Friday, September 13, 2019

5th Annual Marji Gesick 100 blog!

Whelp, it looks like it's time to dust off this old blog and toss out my thinks and thoughts on the 2019 Marji Gesick event. Hard to reference it as the Marji Gesick 100 anymore since there's a 50, 100 and 200 miler these days! It's been an awesome year leading up to the 5th Marji Gesick including the first year of Marji Camp. We had the good fortune of being coaches at the camp and helping people prep for the event. Whenever people ask for tips on the Marji the first thing i always say is to get to Marquette and ride the trails! Nothing can really replace riding the terrain and getting to know what you're up against. Now that we're only a week out i still recommend trying to get to town early and do some pre-riding to dial in your setup. In past blogs i've talked quite a bit about nutrition, training, setup, etc.. Since my nutrition is essentially the same these days and you can find tons of info online i'm gonna gloss over that as well as training. I feel the most helpful info at this point is current course design along with the new additions, and race day setup. With that, i'll jump right into the course for 2019!

The sun has set on training for Marji 2019!

The Course
Danny and crew have lined up some awesome changes to the course for 2019. We'll have some new singletrack sections, some classics added back in, and a few changes to the order of things. I'll go in order from start to finish (for the 100, you out'n'back folks will just have to read this backwards). The start remains the same with full on LeMans run and ski trails. Don't let anyone fool you about the LeMans start as it is well under 1 mile (until Todd and Danny read this...). Be careful out there because it's not super smooth and a great place to turn an ankle. The beginning miles are the same as last year with the first singletrack being Jedi and the first tough section being Top of the World. We'll ride all the same stuff up until we exit Wildcat and hit Pine Knob. Some of you may recall Pine Knob from 2017 and it's an awesome techy trail. It's back for 2019 and riding solid. We won't spend a ton of time in North Trails and before you know it you'll be chugging up Lowes climb and scrambling through a culvert.

Hanging out on da trail

I'll take my trails extra chunky please and thanks!

Prince Polo is a great way to fuel after Pine Knob!

Alright, so you get past Lowes trail and hit the IOHT paved stretch. Get yourself some jiblets and a tankard of ale to fuel for the next stretch of climbing! The course stays the same from the IOHT to the South Trails pavilion. Good news is that the NTN crew gave Eh Line a facelift with fresh dirt and sharp lips on the jumps so give er hell! I got to watch a master at work seeing Mike Brunet drop a dead tree right next to, but not on top of, a bridge. These guys know what they're doing and the trails reflect that. Take some time to appreciate the epic singletrack we're so lucky to have in this race. Don't eat too much at the south trailhead (if there's any food or water there...) because we'll be punching it up and down Marquette Mountain for the next hour or so. The course is the same until we descend to the Carp River and that's where we get to ride the first new section of goodness! Remember that clapped out two-track we used to ride up to Snake Oil? Surely you've had nightmares about it but thankfully that's out for 2019. Instead we'll get to ride "New Yellow" up the mountain to Zueg's trail. The bottom section starts out steep but then it becomes rolling machine built dirt with ample room to maneuver. We'll hit the two-track just for a hot second before turning left into Zueg's trail which has a bit of everything. All but the most skilled riders will probably have to put a foot down a time or two. There's a bunch of rad rock work and techy bits to negotiate on your way to the top but once you get up to where you see open sky and start descending it's game on! EZ Ryder is a shred worthy descent with a few "sport lines" in there to get extra rad on.

Rocks on rocks for Zueg's trail! Bring tough tires...

If you're doing the 100 and see these signs in the dark it's gonna be a long day for ya!

Once you cross under the highway and hit the west side of the south trails it's all essentially the same as years past. Save some gas for the technical climb up "Old Yellow" as there's no easy way to climb it other than twisting the throttle. Once up top we'll be-bop through the woods a bit before slowly grinding our way to Jackson Park. It appears that we'll be using the same two-tracks and ATV trails to get up to Negaunee. Take this time to eat plenty of snacks, stay hydrated and rest your upper body. This is not a good place to hammer because there's no free trail once you get to the RAMBA trail system.

Jackson Park is a great place to hang out at night and cheer people on!

Notice the expression on Danny's face when Al asks how much climbing there is in the last 15 miles...

