Another 24

Earlier this month I took another swing at qualifying for Race Across America. I was in good shape and had an awesome team with Mike and Tommy Hughes flying in to crew. I also had a solid traveling companion in Jackson Mauzé and in a huge upgrade to the readability of this site, he has written the following:

  photo: Pablo Durana

photo: Pablo Durana

To qualify for RAAM the threshold is an astonishing 400 miles in 24 hours.
“I’m not gonna be smiling after a lap on this bike.”
  photo: Pablo Durana

photo: Pablo Durana

snapped frame, snapped an insta, now just waiting for a ride and cursing into the darkness

The Borrego Springs 24-Hour Time Trial
by Jackson Mauzé

André’s journey to Race Across America (RAAM) faced its toughest hurdle yet this past weekend when he traveled to Borrego Springs, CA to compete in the Time Trial Championship. To qualify for RAAM the threshold is an astonishing 400 miles in 24 hours. If he was intimidated at the prospect of circling the same 18-mile course through the deep of night and heat of the arid day, he masked it under a hefty mantle of optimism and self-deprecation.

In fact, the ride inland from San Diego was a surreal insight into André’s character. Soon after setting out from San Diego we left the large interstates behind and began snaking into the mountains. We cracked jokes and mused about careers and art and life as our ears began to pop. Only as we descended the Glass Elevator, the infamous scenic road that winds down to Borrego Springs, did we stop to appreciate our surroundings. Where many endurance athletes can become consumed by love for their hobby, by stress for their challenges or even by a self-absorption from so many hours spent reclusively on the bike, André tackles each race with a refreshingly casual determination. For a 37-year old with the energy of a kid, he’s decidedly professional in his regimen and preparation without the swollen ego that could plague such an incredible athlete.

Then again, what “professional” sets off from the start line of a bike race without sunglasses?

Aside from that minor gaffe, quickly remedied, the race started well. Andre set a strong pace from the beginning, averaging under an hour for each loop. Then at 4 AM, nearing the end of a cold night that saw several riders beginning to bonk out, the aluminum frame of his bike snapped in spectacular fashion. After picking up speed on a shallow slope he hit the flat and his bike bottomed out with a BANG, hand crank breaking off in his hands along with the front wheel He skidded into the dirt as G-forces flung him about, only held in his seat by the belt across his lap.

The damage was irreparable, and due to the time-trial regulations, he actually forfeited the 16 miles he’d completed on that loop when an official had to pick him up and bring him back to the pits. He was tired and dirty, his hands bleeding from minor cuts as his crew worked to prepare his rusting back-up bike. But he still he was smiling.

When someone pointed that out as a silver lining, his response (with a grin) was classic: “I’m not gonna be smiling after a lap on this bike.”

The back-up handcycle was old and didn’t fit well, the metal bars squeezing his hips painfully. But after only half an hour in the pit he was out and cranking once more. His lap times saw a small drop but he dug deep and never quit, even as the night began playing its tricks. Andre insists he saw an old woman with curly hair in someone else’s headlight ahead of him. She was walking down the road in the black of night – which somehow didn’t seem odd to his befuddled brain at the time – with what appeared to be two miniature greyhounds on leashes. When his own headlight lit up the same area she was nowhere to be found.

As the sun rose over the mountains he kept his pace steady. He rarely stopped, only doing so to eat real food for a change or chat quickly with fans and friends. When his shifter cable snapped, sticking him in his heaviest gear for the rest of the race, he cracked a joke about it during his next pit stop before tearing back onto the course. His final lap on the big course (before switching to the mandatory four-mile loop at the end) was his fastest in the preceding four hours.
But he wasn’t done yet.

As we drew inexorably toward 6 PM, the temperature only just dropping from where it had sat in the low nineties for several hours, Andre started his final lap with only sixteen minutes left, knowing full well that if he didn’t finish in time, those four miles would be forfeit. We all waited anxiously as the announcer counted down the time remaining. Three minutes. Two minutes. One. Thirty seconds. Twenty.

