When I originally signed up for the SledgeHAMR race, I knew it was going to be hard, 187 miles hard. When the HAMR crew set the course with enhanced gravel, they weren’t lying. We came across everything, and you better be prepared for a very long day in the saddle. The terrain was incredible. You really had to be prepared for this race, more than any other I’ve been involved with. The required gear to take with was no joke, as it was a self supported race. So much to prepare for, but the requirements were necessary. That made things interesting and made you use your head on what amount to carry as weight of the bike and backpacks came into play on the ride. The first sign of any civilization was 105 miles into the ride. That’s why you needed to be prepared with the required food, water, etc. I was all in on this, and it was fun packing that amount of stuff, even though I didn’t need some of it. I’m still glad I had it,“just in case.” Bags were checked by race officials and it was for our own good. As the date of the race became closer, I had some doubts about myself, but I always think about the races that Todd, Matt and Danny and crew put together.
From the Polar Roll, to the Marji Gesick and to the HAMR. These are brutally tough events. I’ve seen people come up to try these races. Some come prepared and succeed while some are totally unprepared and usually fail at them and try again the following year. Some have it in their minds the entire year and actually train for it and eventually finish and seeing the emotions that it brings out of them is priceless. It’s all about progression. Heck, I’m one of them. I just dig these style events. In the short past, I did the short track mountain bike races, a few 3 hour and 6 hour races, which were cool but I was looking for more. I was the first one to sign up for the first Marji Gesick 100 race in 2015. Finishing that race in 13 hours got me hooked on endurance racing. It was an amazing experience. It is a huge commitment going into the unknown, preparing for the worst and ultimately keeping your body and machine going for plus 12 hours.
The SledgeHAMR was 87 miles longer, and guaranteed to mess with your mind even more than the “shorter” 906 Adventure races. The SledgeHAMR required you to finish under 24 hours to earn a masterpiece of an award in the form of a sledgehammer, so cool, and it’s my greatest award ever. I did choose to ride most of the race with a friend of mine that I traveled with, even though I held him back from mile 105 to 150 as I suffered from IT band issues. I did eventually catch him and we rode out the last 40 miles together as we both fed off of each other mentally. I don’t know how someone can ride this race alone, so find a person to stick together and enjoy the experience. We were on time and thought the last 35 miles would be a piece of cake until we encountered more enhanced situations. It was tough as hell, especially at night, but we knew we had food, water and tools to fix anything we could possibly break. We wanted to finish, that’s all. We were committed, thru pain, physical exhaustion and mental breakdowns, we still had one goal, to finish this race.
I’ve done 2 or 3 Polar Rolls, 3 Marji Gesick races, DNF lsst year at mile 90 due to heat exhaustion, and several 100 mile mountain bike events, but never a ride over 106 miles. This race was so rewarding, the terrain was everything from gravel, to road, to two track, to singletrack, to enhanced gravel with stuff I didn’t think I’d make it through and to trail that wasn’t even trail, what the hell was that! I played it smart, walked my bike a few times but always kept pace, through heavy rain, colder temps, and whatever Upper Michigan can throw at you. It was terrible but amazing at the same time. The rain, most people don’t care to even ride in the rain, we had no choice as we pedaled well over 6 hours in a steady pouring of rain. That weather can change, and it’ll change you as a rider to be more prepared and listen to your bike.
My bike was a modded out 2017 Salsa Spearfish with Goodyear Peak Ultimate 2.25 tires and they worked well, good enough for the deep sand and smooth enough for the long gravel roads and tougher trail. I was happy with the choice. I may have overpacked my backpack, as it did get heavy with all the rain, but it was my first time with that much gear on. I’m still glad I had it all with me. HAMR is not your typical gravel event. Heck, it was my first time actually riding gravel, and the gravel was the easy part. The rest of the terrain is mind boggling, full of sand, deep sand, then some rocks, there’s enough rocks up there can build Trump his “damn wall.”Some of the trail has you questioning, is that really trail? The blacktop roads were smooth, good enough to ride and eat your snacks. I was just amazed at what was thrown at us. This event is definitely suited for a mountain bike, hardtail or full squish. I doubt if a gravelbike or cyclocross bike could make it through the course. If Marji can get 600 plus riders, this event could do the same as choices would be a mountain bike, no doubt. But, this race is all about commitment, with very little bail out points, and a strong desire to will yourself to nature and terrain on your own for nearly 24 hours or more. Be committed. It still baffles me, that there were a handful of riders that finished after the 24 hour cut off for rewards, in my eyes, those are true warriors, to stay out there until they completed the course, some coming in around 30 hours. Crazy, but so much respect for them.
For me, going into my 5th year of biking and being 50 years young, it was a huge accomplishment, one that I will cherish, especially that cool hammer! I know people jab Todd Poquette and sometimes his crew and ridicule him with some deep cussing both on and off the trail and even on social media, which is quite entertaining at times. In the end, he’s got that unique way of pushing you and your limits. I’ve only come across a few people in my life that truly motivate me to the extreme, one was my drill sergeant during basic training in the U.S. Army and the other is this guy named Todd. I thank him for that and bringing events like this to life. He does this for a reason as each and every one of us has the ability to do this and these types of events. Yes, they’re tough, why the hell should they be easy. Each one of us has the strength and determination to complete these events and if you opt out of them early, there is always next year, but be prepared, mentally and physically and the sense of accomplishment of finishing these events is something to be proud of, they are not easy. It will change you. Don’t just settle. Push through it, no matter how painful it is, on the other side is something special, something that you earned. You only have one opportunity in life, make use of it and challenge yourself and I guarantee that it will change you. It has changed me, and I thank these guys for giving us these events. Thank you, I’m a better person because of these events. I can’t wait for the next one!
19 Hours, 57 Minutes of FUN!