Cat Jaffee didn’t necessarily think of herself as someone who loved being alone. But then, the pandemic hit. And she got diagnosed with cancer. Actually, those two things happened on the exact same day, at the exact same hour. In the shadow of that nightmarish timing, Cat found her way to a sport that celebrated the solitude that was forced on her, and taught her how to not only embrace self-reliance, but to love it.
This sport is called competitive bikepacking. And in these competitions, riders have to bring everything they need to complete epic bike rides totally by themselves. They pack all the supplies they think they’ll need to survive, and have to refuse some of the simplest, subtlest, most intangible boosts that exist in our world.
But a leader has emerged in this sport. Her name is Lael Wilcox, and she’s a total rockstar in the world of competitive bikepacking. She’s broken all kinds of records. And also, some rules. Most recently, on this one ride she did across the entire state of Arizona.
We set out to find out what it means — for Cat, for Lael, and for any of us — to endure incredibly hard things, totally alone. The answer is on the course, in our bodies, and hidden in that mysterious place between us and the people we care about.
Special thanks to Anna Haslock, Nico Sandi, Michael Fryar, Moab Public Radio, Nichole Baker and Payson McElveen for sharing their studio with us, and The Ratavist, for letting us use the audio of Lael’s ride across Arizona. You can watch the original video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HOk0MmgFwE).
This episode was reported by - Cat Jaffee and Rachael Cusick
Produced by - Rachael Cusick
with help from - Pat Walters
Original music and sound design by - Jeremy Bloom
with mixing help from - Arianne Wack
Fact-checking by - Emily Krieger
Edited by - Pat Walters
You can watch Lael’s you can watch Lael’s ride across Arizona here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HOk0MmgFwE). And see the next season of racing by following along on TrackLeaders.com (http://trackleaders.com/)
Our newsletter comes out every Wednesday. It includes short essays, recommendations, and details about other ways to interact with the show. Sign up (https://radiolab.org/newsletter)!
Radiolab is supported by listeners like you. Support Radiolab by becoming a member of The Lab (https://members.radiolab.org/) today.
Radiolab is on YouTube! Catch up with new episodes and hear classics from our archive. Plus, find other cool things we did in the past — like miniseries, music videos, short films and animations, behind-the-scenes features, Radiolab live shows, and more. Take a look, explore and subscribe!
Follow our show on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @radiolab, and share your thoughts with us by emailing email@example.com.
Leadership support for Radiolab’s science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.