The State of Adventure

By now, we thought things would be further along and more clear – they’re not. When we’ll be able to gather en masse again in Michigan remains a mystery, and we expect public reaction to be mixed when we do. Polar Roll, Crusher, and Marji Gesick are the economic engine under our non-profit hood, enabling 906AT to support our youth program, Adventure Bike Club, and trails in three Upper Peninsula communities. We’d like to see things return to normal as quickly as you, but we also have to step back and ask, “What is normal going to be?” Our communities are rural, and while the resources are excellent, they’re also limited. We can’t ignore the potential impact of our decisions, or miss an opportunity to walk the talk, and live the ethos we ask kids to embrace. We tell the kids life isn’t fair, to adapt, be resilient, and step outside their comfort zone. We challenge them to do hard things and evolve. Now it’s our turn. 

The events have always followed a self-supported ethos, imploring participants to come prepared, be accountable, and work together. We’ve created a culture of inclusion and an event atmosphere celebrating the accomplishments of everyone from elites to weekend warriors, men to women, and youth. And, don’t forget Support Crews, which are made up of family, friends, and trail magic, helping us to #findourlimits and #finish what we start. They’ve been a big part of every 906AT experience, and will continue to be during the year ahead. With that, it’s time to make some decisions:

 

Marji Camp

Will run as planned, as it did in 2020. If you’re signed up, get ready. Our venues have been secured and we’ll be ready for you.

 

Spring Training (Youth)

We will not offer spring training this year.

 

After-School Bike Club (Youth)

We will not offer bike clubs after school this year. We’ll dedicate 2021 to rolling out our Learning Management System for volunteers and coaches. Training is important, and we’re coming off a year (2020) that prevented us from training at the level we expect. We’ll spend more time this spring getting Adventure Leaders ready to ensure we’re set up for success when ABC begins in June.

Adventure Bike Club (Youth)

Will run as planned, as it did in 2020. We’re building a Learning Management System from the ground up this spring. For the first time in our short history, volunteers and coaches will train using a system developed by 906AT for 906AT. It’s an exciting step for our local groups and the communities we hope to serve in the future. We’ll begin coach recruitment in March. Registration for ABC will open in May. 

Crusher

We’re going to make a tough call right now – Crusher will run full EX mode for 2021, with a caveat. For those looking to do the P2P from Copper Harbor to Marquette: We’re planning to offer a self-supported option. We’ve secured “Trails End” in Copper Harbor and plan offer a limited number of spots (200). You’ll need to get yourself there (no shuttles), and you’ll be on your own (self-supported ethos). Neutral support will be allowed. Trackers will be supplied, and we’ll more than likely troll the course that weekend heckling you. 

EX routes will begin and end on the West End this year. Official basecamp to be announced in March. The venue change will allow us to offer new routes in 2021. Crusher-EX will once again run July 1 – September 30, 2021. The FIST challenge will return. 

2020 opened our eyes to a lot of new possibilities, and a new group of people who want to join the adventure. Honestly, we think EX makes Crusher better, not worse. The unique format appeals to more and new people, helping us achieve our goal of empowering people through outdoor adventure.

Marji Gesick

We commit the following: We’ll find a way to make it go, in a way we’re proud to call it a 906AT experience. We will work with RAMBA and NTN Trails to explore signage alternatives in the event we can’t gather. Marji is important to us, and we know it’s important to you. It’s far enough away that we’ll let things play out for now, and develop multiple plans. The main takeaway: we plan to run Marji Gesick – with signage and in a safe way the community can be proud of, and in a way that it will feel like the Marji you’ve helped create. Get ready to #findyourlmits. We have a date with #unfinishedbusiness.

Triple Crown – Secret Event

Another tough call. We’re going to push the Secret Event to early 2022, here’s why: Many key events here in Michigan have already moved their dates to late-2021, the same time we planned to host the Triple Crown event. Many events do not benefit from the same adventure-centric flexibility we enjoy, and therefore, rely on the traditional single day race format to be successful. We don’t want to create a conflict or compete with them on those weekends this year in October. We hope everyone will find a great event nearby and support it.

