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Adventurer aims to be first to travel from Canada to Hawaii using pedal power

Wed, 02/10/2010 - 1:01pm
Lauren La Rose-Associated Press

Greg Kolodziejzyk is preparing to embark on a 4,800-kilometre journey to paradise — but he won't be booking a plane ticket or boarding a cruiseliner to get there.

The Alberta adventurer already holds world records for the most distance travelled by human power both on land and on water. But for his latest challenge, he's planning to shatter his own high-water mark.

This summer, Kolodziejzyk plans to pedal a customized human-powered boat on a solo journey across the Pacific Ocean from Canada to Hawaii. The trip, slated to begin July 1, is expected to take between 50 and 80 days.

On Monday, he'll set off with his friend, Bryon Howard, for a sea trial of the pedal-powered expedition boat WiTHiN.

Kolodziejzyk, now 48, was in his early 30s when he sold his software company to Adobe Systems, making him a millionaire. At the time, he said he was looking for something new to challenge himself.

"I was kind of typical at the time, businessman spending most of my time sitting behind a desk and my health wasn't great," he recalled in a phone interview from Calgary. "I was a good 50 pounds overweight and I figured now is probably a good time to look into getting into physical shape.

He entered his first Ironman triathalon in 2001, and has since completed a total of a dozen.

Kolodziejzyk found his love of endurance sports expanded into another area of interest where he began wondering about the limits to human power.

"It was the kind of thing that really appealed to me personally, not only the technical challenges — how can we build these vehicles that will maximize effort from a human being."

The decision to embark on his latest adventure, called "Pedal The Ocean," was made after Kolodziejzyk earned his first world record on land in 2006. He pedalled 1,041 kilometres around a racetrack in 24 hours in Critical Power, a carbon-fibre bullet bike.

"I'm a big believer in continually challenging myself with something new," he said. "I don't really have a whole lot of experience being out on the ocean, so this was something that really intrigued me."

Every two weeks, he spends 24 hours in the boat to try and simulate what a day would be like out on the ocean. He's also putting in 20-30 hours of training each week, which at this point is all cycling.

Designed by naval architect Stuart Bloomfield and engineer Brian Willoughby, WiTHiN is capable of high speeds of eight to nine km/h in good conditions. It is powered by a drive leg which is inserted through a well into the forward area of the cockpit that turns a two-bladed propeller.

WiTHiN will double both as Kolodziejzyk's transportation and his temporary home while out on the water.

The 5-foot, 11-inch adventurer, who is also a motivational speaker, will spend the bulk of his days in a cockpit spanning more than a metre across and roughly two metres from his seat to the front window.

There is a sleeping cabin and a storage compartment to hold more than 100 days worth of food and supplies. His two-way radio, portable computer, satellite phone, computer, GPS, iPod and autopilot will all be powered by solar panels and a wind generator.

Kolodziejzyk plans to create podcasts and post blog updates during the journey, as well as transmit small JPEG images daily.

Next week marks his second attempt at a sea trial of WiTHiN after experiencing a drive leg failure while attempting to circumnavigate Vancouver Island last fall.

Kolodziejzyk and Howard will take turns in the sleeping cabin and cockpit with plans to go round-the-clock for four to five days until they make it to Port Hardy at the north end of the island. Another sea trial is planned for the beginning of April west of Tofino, B.C.

Kolodziejzyk is using his adventure to address his concerns about obesity in Canada and to offer support to underprivileged kids.

He is inviting people to sponsor a mile of his journey for $50. For every mile he pedals across the Pacific, the charity Kimberlee's Bikes for Kids will donate a bicycle to a child in need in Canada.

"If I'm successful, that's going to mean 3,000 bikes for 3,000 kids," he said.

Kolodziejzyk admits to feeling a "combination of everything" when it comes to the journey ahead.

"Nervousness is definitely a part of it," he said. "I'm really excited and anxious to get the sea trials over with because I think they're going to go quite far in easing some of that anticipation and nervousness about just not knowing what's going to happen, so I'm really looking forward to getting those underway."

Kolodziejzyk said his family, which includes his wife, Helen, and kids Cody, 19, and Krista, 18, have been supportive.

But he recalled there was some initial confusion when he first told his wife about his plans.

"She goes, 'I'm not going.' I said, 'No, no, no, I meant me, I'm going to do this.'"

"She said, 'Well, that's fine, I thought you wanted me to go with you,'" he recalled, laughing. "She's cool with it."

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On The Net:

Pedal the Ocean: www.pedaltheocean.com

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