Race Recap: Marji Gesick 100by Mason Bacso
October 2, 2017
Wow...the Marji Gesick 100 kicked my butt! The heat, technical trails, climbing, and distance chewed me up and spit me out! But...I got the final laugh as I crossed the finish line!!
Flash back to last January where it all began. Zach, John, and myself were enjoying a few drinks after the Noquemanon ski marathon talking about none other than bikes. The Marji race was brought up and I could sense hesitation from both Zach and John. I have a harsh desire to get myself and others to do challenging things and we all dared each other to do the race, myself in the 100 and Zach and John in the 50. We all signed up that night and it was game on!
Some stats on the Marji Gesick race: It is about 110 miles of Marquette Michigan's roughest singletrack with about 13,000 feet of climbing. Prior to this year, the race has a 48% finisher rate. I came in having had a solid summer of racing and training that I thought nothing of the race overall. I thought the 12 hour belt buckle would be a pretty reasonable goal. Whoops! This was my first experiment into stupid long mountain bike races and I was curious to see what it was like and if I was tough enough to compete.
The race started at 7:30 in the morning with a half mile lemans style start. There were some people sprinting on that run! We grabbed our bikes and were off. The front group just powered away. I was so confused, I thought we would ease into it, but I guess not. I hung on for about 10 miles and then let them go knowing I had many hours still ahead. I spent the next 25 miles just enjoying the day. This section of trail was great and filled rocky roll downs, some flow, technical climbing, and more. I began to get concerned early on about the heat though. 25 miles in and I already finished my bottle and hydration pack. The temps continued to rise and peaked just shy of 90 degrees. With heavy rain the previous day, trails were slightly tacky and humidity was through the roof.
Thankfully the aid stations saved the day! The race is considered self supported, but the community came out in a big way. This race had the best aid stations and volunteers of any race I have ever done. I would stop and within seconds volunteers are filling bottles, handing me food, and giving words of encouragement. Enormous thank you to the aid station volunteers! The first larger aid station was at mile 42. At this point my legs and body were already starting to lose their strength. I was climbing in gears several sizes smaller than normal. I fully refueled and was hoping for a second wind and to keep trucking. It didn't work. I slugged up the next climb and just never regained any zip. I messed around with nutrition, pace, mental attitude, etc, but could never get the zip back. Just shy of halfway, I pulled over, put some music on, and texted Eleanor that I was moving slower than expected, but still smiling. Little did I know the real "fun" was yet to come.
As the miles clipped away, my legs started cramping up a bit. Then a lot of bit! On at least 4 occasions, my legs fully locked up and I fell into the woods and into a fetal position. They would slowly loosen and I would continue only to have another muscle give way. This kept me busy for another 15 miles or so until I ran into Eleanor on the side of the road. She was blasting music and dancing around the side streets in typical Eleanor fashion. She got me a cold pop and some words of encouragement and I was ready to rock and roll again. But it didn't last long. The last 40 miles of trail was kind of miserable to be honest. It involved long grueling climbs followed by steep descents. The fun factor was low and the suffer factor was high. Even with my 50 tooth in the back I found myself walking a lot of hills. I saw Eleanor at another spot and she said I was at about mile 70. I almost sat down and pouted, but her positivity gave me courage to stay strong.
The last 30 miles were a mental struggle. I never understood how people could drop out with only 15 or so miles to go, but it became perfectly clear on Saturday. I rested with my drop bag with 15-20 miles to go and pondered the next 3-4 hours on the trail. I do not take DNF's lightly, so knew that was not an option. More importantly, I knew if I finished I never have to do this race again, haha. I left the drop bag zone and continued onward.
The last 15-20 miles is definitely where the race organizers put on their evil hats and went to work. So much climbing and such relentless singletrack. It was oddly a great part of the race because I knew I was on my last leg and was able to just put my head down and make it happen. I may have used a few special 4 letter words when time after time we came around a turn to see another couple hundred foot climb staring back at you.
All said and done, I crossed the finish line in just over 13 and a half hours. It was wonderful to be greeted at the finish by Eleanor, Zach, Erica, and the race directors congratulating me on making it to the finish. My race may not have been fast, but I finished. I placed 18th overall. Out of the starters for the Margi Gesick 100 this year, only 30% finished. That's a 70% DNF rate! Some took as long as 26 hours to complete. They are the true heroes!!
I am not sure if the Marji will see me back again or not. Those stupid long races have not been kind to me although they do have a weird allure. I am very glad I had the opportunity to complete the race and will defiantly remember this one.
Huge thanks to the Wagner family for hosting us and to Eleanor and Erica for being our support crew. Zach and John both found the finish line of the 50 mile race in 9 hours and 40 min, congrats!! Thank you to Kuhl, the Ski Hut, and Trek Bikes for your support! That's a wrap, thanks for reading!