Crusher in the Tushar, Part 3

07.18.2012 | 6:46 am

A “This Post Makes More Sense in Context” Note from Fatty: If you haven’t been to this site this week, you may want to back up a little bit. I’m right in the middle of my writeup of the race I did last weekend, The Crusher in The Tushar. Part 1 has my video recap. Part 2 is my writeup of the first 23 or so miles of the race.

The enormity and freakishness of the descent down into Piute Valley — 4000 feet of elevation loss in eight miles — didn’t hit me all at once, because it doesn’t start by dumping you over the side of a cliff.

No. That comes later.

Instead, the descent starts easy. And fun. and smooth. And straight.

It’s only after it’s lulled you into a false sense of well-being and descending accomplishment that it starts hucking ridiculous hairpins riddled with gravel and boulderettes (i.e., very small boulders) at you, with a side of terminal exposure. Just for fun.

But none of that matters. All of that stuff is normal. What really gets you — especially if you’re riding a bike with hard, skinny tires and an aluminum fork — are the washboards.

Miles and miles of washboards.

And miles.

I would wander from side to side of the road, looking for any line I could that didn’t have washboards, or at least not as extreme of washboards.

I tried descending faster, thinking that eventually I’d start skimming along the top of the washboards and things would smooth out. And this was maybe even theoretically possible, but it must happen at a speed greater than I was ever willing to go.

That’s my problem: I’m not willing to commit to suicidal speeds.

But you know, it could have been worse. It could have been raining hard as I descended (it wasnt raining at all when I descended), and I could have been wearing a bright yellow trash bag balloon / parachute.

Like the IT Guy was:

00628-01-1875 - Version 2.jpg
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

By the way, everyone who ever sees this photo: is this not the best, most awesome photo that has ever been taken in the history of the universe?

I submit that it is.

Eventually, I found someone whose line I could follow, and I just settled in behind her: Tammy Jacques, who races for Honey Stinger and would eventually finish second in Women’s Pro.

Even more eventually, I got to pavement. Never ever ever in my life have I been so glad to be done with a descent.

I considered that really, almost all of the rest of the day would be climbing, and how peculiar it was that I was grateful for that prospect.

Which means, obviously, that I need to get better at riding this bike before next year.

A Train, Derailed

I rolled through the next aid station, now 31 miles into this race, and having not yet needed to stop for anything. As I did, I looked back and made what I consider to be the very first smart strategic move I have ever made in a race.

Specifically, I saw a guy about 50 feet behind me, and I slowed to let him catch me.

Yes, believe it or not, in spite of all my instincts, I slowed down and let a guy catch me.

We then commenced to take turns pulling. And as luck turned out, I had joined forces with a guy who was a fantastic rider to work with. We began picking up more and more riders, ’til our train was six (or more) people strong. Hammering along the pavement at a fast-feeling 20-22mph.

We flew by Kenny, who, no matter his biggish singlespeed gear, was never going to be able to hang with us. “Aren’t you Kenny, that guy from the blog?” I asked as I went by.

And then, during one of my turns pulling, I noticed that my speed was dropping. Was it because we were climbing?


Was I tiring?

No. I felt fine.

And then I felt the rear of my bike, sloppily moving side to side with each push of my pedals.

My stomach sank, knowing what this sensation meant, but I looked down to confirm right as someone from me called out:

“Guy in front, you’ve gone flat. It’s been coming on for a while.”

I pulled over and hopped off my bike. The tire wasn’t completely flat — just mostly. I assumed — rightly, I think — that the seal I had been worrying about before the start of the race had slowly leaked.

But it had taken literally half the distance of the race — right around 35 miles — for it to happen.

Maybe — just maybe — I thought, I could just put some CO2 into the tire and I’d be OK for the second 35 miles, long enough to get me across the finish line. Or even if I had to stop one more time, that would be OK, too.

Suddenly, I was really glad I had brought along a total of five CO2 cartridges.

I dug out a cartridge, then dug out the threaded adapter. As I did, Kenny rode by. “You OK?” he asked.

