About Dan Mirsky
Dan Mirsky is an understated crusher. I’ve been watching him gracefully take down rock climbs in Rifle for as long as I’ve been climbing there. Last year we witnessed his fitness (literally) in The Red when we were next door neighbors at Lago Linda’s. And then a few months later he was kind enough to show us around The Cathedral/Wailing Wall, giving Seth and me encyclopedic beta on the entire crag from the ground. He chucked a couple laps on Golden (14b) that day right after sending Route of All Evil (14a) in the Virgin River Gorge that morning.
Mirsky is PSYCHED to climb and psyched to see others succeed. He’s a bright-eyed, happy, almost boyish guy with a sneaky sense of humor and a willingness to get a little crazy with friends. He knows everything about the places he climbs because he’s obsessed with all things climbing. He’s sent 30+ 5.14’s up to 5.14c, having taken down Carry the Fire (14c), 50 Words for Pump (14b), Bad Girls Club (14c), Lungfish (14b), and lots of other hard stuff, including an FA of Solid Gold (14c), the direct line to Golden (read his “The Day I Sent Solid Gold” from EveningSends.com).
He lives part time on the road and part time at his house in Carbondale. He dates my good friend and fellow TrainingBeta worker bee, Katy Dannenberg (you may have noticed her posting a bunch of awesome stuff on our Facebook page recently?), and together they are the hardest training couple I’ve ever known. If they’re not climbing, they’re doing CrossFit workouts outside of the Airstream, running half marathons, doing yoga, or hangboarding on their portable A-frame hangboard.
So how does Dan Mirsky do it? He doesn’t even live in a city with a climbing gym and yet he’s consistently killing it. He’ll tell you all about it in the interview.
What We Talked About
- How he financially manages to live on the road for most of the year
- How he stays strong on long trips to the Red or other areas
- What he thinks doing cardio has done for his climbing
- How he stays super ripped and lean without starving himself (he eats – I’ve seen it myself)
- The wise advice he gave me about projecting
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Intro and outro song: Yesterday by Build Buildings
Neely Quinn: Welcome to the TrainingBeta podcast where I ask trainers and climbers how we can get a little better at our favorite sport. I’m your host, Neely Quinn. I’m a climber, a nutritionist, and I run www.trainingbeta.com and I am talking to you today from a gloomy Boulder, Colorado, where we have made it our residence for a while. We were on the road for about a year and then I tore my labrum in my shoulder, which I know a lot of you have done as well, so I’m just healing up here in Boulder and working a lot, trying to distract myself from the climbing that I would rather be doing.
I want to say, “Thanks,” to all of the people who have been sending their condolences and their support and encouragement and advice about the torn labrum that I have. It’s been really encouraging and nice to talk to people about their experiences with it. I wanted to tell you that if I do end up going through with surgery, I’m going to hopefully do a video log about that so people can see what it’s like to go through the healing process. I’ve been trying to find something like that on Youtube and the prospects of surgery are a little daunting.
But anyway, today I am on episode 11 and we’re talking with Dan Mirsky, who is a friend of mine. He’s also dating Katy Dannenberg who, you may have noticed on Facebook, is doing all of our – well, not all of but a lot of our posting. She’s super psyched on climbing, she’s a strong climber, a strong runner, she’s just psyched in general. She’s a good friend and I hope you’ve been liking what she’s been putting out.
But back to Dan. Dan is an inspirational climber. He lives on the road for a lot of the year every year and he stays super strong somehow. He’s a consistent .14c climber and part of what we talk about in the interview is how he stays so strong, even when he’s on the road, and how he manages to live on the road financially because I know that a lot of people are curious about that kind of thing, too. We talk about his great advice to me about projecting. He’s got a really cool philosophy on it and some words of wisdom in there. I hope you like this interview.
Before we get to it, I’m just going to tell you that we make this podcast possible by having our training programs up for sale on the site. There are four of them right now. One is our power endurance program by Kris Peters. The second is our endurance program by Kris Hampton. The third is our nutrition program by Acacia Young, and the fourth is, of course, Steve Bechtel’s strength training program which people seem to love. Well, people seem to like all of the programs and I hope that you can check them out.
We’re also hard at work getting our bouldering subscription program out where you’ll get three new workouts every week. It’s by Kris Peters. It’s all about strength and power and just getting you to be at a higher level of bouldering in general. That will be out in the next couple of weeks, hopefully, and I’m just going to jump right into this interview with Dan. I hope you love it.
Neely Quinn: Okay. Hey Dan.
Dan Mirsky: How’s it going, Neely?
Neely Quinn: It’s going great. Thanks for talking to me today.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. Psyched to sit down and finally do this. We’ve talked about it for awhile now.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, we’ve talked about it since, like, January. It is August, so we have been busy people since then and I want to talk to you a lot about living on the road, how you train, how you stay so strong, and just your general outlook on climbing because I just think it’s really unique.
So, first of all, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell everybody who you are?
Dan Mirsky: I’m Dan Mirsky. I’m 32 years old, almost. Well, not quite. August 10th so my birthday is coming right up. I live here in Carbondale, Colorado, out on the western slope where I do spend about half my year and I try to spend the other half of my year living in my Airstream trailer with my lovely girlfriend, Katy Dannenberg.
When I’m here in Carbondale I work in the restaurant industry and spend lots of my time climbing in Rifle, which I probably consider my home-away-from-all-other-homes. I’ve been climbing/I’ve been going at it hard for about, let’s see, 13 years now. Yeah.
