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The No-Gym, No-Detox Way to Start the New Year Right

Make New Year’s resolutions if you want. But there may be a better way to get the year headed in the direction you want. A few years ago, I realized that a much more fun thing to do at New Year’s was to look back.

So the friends I spent that evening with and I all pulled out paper and pens and wrote down our favorite moments of the year we’d just had. From race PRs to relationship milestones to touch choices and “seeing the Phillies with Daddy” (my friend’s 6-year-old), it was an amazing look at what a few real people managed to do, think, feel and have an impact on in 365 too-short days.

Don’t worry about doing it in the next 24 hours. In Japan, New Year’s is more a state of mind — about cleansing and preparing — than a moment. So focus less on doing this before the clock strikes 12. Just sit down with your friends and celebrate what all of you have done, experienced, and been inspired by. Cheers!

A New Twist on Giving 110%

Intense hurdlerAs if it wasn’t already cool enough to take a nice, tough indoor cycling class this morning from superfit female NFL player Jay Dantzler (she’s on the New York Sharks), she comes out with this:

“For things you have to do, give 110%

For things you want to do, give 150%”

And then she cranked it up. Ouch.

But no doubt about it: Committing to the effort it takes to make change was a great way to start the day.

What to do With Old Tubes and Wetsuits

If getting a flat isn’t enough of a drag, there’s the can’t-just-drop-in-the-recycling-bin innertube to deal with. But the clever folks at Green Guru take tubes that have outlived their purpose and recycle them into nifty items, like the pocket pouch I picked up at the Philly Bike Expo last weekend.

Recycled Innertube Zip Pouch

Recycled innertubes should keep the sweat off my iPhone

They weren’t the only ones recycling tubes into useful items, but they were the only exhibitors that day who showcased their solution to another recycling problem: What to do with your old wetsuit. While you can’t get your very own wetsuit recycled into a case specifically for you, you can donate your old suit at numerous locations in California and Colorado, and you may see it wrapped around someone else’s MacBook someday.

Recycled Wetsuit Laptop Case

Green Guru's recycled laptop case protects your computer and puts that pre-race neoprene smell (smells like anticipation!) at your fingertips

Kona 2011 Iron Dinner: Crowie and Chrissie Not the Only Winners

What’s the next-best thing to being in Kona for the Ironman World Championships? Having some triathlon friends over for an Iron Dinner while watching the live stream — an event that involves proper psyching and fueling. So here’s how the evening unfolded, thanks to the extraordinary cooking of Mr. J:

After getting their race numbers at the door, guests “racked” at the table accordingly, with place cards that held their number and mantra. At the head of the table? The live stream.

Ironman Kona Dinner Table

Macadamia nuts, papaya salad, and crabcakes set the stage for the Hawaiian-style meal to come.

But first up? Pre-race fuel:

Bananas with peanut butter and Gu
Those really are bananas with peanut butter, crowned with chocolate Gu.

What’s a race without a goodie bag?

Jess and Lisa with Goodie Bags

"Hello, TriPainRelief cream!," says bike racer Lisa. Jess unveils the Wheaties and TriSwim Body Wash and Lotion -- all of which was tied up with a chip strap, of course!

A tense moment as Amanda, Joe, Jess and Lisa root for Chrissie Wellington to make her move on the bike course.

Amanda, Joe, Jess, Lisa watching the live feedHow did we not get pictures of the main event? That would be Lamb Biryani, lentils, and whole grilled snapper with pineapple and mango salsa, followed by lemon sorbet with strawberries and strawberry Clif Shot Bloks and brownies. Oh, I know: No leftovers = no photos. Some evidence that it happened:

Jan shopping for Iron Dinner

Mr. J in Chinatown, picking out the papaya and mango that he'd carry home on his single speed

And Amanda and Joe look pretty happy with his cooking, as they await the final course.

Amanda and JoeIn the end, Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington weren’t the only winners. We might not be doing Kona, but some challenges feel that big. Thanks, friends, for all the support and fun on and off the course.

Best Bike Innovations: A Biased List

All this recent talk about Interbike, the UK’s Cycle Show, and who’s riding which uber-bike in Kona this weekend prompted me to review the best bike innovations I’ve seen.

But these are on a much more grass-roots level. The favorites:

bicycle with wine caseSpotted in Brooklyn (where else). Nothing niftier than carrying your cargo where wine used to be…

I heart my bike bike bell…except maybe declaring your love for your bicycle right out there in public. (Spotted in midtown.)

But my undisputed number-one bike innovation:

Dad's Easel on a BikeThat’s my dad’s easel-on-a-bike. He’d attach it to his handlebars, pull up to a scene that looked interesting, and get it down in paint.

Technically, it’s called a pochade box, and is an ingenious outdoor painting solution that 18th and 19th century artists used all the time. The hinged top becomes an easel and a place to hold wet paintings and the bottom has room for your supplies plus a thumb hole so you can stand and comfortably hold your traveling studio while you paint.

Even more ingenious is the way my dad hooked it up to his bike (hmmm…workout and paint-out at the same time. Is that where I learned to multitask?). Haven’t seen that in Brooklyn (yet)!

Got a great bike innovation? Talk about it below.

