Lael stands at the start line in Tecate the evening before her departure. All other images are from our travels on the Baja Divide this winter. Below, Lael test rides Collin’s 20×4.0″ Cycletrucks SUB at the exact spot she camped last night.
Lael began her Baja Divide FKT attempt (fastest known time) yesterday just after 5AM, under a clear starry sky with a perfect ten day forecast on the horizon. For the first time this season since mid-December, rain is not forecast for more than a week. For those of us that have been traveling in Baja California Sur— the southern of the two states in Baja— it may seem like weeks since we’ve seen much weather. However, in northern Baja, and in Alta California (that’s California, USA to the rest of us), rain has been persistent through the season. Reservoirs are overflowing, rivers are running high, and the hills are as green as anyone can remember. This is a place this is brown for much of the year.
Lael called yesterday from Ejido Uruapan, known to Baja Divide riders as the friendly agricultural community at the base of one of the best descents on route, with hot springs that provides both private baths for 20 pesos and laundry facilities, as well as burritos and tamales. She reports “so much water on the route”. The roads were mostly dry as she left Tecate— it had been two full days since the rain, including one clear sunny day— although the sandy soils in this area may retain water for days. But what she was referring to are seasonal streams and drainages which were full of water; these are streams we’ve never seen before, even after typical winter rains. Lael described riding into one such crossing at speed, which she quickly learned was more than hub deep. The San Diego area and parts of northern Baja recorded up to an inch and a half of rain in just over 24 hours on Monday and Tuesday. As the sun shone through her entire first day of riding, roads continue to dry out and by the time she reaches parts of the route which are prone to mud, the track will be fast and firm. Lael encountered 2 or 3 Baja Divide riders during the day.
Despite perfectly clear skies, strong gusting winds from the ENE in excess of 30 mph dominated the day. Leaving Tecate, the track pushed straight east into the wind until Neji, where the route rejoins a larger dirt road toward Ojos Negros to the south.
I asked Lael about her breathing and she said it was “the same as it ever is”, which means it isn’t a problem and she is not experiencing any constriction, as has happened on her first Tour Divide ride as well as on her Arizona Trail ITT. She had a cold a few weeks ago and was concerned about lingering phlegm. The challenge of traveling and building the bike and preparing for this endeavor put additional stress on her body. But her lungs are fine, although she reports that “around mile 95, my legs just died”. It was clear to me from following the tracker— and also knowing the route intimately— that something had occurred. To hear that her legs were tired but her lungs are fine caused me great joy. The legs will recover, and I should have expected it as we have spent relatively little time on the bikes in the last two weeks.
Since finishing the Baja Divide route in mid-February, we have visited with our parents near La Paz, traveled back north to prepare for this event, and managed the major logistical challenges of receiving new parts and equipment in Mexico. Since leaving Ejido Uruapan yesterday evening, Lael’s legs seem to have recovered and she recorded better than average night time speeds, from my estimates. For this event, she is using a new Sinewave dynamo light which provides excellent output even through slow, technical sections, which is the major failing point of most dynamo lights.
She also has two Black Diamond Icon Poler headlights, one strapped to the face plate of her stem and one zip-tied to her helmet. This little battery-powered headlight puts out up to 300 lumens of light for 7-8 hours. The best part is, the batteries are housed in a separate case and the wiring between the two is detachable. So, the lightweight head unit remains on her helmet at all times and the battery pack with 4 AA cells is stored away during the day. These lights are currently available for half-price from Black Diamond. They are highly recommended for multi-day technical rides where slow speeds are expected and normal rechargeable lights will not last the duration of the event.
Lael picked up some machaca burritos from the Abarrotes Uruapan, a small store we both enjoy visiting which is packed with tons of food inside. Since Lael won’t often be stopping to wait for prepared foods, even though most taco stands are super fast, these prepared burritos are perfect. Machaca is a dried shredded beef that is common in all of Baja.
Her plan was to reach Erendira last night to rest her legs and stay ahead of any respiratory risks. She passed Erendira just before midnight and camped a few miles past town, at a place with a large rocky outcropping by the ocean. Lows are in the high 40’s to low 50’s. At the last moment before leaving Tecate, Lael decided not to bring her sleeping bag. Instead, she is packing a lightweight silnylon bivy and a reflective windshield sun shade which we bought and cut to size from an auto parts store. Her total distance from Tecate after one day of riding was 164 miles (264 km).
Leaving the Pacific coast this morning, Lael continues her ride today through Colonet on MEX1 and into the Sierra San Pedro Martir up to Rancho El Coyote and Rancho Meling, then back down to Vicente Guerrero and San Quintin, before returning to the mountains once again at the end of the day or early tomorrow.
Follow Lael’s Baja Divide FKT attempt on Trackleaders.com. Also, follow the video link at the bottom of the page to the town of Colonet, where a friend of the Baja Divide named Jesus caught up with Lael this morning.
Jesus and a couple of friend caught up with Lael outside the OXXO this morning as she prepared to ride into the mountains. Jesus was hoping to pedal out of town for a couple of miles. The Baja Divide is also opening new routes to local riders, whose rides typically remain nearer to town. You may need to be signed into Facebook to view this video.