A Note from Fatty: Tuesday, July 16, is the final day for you to pre-order the 2014 FatCyclist.com gear. And bear in mind, when you order a jersey, a total of $40 gets donated to World Bicycle Relief, thanks to Trek’s donation matching program this month.
But that’s not all. Noooo. When you buy a jersey, you also get five chances in the contest to win a new Trek Project One Madone 7 Series, with ENVE wheels and cockpit, not to mention SRAM Red components.
Calling this a dream bike is an understatement. For reals.
Read here for details, and then go buy yourself a jersey. ‘Cuz we’re down to the last day, and then it’s too late. And that would be almost too sad for words.
Race Report: The 2013 Crusher in the Tushars
There’s nothing I enjoy writing so much as a race report. I feel like I have a gift for it, too. Somehow, as I race, even as I ride myself into the Cave of Pain, I store away the interesting moments. I recognize the highlights and dramatic moments; I see the focal point around which the rest of the race revolves.
That’s certainly true for last weekend’s race: The Crusher in The Tushar, an incredibly intense course in Beaver Utah, 69 miles long with around 10,000 feet of climbing, with a mix of both paved and dirt roads.
Without question, when the dramatic crux of my race occurred, I recognized it as such, and knew that it was the focal point of my own personal story.
Unfortunately, that moment was when I had to put my bike down, shuffle down the side of a mountain, undress more or less completely, and…
Well, I’m getting ahead of myself. But be warned: it’s exactly what you think. Which means maybe you might want to take a pass on reading this particular race report. I won’t hold it against you.
For now, though, let’s start at the beginning.
Drama at the Starting Line
Last year, I did the Crusher on a cyclocross bike, which was not a great idea, for the following list of reasons:
- I had no experience riding cyclocross bikes.
For that reason — among others, I’m sure, but mostly because of that reason — I didn’t do so great at the Crusher last year.
Hence, this year I went with something a little more familiar:
“Fatty Looks Into the Future,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
Yep, this year I raced on my Specialized Stumpjumper SingleSpeed (AKA the SSSS).
The Hammer would also be racing on her SSSS — one of only two women (Heather was the other) brave enough to race the Crusher in the Tushar on a singlespeed.
Which meant that lining up at the starting line was more of a social event than usual: Heather, Kenny, The Hammer, me, my good friend Bry, and about ten other people would be racing in the SS division.
Kenny and I had agreed: we’d do our best to stay and work together during the race.
The race went off in stages. First the pros, then the women. Then we — the singlespeeders — rolled up to the starting line.
Which is when Kenny discovered his rear tire was entirely flat.
While Kenny quickly dug out a CO2 canister, I looked up to the announcer and asked, using my impossible-to-resist superpower of asking people to do things, “Could you please give us an extra minute before sending our group off.
“OK,” he said. “One minute.”
Kenny got his tire inflated, although we all wondered whether it would hold.
We took off, riding the first ten miles of pavement in a cruel mockery of a pace line — pedaling our singlespeeds as fast as our legs would go, but still unable to go faster than 16mph.
Within a mile, Kenny’s tire had gone flat again.
The First Big Climb
Some races take a lot of study to understand and plan for. The Crusher is not one of them. It is, quite frankly, the simplest-to-remember race I can think of. Let me explain:
- Climb up for a really long time
- Descend for a little while
- Climb up for a really long time
“Fatty Looks at His Front Tire,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
During this first climb, I felt wonderful. Which is my way of saying that I felt like I was about to die, but in a good way. I stood, pedaled, looked around, passed a bunch of people, and got passed by others.
I wasn’t sure, but I figured I was in fifth or sixth place, singlespeed-wise.
The Second Big Climb
It’s really pretty amazing how certain things get built up in your head as impossibly difficult, only to wind up being not that bad. Which is my way of saying that the big washboarded dirt road descent was as easy for me this year as it was difficult for me last year. In fact, I passed a few people on the downhill, which is a bit of a rarity for me.
Of course, they all passed me back once we got onto the road section of the descent.
As I began the second climb — the climb that would go on, essentially, for about 22 miles, to the end of the race — I passed another singlespeeder; now I was in fourth place. Or maybe fifth. But I was doing pretty well.
Shortly after, the cramps began.
