WARNING – super long and rambling run-on sentencey and made-up words
After sleeping for what seems like the same amount of time it took me to finish the #marjigesick100 , I can finally write up a tiny bit of what this awesomeness felt like. I can’t really call it a race report because it always feels more like an adventure than a race! and sincerely the parts I remember and cherish most are all the friends and strangers I got to ride with along the way, that help you get through different sections, and of course all the amazing volunteers and buds at the aid stations, hosing you down with cold water, or shoving tasty grilled cheesers in your face hole, offering smiles of encouragement to stick in your pocket for later when you’ll have to dig deep, I promise I couldn’t have finished without you all. So great to see so many friends, new and old at the registration party, either coming back for revenge or giving Marji a try for the first time, or just here for support and burritos, thank you for all the kind words of encouragement.
So great to pre-ride Pine Knob and Wildcat with Matt and the Salsa guys on Friday, and some of the Negaunee stuff on Thursday when we got there. I can’t thank Matt enough for all he does to help me get ready for these races, planning the whole trip, driving while I sleep and mouth-breathe in the van, cooking the tasty meals, cleaning and getting my bike ready for me, pre-riding sections he knows I might struggle on but encouraging me to try to ride them and giving me pointers so I can get through sections quicker, pre-riding those sections before race day helped a ton, hearing that Danny and Heidi ride that stuff on the tandem, even more badass than I already knew they were, and celebrating their anniversary on the day before the Marji, amazing!
Race morning was great to be camped right at the start line, thanks to Evan for booking the place for us, woke up well rested and finished getting my junk ready, the extra half-hour helped with my typical flooftiness. So great to see a bunch of familiar faces at the start line, Allen and Chad, Greg, Megan and her parents, Tyler and Carey, high fives from friends who I’d raced with in previous Marji’s, Ryan and Ben, such a fun start to the race.
The run went well and heard all the cheers from GR buds and the Blackrocks guys, even had the awesome Doerr’s at my bike to help me put on my hydration pack and told to have fun! racing down towards Harlow and getting passed but also high-fived by fwends like Evan and Jake, watching the locals like Greg and Steve-O and Matt Bloch rip down Top of the World showing us all how it’s done, leaving us in their dust (possibly farts) and in awe of their ability, so fun to ride around the cabins with local yooper miner Paul with the huge muscles and even bigger smile and laugh and getting positive pep talk about how we all were gonna friggin’ finish dammit, funny he said I could ride with them and stick it out, but great to see him throughout the day! Thanks to cheers from people like Grant who and Steve on Andy Gregg trail, yelling out “buttcrack” for me and impressively braaaapin’ all the rocks and roots like ’twas no biggie. Heading back up towards Forestville and feeling a bit nostalgic that the Harlow Lake trails were already done, my first mountain bike race ever was the 12-hours of potluck on those trails many moons ago, but I knew there was plenty of more sweet single track to come. Bopped on over to enjoy wildcat and knew that I’d probably be hike-a-biking on Pine Knob soon. Ran into Thuner and was great to have a bud to ride with for a bit. That guy’s awesome, just got a fat bike about a month ago and signed up to do the Marji! we carefully rode the rest of Pine Knob and the fun stuff on North Trails, I kinda was feeling super cool and took a bermy turn a little too loosey goosey and got my leg twisted up between my handlebar and top tube, but Thuner waited for me and helped me shake it off, and surprisingly for me, that was my only real crash of the day, awesome! I was having so much fun ripping’ through the trails, going up Collinsville climb, I was whee-ing and cheering and turned back to say something about how much fun it was to Justin, but it ended up being a dude just riding, he asked if I was racing and said I had left my buddy behind, doh! sorry Justin, I waited for a bit on the road as I ate my pocket burrito ( a trick I learned from the Blackrocks dudes the year before), but then the girl on the fat bike passed me, I decided to keep going and try to catch her. Felt great on Lowes climb, and was sad at first that we didn’t get to go under the creepy wet tunnel, but that sadness didn’t last too long, after hearing some cheers from Jen and Nate and others that were briefly stopped at Lowes parking lot, we got to go under the tunnel yay! rode a bit of fun stuff then caught up to singlespeeder Mike, who was geared today, and we were both feeling the heat. I was about to say how I probably could’ve used some cold water, but didn’t think the south trailhead was coming up just yet, and then right on the side of the road were some sweet poopoo-pee-pee signs and a heavenly Candy with a hose