Neely Quinn: Cool, so it started when we were 19, huh?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, yeah, exactly. My freshman year at Colorado College, which is what I see as the beginning of what I see as my personal climbing life but that wasn’t my first rock climbing experience, though.
Neely Quinn: Oh yeah?
Dan Mirsky: Actually, my mom was a rock climber when I grew up in New Paltz.
Neely Quinn: Oh cool.
Dan Mirsky: And she was just out here visiting me. She still lives there and she reminded me that when I was, like, six years old or something like that she put me in the after school program at the local climbing school in New Paltz called The Inner Wall, which is an amazing place. If you’re ever in New Paltz you should visit. I took to it really well and I think I led in the gym when I was seven on this big overhang thing that they had called The Wave. I don’t know why I kind of forgot about that but I was just much more interested in playing all sorts of team sports when I was growing up so I never took to it myself – climbing – until I rediscovered it when I got to Colorado College, essentially.
Neely Quinn: Then did you start climbing in Colorado Springs or something?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. I basically knew getting to CC that I was going to get into climbing. I had just done a NOLS course and I had a climbing section and was really psyched, and as soon as I got to CC I was surrounded by all these people my age who were already into rock climbing. We started going out to the Garden of the Gods and then quickly Shelf Road became sort of the place that we went all of the time. That was about an hour/hour and a half from CC so we would just go down there literally after class or every weekend and kind of just started from there.
Neely Quinn: Nice. So I met you for the first time in Rifle, I believe. Before I met you I watched you, stalked you, as a Rifle climber myself. Everybody knows that you’re a strong Rifle climber and I would love to know how you went from a beginner at Shelf Road to climbing .14c in Rifle and putting up stuff all over the country and crushing. Take us through your evolution.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. So, let’s see. I definitely would look at my climbing life and consider a few different sections that would be sort of the Colorado College years, which was a lot of just going out and climbing, you know? I started at 5.10, essentially, and in the first four years of my climbing life, by the time I graduated CC I had done a few 5.13a rock climbs, including The Example, which I was very proud of. It’s the crown jewel of Shelf Road.
I never was putting energy to it in an organized or constructive way. It was just going out and climbing to try to get stronger at rock climbing but by the time I graduated at CC, I was pretty sure that I really wanted to spend at least the next little part of my life really seeing how far I could take rock climbing. I wound up moving to Rifle in 2005, that summer, with three of my buddies I had just graduated with.
I still look back at that summer as a big time of transformation with me for my climbing. I think I was ready to get a lot stronger and then leaving the college atmosphere, partying and all of those bad things that you do in college all the time, and sort of switching that towards a more healthy rock climbing-focused lifestyle led to a lot of improvement that summer. I went from having done .13a to having done .13c in the course of a couple months.
The other thing that happened that summer is I started developing relationships with more experienced climbers, people like Bill Ramsey, Lee Sheftel, Maurie Waugh, people who had spent a lot of time in Rifle and really had an understanding of what it takes to project hard in order to achieve climbing hard. Not necessarily how they got strong as climbers but sort of the mental side of projecting rock climbs.
Neely Quinn: Right.
Dan Mirsky: Just in learning how to do that – I think I had a lot of strength already but gaining that technique led me to start entering that next level of trying and being able to successfully redpoint harder rock climbs.
Neely Quinn: Can you talk a little bit about what you learned?
Dan Mirsky: Definitely. A lot of what I learned from those guys was, and this is particularly relevant in Rifle but it’s the kind of skills that I take with me everywhere that I go, but as we all know Rifle is a very beta-intensive rock climbing area. I learned a lot from them about taking the time to learn how to climb the route properly before you just start throwing yourself at it and trying to climb to the top and just get pumped out of your mind and fall off at the same spot over and over again.
Techniques that those guys showed me were things like overlapping, so if you identify a point that you get stuck at on the route, instead of just hanging there on the end of the rope until you’re not pumped and pulling back on at the exact move that you fell off and climbing to the top, you go down to a few moves before that and you climb through that move and you climb to the top. Then, if you can work that low point back down to a good rest, for example, then you start having this confidence that if you get to this rest, you know you can climb it from there to the top because you’ve already done it.
Those sorts of tactics, I think, were really important in learning how to tackle what seemed like these insurmountable, difficult rock climbs with just so many hard moves all over them. You know, learning how to break them down into sections, learning how to master different sections, and then link those sections together with building blocks with getting towards approaching doing the whole thing.
Then, one of the big ones is just always wherever your redpoint crux is, you make sure that the first time you do it you know exactly how to climb to the top from there. I just remember those guys telling me that over and over again. ‘You get past that one spot, go to the top. You don’t blow it at the anchors.’ Just learning how to approach things that way, I think, initially was a big progression. It led to a big progression for me.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s definitely one of the things that you’re known for, that I know you for doing. Seth was working on Waka Flocka and you were on Waka Flocka Flame, I think. Isn’t that what was happening?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, yeah, which I then sort of turned into Carry the Fire and went all the way to the top of the whole Project Wall.
Neely Quinn: Right, and I think at one point you were like, ‘I think I’ve done it from the first bolt to the top.’ We were like, ‘What the what?’ I think you had done it several times from the first bolt to the top.
Dan Mirsky: Maybe not the first. Let’s call it the third so it sounds less pathetic.
Neely Quinn: Oh, that’s better. [laughs] Yeah, I think it takes a lot of patience and tenacity to do that because I know it’s hard for me when I fall off a crux to say, “Okay, let me down two bolts, or one bolt, I’m going to try it from there.” I just want to do the crux so that I have it in my head that I can do it but you go a step further.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, because if you think about it analytically, I’m never going to, unless the crux is the first moves of the rock climb from the ground, you’ll never be approaching the crux with the feeling of being totally fresh. You’re always going to be fatigued, so why? Someone along the way told me that it’s not that practice makes perfect, it’s perfect practice makes perfect. You have to practice it in the way that it’s actually going to happen when you’re sending. That’s sort of where that technique comes from.