First, the hamstring on my left leg. Then the hamstring on my right. Then some muscle that I wasn’t even aware of. Cramps so bad they would make me cry aloud.
Eventually, I was forced off my bike. I leaned forward, hard, stretching my legs as I walked, until I could ride again.
This happened perhaps three times. People would ride by, knowingly asking, “Cramps?”
And there was really nothing to be said after that.
The Moment of “Drama”
Somehow, though, I managed to get past the hardest part of the climb. I got to about mile 58. Maybe mile 59.
And then — without any particular warning — I suddenly knew I had a problem. I shall endeavor to be as genteel as possible in the description of said problem, so as to not offend the sensibilities of those who are of a sensitive disposition.
Which is to say, I stood up to fart and — partway through that fart — discovered there was much more to this fart than I originally suspected.
How am I doing with the “genteel” thing?
Not so good?
You should be aware, however, that it’s going to get worse. I recommend that if you prefer to avoid the remarkably unsavory details of what came next, you just look at a few of these really nice pictures of The Hammer as she raced, and then skip on to the “At The Finish Line” section.”
“The Hammer in the First Ten Miles,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
“The Hammer Gaps a Racer on a Brutal Climb,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
“The Hammer Battles The Incredibly Steep Finishing Straight,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
“The Hammer Finishes,” courtesy Zazoosh Media
There. Now you should probably skip on over to “At The Finish Line.” Or you’ll be sorry.
I clenched, willing that which wanted out to stay put. To go back up. To stay dormant, for just ten more miles. Less than an hour. That’s all I needed. I was, after all, on track for a finish right around 5:30, which I figured would not put me on the podium, but it would get me pretty darned close.
And, for a moment, it worked. I continued riding. But biology will have its way. And in this case, the way was out.
So, I dropped my bike on the side of the road and scrambled about down the steep mountainside — the only way I could do what I had to do out of site.
I found a felled tree laying on the ground, knew that I would find no better seat in the near future, and commenced to strip.
By the time I had my jersey off (it had to come off because I was wearing bib shorts), I had begun to shake. My body somehow knew that I was giving in to its demands, and had lit a fuse.
A very short fuse.
I didn’t know if I was going to get seated in time, to be honest.
But I did. Barely.
And there I sat for the next ten minutes. Each minute thinking I was maybe done, and each minute knowing that I wasn’t.
And, over and over, as rider after rider went by, I was forced to answer the calls of “You OK down there?” with the cry of “Just fine!”
And also, I spent quite a bit of time wondering how in the world I was going to clean up. If you’ll look at the photo of me early in the race and the ones that follow, you should be able to tell what my solution was. Hint: there were no leaves about of sufficient size to do any good whatsoever.
Finally, I was done. I scrambled back up the mountain, and took off, one urgency replaced with another.
At The Finish Line
Eleven minutes (according to Strava) had elapsed. How many singlespeeders had passed me? I didn’t know. Had Kenny gone by? I didn’t know. All I knew was that I only had eight or so miles to go, and I was going to go my hardest.
Five last miles of dirt flew by. Then two miles of pavement. Then the final turn, leading to a mile of extraordinarily steep climbing. So steep I had to paperboy it until I was in sight of the finishing line.
Trust me, I am not hamming it up in these photos (all courtesy Zazoosh Media):
And then, finally, this:
My finishing time: 5:45:42. Which was good enough for sixth place.
In other words, two singlespeeders passed me while I sat naked on a log during the final eight miles of this race.
Very soon after, Kenny came across the line. “Have you been here long?” he asked.
“About two minutes,” I said.
“Dammit,” he replied.
Someday, he and I will have a conversation about which of the two of us was waylaid longer, and therefore was actually faster during this race. My guess is he will not want to go into specifics.
Then, a few minutes later — with a time of 6:15 — The Hammer crossed the finish line. If she would have registered in her age group, 36 – 49 women, she would have podiumed. This time would have gotten her second place, in fact. The Hammer has officially broken through to a new level.
And I…well, I need to buy some new gloves.
PS About Levi: Levi finished the race in 4:06. A new course record. Here he is at the finish line with race organizer Burke Swindlehurst:
Courtesy Zazoosh Media
And another on the course, demonstrating that it can be lonely at the front: