A Note from Fatty: I’ve been showing video and writing (first this, then this) about my Crusher in the Tushar experience all week. But the thing is, from beginning of the race to the finish line, The Hammer and I never even saw each other; I honestly didn’t know what her day was like, so couldn’t really tell her part of the story. So now it’s time for her to tell what the race was like from her perspective.
In January of this year, Elden proposed we sign up for the Crusher in the Tushar.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Oh it’s just a race down in Beaver. It’s supposed to be a great Leadville prep ride. It has a lot of climbing in it.”
When I started asking more questions, I wasn’t too surprised to find that Elden didn’t know the answers. Elden does not pay very close attention to detail. This is something that I have found out the hard way over the past 2 years of marriage.
So I went to the web site and read up on the race. I found out that I could ride either a mountain bike or a cross bike, since the race would be half on pavement and half on dirt. That was an easy decision-I do not own a cross bike, so mountain bike it would be.
The race was 70 miles with about 10,000 ft of climbing. The elevation would come in two 4,500 ft climbs. The profile looked a lot like doing a double Mount Nebo loop (The Nebo Loop is a popular road bike ride in our area). The climb to the top of the loop is 24 miles with about 4,500ft of ascending. So it would be similar to climbing up one side, descending the other side and then re-climbing the side I had just descended.
I put the race on our calendar to do this ride at the end of June. Since my son Blake was also training for Leadville, I went on the website and signed both of us. I then informed Blake that he had a nice prep ride/race to do a month before Leadville.
He wasn’t too enthusiastic when I told him about it. He just hasn’t been too excited about training for Leadville period. Last year he was motivated and excited to conquer Leadville. After the collarbone fiasco, he just kind of lost the excitement.
What I hadn’t realized when I signed Blake up, was that this would be Blake’s first official endurance bike race. Yes, he had done the Tour de Donut and the (deadly) Alpine City Days bike race, but nothing long and arduous like the Crusher was bound to be!
Double Nebo Ride
Double Nebo was scheduled on my calendar for June 30, but as we approached that day, the smoke in the valley was increasing — Utah has pretty much been on fire since the first of June.
On that particular morning, there was a fire burning on the South side of Nebo. We made an executive decision to ride the Cottonwood Canyons in SLC that day instead, and try and save our lungs from filling up with gunk. (the biking gods may have been warning us about Nebo ride).
The next Sunday was the perfect day for riding a double Nebo. Or at least, it was perfect for Elden and me, but Blake had been battling a horrible cold and opted to stay in bed.
The ride up the north side of Nebo was lovely, I even squeaked out one Queen of the Mountain segment for Strava. I definitely have some competition brewing on Strava lately. I think I am retiring the Strava Monster for a while because it’s messing with my brain, and making me really grumpy and exhausted . . . but that’s a different story for a different day.
The South side descent was nice and we arrived in Nephi around 8:30 in the morning. Too early for a burger and Frosty from Wendy’s, so we enjoyed a can of Coke and doughnut from the gas station and headed back up the south side of Nebo. As we were rolling along, enjoying the runup to the steep climb, there was a loud bang — as if someone was shooting at us!
I screamed and Elden came to a quick stop. His rear tire had blown. And much to our dismay, we had no tire lever to get the tire off the rim [Note from Fatty: Those of you who have tried to get a Hutchinson tubeless tire off a Shimano tubeless rim will sympathize].
So once I was able to find cell phone coverage, I called sick Blake to come rescue us. Elden and I learned a valuable lesson: to check seat packs on occasion to make sure they have the necessary materials for changing a tire.
Our south side ascent of Nebo turned into breakfast at Village Inn. My Crusher Training wasn’t going exactly how I had intended it to go!
Friday, July 13, 2012: The Day Before the Crusher
The three-hourish drive to Beaver was . . . interesting.
Two things stood out to me as we headed down I-15. The first was the weather. We had left Alpine and the weather was warm and overcast. As we headed South, the sky began to look black and ominous. Within an hour the sky opened up and the rain began to fall. It was not just a sprinkle either. The rain was pounding the windshield and the wipers could hardly keep up.
The truck kept hydroplaning over the freestanding water on the road. I was a little scared, to say the least and glad I wasn’t the one driving.
I could tell I was in trouble for the race tomorrow, too: I hadn’t really packed for a bike ride in hard rain. I had brought a rain jacket and that was all.
Thoughts of my 2000 Leadville experience kept coming back to mind.
The second thing that stood out was Blake’s anxiety level. Normally, Blake is a very mellow kid [Note from Fatty: I don't think "mellow" is the right description for blake. I'd go with "cheerfully acerbic"] that never gets his feathers ruffled.
Today he was a wreck.