“Yep, just working on a flat,” I called back.

I Stop Racing Before The Race Ends

A few minutes and one spent cartridge later, I was back in business. But this time, I was on my own.

Then the road turned right and we were back on dirt. And then it began to rain.

I pedaled on, doing my best to make up for the time I had lost putting air in a tire.

The road turned uphill — one of those tricky uphills where it doesn’t look very uphill so you’re wondering why you’re going so slow — and loose.

A woman racer caught me and said, as she latched onto my wheel, “Wow. You are so fat.”

“I know,” I said, sadly. “But I’m trying to get better.”

Then, a minute later, I felt a now-familiar squashy feeling coming from the rear of my bike. “Is my rear tire flat?” I asked the racer behind me, not wanting to look down and confirm what I feared.

“I’m afraid so,” she said.

Clearly, my tire wasn’t going to just go and politely hold air for me for another 33 miles. Wonderful.

It was time to put a tube in.

Time stretches on in a strange way when you’re fixing a flat during a race. People ride by constantly, asking — politely and sincerely — whether you need any help. As you reply in the negative, you’re thinking — each and every time — “There goes another person ahead of me. And another. And another.”

Meanwhile, for the same reason it’s hard to type when someone’s looking over your shoulder, you find you are doubleplus clumsy. Instead of the change taking five or seven minutes, it takes thirty.

OK, maybe it only feels like thirty minutes.

In any case, I made mistakes — like threading the adapter onto a CO2 cartridge that was already spent. And taking forever to get the tire bead seated on the rim, chasing it round and round the wheel five or six times.

The Benny Hill theme played in my head.

Finally — finally — I got the tube in, the tire on, the air in, and the wheel seated. I swung a leg over the bike and got to riding again.

But I found that I was no longer racing.

Oh sure, I was still racing in the abstract. I was even riding hard, but not at my “I’m incoherent and just barely not barfing” limit. Since my goal to finish as fast as my legs would take me was no longer possible, I was going to have to settle with just . . . finishing.

But in a race like The Crusher, that’s still no small thing.

Hard Climb, Made Harder

I stopped at an aid station to refill my bottles, and was served by a kid who made it his personal mission to get me everything I needed, in record time. I just handed him my bottles and he ran — literally ran — to fill them up, while I stood at the food table and ate approximately half a watermelon.

Then I got back on my bike and began the second — and last — climb of the day.

A climb that would go on for pretty much ever. Or at least enough that the climbing total for the day would be right around 10,000 feet.

For me, though, the problem wasn’t really the amount of climbing. I had that in me; I’ve done that amount of climbing lots of times. It wasn’t even the steepness of the climb. OK, that’s a lie. The steepness of the climb forced many riders I could see off their bikes, and the only reason I stayed on was sheer stubbornness.

And riding was faster than walking up that steep mountain. I’d pass people walking. Eventually. And slowly.

But the real problem for me was that with the skinny tires and loose road surface, I just couldn’t stand to climb. And lately — thanks to a ton of singlespeed mountain biking — I have become a real standing climber.

So I’d stand to power up a steep section. Then I’d spin out and sit down. Then I’d pedal. Then I’d reflexively stand to power up the next steep section.

This went on endlessly. So endlessly, in fact, that it’s still going on. I’m actually still out there, repeating this stand-spin-sit cycle right this very second.

Please rescue me.

A Better Choice

Once I hit the KOM mark — which meant very little to me, since I was nowhere even near the zip code of winning the KOM at this race — I figured the climbing would settle down a little. And to my immense relief, it did. There would be sections of hard climbing, followed by sections of easy climbing. And even — huzzah! — the occasional burst of downhill.

Oh, and there was one last aid station. I rolled through, accepting a water bottle. But then, as I continued on, I saw my error: I could have taken a full can of Coke instead.

I dropped the water bottle as if it were full of a lukewarm sports drink I didn’t care for much in the first place and had come to actively dislike during the course of the day. Which is an amazingly accurate metaphor, by the way. And may even be a demonstration of the reflexive property, although my recollection of college logic classes is pretty hazy at this point.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Dropping the bottle.

