CrusherEX 2020 225 Ride Report
18 July 2020
I rode the 2020 CrusherEX 225 on July 18th, 2020. As cliched as it sounds, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally. It went well: I didn’t bonk, I stayed hydrated, no mechanicals, no injuries, and I finished.
What is CrusherEX? Normally, the Crusher is a 225-mile race from Copper Harbor to Marquette in the UP of Michigan, on “enhanced gravel.” That’s in a non-pandemic year. This year, Todd (the race organizer) put in a ton of extra work and moved everything to the EX (extra enhanced) format: ride the course (now a loop out of Marquette) anytime between July 1 and October 1, submit your GPS file and required checkpoint selfies, and you’re officially a Crusher.
Fig. 1: high tech bike maintenance
Will and I laid out and packed all our gear the day before, did some bike maintenance (including fixing his bent cassette with a hatchet – which worked fine for 115+ miles!) and tried to get to bed early, about 7pm, in our cabin at Rippling River Resort. I laid awake until at least 10pm and slept badly the rest of the night. I woke up at least once soaked in sweat. The night before a race is never restful, and this one was more stressful than most – totally unsupported, the weather didn’t look good, and it’s a 906 race, which are fiendishly difficult.
Fig. 2: They see us rollin’, they hatin’.
We woke up to my alarm at 3am. I checked the radar, and a huge storm was rolling in. Will and I talked it over and decided to go for it. We could make it over the first major obstacle of the race – carrying your bike over Hogback Mountain – before everything went bad, so we’d be safe from lightning. We rolled out of camp about 4:15 and arrived at the Forestville trailhead about 4:30. We packed our bikes and got started about 5:10.
Fig 3: Not what you want to see
I was on my Surly Ice Cream Truck with Maxxis Chronicle 29×3.0” tires, a dropper post, and a 100mm suspension fork, with a frame bag, a handlebar roll, a seat bag, and a running hydration vest,
with about 2.5L of water carrying capacity. Will rode his Santa Cruz Tallboy full suspension bike with a frame bag and a hydration pack, rolling on 2.35” Maxxis Ikons.
The race starts out with a “gravel” road section. A note on Yooper gravel: it is like normal human gravel in that it is made of rocks of varying sizes. While typical Minnesotan gravel is about Class 5 (1/4” to 1” rocks), Yooper gravel is almost, but not entirely, exclusively unlike that. It’s either dirt, sand, or gigantic boulders. The sand is worse than the boulders, because it feels like you’re riding through peanut butter; you can feel your power output sucked away, and it’s incredibly discouraging. When it gets wet, the sand sections get better, but the dirt sections turn into mud.
After about a mile of gravel road, we passed Bear Tree and started on the North Country Scenic Trail. This is a cross-country hiking trail in the spirit of the AT – not exactly bike-friendly. Lots of roots, off-camber descents, and twists through closely-spaced trees. In other words, lots of walking. There was a section of about ½ mile where it was rideable. It’s also deep in the woods, and still before dawn, so it was pitch black. I could see where my headlamp (an Outbound Lighting Hangover) was illuminating, but that was about it. After the first mud pit of the day, we started the climb up Hogback. Hogback is a gigantic granite dome in the middle of a forest; the only way up it is to scramble up cracks in huge granite slabs, while trying not to drop your bike off the side of the mountain. When you’re carrying a 60-pound bike, this is not very easy. Thankfully, we made it to the top without much incident. I was up first, looked east, saw a gorgeous red sunrise, looked west, saw the gates of hell opening, took my selfie, and scurried off the peak. I helped a few folks get their bikes to the summit, then we rushed headlong down the other side before we were struck by lightning. The other side is pretty similar to the climb up – maybe a touch less difficult. Lots of carefully positioning yourself and your bike to navigate down a slender crack in a slab. I was very glad I was wearing my 5.10 Freerider Pros – they have climbing-shoe rubber on the sole, which is incredibly sticky, so I could stand on 45 degree slopes with no problem. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to climb or descend Hogback on wet rock, which is one of the reasons we had to move quickly.
