Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
100 Miler Training,  Race Reports,  Trail Running,  Ultra Training

Crusher Ridge 21k Race Recap

Blah. Crusher Ridge 21k. Not my best day by far, though thankfully not because of anything physically wrong with me! Here’s the story:

I can usually shake a bad mood quickly when running on trails. Especially on race day. Especially at Ruffner Mountain, where it requires every ounce of strength and mental energy to stay upright. But I had a dark cloud over my head the entire morning, a la Eeyore, and I couldn’t seem to run away from it.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
When all else fails, leap across the finish line

But the Crusher Ridge 42k/21k was an incredibly fun and hard race, and it deserves a proper peppy race report. So I’ll share both the good and the bad.

The Bad:

I decided to run the 21k to leave time to go hiking with Z in the afternoon, and planned to run the full milage by starting at the ass-crack of dawn. But when my alarm went off at 4 a.m. and I realized I had to go run Ruffner in the dark and rain alone, I hit snooze. And then promptly overslept my “Oh shit, you’re late” alarms. So now I was short 21k and hauling ass to make the actual race. Lovely.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Speaking of lovely…

Flying up to the starting line, I realized that I had somehow slammed my hydration bladder hose in my car door, losing my bite valve in the process. For those of you not as bladder-savvy, a bite valve keeps the water from pouring out of the hose. Which was what was happening as runners were getting the one-minute countdown. With some help (thanks, Abby!), I was able to McGuyver  the hose shut with a hair tie. Perfect!

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
McGruber!

Except that I had to remove the hair tie and quickly staunch the water flow without choking while running every time I was thirsty. Which on the Crusher course is, oh, every fifteen steps. Which led to me not drinking enough water and Tailwind, which led to cramping legs and feeling even more blah than before.

But enough bitching. Here’s why I love Crusher Ridge and Ruffner so much.

The Good:

Between the race directors, the course, and the post-race party, Crusher Ridge is worth way more than the price of admission. One look at the elevation profile alone tells you that Crusher is not for the faint-of-heart. And so this is where people congregate each fall to prove themselves worthy of the title of “trail runner.”

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Those hills on the left alone should make you want to pee your pants

The first five miles of the race are no fucking joke. The course snakes up and down Ruffner Mountain on slick hills where switchbacks are laughed at. The climbs eat away at your soul and calves, and the downhills tear up your quads and self-confidence.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Slippery clay made the climb up Hanging Valley a nail-biter
Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Appropriately-named Another Motherfucker Trail

But it’s so beautiful on that side of the park. So beautiful. It’s wild and rugged and unlike anything else in Birmingham. You can’t hate on Ruffner, because she’s everything that a Southeastern mountain should be.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Bones left over from one of the coyote packs. Or a human sacrifice.
Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Climbing into the clouds
Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Birmingham’s very own jungle

The remainder of the course shows off Ruffner in all her glory—the main Crusher, the Overlook, the quarry. Sure, there are still hills and technical trails, but it’s tame compared to what you just ran and the miles seem to fly by.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
One of my favorite spots in the ‘Ham

Plus, Ruffner will forever be my favorite place to play because it’s where I started trail running three years ago. I love powering up the same trails that once left me gasping for air and covered in mud and blood from my frequent falls.

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Handstands and crows at the Mother Crusher

The aid stations on the course, run by BUTS and Resolute Running, were wonderful. Coming upon one was like finding an oasis filled with Halloween candy and friends. Given my shitty mental state, I loitered far too long at each one, but whatevs. It was fun!

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Hamming it up at the BUTS aid station

And I can’t recap Crusher Ridge without giving a massive high-five to the race directors, Mary and Lisa. These two ladies are more fun than a barrel of monkeys! Seriously. But don’t let their sunshine-y demeanor fool you—they’re sadistic creatures. They love putting on the hardest 21k and 42k in Alabama and then sitting back and watching everyone suffer. We runners love them for it!

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Mary and Lisa before sending their runners off into Crusher hell

So there you have it—the good, the bad, and the dirty of Crusher Ridge. Next stop, Pinhoti!

Crusher Ridge, Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Pinhoti 100, ultra marathon, trail running, 100-mile training
Finish line celebrations

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