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13 things I fell in love with in 2023 

By Jason Magness


As an aging professional athlete and busy parent - I find myself sometimes getting stuck in my ways. I’ve figured everything out at this point (or so I think) and I find myself going through my training and racing almost on auto-pilot. But looking back on 2023 this January, I found that there had been a number of small but remarkable changes in the way I do things and the equipment that I’ve embraced.  Some of these are personal, some hold true for the entire team of athletes that I race with. This list ranges from things that are free to things that you’d likely consider making payments on - and yet each one has made a significant improvement in my life. And perhaps the biggest change of all as I pass the (very likely) midpoint of my life is my relationship with financial investment toward things. I’m still a frugal dirtbag at heart. I love finding super cheap free items that work better than their expensive branded counterparts,  but I’m also becoming less inclined to “wait” to spend money on things that I think will make a real difference.  


  1. Being able to see all the time (Roka/cheapies)

  2. Comfortable packs (USWE)

  3. More advanced training (and passive) metrics (Garmin Enduro 2)

  4. Contrast Therapy Sauna/cold plunge

  5. Biking Simplicity (makeshift bike pogies)

  6. Biking Simplicity (flat pedals)

  7. Biking Simplicity (infinity seat)

  8. Multi-function rain bottoms (rain skirt)

  9. Orienteering Practice (Orienteer.co)

  10.  Bike carrying capacity (Lolo 6 bike racks)

  11. Purpose built ultra-endurance fuel (4-hour fuel)

  12. Good Sleep (CBD Sleep gummies)

  13. Easy access to measured training (indoor run/bike/paddle) equipment




1:  Being able to see all the time.  

Prescription Roka Matador photochromic customized sunglasses ($385) 





I’m getting older. I have astigmatism. My Lasik surgery from 25 years ago no longer cuts it - especially at dawn or dusk or when I am sleep deprived and dehydrated.  So yeah - basically all of my expedition adventure racing my eyesight sucks. But no more.  The ROKA matador glasses that have been a staple on the elite cycling circuit for years are now even better.  They are now available in prescription photochromic lenses.  One pair to rule them all.  Crystal clear all through the night, dark in the bright sun and mild tint during cloudier days.  Favorite feature (as if I needed more to love) is that the colors are totally customizable when you order.  Yeah they cost a lot, but this is 100% my best single purchase of 2023.  Gamechanger.  And if the price tag is out our your reach, you can get budget photochromic prescriptions for around $65 at payneglasses.com.


2: Comfortable body hugging packs

USWE Ultra Hjaker ($189) and Pace 14 ($149) packs -

Use "ultra" at check out to get a %!




After 15 years of reviewing gear for GearJunkie.com I am pretty skeptical whenever I hear some new slogan that feels like marketing wank. USWE’s “No Dancing Monkey” claim sounded a bit like that, but their unique look and a recommendation of a local racer let me to taking another look at the unique harness system.  And then when our team spent hours racing alongside team USWE at the 2022 World Championships in Portugal, we heard of a new prototype ultradistance pack.  So we jumped, and committed to a partnership with USWE packs for 2023 season and they were wonderful.  Most comfortable higher volume (14 liters and 30 liters) packs I’ve ever used.  So many well thought out design pieces in their initial offerings to the race world - and a few notable misses - but moving into 2024 we still can’t find a pack we like to train or race in more.  Bonus - they are racers themselves, and are quick to make improvements and we know the next iteration (coming this season!) will have fixed nearly every shortcoming we found in the 2023 packs.  



3. Training Metrics

Garmin Enduro 2 watch ($999)

I wanted to hate this watch. I resisted. Old-school me grumbled as my teammates showed up to races with a new watch.  As the team’s primary coach I bristled every time one of them came to me with Garmin’s workout recommendations that appeared to be in direct contrast to my own plan. “Garmin says I’m over-reaching”.  Or worse, “my readiness is super high, I’m gonna skip my rest day and do another Zone 1000 workout!” But then my teammates kept winning these watches at the World Series Qualifiers and eventually one ended up on my wrist. I’ll admit, the fact that Garmin invested in creating an Adventure Race mode is pretty cool and being able to use the same watch I use training during a long event is sweet.  And now I love the watch - I just don’t let it coach me. Truthfully, it does a pretty good job as a coach if you stick primarily to one discipline and a pretty defined distance goal, but with the complexities of endurance multisport, I’ve had better luck primarily using the recovery, sleep and readiness metrics to augment our team plan. And damn, it is fun to race hard enough to see it report a readiness of 1/100 the morning after you finish a big event.  At least Garmin thinks I didn’t leave anything out there.


