Ridecast logo
November 29, 2012

Los Gatos Turkey Ride

Filed under: Admin — mtbguru @ 9:53 pm

2012 Los Gatos Turkey ride from Dirk dB on Vimeo.

October 19, 2012

The 2012 Hard COEre 100 (aka Coe 100)

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 6:43 am

From the annals of this year’s Hard COEre 100:

Tackling this endeavour again, I had three major objectives: first, do my best to ensure nobody got in real trouble (even though as un-organizer I should be un-responsible); second, finish the 100 miler; and last but not least, produce a recap even more painstakingly detailed than Patrick’s! I think that all worked out pretty well, as I hope you can attest (though that last part took almost two weeks).

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all the folks that have done some form of trailwork or another, cleaning up trails, removing down trees etc; it was great being able to ride Lost Spring trail without the constant need to weave and dodge shrubs of poison oak; Middle Ridge has regained its previous glory; Turkey Pond trail – last year a complete mess – was impeccable; Lower Heritage trail + Pacheco Creek trail in so much better shape than last time. Too many people to list and thank, as I will forget some, but Sorcerer Paul deserves special kudos for his tireless efforts throughout the years.

This monster of a ride has been inspired by a mix of things, Paul’s legendary 10k solstice rides being not the least. Though some may accuse me of dishing out cruel and unusal punishment with this ride, I really just like a good challenge, and enjoy taking one on with likeminded folks. Most people are capable of more than they give themselves credit for – this event shows that again and again. But enough with the psychology 101…

…it’s a bit before 7am and I hold a quick briefing at the parking lot – mostly to make sure that everyone knows what they’re in for, and that those who need them get maps or cue sheets (thanks Paul and Roy for providing them).

Img 4300 Even though I’ve done this ride now twice before, for a variety of reasons I haven’t been able to do much dedicated training – a perfect excuse to start sandbagging, as Patrick can attest – I honestly have no idea how I’d fare though. Luckily there are a few early ‘indicators’ along the way – how I’d feel on the Lyman-Willson and Cross Canyon walls, for instance. We start out with a fairly easy pace up the Lyman-Willson trail – and I don’t have much trouble cleaning the Wall, so that’s a good first omen.

Reports have been floating around of many of the fireroads having been freshly graded, which is always unwelcome news, in particular since we haven’t seen the first rains yet, and we could expect a loose, dusty mess in many places. Steer Ridge road is the first case in point. It feels harder to clean than it should. The string or riders stretches out – I chat with Brian, it’s always fun to hear what he’s up to and he talks about some incredible trail runs he’s done with a team of friends – right now a friend of his was trying to break some ultrarunning record in Tahoe. His white mask of sunscreen looks like war paint indeed, though I’d suggest next time he’d add some different color features, to get rid of the geisha-look. He has a pretty lightweight gear setup, with a big handlebar bag (which would create at times a bit of trouble on steep descents) and small hydration pack. So far I’m very pleased with my own backpack-less setup, featuring a Revelate seat bag and fuel tank. It would survive the rigors of Coe perfectly – consider this a shameless plug for their stuff (they’re a tiny operation in Alaska specializing in bikepacking gear and deserve the kudos). Soon we find ourselves descend Spike Jones and Timm trails, as always a blast.

Img 4308

Sean Allan had dropped the field earlier on Lyman-Willson, and I’m secretly hoping Brian would take off to chase him down and give us some racing action. That is exactly what seems to unfold, as soon he takes off with only Erik (with ‘k’, aka Mr. Mud) in his wake. I find myself riding in a little group with Patrick, Roy, Eric (with ‘c’, the Nightrider), Brett (aka Leopold Porkstacker) and the two ‘Google riders’. I chat a bit with Liehann, one of them, from South Africa, who just moved here a year ago – he talked about some adventure racing he had done back home and I think about that famous video shot in South Africa where a mountain biker almost gets taken out by an antelope in full sprint. I figure he has seen quite a variety of wildlife riding out there. He talks about an ultrarunner colleague of his, Beat, who for a while considered to trail run the 100 miler with us – sounds like Google may have cloned Brian!

