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Posts Tagged ‘Ascending Athlete’

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

Ascending Athlete #6: Nate Furman

January 19th, 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.

Nate is his favorite place in the world- hanging mountainside.

Nate in his favorite place in the world- hanging mountainside.

Nate Furman

Adventure is a way of thinking and a state of mind. It’s about leaving your cell phone behind, loading up your pack and heading out in the wilderness for mental and physical challenges and an opportunity to connect with the outdoors and share those experiences with others. It’s also about keeping that magic connection alive and well in your everyday, “real” life upon your return from your adventure. Very few people have the opportunity to make adventure their life pursuit. Nate Furman is one of those people. Nate is a Professor at Green Mountain College in Vermont where he teaches outdoor education and actively pursues his own outdoor adventures. I met Nate through ASC, when he reached out to me to help him take his performance to the next level and to make some of his athletic goals a reality. Nate is one of those athletes you just sit back and say “wow” to what he’s accomplished already and what he hopes to do. From competitive mountain biker to hardcore climber to passionate educator who inspires others, Nate epitomizes adventure and what it means to be an Ascending Athlete.

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

Why are athletics important to you?

Because doing stuff outside is awesome!!!!! Athletics are one of the few things that combine challenge with bliss. I mean, my work is challenging but only rarely is it blissful. Visiting my family out in California is awesome, but as long as we don’t talk politics it’s not that challenging. Athletics, on the other hand, is right on the intersection of joy and challenge. It’s so much fun and it’s so hard. Athletics have been a place where I’ve been able to establish relationships, and maintain those relationships meaningfully. For me, the social circle gained through athletic participation has always been the most important social circle I’m involved in. It’s the place that inspires me to challenge myself.

In addition, the memories I have of athletics are etched into my brain so much deeper than other memories. I can barely remember the time I graduated college despite the pomp and circumstance. But I can easily recall any of the mountain bike races I’ve ever competed in; how I was feeling, what place I came in, who I competed with, etc.

So for me, getting the best out of life means getting after it through athletic pursuit…and probably not on a treadmill.

What sports do you participate in?
My favorite place on the planet is hanging from a hand jam, looking up at the sky and then the glacier below. I’m fairly addicted to rock climbing; mountaineering and ice climbing are pretty fun, too. The adventure and camaraderie that’s in it is just so much fun.

Climbing expeditions have taken me to Alaska, Peru, Canada, Greenland, Chile, Argentina, and now Vermont! Climbing is a great way to see the world; you get to meet people who are incredibly passionate and about the same thing that you are, and often become instant friends despite language barriers. I’ve climbed with Germans, Japanese, Brazilians, French, Swedes, Peruvians, Chileans, Argentineans, Indians, Thai, Nepalese, Australians, and some folks from a small island off the coast of Europe…I think they call themselves British. The opportunity to share stories (if we can communicate) or just each other’s company is a wonderful way to experience people from different cultures.

I dabble in a bunch of different sports. I was a fairly competent cyclist back-in-the-day, and still love to go for long rides with my wife, either on roads or trails. We participate in races from time to time, most recently the Hampshire 100. I tend to participate in activities that my friends like, so depending on the day and the partner, that might be skiing, running, or kayaking.

What is your major athletic goal(s)and/or events you are participating in this year (2010)? Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

I’m hoping to pass the AMGA Rock Guide Exam in Red Rocks this April. It’s a five day test where examiners assess your technical guiding abilities. I hope that I can get in good enough shape so that the physical challenge isn’t all that challenging.

I’m toying with the idea of doing a triathlon in the Fall. We’ll see what Gary thinks.

But mostly, what I really hope to accomplish, is to climb the Nose on El Capitan (VI, 5.10, C2) and the Regular Northwest Face route on Half Dome (VI, 5.10, C1) in a day in June of 2011. I love climbing long, classic routes, and enjoy doing them in a day. It’s so much fun stepping up to a long route with some water, some food, a rain jacket, climbing gear, and going for it.

I need to get a lot better to have a shot at this!

