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Archive for February, 2010

Stepping Away from “The Grind”: Skiing, Climbing & Family Fun

February 21st, 2010

The importance of taking a mental break from “the grind” (I always hated that expression since nothing in your life should feel like “a grind”, but use it since it illustrates the point well) shouldn’t be overlooked. Often times we get caught up on our every day routine– including our dedication to our training– that sometimes we forget to take a step back and spend some time doing other things. I always recommend making sure you build in quality active recovery into your training and your life. Active recovery doesn’t just mean giving your body a chance to recover, but also your mind. Giving yourself a mental break during the course of your training is absolutely critical in keeping you fresh and energized for continuing to build for future performance.

This past week, I took a bit of time away from my usual routine and spent a week in the White Mountains of New Hamsphire skate sking, downhill skiing and ice climbing with some friends I haven’t seen in a while and my family. In fact, the best part of the whole week was getting my 4 year old and 2 year old on skis (both nordic and alpine) for the first time — the big smiles they had on their faces the whole time was most rewarding to see as a dad (especially a dad who has high athletic hopes for his kids!). Here’s a funny video of my two year old, Marco, enjoying his first time ever on skis:

As I always like to tell my athlete’s: retain the playful outlook and ambition of a kid and you can do anything!

I did manage to get 4 days of skiing and 3 days of ice climbing in– a great way to vary up my training from the normal swim, bike, and running I do the rest of the time. Skate ski conditions were absolutely fantastic at Bretton Woods (it never seems to stop snowing there), but alpine conditions left a lot to be desired at Black Mountain (lack of snow and warm temps definitely took their toll).

The ice conditions, however, were fantastic. One day of ice was spent on Silver Cascade, a relatively easy 4-5 pitch alpine climb in Crawford Notch. Normally it’s not possible to climb the ice in Silver Cascade due to sheer volume of snow, but we hit the conditions just right with little snow, so we went for it. Here’s a glimpse of the start of the climb:

The rest of the week I reconnected with some ice climbing partners that I hadn’t seen in a while and got some steeper routes in. Cave Route in Frank’s Amphitheater was fat, so Frank Ferucci, Paul Segal and I jumped on that.

Gary on Cave Route

Gary on Cave Route

Finally, towards the end of the week, Paul and I hooked up with Laura Russo and Ed Medina (who I hadn’t climbed with since 2002 or so– hard to believe), both of whom were getting on ice for the first time of the season. Champney Falls (a large waterfall gorge off of New Hampshire’s famous Kancamagus Highway) seemed to be the best place to go to get their legs under them and to work on some more vertical ice to help build up strength. We had a great day climbing for several hours, ascending several hundred vertical feet of grade 4 to 4+ ice. Good news: Laura and Ed had a great time and I could feel myself getting stronger as the day progressed– all in all, my strongest day out for the season.
I’m looking forward to getting more skiing and climbing in as the waning days of the winter approach. Late February and March, with the longer days and deep frozen conditions, represent some of the best days of the winter to be out. Get out and climb, hike, ski or do whatever sport that you enjoy and that allows you to take a step back from your normal routine. You’ll feel re-energized and ready to continue to take your training to the next level.

Ascending Athlete #7: Marek L. Biestek

February 6th, 2010

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know. For more information about Ascend Sports Conditioning, visit our website.

Marek L. Biestek

Marek Biestek

Marek flying high

I met Marek L. Biestek through Jessica Valenzuela and the auspices of the social media networks. Marek is yet another great example of an Ascending Athlete taking his athletics to the next level through kiteboarding, as demonstrated through his kiting adventures and avid support for Just Kite It dot com, a content website and community dedicated to the kiting lifestyle, launched on January 13, 2010. Marek is also the General Manager and Principal of a startup hedgefund in New York City, MSMB Capital Management LLC.