We seem to have dropped the other 100k riders as there is no trace of JL and company. After a fun intermezzo on Anza trail we climb Coit road and subsequently first climb, then descend Cross Canyon trail. I pass the spot where I went down hard last year – conduct a brief search for the LED bar light that I lost there, to no avail. I clean the entire canyon trail, another good sign, but that of course only lasts until we hit the Wall – it is just too loose right now. The slow grind out seems to take forever, but at last we make it out and hit Willow Ridge road.

Hoover Lake currently looks more like Hoover’s Pond of Scum but that will hopefully change soon. The rollers on Willow Ridge road are tedious and take a lot longer than I care to remember. Eric, Patrick and I ride ahead of the rest of the pack. Eric talks about the Furnace Creek 508 race starting on this same day, and jokes how our ride isn’t too bad compared to the grueling 100 degree heat and distance the Furnace Creek riders have to endure – he mentions one of the Nightriders is out there crewing right now. We drop down Willow Ridge trail, always a fun undertaking and I try to dodge as much poison oak as I can, making it reasonably fine through the Urushiol Tunnel from Hell near the bottom… onto the Mahoney Meadows Wall now! I make it past the hardest section only to lose traction a bit further and dab. I curse loudly, as God doesn’t just kill a kitten when you don’t climb 10k in Coe, but he also pulls out whiskers from the poor things every time you dab somewhere. Patrick stoically cleans the entire Wall – I remember how he almost did the same on his CX bike and -gearing months ago. Amazing how he’s capable of cleaning pretty much any line, as steep as they come – he should try rockclimbing.

Img 4328

Eric mentions he and others had brushed and cleaned up Lost Spring trail, and it shows – a job well done and in its current state the trail is very friendly to even the most PO-phobic. At the top we are joined by Roy, and a bit later the rest of the group. The China Hole descent is a welcome opportunity to recover and I continue the recovery process by setting a pedestrian pace up the long climb towards HQ. With Patrick in tow we finally make it to the bench on Manzanita road. A dusty fireroad is all that separates us now from the Tarantulafest taking place at Headquarters, and the heaps of grilled food that go with it. A very welcome prospect at this point. Patrick and I are joined by Eric and Roy and we complete the slow grind up to HQ. We are greeted by Paul and his wife Chris (Coe uber-volunteers and trail builders) who are manning the ticket/cash counter where we can buy our goodies. A bit later Erik “Mr. Mud” appears out of the crowd – he is on his way out and we briefly talk about the events of the day: Erik is currently riding solo, as Brian had left him behind, in pursuit of Sean.

Img 4336 I had told myself before not to lose too much time at HQ this time around but somehow that never really pans out. The company is fine and the food tastes great; I chat with head ranger Verhoeven, and a bit later Brett (who starts devouring two huge sandwiches) and the Google guys show up. I check how they’re doing; the Google riders will probably turn around at some point (they are not planning to night ride, which looks unavoidable now also in order to complete the 100k route) – Eric is going to do his own ride from here on, and Brett only needs a little bit of coercion to commit to the full 100 miler. With the long break at HQ I put my intentions for a ‘fast finish’ aside – with Brett never having been at Coe before I don’t think I’d like to see him roam around at night alone in Coe’s Bermuda Triangle – and we form a small, four piece grupetto, with the stubborn intent on finishing this thing. Roy is a tad more quiet than usual – only at the very end he would mention his rib injury due to an early crash; Patrick is eating through his brake pads and after we finish the always entertaining Flat Frog trail he rides ahead on Hobbs road to take some time to swap them out. Brett is a non-stop source of entertainment, doing impressions, accents, and almost entire stand-up comedy acts.

Img 4341 Middle Ridge is awesome and almost fully restored now; the fatigue makes me pick some questionable lines but I make it down without too many blemishes. Then, knowing what’s in store the next few miles, my mood sombers. All of us clean Poverty Flat (the appetizer), which is fairly rideable now a couple of seasons after it had gotten the moon dust grading treatment. Schafer-Corral is a short but pleasant intermezzo, and we float through the tall golden grass down into the dried out Coyote Creek bed. After the few bumpy miles through the creek bed, a welcome surprise awaits us: Mike B is greeting us at the base of Bear Mountain, the giant roadblock ahead. He briefs us on the status of the other riders: the 100k’ers are far ahead and out of reach; equally out of reach are Brian and Sean; Erik is about an hour ahead of us. The big climb then; that first glance never disappoints – with another ‘Bear Mountain virgin’ amongst us I admit finding an almost diabolical enjoyment witnessing Brett’s jaw drop when he takes in the scene.

