Race Report: Women's 4 Hour Challenge Hardwood Hills

This past week weekend a few women from the club raced in the 4-hour Women’s Challenge at Hardwood Hills. I decided to give the event a try solo. Since last summer I have been craving doing races again, and even though this was a challenge versus a race, I just wanted to experience some of the race atmosphere. Over the past few years, I have moved from being a sort of endurance athlete to “an hour of power” kind of rider. I also prefer cooler temperatures, which is why I enjoy cross season in the fall. So 4 hours solo in the heat of summer was…um…a neat idea, I guess? I had done a couple of 2 hour rides at the Hydrocut this year. I’m sure I could do another 2 hours on top of that…

I am bad at taking pictures, but I did get a few. My solo name was “WCC Crazy Goose”. Shannon, a new member to WCC and new to mountain biking, rented a bike to do the event solo on Saturday. She has some great stories to tell about her event! I was hoping to meet up with her before the race to connect, unfortunately that didn’t happen. I did see her a few times on course, which was awesome. The start time was our own choosing between 9 and 10:45am and we timed ourselves. We had to start our last lap by the 4 hour mark and finish by 4 hours, 20 minutes. Laps were 6.5 km. I’m a bad morning person, but I’m also terrible in the heat. So I opted to wake up early to try to get started as close to 9am as possible so I could avoid riding as long in the heat.

During the first lap I really had to hold myself back from going hard. I’m used to attacking hills, seeing people ahead and trying to catch them, and pushing my pace. I knew I couldn’t do that this ride, but it was so difficult to hold back. The course was great! It began with a climb, as almost every mountain bike race does, and then moved into flowy single track with some rock gardens scattered around to keep things interesting. The downhills were fun, and I knew I could make up some time on those.

As a rider who usually maxes out at 2 hours, I’m not used to nutrition planning. Tom told me I should eat every hour. With that in mind, every hour I tried a bite of a Lara Bar. My stomach is not used to food during riding, so that was about all I could handle. I also forced myself to drink a lot more than I usually do on rides, though I definitely did not drink enough during the first hour. Next time, I’ll drink more earlier in the race. I’ll also try fresh dates instead of a bar.

The first two hours were pretty good. I was pulling off 19-22 minute laps and feeling okay. I was having fun and everyone was super positive on course. Lap 7, after the 2 hour mark, I stopped feeling okay. I took a short break, replaced my water bottle, drank some electrolytes and started off again. Lap 8 and most of lap 9 were okay again, but at the end of lap 9 I hit a wall. I had just past the 3 hour mark. I stopped again, had some more electrolytes, replaced my water and started out on lap 10. By this time the heat was brutal and I was really suffering. On lap 10, my time went up to 25 minutes. I was still able to ride flat and downhill sections okay, but uphills were slow and painful. I really wanted to do 12 laps, but during lap 11, all I could think about was my sandwich sitting in my car and how hungry I was. I decided I wanted that sandwich more than I wanted lap 12. I was also approaching the 4 hour mark and wasn’t confident that I could drag myself around for another lap without passing that 4 hour 20 minute mark. I finished 11 laps (66.5km) in 3:56:47. That put me in third place in the 35-49 category.

When I did decide to stop, I realized I wasn’t sure I could actually get off my bike. My lower back, legs and butt were quite stiff. I stood and waited until no one was watching before I ever so gracefully, stepped/fell off my bike onto the ground beside my water. I hung out there for a few minutes drinking everything I brought before making my way back to my car…to my sandwich!

My sandwich, despite being the least exciting sandwich ever (peanut butter and jam), was the most amazing sandwich I ever ate. I was so hungry and it was so delicious.

I’m happy I did the race. It was a great experience and I’ve always wanted to try a longer race solo. Along with me and Shannon who rode yesterday, Tina Eilers raced solo today. I have huge respect for those of you who race 8 and 24 hours solo. Anyone who has signed up for the Epic 8 hour at Hardwood in July is in for a good time. I do recommend you get there early because registration was slower than expected. But the course, if it’s anything like the 4 hour, will be so much fun!


Thank you for taking the time to write a race report Carolyn! I did the 4Hour in 2019 and really enjoyed it and loved reading your account and about your sandwich haha. Hope your back etc are feeling better.


Well done Carolyn!!
I hope you’re feeling non-the-worse for wear after that supreme effort. Going that extra 2 hours really is tough for folks if they’re not used to it… and the most important part of achieving those longer times is eating (as Tom told you). It’s extremely important to fuel your body for these kinds of efforts. Lesson learned!

Great write up and excellent effort. Keep up the great work.


That was a great race report, Carolyn! Congrats on a really awesome race - 11 times around!! This event was my first MTB experience since I was a kid. I will be 50 yrs this year so that was a while ago. I am a cycling newbie - purchased my first road bike last July and picked up a gravel bike in October. I was hooked instantly and I have been excited to try MTN biking too.
So my first stop when I arrived at the race was picking up my rental bike. Then headed up to the race course. Jumped on the bike to try it out. Whoa!! So different from a drop bar bike. The brakes were obnoxiously squawky and it wasn’t shifting properly so I went back to the rental place for help. After a tune-up, I was assured the brakes would be quiet and the shifting would be smooth. Neither was actually true so I stayed in the middle ring the whole time and just winced every time I pulled the brakes, lol. BUT, time to start this event! Away I went …. Up the hill and into the woods. Fun! About halfway around I felt something was wrong with the bike. I wondered if it was the suspension but it felt wobbly. So I stopped and sure enough, my front wheel was super loose. And I couldn’t tighten it as there was no quick release. So I walked out the last 2-3 km to get it fixed. I was walking along and suddenly noticed a camera poking out from behind a tree. Stopped my in my tracks. I then noticed the photographer. I did say, “please don’t take my picture walking this bike”. And we both had a good laugh.
So back at the start again and hoping my bike issues are over. I did get in a few great laps on fresh legs. Felt great to weave thru the trees and conquer some of the little obstacles on the trail. I think the photographer was happy to see that I actually did ride the bike after all.
My favourite parts of the day included the support from other riders - loved hearing “Great job Waterloo” and they came by and the glimpses I had of some great moments on the bike where I was leaning on the corners and pulling a shoulder back to miss a tree. Weeeee!!
I have so much more to learn but I had a great time with some very inspiring women. These gals were amazing. Thank you for suggesting this event, Carolyn!!


I‘ve just come across your race report and had a good laugh about how similar our experiences were. I was craving watermelon from lap 3 and quit the race after 8 laps because my whole body was aching so much and rest assured I had a peanut butter jelly sandwich after I had gobbled up the watermelon :laughing:
And I can so relate to not being able to ride in the heat especially with the humidity after the rain. So :facepunch:t2: for fighting until the end.


Fantastic effort Ladies! Congrats :slight_smile:

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