If you've made it to Jackson Park you're doing good but you're not even halfway. You know how they say the halfway point of a marathon is at mile 20? There's no way around it and everything in RAMBA land is techy and slow going. Stock up at Jackson Park before heading out for loop 1 because it's gonna be a while before you see Jackson Park again. We start off the same by hitting Humpty Dumpty, Fence Line climb, Panorama and Wolf scat. Things get a remix once we get down by Lily Pond. Instead of a small loop and back out we'll fart around on some horse trail by Dead Deer before heading up the backside of Snakes Back (in the past we've descended this). Once to the top of Snakes Back we'll get into a new section i like to call Danny's Dirty Little Secret. Once down that trail we'll link up into Bacon Strip and much is the same up to Last Bluff. The GPS file shows that the ATV creek crossing is back in so prepare for wet feet before heading over to Section 16. The Section 16 climb is brutal like much of the RAMBA stuff so spin it to win it (or just slam that 32-20). The descent off Section 16 is one of my favorites and features smooth rock rolls and a fast rip down to the road. Since Section 16 is a bit remote we'll ride a bit of road and ATV trail right by the finish line before getting back to the gnar. 


Things will certainly start to get weird the closer you get to Ishpeming

One of the many overlooks in RAMBA land

Right after you roll by the finish line, which is still very far away in terms of the race, get ready for the one-two punch of Partridge Knob and New York Climb. They're both technical with sporty descents so don't doze off! Thankfully we already hit Snakes Back so you can chill on the Old Dump trail en route to Sissy Pants and the Hamptons climb. A note on Sissy pants: the rock garden is very tough to ride and once you're fatigued it's nearly impossible so be smart and don't smash yourself! Here on out the course is the same back to Jackson Park. Get jazzed up because "only" 15 miles remain...

Good luck!

Following Devan Jimula's line is only for the bold

Get stoked brother!

Don't crack that celebratory 51K IPA just yet! The last 15 miles is notorious and the odds are you're delirious. The route is identical to years past right up until the final miles. We'll jam up Dirty Mary climb (or walk completely humbled), and then shred some greasy stuff off the backside of the Luge. Flannel Shirt and AM/FM are classics! By the time you get to Grandview you'll be wishing you had taken up knitting as a hobby. That huge skill jump hill would suck to ride up! Oh wait, we're just gonna ride Carroll Jackson trail and THEN go up the ski hill. Cool. Once you bomb down to Lake Sally you'll be thinking "where in the hell..." but then you'll realize there's "not much left!". Oh you poor soul... Surely you'll hear curse words emanating from the trees and all will be revealed when you set eyes on the big sweaty monster. *insert sound of carbon soles scrambling up a rock face* Ok, now we're almost there right? WRONG! Hold onto your spandex because Ol' Danny boy has one last little treat for ya bud! Enter the new section of trail Cry Baby. It's a tight and twisting maze of glorious dirt ribbon that finds every up and down in the surrounding terrain. I'm guessing they'll block the technical section much like the rock roll off Grandview that goes into the road, but just in case watch yourself! The route is the same into the finish once you survive Cry Baby. Jasper Knob comprises the final climb and even though you're probably smoked at this point the adrenaline should get you through. Just be careful on the descent because there's a big G-out (drop into flat) at the bottom of the descent. It would be a shame to taco your rear wheel here... Don't forget to phone in your to-go order to Congress Pizza from the top of Jasper so it's nearly ready after to flip Todd the bird and through hateful sideways glances at Danny. 

The view sure is grand!

Everybody hurts... sometimes.

It's the world's largest gemstone, but i doubt you'll care when you see it...

So, you're probably wondering, how does the course stack up to years past?! Well, i'd say in general expect maybe another 1k or so of climbing at the least as compared to last year. It's gonna be a bit slower with the new additions but i think the new yellow climb versus the two-track to snake oil up the Ski Hill is a wash. Re-arranging the first loop out of Ishpmeing should be refreshing for Marji veterans and i think it makes that loop flow a bit better with getting Snakes Back and Danny's Dirty Little Secret out of the way before recovering on Bacon Strip. The trails that have been added are fun and rad so that's a plus. I would estimate that it will add 15-30 minutes as a whole to the fastest times from last year. Distance looks to be a fuzz over 100 which is standard. Overall i'm super stoked on the 2019 course and think it's gonna have a nice flow and be a bit less confusing than in the past.