Now with a free hand, I took the Coke and sucked it down with such alacrity that the aluminum can crumpled even as I drank it.

What is it about Coke that makes it such a magnificent drink during a massive ride? I mean, apart from the fact that it’s cold, wet, sugary, caffeinated and delicious?

Drama at the End of the Dirt Road

Just as I got near the end of the last dirt section (which leads to the final four miles of the race: climbing on pavement), I was very nearly taken out. By a bottle. Somehow it knew where I was and rolled toward me at exactly the perfect pace to come under my front wheel (you can see it happen beginning at 3:14 in my video recap).

In my mind’s eye, I could picture what was going to happen: I’d hit the bottle. It would roll under my front wheel and make it slide out to the right. And I’d go down at 30mph (my estimated current speed).

I hit the bottle. The lid popped off and the battle squashed beneath me. I continued on without further incident.

So I guess I just put that in this story for a little extra bogus drama or something. Sorry.

At the Finish Line

The final mile of the race is a brute. 450 feet of climbing in a mile. That’s steep. Especially when you consider that I was already quite tired from my day of racing / riding.

I could see four or five people ahead of me. Thinking that maybe I could try to finish with a bit of panache (because I am all about panache), I stood up and started passing them.

And then the announcer started shouting to all the other racers that there was a guy passing them at the finish line, and were they going to let them do that?

Well I kind of hoped they were.

But one guy — the last guy I had to pass (you can see this happening on my video recap beginning at 3:22) stood up and denied me my final pass.

Which left me disappointed for almost another whole second.

And then I asked the volunteer whose job it was to make sure I didn’t keel over if I could possibly have a Coke.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

Best moment of the day, right there.

My finish time: 6:28

After my Race

I went and found my drop bag and got changed, moving as quickly as I could, because I didn’t want to miss The Hammer’s finish, and I had no idea how soon that would be. Based on previous races we’ve both done, I figured I had at least half an hour, though.

But that was before The Hammer well and truly became The Hammer.

She finished nine minutes after me. Nine. That’s it.

Photo courtesy of Zazoosh

But that’s her story to tell (which, by the way, she will do tomorrow).

We then hung around for Heather’s finish, as the first and only woman single speeder:


Behind her, you can see Kenny trying to run alongside her, and I would like to point out that watching Kenny try to run is perhaps exactly at the opposite end of the spectrum of awesomeness that seeing him ride is on.

Here he is after she dropped him and he gave up running:


Then we waited for Blake to finish, but I’m going to leave that part alone for now, because The Hammer tells that part of the story much better than I do.

Even More After The Race

The Crusher in the Tushar provides dinner a short (and, mercifully, exclusively downhill) bike ride away, at the Eagle Point ski resort lodge. I believe I ate enough to completely negate my calorie expenditure for the day.

And then there’s the shuttle ride, taking you back from the resort to resort to the starting line. Unfortunately, the shuttle runs on a 90 minute schedule, which meant a pretty long wait, by the end of which I was hungry again.

Oh, and there’s no separate space on the shuttle for bikes, so the dozen or so of us on the shuttle had to stand our bikes up, hug ‘em tight, and hope like mad that we didn’t wreck:


The whole way down, everyone joked, told stories, and laughed about the day. It was the best shuttle ride ever.

Way Before The Race

After every race, there’s a question, one you aren’t sure you should be answering yet, but can’t help asking:

Will I do this race again next year?

The answer, for me, is pretty easy in this case: Yes.

But better.


  1. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 07.18.2012 | 7:32 am

    Ah. I love that “will I do this race again next year” moment. Probably because it follows after the “what the heck and I doing this form moment” during the race. Which is maybe not the best moment of the day.

  2. Comment by roger | 07.18.2012 | 7:58 am

    Great Post!!! However, I was waiting anxiously to hear what caused the Stan’s to flat, but I’m still not sure why it didn’t seal. Maybe a bad wheel / tire combo for a Stan’s setup?

