Crusher Race Report

Marc Salm

This past weekend I had the opportunity to test myself against a task many hours of preparation in the making – The Crusher 225. A point to point “enhanced gravel” adventure race from Copper Harbor to Marquette, MI. Within the first 10 to 15 miles out from the start, I found myself a midst a group of five to six riders pushing a solid pace only a minute off the lead group. Feeling a bit anxious to maintain that position for another 200+, I cautiously took a mental inventory of all my training up to this point, and realized I was in uncharted territory. I pushed on making sure to monitor my intake of nutrition and hydration. As the sun began to fully rise up, I was struck be scenery of which I’d been dreaming. Backcountry streams, towering trees, and overlooks that demand coining the term “God’s Country”. I shared my name with the others in the group knowing that together we were about to do something of epic proportions (or at least for me, anyways). Turns out after a bit of conversation, we were all on the same page. After about 50 miles of shared efforts off the front, we picked up a few more riders, and dropped a few. I felt strong and confident I could maintain. We stopped for a mandatory checkpoint photo on Cliffs Drive (1 of 5), these photos were a requirement to have at the finish or you would be disqualified. Upon entering Calumet I was greeted by my wife for the first time in route. It was uplifting to know she was there. We blew by exchanging a wave knowing we’d see each other at the 1st basecamp checkpoint in Houghton.

At the required checkpoint we signed in, filled hydration bags, slammed down pickle juice, and raided a heated fridge looking appliance filled with Suomi mini pasties. Oh my feck were those delicious. Took a moment to get a photo or two, smooched the wife, and onward. Including myself, our group was now four (Greg, Roy, and Ryan) and not long after added Zeno.

On to photo checkpoint #2 – Freda Ruins Smokestack. We continued to travel beautiful deep forest gravel roads in route – one photo included (looking back I wish I would have taken time to shoot more). I was beginning to bonk a bit. Upon, getting to the smokestack I was certain that my race passport said to take my photo with my required snorkel (yes, I said snorkel). While double checking the passport, the majority of the group had already snapped a photo and were headed out. This put me in a bit of a frenzy being that I was entering the bonk zone. I saddle up and got back on. I remained at the back for the next 20-30 miles while carefully refueling. It really became apparent to me at this point how important the nutrition game is, and the balance involved in taking it in in moderation. Given the effort/pace we put in over the first 100 miles I was fortunate to catch myself before it was too late. Whew!

Photo checkpoint #3 – L’Anse
We rolled into L’Anse about 5:30 (mile 155ish). Ryan, Roy, and I decided we needed a bit of time to refuel and mentally prepared for what was to be the most challenging part of the event. Mt. Arvon (highest point in the U.P.) followed by sand, Mosquito Gulch, and more fricken sand. We took about 30 minutes there to chow down, and hydrate. Special thanks to Brad, Nicole, Eddie, and Anna for the last minute setup of the aid station. High five‘d & smooched Billie, and wheels down again.

It wasn’t long and Ryan scooted out ahead of us not to be seen again. Roy and I agreed to stay together until the end which proved to be a great strategy. The course is unmarked by any signage, and you are guided solely by a gps unit loaded with the route. Having two units (separate brands) was truly helpful, as there were times of inconsistent readings from one or both. Two brains and uncertain mental states were better than one.

Not long after Ryan put the hammer down, Roy and I were sharing conversation, a few laughs, and getting to know one another a bit better while side by siding a sandy partially logged section, and a bear crossed our path at a pace greater than either of us was capable of getting to. Shorts seem clean, heart is working. Check. Pretty feckin cool.

On to photo checkpoint #3 – Mt. Arvon Mailbox
Having done the loop event last year through this area, I gained some intel on what to expect from Roy as we made our approach. The climb to 1979 ft was challenging on tired legs, only getting off to walk on one pitch, partially due to not having my 42 tooth gear available. We got our shot, and made our push to the finish.

At mile 205(ish) we reached a dropped trailer next to a refreshing river crossing. I suspect that snorkel could have been useful here had the weather been more Yooped Up. Here we met Cindy and her partner 30 miles into their 100-mile route. I knocked down some pickle juice, a Coke, and a bag of BBQ chips (pic). I took off my shoes and socks and found the river crossing to be absolutely rejuvenating for my hot cramped feet. Cheapest most satisfying massage ever.

The next push was Mosquito Gulch just passed sunset. Lights are now on, and the vampires are out. The Gulch is a couple of hundred feet unrideable climb in deep sand that leaves your calves screaming for a break with every step. Once to the top, you’re met with a chunky rock, roots, deep puddle descent that had me smiling from ear to ear. Slow technical riding at its best (1st part – f u, Todd/2nd part – t y, Todd).

Yooper Moonlight to checkpoint #5 – Red Rd Sign on 510
The next 15(ish) miles were sandy, and some what brutal on 2.2” tires at 50psi. Next year I’ll consider 2.6, and add/remove pressure as needed. Roy and I were pretty quiet for this stretch. For me, this was where I needed to recollect my mental game. I’ve felt shittier before, but making a mistake at this point would have made walking to the finish highly undesirable. There was some real Fear & Loathing shit going on right here in my head…focus man! We arrived at the Red Rd/510 intersection, found the orange barrel sign, snapped a pic, pissed on Red Rd, and collectively sighed in relief. Let’s go get that cup!

We arrived side by side to the Forestville Trailhead, greeted by my wife, a good sized group of beer drank’n Bike Team members. I was elated. Reviewing my photos with Stacy to confirm I met all the checkpoint requirements, I hear behind her a voice “would you like whiskey in your cup”….fuck’n eh right, I do.

Thank you to the 906 Adventure Team and all the volunteers that make this event happen. I truly appreciate your effort and commitment to pull off an event of this scale. Epic.

A special thanks to my daughter, Abi, who reminded me at her first marathon attempt a few weeks ago(1st attempt Boston qualifier if I may add) – the last 225 miles was just the finish, the real race started months and thousands of miles ago. Here’s to hard work paying off, kiddo.

Thanks for keeping me roll’n smooth

Winnebago Bicycle

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We asked you to #adapt in 2020, and you did. Now we’re asking you to join us and #forge ahead. 2021 is about doing what you do best, making the most of what you have, and getting better every day.

While a lot of races out there are run by for-profit companies, that’s not the case for Marji Gesick, Polar Roll and The Crusher. All of our events are productions of the 906 Adventure Team, a 501(c)3 whose mission is to empower people to become the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure. We don’t have a large staff of people (two, to be exact) or significant overhead, and that enables us to donate a significant portion of race revenues in two ways:

Since 2015, we’ve given back more than $141,000 to the trail-builders of RAMBA, NTN, Sisu Dirt Crews, WinMan and the DCNT. We also support youth adventure programs in three communities and have plans for that number to grow in the near future.

In 2021 we’re building a learning management system to train 150+ volunteer Adventure Leaders, and have our eyes on the future: planning to grow from 500 youth served to thousands. Together with your continued support and a network of dedicated partners, we will connect kids with each other, their communities, and give them a healthy alternative to time spent on devices.