It appears Mike has created again some real nice ‘Coe 100′ trail art with the materials at hand… after we ride past his handiwork, we make our way through the creek and tackle the climb… I ride, stall, hike-a-bike, ride, stall, push, curse and repeat this ad nauseam. I witness in awe how Patrick cleans some very challenging pitches but my mind is going blank – I start to feel real lousy, and even though it has been a rather cool day, the afternoon heat is now getting to me, I’m a tad low on water and start dreaming of the shores of Mississippi Lake… but I need to get over this steep pitch first… and then the next, and the next. Finally, there’s the summit, and Patrick; Roy and Brett have fallen behind, but it seems Brett hasn’t been suffering in silence, as soon we hear them turn the last corner. I don’t feel too bad cutting the break short, as I need to go filter some water and we charge onto County Line road to Mississippi Lake. We loop back on the lakeside trail, overgrown in spots, but I always find this primitive trail a pleasant break from the fireroads at this point. At the picnic spot on the other side of the lake we have a lengthy break where we filter water and dislodge a very stubborn little rock that had been sabotaging Roy’s front derailer. At this spot I reach the same sobering conclusion as in previous years: we hardly made it past the halfway-point…

Img 4356

Under a cloudless sunset we install our lights and head up Willow Ridge road, towards the always entertaining Heritage trail. Both Heritage and upper Pacheco Creek trails have recently been brushed and cleaned up by friendly trail fairies – Patrick charges ahead and I follow in his wake, storming towards Pacheco Camp. It was a time to recover from my typical ‘mid-ride crisis’, during which I entertained thoughts of bailing, knowing the camp is so tantalizingly close to home. But of course, once at Pacheco Camp there is no doubt that I will take a left on Coit road instead, onto the third leg of our course. We don’t bother trying to filter the water (where did the tub go?) and pour it in directly from the hose; I think back of those pictures of the innards of the water tanks near Live Oak Spring trail… I figure it’s somewhat cleaned up now, and how bad can a bit of an ‘escargot flavor’ be? It is very dark now, the night moonless so far, and riding under lights gives things a new dynamic; it rejuvenates and injects some needed adrenaline, waking me up and making me more aware. Self-delusional perhaps, but I’ll take self-delusion if it works! Improved awareness is a good thing, as with Phoneline and Turkey Pond trail we have some tricky descents ahead. Unlike last year, no mechanical or other incidents occur and we find Turkey Pond trail fully cleared of down trees – quite the contrast with the previous editions.

We grind our way up County Line road, to the top of my cherished Dutch’s trail; in the dark almost even more fun than in broad daylight. The cloud- and moonless night allows for a great viewing of the stars, the milky way and various flying objects – I try to look for (bike)lights in the general direction of Dowdy Ranch but am not able to discern much. Soon the fun is over and we enter Coe’s Bermuda Triangle, starting with the grueling climb out to Yellowjacket pond and Tie Down trail. We’re now able to find our way pretty easily in the Triangle, even in the dark, and soon we hit the fun descent on Tie Down trail to the North Fork trail bit that will then dump us on Kaiser Aetna road. A steep-ass fireroad looks to be exactly what the doctor had prescribed for Brett, as he seems suddenly fully revived, and takes off setting the pace towards Dowdy Ranch. In truth, the grade is not that steep, and its consistency allows for fairly easy granny spinning. But it seems to drag on forever. At last, we hit the ranch.