  3. Comment by Kevin | 07.18.2012 | 8:29 am

    @roger it doesn’t take much… could be tape too close to the bead, a piece of dried sealant on the bead lock, dirt, or a bead that didn’t come up to the seat evenly. Though in the last case it should pop on after some abuse on gravel.
    Glad this didn’t scare you off of gravel races, Fatty. Definitely want to see you and whoever you can bring with you at the Dirty Kanza 200 next year if it fits in your schedule.
    Oh, and if you’re not already eyeing the new carbon crux disc, take a look at Whisky’s or Spot’s carbon disc cross forks. I run the Spot on my steel Salsa Vaya, made a HUGE difference on washboard roads.

  4. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.18.2012 | 8:59 am


    Huzzah! – FC

  5. Comment by Geo | 07.18.2012 | 9:14 am

    The killer water bottle was just retaliating for you dropping it’s friend in favor of an aluminum can of Coke.

  6. Comment by Superstantial | 07.18.2012 | 9:17 am

    Thanks for the report. Fun to read about your race.

    Happy trails!

    Oh, we’re not done yet. The Hammer’s report is tomorrow. – FC

  7. Comment by Micha Ordway | 07.18.2012 | 10:42 am

    Fatty: You should watch more TV. Mythbusters debunked speed on the washboard thing. Nice Orwell/1984 reference too.

  8. Comment by centurion | 07.18.2012 | 10:48 am

    You mean to tell me you couldn’t hook up the IT Guy with a super slick FC wind jacket? Karma is a bitch.

    The IT Guy is an adult, had options, and made his own (ridiculously bad) clothing decisions. The kid’s stubborn; I can’t even get him to wear a decent pair of bibs. Even on a road bike, he wears those baggies, for crying out loud. – FC

  9. Comment by davidh,marin | 07.18.2012 | 11:01 am

    In the world of ‘Awesomeness’, I’d donate good money for a running race between Kenny and Fatty. (think about it)
    Video and commentary by Heather and The Hammer…of course.

    Great Race Report!

    A running race between Kenny and me would be truly hilarious, and would probably be a fair “How Not To Run” instructional video to boot. – FC

  10. Comment by davidh,marin | 07.18.2012 | 11:05 am

    And the IT Guy. I recognized that device as an early model Hyundai Air Bag system. The man was just being prepared, for any rider(s) going down in front of him, hitting water bottles.

  11. Comment by ScottR | 07.18.2012 | 11:20 am

    What kind of sealant was used on the wheels? I thought I’d read that CO2 didn’t play that nicely with stans, especially with small cross tires – the temp the CO2 comes out at kind of balls/curdles/’sets up’ the stans, making it less effective…

    The effect might be worse on cross tires, due to the smaller size (do you run tubeless on your mountain bikes)?

    It was Stan’s sealant, and I can imagine that maybe that cold CO2 might freeze the sealant, but I don’t know much about these things. FWIW, I do run my MTBs tubeless w/o Stans and it’s been a long time since I’ve flatted. – FC

  12. Comment by mtb w | 07.18.2012 | 11:27 am

    Great and funny write up! BTW, how did you place?

    Third from last in the Pro division. Which, frankly, I’m pretty darned proud of. I guess. – FC

  13. Comment by rich | 07.18.2012 | 12:07 pm

    awesome write up! Wow, the Hammer only 9 minutes back….STRONG!

    good job gang!

  14. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.18.2012 | 1:30 pm

    @FC – right- Huzzah!! That is what I meant.

  15. Comment by Clydesteve | 07.18.2012 | 1:32 pm

    Third from last in the Pro division. Which, frankly, I’m pretty darned proud of. I guess. – FC

    Well you did get paid!

  16. Comment by Joel H | 07.18.2012 | 2:11 pm

    Excellent reporting. You almost make me want to try it.

    So what is the orange sports drink of choice?

  17. Comment by NYCCarlos | 07.18.2012 | 2:40 pm

    did the 2 pros you beat finish?

