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Beth's story: The Crusher

BaseCamper Beth Collins shared her experience at the 2023 Crusher event in Munising, Michigan.

I want to shout out to the BaseCamp group and Coach Kate for the assist in hitting some goodness so far this season. After three years of BaseCamp winter program, I had the money to get a few months of one-on-one with Coach Kate. I'm ten years into doing bike racing of some form, mostly mountain bike ultra type, and I've never had one-on-one coaching. COVID times really did a number on my racing mindset, though. I discovered a more adventure approach to "racing" during that time and love it, but BaseCamp learning and inspiration from all the BaseCamp athletes and coaches was tingling my desire to stay sharp.

One thing that I'd been experiencing after BaseCamp would end in March each year is I'd feel like I was ready to launch, but it was March and still frozen out, and I felt like I struggled to make solid progressive progress post March that matched the seasonality of our events in the upper Midwest. This year I bought a new road bike for interval training stuff, and working with Coach Kate gave me some really specific work that has benefited me. I was in the middle of a busy work season, and being able to have the expert guidance rather than a more generic plan that I would edit like I've done for years was really helpful. Trusting the process is what I did.

I tested that in this past weekend's event, which is described below and on my blog. I do almost 100% of my riding and training solo, and since the beginning of trying this bike race stuff back in 2013, the events provide a goal, energy, people, inspiration, and community that I deeply appreciate. BaseCamp has extended that concept, even though we all know each other mostly online. I appreciate you and hope to meet more of you in person sometime.

The race report

Fourth season of Crushing stuff in the UP – EX style and mass start. The EX ITT choices are a special animal – my fav, if I'm being honest, – but I thought I'd try the mass start again. I think Todd and company offered up the perfect mix for the Mass Start Crusher event this year (three race distances that are longer than advertised 40, 100, 175). Based on the small portion of DNFs, the Jekyll and Hyde character of the course provided enough speed early to balance the distinct drop in mph for the back half (at least for the 175 route – I think the 100 route was more Hyde all day). Just about the time I got bored with the regular gravel, the EX stuff showed up to brighten my day.

But the event starts long before the bikes roll out. 906 Adventure Team partnered with Otter Lake Campground to create a basecamp for those who wanted to make it more than a show-up-and-race kind of weekend. 906 hauled all their tents, tables, coolers, stoves, and boatload of volunteers for the marathon that is a 906 event, meaning it's gonna be a very long day into night kinda deal. They are prepared to offer the same hospitality and cheers to the first folks over the strip as those finishing into the wee hours, including community-donated local beverages and a menu of hot food all night. I think it was some time after 5:00 a.m. for the last finisher of the 175 this year. They also set up a timing strip out on course at Lakenenland Sculpture Park where your family and pals could show up and heckle/help. Water, snacks, and other evil things like 100-proof were on display. The course for the 175 was laid out well for someone like me who likes to ride self-supported. Checkpoints had some strategic water and potties at appropriate locations. A couple stores were on offer mid course. And the policy of bumming stuff from other racers' support crews is always an option.

I rolled my FS mountain bike, always my bike of choice up here. I am seriously not a good enough rider to rail a drop-bar rigid gravel bike over these courses, which offer up just about any variety of surface you may never want to tackle; hats off to the many who do it. It's gotta be brutal despite your smiles. But it keeps me coming back. I got the pleasure of observing those fine bike handling skills rolling some miles with T&A Cycles Belize on Saturday as they shehandled their Bearclaw Thunderhawks over the demanding course.

I haven't ridden a 200+ mile event since 2021, but I was pretty sure in this format I could do it under 24 hours (my current time cutoff when thinking about whether an event will work for me solo or not). For extra accountability this year, I extended my 4-month winter group structured training program, BaseCamp, by adding another four-month stint of one-on-one coaching with Coach Kate, who helped me get through that indoor-to-outdoor transition and challenged me with some structure that was harder than I'd perform on my own. I did Lumberjack 100 in June (a race I hadn't done since 2018), which forced me to really get my head into a race mindset, which I've pretty much left behind since COVID-19 hit in 2020. Coach Kate is super supportive and basically just knows her stuff: just do the work, and good things will come. I've never had direct coaching in my many years of athletic endeavors, and it has been spot on. Highly recommend BaseCamp winter season training and one-on-one. That process supported a better experience up here this weekend. Though I always show up with plenty of miles in system and the belief I can finish, it was definitely a more targeted and sharper engine for this Old Bitch of 66 to show up with.

I'm not gonna offer much on the inspiration side, other than I stand by my belief that you never really know what you can do until you try. We hear this from other great inspiring people – and I'm 100 percent on board for trying. I'd consider myself a 906 Adventure Team event veteran now, and the thing that I love about it is the community of people that has been built around events like Marji Gesick and The Crusher. People seem to be attracted to the events because they don't really look like "bike races." Maybe they have a friend who tried one and came out of it changed, and that inspires the try. Sometimes people try one to get through a loss. Sometimes it is just to best a buddy – whatever it is, there is always a story – many stories – and this inspires me. This time a gal camping near me had never ridden a gravel event longer than 100 miles. There's a lot of 200-mile gravel events on offer these days that could have been excellent entry level 200. Dip your toes in stuff, safe ones, with sags and aid stations - nope - not here, you gotta dive into the deep end and make sure you can get yourself out of it on your own. That's what she did. It was a bold choice, and the gal totally crushed it. She told me before the race that her therapist told her it was totally okay to not finish. I didn't know this gal from Adam, so I didn't immediately say that was bullshit. I mean – sure, we can forgive ourselves for all kinds of not-real failures that we perform, but damn! Let's not do that before we even try. If your bike is still working and you are okay, just pedal. It might change your life.

Here's my ride on Strava. Next on tap – Crusher EX 100!! You can ride Crusher EX events all summer through September 30. Support good things while you ride; learn more about 906 Adventure Team and all their youth programs.


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