12 Lessons Learned: Riding My First Winter Ultra Bike Race

9. Never stop drinking water — With the advice from my teammate Thomas Puzak who had just raced the Arrowhead 135 a couple weeks earlier, I wore my CamelBak under my jacket and routed the drink hose down my sleeve. I had a special cap that went over the mouth piece to keep it from freezing. This way I was able to drink continuously without getting off of my bike to unscrew water bottle lids.

10. Close your mouth — Around mile 80 I noticed that my throat was really sore, like it-hurt-to-breathe sore. It quickly occurred to me that I had been breathing in a lot of subzero air for about 10 hours hours. I tried to drink my hot tea to see if that would help, but it didn’t. I tried to pull my balaclava up over my mouth, but the condensation made it freeze quickly. I had to just focus on breathing through my nose the best I could. After the race, I learned that I should’ve been trying to breathe through my nose more often throughout the race to help protect my throat.

Blue sky above, white ground below. This was my view for much of the race.

11. Don’t carry more than you need (but be smart about it) — The Actif Epica was the first race I might have actually consumed more calories than I burned. Ok, not really, but close! At each of the checkpoints volunteers and organizers had prepared an array of food and drinks. At the half-way mark, they even had hot soup and cooked us fresh perogies. It felt like an oasis! I barely ate half of the food I had brought with me and could have carried a lot less weight on my bike if I had planned ahead.

12. Finish strong — By about mile 70, I was beyond beat. It was nearing 10:00pm, I was cold and tired, but the finish line was in sight. The last leg of the race was in the city of Winnipeg and the finishing stretch was on the frozen Red River. Spectators and race organizers were cheering me on. Before I knew it I was crossing the finish line. I had finished! I was officially a winter endurance racer!

—Amy Oberbroeckling is an Assistant Editor at GearJunkie.

Amy Oberbroeckling

Amy Oberbroeckling, an Iowa native, joined GearJunkie out of college and brought a passion for endurance sports as well as a flawless record in arm wrestling matches against famous rock climbers. Find her biking, trail running, cross-country skiing, camping, or tipping back a cold IPA.