With less than ten seconds left Andre whipped around the last bend, head down and cranking furiously. The crowd came alive as he pulled across the finish line with only seconds to spare - the last racer to finish.

In the end, Andre did not qualify for RAAM this weekend. At an official 343 miles he was short of the target, but nothing could dampen his mood. If not for the major bike malfunctions? If not for the lost mileage thanks to his breakdown? He was on pace to qualify. And this wasn’t his last opportunity before RAAM rolls around this summer. The same grit and determination that got him through the grueling race this past weekend will get him to the starting line.
It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “how.”


Thanks Jackson, it was fun to relive the race and weekend through your experience!

If any of you want to contribute to my next qualifying race and overall RAAM budget, I'd be extremely grateful, and am happy to give you a link to do that:
Help André Qualify

Thanks all!

-AjK
andre@willgodo.com

Alive Day #13

Pulled over in my car yesterday and hammered out a quick message to family and friends. Until somebody mentioned it to me, I hadn't realized that it was the 12th Anniversary of my accident (more info about that). https://andrekajlich.com/wgd/start

I sort of like that I never remember. However, it's also understandable that others cannot forget the day - I was literally comatose. I woke up, I healed up (mostly), and with the help of my amazing parents (pic to the right should sum that up ;) my sisters, my friends, my community, and a bit of my own hard work - I've made it to a much better place.

What came first to my mind as a reflection is worth sharing, it is the biggest lesson the past 12 years has taught me:

I'm appreciative and thoughtful today - Pearl Harbor Day and Andre Is Beyond Lucky to Be Alive Day. Bad Things happen - that will never change. Some will be caused by outside forces and many will be our own damn fault. The only way I've found an effective way to respond is to forget about blame, forget about changing the past or controlling what we can't control. The best response is to use that beautiful brain of yours to think long and hard about what is the most productive way forward. It won't be any quick snippet from any other source but yourself. It won't be the best choice or a sustainable decision unless you are willing to be painfully honest - at least with yourself. Confront what you don't know, don't understand, and what you aren't doing right. Find a way to focus on what you can control: your attitude, self-discipline, gratitude, knowledge, and move forward like your life depends on it, because in many ways - it does.

But really, I don't know much about anything so just try and enjoy today because you're still alive and that is good.

Thanks to everyone that has helped me get from there to here smile emoticon

 

-AJK (8th December 2015)

Stopping but Not

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I haven't raced since May and I still need to spend time thinking about what happened. Maybe a big adventure with lots of time for reflection and it'll all come to me....although life itself is the biggest adventure and I love it for that (with all the ups and downs that love entails ;) Last May I raced the SoCal400. It was supposed to be 400 miles and a qualifier for Race Across America (RAAM), but I didn't qualify. I didn't even finish.

I'd ridden from the ocean up to 5,200 feet, down a valley, back up, around the Salton Sea, through 100 degree heats, fought head winds through the day and night. By sunrise I'd ridden back around to the base of those same mountains and crossed over again. It was smooth sailing from there, all down hill...    but then it wasn't.

Time was short, I was hurting, there was still plenty of work left, and I was tired - so I stopped.

I'd ONLY (I mean, I'm not totally embarrassed) ridden my bike 343 miles in 28hrs.

Things actually went pretty well through the race. Besides poor preparation, which lead to disorganization and late nights leading into it, this was a mentally motivated DNF.

It all started about 150 miles in. I really started thinking about where I was in life and was feeling pretty foolish for not having any direction. Racing and forming even bigger adventures and challenges in my head isn't the only thing I want to pursue with vigor.

This made me feel pretty foolish.

At that point I was still in the race, I didn't give up but I had decided that RAAM couldn't be the focus of my life for the next few months...plus I was far from ready.

So, as the morning light returned after a long night of falling asleep on my bike, discomfort, and just continuing forward on very little enthusiasm... I was running out of will...running low on purpose.

I made it back over the mountains. I'm proud of my team and of our effort. Still, I am regretful that I stopped.

