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BIRKENSTOCK

Alaskan endurance athlete Lael Wilcox wasn’t particularly into bikes when she was a kid. She was far more interested in running, basketball and football. In fact, she only discovered cycling after injuring her achilles heel while working as a waitress in her home town of Anchorage.Unable to partake in the sports she loved and without a driving licence, she’d borrow her mother’s road bike in order to get around. It was a groundbreaking experience for the youngster.

“I realised that if I could get around my local area using this thing, I could go anywhere,” she says. “The bike opened up this amazing sense of freedom for me.” Two months later, she put the theory to the test by cycling 3,000km from Montreal to Florida. Covering up to 100km a day while
camping overnight in public parks, bikepacking proved the perfect solution for a student keen to experience the world on a limited budget.

Alaskan endurance athlete Lael Wilcox wasn’t particularly into bikes when she was a kid. She was far more interested in running, basketball and football. In fact, she only discovered cycling after injuring her achilles heel while working as a waitress in her home town of Anchorage.Unable to partake in the sports she loved and without a driving licence, she’d borrow her mother’s road bike in order to get around. It was a groundbreaking experience for the youngster.

“I realised that if I could get around my local area using this thing, I could go anywhere,” she says. “The bike opened up this amazing sense of freedom for me.” Two months later, she put the theory to the test by cycling 3,000km from Montreal to Florida. Covering up to 100km a day while
camping overnight in public parks, bikepacking proved the perfect solution for a student keen to experience the world on a limited budget.

In 2014, while still working at the Anchorage restaurant, Lael entered her first ultra-endurance race. Based in her home state, the 400-mile road race was a qualifier for a much bigger race across America. Completely inexperienced and the only woman in the event, she was leading by 40km by the first night. Completing the 400-mile course in an impressive 27 hours, she came second in the race, finishing just 12 minutes behind the winner. It was tough, but Lael found she wasn’t particularly tired after the race. Exceeding her own expectations, she learned a lot about the sport in the process. “Riding endurance produces such a broad range of highs and lows,” she says. “Everything is constantly changing: the weather, the terrain, how I’m feeling. It’s all part of the adventure. There’s joy and beauty, but pain too.”
 

This was the start of an illustrious and very successful career in which she would go on to achieve World Championship status. Eventually she became the first woman, (and the first American of any gender), to win the 4,200-mile Trans Am race. She also set course records in both the Baja Divide route and Tour Divide women’s time trials. While blazing this trail of achievement, Lael’s grounded spirit has also seen her make a return back to her roots through the introduction of her GRIT program, which aims to empower the next generation of female bikepackers.

BIRKENSTOCK

Alongside her own undeniable grit, determination and keen sense of adventure, Lael’s BIRKENSTOCKS have remained a permanent fixture on her epic voyages. She says: “My BIRKENSTOCKS are my favourite camp shoes. After a long day on the bike or even if I stop for lunch, the first thing I do is to take off my bike shoes and get into my BIRKENSTOCKS. There are a lot of other things I’ll sacrifice, but I make room for the sandals.”

“Slipping into BIRKENSTOCKS performs a tangible function. They ground me. They make a camp something other than just a tent. When I put them on, I know all the hard effort is over and I can rest.” The sandals symbolise the joy and satisfaction she feels after completing a long ride.

Alongside her own undeniable grit, determination and keen sense of adventure, Lael’s BIRKENSTOCKS have remained a permanent fixture on her epic voyages. She says: “My BIRKENSTOCKS are my favourite camp shoes. After a long day on the bike or even if I stop for lunch, the first thing I do is to take off my bike shoes and get into my BIRKENSTOCKS. There are a lot of other things I’ll sacrifice, but I make room for the sandals.”

“Slipping into BIRKENSTOCKS performs a tangible function. They ground me. They make a camp something other than just a tent. When I put them on, I know all the hard effort is over and I can rest.” The sandals symbolise the joy and satisfaction she feels after completing a long ride.