Ultraman520KCanada Day 2: 275km Bike (yes, 275km)

One square inch of pavement, so this is why we use PE, and I’m supposed to do what with this $10 bill?

Start of Day 2

We woke again to smokey skies but a slightly cooler morning temperature, and we got to sleep a half hour longer than Day 1 (which means a casual 4:30 am alarm!). Because of how my asthma reacted to the smoke the first day, I decided to take a small dose of prednisone to try to keep the inflammation in my lungs down. I hate taking it – it makes me feel jumpy and wired and I can’t sleep – but under the circumstances, I felt it was necessary

Because everyone starts out on the bike at once on Day 2, and the road is narrow, the organizers arranged us in pairs according to our bike time the previous day. I was in the second to last group.

The first part of the ride was relatively flat – more than 90 km before we had to do any real climbing. My plan was to make use of this flat part to build a time cushion without overworking my legs. This is done using a power meter (a.k.a. stupidity meter). It objectively measures how hard you are working and gives that measurement in watts. It helps by ensuring you don’t start out too hard and burn out your legs. Only this day, it’s not working. I could see my speed and time, but not power or cadence. I stopped and my crew changed the battery but it still wouldn’t work.

I also practice “Perceived Exertion” (PE), the subjective measure of power. PE is great to be aware of, but it can vary day to day, so I really prefer having the actual wattage numbers, too. It meant I had to rely on PE and compare it to my known average speed.

About 80 km into the ride, I ran over something and got a flat front tire. My crew had just passed me and were out of sight, so I started to do the repair myself when another crew came by and offered to finish the job. That’s one really big difference with this event: everyone helps everyone else. As participants, we are encouraged to let the crews do this kind of work for us so I took advantage and had a little rest. Over the next 50 km, the guest crew, my crew, and the race mechanic did 4 flat repairs and 3 wheel changes for me all because I ran over one small screw, the tip of which snapped off and lodged in my tire. I had lots of time to think about the likelihood of this. Race tires are skinny, with about a total of one square inch of rubber in contact with the road at any given time: What were the chances of actually hitting the same square inch that a single screw is laying on?!

The mechanical challenges ate up about 45 minutes which meant I had more than used up any time cushion I had built up earlier. My average speed was well below what it needed to be to finish within the 12 hour cut off and, as I was climbing, it was dropping further. Although some time could be made up on the descents and flats, I couldn’t afford for anything else to go wrong.

In Keremeos, my crew waved me to a stop. There was at least one other crew that was also wildly waving me in. Normally crews pass food and water as we ride by so this was very strange. As they stuffed extra food in my bag, water bottles on my bike, and money in my pocket, they frantically explained “There’s an accident up ahead and they’re letting some of the bikes through but we may not be able to get to you for a while. Here’s $10 to bribe the flagger  – remember to smile pretty for them!”  ……..Wait…Wha!?!?   

I had plenty of time to ponder this as I continued on. I was supposed to bribe a flagger? With $10? Was that legal? Ethical? Respectful? I never expected the afternoon to result in a moral dilemma. And what if they wouldn’t or couldn’t let me through? How much of a delay could I afford?

(As it turned out, I was so far behind the accident was completely cleaned up by the time I passed by. Dilemma averted!)

Due to forest fires, the Day 2 bike course had to be changed. Instead of climbing out on a major highway (5A out of Princeton), we headed back on a secondary road (towards Hedley) for the final out and back. I was relieved and surprised to actually come across other athletes heading towards me and the finish line. I’d managed to make up some time, hopefully not at the expense of my ability to run on Day 3.

Despite some long patches of rough pavement, that last bit of road was rolling, winding, and a heck of a lot of fun. Generally, my breathing was much better on day 2, my foot hurt less, and I was less saddle sore, but my wrist ached, and I overheated more than once.

My final time was 10:39:35.

For gear junkies, check out this video that shows my course:


Carol is a “woman of a certain age” with spunk (she’s 58). She recently completed the incredibly prestigious Ultra520K where she had to apply and prove she was capable of such an arduous competition. Upon completion, she is now the oldest female competitor to complete the Canadian event! Check out her first post here.

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