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