Race Report: 2018 Crusher in the Tushar – aka Slusher in the Tushar – by K-Dogg

“Be off the mountain by 12:00” they say. “That’s when the bad weather comes in” says just about anybody who lives near mountains. Mrs. K-Dogg and I are from Florida but have raced the Mt. Evans Hill Climb (14,265 feet) three times. All three times the rain came right at 12:00 and officials stopped the race and turned many upset people around. Mountain weather is just too unpredictable as well as dangerous for an exposed bicycle race.

2018 crusher in the tushar
K-Dogg deep in thought. Photo by CottonSoxPhotography.net

I’m sure the Tusher In the Crusher promoters mentioned this at their start speech here in Beaver, Utah. I’m sure many, in their excitement, only heard “blah, blah, blah, safety, blah, blah, blah… the weather comes in at 12:00, blah, blah, blah pack something warm.” I was amazed at how many smart looking people rode their coolest summer kit to be as light as possible. True, the weather report looked promising that morning but only if you were an elite racer who could finish by noon. These angels of the mountains managed to fly to the finish line bathed in warmth and light but the rest of us sinners flailed about writhing in a cold purgatory of ice and wind for hours and hours.

Last year at Tushar, Mrs. K-Dogg’s Garmin registered 48 degrees in a cold rain with about two hours to go. That year all we only had packed a light nylon vest each. The vest assured survival but just barely. Our frozen paws made braking unreliable at best.

This year, we decided to pack full-on rain jackets, arm warmers and long gloves. It probably saved our lives. When the bad weather hit us I was toasty warm and dry from the waist up and could actually work the brakes. I finished ahead of the worst weather but Mrs. K-Dogg was much less comfortable. She and about 200 others, were two hours back and reeling from a full on hail storm. She said the hail piled up an inch deep like a lemon/lime slushee fountain drink which turned the meadows white as far as she could see. All of this happened just barely past the summit of the Col ‘d Crush. Within half an hour, her Garmin thermometer plummeted from 104 degrees to 37 degrees. Then the rain and wind came at her at a 45-degree, angle making it hard to keep rolling forward.

Did I mention we are from Florida?

For the next hour or two, she slogged along so cold and miserable she was ready to climb into the next car or truck she saw. Luckily she was eventually joined by a nice big wind blocking guy (we owe this guy big time). They rode together and chatted amiably to take their minds off the brutal conditions around them. Mrs. K-Dogg said she also went to her happy place with the Von Trapp family from the Sound of Music movie. She knows all their songs by heart. She sang all of them to herself at least once… (Doe a deer, a female deer!) Eventually this nice guy mentioned his wife was about a mile back by herself in the storm. Hmmm. There is a tale here I’m sure but don’t ask me. I ain’t the one to say.

2018 crusher in the tushar
Riders warm up post-race in toasty warm space blankets.

I’d love to hear the tales of woe of the roughly 200 other people suffering behind Mrs. K-Dogg. I hope they all got some help from the atrocious weather. I don’t imagine the school shuttle buses could rescue anybody on that jeep trail in those conditions.

2018 crusher in the tushar
It’s a bit damp, run for cover!

At any rate, after two hours of waiting in the parking lot in the pouring rain, I spotted Mrs. K-Dogg as she appeared in the warm ski shack. She is as tough as they come but was shivering and shaking harder than I have ever seen. She managed to get into some dry-ish clothes for the long 25-mile coast back down the mountain to our hotel. I argued we should wait for an hour or two for the shuttle bus, but at 10,000 feet she was beginning to feel the effects of the altitude and would prefer to head to a lower altitude.

Did I mention we are from Florida?

The highest elevation in Florida is about 350 above sea level… at the top of a Live Oak… on your tippy toes.

So, we eased back on our bikes and descended for an hour. The weather channel showed a hopeful window from the rain but it poured rain the whole effin way down anyway.

Now, previous to all this bad weather and misery, I was actually having a pleasant race. I knew what to expect from racing here last year and managed to ride within myself most of the time. My granny gear of 34 X 36 was perfect for dancing up the hills and my front Fox shock waltzed nicely over all the treacherous baby heads and washboard going downhill. I may not have been fast but I felt confident of survival. The temperature was cool but not cold. In the Surlac Pit, conditions were nice and barely hit 100 degrees because of the cloud cover. It felt like home.

Did I mention we are from Florida?

My biggest mistake was tempting the gods as I stupidly do with regularity. With an hour to go, I passed two shivering riders who admired my nice dry raincoat. The rain had stopped and the next field appeared to be bathed in gorgeous, warm sunshine. “Well, I said, it looks like the worst is over!”

Not 30 seconds later, the sun vanished and buckets of rain vomited down on us yet again. My companions picked up the speed to stay warm but they soon traded it for renewed leg cramps. “I cramp here every year,” said one of the guys. “How about you?”, he asked me. “I did last year, but I’m well prepared this year and am doing much better”, I moronically boasted. Not 10 seconds later my right leg seized up. Luckily I did manage to remember my Hot Shot anti-cramp killer this year. A quick chug of that goodness and a brief spazzy skeleton dance, I shook off the cramp and was able to motor on. Hot Shot is amazing stuff.