It’s demoralizing, too. You have to really put your ego aside when you’re willing to do that kind of projecting because you might find out that not only can I not do this from the ground, but I can’t do it from five moves before it. That’s sort of like, ‘Oh, shoot. I’m not as close as I thought I was.’
Neely Quinn: [laughs] That’s some really good information.
Dan Mirsky: It’s totally relevant information because then you’re like, ‘Okay, that’s where it’s at and now I’ve got to work from here to improve that so I can do it from the ground.’
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I want to get to how you train, because I’m sure at some points you’ve been like, ‘Okay, I can’t do this 10 moves before the crux, through the crux, to the end, so I need to gain some power endurance or something,’ and I want to talk about how you train but before that, I really want to talk about your ability and willingness to throw yourself at a route over and over. I have had conversations with you where I was working, I think it was on – whatever. I was on a route and I had probably been on it 20 times.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Maybe it was Tomb Raider?
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s not Tomb Raider. Yeah, it’s Tomb Raider. I always forget the name of my nemesis project because I think [unclear].
Dan Mirsky: I think I remember this conversation. We were standing at the Project Wall and you were like…
Neely Quinn: You were like, ‘That’s nothing. What are you talking about?’ [laughs]
Dan Mirsky: I think it also comes from the era that I started rock climbing in Rifle. I remember people, and I don’t say this about people to say that they’re not good rock climbers and they only do these routes because they were willing to try them hundreds of times, and it’s not that I look down at people who will two-try routes a lot of times because I’m one of those people. I think it’s impressive. I think it shows fortitude and work ethic and I think those are noble and important traits as a rock climber, especially as a hard sport climber.
I remember people like Nathaniel Walker. He’s someone who doesn’t really climb at Rifle anymore. He would track each try. I actually let go of counting number of tries once it gets above, like, five because at that point, to me, it took some number of tries. He was one of these people who literally just kept this climbing diary and he would be like, ‘Oh yeah, Zulu took me,’ and this is totally just a shot in the dark, this is not actually the number of tries, but it was something like, ‘197 tries.’
Neely Quinn: Oh my god.
Dan Mirsky: To do Zulu, you know? [laughs] It’s like, ‘Oh, okay. That’s a lot of tries.’ 20 is not a lot of tries.
Neely Quinn: Right, yeah. That’s what you said to me and it really did put it into perspective and I know that other people and other pros, whoever, they don’t let their ego crush them at attempt 10 like I have a tendency of doing. I want to be stronger but I’m just not the person who’s going to climb 5.13b in two tries or c in 10 tries.
Dan Mirsky: Maybe not right now, but maybe someday.
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Dan Mirsky: Likely.
Neely Quinn: But anyway, I just think that there’s a lot to be said about what goes through your head when you’re saying it doesn’t matter, you know? ‘I can try this again. I want to try this again.’ How do you get through that?
Dan Mirsky: I guess there’s a couple things at play for me. One, I’m very stubborn. If I find something I can’t do, that just makes me want to do it more. It’s so far never really gotten to the point where that has gone past that where it’s like, ‘I don’t actually want to do this anymore because I don’t think I can.’ I just keep trying because if something beats me down, it makes me want to try that much harder to succeed. I guess that’s just – I don’t know where that comes from. My parents or my upbringing or it’s just sort of in my fabric as a person.
The other component of that, which I’m just blanking out for a second – hold on – is my motivation with why I pick the routes that I pick. It’s not just for the next number or for just, ‘Alright, what’s another .14b that I could do here?’ Or, ‘Now it’s time to try something harder.’ I really pick rock climbs that are inspiring to me in some way. Part of what’s inspiring is how challenging they are to me. It’s that that really drives me. It’s this desire to climb this piece of rock that I think is really cool or inspirational for some reason and it carries me through. It has so far, anyway.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, like Golden Direct. Is that what it’s called?
Dan Mirsky: Solid Gold.
Neely Quinn: Solid Gold, sorry.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, that’s a perfect example. I went to the Cathedral to return to Golden. I had been on the route previous seasons. I had put in at least one pretty darn good campaign. I came back and it was right when Katy and I were starting to live on the road together and it was just like, ‘We’re going to Cathedral and I’ve got to do this route because it’s so awesome.’
The first day we walked up I saw that these other bolts existed and that this straight line from the bottom to the top with no resting and these holds existed and was possible. I knew right then that I was going to have to try it and I was going to have to do it, even when I was just trying Golden. I already knew I was going to have to do Solid Gold.
It took a lot of extra effort, for sure. I probably could have done Golden maybe months [laughs] sooner but how much more satisfied am I that I did Solid Gold? A lot. That’s probably still my proudest achievement in climbing.
Neely Quinn: I was going to ask you about that. Did you ever do Golden itself?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, I did, actually. It was pretty cool because Katy and I spent a little more time at the Cathedral after I sent Solid Gold because in a relationship it’s not just my project that’s important. Katy was still working on a route up there so we were still going up there. I was kind of starting to sit there in the Cathedral cave and try to pick out other ways I could connect other dots and make up new rock climbs and I kind of – I say this not to brag, but I’m just proud of it – did Golden as a warm-up one day. That was really cool for me because that had previously been, literally, beyond my ability and strength as a rock climber.
