Packing the new bike on the new backpack in a cheap motel room on Route 66 in Flagstaff, AZ, a few days before the start. Several days of rain followed by several cool, dry days led up to Lael’s AZT 750 ITT. The preferred packing method is to leave the rear wheel in the bike.
Lael reached the Grand Canyon quickly. She hiked through the Canyon in a total time of 14 hours, including a two hour nap by the river. She hiked out of the Canyon on the South Kaibab Trail in just over four hours. She rode to a high point on the route alongside Humphrey’s Peak at sunset on the second day when a familiar feeling crept into the scene. On an extended singletrack climb from the open plains of the Babbit Ranch to aspen groves at 9000ft, the taste of blood touched her tongue. This is a feeling she describes often, made familiar by cold weather high output activities like cross country skiing and running in Alaska. Further, she described in a late evening phone call from her bivy, her airways tightened and mucus developed over the course of the afternoon. She reports a bloody nose while pedaling into headwinds across Babbit Ranch.
She told me not to worry, that she would leave the remaining five miles of rocky trail for the morning, that she would resupply and rethink the ride in the morning, that morning would provide all of the questions and answers required. At that moment, since leaving the Utah border almost 40 hours ago, she’d only had 2 hours of sleep while traveling about two hundred miles, including that little hike across the Colorado River. Perhaps morning would be better. I think we both knew exactly how the morning would be.
In the morning, she called from the grocery store to say that she would continue south of Flagstaff. But we both know that the pattern is likely to continue, as it did during the Tour Divide. Mornings are fine, afternoons are worsening, evenings are difficult to impossible. She has a few strategies to minimize the risk of an attack. Last night she slept between 8-9 hours, which may also help.
Despite delays, she is currently only a few hours behind her approximate “hopeful” schedule, more in line with the “expected” timeline. She was once ahead of both projections, until her breathing changed.
Considering the pattern in the Tour Divide and again on the Arizona Trail, the likely diagnosis for her condition is exercise induced asthma, more accurately called exercise induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). In any case, Lael was clear to say that she wasn’t interested in riding her bike every day until she collapses in an asthmatic fit. She has been here before. It isn’t fun, and there are potential long-term health risks. A sustainable lifestyle is more important than a single fast ride on the AZT.
By the end of the day we’ll have a clear idea if she will be able to continue, competitively. Cold rain is expected tomorrow.