Have you seen Caroline Gleich's film, Follow Through? This big mountain athlete never takes the easy route up, down, or across a mountain, and hasn't met a mile she didn't love. When we challenged her to ride the Crusher in the Tushar gravel bike race on the Specialized Diverge, she clipped right into her pedals and got to work training.
On July 14, I will be competing in my first bike race, the Crusher in the Tushar. It’s a 70 mile bike race through the Tushar Mountains outside of Beaver, UT, home to Eagle Point Ski Resort. The mountain range hosts some of Utah’s higher peaks with summits topping out over 12,000’, and Utah’s highest road at 11,500’. Last summer, I ran a challenging marathon in the range, and it had breath-taking scenery at every turn. I remember the vibrant colors of the rock mixed with the range of greens from the vegetation and evergreens. I’m excited to go back for another challenging day in these unique and rarely-visited mountains.
The course itself is 40% tarmac and 60% gravel with 10,000 feet of climbing. It attracts high level cyclists from all disciplines. One of the biggest questions people ask is what bike to choose for this race? And there is an entire, lengthy section devoted to answering that on the course information website. Some people use mountain bikes, some people rigid frames, and some people on cross bikes.
The way I see it, cycling is another way to explore the mountains. I do it for the training and exercise, but mostly for the sense of adventure. I love seeing the world in a different way, and I love the challenge of moving through the mountains by my own leg-power. For this race, I’ll be using a Specialized Diverge adventure bike. It has drop bars, and road bike geometry, so it will be efficient and fast on the long stretches of road, but it has 20mm of travel in the head tube of the bike.
I’ve always been drawn to hard good equipment for my outdoor adventures that is as simple, versatile and lightweight as possible. In the winter, I spend most of my time on skis and throughout the years, I’ve simplified the equipment I use, choosing a set up that makes it easy to grab and get out the door. Likewise, with biking, I’m excited to have a bike that I can ride out my front door and take it to smooth single track or up dirt roads that lead me to high mountain passes. I like the simplicity of maintaining such a bike. There are no shocks that need to be pressurized or adjusted. I love the quiet of not having a front derailleur (you never realize how noisy it is until you get a bike without one). I like getting outside everyday and feeling connected to my community and the open land beyond. I love how training for an event like this helps put all the other pieces of my life into place. It allows me to be slightly selfish about my sleep and nutrition, and prioritize health and movement over other things that can come up in life.
And I love the challenge of trying something new and how race day brings out the best in all of us. I love meeting fellow competitors and volunteers and seeing the positivity and camaraderie. Being outside has a way of getting us to focus on what we have in common rather than what separates us. It gives us resiliency for the other challenges in our life. Race day forces you to let go of ego, and focus on performing your best rather than comparing yourself to other people. I can’t wait to get out there, pedal down new roads I’ve never seen, and report back to you with how it goes! Wish me luck everyone!