Neely Quinn: So, just for everybody who doesn’t know what Golden and all of them are – because Seth and I spent some time at the Cathedral this spring, too – Golden is a .14b where it starts, what is it, a .13a that it starts on?
Dan Mirsky: .13a.
Neely Quinn: It starts on it and you sit in a hole and Seth would sit there for 10 minutes and rest. He would basically use that .13a as a warm-up, too, and then you go out and do this beautiful headwall that makes the climb .14b.
Dan Mirsky: And it is unbelievable. I call the crux my favorite section of rock climbing in the United States that I’ve encountered so far.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, the crux punts people off all the time. So then, what Dan did is just remove that hole. I think he went left instead of right into the hole and so he avoided that rest, which I think is really impressive.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, and it’s really more of just going straight up. When you look at it it’s not like, ‘Oh, you just avoided it,’ it’s more you just sort of stay on this main, steep placard of the wall the whole time versus diving off to the right and then going into the hole. Or, there’s another start that comes in from the left so that was what was so simple and pure about it. I didn’t have to do anything to avoid, all I had to do was just climb direct.
Neely Quinn: Right. Another thing to note about both of your experiences in the Cathedral is that you guys were there when it was balls cold. I can’t even believe the temperatures that you withstood because it’s also extremely windy up there. I think that Katy would have done that rock climb in two tries if it had been warm. [laughs] It’s just this crimpy thing and when you’re cold you can’t feel your fingers. It’s something to be said about both of you, though, that you guys have this drive that not many people do. You’re willing to suffer for a very long time.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. I think I was sort of alluding to that as the fabric of my person. I think it’s gotten/I’m not sure if better or worse is the right way to describe it since I’ve been in a relationship with Katy Dannenberg, who is just more motivated and more driven than I could ever be. I don’t know. We just feed off each other and it’s awesome.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it’s something else, that’s for sure. I’ve had many conversations with mutual friends about that. Like, Jonathan and I are like, ‘What are they doing? It’s November and they’re in the Cathedral,’ or whatever.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, or, ‘What are they doing? Why are they running 10 miles and think they’re going to try hard rock climbs tomorrow?’
Neely Quinn: Exactly, yeah. Okay, so let’s talk about training. We lived at the Red at the same time this fall and you guys – I know that you guys were running and Katy, at least, was doing these workouts outside of the Airstream. Tell us about how you train when you’re on the road.
Dan Mirsky: So, I’ve spent enough time on the road to know that there are a couple pitfalls that I see people who are on their first road trip, or maybe even their tenth road trip fall into, which is this desire to climb as much as you possibly can everyday because you’re on a road trip. I have sort of developed this approach of actually climbing a little bit less each day when I’m living on the road because I know that there is so much climbing in my future. I always describe this to Katy as trying to stay out of a hole.
You can literally dig yourself into a hole of fatigue that takes so long to come back from that you need to, all of a sudden, even though you’re living in your trailer in the middle of Kentucky, only going rock climbing, you need to not go rock climbing five days to actually rest and recover.
My approach on the road is actually a little bit less is more. I’ll have plenty of days where I’ll go out, warm-up, try a project a couple times, and then one thing I really like to do with my climbing, whether I’m on the road or at home in Rifle, is to do other moves besides my warm-ups and just trying my project. I think that’s really important for staying fit and staying in shape, and just having mental confidence with your climbing. I will go back and repeat routes, more so in Rifle than I would in Kentucky, but I do that in Rifle all the time. If you ever see me out there you probably think I only climb the same six rock climbs.
In the Red I would just dial it back a ways and go do a new, anywhere from .13c to .12c after I finished projecting. Just have little things going on the side but I definitely try to rest a little bit more. I’m not so much outside of the trailer doing a bunch of workouts, and for me running is something a little bit different. I think it’s relevant to rock climbing but it’s also just a time and a space for me mentally that is kind of relaxing. It’s like meditation in a different way. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: What kinds of training do you do outside of climbing? I mean, it totally makes sense that you would climb a little bit less but I know that you guys have some tripod setup or a hangboard.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, we have a mobile hangboard setup which Tom Lindner built for me when we were in the Cathedral that year. It is basically a tripod that is freestanding metal rods that we can set up and then hang our hangboard off of. I would sort of use that – basically, there will be times on the road where I feel like I’m losing a little bit of power. We’ve all experienced that. You’re just climbing and trying your project and you kind of can climb your way out of shape a little bit or you don’t have the same power workout that you do with a productive, focused, hangboard session or an indoor bouldering session.
I kind of just try to listen and keep a gauge on my climbing. If I feel like my power is waning then Katy and I will start doing hangboard workouts but not what I consider a full on hangboard workout. I will do it after climbing, before going into a resting period. Maybe I’ll just knock off early a little bit that day, come back, and do the hangboard for a little bit and have a proper rest after that. I always think it’s really important to rest after hangboarding.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. How many days will you rest?
Dan Mirsky: One. [laughs]
Neely Quinn: A good long rest.
Dan Mirsky: Sometimes two. When we live on the road I definitely try to climb two days on and rest a day. For me, that’s a pretty sustainable schedule but then I’ll take two days off every now and again, and then life will throw something at you like bad weather or traveling and you’ll take more days off, but that’s really kind of my program.
Neely Quinn: That was funny when we were next door neighbors with you guys at Linda’s and our schedules were so different. We would climb one day on, one day off, one day on and then you guys would be like three days on. Katy sent on her fourth day on one day. We were like, ‘How do these people do this?’ and you guys would run past us on a 10-mile run.
Talk about cardio a little bit. What do you feel is so important about doing cardio for you?
