Madeline needed to get to $6,000…and within a few hours after I posted, she had hit (and has now exceeded!) that goal.
That is just amazing. Incredible, really.
As an unexpected — and really cool — thank you, Madeline and her team posted this “thank you” video. Check it out:
I for one cannot wait to hear how her race goes.
A Note About Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere Race Report: Today’s 100 Miles of Nowhere race report comes to you from Lyle B, of Denver, PA. I found Lyle’s story both hilarious and inspirational; I love the way he’s doing something bigger than he’s ever done before, and that he’s putting up with a lot for a good cause.
100 Miles of Nowhere: Left-Handed 40yo On Combine Test Track Division
I’ve been wanting to do the 100 Miles of Nowhere for a few years now, but never could think of a good place to do it. But this year I found one. I work for CNH Industrial, a major manufacturer of agricultural and construction equipment, and at the R&D center where I work, there is a half-mile test track, normally used for testing combines and other equipment.
The advantage to this is that it’s flat. Dead flat.
And I don’t mean “I live in North Dakota prairie” flat. I mean “surveyed & graded to be perfect” flat. In the 27 miles that I recorded while Strava was working properly, I gained zero feet of altitude. Zero.
This was nice, since it meant no climbing. Unfortunately, it also meant no descending.
Since this would be my first century, I knew that proper training would be required. I looked up a few articles on training for your first century, committed them to memory, and resolved to do my best to prepare.
And then I rode my bike exactly once in October.
I decided to do the ride on October 31, due to some family obligations on November 7. I got started around 8am, while temps were still in the mid 30’s.
I had asked several coworkers to join me at various times today, and Mark joined me just a few minutes after I started. We chatted as we rode the first hour at a nice easy 15.5mph pace, then decided to pick up the pace and I tucked in behind Mark to draft for the next hour, where we averaged almost 18mph for the hour. I was fortunate to have a good engine to hide behind!
I’m in the blue jacket, Mark in the white. Two of our company’s products in the background. Photo credit: Brent Smith
Photo Credit: Brent Smith
The Pain Begins
About 25 miles into the ride, my left knee started hurting. At mile 37, Mark had to leave, and I took a small break. I decided to put a shim between my left pedal and crank, as the fit expert at my LBS had done with my right. In the hardware drawers in the shop, I could only find one washer that would work:
Think that’s big enough?
As I was working on this, Jon & Kevin showed up, and we set off at a really nice pace, about 17mph, and with two other people to draft behind this felt great. Two other colleagues joined us for a short time as well.
Early on in this leg, my right knee decided it didn’t want to be left out, and started hurting as well. It was around the 50 mile mark that I started having serious doubts about my ability to ride the whole 100 miles, especially since soon our average speed starting dropping steadily, hovering about the 15mph mark.
At the 60 mile mark, my wife and kids stopped by to say hi, and at the same time, Kevin had to leave. Another rider joined us for a few miles, but couldn’t stay long.
At 70 miles, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. We were doing just under 15 mph, and I just could not contemplate two more hours with the pain I was experiencing in both knees. I had already surpassed my previous highest mileage for one day on the bike. I told Jon I would gut it out to 75 miles and call it a day.
So after 4 hours 53 minutes, I hit 75 mile mark and headed to the car.
I was disappointed that I couldn’t make it to a century, but was glad I had tried, and helped raise money for a good cause. I was very thankful for the coworkers that helped make it possible.
Maybe next year I can actually train for it & do the whole thing…
Let’s Get the Fat Cyclist Logo on Madeline’s Jersey
During the conversation I had with Madeline, I had an idea: what if we got Madeline to her $6000 goal in one day? Would she put the FatCyclist.com logo on her jersey?
Yes, she in fact would.
So I say, let’s do this. Let’s help an amazing young woman do something incredible. Go to bit.ly/teambemis and donate what you can. For what it’s worth, if you donate $50 (that’s what I donated) or more, you’ll get a tech-T showing your support.
