Updated December 4, 2019 . AmFam Team
Bobby Klatt doesn’t let obstacles get in the way of his dreams — and his persistence is changing lives all around his home state of Wisconsin.
Today, when Bobby’s not in the office working as a marketing manager for American Family Insurance agent Michael Thompson, you might spot him cycling around the countryside as he trains for his next long-distance race. Bobby says it’s his military mindset (developed during his time in the Wisconsin Army National Guard and his deployment to Iraq in 2009) that inspired him to train for ultra-endurance sports. “It’s not typical. Ultra-endurance really pushes you mentally,” he says. “There’s a big reward for going beyond what you thought were your limits.”
Originally, Bobby says he wanted to do an Ironman Triathlon (Opens in a new tab) — an elite race with a 2.4 mile open-water swim, 112 mile bike course, and 26.2 mile marathon run. But after his military tour, he started having ankle problems. “I ended up having double-ankle surgery, so running a marathon was out the window,” he says. But Bobby didn’t want to give up on ultra-endurance sports, so he focused his training on cycling. Within a year, he’d completed a 400-mile race across Minnesota.
Then, his dream grew.
“I set my sights on the Race Across the West (Opens in a new tab),” Bobby says. This event crosses four states, with 930 miles of biking in the deserts and mountains between California and Colorado within 92 hours. It’s a qualifying race for the even-more-grueling Race Across America (Opens in a new tab), a 3,000 mile race that starts in California and ends in Maryland.
Few cyclists would even contemplate this course, but Bobby didn’t let that intimidate him. He began an intense training regimen, logging thousands of miles on his bike. “It’s almost a full-time job to train,” Bobby says. “I put in 20 to 30 hours a week on the bike alone, plus 5 to 10 hours in cross training. It was a lot of early mornings, late nights, and eight hours a day on weekends to train. But it really keeps me focused.”
In June 2019, the rubber hit the road starting in Oceanside, California.
The course started out well, says Bobby. Then, around mile 330, after 27 hours biking in temperatures reaching 120 degrees, he experienced acute kidney failure — a condition that’s all-too-common with ultra-endurance athletes. It’s what happens when your kidneys are suddenly unable to filer salts, fluids and waste from your blood. He says even with all the intense training ahead of the race, and drinking a lot of water, it was tough to endure 10,000 feet of climbing in scorching heat.
Bobby ended up being rushed off the race course to the hospital. After a few hours hooked up to an IV, he thought about getting back on his bike to finish the race, but ultimately decided against it. Pulling out of the race was the only option.
“The race kicked me in the teeth,” he says. “But it won’t hold me back.” Despite the tough odds, he plans to finish Race Across the West and then Race Across America.
Bobby competed in the race as a personal challenge, he also used it as a way to help others. He started by fundraising for 4th Hooah Wisconsin (Opens in a new tab), a cause close to his heart that supports veterans and their families.
Bobby and his team raised $16,000 for the organization, smashing their original goal of $10,000.
4th Hooah Wisconsin works to meet the everyday needs of veterans, including financial-assistance programs, mental health awareness and treatment, and service dog training. The funds raised will better the lives of veterans around Wisconsin.
“Bobby has spent countless hours in his community helping veterans and raising awareness for the veteran suicide rate,” says Bobby’s friend and American Family Agent Josh Lawrence of Green Bay, Wisconsin, who worked on the five-person crew for Bobby’s race.
“I’ve had the fortune of being able to travel this journey with Bobby every step of the way, and I will continue to support him in all that’s ahead,” says Josh.
“He’s inspiring others to pursue their dreams as he works toward his own.”