From the top of the last mountain, it is about 60 miles back down to the coast, but there still remains 5-7,000ft. gain. Not quite a free ride. After the first big descent, I was hurting and hardly even able to safely navigate.

Down on the flats I was only able to pull 10mph and, as I saw my team van climbing a hill ahead, I just pulled off the road. I needed to stop. I immediately fell asleep.

After being woken up by the film crew van, I decided to ride up to my crew to discuss just bowing out. I think I said it hurts all over, I just don't see the point and I don't need to prove that I can do this to anybody.

With little conviction I said, "30 more minutes" and I'll reassess, but my crew member said something (it might have been "yeah - keep going") and I said, "yeah - I'm stopping."

To be honest, I should have proven it to myself. I need to show myself what I can do. It isn't enough to just FEEL capable of anything.

I'm still not sure what to make of it all. It was a very tired Andre making that decision. It's unnerving to know that THAT Andre is lurking. He may be the devil or he may be a lesson giving angel.

To some degree, because of this I'm working on a few things that I am excited about, a new direction.

RAAM is still on my agenda book. I've got a qualifier picked out in September, or October, or November. That seems to be the only direction I've got at the moment.

Still searching... still a struggle but I know that I just gotta keep pushing and it will be worth it- both for the experience and for where it takes me.

Thanks for great photos Bryan Myss  

-AjK (04/02/2015-08/17/2015)

 

 

If I Got My Legs Back

omg legs 2 copyI'm not sad about losing my legs anymore. That ended about 10 months after the accident. I'll explain it in another post, but the undramatic story is, I defeated thems demons and moved on. One thing that has stuck with me though, is the realization that I can't do a lot of the things I used to do. So much was taken for granted. The thing is, this is reality for everybody...if you didn't lose your legs yet, you will one day. We all will eventually not be able to do what we can do right now. Old age, death, illness, or even just commitments and priorities, will make this the only time to appreciate things while doing them. There's a reason I'm making this list, and it's not to make people with legs feel like they should use theirs, because I haven't got any. When I pass by the forest sometimes, I get this desire to just grab a backpack and disappear into them for a week or so. Given my limitations onthe mobility fornt, it's not very feasible. Yet, that urge, that desire, is what feeds this urgency to explore everything I can do.  It's a big part of the reason I do these endurances races and why I'm pushing for more and more. It's a big beautiful world and I don't want to just wish I'd seen it. There is always something you CAN do.  Infinite things, actually. Go find them instead of feeling upset about the relatively few things you can't do, or worrying about things you can't do anything about. In this spirit of finding what things I desire, a list of what I'd do if I got my legs back. Here's a few things I'd do tomorrow: I wake up and realize I have 2 legs again. I've got a new hip, two new knees, ankles, feet, and ten toes again.

1) I look at them for a long time, moving them about. I'm fascinated by how they work, that they are mine. No mechanical system comes even close to replicating this functionality.  Prosthetics, by comparison, SUCK - they do not even compare. Trust me I use them - don't believe the hype.

2) The thought that my feet look ugly, or my ankles = kankly, or my stance bowlegged, doesn't enter anywhere into my mind. I could give a shit if these legs are the ugliest two on the planet because I know the importance of them just existing.

3) I sprint towards a body of water and jump in. It don't matter how cold it is; I'd run back out and do some kinda jitterbug slash pee pee dance to warm up. There's something about running down a beach and into the water that I could do over and over and over again. It's great.

4) Dance. I didn't ever dance much, certainly not sober or in public, but I would freakin' dance my brains out.

5) Go buy socks...the coziest socks ever made. Probably wool and colorful, come up to my thighs - I don't care. They would go on my feet but not right away. First, I'd go find a lawn or big field. Something natural but soft. After walking around and enjoying that feeling again, I'd clean my feet off and then enjoy those socks =)

I could go on and on but I'm feeling pretty good, some smiling goin' on.

Maybe I'll make this list again for things I'd do in the first week/month/year.

