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A few weeks ago, on a Sunday night, I received a text from a friend asking if we were doing The Crusher in the Tushar. I told him no because the event was sold out. He sent me a link where we could buy transfer entries from other racers. Reluctantly, I bought entries for Melissa and me.

We made the drive to Beaver, UT on Friday night and we had about an hour to scout the course after we picked up our packets. Unfortunately, we only viewed the front-side climb, which really doesn’t even come close to capturing the true essence of the course. After we returned to the hotel, we had a restless night on a pretty crappy Super 8.

We awoke at 5:30 and started to lay things out for the event. Unfortunately, the hotel had the worst breakfast offerings you can imagine, but we snarfed down some calories and headed over to the start line in downtown Beaver. We chatted with some friends before the race started at 8:00. Melissa went in the second wave and I was in the last wave. Things started off fast with our neighbor pulling a large peloton up the canyon (he’s a beast). I did my best to hold on until the canyon started to pitch and I knew I couldn’t hold that pace, so I dropped off the back with a few other people.

I met up with Melissa, who was riding with a woman, right where the asphalt turns dirt. This part of the ride was beautiful and fantastic. It was cool, shady, and the dirt was recently sprayed with mag water. We were really pacing ourselves because we wanted to crest this climb feeling like we had plenty in the tank for what was in store. It turns out we should have pushed it a little more. I was totally oblivious to an 11:00 cutoff at the second aid station. There were a lot of people behind us and I literally rolled across the cutoff line as my watch transitioned to 11:00–super lucky. We felt bad for some folks with whom we rode with earlier and missed the aggressive cutoff. Melissa made the line by a few minutes and I passed her as she was applying sunscreen at the aid station…I knew she would later catch me on a climb.

We kept pushing ahead until we reached the descent on the Col de Crush. We received plenty of warning about the loose gravel and I did pay attention. Nevertheless, I crashed on a wash-boarded hairpin turn that took out my front tire. I blacked out for a moment, but quickly got up to assess my injuries. In particular, I wanted to ensure I hadn’t broke my collar bone. Structurally, everything was fine, but I did have road rash from my left shoulder all the way down to my lower leg. My jersey was also pretty torn up. More than anything, I suffered from wounded pride. 

The descent was fast down to aid station 3 in the town of Junction. This was the first place I stopped to refuel and catch my breath. It was hot, like deathly hot, and we had a long way to ride around this valley floor. We had heard about the Sarlacc Pits as a terrible portion of the ride, but since this was our maiden voyage, we weren’t prepared for the sand and heat. It was brutal. Fortunately, the event added an aid station which was like an oasis in the desert. Temperatures were around 100 degrees as we pushed our way through the sand.

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Just as we finished the circular out-n-back, and started back up the Col de Crush, we heard thunder and clouds started to accumulate. This was an answer to our prayers as the heat was zapping all our energy. The climb up the Col de Crush was brutal and unforgiving. It was one of the more challenging climbs I’ve ever done. One mile from the summit, I took relief in chugging several small ice cold Cokes. I took my last pills and started the final ascent to the summit and on to the finish line. By this time, it was starting to rain and the temperature had dropped around 60 degrees (between the elevation and heavy cloud cover).

Once we reached the summit of the Col de Crush I started to feel some intestinal discomfort. I stopped at the final aid station for longer than I would have liked to try and vacate my bowels, without success…a waste of 5 minutes. However, as I anticipated, Melissa caught up with me. As we rode along the final ridge to the finish line, it was downright cold. I couldn’t believe the wild swing in weather. Down in the Sarlac pits, I was blazing hot. Now, at the summit, it was freezing cold and the rain was on the verge of snow! On the downhill, I pulled ahead of Melissa while she played it safe on the wet road.

Finish Times:

Kevin: 7:46

Melissa: 8:03

Last night as we drove home we discussed whether of not we would ever do this event again. Not only does this event cater to faster riders, but it is brutal. This morning, I am driven to get a sub 7 hour time. ‘Til next year Crusher, ’til next year…

Lesson Learned:

  1. Lose some weight! I’m way too heavy to compete with this crowd
  2. No need to wear a hydration belt or pack. The aid stations were awesome and close (however, Melissa loved her pack and used her pack exclusively).
  3. Need to figure out a solution for taking electrolyte pills
  4. I took 4 advil and felt fine
  5. Slow down on the hairpin switchbacks
  6. I hope to never come this close again, but beware of cutoff times
  7. I would ride the course again with a mtb, but Melissa needs a hardtail
  8. Nutrition! I loved the EFS flasks, while Melissa couldn’t choke it down