Marek was kind enough to answer a few questions and help explain what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

Fitness has always been important to me since my mid-teens. I think everyone knows or at least accepts the fact that athletics has a positive impact on one’s life mentally, physically and emotionally. Getting a great workout in, whether it’s at the gym, or an outdoor individual/team sport is very rewarding at the end of the day. It helps you get a great night of sleep, feel better about the physical shape you are in and makes you feel successful in different ways than a career and money do. Some people are happy with a sedentary lifestyle, but I can’t comprehend how sitting in front of a television and snacking could be enjoyable when there is wind and snow to tend to outside. Staying athletic during your life will also extend your enjoyable life by many years, make you happier, and keep you on less on those pharmaceutical grade supplements your doctor might otherwise recommend.

What sports do you participate in?

I have been snowboarding for probably seven to eight years and kiteboarding for almost three. I was very much into mountain biking for at least a decade but less so in the past five years. I enjoy running and weightlifting at the gym when I can’t get out to something more active.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in for this year? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

My main goal for this year is progressing at kiteboarding to an expert level. I’d like to start to comfortably doing kiteloops and riding unhooked and doing unhooked tricks. I love the sport and would like to maximize my potential while doing it. It is easy to get complacent in terms of progression at any sport once you are over the learning curve. When you begin learning kiteboarding, you are forced to try to get up on the board and ride with many failures in between. Once you have acquired riding skills, the push to get to the next level doesn’t feel as pressing as you aren’t constantly failing. I sometimes have trouble with hesitation and taking things to the next level. Imperfect riding conditions in my area do not make it easy to progress, but they are a challenge rather than an impasse. My secondary goal is to begin training for a distance running event, beginning with a half marathon, eventually leading up to a full marathon within the next 1-2 years.

What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?

My future goal at some point is to complete and Ironman. It will take some great challenges in terms of training and time management but it will happen somehow. I intend to start small with some half-marathons, then marathons, triathlons, etc. Once I can complete a marathon in 3 hours I will continue to raise the stakes, and hopefully this happens within 3 years from now. If I happen to progress in kiteboarding much more rapidly than I think I can, I would love to enter some sort of amateur competition, perhaps something local.

Marek always seems to be flying!
Marek always seems to be flying!

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?When someone accuses me of not being able to sit still and it is in reference to sports, I take it as a compliment. The direct impact of my athletics on some of my friends has been their conversion into the same passions I share. I have never been a kiteboarding, or snowboarding instructor but I have mentored some of my friends when it comes to these sports. It is a nice feeling to be asked, “When are we going snowboarding (kiteboarding)?” after it was me who was the first to ask them “When will you try snowboarding (kiteboarding)?”

Sports have also had a positive impact in the people around me in terms of motivating them to be more active in their lives. Sometimes it’s not anything they may say, but small changes that you notice in the way they behave around you. It may be as simple as talking about it or actually enjoying a sport that they before did not really think was for them.

Name one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting

Ever since I was little I was a thinker and a problem solver (maybe more of a problem creator at first). I always was curious about figuring out how the world worked. For example, whenever I received any new toy as a child, instead of playing with it, I picked up a screwdriver and I took it apart to figure out how every little piece inside fit together to make the package work. My room looked like a five year old’s mechanics garage. Anything new and exciting grabbed my attention and still does to this day. For some reason when the automatic transmission failed in my car a few years ago, I refused to have a mechanic fix it and instead I got a hold of all the parts required for a manual transmission that I retrofitted into my car in 25 degree weather in the middle of the winter in my yard (which I eventually broke and I had to fix as well, luckily in the summer). I guess some people might think that is a little extreme (especially my neighbors with me making noise at 3am outside) but despite the cold weather, I found the challenge quite fun and a few weeks later one of my friends had me convert his transmission from automatic to manual.

Kiteboarding and snowboarding are an extension to me of my own curious personality to the partially adrenaline driven interest of pushing myself to the edge of what I can do. It’s about being in control and making a calculated bet on the next decision, whether it’s approaching a jump on the snow or kiting in 40 knot winds, knowing that majority of people out there would not be comfortable doing such things…outside of course…us kiters and snowboarders…

Thanks to Marek for his spirit of adventure and for sharing his story!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit www.ascendsportsconditioning.com