming for Grand Canyon Runners” – Competitor
- “How Morgan Stanley and a Lesbian Super-Producer Came to Grief in South Carolina and Why She Alleges Bias” – RIA Biz
- “What If Ultrarunning Becomes Too Popular?” – Beacon
Sunny Running posts from this year that are worthwhile:
- Why I Won’t Be Applying for Ironman’s Women for Tri Thing
- Why the Judge Got It Right on Ray Race
- Stop Asking Me Why I Run
- The Problem With How We Treat Dopers
- Why We’re All a Little Bit to Blame for Ray Rice
- Is The Cost of Ironman Worth It?
- Race Report: Ironman Canada
- Ironman Training: What It’s Like to Workout All Day
- Crazy Things I Thought on My 4+ Hour Ride
And, since I spend an absurd amount of time reading everything, here are a handful of things I read this year that I loved. This is not a comprehensive list. It is not a ‘best of’ list. It just is some things I really liked:
- “Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?” – GQ
- “The Case for Reparations” – The Atlantic
- “No Exit: One Startup’s Struggle to Survive Silicon Valley’s Gold Rush” – Wired
- “Portrait of a Serial Winner” – ESPN
- “The Most Amazing Bowling Story Ever” – D Magazine
- “In the Beginning, There Was a Nipple” – ESPN
And, these are the books I read — slightly fewer than usual because of all the reading the news and the internet, which is boring me right now:
- The Book of Life — Deborah Harkness
- *Americanah — Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Seating Arrangements — Maggie Shipstead
- *Public Apology — Dave Bry
- The Odd Couple — Neil Simon
- The Secret Race — Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle (re-reads totally count)
- *The Princess Bride — William Goldman
- *Duel in the Sun — John Brant
- The Circle — Dave Eggers
- *Slow Getting Up — Nate Jackson
- The Runaway Jury — John Grisham
- Never Have I Ever — Katie Heaney
- *Hyperbole and a Half — Allie Brosh
- Orange is the New Black — Piper Kerman
- *The Night Circus — Erin Morgenstern
- Eleanor & Park — Rainbow Rowell
- State of Wonder — Ann Patchett
- Tangerine — Edward Bloor
- How to Buy a Love of Reading — Tanya Egan Gibson
- *Let’s Pretend This Never Happened — Jenny Lawson
- David and Goliath — Malcolm Gladwell
- *The Interestings — Meg Wolitzer
* means you should definitely 100% read this; I had no absolute-must-recommend-makes-my-top-ten-overall-list book this year, though
Since all I’ve been writing lately is year-end round-ups, why not write one more before I’m completely sick of the year and never want to think about 2013 again. And, evidently, everyone else feels the same way. Even though there’s like another day left in 2013, no one wants to read year-end wrap-ups on Jan. 1. So.
In 2013, I…
- two marathons — both of which sucked
- a half-marathon that did not suck
- a half-marathon that did suck
- a trail half-marathon
- a half-marathon as a training race
- a 10K
- two 5Ks — including one with Steve
- a mile
- a couple cross-country races of varying 5K-like distances
- a cycling time trial
- a handicapped 7.5 mile trail race
- a sorta low-key triathlon to prepare for –>
- two for real triathlons
That’s less than I raced last year, but more serious-like with not as much dicking around maybe. For a total training volume of: 372 hours.
That’s not much training volume. But, most of it was running, which tends to be lower volume than cycling or triathlon, so it’s more intense than it looks. My biggest month was August, same as last year, which probably has to do with the fact that the Marin Century is in August and I was trying to crash-train for triathlon in September. My lowest month was June when I did…wait for it…8 hours of training. (Though that should probably be like 11 hours if you count my disastrous mountain bike attempt in Hawaii.) The 372 also included a few weeks after both Boston and CIM where I laid around and ate cookies like it was my job.
All in all, compared to last year, this year was far more structured and less randomly just showing up to shit. Yet, I was only slightly faster? And, it still wasn’t as structured as 2014 will be (or as 2009 or 2010 or 2008 were). We’ll also be hoping that next year is faster obvs.
The real lesson is that it turns out I’m much better at triathlon than running. Just give in, you can’t fight it.
We spent a stupid amount of time traveling this year too and as best I can count I went to:
- Phoenix twice
- LA twice I think, maybe three times
- North Carolina
- Tahoe twice
- the mountains
- Monterey twice and Santa Cruz twice
- plus other random places
And, because I’m all cultural and shit, I’m including the stuff I read this year. Or, rather, the books I read, because I also read a crazy large amount of stuff on the internet and in magazines. The problem is I can’t remember all the internet and magazine stuff. One of my goals for next year is to keep better track of my favorite articles of the year — probably with an app for that. I can tell you this story about running made me cry on a bus and this made me righteously angry and pretty much everything on this list was good.
The Books I Read in 2013:
- Beautiful Creatures — Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
- **Hyperbole and a Half — Allie Brosh
- Allegiant — Veronica Roth
- Reconstructing Amelia — Kimberly McCreight
- Very Recent History — Choire Sicha
- Wool — Hugh Howey
- Heads in Beds — Jacob Tomsky
- Under the Dome — Stephen King
- *The Age of Miracles — Karen Walker
- *A Visit from the Good Squad — Jennifer Egan (yeah, re-reads still count as reading)
- Ready Player One — Ernest Cline
- Sad Desk Salad — Jessica Grose
- Where’d You Go Bernadette — Maria Semple
- **Tenth of December — George Saunders
- Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar — Kelly Oxford
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep — Phillip K. Dick
- *The Fault in Our Stars — John Green
- The Edge of Reason — Helen Fielding
- *Tiny Beautiful Things — Cheryl Strayed
- Bridget Jones’ Diary — Helen Fielding
- *Gone Girl — Gillian Flynn
- *Beautiful Ruins — Jess Walter
- *Ender’s Game — Orson Scott Card (yeah, yeah, just pretend the author never said anything in the media)
- Reached — Ally Condie
- *Bel Canto — Ann Patchett
* means you should definitely read this
** means this was one of my most favorite books ever