Todd Poquette is at it again. He loves creating super hard races in the most secluded spots in the UP of Michigan, changing the course every year. This year he outdid himself. His goal, for participants of the 40-mile event, was to experience Mosquito Gulch. Mosquito Gulch is a long stretch of nasty boulders. There are multiple selfie checkpoints along the way. You need these to verify you were there along with your gps file.
This year the start is at The Al Quaal Recreational Area in Ishpeming Michigan. There is no on site camping available here, so I decided to splurge and grab a hotel in Marquette for a few days. This was a good choice, as I really needed the use of the hot tub after completing the course. I’d like to say, I anticipated this need, but honestly, I just go lucky.
I signed up for the 40 EX. Apparently, Todd really sucks at math because when I downloaded the gpx file it turns out to be 59.9 miles. Who knew Todd could make a 40-mile race into a 100k race? The 100 EX is 128 miles, and the 225 EX is 237miles respectively. Free bonus miles are always welcomed in my book. I really wanted to do the 100 EX this year, but I couldn’t find anyone to do it with me. I must have smarter friends than me. I was scared to do the 100 EX alone in that terrain. It is not a typical race with aid stations and people. There are no bail-out spots, no c-stores, no rescue anywhere.
I only saw two people out on the course all day long, Toby and Kristen. I met them the day before while we were picking up the required GPS Beacons at Todd’s house. They were doing the 225 EX course. I just hit the second selfie checkpoint at the Yellow River crossing and was heading back up to the course. Kristin stopped me and offered a hug for moral support. I figured I better decline knowing how odorous I was at this point. Community is what makes grassroots races like this great.
I really wanted to ride my single-speed TyReeb Donkadonk fat bike with 4 inch Van Helga tires, but two weeks prior to the race my rear Shimano driver blew up. So, I had to put on my summer wheelset, a set of Stan Barons 50mm wide with 2.6-inch Vittoria Mezcal tires in the grey tough casing. I’m sure glad I did run this setup because it shaved 3 pounds off my fat tire set. This race was tough, especially on a single-speed bike. The hills were sometimes steep and punchy, sometimes they were long and gradual. I had to get off and push my bike more than I would care to admit.
Here is what I rode and the gear I selected.
Single Speed REEB TyDonkaDonk Fat bike
Blacksheep fork with front rack
32t Race Face ring x 18t Titanium Boone cog Yes, they are back in full production again. Click here to check them out. https://booneti.goaffpro.com
REEB Crowler handlebars which held my orange perfectly for the first 20 miles.
Thomson Dropper post was perfect for the descents.
Brooks Titanium Swift my trusty old saddle.
Jones grips and Cane Creek bar ends. Yes, they still exist even after the 90’s.
29 x 2.6 Mezcals were a great choice for all the sandy sections and added some Cush to my fully rigid setup.
Race Face Turbine Crankset
Crank Brother stamp 7 pedals paired with my Keen hiking boots.
My bag setup:
Small Swift Industries Fabio Chest x pac, that held required gear like tools, tubes, rain jacket, extra socks, snorkel (yes, you read that right), and an extra rear derailleur hanger, (Thanks Todd, super help full for a single speed). The side pockets held all my Bobos bars. I had a ton of room left over but it sat nicely on the front rack with no tire rub.
Cedaero frame bag held 1.5-liter bladder of water, Squirrels Nut Butter, some emergency beef jerky, battery power bank and spare charging cords just in case.
Cedaero top tube bag held my multi tool, wallet, $20 bill, key and phone.
Front Fork held two 40oz Nalgene bottles of Tailwind nutrition in King Liter cages
Bottom tube cage held extra 20oz of Tailwind which I didn’t use.
I wore a ¾ length Jersey from REEB, Zoic bike shorts, REEB rasta socks, Keen hiking boots, Pearl Izumi fingerless gloves, Bontrager helmet, and lots of Squirrels Nut Butter lube.
Etrex 35T for data
Suunto 9 watch for navigation
Gaia GPS recording on my phone in airplane mode.
I was front-heavy for the first half of the course, but it made it easier to push up steep hills without hitting my knees on panniers or a swinging seat bag. After mile 30 or so the bike started to get lighter as the Tailwind level went down from the fork legs.
I took one luxury item, a Bluetooth speaker to listen to podcasts, but there was no signal out there, so it just went for a ride. I learned a lot out there by myself. I really wouldn’t recommend doing this solo because if something happens out there, you may be stuck for a while. Make sure you know your bike and can fix anything to get you back. Take some safety gear and always have a plan. Go with a friend and have a great adventure together. I will defiantly do this race again. It is beautiful up there in Da UP. This course has it all, every terrain besides snow. There is pavement, rocks, boulders, roots, down trees, water crossings, smooth hard gravel, peanut butter mud, sand of all types. I bet if there was a way for Todd to add a mile of snow he would. Just remember when you finish, the real reward is completing something you didn’t think you could do.
If you would like to find out more and sign up for this race next year, check it out here: https://crushergravel.com