What are some future goals and events you’d like to participate in?
There are so many things that I want to see and travel to. Right now I’m dabbling with the idea of a ski tour across Greenland, and maybe a bike tour circumnavigating Iceland. I’ll be headed to Alaska in June and the Bugaboos in July, and can’t wait to get on some of the long granite routes that are up there.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

My relationship with my wife is blessed with time together being active. She loves to run and ski and bike, and she’ll tolerate a little climbing from time to time. The ability to have adventures with her is the highlight of my life. As I write this I’m in Salt Lake City and I can’t wait to get out to Vermont so we can go skiing together.

Nate thinking big

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

My career has always revolved around sharing the outdoors with others. I just completed my PhD at the University of Utah, and am now working as faculty at Green Mountain College. I get to continue sharing the outdoors with undergraduate students, as my job allows me the opportunity to teach future outdoor leaders in the Adventure Education program. It’s a beautiful career, and I’m blessed to have it.

And I have six toes on one foot!

Thanks to Nate for sharing his story and for inspiring others to improve their health & well-being while helping others in the process– he truly is an Ascending Athlete!

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

Ascending Athlete #4: Craig Austin

October 19th, 2009

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.

Craig Austin

Craig getting ready to shred some snow.

Craig getting ready to shred some snow.

One of the reasons why I love participating in sports is the social aspect and connection you share with others– it truly is a community. Nothing is more rewarding than sharing your adventures with close friends, family or just someone you met who you instantly have a social bond with due to the sheer fact that you’re both out there sweating it out and sharing an adventure. I’m reminded of this fact vividly when thinking about our next Ascending Athlete, Craig Austin. I met Craig through my social media connections (through fellow kiteboarding and Ascending Athlete, Jessica Valenzuela), and admire not only his love of multisport, but his ability to relish the social aspect of the sport and his enthusiasm in wanting to inspire others with his love of sport– a core quality of an Ascending Athlete.

Craig is a co-founder in a kiteboarding related global web property venture. (He’s currently in the very early stages of the process and is eager to share his venture with the world shortly once they are ready to do so). As an entrepreneur, he’s combining his love of adventure– specifically kiteboarding– with his every day pursuits in hopes of inspiring others to kiteboard and seek adventure.

Craig was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of his thoughts on what makes him an Ascending Athlete:

Tell us a little about yourself.

Athletics opens a new dimension to the word social. As much as most extreme outdoor sports can be individual there is a social dynamic among athletes and the spectators. The energy a sporting event can create whether it be a competitive program or social is incredible! I remember one of my first kiting sessions, in Tarifa – I’d just come in for a break, after having been beaten up by the waves, separated from my board, dunked under for what felt like hours at a time – and one of the Naish team riders came up and gave me a few words of encouragement. Something along the lines of: “don’t worry mate, we’ve all been there – but you were looking good (when you were up)”. Now in my mind I had definitely spent more time down than up, but I was inspired that someone that good had taken the time to come and talk to me.

Why are athletics important to you?

When I first heard the phrase “work hard, play harder” I figured that it was simply a marketing cliché – but it is so much more than that, the reward one feels for pushing ones boundaries is so much greater than simply sliding along in a comfort zone. This applies both to work and sport. After a long day in (any) office crashing out in front of the television leaves one feeling empty – however after that same day, if I get out for a couple hours of exercise, life is just so much better.
I have more energy; more focus, and I am definitely a whole lot more inspired.

What sports do you participate in?

I am obsessed with kitesurfing. I love snowboarding, wakeboarding, inline skating and cycling.

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

Getting good at Kitesurfing, with the goal of doing S-Bends (an advanced freestyle trick).

I started kitesurfing 2 years ago, and in my first year opportunity to kite was rather limited, largely due to my commitments to the London Duo skate team – the two of us signed up for the Le Mans 24-hour Inline Skating event. Six months of training six days a week… and it paid off, we achieved a podium finish. Through the course of the event we skated 140 laps in the 24 hours, and that worked out to be about 280km each!

