Finish it!

by Jason Stuart

This is my story of the 2019 Marji Gesick race. I have been holding my thoughts on paper since a few days after the race, now, almost 100 days later, I am going to let them be known, albeit in reverse order. Kind of my own out n’ back.

Rolling through the finish line at 8:02 pm in the twilight knowing that I just finished the Marji without the use of artificial light felt amazing, even though I just narrowly missed getting taken out by a car who decided the finish line shoot would also be his automobile route that night. As I peeled my bodies weight off of my handlebars, I looked up to see Todd standing in front of me, with a shit eating grin on his face, with a pencil in his teeth and clipboard by his side, I managed to say in a sheepish voice, “what the fuck was that!?!” and “well played sir.”…

As I slammed a coke at the bottom of Jaspers knob at the house on the corner with the nice people partying on their deck, I made the walk up the knob, got confused at the top of the climb with a couple other dudes and decided to walk/slide down the backside of Jaspers, because we thought that is where the arrows pointed, we missed the arrows that pointed back down the way we came up. 42% grade of slick rock, no problem…

I ripped the last section of downhill in the darkening woods, it probably helped that there were four people walking up through the woods in the other direction cheering for a hundred miler who was shredding his way down in front of me, I followed his line and felt confident when I heard the roar of the crowd (4)…

The final 15, I swore that I would never BLAME TODD, or BLAME DANNY unless the next hill or section of trail was way easier than the last. I could find no blame…

When I left the aid station, I decided to pull a fat wheelie, then attack the final 15 miles. At the first climb my legs cramped again, I managed to stay on the bike and a voice from behind me said, “you got this, you are almost there, don’t give up dude” a fist bump and see you at the finish as I watched Matt Acker flow through the ensuing single track. I decided to ask groups of people how far this red bearded guy was in front of me when I would pass them to see the look on their faces when they realized I was a squid, but that I did have the number #69 on my plate, so maybe they thought I was a late entry Darkhorse pro…

As I entered the aid station for the second time, I was flat out delusional, hungry and thirsty. I hadn’t realized I had been on and off my bike for seven hours at that point. My leg cramps had gotten progressively worse throughout the day. As I rolled off the bike, I had the most amazing crew fueling me up with a half a can of coke, a waffle/bacon/whipped cream sandwich and some rice/bacon sandwich. My wife and a female friend, were in my eyes, wrestling each other over who could roll out my legs better, either way I just laid there in the grass with a dumb look on my face…

I was lucky enough to see Rob Meendering a few times during the day, as I was walking up a hill, he was snapping off photos, and I asked, how far until the next pit stop? He replied ” just over the hill and to the right” which ended up being an hour or so later, so I guess he was right in a way…

After leaving mile 18 I was feeling pretty decent until “dead deer trail” if I remember correctly. I have never had to deal with leg cramps before. This was different, laying next to my bike with legs locked up over and over again. I Had a banana, had people stop to offer help, had people give me a bag of pills that they “said” were electrolyte pills, even though I would have been happy if there would have been a nytol in there to help me get some Z’s at that point. I think some of the walking I did actually helped me loosen up. As if the back of the leg cramps weren’t bad enough, found some new ones shooting up the front of my legs through my groin. Oh the joy…

As we climbed Mt. Marquette, I was focusing on just staying on the pedals to the top, I did it and managed to make pretty good time coming back down the mountain, riding with one arm and a finger hovering over my front brake is not ideal but I made it work. Got locked into a group of about nine of us for a while. I remember going through a flowy downhill section and everyone was hooting and hollering, our voices were echoing through the woods, it was just the best feeling to be out there…

Right before the National Anthem was about to go off, a few things happened, my garmin puked, so I tucked it in my top bag, I had no watch, so I couldn’t tell the time or see how far I was about to travel. These ended up being blessings in disguise. I walked up under the course tape and up to Todd with my bike in tow, pointed at my number plate and said a quick hello, he replied with “thanks for showing up” and a statement of two simple, very direct words that would stick with me throughout the day, “FINISH IT”…

Showed up right before dark on Wednesday before the race, my wife and I set up camp and retired for the night, took a couple short rides by myself on Thursday with zero intentions of racing on Saturday. Hung out with some friends at night and started to get a vibe. By Friday afternoon I had decided to give the Marji a shot. I figured, I was already here, we had bought enough safety equipment for a small rugby team and for the reason of why not…

August 18, 2019, 3:30 p.m., being a roadie a couple miles from my house, on a downhill, racing a segment, a dead ash tree blew out of the woods across the highway directly in front of me. I hit it violently at 48 miles per hour, destroyed both knees, both elbows and pretty much my right side. Bounced and rolled 160 feet before coming to a stop. All of my Marji prep just came to a screaming halt…

I’ve been staring at my “BLAME DANNY” course marker in my bathroom mirror daily for months, been wearing my “fresh meat” t-shirt everywhere, been getting some miles on the bike whenever I could squeeze them in. I am feeling positive, getting stronger and a little nervous about September a few months down the road…

Just met Todd after the o2s race in 2018, chatted for a few, I remember him saying that the 50 miler is no joke, and some have compared it to 100 milers they have done in the past. I was thinking, my biggest ride was probably 50 miles and that was on a road bike over a few hours…

“FIND YOUR LIMITS, AND DESTROY THEM”… I managed to hold up my end of the bargain, I did this on that day. I haven’t stopped thinking about the Marji Gesick “race” for the last 100 days or so. I felt the pain, the struggles, the temptations, the breathtaking beauty, the amazing support from my wife and others. I also saw all of these things in others…

during the day in a rural area, I was all alone, just me and my bike, I heard a voice yelling at me from a second story room, I looked over and saw an elderly man, all alone, in a tanktop, cheering me on! “GO BIKER!!!” is what he yelled. I thought of him throughout the day. Was he a biker at one point in his life, was today the one day out of the year that he got to support hundreds of bikers go flying by his window? I wished he could experience what I was feeling at that moment. I am sure he didn’t realize at the time how much this truly meant to me. I can only imagine what this man has seen throughout his lifetime and how many times he may have found his limits…

“FINISH IT” Todd Poquette / September 21, 2019, 8:57 a.m.

Jason Stuart

It’s all about community.

While a lot of races out there are run by for-profit companies, that’s not the case for Marji GesickPolar Roll and The Crusher. All of our events are productions of the 906 Adventure Team, a 501(c)3 whose mission is to empower people to become the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure. We don’t have a large staff of people (two, to be exact) or significant overhead, and that enables us to donate a significant portion of race revenues in two ways:

  1. Since 2015, we’ve given back more than $110,000 to the trail-builders of RAMBA, NTN, Sisu Dirt Crews, WinMan and the DCNT.
  2. We also support youth adventure programs in three communities, investing over $35,000 this year alone in equipment, training, and gear to remove barriers for all kids. Our summer and after-school programs now have over 350 participants, and spots fill up as quickly as Marji Gesick. There is a need we’re trying to fill: to connect kids with their communities and get them off devices.