The Crusher 2019

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John 9:25 "One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.”  This Bible verse explains the difference between a Crusher and a normal person.

The Crusher is a 225 or 232 mile (who is counting lol) race through the UP backwoods from Copper Harbor to Marquette.  It traverses some of the most beautiful and painful places you can ride or hike a bike on.  After completing the HAMR last year I was looking forward to the challenge.  I am thankful for the Michigan Ultra gravel series because it was an amazing challenge to complete 4 out of the 5 races.  I completed Barry Roubaix Epic Psycho Killer, HellKaat Hundie, Coast to Coast and finally The Crusher.  After results are updated I will put my overall result in here.

I learned a lot from last years race on what I did well and what I screwed up on.  A race like this takes extreme planning or you will suffer the consequences.  There was a ton of bike debate on the Crusher Facebook page but after people have completed the race they do believe a full squish bike is the way to go.  I used the same bike as last year with a couple modifications.


This bike is 2014 Cannondale Scalpel.  It is a oldie but a goodie and has been extremely reliable.  I bought a 3 liter Revelate frame bike from REI because they were the only one that carried it.  Bags I used were a Revelate top tube bag, periphery pocket (thanks Mountain Man), and a small hydration pack that carried 3 liters of water.  Packing everything required is part of the adventure and following is a picture of most of the required gear I needed.  I learned that stuffing everything in a backpack was a bad idea so the handlebar bag and a frame bag were a great choice.

 

The Scalpel was sitting in the garage from November of last year until June when I finished Coast to Coast.  I took it in for a check over at Mountain Man.  I put new XT brakes on it, a chain, and rear pulleys.  I also noticed that the rear wheel had 2 spokes that were loose but the nipples were frozen on the spokes.  I had the wheel checked and Mountain Man thought it best to leave it until after the Crusher so I thought Marji Camp would be a good test.  I had fun at the camp even though it was a huge punch in the gut because that was my first mountain bike ride of the season.



The Saturday a week before the race I noticed that the rear wheel was going out of true and I had a game time decision on what to do about it.  I ended up having the wheel rebuilt with new spokes and nipples and it seemed solid. I took it for a spin around the block.  

NOTE: DO NOT DO THAT, TAKE IT FOR ANOTHER 80 MILE RIDE BECAUSE NIPPLES MAY LOOSEN WHEN A WHEEL HAS JUST BEEN BUILT!!!!!!!!! 


The race was a bit of a logistics nightmare honestly as most point to point races are.  My plan was to drive up Thursday after work and stay with the Kanza Fat bike champion Roy KRANZ. That is the crazy bro above!  This guy is a great friend and a super fast dude.  It turns out we are a great team making sure we both don't screw something up.  Roy and I arrived in Marquette Friday early afternoon, had our gear check, and got on the 4pm shuttle.  The shuttle was delayed 15 minutes because of a late individual but I have to say that guy impressed me finishing on a cross bike.  I sat in a emergency exit seat just in case I wanted to change my mind on the shuttle.  Thankfully I didn't jump ship even though the thought crossed my mind.


We arrived in Copper harbor at 8pm but the shuttle with our bikes and gear was 1.5 hours late not getting there until 9:30pm.  Even though we had to wait I was able to meet some other cool people.   

Joe Lawhorn (click his name for a youtube video about his RAAM) was a Marine and does a lot for veterans and rides his ass off all the time.  He is also from Ohio! 



I also met Alexandera Houchin who was the 1st place women's finisher in the Tour Divide.  I actually ended up riding with her during some of the night hours and she is a class act.



As soon as the gear shuttle got there Roy and I did our best to get our bikes setup and get some sleep (a total of 4 hours).

The race morning was going smooth until we arrived at the campground and noticed the line for the spot beacons.  The beacons were given to supported riders to track their position during the race. I have an Garmin Inreach so I didn't have to wait but I wasn't allowed to start until 6am.  Anyways it delayed the race until 6am.

The race started fast and I was in the second lead group.  I knew there would be some crazy terrain coming so I just took it easy.  Sure enough we hit some enhanced double track and that split up the field even more.  I did my best to stay with people if they were around me but soon I ended up alone.


Pretty tree covered road.



The first checkpoint for our passport was a picture of the Cliffs on Cliff drive.  It was around 50 miles to get there took me 3 hours 48 minutes.


The neutral aid station was in Houghton and the first place I refilled water.  I arrived there at about 6 hours race time.  On the way there I kept noticing that my rear wheel was feeling loose and just a bit too much flex.  While I crossed the bridge a nightmare started and my tire started hitting the chain stay.  I knew it was out of true and something was up with the spokes.  I rode easily over the bridge and asked if anyone had a spoke wrench at the aid station.  I noticed that a couple of the nipples were unscrewing from the spokes.  A nice guy actually gave me the golden ticket and said Mike there is a bike shop named Rhythm bike and board 1 mile from here lets ride there (2 bonus miles!).  We arrived and I was in great hands.

Great bike shop!




Kyle was able to get me in and out with a solid wheel for the rest of the race in 25 minutes 30 seconds.  He even lubed my chain and provided service with a smile.  Races like these are about dealing with issues and pressing on.  Some people may have scratched but I was lucky to have this issue 1 mile from a bike shop.  I bought a spoke wrench just in case but did not need it because the wheel was solid for the rest of the race.  With the wheel ordeal and the rest stop I lost about 45 minutes including the wheel work but hey shit happens.