He was clutching his pillow and rocking back and forth, moaning something unintelligible. I could pick out an occasional word like: “sick,” “runny nose,” “snot,” “tired,” “scared,” “race,” “rain….”
That is when I realized Blake had never participated in a big race before. My thoughts turned to my first Leadville, my first — and only — Ironman, and all the other significant races that I had done in the past. I had forgotten the utter terror that comes upon you as you approach a big race. It is further aggravated I’m sure by being sick and not putting in the training that is necessary.
I tried to make light of the situation. I told Blake to think of it as a training ride and to just have fun. I think this was (yet another) time in his life that Blake didn’t hear a word his mother was saying, or was just plain ignoring me.
The rocking back and forth and lack of something to say continued through the drive.
Saturday, July 14, 2012: The Crusher in the Tushar
We woke early and drove to McDonalds for breakfast. NOT exactly what I had in mind for a pre-race meal, but you do what you gotta do. I was hoping my egg McMuffin wouldn’t decide it was a bad idea an hour into my race!
The race was scheduled to begin at 8:00. We arrived around seven, just as the rain began to fall. I was hoping that we would make it half way up the first climb before it started raining. There is nothing worst than starting a race with a wet coat and wet shoes.
The Pro class left at 8:00, Blake left with the “barely old enough to do this race” manchild group at 8:01, Elden a few minutes later with his age group, Heather and Kenny a few minutes later in the SS division.
The ladies, of course, were slated for last.
Why do race organizers do that? Yes, we may be the slowest group, but let us go first! (Haven’t you heard of “Ladies first?”) The woman’s field consisted of only about 20 riders. It wouldn’t be hard for the men to pass us. Instead we start out at the back . . . and there we stay.
As we pulled out of town, I noticed most of the pro women had cross bikes. The first 11miles was gradual uphill on pavement. The pros led our small peloton of riders for about 7 miles. I was happy to stay at the very back of the pack and have a free ride.
At about mile 4, our group passed Heather, as she was spinning her little legs off. I am so impressed with her. She opted to ride her single speed on this course in preparation for riding it at Leadville this year. Her gearing makes it almost impossible to move at all on flat pavement! I would have been so demoralized as the women’s peloton passed. (Heather went on to do an amazing race. She finished in just over 8 hours. I thought of her frequently as I used my gears on the monstrous climbs of the day.)
At mile 7, the pro women (most on cross bikes) decided to turn on the gas. Their group left the mountain bikers like me as if we were standing still.
I had started the race with my rain jacket on. Within the first mile or so of the race, the rain stopped. That was fantastic, but it left me with a plastic bag-like jacket on while I was sweating buckets underneath it.
I eventually pulled over and took the jacket off. I also had to take the Camelbak off and put it back on, since I had made the mistake of putting the Camelbak on over the jacket. What a hassle!
In the process, I was passed by the group of mountain bikes I was riding with. But it sure felt good getting rid of the jacket and I caught all the women that had passed me by the time we left the pavement and started up the dirt.
The First Big Climb
As we started up the mud, I started chatting with a gal. She had a long sleeve shirt with a short sleeve shirt on over it. I suggested she take off the long sleeve shirt and promised she would probably ride at least a mile an hour faster. She quickly refused, stating she didn’t want to lose her riding partner. “I’m afraid you’re losing your riding partner anyway,” I thought to myself, as I rode away.
I quickly came upon another woman and started visiting with her. She said she used to race, but hadn’t in a while. She said she had done Leadville twice. I asked her how fast she had done it. She said just shy of twelve hours. After I told her my time, she politely said goodbye to me, and I rode on ahead
It was during this conversation that I passed my son. He was pulled over, resting or something. He gave me a big smile and said something about it being about time that I passed him. I sure love that boy!
The next ten-plus miles just kept climbing and climbing. The road was really muddy; finding the right line kept me occupied. Around mile eighteen, I came upon a friend of mine, Conrad. He was a great “carrot.” Every time I would catch him, we would converse pleasantly and then he would pull ahead. Dang him! Eventually, he got sick of that game and let me pass. [Note from Fatty : “Let” had nothing to do with it; The Hammer finished around an hour ahead of Conrad.]
The Big Descent
After 24 miles of climbing the road started to turn down . . . and the rain started to fall. The rain was slow at first, then picked up steam as I descended.
The descent was way scary. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a horrible descender. Nervous Nelly always comes out when the road turns down! As I was gathering steam on the descent, my bike tire started fishtailing and bouncing. I was horrified that I had a flat tire. Memories of my flat tire from Leadville 2000 filled my head. I was freaking out over nothing though — my back tire was bouncing because the road was filled with washboards! There wasn’t a clean line anywhere.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
Part of me was grateful for the jostling; it was keeping me warm. The rain was now coming down so hard I could hardly see. As I approached the pavement, I made the executive decision to put on my rain jacket. So I pulled over, took off my Camelbak, got my jacket out, put my Camelbak back on and the jacket over it.
