Sunday, July 14, 2013

Done Crushing.

Phew.  Crusher number 3 is done.
Last week I was in the unusual position of trying to decide the best way to taper before a big event.  In the past I have always joked that I was tapering when I didn't ride.  Others were gradually doing smaller easier rides, riding less often, making a plan.  Luckily, a busy schedule helped me make the decision to do one short ride in the week leading up to the Crusher.  Probably not ideal.
I didn't ride much, but I didn't do anything nuts food wise.  Maintaining my weight in the upper 170's.  I was optimistic.  I think it was that optimism that started to work against me.  I became nervous about the race in the few days before it.  Not sure why.  I knew I could finish the race.  I knew what to expect.  But I was pretty nervous.  Jeff pointed out that it was because I had let expectation creep into my mind.  In previous years I either didn't know what I was getting into, or I was in such bad shape that simply finishing was going to be an acceptable outcome.  I had done a lot of work(for me) and was beginning to worry that it was all going to be for naught.
So, stomach butterflies in check Cobourn and I headed for the Fillmore Beaver area.  The weather was going to be perfect for me.  Which is to say miserable for most.  Heavy rains all day Friday.  As we drove up to Eagle Point Ski Resort and our accomodations there was an active mudflow across the road.  We checked in and began preparations for the next day.
The Crusher is a mechanically self supported race.  Meaning that if you have a problem with your bike you better be able to take care of it on your own.  There is mechanical help available, but if you accept it you do not receive a placement in the rankings.  I have always fretted about this and so I loaded three pounds of spare tubes, tools, and CO2 onto my bike. With water bottles my 19# Beverly was now a chunky 25#.
Saturday morning we headed down to the start without breakfast.  I hit a C-store and grabbed a bunch of high calorie stuff.  Peanut rolls, Nutter Butters and a Monster Energy drink.  Pro.
The larger field this year was noticeably less friendly.  No wise-cracking, no laughter.  All game face.  Lighten up boys, you aren't going to win. At the gun we headed out of town fast.  the group stayed together longer than it has in the past.  We soon caught the big group of 30-34 racers that contained Cobourn.  They hooked on and the group was now nearly twice as big.  We held together until a couple miles before the pavement end.  At which point I thought it wise to let the bad men go.  Once onto the dirt the packs tear apart. This is where I settle into a pace. I was running a little on the ragged edge of where I was comfortable.  It was possible that this would betray me later.  As I neared the top of the first climb I found a second wind just as I got into the big meadow and the second aid station. Metallica's "Motorbreath" went on repeat in my brain.  This was a good thing.  Soon I was at the top of the big downhill.  In the interest of having plenty of brakes I turned a barrel adjuster out to where my rear brake was actually dragging a little.  It worked perfectly and I was comfortably heading down the steep, rutted, washboard road. Once you hit the pavement you get the only recovery in the entire race.  A 35 mph coast into Junction.  This leads into a paved climb and a headwind. I found myself alone.  I usually try to tuck into a pack at this point but there wasn't one to catch.  I found a lone dude on a mountain bike but I don't think he understood what "work together" means.  Sitting behind me and when I would pull of, riding next to me. Silently.  Luckily a swift pack came up behind us and I jumped in with them.  Or at least I tried.  I was hurting all of the sudden.  We were doing 18-20 across the flat into Circleville and I just couldn't hang on.  I was worried I was falling apart.  We turned onto the dirt and into the Sarlac pit.  This is officially the worst part of the race.  Hot and sandy. Loose.  Just a desert grind. At which point I remembered something.  My rear brake was still adjusted to drag.  DERP!  Quickly spun it out and started feeling better.  So much better that I made it up the KOM climb.  For the first time.  Ever.  No stops.  No walking.  No cryi...nevermind.
 I had been trying not to check the clock.  I wanted to just ride my own race.  I had a goal of 6h30m in mind. I thought this was attainable and was better than I had ever done.  Pulling out of the last aid station I checked the clock and started thinking that I might actually come in around 6 hours.  Maybe less.  I wasn't exactly feeling like a rockstar but I was surviving.  Soon I was on the white gravel of Gun Sight Meadow. Or as I like to call it "Angel Push Meadow". The road smooths and the wind is frequently at your back. The road rolls up and down and you are bolstered up by the knowledge that the worst is over. The last rough dirt descent takes you onto the pavement and the three mile to go mark. I was slightly under 6 hours.  I pushed as hard as I was able.  At this point that wasn't much. I was once again all by myself. I soon came to last sadistic mile. 500 feet of climbing in one mile.  At the end of the hardest race I have ever done. I passed the one mile mark and my Garmin beeped it's hourly chime.  That was six hours.  Damnitt. I pushed through to the finish and came in at 6h10m. The disappointment of not coming in under six hours was soon overcome by the elation of being nearly an hour faster than my previous best time.  A full hour and a half faster than last year.  I am elated.
What a day.  What an event.
The other day in the bike shop I was asked if I was "...ready for another participation ribbon at the Crusher."  The point was understood. I am at best a civilian and at worst a hapless wannabe.
I have never been so proud of a participation ribbon.  Or beer coozy as the case may be. . I came no where near the overall winner. I came in just ahead of mid pack in my category and I couldn't be happier.
Once a year I go to one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and do the hardest thing I am ever likely to do.  This year I did it faster than I have ever done it before.  Next year I intend to do it faster.
God Bless Burke Swindlehurst and all those who help him put on the Crusher in the Tushar.
See you next year.

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