spraying anybody who wanted it down with ice-cold water, that was a game changer for sure, thanks Candy and friends! Hit the south trails and was having a blast, especially coming down eh line and hitting the south trail head! So happy to see a bunch of buds there, thanks to Teravail and Kurt for all the goodies, and updates on how Matt was crushing it! after a bit of chatting with Dustin and some other friends, volunteers stuffing ice packs in my jersey and pickles and m&ms in my pocketitos I got back on the saddle knowing fun climbs up to Marquette Mountain was coming up. So great to see Jen and Nate heading up the road right before Scary Trail, Jen is a badass and was climbing the whole thing, super impressed and inspired to try to keep up. As much as I can’t ride Scary Trail I always secretly enjoy taking my bike for a walk through there. I remembered last year riding that section with the Blackrocks dudes, Steve and Austin and Gregg and Leckie, even witnessed Austin ride that crazy mustache-looking wooden bridge feature. This year unfortunately saw a dude that had crashed on a log roll on not-so-scary, just hanging out on the side of said log, I gave him some salt tabs and pickles since he said he was cramping up, he thanked me and told me to keep going on, total badass to keep going himself ! it helped a ton getting to ride up the ski hill with Jen and Nate, talking about non-race things like dogs and jobs helps the day go by a little faster. I think for a while after that I stopped for a snack and lost them, so I was riding a bunch of stuff by myself and that was kinda starting to get me in a weird tired mood, seemed like the long two track to Negaunee should be coming up soon but I was starting to feel floofted. There was one section of fun berms that woke me up and then I chatted for a little bit with a dude that had crashed and was thinking about calling it quits at the aid station. I told him to at least stick it out until the “wurst” aid station, and was telling him all about how Nevin and Michelle and Trudy and Leckie and Neil were gonna be there with all the best stuff, I think I had him convinced, and he asked me how much it cost, when I said free, he was off! hehehe When I finally saw that cardboard box saying “wurst aid station” up ahead, I was so dang happy! Got there to what sounded to me like an undeserved but very much appreciated round of cheers! Laura put a cold washcloth around my neck and Leckie handed me the tastiest grilled cheese and had me sit down as he filled my hydration pack. I sat there and chatted with Neil and Sarah and Trudy the dog, ate two grilled cheeses, some coke, pickles and a brat, it was the wurst! so so hard to leave! But off I went knowing a bike path was coming up. I luckily ran into Kip at some point during this part, Kip is one of the OG Marji racers, the first year he was with the group of 3 that finished last, and last year I joined those ranks, so we had that in common and chatted about how awesome Marquette trails and people are, we rolled into Jackson Park together and was so great to see Stacie and all the other volunteers there.
It was coming up on 11 hours at this point I think and I was wondering who had won and how Matt had done, I asked and heard that he was in 2nd! so dang proud. My brain was starting to really flooft off at this point, and I was struggling a bit trying to figure out what to eat, what else to pack. I changed out of my moist shammy’s in the portapotty into less-moist shammy bibs from the day before. It felt kinda good, but I knew my buttcheeks were mad at me. I went off a bit into the treeline to re-apply some chamois butter and had a crazy look on my face I’m sure a mixture of something between relief-pain-and minty surprise, I hadn’t thought anybody was looking, but at that moment made an uncomfortable too long direct eye-contact with another racer and my hand down my shorts…I tried giggling it off an walked back towards my pack that I had pfffted all over the place. Put a headlamp on my helmet and made sure the one on my handlebar was good to go. I knew I had to keep going so I hustled back out and told Kip I’m sure I’d see him again back out on the trails, I knew Kip would be a great motivation to keep going because I knew he wasn’t a quitter, so that was huge. I loved getting to ride the new Humpty Dumpty stuff, especially after hearing from Heidi how she and Danny tackled that bridge, hehehe. I was name-dropping them to others I was riding with at the time, trying to sound cooler than I am ha! I also kept reminded myself how cool it was we were getting to ride in old town Negaunee, kinda like a ghost town, remnants of the town where buildings had to be abandoned because of the unstable ground, pretty friggin neat and unique! I rode down the double stairwell and my heart rate increased by a million beats as I barely braked in time before hitting some trees hehehe. I tried riding up the staircase Matt had challenged me to try a couple days before, and made it almost to the top, but not completely. Next up was some the always beautiful Panorama section, where I broke my rule from last year to stop and take at least just this one picture…
