especially considering there have been a couple of topics that I wanted to post, chat, shout out about.
Anyways...I'm putting off procrastinating until later, so get ready for a couple of quick posts over the next few days...I hope...starting with this one.
As I have mentioned in past posts...if you can remember that far back, I entered this season with the intention to back off from racing, and just to get back to enjoying riding. The events I did enter, like the Spring Epic 8 Hour, the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice, and the Quebec Singletrack Experience, or backpacking the BT700, I approached with the the same intention...to enjoy the ride. Those were the major events I planned to attend this season; along with a whole lot of just plain non-event riding...and then this came up.
And this event was intriguingly super-cool for a number of reasons. First super-cool reason: It was being run\promoted by MarcWS. Marc ended up inadvertently, unexpectedly, last minute supporting me for the 24 Hours of Summer Solstice...and did an amazingly, totally over-the-top job of it. So I felt compelled to support his venture. Plus Marc is a single speeder...it doesn't get any cooler than that.
Second super-cool reason: It was a gravel race. I have done many 8 hour mountain bike races, but I have never heard of an 8 hour gravel race...I was very intrigued! Especially considering my gravel bike is single speed...which leads to the next super-cool reason:
The course. A 27 kilometre loop...with over 300m of climbing per loop. On an almost closed course. The course was basically a fireroad. A single lane (real single...like one lane...fitting one vehicle), linking the odd nearby cottage and the abundant ATV/snowmobile/mountain bike trails...which meant almost no vehicle traffic. I think I may have seen two vehicles the entire day...almost certainly locals driving with cautious attention. The surface included rocky hardpack, loose gravel, and the odd bit of sand where road work/culvert installation had recently been done. Super-tough...but super-cool.
Fourth super-cool reason: An aid station every 5 kilometres! Because cell coverage on course was sketchy at best...mostly non-existent, there was always an aid station with in close walking proximity. And every aid station was super supportive...with at least two volunteers heartily cheering you on at every lap! Very motivating...especially as the day wore on and the single speed legs started getting rubbery.
Anyways, I could go on with great reasons to do this race, but these were the main ones. So..off I went to Haliburton. I stayed at a buddy's (thanks ChrisB!!) cottage for the weekend...a ten minute drive from the race venue. Lois came along too (that never happens) for a relaxing weekend in the Haliburton forest. My friend JohnL also attended the race. We were both on Kona Ti Roves...but his was geared. I was set up with a 40-13 single speed, and I was running 29x1.8 old school mtb race tires (Specialized Renegades)...29x1.8 equates to 700x45 in roadie terms. I ran them softer at between 35 and 40 psi to help soak up some of the bumps, lumps, and chatter...hopefully float better over the sandy bits, and make for a more comfortable 8 hours.
The race started with a light cool rain...but the weather warmed up nicely as the day went on. The 27 kilometre loop took me about an hour for the first couple of laps...but the repeated climbing, quickly caused that time to stretch out. The course was basically roller after roller...with a couple of the climbs just long and steep enough to cause me to slow speed grind just to barely make it over the top (I guess the fact that I am currently weighing in at over 200lbs doesn't help...). The descents were fast and somewhat sketchy into loose gravel and sand....a couple of them around sharp curves. It took me three laps to learn to slow down around the curved loose descent at km 13...yeah I overcooked it three times in a row having to ride it out in the ditch of long grass...luckily surviving intact each time. (Ya...slow learner...). The cheering volunteers at each aid station were a very welcome motivation.
There were also great photog volunteers on scene...
Thanks for the great pics Jean!!
(Photo creds: Jean Horsely)
As it turned out I was the only solo single speeder, so there wasn't a single speed category. I went into the race hoping to get in 5 laps...mostly worried about my tall gearing, and the extensive climbing...but as I rolled in to finish lap 5 I realized I had time to complete another lap. I pulled up to my pit/cooler (ya the solo pits were right at the finish/transition zone), and realized I was out of water, and wasn't smart enough to reload at one of the aid stations. However, as every good mountain bike knows...there are always beers in the cooler. So one of those beers went into a water bottle and off I went. None too fast...my one hour lap times had stretched into almost 1:15 for lap 5. However, I went out for every lap with a grin on my face (that doesn't always happen in a mtb 8 hour). The course was just so much fun....the climbs were just enough of a grueling challenge, the descents were high speed fun, the other racers were heartily pleasant....everyone was enjoying this unique event! And the volunteers were amazing!!
As I finished lap 6 I was totally cooked. I had about another hour to get in a 7th lap...but there was no chance of that happening...I was done. The climb muscles were totally toasted...
But, I had come in 5th out of 21 solo males. I was happy with that. (My buddy John had managed 7 laps...awesome performance!!).
And I am already stoked (you can't have a mountain bike blog without the word 'stoked' in it at least once, right??), to do this race again next year!! 8 hours of gravel...amazing course, great people...nothing but pure fun!!
If you are looking for something different...and you enjoy a fun, tough challenge...you have to do this thing in 2020. I have a feeling this event is going to become another popular classic!! Be part of it!! I'm sayin!!
So there ya have it. 8 Hours of Hurtin' in Haliburton. Just the first of the blog posts I need to catch up on...ya, I know...about time!! So what's the next one?