Fig. 4: Hogback scouting mission.
Fig. 5: Hogback at dawn.
We finally made it off the back of Hogback, mostly unscathed. I tripped over a log and half-fell into a mud pit, which was the first and definitely not last time I got muddy that day. We emerged into a clearing, then re-entered the woods on Jedi, which is an honest mountain bike trail. A mile or two of that, then we hit the second summit of the day – Top of the World. It’s much smaller than Hogback, but still involves pushing your bike up a granite slab. This time, it was even more urgent, as the thunder was much closer. We cleared Top of the World, took the fun singletrack descent down, and were riding gravel for about two miles when the sky opened up on us. It was drizzling when we decided to stop and put on our rain jackets. This was a good choice, as the rain proper started about five minutes later. It rained HARD for about twenty minutes, maybe half an hour. There were a couple minutes where it was literally raining so hard that I couldn’t see more than a couple feet ahead of me. The roads we were riding turned into streams. We crossed the infamous railroad track section (riding over half-buried railroad ties) that includes protruding railroad spikes to rip your tires open, rode down a gentle descent, and ended up on a paved section for a few miles. We were able to increase our pace a little harder on this section, pushing 15mph easily. The rain slackened off, and it felt good to ride.
After a few miles of pavement, we went back onto a sand/dirt road headed inland. It climbed gradually for a couple miles. Will and I had ridden it earlier in the week, and it felt faster this time – the rain really had made the sand easier to ride.
Another gravel descent led us back to the paved road, our last pavement for a while, then we turned off onto Wilson Creek Truck Trail, the first really overgrown, muddy two-track of the day. It starts out deceivingly simple – nice two-track in the woods – but at first slowly, then quickly degrades into an overgrown, muddy mess that’s blocked by trees and tall grass. Some parts of it are rideable, when you’re not lifting your bike over a fallen log. Of the two truck trails (Wilson Creek and Mulligan), Wilson Creek is much, much more passable. Eventually, it dumps you out onto a sandy road, then a couple of climbs up to a decent gravel road.
Fig. 6: The Infamous Spigot. I heard a whole bunch of riders missed this one year and all were DQ’d.
A quick descent down the gravel road led us to the mystical Spigot, Checkpoint #2. Will and I had visited it a few days earlier on the 40-mile course. It’s a pipe sticking out of a hill with water coming out of it; refreshingly cold and possessed of supernatural properties that make you Good At Bikes. There was a real crowd here, 15 or 20 riders. As we arrived, a car pulled up and disgorged a guy who proclaimed that he’d ridden the 225 over the 4th of July, when it was blisteringly hot, and that he thought the rain was a better choice. He started handing out shots of Fireball. We refilled our water and took our selfies. We were about to leave when a guy, trying to get off the road to pee, stepped in what looked like a ½” deep rivulet that turned out to be a 2’ deep mud hole. He sunk in up to his knee and was mad as hell – screaming that he’d JUST washed off his leg. Everyone laughed at him.
A few miles further down the road, we came to another paved section along with Todd and the Crusher truck. Todd was cruising the course all day, checking up on Crushers. He got our SPOT tracker numbers from us, and I asked him if he thought I could finish – I was 7 hours and about 40 miles in. He said that he’d been in the same situation with a group one of the two times he’d ridden the course, and that they’d finished under the cutoff. This gave me a much-needed morale boost. Thanks, Todd! I’d decided the day before to finish it, unless I had a mechanical or an injury, and even though the rain disheartened me, I kept rolling.
Fig. 7: The Snowplow, sitting just off the road.
Shortly afterwards, we came upon Checkpoint #3 – a rusting snowplow in the woods on the side of the road. We grabbed our selfies and rode on to Northwestern Road, which, besides incessant puddle-jumping, was pretty pleasant – a lot of downhills, some interesting stuff in the woods to look at, and only one gigantic beaver pond.
Fig. 8: Todd is in cahoots with the Beaver Mafia.
