Greg Kolodziejzyk is an incredible athlete from Canada, specialising in human-powered endurance events – and with a real passion to get us all off our backsides and out and doing more exercise. He certainly leads by example – he has completed 12 Ironman triathlons, two dozen marathons, qualified for Boston marathon, and 5 ultra marathons.
He holds world records for longest distance traveled in 24 hours (records are with International Human Powered Vehicle Association):
– Sept 2008 – World record for the most distance traveled by human power on water – 154 miles
– July 2006 – World record for the most distance traveled by human power on land – 647 miles
I’ve been following Greg’s newsletter since 2007. Later that year he and his wife, Helen, were kind enough to let me stay in their lovely ski lodge in Whitefish, Montana. Greg also designed my cool Savage logo, which isn’t on my website just now, but is on my business cards, video closing credits, etc.
In 2010 I finally got to meet Greg when I was staying with Colin and Julie Angus on Vancouver Island, and Greg came over to test out his incredible pedal boat. A few weeks ago we chatted with Jason Lewis about his Moksha – Greg’s boat was similar in design, but a lot sleeker, and absolutely immaculate inside and out.
Greg was bidding to do the fastest crossing of the Pacific from Canada to Hawaii – and we’ll hear more about that in the podcast.
Athlete, or Adventurer?
“You need to think about what it really is that works for me, what kind of a guy I am. Where do I draw the line between adventure and an athletic goal?” (Greg Kolodziejzyk)
Greg Kolodziejzyk was faced with an incredibly tough decision. After countless months spent in the workshop, labouring on his sleek pedal-powered boat WiTHiN with the goal of pedalling her from Canada to Hawaii, something just wasn’t right. The sea trials off Vancouver Island had revealed some design issues with the boat’s self-righting capability. And Greg himself had suffered terribly from seasickness, which showed no signs of letting up no matter how long he spent on the water.
It wasn’t just a question of whether to continue, modify or abort the endeavour. It went deeper than that. It went to a question of identity.
Greg had already proved his exceptional talents as an endurance athlete, claiming world records for the longest distance travelled under human power within 24 hours on both land and water, as well as an impressive list of Ironman triathlons, marathons and ultramarathons. His athletic prowess was not in doubt.
But this intended voyage was something different – something altogether less predictable, where the most meticulous boat design and rigorous training regime could, and probably would, be thwarted by the vagaries of Mother Nature.
Self-knowledge, which I would guess had been sharpened by his countless hours of training and competing in solitude and exhaustion, led Greg to what was the right decision for him. He took the brave decision to cancel his voyage to Hawaii.
I hesitate to dwell on Greg’s disappointment rather than his many successes, and I hope he will forgive me for doing so, but I decided that there was an important point here – about being clear about who you are and what your goal is when you set out on any major endeavour.
Greg decided that he was athlete more than adventurer. Speaking personally, I came to the opposite conclusion about myself when I was seduced by a sponsor’s offer into attempting to break the women’s speed record for rowing the Atlantic, only to discover that even an additional £5,000 on the table still wasn’t enough to motivate me to row more than 12 hours a day. My goals were to prove something to myself about my powers of self-reliance, and to raise awareness of environmental issues. Trying to be something I wasn’t caused me a lot of stress, though, before I reached this epiphany.
So I offer this blog post to you with my unsolicited advice for the week: before setting out on an endeavour, know yourself well enough to be aware of what your core values are, and if you have teammates, be sure that they also know what your core values are and, ideally, share them.
Of course, it’s not absolutely necessary to figure this out in advance, as the journey will reveal your truth soon enough, but it might be less painful to have thought about it beforehand.
Greg came out with many words of wisdom in this podcast – here are a couple of my favourites:
“When I get into something it’s just 100%. I really enjoy the feeling of having a goal – even a really scary one, something that is so far out there that it’s just frightening to me – and I just enjoy the feeling of making steps toward that goal and eventually accomplishing it. It’s all about the journey… it’s such an amazing story.“
“I don’t believe in limits, for sure.”
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3:40 (After the world’s longest introduction) Greg’s transition from entrepreneur to über-athlete
5:20 Why the ultra events? The joy of scary goals
6:45 What is it with Canadians and endurance?
7:50 Preparing for 24-hour human endurance record attempts – technical, physical and psychological
14:45 Pedal the Ocean project
16:15 The human element – even uber-athletes get seasick
18:00 A tough decision after sea trials in Ukluelet
25:00 How does Greg motivate people to embrace good new exercise habits?
29:20 Exercise: is it natural?
30:20 The cost of health care – both financial and social
32:55 Which of Greg’s achievements means the most to him?
34:00 37 hours on the Missouri this summer – link to race website
35:00 Training for racing – and solitude. The joy of audiobooks!
37:45 Handling setbacks and disappointments