I knew the Crusher in Tushar would be a hard event, but I still had no idea that it would be that hard. The grueling course features 69 miles with 10,000 feet of elevation gain. If you look at the course profile, you’ll see that it’s essentially 2 x 25 mile climbs, with some connector miles in between and it finishes at the top of the 2nd mountain. Honestly, that describes the course pretty well, but what you can never get from the course map is how it’ll feel doing it. I think I experienced every emotion out there on that long, brutal day and I crossed the finish line feeling like I experienced true personal growth out on course.
Having won the last several races I have competed in I felt a calm sense of confidence leading into this event. Yet, at the same time, those events were 90 minutes in length and this race would be approximately 5 hours long which left a big question mark as to how I would respond in this event. I approached the event with curiosity and I tried to open my mind to all possibilities, but you usually taint that a bit with hope that the possibilities will all roll in your favor.
As we stood on the start line in Beaver, Utah I felt a sense of joy and belonging. The idea of belonging may seem like an obvious emotion at this point in my career, but I think for everyone it can be a fleeting feeling in these highly competitive fields, but then again, I could probably write an entire post on imposter syndrome so we’ll leave that for another day.
We rolled out of Beaver and began the climb up the mountain. The first 9 miles were on pavement and we held a very conservative pace as many of us exchanged kind words or giggles. Slowly but surely the chit chat got quieter and quieter as the pace ratcheted up. I smiled and thanked my body for allowing the pace to feel easy, while I recognize that for many it was hard. I smiled at the fact that we could be climbing up a mountain and consider it an ‘easier part of the course.’ I said a prayer of gratitude for the sun rays that poked through the mountains and I began to imagine what the day would have in store.
When we turned from road to gravel at mile 9 the pace increased rapidly. As we increased the pace I could quickly tell that I wasn’t the best version of myself today. I felt a little ‘off.’ At first, I feigned ease, bluffing my effort. I listened and noticed that most riders were breathing hard and riding above their limits. I pushed onward. I kept setting small goals, hold this pace to the next corner, to the next corner, to the next peak, etc. I held onto the front group for miles with that mindset. Then I finally had to face the situation. It would be a long day in the saddle, was it smart to ride this hard so early? I decided to pull the plug and bet on a more conservative approach.
I thought I would ease up and slowly drift backward and then eventually start to close the gaps again. Instead, when I separated from the group, I imploded. My body wouldn’t cooperate. My legs wouldn’t push. My lungs wouldn’t breathe. I felt frustrated, and then I remembered that when my body struggled, I still have my most powerful tool: my mind.
In the midst of a challenging moment where I wasn’t riding or performing (I had drift back well below the top 10) the way I wanted I had to focus on one thing at a time. I began asking myself questions.
I asked myself, “Are you doing the best that you can do?” Yes! I was giving it everything I had. I took a deep breath; my best is all that I can ever do so I have to stay calm. I told myself that if this is the best that my body can give me today then I just have to keep doing this and be joyful in the process.
After several miles of struggling through but being joyful with the process I posed another question to myself, “Are you having fun?” I started focusing on all of the thing I love about being out there, the positivity started to flow and then something magical followed. I started to catch people!
The proof is there: Positivity propels you forward! I was kind to my body and so it started to give me what I wanted.
As I descended the washboards after the first climb, my race was resetting and restarting for the better. I was having a blast experimenting with how fast I could rail the sandy corners and washboards and feel my Kenda Alluvium tires catch when I needed it most. My triceps were screaming as I went back and forth from death gripping the bars to barely holding on and just letting them vibrate under my hands.
As we got into town and started our journey through the flats my eyes were starting to look ahead. I knew I could catch people. I told myself before the race that the Sarlac pit (the start of the second climb) would be my place to shine. I held my highest power of the race for the section of the course as I began my comeback.
As we climbed the long, long second climb I started to suffer, but there wasn’t any panic involved. The heat was blazing down and I started to feel dizzy, but I just kept asking myself questions. “Can you make it to the next feedzone?” Yes! Then don’t think until then. I probably sounded wildly dramatic as I entered the feedzone hollering, “Please, water on my head, water on my head.” I was playing damage control and felt like my body was straining and my face my burning in the direct sun exposure high in the mountains. I could see competitors in the distance, so even though I was deep in the pain cave, I knew I was catching up.
With only 12 miles left in the race I caught several competitors and still had it in me to accelerate by. In the final 2 miles I was cramping, experiencing nausea from the heat, dreading the final climb, but reflecting on everything I overcame on the day I knew I could do it one more time. When I saw the finish I felt every emotion as I re-entered reality. I finished 7th in the Crusher in Tushar and 5th place for those of us in the Lifetime Grand Prix Series.
I am proud of my positive thinking in this race and the way I overcame and I am proud of my result.
When I first started racing and I struggled to finish in the top half of races, I remember hearing people at the front complain or claim ‘bad days’ after top 10 finishes. I remember feeling slightly disappointed in myself feeling like if that person wasn’t even happy with a top 10, why should I be happy with a ‘top-half.’ I remember thinking that if I ever made it to that point that I would always be happy with those results, because the competition is remarkable. Now that I’m here, I understand the temptation to say it was an ‘off day’ but to say that may be to discredit those ahead and those behind fighting with everything they have. I gave it my all out there, I am happy and my younger self is happy as well.