The views are amazing!

As noted earlier, i'm just gonna gloss through nutrition by telling what my plan is and letting you take what you will from that. I'll be sporting a Camelbak vest and one or two bottles on my bike depending on the section of course. I prefer to be prepared in case there isn't a rogue aid station as opposed to relying on them and getting burnt. Vest will be water only and bottles will be mix. I'll be using Maurten and Carborocket 333 for liquid calories. I prefer gel flasks versus gel packets because they're easier to use, make less waste and i can adjust my intake on the fly. I save gels and fluid calories for the tough sections where it's hard to eat. On the bike paths, roads and smooth trails i'll be eating some type of bar, chips, cookies, etc.. I like to get some solid food down coming into Jackson Park as it's hard to eat much in RAMBA land. I recommend eating a decent "meal" when you get to Jackson Park. The time it takes to eat a burrito and down a Coke will pay dividends when you're not bonking and walking up all the hills an hour later. I like small turkey/cheese sandwiches, bacon and soda to boost energy. Stay on top of snacking as much as possible even if it's just a GU chomp or two every 20 minutes. Keeping nutrtion coming in regularly will stabilize blood sugar and give you consistent energy versus bonking then drinking a 2 liter of Coke to recover. i'll save the caffeine for later in the game when my reactions start to slow in the last few hours. This year i'll be adding some Floyd's of Leadville CBD chews to my arsenal as opposed to Ibuprofen. I'll also carry electrolyte pills such as the Carborocket Rocketlytes to help balance out what i'm losing in sweat.

Stay hydrated out there folks! (This message approved by Blackrocks Brewery).

No matter how hungry you get, don't eat these "chips".

You're going to want a stout setup for this event. Leave the light skin racing tires at home and toss something durable on with an extra ounce of tubeless sealant. Set that suspension up softer than usual if you've got it, and make sure that rebound is dialed in! I'll be riding the latest iteration of the Salsa Spearfish with 100mm of travel out back and 110mm of travel up front. I've chosen the Fox Stepcast 34 because i like a stiffer fork in rowdy terrain. While you don't want to be lugging a hog up the hills i'll say weight isn't as much of a priority for me when it comes to this event. My bike is right around 25 pounds. I'll be running Vittoria tires with TNT casing. They're a bit hefty but i like how tough and grippy they are. I've also opted for 2.35 versus a narrower tread for extra traction. Shifty bits are SRAM AXS Eagle with a 32t chainring. I've used a 34t with an 11-40 cassette in the past and it worked just fine, but the Eagle helps me clear some otherwise tricky stuff and i've found little use for a 34t chainring up in Marquette. I'd rather have my chain spend most of the time in the middle of the cassette to avoid cross-chain friction and issues. I'll also be rocking a dropper for this event to help get the seat lower for the steep stuff and also negotiating steep climbs where i need to maneuver the bike. To track output and exertion i'll have a SRAM Quarq power meter along with Shimano XTR pedals to lay that power down. My frame will be set in the high bottom bracket position to avoid pedal strikes and the suspension will be setup to be more forgiving. I'll have sintered metal pads on in case it is wet and for extra bite. Velocity USA Blunt SS hand-built wheels laced to Industry Nine hydra hubs will help me ratchet my way up and over obstacles and give my tubeless setup the ideal width to stay seated.

The Beardfish in its natural braapitat

Peyote up front and Mezcal in the rear

My repair kit will be much the same as in years past. I can't iterate enough how valuable having tire plugs and knowing how to use them can be! If you get a puncture the sealant won't fix then plugs are the next step in maintaining tubeless. They're super fast and can save you a ton of time putting in a tube. I'll be tossing extra repair stuff in my drop bag in case i have to use stuff early and need to replenish. To navigate i'll be relying on my Garmin 1030 and i pretty much always leave it on the map screen for handy reference. The course has been well marked but having a little computer to tell you if you're off route is priceless. A 50 oz. bladder will be in my Camelbak, and i'll put my Dynaplug kit in the front vest pocket along with a CO2 that's ready to rock. The other pocket will hold nutrition. I like the vest because i still have access to my jersey pockets where i put my gel flask, bars and other goodies. Shoes will be my Shimano S-Phyre which have been dynamite, helmet will be a Smith as will the glasses. Depending on weather i'll be rocking my Salsa team kit and will add wool arm/knee warmers if needed. Full finger gloves fo sho!