the first year I tried the Marji, I was about to quit at Jackson Park, but Wheeler and Danielle had told me about this view and that’s what I went back out to see again, what a spectacular spot. After that was some crazy stuff along the fence line I had remembered descending during Polar Roll, rode a bit with Nate again which was nice, he was gonna finish I could tell, and he kept on going. It was starting to get dark and this is where I was starting to unfortunately start negatively thinking about quitting. I knew some of the bluff climbs were coming up, and going into the neighborhoods and the switchbacks and climbs in the dark by myself were starting to get me down. I leap frogged with a couple people, and we were all struggling, I started doing the math in my head and realizing I was at least 2 hours slower than last year by the time I’d reach Jackson Park again, knowing how long it took me and Jim to finish the last 15 miles I was slowly convincing myself to give up. Luckily there were a couple riders who I asked if they were going on, and one dude from Negaunee said he had come this far, he had to finish. He asked me what my plans were, and in my head I had given myself 3 ways I’d keep going. 1 was if I made it back to Jackson Park by 11:30, giving myself 5 hours to finish and ending at 4:30 like Danny had predicted the last racer to finish. 2, if I heard that only 2 women had finished…I knew Carey would have rocked the race and also that Megan was doing awesome! I wasn’t sure how many racers were gonna finish this dang thing, but wouldn’t it be awesome if the DNF for women was lower than the average and 3, if I could find somebody else to ride with and try to get DFL again, wouldn’t that be awesome to get the perseverance non-buckle. Seriously though I had 95% given up, I was already crafting the title of my strava for the day, something like “Marji wins again, best 3 out of 5” and was feeling bummed I’d have to text Todd with “quitter #353” “perseverance poser” and how many people I’d let down by not finishing. I kinda stopped eating and only drinking begrudgingly which wasn’t helping, miles 75-85 seemed to take forever and I was bumming pretty hard. I rolled in to Jackson Park again to a cheery “Caw” from Matt, I was trying to hold back tears when he asked me how I was doing and I said “not so good, kinda tired and my ass hurts” Some great buds were there with huge smiles on their faces though and got me whatever I needed, and it was so great to hear that Matt again had done awesome and finished in 2nd place, what an incredible accomplishment, the only person to have 3 belt buckles! Jeff Smith brought me a PB&J, Tyler got me Coke, Matt started getting my lights all ready and taking all the extra junk out of my bag…I still wasn’t convinced and just told them I wanted a beer and to sit for a bit…I ate and drank and was getting a wee bit re-energized…then I saw Paul head out into the darkness for the final section! he high fives me with his yellow work gloves and told me to finish strong. Then I saw two badass ladies start to head out into the dark too… dang, that was giving me even more reason and hope to keep going. Then a stranger that was already on his bike, ready to go, rides up to where I was floofted on the ground, and asked if I was going back out, as he wanted somebody to ride with…with all the encouragement from Matt and Tyler and Jeff and Stacie telling me we were definitely not the last people out there, I kinda toyed with the idea and thought at least I’d gather all these snacks everybody was preparing for me, head out and then maybe stop to eat everything and then head back in, but I’d trick everybody into thinking I might go all the way, so I stuffed my face with bacon and chips, let Matt get everything ready for me on my bike. For some dumb reason took my cat tank top off and put on a 3/4 length sleeve shirt (which I promptly took off about 1 mile in and rode the rest of the muggy hot 15 miles in just my sweaty ratty old bibs), forgot to use the porta potty, but didn’t want to keep this patient stranger named Aaron waiting, and we were joined by Marquette Jim and off we went. Last year I was lucky enough to have another Jim to ride with and that made the world of difference from the year before. I don’t know if I can finish the Marji in the darkness by myself, I saw how weird I got and down on myself, having people to talk with and just chat at that time in the race is a huge boost and complete game-changer. My mood started to change, Jim was great because he rides these trails once a week in the early morning, and had tons of great advice of what to expect, what was rideable and what wasn’t. Aaron hadn’t been on the trails before, but was an awesome encouragement full of positivity at that point and was climbing strong. During Flannel Shirt I think, the local Negaunee dude I had talked to before, passed us, and so did Kip, I told Aaron he could head out with them if he wanted, but he said he started this last part with me and that we’d finish together. Jim had taken some extra downhill section somewhere and ended up behind us, but then rejoined and showed us the way. we took a snack break on the bench up where during the day time you can see the ski hill, and Jim told us more about Caroll Jackson, one of the awesome trail-builders who unfortunately had a heart attack and died while building one of these awesome trails we were getting to ride on that day. I looked down to my muddy sweaty Spoo socks that I was wearing in honor of our friend Scott who passed away earlier this year and I told Jim and Aaron about him and how he’d ridden some of these trails up here during Polar Roll and I’m sure would’ve loved to be doing the Marji. I’m not sure what time it was at that point, probably 2 am, we had our lights off, my feet dangling on the bench, sitting in a sweaty bibs and sports bra between two strangers, nomming on pickled green beans, looking at the stars and thinking about friends who no longer are around to ride their bikes with us, and thinking what an honor it was that I got to ride these trails, that my body was strong and healthy enough to do so, that Matt had ridden countless miles and places with me showing me tricks and encouraging me to ride better and faster, and that two great guys Danny and Todd had put together this amazing challenge, their wives Heidi and Stacie put the same amount of hard work into letting a bunch of yahoos have an amazing experience in this wonderful Yooper land, all the amazing and inspiring friends I’d made up here, I think at that point I realized we were gonna finish, and finish strong. We got back on our bikes and I think I drank one of those gas station energy shots, boy did that wake me up. I climbed all the way up ski hill climb, not dabbing at all, delusions of getting a QOM heheh. We stopped somewhere for a nature break, Aaron and Jim kindly ignored my unapologetic farts and dismissed my dumb mistake where I thought I was being all sneaky crouching in the shadows, only to later pick up my bike where I had dropped it off, shining the 950 lumens directly towards where I was hiding all lady-like hehehe doh! Anyway, the rest of the miles were a blur, I tried to remember them from the year before with Jim Draheim, I told Aaron about the alien-like green goo puddles towards the end, but how I thought all the hard stuff was behind us, Marquette Jim quickly chimed in and said I was wrong, since he knew these trails and that for sure there were monster climbs to come. I wasn’t looking at my mileage and at one point Aaron said something about only 6.2 miles to go! I said yay! just a 10K, there were supposedly all these awesome lakes we were nearby, but it was so dark. I saw a toad and many hills, we were walking but then got to ride mostly out of the saddle to ease the buttcheeks. Aaron commented on how it had been already an awesome day, where you seem to go through groups of people that you ride with, each one of them becoming an important puzzle piece in helping you get through all the miles. How lucky we had all been that our bikes had served us so well so far, and that’s for sure! I hadn’t crashed which is amazing for me, and my bike, thanks to Matt’s care and attention, had not had a single issue. The dropper post this year made a huge difference for me, and I was just so dang happy everybody had convinced me to come back out here. I finally looked down at my mileage and realized Aaron hadn’t taken into consideration that the course was actually 103 miles long, so we still had about 6 miles to go. Luckily a lot of it was two-track and rideable. So fun to get to Jasper knob and see the important message at the top. Jim told us a bit more about gemstone and we looked at the Stars a bit, Aaron’s light died but we let him ride between Jim and I and walked back down Jasper Knob and that last little bit into downtown, we saw the glowing magical hematite, which I told Aaron and Jim that the belt buckling nerds and anybody that finishes in the daytime doesn’t get to enjoy, we rounded the corner and rolled in towards the U R Tuff Enough banner thingy, saw Todd and Danny and Stacie and the awesome timing people and Mark and I think Jim’s wife and kids, and the three of us rolled over the finishing line together. I was certain we were last so I made sure to be slightly behind the other two because I wanted the title of DFL again…but then Stacie said we for sure weren’t, that there were at least 3 other people still out there and they weren’t expecting them until 9am, doh! whatever we still rolled in just before 5am and I was the 100th finisher! I’m dang happy about that! Couldn’t have done it without so many people, thank you to all who offered encouragement and cheers and bacon and pickles and especially to Matt for always believing in me and encouraging me. Marquette is for real our second home, so many great people up there, and they always welcome us such warmth, we are not worthy but will soak it all in, thank you to Todd and Danny and Heidi and Stacie and all the countless other volunteers that make this amazing race possible. Thanks too to Matt’s mom for always taking care of our dingdongs so we can go up and have all this fun, this is what they think about it
Can’t wait to sign up for it again next year! happy Marji!