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Warrior Woman of the North: Ti Conkle

There are women in the world who absolutely inspire me to rise to the daily challenge of my martial arts training. Ti Conkle is one of them, and there aren’t gems like her just everywhere. In fact, you’ll have a bit of an adventure simply seeking out her company. Ti (short for Titanium, for realz) lives, fights, and perfects her arts in the Land of the Midnight Sun… 

Tell us all where you live, and how on earth you got (and stayed) there…

If you looked at a map of the world, located Alaska, wrapped your pointer finger in gauze and took a stab at the middle of the state- you’d probably hit my house (which is why you’d want your finger wrapped). To be precise, that’s Fairbanks, Alaska (64°50′N 147°43′W).

Like Reykjavik, Iceland and Trondheim, Norway and Yakutsk, Russia- Fairbanks is nestled in the heart of the Land of the Midnight Sun. During the summer, the sun doesn’t really ever set; during the winter months, it barely crests the horizon and civil twilight reigns for about 3.5 hours before The Dark takes over again.

I was born in Palmer, Alaska and have lived in different portions of the state for my entire life. How I stay here is entirely a different matter: it takes relentless determination to maintain motivation and inspiration through winter months with temperatures hovering around -40. The dark and the cold are the driving force behind my training.

Ice Fall

What do you absolutely adore about your environment? Are there things you wish to didn’t have to contend with?

I crave solitude. Mountains, river valleys, exposed ridgelines and alpine tundra stretch out for miles in every direction within short driving distance of my house and provide the antidote for living in the second largest city in the State of Alaska.

Contending with the brutal cold, the extended winter that runs from mid-September until April (or May, this year- the coldest spring in the recorded history of Alaska) takes a toll on most folks who live here; I wouldn’t mind a more temperate climate, but the polar bears keep freaking out when the ice sheets melt.

(Also, here’s a shocking and well-told quick story Ti wrote about an unusual encounter with a moose and her calf…)

What are the sports that regularly make an appearance in your life? Which was your first love? How did you get started in it, and how did it evolve?

Mt. Rainier

In no particular order: mountaineering, ice climbing, rock climbing (wait, yeah, it’s inorder of importance)… cycling (bike commuting to and from work, April – October), fat biking, Krav Maga, running, Crossfit training, Taekwon-do, Brazilian Jujitsu, soccer, white water kayaking… there are probably more, but I’ve worn out the comma key on the keyboard.

My first love was and still is: iron. Lifting weights. Heavy weights. Good old fashioned deadlift, squat, bench press… these were the foundation of my foray into strength training and conditioning and my eyes still light up when I hear the unmistakable thump of bumper plates jostling collars as a heavy bar gets dropped.

I grew up on a large farm: tending livestock, growing and harvesting crops and operating farm equipment. There’s a particular work ethic that drives a farmer: things simply have to get done. Every day. No matter the weather, no matter how you feel, no matter what. I simply took the same muscles that I used for throwing 90-pound hay bales over my head onto a wagon and funneled the movement into driving iron. Even today, when too many days have gone by without a heavy workout, I feel it.

What’s your experience with boxing or other martial arts?  

KickinMy introduction to boxing was courtesy of none other than Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, in early 2011. He punched me in the head and I was completely hooked. For the most part, the boxing I do is simply a function of Krav Maga: it’s one of many tools in the toolbox for sparring and for conditioning.

As to other martial arts… I’ve trained consistently in Taekwon-do for several years and will be testing for my black belt (1st Dan) on May 31, 2013.

I also have the opportunity to train in Brazilian Jujitsu and Judo, as several of the other Krav instructors train, compete and instruct in those disciplines.

What sport of yours is most engaging or dominant for you right now, and why?

Right this moment, Krav Maga and Taekwon-do are in a battle to the death, fighting for every available moment of my time and brain space. Krav is winning. I’ve waited for more than twelve years to have the opportunity to train in Krav Maga and am now a Krav instructor, as well as a continuing student.

How do you train? What does your weekly routine look like?

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’m cradling a cup of imported Italian espresso by 4:10 AM. By 4:45 AM, I’m on my bike and riding to Elite Urban Fitness for the first workout of the day (Crossfit style). From there, I bike to work (I work as an investigator/auditor for State and Federal government)

By the time the day is half over, I’m outdoors again for a walk or run- depending on weather; then back to work. I bike commute home, regroup and rally gear and head to either Krav or Taekwondo (depending on the night).

Two nights a week, I train back-to-back Krav sessions and wrap up at 9:00 PM. Two nights a week, I train in Taekwon-do. In between, I instruct classes.

Weekends frequently find me either rock climbing or racing (running or cycling), in the summer.

Is yours a solitary journey? Who are your trainers and traveling companions? Does one in particular stand out? How has that person made an impact on you?

Spar

My husband, Jeff, daughter, Dez and I all bike commute to work and school (respectively) and we train together at Elite Urban Fitness. Dez is thirteen and wrestles varsity for her middle school, plays soccer, trains with me in Taekwon-do and competes in running races with us. My journey is an adventure in the dynamics of family, training, work and play- and rarely is there enough solitude to fully satisfy me.

At different points in our lives, all three of us have been significantly overweight and unhealthy. Individually, we have each taken on the challenge of eating to fuel our endeavors, training to meet our goals. Together, we inspire, motivate and rally each other.

How does being a wife and mother change your sport?

I’m not only a mom and wife, but also a medic. The combo pack makes me one very fierce, determined, risk-assessing, analytical, compassionate human being.

I am deeply fortunate to have my best friend as a life partner: he is a construction management engineer and a highly talented chef. I know, right? He does all the cooking at home, which literally fuels my every adventure. Whether I’m finishing an ultra-marathon on a sprained ankle or traveling to San Francisco for work, he’s right there. Cheering me on, believing in me, holding up my half of the sky when I’m gone for weeks on end, climbing… without Jeff, I couldn’t do a fraction of what I do.

As for Dez… I write about her. A lot. She’s an incredible woman with her own sense of humor, sarcastic wit and athletic prowess. She’s tough, determined and… she’s a wrestler. This spring, when 423 competitors took to the mat at the state championships, she was one of only 15 girls to earn a spot as varsity wrestlers. She wrestled the 160 lb. / 72.5 kg bracket and placed ninth. It was her first year of wrestling and she was one of the youngest competitors on the mat.

Being a mom to a girl like this has definitely changed my sport: I bring my best game, no matter how I feel, every time I train.

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Ti is not only a martial arts enthusiast and coach, she’s also an amazing photographer. You can follow her at her blog, Element 22.

*Please remind me about Ti the next time I whine about working sprints after the temps drop below 40 degrees…

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One Response to Warrior Woman of the North: Ti Conkle

  1. niamh August 6, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Ti! Great to learn some more about this inspiring woman! Not just dealing with the weather but glorying in it. Delighted to see her over here LIsa, great questions too, so interesting to see how you can cope when Nature is so so crazy.

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