Tire plug for the win!

Love my Smith helmet because it securely holds my glasses when i don't need them

Lastly, i'll finish up this rambling blog with some tips and thoughts i've found valuable over the years. Prepare and rehearse your setup before race day! Even though it's only a week away there's still time to test out plugging an old tire, making sure all your stuff fits in your saddle bag, etc... Make sure everything has a place and you can get to what you need easily. I like to have "quick repair" items at the ready like my plug kit and CO2 while i may stash my tire boot, chain links, etc.. in a spot that takes more time to get to. I figure if something breaks bad enough digging for a few extra seconds won't kill me. Speaking of repairs, if you get a puncture or break a chain don't freak out! The 100 miler takes at least 10 hours so an extra 30 seconds to get a deep breath, relax and assess the situation is fine. I've seen people wreck their only tube by trying to rush the fix and pinching it, or drop a quick link because they were too frenzied. 

Mentally it helps to break the event into digestible chunks. First we'll ride Harlow, then North Trails, South Trails, Negaunee, and Ishpeming. Don't overwhelm yourself by thinking about the 40+ miles that remain after getting to Jackson Park. Take each knob you climb up there as a victory and check them off one at a time. Remember, we are fortunate to get to push our limits as a HOBBY and not have to stress about finding clean water or shelter as part of our daily lives. Enjoy this luxury, and embrace the challenge! These are some of the best trails anywhere as far as i'm concerned and it's amazing that they can all be linked into one huge route that never overlaps. If you start struggling just find a good view or pause on an overlook and take it all in, reset your brain and start moving again. No matter what just keep pushing forward because every foot counts! 

Take care of your equipment out there. We won't be racing a 3 stage enduro so don't shred like you are. Try to pick clean lines, avoid being sloppy in rock gardens and don't shift your bike under 10 megawatts of power. If you chain is dry and creaking stop and put some lube on, and if you burp a tire or notice you're hitting the rim just stop and air it up. Address issues before they become real problems. The same goes for your body! If you start drooling on yourself just stop and smash a clif bar and some drink mix. Don't dig a hole so deep there's no way out.

Always be kind! Trail karma is legit, and you'll find that your morale will be boosted if you try and spread some trail cheer. No matter how crappy you feel or angry you are at Danny just fake a smile or wave and encourage others you encounter. Most likely they'll cheer you on as well and that little boost may be just what you both need. One word of advice though, it's good to have fun and chat a bit at aid stations or the checkpoints but don't spend all day there because your bike won't ride itself...

That's really all I've got. Hopefully there's some little gem in there you can take away to help yourself succeed. I can hardly wait to see everyone up there and am especially stoked for my wife Jenny to tackle the 200 mile Out'n'Back along with many other good friends. It's going to be a great day(s) to be out in nature. Don't overthink things between now and then. If you've got a setup that has treated you well then don't change anything!!! Just take it easy, get into town with ample time to eat some good local food, have a beer at Blackrocks, make some friends and checkout the trails!

Hanging with buds is what it's all about!

Don't take yourself too serious, it's just bikes and spandex

Have fun out there!

If you're lucky you might get to eat pizza with a legend!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