Enjoy Today!

-AjK, 11th March 2015

I'm Weaker than You Think

RunnersWorld.png

It was 4:36am ten minutes ago when I checked my phone in the living room. It's becoming a habit to beat my alarm, which is here instead of the bedroom because that solved my "snooze" problem. This is all a big deal to me - because I'm weaker than you think. Well, I don't really know what you think - or that you've thought of me at all. About a year ago, I was chatting with some people from an audience I had just addressed at a business association, when I realized that they all seemed to think I was this A-type personality that just gets stuff done (I'm referring to my Train Accidents, Speaking, and Ultra Endurance Racing). It is nowhere near the truth.

I didn't lie to them, but I was definitely holding back. I've found it has much more impact to shared the real struggle that it is for me to accomplish the things I've wanted to do. It helps because it is hard for all of us to become just that little bit better. One quick example I have, on my phone I have a task list, one of the tasks I've assigned myself is to "Write out weaknesses". That has been on there for at least 3 weeks, maybe more than 5.

Okay then, let's do this:

My Weaknesses:

  • daily bouts of laziness
  • procrastinate more than I don't
  • of the people I know, I'm easily in the bottom 10% for being organized
  • atrociously bad with money
  • king of "big plans" without a good plan
  • races might just be a copout as a way to at least finish something
  • I leave things undone - which I hate and yet do more than most hobbies
  • I always try to paint the best picture of myself
  • for some reason, I'm not very thoughtful -I don't think of nice ways to show people I care
  • a knack for tuning out that voice in my head - mental discipline is often something I avoid
  • distracted with great ease - and I like it

So, this is really not fun to share, even though spam bots outnumber my readers. Hopefully, I have some time to become better before this finds its way to you.

There's been some good, I don't want to be pointlessly hard on myself. Yet, I think it's fair to say that I could be doing a lot better in life. Due to that list right there, and it could quite easily be extended, I almost killed myself twice with alcohol. Once at 18 and once when I was 23. It's not just that I skirted death, I should have died -people are gone because of less. The second time I didn't get off all that easy, I lost both of my legs as well. Skipping over the accidents and details, for now, I didn't learn my lessons, or even about alcohol with either of these. That took 9 more years and it was largely because it was either the wife or "the drink", as they say.

All along, I wanted to do better. There was a sense of what I was capable of and plenty that I dreamed to achieve. There was no sudden change though.

The truth is, I don't want to look bad here - nor am I trying to look good (that should be evident). I'm writing this because it's true and because, in my life, momentum is building towards what I want and I have to get there. My gut is saying this is the best thing I can do to keep it going.

There are always reasons to be optimistic. For starters, I finally wrote that damn weakness list. AND, that list right there has 11 items and I was just going to write 10. Not the most exciting achievement but I did it which lead to this post. I am trying to do just a little bit more - every single time.

A lot of things have come together. My racing has really helped me improve in many areas. Training brings outs the best in me. You experience the drive when you're out there and it makes me want to do more. I have to do things like schedule my day just to fit it in. Along the way people, books, and podcasts (more recently) have helped me. I really want to improve and I still have the chance to do everything I set out for. This is motivating and helps me see inspiration all over. I've sprinkled some of the things that help in past posts and will continue.

Yeah, it is getting better. There is still so much to work on though -that list is real, I wrote it an hour ago.

So, this is my call to keep fighting. If you can relate to any of this, I'd say discuss these things with yourself, your blog, your family, neighbor, cat (last resort), social network of choice (might be behind the cat option). Wherever and to whomever you can bring yourself to discuss this with, speak about your dreams and the struggle to get there. The more personal you make this, the better it is going to feel. I'm totally guessing bc I literally slept through the only Psychology class I've ever taken (AND I missed the final, which is a fun/pathetic college story), but I am typing this right now and it feels really good.

If you can't think of anyone better to share it with, email me: andre@willgodo.com

Good luck to us both =)

AjK - 1oth February 2015th