Dan Mirsky: There’s the one thing I just alluded at before, which is it’s, and a lot of this, too, like what you were saying about the kind of people Katy and I are – I think it’s important for me to say that I don’t drag myself out of bed in the morning with some pre-written out schedule that says I have to run six and a half miles today, you know? I get up and go running here, especially, in Carbondale because I live in such a beautiful place and I really just like going and running through the woods. It’s enjoyable to me. That’s a big part of it is just keeping yourself happy and doing what it takes to do that.
For me, having a physical outlet that’s not as goal-oriented, like I don’t really care if I run slow or fast, if I feel good on a given day I run fast but if I feel bad I run slow. It’s nice to have that. I don’t judge. I’m judging my climbing all the time because I want to improve so there’s that component of running for me, what that does for me in some mental, emotional health kind of thing.
Then, I also definitely believe that having at least some cardio fitness helps me so that, especially with sport climbing, because you’re on a route for a longer period of time, be comfortable doing physical work when you feel fatigued. Running does that in a different way because it’s much more consistent and you’re not entering the crux of your run like you would on your rock climb, but just that comfort with: okay, my heart rate’s elevated, my muscles feel tired, but I know that I can still do work. That’s where I mostly see the relevance from running to rock climbing. I guess also, too, just feeling like my body is good at getting new blood into my forearms or whatever because I’m cardiovascularly fit to a certain degree. Not nearly as fit as others but I guess that’s what I see as the crossover or the relevance.
Neely Quinn: Have you ever tried not – because of course some trainers would say you’re wasting your time running. You have the fitness that you need. You need to work on this and that and if you ran less, maybe you would have more power and strength and endurance for your climbs. Have you ever tried not running for weeks on end and see what that does to your climbing?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. I don’t mean to sound like I’m putting this all on Katy but before Katy and I started dating, the longest run I had probably ever done in my life was six miles. To me, going out running – I used to live in Eldo and I would run the Fowler Loop from my house, which we figured out was like 3.75 miles. That’s what I did to go running and I didn’t even do it that often. It used to be a much less regular thing for me. I mean, I was still always active. I would go to a yoga class or do something else that wasn’t climbing when I was on my rest from climbing, but I think I also had a lot more days where I didn’t do anything. It was just about resting.
But since that time I have increased the amount that I run and increased the difficulty with which I climb so I can’t say that I’ve seen a negative correlation. Is it possible that I would be stronger now if I hadn’t gotten more into running? Possible, but I don’t necessarily think probable.
Neely Quinn: How much do you run?
Dan Mirsky: Well, I’d say when I’m at home it’s a little bit more because I am working a bit more and I climb a little bit less. When I’m on the road, this year in Kentucky – because I think the climbing in the Red is physically tiring. It’s not just like, ‘Okay, my forearms got pumped.’ You’re on these big, steep walls for a long period of time where you’re using your lower body and your core a lot. I would wake up, if we’d climbed for two or three days in a row, which is possible in the Red because it’s not that bad on your skin, it’s not that bad on your finger tendons, so I felt comfortable climbing and being able to try hard for a few days but then I would feel really tired. Not like I was psyched to get up and go for a run, so I wouldn’t. I would listen to my body.
When I was running in the Red I would go out for 5-7 mile at most runs two or three times a week. Maybe 15 miles was as much as I was running in a week in Kentucky, I think. Right now at home, I’m probably running more like 20 miles a week so that’s like three different running days, six or seven miles kind of thing.
Neely Quinn: Are you doing – sorry, maybe you said this – it on your climbing days or only on your rest days?
Dan Mirsky: No, I never run on the days that I go rock climbing, for sure. I just do that on rest days. Right now, it’s definitely not like I’m climbing two days on, resting one day, running seven miles, climbing two days on, resting one day. Just with work and life, this is kind of a little bit of an off-season for me because we spend so much of our year traveling full time, climbing. It’s nice to have a little bit of down time.
Neely Quinn: So you’re resting more now from climbing.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, slash hangboarding more, too.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, so that’s the other thing. You guys live in Carbondale, Colorado. For people who don’t know, it doesn’t have a gym at all, right?
Dan Mirsky: Correct.
Neely Quinn: It’s close to Rifle but one of the reasons that Seth and I would not consider living there is because there is no gym there. What do you do living in a place with no gym?
Dan Mirsky: I do a couple things. For one, when I go out and climb at Rifle, which is a place where I’ve spent a lot of time, I approach my days of climbing as sort of a combination of trying to do a new rock climb and thinking to myself, ‘This is the most glorious outdoor rock climbing gym I could ever hope for so I’m going to get a workout in and treat it as such.’
I definitely will go out in Rifle, especially in the middle of summer when the conditions aren’t the best, and literally I will climb in the same style that people go to Fontainebleau and do circuits. I do circuits of routes in Rifle and I won’t try a single route more than once. Whether I’ve done it or not done it, I just go out and I’ll try something, go onto the next route and try that, and I just keep climbing all day. I try to be a little bit analytical with what the circuit is composed of and focus on different things, whether it’s power endurance or endurance. I use Rifle as a gym in the middle of the summer and I train on my hangboard at home which, for me, I’m definitely someone who comes with more of a natural endurance strength, whether that just be my make-up or from playing soccer growing up and through high school and everything. Training on my hangboard is, for me, the most productive, specific training for rock climbing that I have ever done until I can find something else better that I think I can ever do.
Neely Quinn: What programs are you following for your hangboard?