4th annual Marji Gesick 100 blog

It's hard to believe that the 4th edition of the Marji Gesick 100 race is just around the corner! It seems like the saddle sores from the first one just healed... The race sure has come a long way, starting out with a small crew of riders at the Harlow Lake unit in 2015 to being an NUE event with 666 pre-registered participants including ultra-runners. Having been one of the lucky few to enjoy the first edition, it's been awesome to see the event grow and change over the past few years. That first year we had a very foggy notion of what we were getting into. We knew we'd ride about 100 miles, and that the trails were tough. No one knew where we'd get aid or what was available until we reached our drop bags in Jackson Park. The starting field was so small we were able to park in a little lot and lined all the bikes up in a few minutes. Fast forward a couple of years and the event takes over Forestville with hundreds of people milling about. While much has changed, one thing is sure to be the same; the good people of Marquette and the natural beauty of the Upper Peninsula. There's so much more to the event than just riding on some trails. The experience of getting to Marquette, setting up camp or lodging, mingling with locals and travelers, the nervous energy before the event, and the exhausted but happy energy afterwards. The reason we keep coming back every year isn't just for the bike ride, because we get to ride lots of great places, but rather the event as a whole. It's one of the few cycling events Jenny and I have made into an annual tradition, and part of that tradition is writing about the race and sharing our experience.
Racers anxiously awaiting the LeMans start!

The Course

The first 17 miles are the same as last year. We'll start out with the LeMans running portion which is over quickly despite many peoples' fears, and then it's off to the races on the xc ski trails towards Harlow Lake unit. Don't fret if you're not in the position you had hoped for coming out of the start, it's a long day and you're better off saving some for the back half than blowing up in the first few miles. The first substantial climb is up Jedi trail to Top of the World where we'll also find the first technical section. Generally speaking there are a few techy sections through Harlow Lake but we'll be spared tackling trails such as McLovin and Who Cooks for You. Don't force the rooty sections beginning around mile 10, but rather try to rely on good handling and consistent riding. The race energy and jitters can cause a person to push too hard in the techy stuff which can end your day quickly with a spill or mechanical. Around mile 12 we'll run into some chunky gnar which will have quite a few folks hoofing it, but take your time and avoid turning an ankle on the mossy rocks. It probably won't be the last time you're off the bike anyways...
View from Top of the World

We'll leave Harlow Lake unit and pedal a series of XC ski, two-track and singletrack routes back to Forestville around mile 17. We'll take Ramblin' Man, Wildcat and Mildcat en route to the North Trails proper on the Dead River. If you haven't heard, Pine Knob is out for this year.The North Trails will provide some reprieve from the gnar and you should be able to settle in to a nice endurance pace finally. Be sure to make the most out of the short gravel and two-track connectors when it comes to eating and drinking. It's easy to lose sight of nutrition in the heat of battle, but getting behind on nutrition early could spell disaster for the latter half of the day. The next big chunk of work comes around mile 25 when we get to Lowes Trail, a mildly technical and steep climb which punches it's way out of the Dead River valley and up towards US 41.We'll arrive at the notorious tunnel around mile 28 and that's it for the North Trail system.
Crossing the Dead River

Miles 29-31 are on the Iron Ore Heritage Trail, a paved bike path. Use this time wisely to fuel, address any issues or needed adjustments and catch a rest before the next section. Around mile 31 we'll dive into Harlow Farms connector also known as Black trail. Black trail weaves its way generally uphill into the South Trails proper and is pretty tame. Once into south trails we'll traverse about for several miles with a bit of everything until we hit the descent on Eh Line down to the South Trailhead around mile 40. Traditionally there has been a well stocked "aid station" at the pavilion, but remember there are no official race aid stations so take that for what it's worth... Now's the time to put your game face on and focus as the next several miles are both strenuous and technical with plenty of steeps and rocks. Don't rush the aid station if there is one because after that there truly isn't much of anything for who knows how long. We'll punch it up to Gurly, blast down to blue trail and through Doctors before abruptly turning and punching it up Mount Marquette road. Scary Trail is steep with some turns that will sneak up on ya so ride smart and keep your head up. Once down we'll meander to the Carp River where we'll be faced with the biggest climb of the entire race. The climb starts around mile 45 and lasts until just after mile 47 after ascending over 600 feet of vertical. Enjoy the shred down EZ Ryder back to the Carp River as we'll soon be climbing again. Once you arrive at Pipe Dreams you can breathe a short sigh of relief as the substantial climbing subsides for a while, although we'll be generally ascending until we arrive at Jackson Park. Morgan Creek Trail to Pioneer Loop is mostly relaxed singletrack which weaves it's way through the higher terrain until we depart from the south trail en route to Negaunee.