4. Contrast Therapy 

Redwood Panoramic Barrel Sauna and homemade cold plunge.  (from $4500)




This is one ritual I’d choose over coffee if I had to…but I am glad that I don’t.


I never really understood the allure of sauna sessions.  It is hot, sweaty and you are just sitting there. And most home saunas are tiny rooms sandwiched into the bathroom or bedroom corner. Claustrophobia, sweat and boredom - no thank you.


But then three things happened - I saw a picture of a panoramic barrel sauna (beautiful); my twin visited and was die-hard into his daily cold plunges; and articles on contrast therapy for athletes started popping up in my feed.  The mental, physical, and durability benefits were too legitimate to ignore. After all, as an aging ultra endurance athlete - I need all the help I can get.  


One of the great things about “big” purchases is the commitment (for me at least) that comes with them.  When I pay a big entry fee for an expedition race - you know I am gonna be prepared for it. Same with the sauna - it is a relatively expensive investment so that means I am committed to making it worth the expense. And so a ritual was born - daily contrast therapy sessions: 15 minutes in the heat, followed by 1-2 minutes in the cold tub conveniently positioned right next to the sauna.  Repeat 3 times - and yes that means you end on the cold.  The first week was hard but then it got easier. I find myself craving those cold moments, even when I have to break through the ice to slip into the frigid tub. Better recovery, less soreness, more alertness (damn right that cold wakes you up) and a heap more resilience.  It has been years since I felt this focused, relaxed and motivated. 


The Redwood Panoramic barrel sauna was easy to build from the complete kit, and is stunningly beautiful with both ends made of clear glass. I can sit and watch the snowfall in the forest outside, deer wandering through the meadow next to the house. Sure I’ll have to skip the week trip to visit expensive tourist hot springs in Iceland this year - but hey in my sauna/cold plunge I can be naked without wondering if it is allowed. And it never closes. My sunrise and midnight sessions are absolutely priceless. 



5,6,7.  Biking Simplicity 

Infinity Seat, DIY tyvek pogies, flat pedals


This year was transformative in the biking realm.  No more bike shorts, no more bike shoes, and no more cold hands if I forget my gloves and a cold front moves in.  And I can only take credit for one of these truly “bike-life” changing ideas myself.  The DIY ultralight pogies.  The Infinity Seat was recommended by AR luminary Jenn Segger, and the flat pedals were a push from both my twin brother and my teammate Daniel.  I lost this battle, but really I won.  More details below, but suffice it to say, I’ll never go back to the overly complicated idea of biking ever again.  It’s been a training, commuting, and adventure race gamechanger.




5. DIY Tyvek Pogies - boot covers ($10)

I’ll post an actual DIY sometime, but these cost about 10 bucks and have lived on my race bike for the last year.  They weigh nothing - so are clearly worth way more than their weight in gold.  I can stow them and deploy them on the go, and even without gloves they take the edge off enough to keep my fingers functional.  Add a tiny pair of liner gloves and i can comfortably bike year round! 


6. Flat pedals - Crank Bros Stamp 1 ($49)

Deep in our collective competitive cycling culture is an idea that clipless pedals (the ones you clip into with specific shoes ironically) are superior for athletes. But science does not support this claim outside a few specific parameters (most notably sprinting).  And the simplicity benefit to adventure racing with flats is huge - especially if you can convince your team to follow suit. Because no matter how you slice it as an adventure racer or bike-packer you will hike-a-bike.  You will bike-whack. And your trail shoes will make that way more fun, fast, and bearable. Transitions are a breeze (especially if you also eliminate bike shorts with an Infinity seat), shoe choices greater, and foot positions easier to change if you have persistent blisters from trekking sections.  And yeah - it feels weird at first. But if you train it, it will literally make no difference in your endurance riding performance to eschew those pesky clips.  With the money savings (over $500 for a top pedal/shoe combo) you can buy an Infinity seat. Favorite flat pedals at the moment?  The Crank Bros Stamp 1 pedal - under $50, 299g per pair, and two sizes to choose from (based on how big your shoes are) you can’t go wrong.


7. Infinity Seat - A1x seat ($387)\

Use "BendRacing" to get a good %!