Dan Mirsky: A long, long time ago a friend showed me this workout called ‘repeaters,’ which is basically a series of 8-second hangs with 5-second rests. One set of repeaters takes one minute. You do five, 8-second hangs, you rest five seconds in between each one, and at the end of the fifth hang it takes exactly one minute and you rest for two minutes, then you do another set.
Since sort of learning that workout I’ve messed around with the amount – the idea with that, I should say, is by the end of that fifth hang you want to be really close to failure. The goal would be to succeed with good form but you’re trying really hard. The way you increase the difficulty, or the way I increase the difficulty, is by adding weight. I do, basically, weighted, timed hangs.
Since learning that workout I’ve definitely changed it. I’ve adapted it and I’ve tried different ways of hanging. Right now I have a pulley system set up so I can do assisted one-arm hangs and I’ll do a combination of those as well as resisted two-arm hangs.
I recently got my hands on Mark Anderson’s new training book and they make a good point about not ever needing to hold on to a bad hold, to be more specific to rock climbing, for six seconds, for example, and that resting less and doing shorter hangs would be more relevant and more specific. Recently I’ve been doing 6-second hangs with 3-second rests. I think I might like that better. You wind up getting in one more rep in a given set that still takes exactly one minute. I could see the specificity for replicating rock climbing a bit more so doing a 6/3 timing scheme.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. You guys don’t have a campus board at your house, do you?
Dan Mirsky: No. Man, I wish. I want to build one, I just don’t have the indoor space and the idea of having an outdoor campus board seems like there would be a very short season for the board. [laughs] So, I don’t have a campus board. Really, that in combination with hangboarding are the two things that, when I can focus on training, they are the things that I focus on for sure.
Neely Quinn: Okay, so I want to ask you about a couple other things but I also want to ask you about your diet, because I ask everybody about this. Everybody’s diet is so different. You keep a very lean body, like…
Dan Mirsky: Thanks.
Neely Quinn: Seth and I talk about, well, we won’t go into it, but you’re super lean and super muscular, so how do you achieve that? Do you just not eat very much? Do you find yourself satiated with the food that you eat? What do you do?
Dan Mirsky: I have to admit that I don’t like – hold on, let’s see. My diet is basically, I have a couple things that I try and think about which is: eating real food and everything in moderation. What that means is I don’t have any restrictions on my diet unless I eat something and it makes me feel sick, then I try not to eat that anymore. Other than that I try to eat a variety of different things and I eat to the extent that I’m full.
What I’m saying is I don’t do portion control, I don’t eliminate things from my diet, but I try to eat real food so I also don’t eat a lot of things that have preservatives in them or are packaged. I really think of it as a good day if I’ve never opened a sealed package to eat something. If I have to open a package to cut cheese because the cheese came in a package, that’s not what I’m talking about, but you know what I mean. Like, a candy bar that comes in a package. That, to me, is kind of the goal. If I can do that, just make and prepare real food for myself and eat that, then my body usually feels pretty good.
I also have spent a lot of my adult life working in the restaurant industry and, initially, because I have an interest in food and I’ve also developed more of an interest in food from doing that, I’m pretty unfearful of eating rich or not necessarily what a lot of people would consider healthy-type food. Not to excess but I don’t think a little butter is going to kill you. Now butter is really cool again and good for us, so maybe that’s a bad example but what I think I’m trying to say is everyone’s body is really different. I’ve found that, for myself, if I kind of eat real food and not be too worried about it, I think that’s a good thing.
I think you could give yourself a stomach ache worrying about the food that you should or shouldn’t eat, which is kind of a bummer. I also kind of think life is too short, you know? I eat the bone marrow [laughs] because I think it’s delicious and it’s good for you.
Neely Quinn: Just for a couple examples, can you give us what your typical breakfast is?
Dan Mirsky: Definitely. I would say if I had more time on my hands I would probably cook eggs and have more of a savory, protein-based breakfast but when I’m running out the door to go climbing or running or to go whatever it happens to be that day, I do a lot of fruit and granola and yogurt. Katy and I really like making breakfast smoothies that are usually just combinations of fruits and vegetables and juice and yogurt.
I don’t really do that well with dairy milk so we just kind of do non-dairy milk. I also don’t do that well with soy, so I don’t really have either of those things in my diet very much. Cheese and yogurt are fine with me, but I’d say smoothies and granola, or there are really delicious muffins that get baked every morning at the restaurant I work at so those are regularly on the breakfast menu.
Then, if I’m going out to the crag I basically bring a variety of different snacks, is what I call them. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen my elaborate snack container that I have.
Neely Quinn: I don’t think I have. What container?
Dan Mirsky: Oh man. I have this whole Tupperware cube that has this sandwich compartment and then these two other compartments. It’s pretty amazing. I should show it to you.
But I’ve sort of gotten – I used to be one of those people that ate lots of Clif bars and other bars and I’ve totally trended back in the direction of making food myself, and with good ingredients. I buy sprouted grain bread and Justin’s almond butter and good fruit preserves and I make almond butter and jelly sandwiches and I bring bananas out to the crag. I’ll also often, if I know that Katy and I are going to be climbing in Rifle all day and I’m not going to be getting home until 9:00 at night, I’ll bring a sort of second lunch, too, that’s probably going to be more on the savory side. Salad and cold cuts and hard boiled eggs.
I’m not scared to bring kind of elaborate, delicious food out to the crag instead of just sitting around and eating the next Clif bar because I just feel better eating real food.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, that’s what we found, too, and it’s totally possible, even when you’re not at a place like Rifle. Like, in Cathedral we would just bring the same things that you were just mentioning.