As with last year, I was flabbergasted at how friendly and positive was every single rider I met. They laughed at themselves and encouraged the rest. The Pro 1-2 racers were amazing as usual but you gotta give a lot of respect to those less than elite riders who do this “just because it’s so awesome.” These are the true heroes. I refuse to mention the Fat Bikes and Single Speeders (especially if they passed me). They are just coo coo in the coconut as far as I’m concerned. Yes… single speeder Lee Henson from Dahlonega, Georgia, I’m talking to you! You’re a nutter!

2018 crusher in the tushar
Photo by Cathy Fegan-Kim.

The scenery is breathtaking especially the Mojave desert when plunging down the Col ‘d Crush… assuming you are brave or stupid enough to take your attention off the next steep slippery corner.

In the end, I knocked four minutes off last year’s time for 7th in the Men’s 60+ category. I can’t complain too much since the roster indicates everybody anywhere near the podium was from a mountainous state.

2018 crusher in the tushar
Ned Overend! Photo by CottonSoxPhotography.net

I heard 62-year-old Ned Overend was there and got 7th fastest time overall! He is just amazing and is my top role model, with the exception of that 105-year-old Frenchman, Robert Marchand, who holds the hour world record for his age. I’d love to beat that time. I’d love to get the chance. I just need to stay alive another 43 years!

2018 crusher in the tushar
A flatter part of Crusher. Photo by CottonSoxPhotography.net

Chapeau to the promoters and all the selfless volunteers who kept us alive between rest stops with food, drink and encouragement.

I would definitely return to this wonderfully scenic and well-run event and I hope all y’all will too… but please make grandpa happy and bring a jacket next time.


9 comments on “Race Report: 2018 Crusher in the Tushar – aka Slusher in the Tushar – by K-Dogg

  1. You write well. It was an enjoyable read and I felt like I was there at points – shivering, hitting bumps, cramping. Well done.

  2. I was in the back group of this race. When the sky opened up it was not just a refreshing summer shower, it was a cloudburst.

    And it just kept pouring. At one point I thought, if I stop peddling I will die. It then became so rediculous that I started laughing. It was like a dream. Your report is the first that seems to capture my experience in the back. I still love this race and will be back next year we

    1. Hey Brett! Mrs. K-Dogg reported much the same experience as you – and many others. At the end of the day you know you’ve done something special and pushed back your comfort thresholds a bit.

  3. Great write up K Dogg!
    The Crusher is a beast. You captured the story and individual moments well. Good job out there!

  4. Great write-up as always and good to see you guys out there! I finished, but that was about it. Hey if you know anyone looking for a heavy SS gravel bike, send them my way… minor hail damage – should buff right out.

    1. Uncle Elmer! I’ll certainly pass on your bike for sale…assuming you are not joking about the hail damage. 🙂
      So how was YOUR ride. I see you got 7th in the one speeds. I got 7th in the 60+, Ned Overend got 7th over all, Frank from Fast Cat coaching got 7th in his age group of 40+? and Eli, a guy we chatted with twice at breakfast got 7th in his age. How weird is that?

      JOM and I would love to hear your story or tale of woe on a single speed. I like your
      insistence that single speed racers actually have two speeds. One is walking.

  5. I had much the same experience finishing at about 7hrs 45mins, the storm opened up right as I got to the Col du Crush and just never let up. I cramped really bad going up the Col and had to walk until I busted out some Ibuprofen which worked remarkably well but Ill have to try your hot shots in the future.

    My race before that was actually going really well by my standards. I had been bed ridden about 2.5 weeks prior for several days with an ear infection (with flu like symptoms) so I was a bit concerned I hadnt fully recovered. As it was though the first climb didnt seem so bad, the pavement stretch went fast with the help of a random draft buddy and the sarlac pit was hard but not like I was told.

    I hear that the last 13 or so miles of the race is beautiful but the rain and hail was so thick that you couldnt see much. I was glad I had brought my rain coat. I stuffed it in a water bottle under my downtube. I wished I had also brought a vest and a pair of gortex gloves. The colder I got the further my heart rate drifted downward, which concerned me but not as much as I was concerned for the guy I saw shivering so bad that he almost fell off his bike. At one point I started laughing and shouting at the skies like Lt. Dan does on the shrimping boat with forest in that storm and I just kept reminding myself that I chose to be there and compared to many other things I really still was having fun.

    This was the first well known gravel race I have done and the first big endurance race I have done in probably ten years. I did a couple small town gravel and mtb bike races in the months prior and quite a bit of training but I was definitely under prepared. Cant wait to be back next year though. This is truly a wonderful event that has to be experienced to be understood.

    1. Yeah Chris,
      Mrs. K-Dogg remembers seeing a guy shivering like that too.
      There is an historic cross race in England called Three Peaks UK where they hand everybody a space blanket. They require you to bring it in the race.
      They know what they are doing.

  6. K-Dogg – i think i was perhaps that wind-blocking guy; not sure if your wife recalls if the guy had an accent, but i definitely rode most of the final section with a lady from Florida, and my wife was about a mile back! Great ride report btw. Cheers Nick

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