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March 2017
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Stepping Away from “The Grind”: Skiing, Climbing & Family Fun

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.

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