What’s it gonna take?

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André here! This article was written in late 2016 to raise awareness about my record-setting bid to compete in the Race Across America (RAAM). I completed that race in 2017. Took 12 days and 16 hours (and I would do it again in a heartbeat).

Training for it while working a full-time job was challenging enough, but without financial support I never would have made it to the starting line. Thank you to everyone who made this race possible for me. Every penny, every share on social media helped!

I’ll get out of the way now…

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“What’s It Gonna Take”

André Kajlich is a Washington-born paratriathlete with a knack for tackling the extreme and making it look easy. With several Ironmans and Ultramans under his belt, he’s now set his sights on making history: being the first hand-cyclist to qualify for and compete in the Race Across America (RAAM).

Even André will admit, this one is a beast. This twelve day, 3,000+ mile race from California to Maryland is infamous for the sheer number of riders who drop out every year, often more than half. Riders battle fatigue, dehydration, harsh weather, even delusions brought on by the endless exertion.

The question is, why would someone take on such a daunting challenge?

For Andre this is not simply a matter of making history – this is personal. In 2003 André was attending university in Prague, enjoying life and regularly carousing with friends into the early hours of the morning. After ending a night out with a breakfast of waffles, he parted ways with his friends and wandered towards home. How he ended up on the tracks facing an oncoming metro remains a mystery, even to him. With one leg requiring amputation above the knee, the other at the hip, there was little hope he would walk again. Having spent his young adult years dabbling in sport after sport this was a bitter pill to swallow. Over the next five years André only concerned himself with resuming life as usual, claiming “life isn’t always a willing experience; you just have to keep moving forward.”

From the seeds of that struggle grew a newfound perspective and perseverance. After entering the world of endurance sports on a whim in 2010, he became the USA’s Paratriathlete of the year in 2012. He’s taken the gold at the Panamerican Championship in Edmonton, the National Ironman 70.3 Championship, and the Ironman World Championship in Kona. He's the first wheelchair athlete to finish Ultramans in Canada, Hawaii and Australia, and was even the first to complete the grueling Brazil135 Ultramarathon in the Mantiqueira Mountains. André even turned the San Francisco marathon into his own little Ultra – racing the course in reverse the night before, then turning around and jumping in with the main field in the morning.

The cycle of finding a race, puzzling through its completion, working to hit training goals and finally seeing himself across the finish line represents for André the positive side of his life’s struggle. Through sheer determination André did learn to walk again, but more importantly he brought the lessons he learned from the process into other facets of his life. Yet despite André’s profound capability to overcome the impossible, the Race Across America could not be achieved without immense support. RAAM not only demands intensive training, mental fortitude, logistical planning, and the love of family and friends. But it requires full team support every step of the way too, an asset which could not achieved without the financial backing of those who believe in his cause.
For more about my requirements: click here

If You Ain't Writin', You Ain't Tryin'

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I tried something new on the ride to work the other day. It’s been a year since the Race Across America and my body hasn’t recovered yet. I’ve done a few small rides, 40-50 miles, but even during my commute little issues pop up. My neck and back especially are giving me grief. I was sore and fatigued after every ride.

My body doesn’t want to recover.

So I went back to the basics. RAAM broke my body down to nothing and I actually have to start over. Small rides, knee push-ups, stretching and foam roller, and of course, spinning on light gears as I headed to work.

Until some dude FLEW past me.

I couldn't help it.

I tore after him. I caught the guy but damn was it heavy riding. I think we’ve all been there, pushed by the urge to prove yourself even when it wasn’t the healthy choice. He and I chewed up the miles for 30 minutes or so before the toll came due.

The numbness building in my hands suddenly roared into gripping pain. I cradled it and coasted, and in that moment, the guy was gone.

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My plan of starting back at square one, taking it easy and rehabing, had lasted for about 500 meters. Typical.

Every day and in every way, I get knocked off my plan. Isn’t that the most human thing of all? We can build these marvelous, multi-faceted strategies for success, for improving ourselves and fixing our flats instead of riding on rims.

And then we scratch it when our instincts kick in.

We’ve all gotta fight that urge, but what’s the answer? How do we fix it? I’ll share with you my strategy:

iYAWYAT

If you ain’t writin’, you ain’t tryin’

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The way I internalize my ideas and convert them into action is by writing.

I don’t miraculously take away lessons from life, I have to chew my experiences over, inspect them, revisit them time and again.

This is how I learn what I think. I work through my inspirations during the day and record them, leaving breadcrumbs in my journals and documents. My morning lesson isn’t going to stick on it’s own. When I write, I realize how precious are the thoughts that with a good night’s sleep can vaporize into oblivion. One moment's insightful wisdom is the next moments “What was I thinking about!?”