Dan Mirsky: Totally. It adds this extra 45 minutes, I’ve realized, to my day where I’m just standing in the kitchen making snacks to go rock climbing all day, but I actually also really enjoy cooking and making things and then eating them. It all tastes better when you’ve prepared it yourself, right? I like that part.
Neely Quinn: Cool. My next question has to do with living on the road. You’re kind of living the dream. Not necessarily full time, year round, but for many months of the year you are on the road, living out of your Airstream. How do you do it? If you don’t mind me asking.
Dan Mirsky: No, not at all. You mean how do we stay psyched? How do we finance it? How do we…
Neely Quinn: I guess both, but do you just save up money or…?
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. So, almost two years ago now – it’ll be two years in September, so getting on two years – I bought a house in Carbondale, or just outside of Carbondale. I rent that house, all year long, in fact. In the summertime Katy and I just keep a smaller bedroom in the small downstairs of the house and we share it with my tenants, then they continue to live there throughout the year. I do get some money in rent from them, which helps us to be able to travel and also unburdens me with the bills I associate with owning a house.
Then, while we’re home in Carbondale I work hard all summer in the restaurant industry, which is definitely the busiest season here, so it’s a good time for us to be back here. Also, for me, it’s a good time to be not on the road rock climbing because I don’t really like rock climbing in the heat.
We come back, we spend probably about/we’re probably going to be here for half of this year working in the restaurants and living still with my tenants, so we’re essentially getting to live rent free. We just try to live simply while we’re at home and to be honest, most days are spent either working, climbing in Rifle – yep.
Neely Quinn: [laughs]
Dan Mirsky: Or a combination of those two things, you know? When you spend all your time doing that stuff you realize, ‘Well, I don’t really even have any time to spend a bunch of money on other things except for the unforeseen things that come up in life.’
Neely Quinn: Yeah.
Dan Mirsky: I think it’s just getting comfortable – sure, I could come up with a whole list of awesome stuff I could buy to make my life more comfortable in some way, but I don’t have that urge or desire. I’d rather have a little bit less, live a little bit more simply, and have time to live on the road and go rock climbing. I guess it’s a combination of making choices about what’s important to you and this set-up that we try to make work.
It works because Katy and I are a team, so we save money together, we work to make money, and then when we aren’t working we try to live frugally and save our nickels and dimes. When you have someone else to do that with, to motivate you to cook all the time instead of go out to dinner, it gets easier and it just becomes routine and it becomes less like thinking like all we’re doing is trying not to spend money and you just get really happy and comfortable living that way.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. That’s the simplest answer I’ve ever gotten from somebody that lives on the road. Like, it’s pretty simple and a lot of people could do it. Just save up, have a little bit of income from somewhere while you’re on the road, and don’t spend very much money.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah. With that said, there are times when things come up and you have to spend money to get your van fixed, right? I think you might know a thing or two about that. It’s easier said than done. If you literally only have $800 in your bank account, it’s like not bringing a raincoat to make it rain kind of thing. You need to have a little bit of a raincoat to make that work. I don’t want to oversimplify and be like, ‘Why can’t you guys all do this?’ but if you can get yourself into that position then, yeah, it totally is pretty simple.
Neely Quinn: Do you think you’ll keep doing this for years and years?
Dan Mirsky: I kind of said to myself that when I turned 35 would be maybe a good time to see if I’m still really psyched or if we have just been doing this for the past couple of years because it’s just what we do. I think it’s good to check in to make sure you’re still really motivated and you’re not just following what has become the routine of your life.
I can say that this fall will hopefully be the third season that we go back and live in the Airstream trailer and I’m as psyched as ever, for sure. I’m super motivated, I had a really good spring climbing season and I felt like I had some real progression in my climbing, and now it’s a little bit of a downtime and I’m already just – I can’t wait for it to be a little bit cooler out, for life in the restaurant to be a little less crazy, and for me to put my heart and soul back into rock climbing and see where it goes next.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, it really is your big passion.
Dan Mirsky: That’s one of those things where I feel lucky to have found something I’m so passionate about. I feel like I would be disingenuous to myself if I didn’t pursue the thing that I’m this passionate about with as much energy as I have to do it, you know?
This is just a little bit off topic but just a little bit about who I am and why I am the way I am. I lost my dad to cancer in 2006 and he wasn’t young but he wasn’t old. It wasn’t a sudden thing. After I graduated college I went back to New York and I spent every day for four months just hanging out with him in the hospital room until he passed, so I’ve had lots of time to think about all this, but I just came away from that experience feeling like I have this thing that I’m really passionate about and life is precious. You just don’t know when you might lose your health or something might happen and so I’m going to pursue this passion that requires my physical strength and fitness and I have it right now, so why wait?
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Seize the day.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, that’s right.
Neely Quinn: I mean, I think about this all the time, obviously since we’re trying to live on the road in our own way. Our families think we’re a little bit strange but they can respect it. I’m wondering how your family sees what you guys do.
Dan Mirsky: You know, one thing that’s pretty cool – well, my family at this point is me, my mom, and my sister. My mom was a rock climber, like I had mentioned earlier, so it’s pretty awesome to be able to have at least a shared understanding, you know? She obviously doesn’t know – she was a trad climber and a mountaineer and she trad climbed a lot in the Gunks in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, so modern day sport climbing is sort of different. It’s basically like the same whole thing is going on.