Img 4353

Rolling in, I discern a figure in the darkness, quietly seated on the porch bench; luckily it is not the dark Sith Lord of Coe preying on us but instead Erik, who welcomes us to Dowdy Ranch. He recounts how he got lost in the Triangle, finally ended up here after some amount of frustration and quite a few bonus vertical feet climbed, and decided to then wait for us. It is time now to recover a bit, eat, refill on water and check out the facilities: yes, the full service restrooms are open for business. It is getting cold now though, and the spectacular crescent moon rising from behind the hills is the sign for me to get moving again. It takes some mild coercion to get everyone on board and leave the relative comfort of our temporary shelter, but off we go again, into the dark of the night.

I feel surprisingly frisky as I motor up Burra Burra trail – it’s a bit too early though for my traditional end-of-ride kick. Center Flats road then: a seemingly endless sequence of rollers and steep walls. Some time a massive search party should be organized to try locate the namesake flats; as far as I can tell they have never been observed. Roy, having learnt his lesson from last year, had started ingesting espresso beans, and they seem quite effective; no more ‘sleepbiking’ for him. As usual, Patrick delivers the best efforts on the steeps, though Erik seems to have a good deal of energy reserves left as well. At long last, we hit the intersection with Wagon Road. Making the mental switch (‘all easy miles from now on’), I take up my role of ride tyrant again and try to keep the break short; those last miles may be ‘easier’ but they will seem to last forever.

After the slog up Wagon road, an unpleasant surprise awaits us at Live Oak Spring trail. The ‘trail’ – in this direction normally a fun rollicking descent – has mutated into a hideous and dusty mess of a dirt road; the mark of the grader, so it appears. Oh well… more miles of fireroad are ahead of us now, until we finally reach the top of Kelly Lake trail. A fun and thriling singletrack descent breaks up the routine, and dumps us in the chilly basin of Kelly Lake. Brett and Erik need to filter water; they seem to be taking a while, and Roy and I decide to start the slow climb out, as we’re both freezing and starting to shiver; it’s warmer on the ridges and hilltops. I switch into ‘grind’ mode and plod up the hill. There’s the summit, at last, and Patrick arrives soon after me; we both lie down and rest. There’s Roy… but no Erik or Brett, or any lights we can discern in the distance. For a while I worry they took the wrong turn up Coit, which would be a very bad thing, but luckily that fear proves to be ungrounded, and soon our five piece grupetto is complete again.

We’re closing in on the finish now, and complete the fun singletrack intermezzo Dexter / Grizzly Gulch trail at a very healthy pace, riding almost in formation. A break at Camp Willson is kept brief when Erik says ‘let’s get this done’, and we take off… to tackle the last few obstacles. First, Vasquez trail – surprisingly it has received the grading treatment as well, but in this case made it a tad more pleasant (which is all very relative, if you know Vasquez); next up is Long Dam trail, with its confusing and post holed labyrinth section – I do find my way relatively easy this time, practice makes mastery I guess; and finally, that last beeyatch of a climb up Wagon road to Phegley Ridge… I can almost hear Brett and Erik curse me in their thoughts for including this in the route; but I’m delighted, as I know all of us have got this in the pocket now.

I’m sleepy and cold but clean this last hill without too much trouble. I keep moving to try stay warm while the others summit. Erik, Patrick and I lead the fast descent into Hunting Hollow road, which is as I expected a very frigid affair. Patrick picks up some extra footies towards Kickham Ranch in order to make his GPS display the proper value (20k) and when Roy and Brett arrive, we head for home. The frosty conditions inspire me to get these last four miles done with quickly; I’d say beer gravity was at work but I’m far too cold to enjoy that treat at this point. When I roll into the lot I’m delighted to be greeted by a welcome committee and after the rest of the group rolls in, the party is on – at least if you can call a hypothermic congregation of a handful of delirious sleepwalkers a party.

While the sun makes some shy attempts to rise, Sean Allan drives up the lot in his truck to say hi – we have seven finishers of 100 miler, and two of the 100k, and I’m delirious… but very tired and cold. Too tired and cold for the Everest Challenge, which once again remains elusive; there were no takers, though Brian and Patrick probably came closest to giving it a go. I head to the car now, which will provide warmth, but I need to apply the Roy Method (repeatedly slapping oneself in the face) during the drive home to stay awake and get home safely…


October 5, 2012

The MTBGuru.com server…

Filed under: Admin — mtbguru @ 8:18 pm

… has suffered an ‘unrecoverable hardware failure’, so have we been informed by our webhost. This means we’ll need to move everything to a new machine – it will take most likely quite a while to iron everything out (more than a few days). Our apologies for the trouble and please bear with us while we move things to the new server.

