I registered for the Crusher in early January, knowing the event would close within a few hours to days. I started training and researching immediately. Research, homework, practice, equipment, fitness, luck…so many variables and only 6 months to prepare. 70 miles, 10,400 feet climbing, 60% dirt.
Bruce Bilodeau said last year, “Welcome to the Crusher! The only race in the world that lets you choose your weapon with only one guarantee: at some point you’ll be very, very wrong!”
At the start, looking at the nearly 600 participants and surveying everyone’s choice of steed, tires, etc. (My guess is about 60% ‘cross bikes, 39% mtb and 1% road…and 1 tandom), I felt confident in my decisions so far to race my ‘cross bike. I knew this was going to be a tough day when 1/3 my field had a call up.
The pro men took off with our field following 1 minute later. The pace was brisk, nearly catching the pro men before the start of the first climb and dirt section at mile 9. I was able to position myself 4th wheel at the base of the climb before fireworks went off. That’s where I stayed for the next 50 miles, just couldn’t quite hang with the 3 strong girls on mountain bikes. The dirt climb had steeps, very much reminiscent of the Sapillo. These next 18 miles of dirt were sweet… fast hard pack with sections of fun wet, but not muddy ruts. The air was brisk, the trees alive, a few views of mountain lakes and cliff sides up high….so far this was the best event ever. A few miles up the climb, I had front row seating to watch Daniel, my teammate and friend, driving a train of racers, observing the demised faces of those trying to stay with the Swedish Tractor. Once the climb crested, the roads started to dry, becoming loose gravel. These sections were fun and fast, but hard to draft unless you’re okay with chipped teeth. Sometimes, I could only tell the direction of the course by the trail of dust in front of me. Then, the infamous decent of the Col d’ Crush with sharp hungry teeth opened wide to take its prey. The sandy gravel was deep with ruts, huge washboards and lots of riders choosing bad lines through the switchbacks. The roads were like a yard sale of bike parts, skin and teeth fillings. My teeth chattered, my arms shook, my hands went numb with pain, and at any moment I thought my bike would just implode. I actually descended (my greatest challenge) quite confidently, in control and not having one ‘cross bike pass me….thinking the whole time that I have to get my ass back up this later. The mountain bikes sailed this section. At mile 32, I was back on pavement. I quickly assessed my bike, fluids, and just started TTing through the valley. It had become dry, hot and desolate. I connected with a beard of epic quality fellow, later to be known as “Grizzly Adams”, http://grizzlyadam.net/. We paced each other through this long, hot valley as though we had trained for years together. Then at mile 44 and a return of the dirt, we hit the portion appropriately nicknamed the “Sarlacc Pit”. This was the one section that I was not prepared. Despite taking in fluid/electrolytes at nearly every aid station, no amount of fluid prepared me for the oppressive heat….heat like I’ve never felt, riding a sandy ATV trail, the don’t stop pedaling or you won’t get started again sand, slightly uphill washboard roads. Actually, at times, the washboard sections had more traction and were the preferred line. Taking in 2 more bottles before starting the Col d’ Crush, I was quickly in my 34X32, staying there for what seemed hours. I think the only way I can describe this climb, other than the hardest climb I’ve ever endured with grown men crying on the side of the road. If you took tons and tons of sand and gravel dumped it down Heartbreak, make large washboards, now extend Heartbreak to 4.5 miles and mix in 3 switchback sections of Deer Trail Run…..now ride up…oh and try to have fun. The KOM/QOM was so near, mileage wise, but so far. I quickly stopped at an aid station where I was sprayed down with cold water, then downed a Coke, topped off my bottles and was pushed started back up the steep. At the next switchback, a volunteer yelled you’re 4th and 3rd is just a little ways up there. This news had renewed some energy to get up this dreadful climb. At mile 58, I passed 3rd place…got a large gap on a short downhill section, still dirt. I felt such fatigue, discomfort and thoughts of “I’m never doing this again”….stimulating the readings from the Crushers Creed, http://grizzlyadam.net/2012/07/the-crushers-credo.html, a week prior the event, providing some inspiration, some rationale for my chosen vacation this summer. The final miles rolled by slowly. The air started to cool as we approached the finish at Eagle Point Resort kissing 10,400 ft. The last 4 miles had finally returned to pavement. I took these miles to think of all my friends, teammates and family who believed in me…I would finish, I would carry across each one of them in spirit and share the podium celebrations. The final climb, 1 mile to the finish….I just had to keep my legs moving….finally I finished, not knowing if I’d just finally died or actually finished. I was again energized with hearing that I rounded off the women’s podium and that Daniel had WON….so awesome.
In the hours, days to follow, my body screamed of soreness. My feet, yes my feet, were visibly bruised on the bottom, my arms would barely move, my triceps yelled and my back had no strength to sit/stand. On the other hand, my legs felt okay. Off to another adventure, not sure if my path will ever come back to Beaver, but glad I went.
Special Thanks to: Caruso Cycle Works, Michael Thomas Coffee, Scalo Northern Italian Grill, The Pedaler’s Café, Cthree Wheels and JBV Coaching