A few weeks ago had the pleasure of riding some excellent gravel at 8 Hours of Hurtin’ in Haliburton, brought to you by Heather and Marc Sinclair of Valley Works, also known for many great routes, including the Cannonball 300.
Link to my 2020 Cannonball 300 Ride Report – Cannonball 300 Bikepacking Route – Day 1
Located in the picturesque Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, 8 Hours of Hurtin’ is one of Ontario’s premier gravel events. The course follows a 27km loop along private roads connecting Macdonald Lake, Clean Lake, Eyre Lake and many more.
It’s both a fantastic day of riding and a true test of stamina of suffering as you aim to complete as many laps as you can, either solo or in teams of two.
The Venue – Haliburton Forest and Wolf Sanctuary
In addition to being an outdoor paradise featuring camping, cabin rentals, dog sledding, snowmobiling, canopy tours, and hundreds of kilometres of trails, Haliburton Forest is also a working, sustainably managed forest, also home to the Haliburton Wolf Centre.
If timing permits, it’s also worth checking out the sled dogs, a personal family favourite.
As you can from the map below, the course starts with a quick descent, a few punchy climbs, one big climb 13km in, another fast descent, before culminating in a 5km climb back to the start.
That’s not what it felt like.
To me, it started fast, it was fun.
I barely remember a hill.
Then seared into my mind13km in, that hill.
That hill I nicknamed all sorts of things, including Not F!@& Again, Where Dreams Go To Die, and Heartbreak Hill.
The hill that sent lactate coursing through my veins.
That hill that made the next 13km feel like hell.
I can’t believe it now.
But, that hill had only 44m of elevation gain.
That hill was barely a bunny hill.
But it felt like a mountain.
It’s a beautiful loop, with beautiful lakes.
Short, punchy climbs.
Followed by fast descents.
I’ve missed racing a lot.
So when I heard that Hurtin’ was running again in 2021, I signed as soon as the waitlist opened up.
And like I said, I’ve missed racing a lot.
So, when Multi Sport Canada announced a triathlon season a few weeks later, I didn’t miss a beat and signed for all three. The only issue… 8 Hours’ of Hurtin on Saturday, followed by the Welland Olympic Triathlon on Sunday.
Now I’ve missed racing, but that seemed a little crazy even to me.
Thanks to Ontario Gravel and Adventure Riders and the amazingly understanding team at Valley Works, I was able to find a teammate and switch to the duo category.
With that, I introduce you to my new friend and teammate, Hani Morsi, owner of Montu Bikes.
Race day arrived, and two and a half hours of driving later, I was back to contemplating my life choices. The thought of finishing Saturday, driving to the city, acknowledging the family, switching bikes, then driving another two hours to Welland seemed more than a little selfish and quite painful.
The thought of walking away from Welland, perhaps even more painful.
My plan, push myself as hard as I can for three laps, hopefully so hard that my legs and dreams of Welland will both be dead by the morning.
The team plan… Hani to start lap 1, Cory to follow lap 2.
Cory – Lap 1 – 1:03.02
Lap 1, the lap that felt like a race.
30km/hr on a road bike is a good speed for me. Anything over 23km/hr, and I’m pushing it on my gravel bike.
At 27km a lap, finishing at least one lap in under an hour seemed highly possible.
Thanks to Allen from team Stefan and Allen, I almost did it.
For one hour, we traded positions, a constant back and forth, pushing me to the finish.
But Heartbreak Hill.
From averaging over 28km/hr for the first 13km to dropping to under 25km/hr just 1km later.
With Allen nipping at my heels, I went all out to the finish, giving it all I had for that final 7km climb, but my dreams had died at Heartbreak Hill.
Final time 1:03:11 / 25.4km/hr.
Cory – Lap 2 – 1:08.17
As I pulled into the waiting area at the start of lap 2, my new friend Allen was back.
It seemed our teams were perfectly matched.
Thanks to a fantastic lap 3 by Hani, I started lap 4 with almost a full minute lead I was determined to hold.
It wasn’t meant to be.
By the time I finished that f!@#ing hill, my legs were done.
As I passed the last aid station a few km later, Allen, having crushed my one-minute lead, was back and motivated for more, finishing the lap a full forty seconds ahead.
A lead that wouldn’t be relinquished.
Cory – Lap 3 – 1:14.00
I don’t know what’s worse, riding for eight hours straight at a steady pace, or pushing hard for three separate laps, with a prolonged rest in between.
What I do know, by the time my hour rest was up, my legs were exhausted.
From dreams of averaging 27km/hr in lap 1 to barely holding 22km/hr in lap 3.
Congrats to team Stefan and Allen for pulling out a commanding six-minute lead by the end of lap 5, adding in another six by the end of lap 6, eventually finishing one lap and two places ahead.
As for Welland, I got an easy out. My fridge went on the fritz earlier that day, so back home I went. If you’re curious, the freezer was left open a couple of weeks back, causing frost to form on the vents, fixed by a full twenty-four defrosting.
Hurtin’ in Haliburton 2021 – Results
Solo Single Speed Podium
Spencer Gough – 7 laps – 7:55:08 | Jonny Calcagni – 6 laps – 7:22:52 | Michael Tourond – 5 lap – 7:25:07
Solo Female Podium
Julie Toole – 7 laps – 7:15:36 | Belinda Bain – 7 laps – 7:37:53 | Angela Quick – 7 laps – 7:45:56
Solo Male Podium
Adam Hill – 8 laps – 7:11:48 | Nicholas Emsley – 8 laps – 7:30:47 | Andrew Lambert – 8 laps – 7:31:11
Duo Female Podium
Emily and Virginia – 8 laps – 7:42:29 | Im and KC – 7 laps – 7:16:49 | High Maintenance – 7 laps – 7:48:32
Duo Male Podium
DR Mack – 8 laps – 7:15:43 | Michael and Jake – 8 laps – 7:30:16 | Allen Lake United – 8 laps – 7:30:43
Duo Mixed Podium
Mudsuckers – 7 laps – 7:29:14 | Two Noodles – 6 laps – 6:50:45 | Outlaw Riders – 6 laps – 7:01:35
Huge props to all the amazing volunteers.
With hundreds of riders, completing countless laps, over the eight hours, the cheering and cowbells never stopped.
Not just the cheering, the entertainment too, including the costumed cheer squad at aid station 1.
With aid stations spaced every 5-6km apart, there was plenty of food and drink available.
And good food and beer from Haliburton Highlands Brewery when the day was done.
Thanks for reading,