This has been of course a good reason to resurrect the blog; on a much lighter note I’m excited to host and ride the third (!) annual Hard COEre 100 tomorrow. Conditions look great, and the challenge, as usual, formidable. There is now also a 100km route, and a quite nice group of riders seems to be shaping up.

More info here
HC100 banner

December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Filed under: Admin — mtbguru @ 8:48 am

We can’t complain about 2011 here at MTBGuru headquarters, as many great rides and adventures were undertaken and enjoyed (attested by the collage below). May the new year bring more of it, and lots of good to everyone!

2011 review

December 13, 2011

XXCMag.com article on HC100 / Coe Everest challenge

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:48 am

XXCMag is an awesome magazine on endurance mtb/racing and they just published an article (in issue #14) on our big Coe adventure. I’m pretty proud and excited we made it in there! I’ve been a reader of XXCMag for quite a while and though online viewing is entirely free I would encourage you to purchase the issue (digital download is $2.25, digital + print is $11), to support the magazine. Below an embed of our article:

September 16, 2011

Coe Everest Challenge

Filed under: General MTBGuru stuff,Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:48 am

A lot has been going on in recent weeks and months, Henry Coe-wise, and an update here is way past due; here’s a brief summary and timeline:

- May 13, 2011: California State Parks announces a plan to close 78 out of its 278 parks due to state budget cuts. The list includes Coe park.

- It becomes clear that due to existing employee contracts, the closure will likely not happen before July 2012

- May 2011: the Coe Park Preservation Fund (CPPF) is formed, by a group of people mostly originating from the existing Pine Ridge Association (a so-called ‘official state park cooperating association’, which was formed in 1975 to assist park staff, create interpretive and educational programs for the public, organizing events and trail work days with volunteers etc). In recent years, mountain bikers in Coe have been very engaged with this group, in particular on the trail maintenance front, and fundraising for the CPPF starts.

- August 2011: we* came up with the Coe Everest Challenge, in order to raise awareness for the closure and more funds for the CPPF; it will run in conjuction with the new edition of our hundred miler (featuring a ‘bonus loop’). Trying to ride over 140 miles with 29k of elevation gain in more or less a single day in Coe (probably more) is somewhat crazy and probably overly audacious, but if we knew it could be done, it wouldn’t be a challenge! (*we = yours truly and a few friends)

- September 9, 2011: an agreement between the CPPF and State Parks is announced and will avert the closure of Coe. CPPF has raised sufficient funds to ensure the park will remain open until 2015.

Some very generous donations from a few individuals made this possible; the Everest Challenge is most likely only providing a very modest contribution, and perhaps the pressure is now a bit off, but it is important to show the state that this park is being frequented by a variety of user groups, including mountain bikers, who care about the place; and the funds will either way go to very good causes, such as trail work, the construction of new trails, an endowment for the future (post 2015) etc. So the challenge is on, more than ever. October 1st, 2011 is the big day!


August 12, 2011

Midnight Madness redux?

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

Another month, another full moon, and the Perseid meteor shower is peaking tonight. It promises to be another fantastic night to go out and ride Coe. I won’t make it this time around, but some folks will be out there. Below some pics and links to the stories from last time, to raise the appetite…

On MTBGuru
Anticipation and aftermath on mtbr.com

A bat fell out of the sky on Hunting Hollow…



Middle Ridge thrills



July 14, 2011

Henry Coe Midnight Madness ride

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

Coe Midnight Madness

Full moon tomorrow… ride ’til dawn. With all the recent hoopla (announced park closures etc) it should be a memorable one.