And if we get Madeline across the $6K goal, that tech-T will include the FatCyclist logo on it. Which I can’t help but imagine would be hugely embarrassing for a teenager to wear. So that’s a good reason to make the donation right there.
I love that more and more kids are racing, and I love that they’re stretching themselves (and this is a major hint as to where my fundraising efforts are headed in 2016).
[A Followup Note from Fatty: Within six hours of my posting this, Friends of Fatty hit Madeline’s fundraising goal of $6,000.00. Moments like this are incredible reminders that I have the best, most generous readers on the Internet.]
Early in the race, I was floating through various strata of age groups. Then I sifted through climbers of different abilities…’til I found one that fit me. Then I found myself in an entirely new group: people who were good at climbing, but bad at descending, and pretty good at working in a group.
But now, suddenly, all those groups were gone, and I was in no group at all.
Now I was on a rough jeep road, and would be for the next five or so miles. And I guess that’s a solitary experience, because this enormous group I’d been working with — our paceline had been greater than twenty people when we came through the aid station — had completely dispersed.
Which meant that I got to ride my favorite section of the course by myself.
My Happy Place
Everyone has their favorite kind of riding, which means that the Crusher has something to offer to everyone. Part of it’s a road race. Part of it’s a gravel grinder. And this five mile section is a mountain bike race.
Not technical, but it helps to pick your line. And it helps to have a mountain bike (the only section of the race, in fact, where a mountain bike is a huge help).
It rolls along nicely, climbing for a couple miles. Then it levels off, does a little more climbing, and then levels off some more. It has a great flow. It’s what I’m good at, and I was having fun.
Considering the name someone gave the section on Strava, however (Mojave Desert Hell), I guess I might be in the minority of folks who love this part of the race.
Every really great race has an iconic section: the make-or-break section that truly matters. The place that exposes your strength or weakness (or, most often, both).
For the Crusher in the Tushar, this is the Col du Crush, aka the Crusher KOM. 2300 feet of dirt road climbing in five miles. Starting at fifty-one miles into the race. With the knowledge that even once you finish this section, you’re going to continue climbing, most of the time, for another fifteen miles or so.
Perhaps it’s just a subconcious defense mechanism, but I have only the vaguest of recollections of this section.
I remember pain.
I remember hunting for an easier line, one with less loose gravel. I remember shifting to my easiest gear, then frequently checking to see if a new, easier gear had spontaneously manifested on my bike. (Hey, if there was ever a time for spontaneous gear manifestations, this was that time.)
I remember a guy in a Chamois Butt’r kit telling me (as he effortlessly passed me) that he had had three flats that day.
Just one more mile ’til the top of the climb. I was in my element, racing like I had never raced before. Climbing like a man possessed. Possessed by something that likes to climb, that is.
Ahead of me, I saw a woman I recognized. But it was one of those weird recognitions: I knew I didn’t know her name, and couldn’t even figure out where I knew her from.
Then it popped into my head: The Cedar City Fire Road 100. She and I had been within a couple hundred feet of each other for most of the race, ’til she had cramped and gotten off her bike. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was the elite racer, Amy.
She asked if she could ride my wheel; she was already maxed out.
“Sure you can,” I replied. “There’s always room on the Fatty Train.”
I saw my next carrot: a woman wearing a “Juliana” jersey. Kelli Emmett. I stood up, began rowing my bike. I wanted to see this woman’s bike. I had my reasons.It was not easy to catch her. Not easy at all. But I managed.
I did not speak once I had caught her. I needed a minute for the tunnel vision to recede. As I tucked in and tried not to get dropped, I looked at her bike: a gorgeous Juliana Nevis hardtail.
“So, how do you like that Juliana?” I asked, doing my best to get her to talk…and therefore slow down.
“It’s amazing,” Kelli replied. Then she stood up and attacked, dropping me.
At which point Amy swung around from behind me and latched onto Kelli.