    Yes they did. – FC.

  18. Comment by Cat_Rancher | 07.18.2012 | 3:25 pm

    When you mentioned following Tammy Jacques, and that she rides for Honey Stinger, I pictured the scene in the cartoons where the one shipwrecked guy looks at the other and sees a roasted chicken….. or maybe you were hoping she was carrying a few extra and one might fall out of her pocket? Awesome ride/story!

  19. Comment by FujiPixie13 | 07.18.2012 | 7:09 pm

    Pie. You do the ride for the pie.

  20. Comment by davidh,marin | 07.18.2012 | 7:33 pm

    So next year what does ‘third from last’ get you for a race number??

    @NYCarlos Choice!

    and if Faty needs pie I think we still have one or two left in the freezer.

  21. Comment by Jared | 07.18.2012 | 8:28 pm

    How did the IT Guy “like” the washboards on the FS rig? (Or will that be part of The Hammer’s recap?)

  22. Comment by Grizzly Adam | 07.18.2012 | 9:43 pm

    The only proven way to become better on a ‘cross bike is to race ‘cross. See you this fall. See the IT Guy was a great moment in the race for me. I heard him before I saw him. and then I saw a giant ball of flame descending toward me. “What the…” He had a big stupid grin on his face, like he knew exactly how ridiculous he looked, which put a big ridiculous grin on my face.

    It was fun hanging out with you and your family. What a great event. And congrats to all 3 of you! How many times does everyone in one car finish an endurance race?

  23. Comment by AKChick55 | 07.18.2012 | 11:16 pm

    Oh you didn’t! Yes you did! You said you were going to have to get better on the cross before next year! I hope that means you haven’t given up on it. :)I LOVE LOVE LOVE my cross bike. :)

    Jumping up and down for joy when i read that The Hammer is going to write about her race. I so love to read her stories and I really appreciate it when she does. Also, NINE minutes!?! That’s awesomesauce!!!!

    Love your recap so far. I haven’t laughed out loud this much in awhile. Glad I waited until I got home since I work in a cubicle and would have been hard to explain to my coworkers.

    Just wanted to tell some folks that I did a cat 3 climb tonight (had to stop FOUR times – sheesh) and when I reached the top, it was 77 degrees. Yep, in Anchorage. At one point on my ride, it was 79.8 degrees. I know that’s nothing to all you lower-49ers, but we’ve had the worst summer ever so that was pretty freaking awesome.

    Finally, DavidH, for some perverse reason (maybe meeting Fatty and the Hammer?) I’m venturing out and doing my hilly hard climbs and actually enjoying it and thinking about doing it again the very next day. I think I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe it’s the awesome ladies doing the Cannondale Revetour that are inspiring me. In any case, I think Hell has frozen over. All that to say that your crazy hell ride actually tempted me…as long as you pull me up those crazy freaky hills!

  24. Comment by a chris | 07.19.2012 | 5:14 am

    “But better.”
    Love it. Must apply this to something today.

  25. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 07.19.2012 | 5:47 am

    BTW. “Finding a place” behind the women who would finish second in the pro category is something I would way be happy with. You must have been doing something right on that bike you don’t know how to ride.

  26. Comment by Jeremy | 07.19.2012 | 9:58 am

    Oh, that bag. That smile. At least he’s got the point of riding a bike down, if not the practice.

  27. Comment by Anonymous | 07.19.2012 | 12:58 pm

    Fatty, I know you don’t read every post I do, but I did warn you several posts ago that you were boasting too much about your tubeless set up and such boasting would bring the flat gods wrath upon you!! Don’t say I didn’t warn you, you were smote!!

    Actually, I do read every comment. And you were right. – FC

  28. Comment by KM | 07.19.2012 | 12:59 pm

    I wasn’t anonymous!! Just forgetful to sign.

  29. Comment by km | 07.22.2012 | 4:59 pm

    I’m not kidding when I tell you that the day after I posted this I woke up and my rear tire was flat. Apparently the flat gods don’t like “I told you so” posts. SIGH.


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