I learn something major every race. This time, at Crusher in the Tushar, it was that 70 miles can be greater than 100 miles. Seventy miles at Crusher in the Tusher near Beaver, Utah was harder and longer than any other century race Team Gravel Cyclist has ever done… so far…
I’m sure someone will concoct a truly soul crushing 69 mile > 100 mile race, but they will have trouble matching the challenge and raw beauty of the Crusher.
Here are some tidbits of wisdom that bit me in the Tusher:
Racing at 10,000 feet above sea level for us Florida residents is like riding a Schwinn Varsity with one lung clamped off. The highest point in Florida is 350 feet and that’s at the top of a Live Oak tree… if you stand on tippy toes. Our team members still have real jobs so hanging around Beaver for a month to acclimate is not in the cards no matter how beautiful it is. Maybe my imminent social security status could subsidize an extended stay at a Beaver Trailer park. Mrs. K-Dogg may take some convincing.
Watch the tribal knowledge dudes
When the start commenced for the Men’s 60+ year old group, the pack literally strolled forward at 12 mph.
Bewildered, I soon realized these guys knew the 40-44 year-olds, starting a minute in arrears, would close 60 seconds on us post haste. Why waste any effort now? Sure enough, we were quickly mixed in with faster groups. I decided to dog the front of every passing group as long as possible, especially if there were any 60+ yo riders hanging around.
There are some 60+ yo bad asses out there that can MF’n climb… or descend… or both. I stand humbled. The 60+ winner, William Kellagher, beat me by 50 minutes. He lives in Boulder, Colorado, but I’d need more than an oxygen cart to close 50 minutes. Did I mention he’s 62?
Cell phones don’t work in the mountains so don’t expect any help there… and satellite phones are prohibitive. Mrs. K-Dogg has access to one for her job, but only for monumental catastrophes such as another Hurricane Katrina.
Forty-four miles of climbing over a 70-mile course is actually possible when it’s a point to point race. Thanks to our promoters – Burke Swindlehurt, his wife and the amazing team of volunteers, for giving us something so unique and special.
I’m sure packing hundreds of racers into school buses back to the start must have been a special nightmare! Did they sing the Camp Granada song on the way down I hope? “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh. Here I am at Camp Granada!”
Probably showing my age citing this reference…
You have to drag your sorry arse home unaided. The only tweet you’ll experience is from that hungry buzzard tracking you up the 7-mile long road known as the Sarlacc Pit (a homage to Star Wars)… and better known as the Mojave Desert.
Mrs. K-Dogg’s Garmin registered 117 degrees F in the shade… if there WAS any shade. Mrs. K-Dogg and I remember seeing a guy crouched in the shade of a lone tumbleweed. He didn’t look happy nor in a mood to share.
Luckily there were plenty of life-saving aid stations and dozens of awesome volunteers doing hand-ups. This race would not have been possible without them.
But despite all the appropriate desert hydration concoctions offered, my brilliant teammate JOM somehow managed to acquire beer. We have video proof of this.
It must be an Aussie thing. As kids, their mums spread Vegemite (looks like axle grease) on toast a sippy cup of beer is not out of the question. 🙂
A 34×34 gear was not enough to avoid turning squares ascending the Col de Crush
I jealously endured being passed by several riders rocking sprockets the size of serving platters. They cheerfully danced away while above, that buzzard cocked his gleaming eye my way and circled even closer. Next year I’m bringing a 34×40 low gear and a tennis racket to swat away buzzards.
Take the water but avoid the sprayers
Crossing a desert at noon can lead to paranoia. Maybe I was a little off but under duress, illogical fears can emerge. I know the aid station volunteers meant well dousing us with those pump bug sprayers but am I the only one wondering how vigorously they swished out the Pyrethrum or Roundup?
My mom always drew skulls and cross bones on our sprayers so we didn’t play with them. I admit I flinched a bit when they came towards my face. Now I know what a cornered roach feels like.
Never leave behind the Hot Shot anti cramp Elixir just because the race wasn’t DK200
It’s cheap, it’s compact and it works. It’s a must have for Tushar! I’m pretty sure it cost me a place on the podium. Every muscle group from the waist down pulled and twitched in agony no matter how I flailed around like a skeleton marionette punching my thighs. At least two guys nearby suffered the same fate. I’ll never forget the sky-cursing I saw. I’ll bring two bottles of the stuff next time.
They say if you don’t like it just wait a minute. This also works in reverse. At 10 miles to go, loud booming thunder began. The sky opened up to a shockingly cold, hard, windy rain. The temperature plummeted to 39 degrees F in seconds. Everyone around me got the shakes. Luckily Mrs. K-Dogg had insisted I carry a lightweight vest. It saved my life although my bare fingers turned into numb claws that couldn’t pop bubble wrap much less brake reliably. Luckily the finishing was close and mostly uphill which kept me warm.
The final mile was amazingly steep. JOM, nursing a bad case of bronchitis, said it took him 15 minutes to tack up to the finish. We were greeted at the top by almost gale force winds and rain. Hundreds of people were milling around wearing shiny aluminum space blankets that looked like the set of a cheap science fiction movie.
They were fashioned into hilarious aluminum kilts, capes, wraps, ponchos, burkas and villain outfits.
Where else but a gravel race!
One thousand thanks to Burke Swindlehurst, his wife and the massive team of volunteers at this super epic race. Gravel Cyclist will certainly be back next year, a little wiser if not stronger.
Bike handling advice is appreciated but not always acceptable. Those who follow my silly race narratives know I suck big time at descending and unabashedly admit it. On steep, twisty mountain descents I lose a lot of time and wave everybody around me like a disaster zone. I don’t crash well either if that is a thing.
Thursday night before the race JOM, Mrs. K-Dogg and I were laughing and carrying on in our hotel parking lot with Panaracer Gravel Team bad asses Bob Cummings, Mike Marchand and Karen Pritchard, as well as Panaracer USA guru, Jeff Zell.
Mike advised me to affect the “Superman” position behind my saddle for the dreaded Col de Crush decent, to avoid the unpleasant effects of washboard at 40 miles an hour. Bob added that if the bike wants to slide sideways off a cliff, he clamps his knees together on the top tube. Did I know about “the clamp” he asked me? “No”, I answered, but I know about “the clench” I said pointing towards my hind quarters.
I thanked them for their advice but insisted I’m too old for learning new terrifying bike gymnastics and will happily continue wearing out brakes. I’ll just have to keep climbing faster to compensate!