Basically a magical hammock for you to sit “in” and pedal. I won’t try to explain it. It does take some getting used to and fiddling with to get the position right (the Infinity folks are great at helping you do that with online set-up support) - but I’ve logged 1000’s of miles now on this seat now without wearing bike shorts.  So much so that I’ve now invested in a seat for all three of my bikes including the one that sits on my trainer year round.  It is hard to describe how wonderful it is to bike in whatever I am wearing and be comfortable.  And let's be real - I also like the fact that I feel a little like Buzz Lightyear when I ride now - “TO INFINITY AND BEYOND”.  Not a bad mantra for a really long biking leg. 


8. Multi-function rain skirts

Rain Skirt ($25)

It’s becoming well known in the adventure racing world that I have a disdain for rain pants.  Not in general for walking around the city, but I just have found them next to useless in my 30 years of outdoor adventure. Shell pants have a place in certain skiing, ice climbing, and mountaineering environments, but for fast and light adventures (most of what I do now) I’ve learned to hate them.  Not a big deal really, as when I go on training missions these days they are left behind.  It’s just in these pesky adventure races that I keep doing - they (rain pants) always seem to show up on the mandatory gear list. So here is a short list of the reasons why I love my rain skirt.


  1. 100% waterproof and breathable by design (it is a skirt after all) without any PFAS 

  2. 2 seconds to put on, 1 second to take off

  3. Ground cloth

  4. Changing skirt

  5. Paddling poncho

  6. Only  around $25 so if you rip it bushwhacking no biggie, and it is super easy to repair

  7. Keeps the important bits protected (thighs and bits)

  8. Shake-dry feature

  9. Easier to role-play that you are William Wallace fighting for a free Scotland when you are sleep deprived

  10. Generally a bit see through so can be “camping lingerie” in a pinch



9. Orienteering Practice

Orienteer.co website and phone app (free)

Finding your way in the world strikes me as such an essential and historic part of humanity - an integral part of exploring is the ability to be lost and the skill to find yourself again. It feels as if the modern age of GPS technology has all but stripped us of the opportunity to develop the empowering skill of map and compass based navigation. Your phone’s app store is packed with thousands of competing apps all designed to digitally direct you from one location to the next.  But this same technology can be used to help you get lost too - and to make learning navigation easy and fun. Enter the Orienteer.co app. Designed by world class programmer and orienteer Daniel Staudigel (of Amazon’s Eco-Challenge: World’s Toughest Race fame), this phone and web based platform allows users to create courses and challenge themselves and others to run them without the use of GPS. With a native mapping and compass feature and three levels of difficulty it is designed to help beginners learn as well as for elite level navigators to practice and improve their craft for competition or expeditions.  Daniel is adding features all the time too - recently allowing users to team up and work together or compete against each other in live time. There is also a race feature that is essentially live tracking for events so that race directors can keep track of participants during a navigation based event.


The app has a lot of growth potential too, and Daniel is quick to fix bugs when they pop up.  The app itself is free to use, and a very cheap “PRO” membership helps support the developer and allows you to analyze your navigation mistakes via the app. 


But my favorite thing is that I can whip up a course quickly and test myself to navigate it literally on the run. Even if you don’t need navigation skills in your endurance sport of choice - it is pretty cool to use your brain and your body to create a true running “adventure”.






10. “Unlimited” bike carrying capacity


For years before kids and adventure racing, even a 4 bike rack seemed like overkill.  But now with 2 kids that have grown to need their own bikes and a neighborhood full of fellow adventure parents always looking for a quick ride it seems like there is always one bike too many to fit.  But no more.  The Lolo bike rack’s handlebar mount system allows us to carry and bike we have regardless of tire size (not so with many other vertical mount bike racks) so we could ostensibly carry all the neighborhood kid’s bikes (12”, 16”, 20” and 24”) as well as my wifes 29er and my fat bike.  What a great trip that would be!  This newer version of the lolo with the foot activated tilt system makes it easy access the back hatch of the vehicle even when fully loaded with bikes.  Rough roads - no problem.  The bikes are stable and safe even on the roughest roads - a necessity considering that the total value of the bikes attached is sometimes more than the vehicle doing the transporting - kids bikes are expensive these days!


