Great Adventures

(illlustrations by cathryn cunningham/Journal)

You might expect some of New Mexico’s high-profile personalities to have outrageous escapades on their adventure/fitness bucket lists, and a few of them do.

It’s no surprise that former governor and recent presidential candidate Gary Johnson, a lifelong daredevil, planned to celebrate his 60th birthday Jan. 1 on one of the world’s tallest mountains, in South America.

But others, including the fit and ferocious boxer Holly Holm, prefer to keep things a tad less adrenaline-inducing in their downtime.

In the spirit of a new year of high hopes and fresh starts, we find out what’s on tap for those known to dabble in fitness and adventure. May their wide-ranging plans and fitness philosophies spark ideas for quests of your own.

Gary Johnson: Climb Every Mountain

It’s hard to top Gary Johnson’s thirst for adventure. If he achieves success with his latest — climbing Aconcagua in the Andes mountain range of Argentina — it will mean that he’s conquered five of the world’s seven tallest summits. He checked Mount Everest off his list in 2003.

Even running for president as a Libertarian candidate didn’t slow him down much. He says he was able to stay fit, but it wasn’t “elite fitness.” That’s what he’s working his way back toward, in part by frequently bicycling some 90 miles between his homes in Santa Fe and Taos.

He embarked on the climbing trek to Argentina in mid-December with his fiancé, Kate Prusack; his son, Erik; Erik’s partner, Lauren Ziemba; and his daughter, Seah.

Johnson’s accomplishments include triathlons, mountain bike challenges and paragliding, to name a few. He keeps fit with snowboarding, skiing, hiking, running, swimming and long-distance and mountain biking.

Johnson set his sights on scaling the highest mountain on each of the seven continents after reading “The Seven Summits” by Dick Bass, Rick Ridgeway and Frank Wells, published in 1988.

“That was kind of an inspiration, the notion of seeing the world, and what a great way to see the world,” he says.

One thing Johnson won’t do again: Gas ballooning. Johnson flew with veteran pilot Richard Abruzzo for nine years. The two won the America’s Challenge twice as a team.

After Abruzzo died in 2010 while competing in the Gordon Bennett Cup, Johnson gave up the sport. “With Richard’s dying, I would have no intention of flying with anybody else,” he says.

Johnson says he doesn’t expect everyone to operate at the same level. “I have figured out that my life works really well if I’m as fit as I can possibly be,” he says. “Doing these things makes my whole life work.”

Mayor Richard J. Berry: Service Is the New Adventure

Albuquerque Mayor Richard J. Berry does not complain about his state of fitness when he says “the wheels are getting a little squeakier.

“I just turned 50. I’m not in bad shape, it’s just gotten to the point where so many things I’ve tried to do through my 40s — heavier squats and dead squats, things like that — my body is talking back,” he says.

As a result, he’s made some concessions: No more long runs, no more risky adventures. He had plenty of those when he was younger: “I’ve spent my share of time hanging off sides of cliffs. In college, I flew glider airplanes.”

Berry was a decathlete in college and spent four years training for the 1984 Olympic trials. “I didn’t make the trials, but I really enjoyed competing at that level,” he says. “I spent four years beating up my body pretty good.”

Now, Berry buys an annual city pool pass, bikes, tosses Kettle bells around, jogs and snowboards. He tries to focus more on friends and family.

His bucket list items “now have more to do with serving: the community, the state, the country,” Berry says. “I always try to think about being well balanced, instead of having one adrenaline rush after another.”

Holly Holm: The Girl Just Wants To Have Fun

Boxer Holly Holm has made it plain that she hates to lose in the ring, but when she’s outside it, she just wants to have fun.

“I like to snowboard and be in the mountains,” she says. “I wanted to try surfing, and I got to do that. I do want to skydive sometime.”

Though Holm says she loves to go snowboarding with her new husband, Jeff Kirkpatrick, the pair don’t always live on the edge. “We went paddle boarding when we were in Hawaii. We don’t necessarily seek danger adventure.”

Of course, what Holm calls “not too crazy” might strike others differently: She often takes a 13-mile mountain run with two friends and teammates that includes a six-mile, straight uphill start.

Her regular fitness regimen includes sparring, running, aerobics, mitt work, strength training, sprints or long runs, and teaching two aerobics classes each week. She encourages her students to make their workouts fun so they’ll stay motivated.

“You have a way bigger chance of making it to that run if someone’s already driving up there to meet you,” she says. “If it’s up to you alone, you’ll say, ‘I’ll do it next weekend,’ you’ll come up with reasons not to go. Just keep it regular; do it in a way that you can maintain so you don’t get burned out.”

Joe Diaz: Mixing It Up

Intensity is not the name of the game for KOAT-TV chief meteorologist Joe Diaz. “What I like is variety,” he says. “Swimming, biking and running offer some variety.”

Despite having completed several triathlons, a couple of Half Ironmans and the La Luz Trail run, Diaz doesn’t consider himself a “true blue athlete.”

“There are some people at those events, they run fast, bike fast and swim fast, and I’m not that. I’m not the fast guy. I’m just a guy trying to exercise.”

Diaz, 55, ramped up his routine at 40 but now does shorter runs, some weight training, a little bike riding or swimming. He also enjoys skiing.

In Elephant Man Triathlons at Elephant Butte Lake, Diaz says there may be fewer than 10 people in his age group, and he’ll finish “second from the bottom.”

With characteristic humor, Diaz says he might make a better showing as he gets older, and the number of competitors and their fitness levels drop.

“Now there are four or five guys in my group, and they’re all fat, and then eventually I’ll be the fat guy,” he says with a laugh. “How’s that for a goal?”

As for his bucket list, Diaz says he’s been skydiving once, so he can scratch that off. He might try another Half Ironman, but this time, one with an open-water swim. “

“It would be a challenge to swim in the open water. That sounds like fun.”

Yvonne Sanchez: She Has a Dream

Coaching a Division I women’s college basketball team is intense. Between practices, games, traveling, recruiting, appearances and more, there’s not much downtime.

So while UNM women’s head basketball coach Yvonne Sanchez likes an adventure as well as anyone, she’s certainly not on a continual hunt for an adrenaline rush.

“I’ve been bungee jumping, parachuting, snowboarding. But my No. 1 goal is going to Egypt and seeing the pyramids,” Sanchez says.

Sanchez, 45, says she’s been dreaming of that trip for at least 10 years.

“I probably watch the History Channel more than ESPN or Game Center,” she says. “I want to see the Sphinx, Israel and the Holy Lands. I grew up Catholic, and I would love to see that part of the world.”

During basketball season, it’s tough to balance work and play, she says. “You have to work hard, there’s no question. You can just consume your life with coaching. But if you don’t have balance, you’re in trouble.”

To clear her head and stay in shape, Sanchez goes to kickboxing classes every chance she gets. She takes her dogs for five-mile walks. She shoots around a bit on the basketball court. In spring, Sanchez hops on her bike. “I don’t like treadmills or trainers; I’ll just hook up my shoes and bike and get going,” she said.


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