Kyle said that sometimes when a wheel is rebuilt the spokes and nipples can loose tension.  Kyle said he normally recommends doing a 10 mile ride to let everything settle.  Kyle did not recommend using the 232 mile Crusher to break in a wheel.  Anyways it was a nice rest stop in the shop and I enjoyed the conversation.  I called my beautiful wife and filled her in on my pit stop.  I rode back to the aid station and ate a cookie and said thanks to the guy that recommended the shop and pressed on.


The next checkpoint were the Freda mines at mile 90~.  You had to take a picture with the smoke stack in the background so I did.  It took me about 1 hour to get to the Freda mines from Houghton.



I met some enhanced individuals that may have been doping but its legal in Michigan so I guess its not doping???  Anyways this group of dudes were pretty fun to ride with.  One even had a little speaker on his bike jamming some tunes which was great for motivation because around 8-10 hours in, I always go into a deep suffer place that is hard to get out of.  I do not understand why but your body asks you what the hell are you doing? It wants you to give up and that's where the mental strength comes in.  I stayed with the group and just cruised on to some beats.  I parted ways with the enhanced individuals at the Mosquito Inn at mile 100~ and pressed on.  At least I thought I parted ways...

The next aid station was L'anse and took me a total race time of 13 hours 23 minutes.  I caught up to the Toledo Gravel Cyclist Nate Burks right before L'anse and we both decided to go into Subway and take a break and eat.  A friend of mine Michael Remsburg also stopped to eat with us.  I have to say I was extremely impressed with Remsburg.  He asked me for a lot of tips for preparation for this and I was glad I could help him achieve awesomeness.  His new nickname from me is freewheel.

All three of us contemplated poor life choices and pressing on.  Thankfully the director of pain Todd Poquette was there telling us to press on.  I called my Dad too for advice and my step mom and they also helped with motivation!  After eating and taking a break we both felt a lot better, we were there for a little over an hour.  We were required to take a picture at the aid station in L'anse.


After leaving L'anse I switched my bike to night mode.  For lights I had two Niterider micro 850s for my helmet and a Lezyne 1100i with 2 batteries.  I made sure everything was set and I started my approach to Mt. Arvon which is the highest point in Michigan.  Last year in HAMR we went up the gravel way and down the enhanced ATV trail.  This year it was reversed and dry.  I actually flew up the climb which was about 2.6 miles and 586' of gain.  After I arrived at the top I took my picture of the mailbox and helped the Tour Divide Champion (Alexandra) find it.

Total time to get to the mailbox was about 16 hours 45 minutes and after this it was mostly downhill....  I turned on my lights from stun to kill and opened my suspension up.  I let it rip down Arvon and had a blast.  My lights did amazing and was happy with my choice.  Our next checkpoint was the red road sign at 510.  I rode with Alexandra for a while and talked to her about the Tour Divide and her clothing choice (rocking jean shorts), and also the DKXL.  It was great conversation in the spooky night wilderness. 

The next aid station was trailer in da woods at the yellow dog river.  I was lucky to run across another neutral aid station and filled up my water there.  They had some cookies and I enjoyed talking to them.  I pressed on to the Yellow dog river and probably had a really slow crossing.  I took the time to take my shoes off and cross in my socks.  I sat in the sand and was getting eaten by mosquitoes and changed my socks to dry ones.  I applied some Deet 100% to my arms and legs because I knew the famous Mosquito gulch was coming.  I made sure I didn't get any of my cycling clothing with Deet because it melts plastic.  I pre treated my clothing with Sawyer permethrin and used picaridin on skin for the previous parts of the race and didn't have any bug issues.  I also had a deer fly patch on the back of my helmet.  I think Roy killed all the flys for me though.  Image of his deer fly patch, it works friends.



The next section is always a mental challenge because its about a 2 mile hike a bike through rough terrain.  Rocks, mud, extreme elevation changes.  I really enjoyed that it was 19 hours into the race.  It took me a whole 55 minutes to get through it.  The next checkpoint was red road where you had to take a picture of the sign.  Total race time was 21 hours 44 minutes for me at Red road and 510.  I will attach the happy and sad selfie.

Damn looking tired here.


Put on a smile only about 15 miles to go!


After Red road it was only 1 hour 30 minutes to the finish.  About 20 minutes before the finish the enhanced group caught back up to me.  We hammered out the last 5 miles and had a blast.  I finished in a total of 23 hours 12 minutes and around 10,500' of gain at about 5am.  My goal was sub 24 hours and I am pretty damn happy.  I wished my wheel issue wouldn't have happened but what mattered is finishing.  It was a great experience and you always wish you would have went faster.  I spent a lot of time at the bike shop and the subway but sometimes you need a break.

I cleaned off and slept for about 1.5-2 hours.  Roy and I headed back and I slept on the way back to his house.  Then I finished the 2.5 hour drive home.  I was home 14 hours after I finished which included a 8 hour drive.  I highly recommend having a team when driving back from these type of races.  Don't do it alone because sleep deprivation is a real thing.  I want to thank all my helpful friends and sponsors including Cyclewerks, Mountain Man, and PowerwithPeiffer.  This year has been a great gravel experience and I have accomplished all my goals.  Its time to relax a bit and catch up on other things and learn from the experiences.

If I checked the results correctly there are only 7 people in the world that have the HAMR and the mug.  I feel proud to have accomplished both of these challenges.  I look forward to new challenges in my future.


Thanks Todd and Matt for the race design and trying to crush us!!!!




Comments

  1. we "enhanced" riders enjoyed riding with you as well. I was on the purple & gold Fat bike finished just under 24 hours.

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