I can call my mom on the phone and we can have a conversation and she will be like, ‘So, what are you working on? What’s the proj?’ I can be like, ‘Oh, mom! I sent my project! I’m super psyched!’ or, ‘I’m working on this route and it’s beating me down and it’s kind of tough right now and frustrating.’ It’s cool to be able to have that conversation with my mom and know that on some level she gets it and she’s psyched for me that I’m out trying hard. I
t’s pretty funny when I’m like, ‘I just did this route,’ and she’s like, ‘Oh yeah? How hard was it?’ I’m like, ‘It’s .14a,’ and she’s like, ‘Not impressed anymore.’ [laughs] I’m like, ‘Damn.’
Neely Quinn: That’s funny.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, I’ve got to step it up to keep mom impressed.
Neely Quinn: What are your goals for this fall?
Dan Mirsky: Katy and I haven’t quite yet figured out where we’re going to travel to next but there’s a couple things that are starting to reoccur in my mind as places that I want to go to and routes that I want to do. Here at home – [sound of chair scraping] if I go ahead and sit this becomes really real. That’s cool. Here at home, Kryptonite is really, really appealing to me, which would definitely be a progression in difficulty for me.
Neely Quinn: It’s .14d.
Dan Mirsky: It’s .14d. I feel confident in saying – I’ve been on it a couple of times and I’ll just say it’s a step up from anything I’ve done so far. It feels perhaps doable so sort of always exactly what I’m looking for. I think I could do it but it feels like a really big challenge and it’s going to take a lot of work, so that’s really appealing to me. The only bummer about Kryptonite, of course, is that you have to hike up to the Fortress of Solitude.
Neely Quinn: Well, at least you’ve got Katy as your partner.
Dan Mirsky: I know. Hopefully there’s something up there for her to climb, too, because it’s always more fun when you can climb together, but that one here at home is a really big appeal to me. Then, I really want to go to Wolf Point. I have a lot of close friends up there in Lander. BJ Tilden is a good buddy of mine and Kyle Vassilopoulos, and those guys have just been getting after it at this area, Wolf Point, that I haven’t even seen yet. They keep calling me up and bugging me to come up there and they are two people whose quality control I actually trust. If they’re as psyched as they are, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be psyched, too.
It’d be cool to be part of a new cliff. I love and I’ll climb in Rifle forever, even if I somehow managed to miraculously do every rock climb in Rifle, I probably wouldn’t even stop going then. But, to be a part of something new and to potentially be a part of the development or at least be a part of the development era in a new crag is really cool so I’m definitely pretty motivated to head up there and I think that will happen, hopefully, this fall at some point.
Then, the other place that I really want to go to is Smith Rock. One, for it’s historic value, and two, I just want to be good at every kind of climbing, you know? I don’t just want to be a one-trick pony. I don’t want to just be known as the guy who’s really good at knee barring, which I think a lot of people try to pigeonhole me as.
So yeah, Smith Rock has a lot of appeal to me and trying some of the hard routes up there. I was just talking to Paige who did, it’s got to be the first female ascent of, Just Do It. That’s super awesome and just talking to her about it was making my palms sweat, so now I’ve got to go see what that thing is all about.
The other thing that Katy and I have talked a lot about is a season of bouldering which, as two people who spend most of their time sport climbing, and by most I pretty much mean all, and who both come from a more endurance-oriented background, having a season of bouldering, I think, has always in the past led to a good progression in my sport climbing ability. I think it would still be true and I still have bouldering goals that I want to achieve. I think, for Katy, she’s never actually been outdoor bouldering so I think it would be really good for her climbing.
Neely Quinn: Wow. Yeah.
Dan Mirsky: Those are kind of the ideas that we’re tossing around now.
Neely Quinn: So we may not, if my shoulder heals up, we may not see you in the Red.
Dan Mirsky: No, I don’t think we’re going to go back to the Red this year. I know we will go back to the Red and I’m sure Katy would be ready to leave tomorrow so she could go back and just take down her project which she was super close to this spring, but I don’t know. I just feel like there’s more places that I want to go to first, before I go back to Kentucky.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Cool, well you’ve got a lot of options. I’m sure you will crush whatever you go to.
Dan Mirsky: We’ll have fun anyway.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. Well, thanks for talking to me. I think those were all my questions and I don’t know – this was a great conversation and I appreciate it.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, thanks for having me on. It was really fun to sit down and chat and I look forward to being a part of TrainingBeta more in the future.
Neely Quinn: Yeah. I would love to talk to you more, sometime soon, possibly. Hopefully my shoulder will heal up and I will see you in Rifle before the season’s end.
Dan Mirsky: Yeah, I hear you’re doing good PT right now and I hope you have a speedy and full recovery and you start crushing again soon.
Neely Quinn: Yeah, thanks. Alright, we’ll talk to you soon.
Dan Mirsky: Ciao.
Neely Quinn: Bye.
Thanks for listening to episode 11 of the TrainingBeta podcast. Again, I’m your host Neely Quinn and that was Dan Mirsky. I really hope you enjoyed that interview. I did.
Coming up on the next episode is Alli Rainey, who is a trainer at www.allirainey.com. We talked yesterday, actually, from Scotland. She’s on a climbing trip, and we talked about all things training. Her training, her clients’ training, we talked about nutrition and weight, and cardio. A bunch of things, so it’s a good one.
Then actually we have Hans Florine and Steve House coming up pretty soon in the next couple of months, which I’m excited about.
Other than that, like I said, we have our new program coming out for boulderers, the subscription program. If you want to find out when that comes out you’re welcome to ‘like’ us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/trainingbeta or subscribe to our newsletter list, which you can do on the sidebar of any of the pages on our site.
Check out our training programs at www.trainingbeta.com and other than that, any feedback you ever have for me just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I don’t know how many times I can say the word ‘training’ in one paragraph but that was a lot.
In the meantime, until next time, happy climbing and thanks for listening.