March 21, 2011

2011 Hard COEre 100 + Coe Everest Challenge, recap

Filed under: Admin — mtbguru @ 8:48 am

A recap has been long overdue. Much more here

Hunting Hollow, 2011/10/1, 6.35 am
The contrast with last year’s edition (midnight, 3 vehicles on the entire parking lot, near freezing temperatures) is striking: the large lot is now buzzing with activity; the night has been relatively warm with only a few high clouds obscuring the skies. We exchange our hellos, greet new partners-in-crime and prepare to get started. About 10 riders are lining up: 7 of them going for at least the 100 miler, 5 for the full Everest Challenge, among them the 3 veterans of last year. Eric the Nightrider will be embarking on his own solo expedition, which he’ll dub the “Four Corners of the Apocalypse”… we don’t ask many questions, Coe park has a tendency to attract the adventurous and the eccentric. My buddy Tom is there, providing moral support and spare lights, and Jeff, aka TahoeBC, shares his brave intention to join us as long as his recently-dislocated shoulder would allow him. Some unknowing campers are a little startled by the early hustle and bustle, but take it with a smile.

I hold a short briefing, before we get started with the steep 2 mile/1200 foot climb up Lyman-Willson trail, a good introduction if anything to what lies ahead. On this first climb of the day, I push the pace a bit to see how the crowd responds and it becomes quickly clear that we have assembled a fine and fit group here – once on the ridge, we witness the day break in pretty spectacular fashion and a quick photo stop is in order.

(photo Patrick H.)

Camp Willson
Three guys in the group are Coe-virgins and one is a second timer. While a bit concerned, I’m admiring their gutsy move of taking on this thing as their first (or second) ride in Coe. From our previous email correspondence and quick conversations in the morning I was convinced they knew what they were doing, so I quickly put my worries about their well-being to rest, and encourage them to go for it and hammer out the course if they would feel inclined to do so – their biggest obstacle would be navigating the often tricky maze of trails in this vast place. I send them off to Steer Ridge, and start the climb a bit later alongside Patrick, Roy and briefly Tom. We reel in Jeff, who took a bit of a head start and he reports back the sighting of some wild boar near and in the pig traps on the ridge. Coe’s fauna has a special affinity to Jeff, as we find out repeatedly.

Coit Road
Everyone is loving the Spike Jones / Timm descent, a fast and furious singletrack combo, and the switchbacked Anza trail (fun going both up and down) generates additional grins. On the fireroad climb toward Cross Canyon the bunch regroups, while Jeff plays snakemaster with a small constrictor on the side of the road. Patrick and I lead the group to the steep climb on lower Cross Canyon trail, starting with a tricky left-hander that I was intent on not dabbing. I make it, only to drift slightly off-course and be forced to put a foot down fifty yards farther; a duh-moment, though today would not be about cleaning, but surviving, as Roy will remind me. Soon we reach the crest and are looking forward to a fine descent into the canyon.

Cross Canyon
I’m picking myself up from the steep patch of loose gravel right before the first creek crossing; the crash left me gasping for breath and I feel some dull pain on my right side. During the dreaded fraction-of-a-second of enhanced consciousness right before impact I saw my front wheel jerk to the left after giving apparently too much front brake, anticipating the dried out creek crossing. My bike is set up with two small handlebar bags as well as a stem bag (all loaded with food), so I decide to blame the incident on my unfamiliarity with its altered handling, rather than dismal descending skills. The bike is suffering some minor damage as well: a broken fork remote lockout lever. And my bar mounted LED is whacked off, but I will only notice after I will have climbed out of the canyon.

(photo Patrick H. – yes, he actually captured the crash)

Willow Ridge road & trail
A little shaky and sore, I’m moving cautiously during our passage through the canyon; after the long climb out – the Cross Canyon Wall looking as daunting as ever – we run into the rest of the group again on the ridge and head to Hoover Lake. At the airstrip, Jeff takes a tarantula along for the ride. On Willow Ridge trail, as fine a downhill as they come, I regain my confidence, just in time to dodge the plentiful bushes of poison oak sprouting along its thread near the bottom part.

