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The Triple Threat Who Can't Be Stopped

When 21-year-old Lukas Verzbicas turned pro as a triathlete, he got death threats. As a teenager, he’d been billed as the next great hope in American running, becoming only the fifth high school star to break the four-minute barrier in the mile. As some runners saw it, he’d betrayed their sport. But according to Verzbicas, triathlon, something he’d pursued since he was 11 years old, was always his true passion. In 2011, he graduated early from high school and set his sights on competing in the sport at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

THE CRASH: Verzbicas had already picked up two Olympic-distance wins on the World Cup circuit when, during a workout in July 2012, he lost control of his bike and slammed into a guardrail. He punctured a lung, broke two vertebrae, and partially severed his spinal cord.

THE DAMAGE: Doctors screwed his clavicle back together and implanted 
a titanium rod along his spine. But there was nothing they could do for his paralyzed right leg other than hope it would regain movement as his spinal cord mended. “I had to become a new person after that,” he says, “new tissue, new muscle, and new nerves.”

THE REBIRTH: Three months later, when he started relearning how to walk, his muscles had atrophied. Instead of giving up, Verzbicas used it as an opportunity to remake himself. Now he lifts weights four or five times a week, and he’s stronger than ever. “I can’t be the same as I once was,” he says, “but I can be better.”

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Miraculously, two years after the accident, he’s again near the top of the pro ranks. In races this spring, he scored two top-ten finishes.

UP NEXT: In August, he’ll test himself at the under-23 world championships in Edmonton, Alberta. The race will be one more step along what he has come to call his long road to Rio. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid,” says Verzbicas, “and it’s stronger than ever.”

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SPL’s GoPro Water Housing

Ever wonder how surf photographers get that cool half-in-half-out-of-the-water shot as the surfer rides by? The answer: an underwater housing with a dome port—essentially a big glass bubble on the end of a lens that widens the camera’s point of view.

While these setups can cost much more than $2,000 for large cameras and DSLRs, there is a more affordable option for your GoPro thanks to SPL Water Housings

Fitted to a small handle, the company's housing is made from an ultra-light aluminum mold that holds the GoPro Hero3 in place. On the front, you can attach either a standard flat cover or choose between a 5-inch and 8-inch dome port. Once the camera is in the housing, you can control the shutter with a thumb trigger or with the WiFi remote—if you're not underwater yourself.

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Note: This isn't a dive housing, which means it’s not rated to go deep underwater. But it is splash-rated, making it perfect for other water sports such as kayaking, fishing, and surfing.


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A Shrine to Luxury Adventure

In Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, south of Osaka, sits the Kumano Kodo, a series of ancient pilgrimage routes that wind through the misty, cedar-filled Kii Mountain Range. Though popular with the Japanese, the 1,000-plus-year-old trail system doesn’t see many outsiders, which is a shame given the brain-meltingly beautiful sites along the way—ornate Shinto shrines, waterfalls, and centuries-old stone staircases, chief among them.

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Start your spiritual quest (or really pretty hike, depending on how you view it) on the Nakahechi, a 25-mile UNESCO World Heritage–certified stretch of the Kumano that kicks off at the trailhead near the Takijiri-oji Buddhist shrine.

From here, you’ll hike two hours to Kiri-no-Sato Takahara Lodge, a peaceful spot to spend a day or two before really digging into the trek. Built atop a wildflower-covered ridge in the village of Takahara, the lodge boasts Japanese- and American-style guest rooms, indoor and outdoor onsens (hot-spring baths), and Wakayama dinners made with ingredients from the on-site organic garden.

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Take your meals—think vegetable hot pots and tuna sashimi—on the outdoor patio overlooking mountains and terraced farm fields. Or sit inside in the handsome dining room, built with local hardwoods. After dinner, walk the grounds while trying to wrap your head around this primeval corner of the world.

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The details: Rooms range from 11,000 yen (approximately $108) to 12,800 yen ($125) per night, depending on whether you want meals included (pro tip: you do).

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Sleeping on El Capitan

In the fall of 2007, I began an incredible adventure that took me from Yosemite to the shores of Chile—a journey that eventually became the coffee table book and documentary film 180 Degrees South. With stops in Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, and Easter Island, my goal was to retrace the steps of Patagonia founder Yvan Chouinard and The North Face founder Doug Tompkins on thier famous 1968 journey from Ventura, California, to Mount Fitzroy, Chile.

On this particular morning, I found myself waking up with Keith Malloy and Timmy O'Neill 1,600 feet off the ground, inside the Black Cave on the North American Wall of El Capitan. It was the trip of my life.

TOOLS: Canon 5D, 16mm, 1/100 second, f/4, ISO 200

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