“Well, I don’t really want to be left behind,” I thought to myself, and stood up, jumping to catch the train. Perfectly willing to just hang on.
But as it turned out, Kelli popped as soon as I caught up, drifting back. Which put Amy in a good spot to grab back onto my wheel.
She apologized for not taking a pull. I laughed; as knife-thin as she was she wouldn’t have offered me any kind of respite by pulling. Plus we were climbing at about 0mph anyway. Getting a “pull” had a psychological benefit, at best…and a (highly probable) massive olfactory disadvantage, at worst.
Grizzly Adam, Minus Wheels
It is a statement of fact that in the Crusher, you are never done with the climbing until you are done with the race. That said, eventually the lion’s share of the climbing is behind you and you can start rebuilding your average speed back into the double digits.
On one of the flat sections — with about five miles to go — I saw a racer on the side of the road. Working on his bike. A small group of spectators were clustered around him.
“Grizzly” Adam Lisonbee. I was passing Adam. Which I would never have expected to do. He’s made a bit of a life study of this race, and he’s faster than I am anyway.
But it’s possible that I don’t remember it because I’ve learned to block the memory of traumatic experiences, in order to continue registering for races like this.
With a half-mile to go, I did a doubletake: there was Amy, ahead of me.
How did that happen?
Then I figured it out as I got closer: it wasn’t Amy; it was another woman (Anne Perry, who’d take fourth in the Pro/Open category), wearing the same team jersey.
“You’ve got a teammate about one minute back,” I said, as I went by. Then I wondered why I said it. In case she wanted to hold up and wait for her? In case she didn’t want her teammate to outsprint her? Just to be informative?
I went as hard as I could, just burying myself because…well, because this is the Crusher in the Tushar. You don’t want to cross the finish line feeling good.
And I finished well. It was my fastest Crusher (by almost half an hour) of the three times I’ve done it: 5:16:18. Which is good enough for fourteenth (out of 71) in the Men’s 40-49 category.
But it would’ve been good enough to get me on the podium (fifth place) in the Men’s 50+ category. Which is my new age group for the 2016 Crusher.
So take heed, oldsters.
Podiums and Sandbags
I went and changed my clothes (you can send a drop bag with a change of clothes to the finish line before the race) and went to wait for my friends and family.
By the time I had changed, Ben was already in: 5:39:22. We stood together, watching for our respective wives to come in.
What I don’t think either of us expected, though, was that they’d be coming in together, side by side:
“Oh, that’s cool. They’re going to finish together,” I said.
“No they aren’t,” said Ben.
And as it turns out, Ben knows his wife better than I know my niece. With about fifty feet to go, Lindsey attacked on the steep climb. The Hammer did not react, and Lindsey, won by seven seconds (5:59:55 and 6:00:02, respectively).
As for The Hammer, she also took third in the 36-49 Women age group. Here she is, showing off her cool trophy:
And here’s the full podium:
And who else was on the podium?
AnneMarie White (second place) turned in a fantastic performance, beating Lisa by just over five minutes.
Meanwhile, first place in the women’s 36-49 age group category went to Amy.
Yeah, Amy. The woman I had been pulling for fifteen miles. Amy beat second place AnneMarie by a full half hour. Her time, in fact, would have put her on the women’s pro/open podium.
Which is where she should have been.
Look, here’s the thing: If you’re an elite roadie, it doesn’t matter if you are somewhat new to mountain biking when you’re racing a course that’s 50% pavement and 45% graded dirt road.
If your recent USA Cycling results look like this, you shouldn’t be racing against age groupers.
What’s the big deal? Well, I’m not making this point on The Hammer’s behalf (although I probably wouldn’t have noticed this huge gap in times on the podium if The Hammer hadn’t also been on it). It’s on AnneMarie’s behalf, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve never met her.
AnneMarie is a local rider and mother of young kids. She’s obviously been knocking herself out to become wicked fast. She’s an actual age-grouper who has stepped up her game, and she deserved to race against other age groupers, netting a win.