View off-route from Mount Marquette

Around mile 55 to 56 we'll pop out onto a curious surface called pavement whereupon it's advised to eat and drink merrily. This strange surface lasts for less than a mile before we dive back into some two-tracks and ATV trails. Around mile 60 we'll meet our old friend the Iron Ore Heritage Trail which means we're dangerously close to Jackson Park and that coveted drop bag. Jackson Park is around mile 65 so that gives you plenty of time to eat, drink and cook up a game plan for the next section. My advice is to eat and drink as much as feels comfortable without bloating or feeling nauseous. If you can diminish your supplies before arriving at Jackson Park then that's less time you'll need to spend eating at the checkpoint. Also, it gives you time to digest that food and drink before dealing with the more technical trails in Negaunee.
Jackson Park during the night time

Jackson Park, finally!! It is always an awesome sight to roll in and see all the amazing volunteers, fellow racers, family and friends that gather to cheer riders onward. Take the time you need here as you won't return for 22 technical and strenuous miles. The trails up in Negaunee and Ishpeming and tight, twisty, punchy, and not so flowy. There's not a lot of opportunity to fuel during the loop except for the occasional connector or crossing so make the most out of that stop as you may not return for at least a few hours. This also tends to be the time when the fatigue is stacking up and you're not thinking so clearly. Try to set a game plan ahead of your arrival at Jackson Park that way you're not wandering around like a Zombie and leaving with just a bottle of water. Leaving Jackson Park you'll wander on trails through the old town zone and get to actually ride on someones old staircase to their front door! Further into the loop you'll hit classics such as Malton Loop and Epic Trail. At mile 77 you'll actually ride within a few hundred feet of the finish line. Each section of trail pops up onto a knob and there is typically some sort of cool view or vantage point to take it all in. Try to remind yourself how cool the trails, scenery and people are as you're deep in the hurt locker grinding up each knob. Around mile 87 we'll return to Jackson Park for what is hopefully the last time of the race...

RAMBA goodness!

You've made it this far, there's no turning back now! According to the Strava route i'm referencing for mileage, the total distance is about 102 miles so that leaves us with 15 miles of ground to cover. The last 15 miles however are not for the faint of heart. We'll be faced with a couple substantial climbs after leaving the park and ride amazing trails such as Grandview, Flannel Shirt, AM/FM and Carroll Jackon. You'll see Suicide Hill from a distance, but then a few miles later it won't be so distant. Odds are the sunlight is waning or has long disappeared at this point. No matter the case, soldier onward and upward to the next high point. Make each summit an achievement and keep those pedals turning or feet hiking, one in front of the other. Arriving at the shore of Lake Sally you can rest assured that the struggle is nearly over, but not before just a few more climbs. Jasper Knob is the last castle to defeat before gliding/walking/crawling your way to the finish in Ishpeming on Main Street.
A classic!

Well, that doesn't sound too bad now does it? No matter how you slice it, it's one heck of a challenge getting from start to finish but i assure you it's worth it. The course favors those well prepared and equipped. Do you not meet either of those criteria? Well, sheer will power can get a person pretty darn far...
Jenny finishing after 2AM Sunday


We're too far gone now to talk about training so i'll jump right into nutrition. I'm just gonna tell you what my game plan is, and some tips i find handy and you can take that for what it's worth. First off, have some semblance of a game plan. It's too long of a day to straight wing it in my opinion. Hopefully you've tried out some drink mixes, gels, chews etc.. and have a fair idea of what you like. For me, i use Carborocket Half Evil which provide 333 calories per bottle. I'll carry a bottle on the bike and 1.5 liters of water on my back. I try to make a bottle last 2 hours or so, and carry the powder in a ziploc to mix with water when i can refill. I'll premix one bottle and carry a ziploc or two of mix to last me until i hit Jackson park and my drop bag. Water consumption is variable with temperature/pace/etc.. but i typically try not to over hydrate as it can cause bloat. 16-20 ounces of total fluid per hour usually work well for me. I drink more or less depending on the effort level. I try to regularly sip my drinks as opposed to chug half a bottle at a time to aid in digestion.
Get your pre and post game beverages at Blackrocks Brewery