Todd had warned us that this was coming, but he told us it was top-tube deep when it was knee-deep at worst. The beavers had perfectly dammed up the culvert that drained that section of road. I think they’re in league with Todd.
After the beaver pond, there was a long slog of a climb, then we hit the turnoff for the 225. I bid farewell to Will and set off on my own. I was 8 hours, 49 minutes and 58 miles in.
The next section was a weird, scrubby pine forest of trees about 6’ tall. They did nothing to block out the sun. My Garmin recorded 104 degrees F in this section – it certainly didn’t feel that hot, but it did feel hot. I stopped and filtered water for the first time in this section, out of a small stream next to the road. This pine desert continued for a while until I started to see signs pointing to Mt. Arvon, Michigan’s highest point. It’s not actually Michigan’s highest point any longer – that’s a tailings pile in Ishpeming, which is at least 21 feet higher. There was a long, slow climb to the top of the mountain, where I walked on and off whenever a section didn’t look to be worth my energy. The top of the mountain is a total anticlimax. It’s a mailbox in the woods, surrounded by tired, sweaty cyclists and a couple confused-looking locals who didn’t know where all these maniacs came from. I took my required selfie with the mailbox and pushed on.
Fig. 9: FRIDGE BOT. Your mountain sucks, Yoopers.
The descent off Mt. Arvon was steep, rocky, and probably dangerous, but my danger sense was totally fried, and I couldn’t care less by this point. I did realize I needed to reapply chamois cream for the
first time all day – the first of MANY times. I found a secluded spot and checked on my butt-callous growth. They were coming along nicely. Fully lubricated, I continued onwards, back north towards the Huron.
A few miles after Mt. Arvon, I passed the Broken Spoke support crew for the zillionth time in the day. I was riding the race Tour Divide style – carry all your own gear, no support except that offered freely or bought at a store available to all. These jerks were riding with literal trailers of support that would meet them regularly. Most of them carried two water bottles and a patch kit.
Bastards. I’m just jealous. But purer of spirit.
Right after passing the support crew, about 4pm, I happened across Renee, who I’d seen at the beacon pick-up yesterday. She’d mentioned she was riding the 225 solo and was looking for a riding group to get through the night. She’s a high school Spanish teacher in her mid-fifties, who is a total savage. She was going about the same speed I was, so we rode together for a while, and ended up deciding to ride through the night together – we finally split up about 7am the next morning, after 120 miles together.
There was a brief paved section, then back onto a long, gradual gravel climb and a gentle descent. Near the bottom of the descent, we passed a campground with an old-fashioned hand pump, and stopped to refill water; any water we didn’t have to filter during the ride was time and energy saved. I ended up filtering twice and getting the rest of my water from the Spigot, a lady in L’Anse and this pump. I was carrying a Sawyer Squeeze water filter with two bags and kept one of the bags as a clean water repository, to up my carrying capacity a little. This pump was at about mile 100, and I ended up carrying a bag of water from it until about mile 240.
After the pump, it was roughly 10 miles to the mouth of the Huron, our first major river crossing. Leading up to it, we bombed some rough downhills, then ran into roughly half a mile of very loose, fine sand – like you’d expect on a sandy beach on the shore of Lake Superior. It was unrideable even on plus tires, so I ended up walking all the way out to the point.
The mouth of the Huron is a sandbar leading out into the lake, then a submerged sandbar that you can cross. It was slightly over knee deep on me. It looks significantly different from satellite pictures than it does in person. Green is where the sandbar is, blue is the actual water crossing:
Fig. 10: Huron logistics
I took my shoes off before the crossing, since they were almost dry. My socks were still soaked, and had been since the first thunderstorm this morning. When I took them off, my feet were glaringly white and wrinkly – they looked like they belonged on a corpse! At this point, I was experienced at carrying my bike, so I hoisted it up enough to keep it from getting wet. I didn’t want my bottom bracket to explode and leave me stranded out there. There were helpful people on the other side of the river directing you where to walk towards, since the submerged part of the sandbar wasn’t obvious. After I crossed, I switched to my backup pair of socks, which were blissfully dry for about 3 hours! We took our required selfies for checkpoint #5 and moved out. It was roughly 9pm before we rolled away from the Huron, 111 miles and 16 hours in. As we headed out, we saw a bunch of support vehicles and campers just above the beach.