 

A note from the Director of Adventure

We spent 2020 like you – not knowing what would happen one moment to the next. Armed with the information available to us today and what we learned last year, we’re confident this is the best direction. You have the answers. You can get ready. Will we return to gathering en masse someday? Yes. I believe we will, but when remains to be determined, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say the EX format will be in play, today and in the future.

I want to say a few things about the state of events, in particular, the stigma associated with what some people deem to be “virtual”. 906AT isn’t running virtual events, and to be honest when you look at our events in 2020 compared to previous years, the experience wasn’t much different. You were expected to be self-supported. The route was longer than we said it would be. You had to use a GPS. You spent the majority of a day or slightly less alone. You rode day and night. People got lost. There weren’t a ton of people at the finish line, and the podium didn’t pay much. Here’s what WAS different: The new format appealed to people who had never participated in an organized bike event. You could do the event whenever you wanted to, with whoever the hell you wanted to do it with. You could do it multiple times. More kids participated – many of them with parents. 30% of the field was female. If you left town with #unfinishedbusiness you didn’t have to wait a year to apply what you learned, you could come back and give er’ another go.  Our mission is to empower people to discover a better version of themselves through outdoor adventure, and to that end we succeeded last year. I’m happy to say the only thing virtual about EX is that it virtually kicks ass for a lot of reasons and people.  

While many will spend this year waiting to “go back to normal”, we’re going to focus on what the new normal is going to look like for us. 906AT events have always focused on challenging you to compete against your fears, not the man or woman next to you. Let me be clear, we love the competitive side of the sport and a good ole’ fashioned single-track throwdown amongst the elite, and we love everyone else too, including DFL. Gatherings aren’t going away, we’re simply looking at how we can #adapt, offer more options, and reach more people. In 2021, however, we’re going to focus on what we can control and get to work offering you the best experiences possible. I’m tired of sitting on my hands and playing “wait and see”. We just need to make a call and go for it, so we are. Adventure isn’t cancelled, 2021 is full of opportunity, and we plan to seize it. 

Thanks for listening. Ride on.

Todd Poquette – Director of Adventure, 906 Adventure Team 

“Empowering people to become the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure. 

 

#respect

#effort

#consistency

#grit

Self-supported ethos:

Be prepared. You don’t control what happens out there, you control how you react. You are on your own. No one is out there to save you. GPS is required. Road rules apply. The course is unmarked. Dial 911 in an emergency.

Equal representation

906AT events feature an open field for men and women. No age groups. No fancy podiums. It comes down to one of two things: You finish or you don’t. Female participation in the event has grown to nearly 30%, and more youth participate each year. Don’t be surprised if you see nine-year-olds finish the Crusher, or middle-school boys and girls complete the Marji Gesick. It’s happening.

Personal competition

Everyone shows up for a different reason. Elite racers set the bar battling head-to-head on some of the toughest courses around, while everyone else hopes to finish, set a personal best, or win a wager with a friend. Strive to #beatyesterday, and if the course gets the better of ya, come back for #unfinishedbusiness. Be a role model for finishing what you start.

 

It’s all about Community.

We asked you to #adapt in 2020, and you did. Now we’re asking you to join us and #forge ahead. 2021 is about doing what you do best, making the most of what you have, and getting better every day.

While a lot of races out there are run by for-profit companies, that’s not the case for Marji Gesick, Polar 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:

Since 2015, we’ve given back more than $141,000 to the trail-builders of RAMBA, NTN, Sisu Dirt Crews, WinMan and the DCNT. We also support youth adventure programs in three communities and have plans for that number to grow in the near future. 

In 2021 we’re building a learning management system to train 150+ volunteer Adventure Leaders, and have our eyes on the future: planning to grow from 500 youth served to thousands. Together with your continued support and a network of dedicated partners, we will connect kids with each other, their communities, and give them a healthy alternative to time spent on devices.