Some of the leading group bivvied in the Butts Cabin, a public cabin available on a first-come first-served basis, about 200 miles from Banff. This is the Tobermory Cabin, just over the top of Elk Pass, about 40 miles before Elkford.
I gleaned from the greater social media scene that there was some precipitation on the first day out of Banff, some even mentioned snow and peanut butter mud or “death mud”. Nighttime temperatures were expected to be near freezing in the mountains.
Lael simply mentioned that there was rain and freezing rain when I spoke with her this afternoon. And at night, she crossed through a series of cold streams for some time. This morning, she was riding behind nine guys, ahead of about 140 other riders. She was on her own unscripted race pace, which come with little calculation or expectation.
Here’s the important part, which I only learned when she crossed back into the country and was riding the pavement from Roosville to Eureka– she is sick.
On the evening of the first day, beyond Sparwood, the fresh feeling of breathing hard up hills had turned to respiratory constriction. Her breathing was condensed to shallow breaths and wheezing. She did not sleep well, woke early and continued. Unable to breathe she walked up much of Galton Pass– the last of three passes in the remote Canadian Flathead section, and the steepest– and ripped down the other side to the border crossing at Rooseville. I spoke with her while she was riding, with labored breath, on the way to Eureka. Eureka would be the place to figure out what the heck is going on, if it can be mitigated or overcome. I received another phone call several hours later and breathing was still a challenge, and she felt like she was getting sick, for real. She admitted to feeling something coming on while in Canmore, in the days before the race. She bought some DayQuil at the gas station in Eureka, and a soda.
Three hours later I heard– the last report before she left Eureka- that she found some Mucinex, coughed up a ton of green shit, was breathing more normally, her anxiety about the situation had subsided, she might in fact be able to ride, that she was eating real food, and that she might leave town tonight. There were serious moments in which her race was over, save for a restart in Eureka after a few days of recovery, but not much of a race anymore. She talked about riding down to Colorado when she felt better to enjoy the Colorado Trail in peak season. But when her airways cleared and her mind relaxed, riding was once again an option, and her preference. If she can overcome illness while riding, if she can recover while kind-of racing, is yet to be seen.
She pedaled out of Eureka about an hour ago, about five hours after she first arrived. Additionally, as she sees it, she wasted a few hours this morning when she was forced to walk.
After refusing to refresh the Trackleaders page for five hours, I finally clicked the button. Lael is still the leading female competitor. If and when she reaches Whitefish tomorrow, we’ll have a much clearer idea of the future of her race.
Two things I heard today: It is really scary when you can’t breathe, and, racing is really fun.
I’m thinking of her and all the other riders whose personal challenges are very real.