I actually asked Burke about this; he said that racers get to choose their own categories in this race. In general, this honor system works. If someone sandbags, they may get on the podium, but they expose themselves to the consequences.
Plus, I’m just a little bit bugged that I helped someone increase her gap on my wife.
[A Note from Fatty: A few folks have commented that I incorrectly portrayed Amy as a pro; I’ve edited this post to fix that. She isn’t and hasn’t been a pro. (She has been on multiple elite teams, however, which is where my confusion came from.)
I’ve also removed her last name in the text so this post won’t appear on searches for her name. And I’ve pulled out the giant USA Cycling screencap that calls undue attention to what is in fact a pretty small part of the story.
Some have also commented that it was not cool for me to bring this up at all. I disagree with that. This is my blog; I get to say when I see something wrong.
I highly recommend reading the comments, though, to get alternative perspectives. And note that they are all making their points without getting insulting. I appreciate that.]
Chill Out Fatty
OK, take a deep breath, Fatty. The world didn’t end. This race, on the other hand, did end, months and months ago. And The Hammer never seemed particularly fussed.
And in fact, this was in almost all respects a perfect day of racing. Burke Swindlehurst (shown below with The Hammer and me, and also demonstrating how much thinner this kind of hoodie can look when properly worn) and his crew put on an incredible race.
The Hammer and I are cutting back on the number of races we’re doing in 2016, basically reacting to the awareness that we’ve gone a little nuts for racing the past couple years.
We won’t be at as many races; we’re going to do more riding for fun.
But we will be back to the Crusher in the Tushar. Every. Single. Year.
A Topically-Relevant New Podcast Note from Fatty: Is it a coincidence that I’m continuing my long-overdue race report about the 2015 Crusher in the Tushar today…on the very selfsame day I’m promoting my FattyCast interview with Burke Swindlehurst?
Regardless, Burke Swindlehurst — the mad genius behind this incredible race — is an extraordinarily good guy. He puts this race on for the right reasons. Talking with him for an hour — was a pleasure. This has been one of my favorite FattyCast conversations yet.
Here’s my episode description:
I go to a lot of races, and I like most of them. But I can’t help but wonder: what it is that makes me love a very select few events — the ones that compel me to come back year after year? I don’t know, but former pro Burke Swindlehurst seems to have gallons of that secret sauce on hand. Like just about everyone I talk to, I’ve got Burke’s half-road, half-dirt race stuck in my head. We talk about the how and the why of this unusual event, as well as why Burke has no plans to follow up the success of this race with another.
I love writing race reports. I get a chance to take this incredibly intense experience — sometimes intense in a good way, sometimes in a bad way, but always intense — and make sense of it. Find the story — including heroes, villains, and dramatic tension — in it.
And in many ways, I get to relive the event. Often, as I write, I’ll be surprised to recall an instant or image that hasn’t crossed my mind since I crossed the finish line.
And so it’s no surprise, I suppose, that during the summer, my blog has tilted very heavily toward race reports.
Some very long race reports.
Meanwhile, my summer filled up with races. To the extent, in fact, that I got behind on some of these race reports. Including, I’m sad to say, on my Crusher in the Tushar report…in which I got two installments into the thing (here’s part 1 and here’s part 2), and then got sidetracked.
The problem is, once you lose momentum on a story, it can be very hard to get that momentum back. At first, you say to yourself, “Hey, I’ve already let it go for a couple days and I’ve got this other thing I need to talk about, so it can wait another day.”
And then you start saying, “Well it’s been a couple weeks now and by now, nobody even remembers that I wrote a story about it.
In spite of the fact that at least a few people are being very clear that they haven’t forgotten about it:
And then, eventually, you say to yourself, “I’m not sure I remember the details of the race well enough to tell the story any longer.”