For races 6 hours or less i'm fine with just drink mix and some gels/chews, but for longer undertakings i need solid and "real" food. I like to put my gel in a reusable flask that holds 6 servings. I find the flask is easier to access in my jersey and take a sip from as opposed to opening a bunch of gels and managing all the trash. I'll carry one flask to last me until Jackson Park where i'll have two more waiting for the final two sections. Since one flask doesn't quite cut it, i'll carry a few packs of chews to store in my top tube snack bag along with some chewy granola bars and something savory like Cheez-its or Combos. IF there's an "aid station" at South TH or en route to Jackson Park i'll typically feed on whatever sounds good at the time ranging from bananas to cookies to bratwurst. Remember that simple sugars and carbs only go so far when you're doing an endurance event, and proper food will help keep you from riding that high and low roller coaster that comes with just drinking mixes and eating gels.
Jenny leaving the aid station at night

Solid and whole foods are your friend, especially if you're not in a huge rush and just want to find the finish line. It's not always easy to stop and eat serious food if you're after a buckle, but if you can spare the time i highly recommend having something legit waiting for you at Jackson Park sure as a Border Grill burrito, cold pizza, pasta salad or otherwise. Just imagine going all day without eating, it's hard isn't it? Now imagine not eating all day while pushing your body to it's limits? I think you get the picture. Not only will sustenance help fuel your muscles but also keep your mood elevated and help you avoid those serious mental low points.
Burrito Palace


Again, i'll just tell you what i'm using and have used and let you be the judge. It's probably too late to get acquainted with a new dropper post or full suspension setup, but you can always makes small adjustments over a week out if you're smart about it (i.e. swap a 36t chain ring for a 30t, not a new drivetrain dood!). I've ridden the race on both a steel hardtail and a full suspension bike, and hands down enjoyed the experience more on my full sus steed. I'll be riding the Salsa Spearfish with a Fox Float 32 Stepcast fjork. Take the time to make sure you've got your suspension setup properly, and make a visit to your local bike shop if you're clueless. Running 300 psi in your fjork you might just as well run rigid, and vice versa running 30 psi you might as well bring a pogo stick. I've raced the first two editions without a dropper, and added one to my arsenal last year and was pleased that i did. It's just nice be able to get your seat out of the way when negotiating techy sections like Top of the World, Scary Trail, Gurly, etc... I'll be running the KS LEV Ci 125mm drop seatpost which is pretty new to the market.
Race rig ready to go!

Salsa Cycles Spearfish

Drivetrain wise i'll be running trusty ol' 1x11 Shimano XTR with a SRAM XX1 10-42 cassette. I like the feel and action of the Shimano but like the 10 tooth cog on the SRAM cassette so i can run a 32t up front and not feel like i'm out of gear on a few sections. Speaking of which, i run the Wolftooth CAMO setup with a 32t chainring mated up to Cannondale Hollogram aluminum crankset. Haven't had great lucky with carbon cranks in the rocky stuff and having alloy where i know i can bash a few rocks makes me feel better. Keeping my feet connected to the bike are Shimano XT pedals, they're tried and true and i'd rather save the nice XTR for the not-so-gnar stuff. Velocity USA Blunt SS hoops laced to Industry 9 hubs keep me rolling smooth and setup tubeless nicely with the Vittoria Mezcal 29x2.25 tires. I've been running these tires for several hundred miles so far and they roll fast, have good durability and corner well. I used them up at the HAMR race a few months ago with zero issues.

Some other additions to my setup include a Garmin Edge 1000 for the large screen and nice maps. To carry the necessary supplies i'll lash a tube under my seat (wrapped in plastic of course) with a Backcountry Research strap and stuff my remaining repair supplies in my Camelbak Chase Vest. To keep snacks handy and easy to eat i'll have my Oveja Negra top tube bag. I like the Camelbak vest because it has nice pockets on both should straps where i can keep salt tabs, chews, energy bars, etc... It's also nice because of the form fitting nature so it doesn't flop around much when you're getting rad.
Camelbak Chase vest with all of the pockets!

For repair kit i like to be well prepared. I've had good fortune at Marji that past several years but that can always change and i'd rather carry stuff and not have to use it than be out of luck waiting for someone to help me out. Here's what i like to carry:
Spare tube
Crankbros M17 multi-tool
Genuine Innovations tire plug kit w/bacon strips
CO2 inflator (push valve not screw on)
Extra CO2 cartidge
Birzman Apogee MTB pump
Park pre-glued patch kit
Park tire boot
11 speed quick link
Small valve core removal tool
Spare presta valve core
Derailleur hanger
Top cap tool to remove said derailleur hanger (Salsa design)
Repair kit

It might sound like a lot, but i strap the tube under my seat and am sure to wrap it in plastic to keep mud and dirt from rubbing holes in it. The small parts all fit in an old patch kit caddy and i stuff the rest in two zippered pockets on my Camelbak. This is about as minimal as i'm comfortable with, and of course you can always add more but i've been able to get out of most situations with these items. I don't carry extra sealant because i top it up before the event, and if i get a big enough puncture i face it upwards while i plug it so all the sealant doesn't drain out. I like the spare valve core because sometimes they get all clogged with sealant and it's nearly impossible to get air in with a small pump. I like the Birzman pump over my old Lezyne because it has a quick disconnect and won't pull out the valve core like i had happen with the Lezyne. That's also why i only use push-to-inflate CO2 heads and not thread on ones. Know how to replace your derailleur hanger, and if it has small screws holding it in place, be sure they're not so corroded you can't get them off. Also, if your derailleur hanger is like mine and need a large wrench or special tool be sure to have it on you.

I like to pack along plenty of clothing options to take up to Marquette as you never know what the weather will bring. It's good to have lots of modularity and layering options. For example, i don't typically wear heavier jackets or one piece tops, but rather like to use thin base layer, short sleeve jersey, arm sleeves and vests as needed so i can adjust with the weather. If it's for sure going to be rainy i like to use a high quality rain jacket like Gore wear to keep from getting chilled. Regular bib shorts can be coupled with knee warmers, leg warmers, embrocation cream or wool socks to cover a variety of temperatures. Don't underestimate a good pair of gloves for keeping your hands from blistering or slipping on damp grips. If you're so inclined you can always throw some spare socks, base layer, shorts, etc.. in your drop bag to have at Jackson park.
Don't forget about style

Head games
Aside from the phsyical challenge presented by such an undertaking, the mental battle is not to be overlooked. A large part of success or failure is due to mental fortitude or lack thereof. During any race that takes 10+ hours there is bound to be plenty of highs and lows. After doing some pretty long events i've developed some good skills at keeping the boogie man at bay and having a successful ride. First, keep positive thinking at the forefront and try to push out all the negative thoughts that enter. If you think you're gonna crash on a feature then you probably will, just like if you look at the tree you want to miss you'll probably run into it. Telling yourself you're up to the challenge, ready for anything and willing to face all tasks head-on will do wonders for your ride. Positive self talk is a critical aspect of endurance racing. Second, break the ride or race into "digestible" sections that you can grasp. Thinking of far away downtown Ishpeming when you're at Harlow Lake will seem overwhelming as you're walking the first tough section. Focus on completing one section at a time and celebrate each small victory to keep your morale high. For instance, i break the race into "zones" that i look forward to riding and finishing; Harlow Lake unit, North Trails, South Trails, commute to Negaunee, RAMBA loop, and the final section from Jackson Park to Ishpeming. Focus on getting from one zone to the next and don't worry about what's hours and hours away, you'll get to it eventually.Third, camaraderie is not to be underestimated as a great source of motivation. If it's really quiet and folks are groaning about the next climb, try to be upbeat and elevate the mood. Odds are you won't all be in tune with the same mood so help one another out and you're bound to have someone cheer you up when you really need the boost.
Perseverance award winners 2016

The spirit of adventure
To me, the Marji Gesick is an adventure ride, nothing more and nothing less, and i'm always just happy to find the finish line. It's a fantastic opportunity to test yourself and maybe even learn something in the process. It's easy to get caught up in all the hype concern, stoke and energy leading up to the race and have your mind going a million miles an hour. Just stop, think about how cool it will be to ride all that awesome trail, and embrace the adventure that surely awaits. The race seems to have a way of laying to waste the best laid plans so don't overthink things. Where there's a will, there's a way. I'm incredibly excited to get up to Marquette and ride with a bunch of great people and you should be too!
Hanging with a legend
Reliving the action.