I can’t even remember the last cycling event/race I entered, but it was definitely pre-pandemic. Back in the summer, signing up for this 8-hour gravel event seemed like a good idea. Once my friend Andrea agreed to be my tag-team partner, we were all set. I just needed to get some good rides in before the September event. June turned to July, and the world was re-opening, and I spent most weekends doing all the things that were cancelled during the pandemic (travel, live music, visiting with people in person!). Then I caught COVID towards the end of July. Fortunately, I was able to get over the major symptoms prior to my ten-day vacation in BC in mid-August.
At the end of August, I resigned from my consulting job, where I’d been working for nearly 11 years. There was some scrambling to transition from that job and before I knew it, this gravel event was coming up.
Now that I’ve got the excuses out of the way, I can talk about this fine cycling event. The venue – Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve – is a million-acre (*actually 100,000 acre) area of forest, trees, lakes, trails, dirt roads, cottages and camp sites. The Forerst hosted the multi-day mountain bike race Crank the Shield and having entered that event in 2008, 2009 and 2010, I was familiar with this area (not to mention the fact that I have two siblings who live near Haliburton). Suffice to say that I had some familiarity with cycling in this Forest.
The 4th annual Hurtin’ in Haliburton 8-Hour Gravel Bike race was held on September 17, 2022. The event featured solo and tag-team categories, and a fantastic 27-kilometre loop of hilly gravel roads in Haliburton Forest. For those unfamiliar with the 8-hour format, it’s a timed event, where teams ride as many laps of the course as they can in the 8-hour time period. Hard-core enthusiasts ride the event solo, while the rest of us alternate laps in the tag-team category.
The race started at 10am sharp, with the fastest riders (including one former pro who raced in the Tour… more on that later!).
I ran into some friends at the start:
Andrea and I were hoping to ride 3 laps each. To do this, we’d have to complete the first 5 laps in about one hour and fifteen minutes so we could start the lap prior to the 5pm cutoff time and complete the 6th lap by the 6pm end time. Andrea’s first lap was around 1:07 and mine was around 1:10. This put is near the middle of the pack in the mixed-tag-team category, which had 20 teams. On my second lap, I was passed by former pro Michael Barry, who, along with his partner Diedre, were leading our category. He raced past me like I wasn’t moving:
Our second and third laps were a little slower but we managed to get our three laps in, each, with time to spare! Here’s our official finishers’ certificate:
With rain the day before and the day after, we lucked out on the weather. The organizers and volunteers are to be commended for this fine event. On the 27-km course, there were four rest stops, or one about every 5-6 km. I only took advantage of these stops once, on my final lap, when I enjoyed some delicious cookies. I heard rumours that at the other rest stops, there was bacon, pancakes, perogies, pickles, hot chocolate, fruit, gels…. (maybe next year I’ll have to take better advantage of these stops!).
Just a couple more thoughts before I click “publish” on this blog post:
- Huge thanks and kudos to my partner Andrea! I have always thought that the quality of these types of team events is dependent on your teammates. In this case, Andrea and I had a similar mindset and positive attitude throughout the weekend!
- Thanks to my brother G and his wife J who hosted us for the weekend. It’s a long drive from home and sleeping in a tent was not very appealing to me.
- Thanks, again, to the organizers and volunteers. They also make or break the event, and in this case, they made it! And of course, thanks to the Forest for the venue.
- The winning solo and tag teams completed nine (9!) laps, which is a new course record! The fastest laps were around 47 minutes (!!!), which is nearly 35 kilometres per hour. And the course includes some pretty steep hills. That’s fast!
- We met some friendly people in the pit area, including the couple who finished third in the mixed tag team category, and I ended up being out on the course with a few of the same people on each of my laps (there’s nothing like getting to know someone while your heart rate is in the red zone as you cycle up a steep dirt road!). The community of cyclists at events like this is always so positive and supportive.