Bad Race? More Rescues from Torbjorn Sindballe

Feet RunningSo you’re in a race and you’re fighting hard, but you see your goals start slipping away. It’s over, right?

Not even close.

One of the most important things I learned when researching the story for this month’s Triathlete magazine, “Top 10 Rescues When Your Race (or Workout) Goes South,” is that you can almost always work back into your race.

Pro triathlete Torbjorn Sindballe, 3rd place winner in the Ironman World Championship in 2007 and chief performance officer at Advitam Sports explains that you can always find a sweet spot — even when things seem to be going wrong. How’s that? Here, he offers even more detail:

“I think the most important aspect is that you need to let go of pre-race expectations and time targets when things go south and create new goals based on your situation. If you get caught in a negative thought spiral when things deviate from the pre-race expectations, you have to let those expectations go before you can turn things around. So rather than being frustrated that you cannot run any faster, accept that you need to lower your goals, lower the pace a bit, regroup and possibly assess whether you need more or less fluid, energy, or electrolytes, and then build back into the race. Your body is extremely intelligent and can tell you where you are in balance if you let it. [See how it worked for one coach and athlete.]

“If you compare early race rhythm to the rhythm late in the race, it brings in a pacing aspect. Early in the race it is easy to find a sweet spot and it is important that things feel easy in the first half of bike and first half of the run. From then you will have to fight and adjust fluid, energy and pace by your feeling rather than will.

The final aspect is to gain perspective and apply a dynamic understanding of the race and believe that it is possible to build back. Sensations in a race are rarely absolute and can change over time if you make  the right choices. Often we need to accept the bad before we can move on to create a new positive mindset on the remainder of the race.”

Don’t have any more races to test this in? It works in workouts, too. Go and see where your mind and body can take you. Especially on a “bad” day.

True Story: Tough Day to (Almost) PR

Tibor-Nemes-Running

Tibor Nemes rescued his race with a paradoxical strategy that might work for you

One of the more paradoxical ways to reach your race goals is to let go of them or change them on the fly if they’re not working. Changing your race goal on the fly isn’t about giving yourself an excuse or an “out” to perform less well. It’s about letting go of what’s blocking you.

Tibor Nemes, coach at New York City’s Formula Tri Club (and former member of the Hungarian National Ski Team), knows that this approach takes guts and focus. And at this year’s Disney 70.3, he got some firsthand experience with it. Here’s how it played out for him at that race — and can work for you, too:

“Usually, my race goal is somewhat flexible, but I always try to do better than the last time around.  For this race, I had one goal: To break 5 hours. Prior to the race, I knew what I had to do. I have spent a lot of time on my bike and on run speed training and I’ve made some great improvements, but I was still very nervous about the run, as I’ve never been a good runner, especially in the heat.

“I have spent a lot of time on my bike and run speed training, made some great improvements, but I was still very nervous of the run as I have never been a good runner, especially in the heat.

“I pushed the bike leg hard, but felt good coming into T2. I didn’t feel that I had left it all on the bike. As I started running, I felt the usual tightness in my leg muscles and hips, but I wasn’t concerned; this happens all the time. As I started loosening up, I passed a lot of people. At mile 2 I was feeling great, very positive and was thinking that I would be able to match my standalone half-marathon best.

Then at mile 3, the course went into a grassy area. My first thought was ‘uh oh, I hope my allergies will be kind to me.’ And more negative thoughts started creeping in: Allergies, sun, heat, muscle tightness…this is not good! I began to feel dizzy and was slowing down. My legs felt OK, though—all this was going on in my head. I didn’t have nutrition or hydration issues, but I walked through each aid station and the 5-hour mark started to slip away.

When I looked at my watch again, I realized I had 4 miles to go with 4:30 on the race clock. In training, I had run 4 miles in 30 minutes a million times. But I was currently averaging more than 9-minute miles.

So I gave up on my goal of breaking 5 hours and decided I just wanted to run the rest of the course continuously, however slow my pace was. I focused on my form—hands in front and relaxed, elbows back, shoulders square leaning forward. In my mind, I saw the perfect runner. And my pace kept increasing. With 2 miles left, I was feeling good again. My legs actually wanted to go faster! As I passed the last aid station, a pretty fast runner went by me. He was in my age group and I decided to get behind him and see what would happen. I not only kept up, running sub-7 minutes for the last mile, but I outsprinted him to the finish line. And finished 90 seconds away from my goal time.

“I was disappointed to have fallen short by such a narrow margin, but realized that as soon as I resigned myself to the fact that my goal was not going to be met and started to concentrate on my form and not pace or time, I immediately got a lot faster and felt a lot better. The fact that I felt almost fully recovered just three days after the race also proved that I had a lot more in the tank.

“I let my mind find excuses to stop running, and I let the 5-hour mark become an obstacle. My mind built a brick wall for me by placing a specific time as my goal. Knowing that for me, a time limit results in an extra burden, I won’t set that as a goal next time. I may even run without a watch.”

Well, it worked! At his next race, he not only crushed his fears, but went sub-5 and crushed his previous PR.

Next time you’re in a tough situation, ask yourself if there’s something you need to let go of. By dropping it, you may get what you wanted in the first place.

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