So I write. And you should to.

Because today that same damn rider blew past me, down in his aero bars, and do you know what I did?

Blew him a kiss and bid him g’day.

-AJK
31st July 2018

Celebrating Onward

What does it mean to celebrate onward? After the Race Across America, my body broken and my sense of immediate purpose gone, a profound emptiness began to creep into my life. I enjoy acting like the superman my friends think I am, but getting back on the grind was a real struggle.

But I’ve got a trick. Knowing that my suffering and joy are temporary, on the bike and off, I don’t dwell. I choose to celebrate life anyway. It’s easy to celebrate when life is good, but if we can celebrate when life is at its gloomiest, there will always be a light to guide us out.

 Maria Durana - 2016

Maria Durana - 2016

RAAM was the ultimate challenge for me. Biking 22-hours a day, an entire crew dedicated to pushing me to overcome the road, the elements, and the demons in my own mind. But afterwards, even with my success, it was like I began to deflate. I wasn’t biking or writing. I barely kept up with friends. I had projects in the air but without any energy to pump into them, they began to stall out, one after another. Ever been there?

Then one day, I monkeyed into the driver’s seat of my car and stared at the steering wheel. I’d been driving to work for three weeks straight. For the past few years my commute had been a highlight of my day, the perfect opportunity to let my mind roam free jump as the miles slipped away beneath my handcycle and me. Nowadays with my hands were still frozen like claws, having suffered from pain bordering on nerve damage during the race, the thought of biking was an agony in itself. But I felt empty.

I had to make a change.

So do you know what I did?I called my boss, told him I’d be late, headed back inside, pulled on my bike kit, jumped on my handcycle and started pedaling. At first I felt like a car with no oil lubricate its engine, but soon that familiar glow began to grow.

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Here’s the naked truth.

We all need healthy routines. They’re what center us. A good bike ride with some dance-your-face-off blasting in my headphones is one of mine, and whenever possible, I embrace it. Rain or shine. And even though every movement hurts, I can take always take it slow and carry on until my next challenge looms on the horizon.

It’s only been a week since I left my car in park, but real quick, let me just say:

I AM BACK!

All routines come with their share of grit. Don’t shy away from it. Celebrate onward and you’ll find yourself… unless you find someone new instead. :)

-AJK
24th Just 2018

“Live With Heart”


I've always loved that line: “It’s A Journey, You Animal!"

It celebrates life and frames ourselves as travelers with our very own path. Life may sometimes feel like an intimidating quagmire of randomness, but we can ignore the devastating wastes on our left and right.

All we need to do is find our path and follow it.

I’ve had this title mulling around in the back of my mind of late, and produced an intriguing question.

What if the essence of life doesn’t matter as much as how we frame it?

Conceptualizing life as a journey is healthy and fundamentally human. Doing so layers our experiences with meaning, it allows us to envision ourselves as building life rather than being buffeted by it. It allows us to take ownership.

But at the same time, recognize your heritage. Don’t forget that at heart, you’re still an animal. Animals are fickle and mysterious. However well developed our frontal cortex might be, we evolved to rely on instinct over reason. There are cogs and compartments inside of us that we can’t understand or even control, try as we might.

Why do we like what we like? Why are they important to us? Why are we drawn to those emotions? What choices are really ours to make?

Yesterday I was rolling along a bridge, walking with a couple of my friends, and stopped to look down over the edge. A pang of fear shot through my stomach as I looked down. My vision tumbled as I watched the sea. It wasn’t the fear of heights that got to me.

It was the fear of myself. Was there any hidden part of me that wanted to hop over the railing?

I think back to when I was kid, when I was my most animalistic. I don’t know how many choices that I made were truly mine. At the time, I picked my sports, friends and activities not for any grand reason. I just picked them. Without being much aware, I was just living, playing, enjoying, and wondering… but hardly contemplating. I implemented a few basic lessons my parents taught me, but for the most, I was almost fully animal.

And even though I grew up-

I still embrace it.

I don’t fight the animal inside of me. I make friends with it, guide it, and sometimes let it pull me along.

On dangerous ventures it’s the whetstone that hones my mind to a point, and on an endless cruise down an infinite highway, it’s the music gushing through me.

The animal is the uncontrolled layer. Don’t ignore it.

Feed the beast.

-AJK
17th July 2017

“Live With Heart”

Matt Rutherford

Don’t know Matt Rutherford? You should. Here’s the story, from cult life and juvenile detention to sailing solo around the Americas and researching the complex problem of plastics in our oceans at the helm of his own non-profit.

Matt and I sit down in this first episode of Will Go Do - my podcast to illuminate the adventurers that take humanity to the next level.

Give it a listen!