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photo: Janos Schmidt

Two Weekends at World Championships


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Editor's note: Andre Kajlich lost his legs in December 2003 in a subway accident he was 24 years old at the time. He participated in his first triathlon in 2011 and in a short time has competed in some of the most recognizable multisport events around. Over the next two weeks he will blog for USA Triathlon about two major competitions he is racing in to close his 2012 season.

This week I am lucky enough to bring my racing season to close in dramatic fashion. On the 13th I'll race in the Ironman World Championships in Kona. A couple days after that, I'm off to Auckland, New Zealand, to race at ITU Worlds. Just eight days separate the two competitions, but how could I resist? In my world of triathlon, it doesn't get any bigger or better than this.

The Big Island has welcomed me back for the second straight year. This year I came even earlier and we chose a much more secluded location way up on Mount Hualalai, 2400 feet above town. Ali'i Drive in Kailua-Kona is a pretty sweet place to hang out for the week but I wanted to spend a bit more time exploring the island this year and simply try something different. Now, I will talk triathlon giddily and chat up everyone I meet in town, out on the course, and at the Kona cafes (land and sea-based), but it's been wonderfully calm and quiet up on this mountain and the nights are very cool (60 degrees as of 9 p.m.) which equals quality sleep for me.

Having taken some of the focus away from the town, we've spent a lot of time up and down the west coast of Hawaii. I've gotten a much better view of the place. It has been fantastic to get to know some locals this trip. From beaches to highway stops, and from young to old, they've been helpful, friendly and caring — it's been fun to meet some good people. It is a special place and now that I've been out on the Queen K during an Ironman, have driven multiple times along her breadth and explored the island from South Point up through the Kona and Kohala coasts all the way up to and passed Hawi in North Kohala, it feels so right that triathlon's crown jewel is here. I just love it.

Then of course there is the event, the athletes, the sponsors and the traditions. While I've been out on the road and up on my mountain, it is always great to participate in the festivities and rake in some sweet swag. Today it was picking the colors for my custom goggles at TYR and getting an actual transition bag at packet pick-up. You work hard to get here and to afford to get here, so it's nice to feel the love. This is the place that you feel like a superstar. I don't think it matters if you finish in 8:04 or 16:54; there's a lot to smile about.

Race day is approaching and, thankfully, this year it comes with much more excitement and much (okay, a little) less anxiety. Even as I type this, I am debating how hard I can push. There something of a feeling that last year I didn't lay it all on the line. Now, I don't want to pull a Gumby march into the finish line (not really a fear in my racing chair) but I do want to get a bit more of a look at what I've got in this here body.

The line is so often uttered "you learn a lot about yourself" in this sport. It is definitely true. However, you also get the chance to put into practice those very things you learn about yourself. I think it'd be crazy to max out in your first Ironman. You just don't know enough about how you are going to operate over 140.6 hard miles. While I have a lot more to learn, I've feel that I can play with that fire just a little bit more this coming Saturday... and that is exciting.

I don't know how the day will play out. I don't know if I will win my division. I suppose I can't even guarantee I'll finish. However, I am quite certain that it will be a tough day that will reveal a little more about what I'm made of and how well I've been training, and it'll give me a good dose of life to chew on for some time to come.