Fig. 11: Dry socks!
The section between the Huron and L’Anse is paved and mildly hilly, mostly long flat sections punctuated by a fast descent and an occasional steep climb. I saw Todd for the second time in the day – he drove by going the other direction and waved to us. This part of the ride was uneventful, besides it finally getting dark enough to need lights at about 10:30pm. We had to make it the 30 miles from the Mouth of the Huron to L’Anse by midnight so we could hit the Holiday station before it closed at midnight to resupply. As we drew closer to L’Anse, headed south on the eastern side of the Keweenaw Bay, we could see trouble brewing – a second thunderstorm was rolling in from the west, with flashes of lightning illuminating the clouds. It kept getting closer and closer, and more and more ominous, as we approached L’Anse.
When we rolled into L’Anse, a woman offered us some supplies – I stopped and took a Coke from her and watched some stray dogs wander by while Renee continued to the Holiday station. The woman told me her husband had started after the storm this morning, and was on top of Mt. Arvon, 60 or 70 miles behind us, and was bailing as the second storm rolled in. I rode up the hill to the Holiday station (receiving a packet of Oreos along the way – it seemed like a lot of the support crews were
packing up after their riders bailed, and had a lot of extra food), and met Renee at the top. She went in to restock food, as she was pretty much out, and I checked the weather and started planning. It was 11:30pm, I saw that Will had finished about an hour earlier, and a gigantic thunderstorm was bearing down on us. From the radar, it looked like it was going to drizzle starting at about midnight and pour half an hour or so after that. It looked significantly worse than the morning’s storm. When Renee came out, we talked over what to do, and decided we had to clear L’Anse before the storm hit, otherwise we’d never leave. We were packing up our gear when another rider – Martin – approached us, said his riding buddy had just dropped out, and asked if he could join us for the night. We were happy to pick up somebody else and have a fresh conversational partner. I switched to my external-battery light, packed my rain jacket on the handlebar roll so I could grab it quickly if I needed to, and we rolled out, ready for anything.
The route out of L’Anse is a very long slog of a climb for about 30 miles. It started drizzling a minute or two before we left town and kept doing so for the first 10 miles. The road was straight for a long time, and we could see a couple of taillights ahead of us and a few headlights behind us – a guy on his own and a couple that we ended up leapfrogging the rest of the ride. A little more than an hour in, the real storm hit, starting with a formidable gust of wind. It felt like the hand of God reached out and slapped me on the ass, shoving me up the hill. That was followed by a torrential downpour, a real toad-strangler. It went from barely drizzling and warm to pouring and icy with winds threatening to snap trees over the course of a few minutes. It seemed like lightning was all around us, lighting up the landscape every couple of seconds. The wind gust didn’t last too long, but long enough to make us worried about falling trees; we did end up passing quite a few later in the night. I looked at the weather history later, and 90-100mph winds were recorded right where we were riding.
I would guess the heavy rain lasted half an hour. It seemed like an eternity at the time, but it passed. It was chilly after the rain, so I kept my rain jacket on and zipped up to keep the wind off me. My gloves, shoes, and shorts were soaked again. It was nice to be dry while it lasted.
Eventually we finished the interminable climb – it started out with a mostly gradual section, then turned into steeper, punchier sections as the quality of the road degraded. Unfortunately, we were climbing onto a plateau, so we weren’t rewarded with a downhill. Instead, at 4am, we were rewarded with the McCormick Outhouse, checkpoint #6.