Coe Headquarters
Some amazing contrasts on this ride: from the dark solitude of our pre-dawn climb to the Tarantulafest party & barbecue at headquarters; this is a benefit event of its own for Coe park, and going on in full force when we arrive. The long climb up here – over the mighty Mahoney Wall (Roy cleaning it as if it was a speed bump), Lost Spring trail (additional quality time with poison oak), China Hole (nice, gradual), and the reviled Manzanita fire road, has been troublesome for me – with sore ribs acting up, and the impending dread of the many more hard miles coming up I start to fantasize about joining the party then calling it a day. We run into the always cheerful Paul L., who’s doing some impromptu GoPro video interviews, and he inspires me to put my game face back on. Some caffeine-laden drinks at HQ, the food on the grill, the buzzing activity and the party chatter put me back in business, and after a long break during which the entire bunch has regrouped, we take off again. Scott and his buddy Dane, who were traveling light and fast, decide to peel off at this point. They probably could have gone faster if they’d known their way around here, but weren’t prepared for the deep dive into the backcountry at night. Aaron and Sean, the other two relative Coe-newbies, radiate fortitude, are good with the map and stay on course, taking off toward Flat Frog trail – I wonder if we’ll see them again.

Middle Ridge
The thrills and adrenaline this trail dishes out never get old; Poverty Flat road and Bear Mountain don’t seem that insurmountable anymore… or will the delirium wear off quickly, once confronted with the hard facts? We’ll see. Jeff splits off now and heads toward the Creekside trail. He’s been going pretty strong, for not having ridden in a few weeks, with a semi-functioning shoulder.

(photo Patrick H.)

Bear Mountain
After we dragged ourselves over Poverty Flat, sporting an odious dusting of cake mix in spots, there would be time for recovery on a few flat miles, before we’d tackle the toughest climb of the day. At least, if the Narrows trail wouldn’t be such a bumpy mess. The final stretch of flat fireroad afterwards is easy enough though, an ominous counterpoint to what lies behind the bend. When the first, ludicrously steep pitches of Bear Mountain become visible, we immediately spot Aaron and Sean struggling high up the hill, probably about 20 minutes ahead of us. Until now, Roy, Patrick and I mostly rode together, but during the ascent it becomes clear that Patrick has the most fuel left in the tank, and is most eager to crank out the power. He’ll be dropping us on most of the climbs during the remainder of our journey. Roy and I retreat in our respective pain caves and while hiking the steepest pitches of Bear Mountain, I find a receptive audience for my complaints in a rare horned lizard, taking in some sun on this hottest part of the day.

(photo Patrick H.)

Pacheco Camp
The five remaining 100+ mile riders are briefly reunited at Pacheco Camp. Patrick has laid down a fast pace on these past few miles. Heritage trail was a beautifully primitive and fine descent but I didn’t quite enjoy the subsequent passage of Pacheco Creek trail. The upper parts were overgrown and rough, and took a toll on me. I remember feeling very strong here last year whereas now, all I can think of is the possibility of some trail angels making an appearance at the camp, handing us out various goodies. Alas, it would turn out Charlie and crew indeed came by here, but missed us by about 45 minutes. The golden hour has almost passed and doubt creeps in again… this place is an easy bailout point. But no, that would make for a sad, depressing and lonely ride home, after having come so far. And thus without further ado I join the others, install lights, filter water and prepare for a long night.

(photo Patrick H.)

(photo Patrick H.)

Dutch’s trail
I’m a bit dismayed to see that many snagging branches I had trimmed down on this fine trail months ago seemed to have grown back together. On one of the short steep uphill pitches I feel my chain break and curse. The drivetrain had been acting up for a while, probably a link was bent earlier on. After Patrick’s flat on Phoneline trail (quite a trip in the dark), this is our second night-time mechanical. Luckily the fix is quick and we carry on. Approaching the lower section of this fantastic ridgeline trail – a genuine ‘Blair Witch project’ experience by night, with heaps of weirdly shaped chamise lighting up in our headlights – we see what must be Aaron’s and Sean’s lights, moving apparently slightly off course.

(photo Patrick H.)

Dowdy Ranch
After we had swept them up, Aaron and Sean decided to stick around with us, probably not a bad idea in this confusing and remote section of the park. I feel somewhat revived on the usually brutal Kaiser-Aetna climb toward Dowdy Ranch and am surprised that Patrick and I seem to be dropping the rest. It must be the absence of heat that makes this thing easier. My helmet light had come off its mount and I thought the mount had broken, so I zip tied it together, making for a slightly more wobbly light spot than I cared for (I found out later that it was just a screw that had worked itself loose – Magicshine owners, beware). A break at the deserted facilities is welcomed by all, but it is getting colder, so we layer up and quickly start to get moving again, onward to Burra Burra trail.

(photo Patrick H.)

Center Flats road
This is the section of the course that can really break a rider. The relentless grades of Center-non-Flats show no mercy. Patrick is still going insanely strong and cleaning an impressive amount of the steep rollers thrown at us; Aaron, Sean and I are limping along, but I’m getting a bit concerned about Roy. He’s often falling behind, seems to reside in a catatonic state and hardly utters a grunt when I talk to him. I hand him some chocolate covered coffee beans, my late-night secret weapon. There is talk about bailing. I don’t want to hear about it and suggest we’ll decide once we hit Wagon, and are back on trails with civilized grades.

Wagon road
The call is made. Roy, who somehow came back to life, Patrick and I continue and take on the final 20 miles of the 100 mile course; Aaron and Sean are running low on lights and batteries and will take a shortcut home. They are a pair of impressive riders, having taken on this challenge in style, on pretty much their first real ride in Coe. I’m convinced they have the capability to pull this off in a strong time, with their newfound experience and some preparation; when we say our goodbyes I urge them to come back and get it done next time.

Hunting Hollow, 2011/10/2, 6.17am
These last 20 miles go by in a dreamlike daze. Slow fireroad grinds alternate with frigid singletrack descents, while sleep deprivation and an immense fatigue take a hold of us. The eerily moonless sky is lit up by an unfathomable amount of stars. When Patrick and Roy, who has made an incredible resurrection, take short naps, I joke with them that lethal hypothermia may set in anytime and urge them to get going again. Not sure why I stay awake; the coffee beans, perhaps. We survive the rutted Vasquez-Long Dam debacle, and climb the tough final 500 vertical feet on Wagon road, ridden clean by all three of us, as a matter of honor. Our final descent home is obscured by a dense fog bank, making for dicey conditions, but we all make it safely to Hunting Hollow road. Patrick hammers out the last three miles, but I don’t have the energy to keep up with him and ride my own pace, Roy not being too far behind.

Once we regroup on the parking lot, few words are exchanged and we start to clean up; I’m feeling elation and satisfaction, because of the successful finish in difficult conditions, but mixed in is a slight sense of disappointment, as I knew I was in no shape to even attempt the Everest ‘bonus route’. I think the others are sensing the same. Patrick may have come closest to giving it an honest shot, but he seems overwhelmed by sleep, and soon retreats in his car. I look at the time and can’t believe it’s past 6am; the sky is slowly lighting up. Taking on the long night ride after a full day on the bike had slowly drained our energy and worn us out, more than expected. Last year – with a midnight start – we were able to maintain our pace and finished about three hours faster. I dig out some caffeine, and like Roy, prepare to drive home. The Everest Challenge may have been unmet, but with some new lessons learnt we think it can be done. Some time.

I would finally like to take the opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who donated to the Coe Everest Challenge and CPPF; it’s people like you who make the difference, and real results can be achieved, as proven by the successful effort in keeping Coe park open.

March 9, 2011

White stuff

Filed under: Riding and racing — mtbguru @ 8:47 am

Everything has its price, so in order to restore the karmic balance of the universe we got to pay (a bit) for the early February summer by a series of ‘storms’.
‘Storms’ and not storms, as here in California these are still very relative concepts. Either way, it resulted in some nice white fluffy stuff in the hills, both close to home, and on mountains farther away.

Sierra snow

Of course the white stuff lends itself nicely to various fun activities, for both the young and not-so-young-anymore. Hitting up a deserted, ‘ghost’ ski resort in the Sierras for some showshoeing was certainly a highlight. But one can also nicely play in it with a bike.

Snow CX ride

Soda Springs snow

It doesn’t happen too often I can ride to it from home and be done and back before lunchtime.

Meh. Hope this sign and gate will disappear some time soon. It is a shame.

Meanwhile, things – and temperatures – are back to normal and the snow is retreating again.

Next Page »