Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Go Lael, go!

The instant that she realized those random people cheering on the side of the road were us.
The Tour Divide, for those who don't know, is probably the most challenging long distance race in bicycling. Unlike more well known events, such as the Tour de France, riders have no support teams, can accept no food, water or assistance from anyone, are competing for no fabulous prize money, and many rarely, if ever, encounter a bed or a shower for the duration of the nearly 3,000 mile race. The route traces the Rocky Mountain Continental Divide from Banff, Alberta in southern Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the U.S. border with Mexico.

If you've been keeping track of the Tour Divide this year, you'll undoubtedly know about Lael Wilcox. If you haven't been paying attention, Lael is one of the most exciting parts of this immense race, which, this year is more full of excitement than ever. The best way to keep track of her, in addition to her Spot tracker, is through the blog of her adventure partner and mechanic, Nicholas Carman.

After a 2,100 mile warm up ride from her home in Anchorage to the Tour Divide starting line in Banff, Lael started out strong on the 2015 Tour Divide race. Then, she almost immediately caught a severe case of bronchitis and a cold, yet still managed to rack up well over 100 miles a day as she fought her infection on the trail, eventually with the help of antibiotics. For the first week of the race, I can't imagine how difficult it was for her as she battled a serious respiratory illness, in addition to the elements and grueling distances of the route.

When her Spot tracker showed that she was beginning to cover ever greater distances, passing many competitors along the way, it was a sign that she was feeling better. We've been watching her pink Spot marker move quickly down the map, and when she rolled through Steamboat Springs yesterday, I decided we'd try to find a place to cheer for her along the trail. So today, we made the trek from Denver to a place where the Tour Divide route intersects Highway 285 near Como, Colorado.

The leader of Lael's Colorado cheering section. The sign says, "Go Lael! You can do it!"
We found a place to wait a bit North of Como, and had a picnic lunch. Before I could get my camera out, racers Joe Fox and Andres Bonelli rode past us. I knew that Lael had been picking off the members of the group of riders that they had been a part of, so she couldn't be far behind. About 20 minutes after they went by, we saw her signature light blue helmet, and were happy to have not missed her.

Lael was all smiles when she realized it was us. In order to answer multiple questions, she gave a quick tour of her bike and what she's carrying. Other than snacks, water, navigation devices, and antibiotics, she isn't hauling much. I have a feeling many Tour Divide racers will reevaluate their loads after seeing the minimal amount Lael carries.

After a few minutes, it was time to send her on her way. It was great to see Lael in the midst of the race, and I'm happy to say that she's looking healthy and strong, even if she still has the remnants of a deep cough that she described as, "nothing compared to what it used to be."

We first met Lael and Nick nearly three years ago. She, at the time, was an experienced rider, but novice mountain biker, gaining a footing aboard a used Raleigh XXIX 29er that Nick put together for her. Since then, we've seen these two adventurers when their path took them through our part of the world, or our path through theirs. It's now an honor to see Lael again as a top-tier athlete during a likely record-breaking run. At present, 11 days into the race, she's almost a day ahead of the current women's record. We all wish her the best on her way to Antelope Wells.

Happy trails, Lael!

My official Team Lael cap. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Pedal biker!

At 3 years, 3 months, little sister is now a pedal biker. We'll have a lot more to learn, but this is one proud girl with a proud family.