11. Purposefully designed ultra-endurance nutrition


Full disclaimer - this is my product. I make it, I sell it, I love it. It is a bit weird explaining to people that we made a drink mix that you only really use for 3+ hour efforts. Sure it limits business sales when you tell consumers not to use it for shorter training or racing efforts - but no one ever accused me of good business sense.  As athletes though, we needed something specifically crafted for the demands of ultra endurance endeavors not only in nutritional content but also in flavor profile and caloric density.  4 hours worth of balanced palatable fuel in one single bike bottle?!?  Yep.  Now I can go for 12 hours with three bottles and a bit of extra water.  Bonus that the three main flavors (Lemon-aid, Banana Chocolate, and Berry) are yummy but subtle enough for prolonged flavor exposure.  And the time I save by not sorting through my snack drawer is a bonus. 





12. Good Sleep

Use "BendRacing20" to stack on top of another code or use "BendRacing40" to use as a solo code!



I know that sleep is the single most important factor (other than genetics) in both my athletic training and recovery and my day to day temperament, motivation, and happiness. It also should be one of the easiest to do and yet remains elusive.  I know I am not alone though. More than half my training clients admit to not getting enough sleep either. Despite knowing its importance, I’ve never been really effective at getting good sleep on a regular basis. I’ve tried melatonin, nighttime screen color shifts, meditation music, evening yoga, wine…all with some effect, but never maintainable. 


I even tried CBD for a while to aid sleep, as I’d discovered it during my recovery from hip surgery. It was great for pain, anxiety, inflammation, but only sometimes sleep.


And then, this year my go to brand of CBD, Mission Farms, released a special “sleep” gummy.  It claimed CBD, nano CBD, other “sleep” inducing cannabinoids like CBH, and the kicker - 2 mg of THC. Something about that formula with the microdose of THC was magic. Might not work for everyone, but damn I love my good sleep now. My mind relaxes and I drift off so much faster than before. Most nights I take only ½ - 1 gummy, but on nights when I am amped from a late night workout or stressed about an upcoming race, I can up the dose and drift off.  And I also love yummy gummy anything.  


13. Easy access to measured training 

Norditrack x22i incline trainer, Wahoo Kickr bike trainer, and Vasa Kayak Erg. 


The best investments I've ever made as an athlete involve either recovery or training ease. I never wanted to own a treadmill. Or a bike trainer. But now I can’t imagine not having them. The ease of access to every type of training (hills, flats, downhill, paddling) has lowered the obstacles involved in consistent training to near zero. Indoor training is fast (no driving or riding to trailheads), climate controlled (no weather excuses), and easy to measure metrics (less over or undertraining). Sure it can feel monotonous, but most modern machines have been gamified a bit - or you can always binge watch your favorite mindless show to make the miles fly by.  Furthermore, I’d warrant that time on the machine is worth double or more if done right. When I spent time training for a 1000 mile non-stop  paddling race, 99% of my training was indoors on the kayak erg, and my sessions never lasted more than an hour. My paddling partner did the same.  The results - a new world record. (your results may vary). Gyms are a great option if you don’t want to invest in the equipment, but as I said above in the Contrast Therapy section - investment = commitment. So why did I choose the equipment I did? 


Norditrack x22i ($3500) - This beast can create inclines of 40% and declines of 6%. That alone makes it unique and worth it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard a Florida athlete show up at a west coast race complaining about “not having hills” to train on. Bonus, the big screen with iFit enabled training allows you to run or hike with some inspiring athletes in amazing locations. Maybe someday they’ll have a legendary adventure racer (I’m available Norditrack) leading workouts too. 


Wahoo Kickr core (from $500) - Show me a competitive biker that doesn’t spend some serious time on the trainer, and I’ll show you a biker that is not living up to their podium potential. Direct drive trainers were once expensive, but the Kickr core comes in at around $500 and includes a 1 year membership to Zwift - so you can race others or ride famous races to keep your motivation high. Direct drive trainers allow you to connect your bike’s chain directly to a mounted cassette instead of riding on a roller. I love using my own bike (as opposed to something like Peleton trainer bike), and these newer generation of trainers are super quiet - so they’d work great for late night or early morning sessions where your loved ones are sleeping.  There are lots of great deals on direct drive smart trainers around as this tech is readily available now.


Kayak erg or Concept 2 rower ($990) - As an adventure racer, this was one of my best investments ever. Paddle training for non-paddle athletes almost always is an afterthought. And even if you are not ever racing a boat a paddling erg is great training for the core, arm and back - elements often overlooked completely in run and bike training.  On caveat, it pays to learn good technique here if you are hoping to translate things to outdoor racing. If you are not planning to ever race boats - consider a rowing erg like the Concept 2 instead for some great cross training. Note - Kayaking ergs are a bit hard to find in the USA, so if you find a used one, seriously consider snapping it up! 

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