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

Not sure if it counts as an event, but I have put together 3 week kitesurfing trip to Brazil, where we will be doing a 10-day downwinder, this is more kitesurfing for pleasure than a test of endurance. The general idea is to spend most of each day kiting, and working our way along the coast line. I’m also signed up to for a week of coaching in Taiba as part of this 3 week trip.

Snowkiting is set for the coming winter season, after a short 2nd summer in Cape Town.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

Great question, and one that I am very proud to answer.

Skating: About 10 years ago, I bought myself a set of Rollerblades, and figured it would be a laugh, and it was. A year later, I was still rather rubbish, and could barely make my way around Hyde Park – so I took a few lessons, and improved rapidly – and then went back for more advanced lessons, and found that I had already discovered most of what was being taught… two months later I was teaching for the skate school. My skating progressed from recreational to Speed Skating, and have done several skate marathons, including Berlin, Poznan and my favourite, the downhill race of Engadin.

Snowboarding: I first stood on a board in 2001, and had a very rough start – two of us were left pretty much to our own devices to figure out how best to fall down a mountain… but we stuck with it, and managed to get a few tips thrown in along the way. Major lesson learnt is how valuable a good instructor is for lessons [in any sport]. Since those early days I have gone on to coaching many friends on the slopes, and get deep satisfactions boarding with them now, knowing that I helped get them up and riding.

Craig slicing through the surf

Craig slicing through the surf

Kitesurfing: This year kitesurfing has found me, and as most involved in the sport soon discover, it takes over. Obsessed, Addicted, and thoroughly happy. It takes priority. Kitesurfers don’t know any commitment stringer than 15-knots! The question was how this affects those around me, well, the awesomeness of kitesurfing is contagious – and now several friends are often already at the beach when I “Go Coastal”.

Sport gives me access to the perfect balance of social engagement and personal achievement. It makes me smile, when I am able to inspire and influence a variety of people with my sports. In my opinion, athletics like music, food and wine should be part of everyone’s staple needs. It is a healthy source for a high!

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

I love to travel with / for my sports, and the dynamic friendships one can (and does) make when you meet people through some sporting activity are so much deeper. I firmly believe that like minded people make like minded choices, and so your personal choice of activity, sport, holiday, food will naturally assist with leading you to meet people that you are likely understand, and then of course more likely to get along with. Kitesurfing somehow manages to amplify this. A quick theory on that is the sport is very demanding, not so much physically, but requires a level of patience, persistence, determination, stubbornness, tolerance and overall willingness to have fun. I seem to have twisted around the question, as this definitely doesn’t make me unique – but somehow draws kitesurfers together.

When engaged in an activity that I love, my sports or geekery I have a fair ability to learn quickly, and then teach the same to others. Adapting my teaching approach to a student’s learning style is a trait I can confidently own up to. It is very rewarding to see a learner’s smile when it finally all “clicks.”

Thanks to Craig for demonstrating the importance of making athletics an everyday part of one’s life, his hard work and inspirational story– he truly is an Ascending Athlete!

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

Ascending Athlete #3: Jessica Valenzuela

October 5th, 2009
Jessica getting ready to rip it up on her kiteboard

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.

Jessica Valenzuela

Ascending Higher is a conversation on multisport, and few people define the word multisport better than Jessica Valenzuela. Whether it’s ripping it up on her kiteboard (something even I haven’t tried yet, but would like to!) or cruising on her bike, Jessica is a multisport force to be reckoned with. I met Jessica through social media: I would see these super-cool updates on Twitter and Facebook of how she just finished a day of kiteboarding, or just got back from shredding some new snow on her snowboard. Those would be followed by updates of other adventures in her life– whether it be with her digital advertising agency, her life in the Big Apple, or reaching out to help her people of her native land, The Philippines. From those updates, I knew she would definitely qualify as an Ascending Athlete.

Recently, the Philippines was devastated by Typoon Ketsana and Jessica is helping to raise money for relief through The Point: Project Phillippines. If you are interested in donating, please visit the Project Philippines website.