But then, last night, I couldn’t sleep. I just laid there in bed, sleepless. And during this sleepless two hours, I re-told myself the story of my 2015 Crusher in the Tushar. A wonderful seventy miles, with 10,000 feet of climbing.
And while I don’t perhaps remember every detail of the day, I definitely remember enough of the day to finish the story.
So let’s do this. Part three… of a race report I began last July.
How’s that for a cliffhanger?
2015 Crusher in the Tushar Race Report, Part 3
I had finished the first big 4000-foot climb, and I dropped Ben. Which was too bad. Or maybe it was on purpose. I’m not sure.
Okay, let’s just agree that my feelings regarding catching, pulling, and then dropping Ben on this big climb were…complicated. Here’s why:
Ben is my niece’s husband. So we’re family. So I want him to succeed.
Ben is young. So I want to beat him.
Ben is a genuinely nice guy. So I want him to succeed.
Ben is tall, thin, good-looking, and has a full head of hair. So I want to beat him.
Ben has never shown any indication that he’s interested in beating me. So I shouldn’t care about beating him.
Ben is likely to get faster as I get slower. So I want to beat him.
And in the final analysis, I really want Ben to do really well in every race he does.
A picture of Lindsey and Ben at the summit of the Nebo loop during a training ride in Summer 2015.
Just so long as I do a tiny bit better.
Highway to the Danger Zone
My Ben-less status was beside the point, really, because as soon as you hit the top of the first big climb in the Crusher, you have a crazy-steep descent down the other side.
And I wasn’t going to go down that descent at any speed other than the speed I felt safe at. Because that descent down what is affectionately known as the “Col du Crush” is scary.
No, it’s not a treacherous and narrow strip of rocky, rooty singletrack. It is, in fact, a wide gravel road, with fairly gentle bends.
But it is so steep. And it is so loose. And (in places) it is so washboarded. It’s everything you can do to just keep the bike under control as you bomb down this 7 – 11% grade downhill for about seven miles.
A lot of people passed me during the descent; I have no recollection of passing even a single person. And that was just fine with me.
Of the entire race — all seventy miles of it — there is only one section that scares me, one section I look forward to having behind me: the Col du Crush descent. Maybe that’s because every year, coming down this road, I have seen at least one person who has gone down. And high-speed gravel crashes, while generally not fatal, are pretty nasty-looking.
This year was no different. On the side of the road, there was a guy, thickly surrounded by many more racers who had stopped to help. I felt caught between feeling awful for the injured rider and grateful that so many people instantly suspended their own race to help out someone they probably don’t know.
Not being seriously trained in first aid, I decided to keep going and be the guy to yell to volunteers that someone was hurt.
“We know,” the volunteers shouted back, and sure enough, by the time I got to the pavement — where I could relax and breathe again — an ambulance was on its way up.
Looking at my Strava record of this section, I’m frankly astonished I hit 42mph of this section. (I’m going to guess it was on the paved section of the descent, toward the end.)
Wherein I Make a Smart Decision for the First Time Ever
There’s something very interesting about that profile: once you do that one big descent down the Col du Crush (around mile 35), you’re more-or-less done with any serious descents for the day.
Which is one of the reasons I love this race. Lots and lots of climbing, and only one descent of any consequence.
Mixed in with all that, however, is one fairly long — fourteenish miles — downhill-then-flat paved section, where having a group to work with can make all the difference in the world.
The difference between fast and slow. The difference between getting back to the climbing fresh or beat. The difference between smart and dumb.
Of course, I hit that section all alone. It was inevitable. I climb much faster than most people, so I’m way ahead of folks who descend at my speed. And then people who are fast climbers and descenders leave me behind during the Col du Crush descent.
So, like I said: all alone to battle my way through the wind for fourteen miles, never getting a break, and arriving at the climbing section completely smoked.
Or…I could sit up. Coast and recover. Drink a bunch. Eat a bunch. And then grab on to the first train that came by.