Fig. 12: Shortly before being attacked by moths
It was pretty cold, so we wanted to put on some warm clothes, but we had to move away from the outhouse to do so, since all three of us were being attacked by moths. I guess being the only light source for miles will attract them. A mile or so after the outhouse, we stopped again and changed. I kept my warm layers on for about two hours before I realized they were making me more comfortable and sleepier, so I stripped them off just after dawn to wake me up.
The next section was a very long, straight gravel road that we realized was leading us through a swamp. We couldn’t see the swamp except where we crossed steel-grate bridges over ponds or rivers. A few times, we heard weird rattling noises, and once, an eerily human-sounding scream. This is where the sleep deprivation really started to catch up with me, something I’d struggle with for the rest of the day. It was about 5:30am when I started to get really tired. I hallucinated that sticks in the road were animal corpses a number of times in the dawnlight.
Just after 6, the effects of eating nothing but sugar for 25 hours caught up to me and I had to sprint into the woods for an emergency bathroom stop. I won’t dwell on it, but I will say that not eating fiber for a full day and only eating sugar is not recommended. Similar grumblings from my riding companions suggested I wasn’t alone. Note to self: next time, pack the TP, hand sanitizer, and shovel in a more easily-accessible location!
About 6:30am, we started discussing whether we would make the cutoff. I had 10 hours left to finish, and Renee and Martin had slightly longer. We had about 70 miles to go. In a normal race, this wouldn’t be a problem… but this was the Crusher. Going two miles could take an hour in some sections. I wasn’t going to come all this way to miss the cutoff, so I stepped on the gas for the first time all day. I’d been conserving my energy for something just like this. My pace went from about 7mph average to about 12mph average as I attacked uphills and bombed down sketchy rock-strewn descents (including one long, winding, terrifying downhill aptly named Todd’s Descent). One false move and I would have been hamburger, but I’d been piloting the bike for so long that line choices felt like second nature. I rejoined the 100-mile course and hit the Yellowdog River about 7:30am. This was the second major river fording of the day – it was mid-thigh deep, with a powerful current, but was only about 20 feet across. Past it lurked Mosquito Gulch and the Mulligan Creek Truck Trail. I shouldered the bike, waded through the river (re-soaking my sort-of-dry shoes), took my selfie, filtered some water, reapplied bug lotion, and made my way into Mosquito Gulch.
Fig. 13: The Yellow Dog River. It’s yellow. I didn’t see any dogs.
Mosquito Gulch looks kind of like someone dragged a cruise ship anchor down a 45 degree slope, then filled the anchor scar with sand. It’s a quarter mile of pushing your bike up a sandy gully. At the top of Mosquito Gulch proper, you get on the Mulligan Creek Truck Trail, which is a joke. I don’t know what kind of trucks they have in the UP, but I would like to buy the kind of truck that can drive down Mulligan Creek Truck Trail. It’s a muddy stream that’s liberally littered with gigantic rocks that goes downhill at a 15% grade. I walked almost everything for a mile or two until it finally became rideable, then it dumped me into another pine desert.
I think I’ve seen pictures of this particular pine desert – there is a very large stump about halfway through it that I believe is a checkpoint on the 100-mile course in normal years. This is also about where my mind started to go to pieces; the rest of the race is pretty blurry. I remember parts of it, but mostly my brain did its own thing while my body kept riding. It was 8:30am, I’d been awake for 28 ½ hours, and I was 50 miles from the finish.
Fig. 14: Just after the Pine Desert. It looks pretty! I wasn’t in a state of mind to enjoy it, though.
After the sandy road through the pine desert, there was another reddish sandy road that swooped back and forth, up and down small hills, for what felt like forever. I thought briefly that this was the infamous Red Road, because it was pretty red, but looking at the map, it’s not. It sucked about as much I think Red Road would. Eventually, the road turned to pavement, and I was able to pick up the pace again for an hour or so, wending my way through the countryside near Ishpeming. It was nice to see place names that I recognized, at least – it made it feel like I was nearing the end, even though I had 25 miles to go.
After the paved road, there was a very sandy road section meandering along the edge of the Dead River Storage Basin. This is where I decided that, when I come back for the 100-mile, I’m bringing
my 4” tires. Riding loose sand after 30 hours of rough riding sucks. It was called Three-Mile Road, but it felt more like three hundred miles. I bet it was totally fine, but my brain was so cooked by this point that I was over anything remotely difficult. The road eventually turned away from the lake and climbed up a hill towards Powerline. Powerline is my favorite part of the end of the course; it’s a steep, loose descent through the open area under some high-voltage power lines. I bombed down it with reckless abandon. At the bottom, I could see two pickups, one parked on each side of the course, with a group of guys standing between them chatting; as they saw me smoking down the hill, they split to leave me a path through and started cheering and applauding. When I passed them, they pressed food and drink on me – I think I got a Coke from Will’s friend Eddie. I guzzled it down and kept riding.
After that, there was another paved road section, including a long climb along a bridge over a small gorge. Looking on the map, it’s over the Dead River after the dam. I remember thinking it looked cool, but honestly couldn’t appreciate it. The climb continued for a while, and the road turned to gravel; this was the last gravel section before the last snowmobile trail. I stopped once to eat and once to fill my hydration pack with the water I’d carried from the pump at the Mile 100 campground. I had to remind myself I wasn’t at the end yet, and that I had to keep eating and drinking.
Shortly before Snowmobile Trail 14, I was spinning up a hill when I glanced up and saw three bears – a mom and two cubs – wander across the road about a hundred feet ahead of me. I’d heard that some people had encountered them on Chunky Summit a few weeks ago. I also heard that a moose lives on Chunky Summit, but thankfully I didn’t see him. I did decide to yell, “Hey, bear!” regularly while I was riding on the snowmobile trail.
I ran into the same guys from the bottom of Powerline at the entrance to Snowmobile Trail 14, but didn’t accept any gifts – I was ready to push through and be done. Will and I had ridden this section at the end of the 40-mile route on Monday, so I knew where the last checkpoint – Chunky Summit – was. It was 5 miles in from the turn to Chunky Summit, then another 5 miles from Chunky Summit to the finish.
Fig. 15: Probably bears and a moose somewhere nearby.
On Monday, Will and I had carefully picked our way around puddles and avoided getting wet. Today, I blasted through the edges of the puddles, no longer caring how bad my drivetrain sounded. I was almost finished. Through the NTN South trails, which are longer than they seem, and finally out into the campground at Forestville. I’d done it.
Will was waiting for me with a cold drink and some food. He mentioned that his friend Lisa, who had been riding since 3am the previous day, had just finished. I don’t know how I gained 2 hours on her – she’s an ultra-runner and a certified #uncivilizedsavage. She’s run the Marji Gesick 100 and not died. Cool lady. I put the bike back on the car, emptied my bags as best I could, drove back to the cabin at Rippling River (probably not a great idea to drive a car!), took a shower, laid down, and was asleep literally as soon as my head hit the pillow. I slept for 14 hours, only waking up once to stagger around in the dark for no apparent reason.
I came, I saw, I crushed. Thanks, Todd! You made my summer.
Food – I carried enough food items to eat one every 45 minutes for 36 hours. I had 4 kinds of food: Watermelon Gu Chews, Berry Smoothie Honey Stinger Gels, Lemon Honey Stinger Waffles, and Kirkland Signature Turkey Jerky. I’d eaten all of these during the Lone Wolf Lutsen 99er three weeks previous and it worked out well, so I knew my stomach could handle them. Those, plus a couple of Cokes, got me through this. Your GI tract will not like you much afterwards, though – maybe a couple Real Human Food objects next time. I had a timer running on my Garmin to tell me when to eat.
Hydration – I carried a REI-brand running hydration pack with a 1.5 liter bladder and two HydraPak flexible bottles in the front pockets. I used Skratch in the bottles and water in the bladder. I didn’t top off the Skratch as much as I should have – skipped it in L’Anse and at the Yellowdog – but it worked out. The flexible bottles are hard to drink out of while you’re riding, but it’s doable if you have a straight-ish section of road. I refilled at: the spigot, a stream on the way to Mt. Arvon, the campground pump, L’Anse, and the Yellowdog. I was going to the bathroom roughly once an hour and it was always clear, so I knew I was on top of my hydration. I would ditch the flexible bottles and put two bottles on my fork if I was going to do it again; the flexible bottles were too hard to fill. I also carried 32oz of additional water in one of the Sawyer Squeeze filter pouches all race, which let me go further between filling.
Bike: I rode a XL Prickly Pear Sparkle Surly Ice Cream Truck, which is a 5” fatbike. I ran 29×3.0” Maxxis Chronicles, a Manitou Mastodon Pro EXT 100mm suspension fork, and a BikeYoke Revive dropper post. I think this is nearly the perfect bike for the job – the big tires and fork take the sharpness out of the course. The only thing I would change is the dropper; it’s very stiff and transmitted all the road vibrations directly to my butt. I probably could have dropped the tire pressure in the rear a little bit, but I was concerned with rim strikes on the hardtail. Maybe a Thudbuster instead of the dropper next time.
Gear: I ran a bunch of bags on the bike. Salsa Anything Cradle EXP up front, with a first aid kit, space blanket, whistle, raincoat, extra socks, thermal top, poop shovel, TP, hand sanitizer and snorkel in it. I had a Revelate Vole seat bag with 2 extra tubes, 2 rags, my tool kit, and a bottle of chain lube that ended up living in my jersey pocket for most of the race. This turned out to be too heavy for the dropper, and I’ll run the tools and tubes in the handlebar roll next time, with clothes in the seat bag. A Porcelain Rocket 52Hz full frame bag with all my food in it, and two Cedaero Devil’s Kettle XL stem bags with: immediate food in the left (transferred occasionally from the frame bag) and two 10000mAh batteries (only needed 1) powering the Garmin Edge 130 GPS (plugged in all day, covered in a Ziploc bag to prevent water intrusion) as well as a full tube of chamois butter in the right. I also carried a Garmin Etrex 30x with the course and checkpoints loaded into it – I only used it a couple times to check where I was, and to confirm we hadn’t passed the outhouse, but it was great to have that confirmation.
Fig. 16: Gear, except the clothes I was wearing and my phone.
Fig. 17: advanced computer protection. Worked well through 2 storms.
Lights: Outbound Lighting Hangover (in the morning) and Trail Edition (all night). I’m going to use just the Hangover for the 100, it’s plenty bright and has a long enough battery life. I’d recommend either to anyone.
Clothes: Sugoi shorts, Twin Six short-sleeve jersey, Darn Tough socks (2 pairs at a time to prevent blisters – running socks under hiking socks), and Five Ten Freerider Pro shoes (stuck to rocks good and flat pedals keep my knees from hurting). POC Tectal Race SPIN helmet with a bandanna underneath to prevent chafing. No sunglasses because I didn’t want to deal with constantly cleaning them all day and the helmet visor works pretty well. I picked up a Headsweats skull cap for next time instead of the bandanna – bugs could crawl through the hole in the bandanna and wander around my scalp, driving me crazy.
General plan/philosophy: spin to win at 10mph, walk anything that looks too steep, save your energy. This worked really well and I was able to kick it into high gear when I needed to in the morning. That, and keeping a positive attitude, which helped immensely. I think the spigot water endowed me with mystical strength. Seriously – that water is tasty.
If you’re wondering if you can do this – you can. I rode my first road century in June 2019. I rode my first dirty century (the Lutsen 99er) a week after. The furthest I’d ever ridden before the CrusherEX was 130 miles in 12 hours, at the Heck of the North in fall 2019. If you can ride a metric century, you can ride a century. If you can ride a century, you can ride a metric double. If you can ride a metric double, you can ride a metric quadruple. The most important thing I did was decide the day before I rode that I was going to finish, unless I had a mechanical I couldn’t fix or an injury that took me out. I stuck to that promise, and it took me to the finish line.