Jessica also is an entrepreneur and has a fascinating professional background. When not kiteboarding, snowboarding, hiking or actively pursuing extreme sport, Jessica is a digital advertising visionary with a flair for creating and marketing global brands. She founded, and now serves as chief principal of Mavin Digital, Inc., a fun, nimble NYC boutique specializing in inspirational digital branding. Built on a 12-year career with well-known agency powerhouses like Y&R Wunderman, Tribal DDB and OgilvyAction, Jessica understands how to deliver meaningful brands from creative concept to execution and measurement. More importantly, Jessica brings industry know-how and virtual tenacity together to lead brands successfully into the digital world including online go-to-market strategies, digital advertising and marketing communications, as well as overall brand messaging. She offers a mobile “spitfire” team customized to fit each client program; and has worked on a variety of creative projects and ongoing branding campaigns ranging in size and scale for Kaplan Inc., Schering-Plough Inc., Novartis, Pfizer, Chevron, Philips, Hewlett Packard, Forbes.com, Cantor Fitzgerald and Accenture. Personalities have also turned to her insightful digital approach including well-known pop star Gwen Stefani. Jessica takes brands beyond traditional marketing boundaries with ease, and strategically maps brand approach to audience and successful outcome. The result is digital branding on a dime. Mavin Digital. Jessica also keeps an ongoing blog, Mavin Digital Mashup and recently released a new corporate reel for the brand. Check it out!

Jessica was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

As a child, the great outdoors and athletics were very much part of growing up. I recall flying paper kites, climbing haystacks and running with my boy cousins in the rice fields. Yes, I was the only girl in a family of nephews and was very much a little tomboy with Beatles style hair and freckles. Unusual to have a Filipina with freckles, then again I am not your typical Filipina. On the weekends, my stepdad and uncles would take us to the forest for hikes and to hunt wild birds. Our backyard was a source for big adventure! I’d climb this big tree called “aratilles” and harvest the tiny and sweet juicy fruit by popping them in my mouth before descending. When I learned to ride my bike at age 9, and after my homework and chores, I’d be gone for long hours and return at sunset. Summer camps during my teen years in the mountain region of Baguio City meant I was sent away for weeks to ride horses, play tennis and basketball, as well as mountain bike with fellow summer campers.

I’m a cosmopolitan girl with a sports heart! Today, if I were presented with the choice of kiteboarding, snowboarding or a long bike ride versus a visit to the Hamptons and laying poolside, or shopping in Soho, I would likely still choose my sport. Like my work as an entrepreneur, my outdoor adventures are a top priority!

What sports do you participate in?

I’ve tried more organized sports including tennis and softball. None of which appealed to me for the long-term. Somehow, free-form outdoor sports with the opportunity to travel to new places and meet new people is my cup of tea.

Kiteboarding is a very new sport for me. I started in July, clocked in at least 15 days in the water, with five of those days in poor wind conditions for a beginner. Kiteboarding is the most difficult sport I have ever participated in, but also one of the most rewarding. The sport requires a lot from you, including knowledge of equipment, wind conditions and environment, as well as the focus, patience and practice, practice, practice. The valley of tears can be long and will seem never ending, yet it is the best feeling of fulfillment once you’ve gained the skills to perform the basic tasks and consistently repeat it, then progress to the next level. I still recall the moment I first got up and ride. It was beautiful! I owned that moment. It is almost like being an entrepreneur, you learn something new every day, and the reward is exhilarating. This is why I find the sport so attractive and appealing.

jess-mtns

I am entering my third season of snowboarding. I am a natural tropical person, yet somehow I love playing in the snow! It is such a magical element I can’t get enough of it when winter comes. I learned to ride in the East Coast mountains, which in itself is challenging due to icy conditions. I took at least five days of lessons and on my fifth day was taken at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain to ride down a green. It was the longest two hours of my life, falling on my behind, pushing up and lifting myself out of snow as I tried to connect on turns. It paid off! By riding with more advanced snowboarders, I pushed my boundaries and learned to ride double blacks in my first season. By my second season, I was riding moguls with confidence and ease. I also learned to weave in and out of trees. The most memorable ride last year was a hike up back of chair 9 in Breckenridge, Colorado. It gave me a taste of semi-backcountry with the winds howling and riding in deep, deep virgin powder felt like gliding across clouds.

Road biking is my city sport and when it works out logistically I bike to my appointments around Manhattan. I do love riding around Prospect Park for a few laps which could be from as little as 3 miles or 12 miles.

Last year, hiking was big on my list. I hiked Whiteface Mountain and a number of smaller yet challenging trails. It was my first biggest mountain to hike ever and was thrilled I had the opportunity to do it. I hope to hike a big mountain this fall while the leaves are changing, though my passion for kiteboarding seems to take precedence over my road biking and hiking adventure these days.

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

Kiteboarding is a sport that you can practice all year-round depending on how willing you are to travel for it. Consistency and building my confidence level handling a kite in high winds while riding the board is what I am aiming for right now. To advance, I need to work on transitions, going upwind and then hopefully have an opportunity to do a downwinder with my fellow kiter friends! Perhaps add a few jumps to the list. It all sounds simple on paper, but it is not especially since this is my first water sport. The most I did prior to kiteboarding was swim in a pool. So this is a pretty major step for me.

For snowboarding, this season, my goal is to ride backcountry and try a few new mountains including Jackson Hole and a few notables in the Rockies.

As far as events go, perhaps in my fourth season of snowboarding I would like to free ride for a charity. For kiteboarding, I have far bolder plans beyond participating in an event. With a partner and co-founder who is also a kiter, I hope to help launch a platform that will support the kiting movement and its community members. We’re at the very early stages of planning at the moment.

Why have you chosen this goal(s)?

I believe in giving back and sharing my passion to those who will take it to the next level and pay it forward. I find so much joy, freedom and blessing in being an entrepreneur and in my sports. I believe that investing my time to snowboard for a charity and to create a platform that supports the kiting movement will help influence women from any ethnic background, culture and age to push beyond their boundaries. There are no boundaries. The only limitations are the ones you set for yourself.

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

I’m working on that now, and currently I am considering the Mai Tai snowkite camp in Utah in February and the original Mai Tai camp in Maui in May. The camp is hosted by VC and kiter Bill Tai and professional kiteboarder, Susi Mai. Majority of the attendees are tech entrepreneurs from the San Francisco area, though the event is gaining momentum and recognition outside of the Bay Area.

What impact has your athletics had on the lives of others?

The passion I have for learning and indulging in my sports strengthens my tenacity as an entrepreneur. I am full of new ideas, creativity and drive. My sport interests teach me to be a consistent, strong finisher. This is an important lesson we all have to endure in any of the choices we make in our lives. When a mountain bend turns into an unexpected steep filled with moguls or when the kite all of a suddenly crashes in the deep water, you don’t give up. You take a deep breath, focus and carry on. Learn and have fun while doing so!

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

I think that my diverse ethnic background, cultural experiences, gender and age speaks volumes of my point of view and the recognition that everyone has potential regardless. Give people the opportunity to screw you, they will. Give people the opportunity to blossom, they will.

I am a strong independent woman who immigrated to the United States. I am of strong will, character and mind, and it’s what has carried me this far today. It is about finding the people who will appreciate and genuinely be there to support the change that you believe can happen.

I am a woman that doesn’t shy challenges, especially in a male dominated world of extreme sports. In fact, I am used to it since I led and am growing an organization that is predominantly supported by talented and creative men.

Thanks to Jessica for all her dedication, hard work and inspirational story– she truly is an Ascending Athlete!

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

Ascending Athlete #2: KK!

September 25th, 2009

kk-and-jimmy-climb-stratham-hill-5-09-023I’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.

KK!

Some people are just meant to inspire and make you laugh. Kristin K or KK (what she prefers to be called) is one of those people. I’ve known KK for a number of years, and most recently had the opportunity to work with her as one of my clients. I’ve helped her learn the freestyle and breaststrokes in swimming. She went from not knowing how to swim one length of the pool to being able to swim several hundred yards without a problem. Along the way, she’s proven to be a true inspiration. Despite her physical challenges (described below), KK has made being active an important part of her life and finds a way to overcome her challenges. You might say “perseverance” is her middle name. KK not only is an inspiration because of her own dedication to an active lifestyle, but also to her dedication to others, namely those who are fighting mental illness. KK works for the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, in Manchester, NH and is a true leader in fighting the disease. She and a group of her colleagues do the “Psychling for Mental Health” ride as part of the Seacoast Century Ride to raise money and benefit The Manchester Mental Health Foundation Endowment.

KK will be doing riding the event for the 3rd time. You can learn more about KK’s efforts and donate to The Manchester Mental Health Foundation Endowment by visiting the endowment website.

KK was kind enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:

Why are athletics important to you?

I’ve been involved in some form of organized sports or activities for as long as I can remember. I started in dancing when I was 3 or 4. My parents sent me to dancing school because I was a total klutz! I would trip over myself all the time, walk into walls, etc. After more than 10 years of competitive dance, I could dance like a champ, but was still as clumsy as ever. I also did gymnastics as a child and began team sports (field hockey, winter track and spring track) once I hit high school. At first I did these things purely for the fun and social/ team aspect of it. But as the years passed and I’ve had some pretty serious health issues, I have found that I participate in athletics more to prove to myself that I am resilient. There’s nothing I hate more than not being able to do something, or worse, someone telling me I can’t do something. That makes me want to do it more. There are some activities that I would like to do but it would be foolish for me to try due to the danger and possible adverse consequence of doing them. But there are many things I CAN do, and I love filling my time with these activities. I routinely bike, walk, weight train, kayak, and swim. One of my favorite quotes says that, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain”. That about says it all.

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 major athletic goal this year is a 75 mile charity bike ride in late September. I was never much of a biker until a few years ago when I suffered a serious back injury that resulted in significant nerve damage/weakness in my lower extremities. This makes it hard for me to walk any sort of distance. I love being outside and was frustrated by my lack of stamina for walking. That’s when I thought of biking.

I got myself a very ergonomic bike and have participated in this charity ride called “Psychling for Mental Health” for the last 4 years. I began with a 25 mile ride in year one, then proceeded to do 50, 63 and this year a 75 mile ride. Because of my back and leg troubles I can’t sit for as long as it takes me to ride this distance, so I will do it in 2 days. It is important to me to participate in this ride because it benefits the Mental Health Center where I work, and the money we raise goes to help people who have no way of paying for needed mental health services.

Are you riding in the name or memory of someone you know who is fighting mental illness?

I’m not riding for anyone in particular. I’m riding in honor of the many people whose lives are impacted by mental illness. Their strength amazes me. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with people who keep fighting to achieve recovery despite many physical and psychological barriers. I draw a lot of strength from the clients we serve and others who overcome disabilities and lead very fulfilling and productive lives. If they can do it, then so can I!

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

I would eventually love to be able to do the full 100 mile ride (Seacoast Century) with the rest of my “Psychling for Mental Health” team all in one day. I would also like to become a more proficient swimmer and hiker. Frankly I’m just happy to be able to stay active and find things I enjoy doing that are good for my health.

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

I’m not sure if it’s interesting, but I suppose it’s a bit unique that at the age of 17 I collapsed in the hallway at school (on the day of my junior prom!) from a cardiac event. Turns out that I have a congenital heart rhythm disorder called Long QT Syndrome. This is the type of disorder where you see perfectly healthy kids, often athletes, suddenly drop dead while playing sports. Luckily I made it through and now have an implanted pacemaker/ defibrillator. I do have some activity restrictions from this as well, but I have been able to make modifications and remain active to the extent that I am able.

Thanks to KK for all her dedication, hard work and inspirational story– she truly is an Ascending Athlete!

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