My instincts yelled at me to go. Go go go. You don’t rest during a race.
I told my instincts to shut up. I pedaled easy. I coasted. I ate. I drank. I recovered. I kept looking over my shoulder.
And within a minute, a train appeared behind me. By the time they caught me, I was back up to speed and yelled, “Mind if I join you?”
“Hop on, Fatty!” someone yelled.
I looked back to see who it was.
Ben. Of course. I laughed. I was halfway through the race and had — without trying — wound up in the same train as my nephew-in-law. I was no longer conflicted about riding with him; I was stoked. We were fated to race this thing together.
“Let’s kill this thing,” I said.
I (and I think a lot of people) owe a debt of gratitude to Adam Lisonbee for getting me interested in the Crusher in the Tushar in the first place. It was his story that piqued my interest in the event.
That said, I used to be kind of skeptical of it. There’s no technical riding, just a mix of dirt roads and pavement.
But you know what? The pavement in this race — especially the 14mi Piute Valley Pavement section — is hugely strategic. If you handle it right, you can get through it without having worked too hard, and much faster than you would be able to do it yourself.
And I handled this section pretty darned well.
As the train caught me, I dropped to the back, perfectly happy to get pulled for a minute, with the expectation that I would do my fair share of pulling.
But the guy in front…well, he seemed to be under the impression that this locomotive had only one engine, and he was it. So he pulled, and he pulled, and he pulled. Never floating to the side and dropping back, never gesturing to anyone to come forward.
And so the rest of the group — four or five of us — let him pull. Hey, who were we to say otherwise?
Until, of course, he started to sag.
Even then, though, he didn’t pull off. He kept going. But pulling slower and slower was not OK. I moved forward, yelled at the guy that he was awesome and needed to drop back and catch his breath; I’d take a turn now.
He dropped back, looking — it seemed to me, anyway — grateful. Maybe he didn’t realize you don’t have to keep pulling ’til you’re exhausted?
I, on the other hand, pulled for fifteen seconds, yelling as I drifted off to keep the pulls short.
The next guy did a nice, short, fast pull. Then Ben did, then the next guy did, and the next, and then back to the original leader. By then he had learned his lesson and he kept it short.
And we were flying.
Before long, we had caught another train, creating a group of more than ten people. And then a train caught us, forming a megatrain.
From that point forward, I don’t think I ever had to pull for more than ten seconds, then rest and just get sucked along for the next two minutes or more.
The miles flew by so much faster than I’ve ever done this paved section before. Twelve minutes faster than I did this same section on my singlespeed back in 2013, at an average speed of 22.5mph. Riding a mountain bike.
And now we had reached the aid station right before the five-mile jeep road section. I grabbed a bottle of water handed up to me by a fantastic volunteer and kept going (total number of times I put a foot down and stopped during this race: 0).
I looked behind me to tell Ben that drafting wouldn’t matter anymore. We were back to mountain biking.
But I couldn’t see Ben anywhere.
Which seems like a good place to pick up this story in the next installment (which I will not take months to write, I promise).
So I was all super excited to come back to the blog after my Christmas and New Years’ holidays. Because I have a lot of fun things I want to talk about, mostly in the form of catching up on my ride reports, and also in the form of getting a collaborative / competitive weight-loss thing going for the year.
But life has had a slightly different plan for me right now.
Remember how I talked about a MRSA infection I dealt with a couple months ago? Yeah, well, evidently that game’s not over. During the past ten days, I’ve been fighting a new one, and today I finally had to get a little bit of cutting done on me.
So I’m not at my best right now.
And I’ll be spending quite a bit of time at the doctor’s each day for the next week or so.
What’s surprising to me is how exhausted I feel right now. And it’s not the good kind of exhausted I get from riding. It’s more of a too-exhausted-to-think, too-exhausted-to-try kind of exhausted.
I think I’m not putting this very well, for the same reason.
I’m going to get the rest I need now, and I’ll be back tomorrow.