Saturday, July 13, 2013

2013 Crusher In The Tushar

Once again I found myself in Beaver, Utah this July for my 2nd go at the Crusher In The Tushar.  Last year's race didn't go quite like I wanted, loosing bottles and energy so I this year I was up for a little redemption, but mostly I wanted to get back to that scenery and high-elevation riding the Tushar mountains offer.  As expected Burke Swindlehurst put on another great event with a star-studded lineup.  I'll let you read up on the race on the official website but in summary: The format is a mixture of road and dirt road (no singletrack).  The hardest part about the race is deciding what bike to ride although this year, most of the top contenders opted for a CX bike.  Given my CX bike weighs 3-4lbs more than my mountain bike, I opted for my Flash with CX tires.  If you have a light CX bike, that's probably the way to go.

I have been riding pretty well this year so I threw my entry in with the Pro / Open men with little to no expectations given the lineup.  After introductions, we rolled out of town just after 8am.  We rode at an uncomfortably easy pace up the pavement.  It was much slower that I was expecting, looking at my Garmin, I was sitting in HR zone 2.  I felt like I wanted to ride a little faster to make better time on the day but I wasn't about to ride off the front in this group, not a chance.  I sat in mid-pack waiting for the fireworks to start.  There was a short breakaway and a little tire rubbing in the pack but nothing came of either.

We made the turnoff and faced the first real climb of the day, I turned to the guy I had been riding with most of the way and said something like "this is where things are going to blow wide open", and sure enough, within 60 second the group ignited leaving the back of the peloton scrambling.  I looked down at my Garmin once again and saw 4.2 in the HR zone field. My plan was to obey the Garmin at all costs for the climb over the top, and 4.2 was too high.  I dialed back bouncing between the high 3's and 4.0, a pace I had been riding in a lot during training following my LW Coaching training plan.  Last year, I didn't pace as well and ended up paying for it on the last 1/2 of the race, so goal #1 was to pace well this time around.

As I neared the crest of the first climb, 1 hour 42 min into the race, my rear tire started to loose air, I stopped and hit it with a good blast of air (running tubeless) and rode off again, On the descent into the valley, it wen't flat again, I repeated.  The 3rd time 3/4 of the way down I opted for a tube and wen't into full-on NASCAR pitstop mode.  I was still in good spirits after putting things back together.  I pulled out 1/2 of a caffeine pill, washed it down,  and got on my way with plenty of downhill to get my speed back up.

I soon made it up to that guy with the unmistakable dreadlocks, Garth Prosser, and we formed a draft line of two.  We quickly picked up another CX rider with taller gears than I had and sat in behind him, soon after that we picked up Corey Larrabee, one of my teammates, making 4 people for a good pace-line into Circleville.  We rotated pulls through town picking up one more guy on the way back to the climb into the mountains.  On the flat section of pavement I hit a chunk of metal and lost air for the 4th time in my rear tire.  I wished everyone luck and pulled over for another pitstop. Fortunately, I had packed along 3 tubes and 2 Big Air canisters so I was in good shape, except for time.  I couldn't stop the clock, and it kept ticking away.  People rode by that knew me, they asked if I was ok, heckled, and rode on. I fumbled with my wheel longer that I wanted to and finally got it back together.

Then the Caffeine pill kicked in.

I got the idea of using those little pills from hearing Drew Edsall talk about them.  I knew from the past that I race better with a little caffeine but it always required taking in a gel or sports drink, (CarboRocket 333 for example).  This made it hard to balance calories, hydration,  and caffeine as the needs were not always consistent for each.  Needless to say, I started to feel like superman and just in time too as I had a monster to climb back up to the 10,000 ft range and needed to try and salvage some time on my race.

I worked my way back into a group of people which turned into me pulling the group and riding off the front as we started the climb back up. Caffeine is a great thing.  I checked my Garmin again and it read 3.1.  Unlike the first climb of the day, my goal was to keep from falling off the bottom of zone 3 rather than shooting off the top so 3.5 was my goal and it was a challenge to keep my HR there.

The climb back into the Tushars reaffirmed I made the right gearing decision.  I chose to run a SRAM XX1 setup with a 36T in the front and the standard 10-42 in the rear.  This was a good fit for the climb back up.  I spun a steady pace and seemed to consistently pull in riders up the climb.  We were all feeling the steep grades.  As I rounded the last switchback with the top in view, I saw my friend Adam Lisonbee who was having a great day on the bike and had heckled passed me on the road in the valley while I was off the side dealing with my flat tire.  In an effort to crush his spirits motivate him further, I stood up and put myself into leg screaming anaerobic mode to catch him just before the KOM summit.

"Common Grizz! Is that all you've got!?!?!"

Judging from his podium spot, he had a little more after that as well.  We soon separated and I resumed my quest to minimize the number of time clicks before I cross the line which was another 10-miles away.

Eventually I made it to this sign.  The night before the race I rode from my condo up the last 1-mile stretch and snapped this photo.  For everyone finishing the race, this would mark the longest mile of their life.  It was all up hill and gradually increased to a 12% grade before the end.

I emptied what was left in my tank up the road and crossed the line in 30th place at  5 hours 26 minutes.  Having lost 15-20 min to flat tires I was really happy with my time.  I rode much better than last year and had some in the tank at the end of the race.  Goals accomplished.

See you next year Crusher, 3rd time will be the charm.