CrusherEX40… er52

NOTE FROM HIPPY: This is long. It was way longer tho, this is the trimmed down version. Ha! I wanted to also add a section that talked about the preparation I did for this ride but it was all just taking too long and I wanted to get this out before I set out to ride the course a second time this coming weekend. Yep, giving it a second go, just for fun. This time with more friends and a support crew.

Pre-race anxiety

I didn’t think I could do this.  I wasn’t exactly expecting to fail, but I sure was worried that I’d hit the halfway point looking for a bailout option.  More than once in the weeks leading up to this, I said to Nick “I’m worried that I’ll want to quit and you won’t want to and I’ll have no way to get back”.  Not only would this be the longest ride I’ve done in at least 15 years, it would be the most difficult course I’ve probably ever attempted.  Bruce kept talking about how hard it was.  Steve made me more nervous every time he tried to make me feel more at ease about the course.  I certainly didn’t “train” and definitely didn’t think I’d put in enough prep time.  I’d never ridden with such a full pack.  I’m terrible at taking in enough calories to sustain me during longer efforts and really had no nutrition plan. I’d never used the frame bag I bought 2 days before and never pedaled on the new chain that was installed the day before that. I had also never navigated a course with my Garmin 510 and I was pretty sure the battery would not last the whole time. 

Mostly tho, I was worried about how compatible Nick and I would be for this long of a ride.  A few years ago, we rode the short Barry Roubaix together and it was miserable for both of us.  I was too slow for him and he was too fast for me.  I was blowing up on climbs and walking and he was waiting impatiently for me over and over again for 30 cold miles.  That day haunts me.

The Race: 

We left Forestville a little after 8am. The weather was great and we even had a bonus Kristi sendoff (and all of the bonus Kristi snacks she could load us up with). After being so nervous for hours before the start, I was amazingly at ease by the time we were out of the parking lot.

This lady right here. I wish everyone could have a friend as awesome as Kristi. I adore her and I’m so happy she was there to send us off.

I very much enjoyed the Harlow area stuff.  The ride up Jedi is really not bad, but getting the bike up the rocky bits near the top was definitely a challenge.  I’m a sucker for a good view tho, so the second I got to the top, I forgot all about how tough it was to get there.  We met a group of dudes on the top who were doing the EX225 and they were fun to chat with a bit while we recovered from the climb. Had a snack and a selfie and pointed our bikes downward. We quickly hit the first water crossing which was knee deep for me, and flowing pretty fast. I was happy for new shoes with good traction that kept me upright as I carried my bike through. Later we came to the old railroad bed which wasn’t what I’d normally call fun but we were following our new EX225 friends from Top of the Mountain through here and they were kind of hilarious so that made it at least a little fun. 

Top of the World // photo credit: Nick

I’d been looking forward to spinning out and relaxing a bit on the 550 stretch, but the headwind had other plans.  We got passed by a couple kids and their parents while we were snacking at the top of a hill, and then I sort of gunned it to catch back up with them once we started rolling again.  I might have burned an unnecessary match there, but really I just wanted to be off of that road and out of the wind, people drive super fast on 550 and its a little unnerving.

Taking a checkpoint selfie // photo credit: Nick

The Garlic River section follows chunky logging roads which were a lot of deep wet sand and big puddles to maneuver through and around. It was really pretty back in those woods, but I really had to stay focused and on the gas or else it would have been just a never ending slog.  By the end of this section, I could feel myself fading as we were reaching the halfway point. I told Nick I was going to need to stop for a real break soon-ish, and eat some real food but when we got back to 550, I decided I wanted to get to the next truck trail turnoff before stopping for a longer break. I really just wanted to get beyond the halfway point. So I downed a Hammer Gel and we headed back out into the wind.  It was a pretty short ride on 550 before turning off and then we stopped to eat some sandwiches and get off the bike for a little bit shortly thereafter.

Somewhere in the Harlow area

I have always struggled to take in enough nutrition on long rides to keep me well fueled and out of the misery-cave and while I did a little better on Crusher day, it was still not enough.  I’d had 3 gels and a bottle of Infinit to this point and we were 4 or so hours in.  I was able to eat half of a Jimmy John’s “slim1” (plain ham and cheese) and a few potato chips at this stop.  I also tossed back 4 Endurolytes because my legs were starting to feel like they wanted to start cramping when I was getting on or off the bike and I thought I could get ahead of it. (.. too late .. )

Getting ready to head out onto 550 // photo credit: Nick

Within a few minutes of getting back on the bike (mile 28ish), my right inner thigh started cramping up.  I was able to work it out while spinning and hoped that would be the end of it.  I was good for a few miles and then it happened again.  And then again. This would be the rest of my ride.  I could have called it and figured out a bail out option. I could have gotten mad about it and spent the second half angry, frustrated and grumpy. Or I could just keep spinning and accepted that this is where I was, this was the situation and this is how endurance events (especially enhanced ones) sometimes go. Previous versions of myself would have either quit (if possible) or I’d have just gone dark (mentally) and been miserable and a miserable ride partner for the entire second half.  But I was not that person that day. Instead, without even any internal debate, I just kept moving forward and managed as best I could.  I walked when I had to, pedaled when I could and smiled as much as I could muster. I was still having fun and I was not going to quit.

Somewhere in the Harlow area

CR510 was the low point for me. We climbed for a long time out of the truck trail and then continued to climb for a long time on the road. Finally the climbing ended and we were left with a soft, wet road full of stuttery brake bumps. It was brutal. In recapping with Nick later, he said that he was worried I was ‘going dark’ on the 510 stretch and he was wasn’t entirely wrong.  But I just kept turning the pedals when I could and walking when I had to and eventually we got to the turnoff for trail 14.

I was so happy to turn onto trail 14. We’d done an out-and-back on this section from Forestville back in July so I knew what was ahead of me. No surprises, no unknowns. I knew that it would take us about 2 hours, and I knew there was a lot of really fun downhills to help get us there. Sure, the climbs up to Chunky Summit would be no fun but whatever, after that it would be pretty smooth sailing. We took a break near the start of the trail for some more food, I managed half a pb&j and a few more chips before heading on.

“OMG I made it!”

After a bunch of fun downhills, including a long rocky one where I passed a couple of dudes who were picking their way down on some skinny tired drop bar bikes. Before too long, we found ourselves climbing up Chunky Summit (and getting passed by the drop bar guys I’d passed earlier). Selfies at the checkpoint and then its just a 6 mile cruise back to the parking lot.  Except for having to tell the poor dude who was a mile or so past the checkpoint that he did, in fact, miss it and had to go back.  WHOMP WHOMP.  Poor guy.  I can’t even imagine.   

“I’m gonna finish this thing”

The Superior Overlook that’s about a mile from the end the view is literally breathtaking.  I popped out of the woods and saw the lake and tears came to my eyes.  The scene was overwhelmingly beautiful, the sun had just peaked out after being cloudy for hours and I knew that there was absolutely nothing between me and the parking lot except for a screaming fast downhill.  We took a selfie, I wiped my tears and curled up the corners of my mouth and smiled all the way down the hill to the finish.  The unexpected surprise were the cheers from people who were hanging out at the campground and trailhead.  

No pictures can do this view justice. It takes my breath away every time.

When we made it all the way back to our Suburban, I cried even more.  I honestly did not think I could do this.  I really expected to either not finish at all or have it take way way too long to be fun.  I did not expect to have so much fun nor did I expect to ride well enough that Nick didn’t get frustrated by waiting for me.  It was an incredible experience and just a really great day.  Even if sometimes it felt like the entire ride was uphill and into the wind.

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