Pounding the Pavement
As I descended the pavement, the Pro men were climbing back up the road. They looked miserable. There was a headwind blowing the hard rain into their faces. I didn’t feel too bad for them though–they were at least an hour ahead of me. Their torture would be over before mine was!
As I descended into the Junction aid station, the rain stopped and my jacket actually started drying off. Weird weather. I decided to stop at the aid station and refuel. I also needed to use the bathroom. When I asked where it was, they said they thought there might be one in the park 1/4mile back up the road, or there was one at the next aid station, seven miles away, in Circleville. “Great. I hope I can hold it,” I thought.
The volunteers were amazing. One gal anticipated and met every one of my needs. She even helped me get my Camelbak and jacket back on as she pushed me back out into the rain. Yes, the rain decided to let loose again while I was under the aid tent. It was comical how hard it was raining. I also know that those hard rains rarely last more than a few minutes, thank heavens.
As I left the aid station, I caught up with a guy and suggested we work together on this flat paved section to Circleville. He gladly accepted and we started motoring down the road. I pulled first, then when it was his turn to pull I relaxed and took a nice break, but I could tell our pace was different.
As he pulled over from his pull, he apologized and said he was probably slowing me down. I disagreed — I was grateful for the pull and the company. Eventually we did catch up to another set of riders who were a little faster…or they became a little faster when a girl jumped to the front of their train and started pulling them!
They responded nicely and we flew into Circleville. They didn’t stop at the aid station and I wasn’t about to lose my train, so the bathroom would have to wait.
Not far from Circleville, the pavement turned to mud/dirt and our train disintegrated. I found myself riding by myself, occasionally passing someone. I even thought I saw Elden in front of me, but it was a mirage — just a guy who was standing and climbing like Elden does. That’s when I realized that Elden must be hating his bike and this race! There is no way he could stand and climb on that cross bike and those skinny tires! I was hoping that wasn’t the case and that he was having a banner day.
The dirt turned to pavement and I started up the back side of the climb that I had recently descended. It was cool, I could see some distance in front of me and I could see a steady line of riders on the road. I made it my goal to catch each of the riders ahead of me. It was a very fun game!
The KOM Climb
As I started the KOM ascent (a five-mile segment of the race they distinguish as the KOM because its wicked-steep, washboardy and miserable), I passed Ryan, one of Elden’s biking friends. Ryan was the only biker thus far who had passed me this day while I was riding, and that was on the descent about an hour earlier. (Plenty of people passed me while I was taking off my jacket/putting my jacket on, or at aid stations–that is the benefit of starting in the last group.) So there was a little moment of pleasure as we exchanged greetings.
The KOM climb was miserable. I was amazed at how many people were walking! That gave me all the more motivation not to get off my bike! As I took the last swig of water from my Camelbak, I rounded the corner and I was at the top of the climb! Hallelujah! A volunteer helped fill my Camelbak with yummy cold spring water and I was off and rolling again.
[A Note from Fatty: The Hammer doesn't adequately describe how she really killed this section and in fact currently holds the QOM on Strava for it. She did this part of the race five full minutes faster than I did.]
The last 10-15miles were horrible for me. I was exhausted and couldn’t see how I was going to make it another ten miles.
I rode along with a guy for a while who was an amazing complainer. I think he and Blake could be in competition for the world’s biggest complainer. His complaining made me feel better about my situation because I don’t think I was feeling as bad as he was. He eventually pulled ahead of me, and I started complaining to myself about letting someone pass me!
Eventually I arrived at the top of the dirt climb and I roared down the paved descent. I knew the joy wouldn’t last long because the pavement made an abrupt turn and started ascending again.
The brutal last one mile had 450 ft of climbing. I was pooped. I didn’t have the strength to stand and ride and my legs were too tired to sit and turn. So I made the decision and switched to my small ring. I had almost completed the race without using my granny gear!
Crossing the finish line was magnificent.
Photo courtesy of Zazoosh
The feeling of accomplishment was huge! Too bad Elden was off in the restroom changing and didn’t get to experience it with me.
Two long hours passed before we saw the orange jersey of Team Fatty coming up the road.
I was overjoyed to see Blake!
Blake had finished the race with 20 minutes to spare. He was very muddy:
More importantly, he had a huge smile on his face and a story of his own to tell. (which included a funny yellow rain poncho!)
Congrats, Blake, on finishing your first endurance event! Your mom is very proud of you!