My version of events!
For posterity, here is my recap, as much as my scrambled memory will recall! Really long, lots of photos.. for the Hard COEre MTBR readers only!
After our "failed" attempt
at this ride a month ago, we were all eager to give it one final attempt. We had an email thread of 55 messages going figuring out the changes we wanted to make and trying to find a date to reattempt this ride. With days so much shorter and colder, and wet weather approaching (filling the creeks), we knew this weekend would be our last window to get it done this year.
What did we do differently?
We all took lessons learned from our first attempt and applied them to this ride: we stayed off our bikes for at least a few days prior to the ride, and ate plentifully during those days. We all upgraded our light systems in one way or another to be sure we had plenty of capacity to not be held hostage by sunset! And we had nagging technical issues with our bikes dealt with to reduce the possibility of time-zapping mechanicals; Roy had changed his fork, tires and complete drive-chain. I had dispensed with my tubed rear tire and installed the rock-solid UST Nevegal and had conjured up a new way to secure my bike to the bike rack to avoid spoke breakages that have been an issue of late. I'm not sure Dirk had changed anything, being a veteran of 100 mile rides; he just went to Hawai'i for a week!
Dirk & I had upgraded our lights; last time I had ridden with just a single helmet MagicShine. I was concerned about redundancy and longevity so bought the MagicShine triple light as my second light. The battery on Dirk's well-traveled light died on our last ride, so he bought himself a MagicShine as well. Light would not be an issue at all on this ride!
To give ourselves more time, we decided to start at midnight instead of 2am. Of course, with daylight savings having cruelly ended, we actually only got one extra hour before sunset, and most of that was soaked up by the shorter days. So, we would still have to keep up a good pace and keep rest stops quick to get it done.
The challenge started before we even unloaded our bikes. Arriving at Hunting Hollow just before midnight, it was around 37F. This began the "what are we getting into here?" conversations. But there was no denying the resolve of this trio and we were quickly suited and and on our way.
The first time we had attempted this ride, there was a feeling of excitement of the unknown; could we make it? Could we keep our pace up and our breaks short to finish it? Did we have enough light? Would we be eaten by mountain lions, or crash descending too fast? What if one of us bonked; would we stay together or split up? How would our individual paces line up?
We got answers to all these questions on the first ride, so where the climb up Lyman-Willson on our first attempt was full of excited chatter, this time we were very much all business. And it took a long time to get warmed up this time; I didn't feel good until the Bowl Trail intersection. Perhaps it was starting at midnight instead of at 2am giving me less time to digest dinner but my stomach wasn't terribly happy on the first climb.
Worse, my Garmin 705 was not properly recording altitude and we were most of the way up Lyman-Willson before I noticed; this resulted in my ascent reading being significantly lower than Dirk & Roy's. I was quite pissed about this as I had carefully hand-constructed a course for the Garmin so it would use many fewer course points than an automatically-generated course (this is a bug I know causes the Garmin to freeze up). My work wasn't in vain, though, as this altitude bug was the only problem I had with the Garmin the whole ride - and that's unusual.
Aside from quick regroups, we didn't take our first rest stop until about 15 miles into the ride, at Cross Canyon and Coit. We had already climbed a bit under 6,000' at this point! There was no discussion about it this time, we just kept moving for the first 3 hours!
From Willlson Camp, we turned straight up Steer Ridge, again lamenting that the moon had set before midnight, just as it had on the previous month. Now the chatter began as we were all feeling warmed up, strong and excited; I could sense the resolve in the group and barring accidents and serious mechanicals, I was sure at this point that we were going to do this!
On our last ride, we had come across a couple of skunks, one of which ran up the trail ahead of us on Lyman-Willson, stubbornly refusing to get out of our way. We had no option but to follow at a distance until the trail forked and we could overtake it safely. This night's skunk encounter didn't work out so well. We were riding along the top of Steer Ridge, and again, a skunk ran ahead of us, refusing to move off the trail. This was a more difficult situation as there was no way to bypass it. The trail was double-track at this point, so Dirk The Brave, put the hammer down and passed it on the other track getting easily clear. Unfortunately, it raised its tail at the indignity of being passed and let fly. It was then that I realized that I was directly downwind of it, although a good 10-15 feet away. But it got me good and I spent most of the rest of the ride trying to see if the smell had faded. Fortunately, I think my sweat washed it away.
With better lights and more confidence, we ripped down Spike Jones and rolled or jumped everything on Timm Trail. It was here I was really impressed with the triple MagicShine; I could see everything with a good sense of depth. I even saw a bobcat on Spike Jones, although part of the weirdness of night riding is that when you were the only one to see something, you wonder if you really did see it after all
It had been warmer up on the ridge, and although it was cold down at the bottom of Anza, I was feeling warmed enough to really enjoy the Anza climb and descent. Even the climb up Coit Rd to Coit Spring, which seemed to take an eternity last attempt, went very quickly on this night.
As with last time, we had decided that while we were free to acquire badges of "cleaning" honor at any time, there was no pressure to do so and, in fact, getting off and pushing up climbs that we would normally clean easily was a very good way to ensure longevity in our legs for the big climbs to come. So when we arrive at first climb up Cross Canyon (off Coit Springs), we all pushed this otherwise easily cleanable climb. I liked this as it added to the sense of a higher purpose on this ride; we always had the big goal in mind.
We ate some food at Cross Canyon/Coit and then bombed down Cross Canyon into the freezing valley. On our last attempt I had been amazed to see Roy actually eat during the ride and this time he appeared to have adopted eating as a real survival mechanism; he took every moment available to eat. I was slightly saddened in the revelation that Roy is indeed human like the rest of us! I mean, who rides 50 miles at Coe on a single Cliff bar?
Dew had made the lower valley quite damp and more slippery than normal. Dirk seemed to have no trouble, but I was slipping and having to unclip and restart constantly. At the big Cross Canyon Wall, Dirk and I heard Roy's unique self-motivation technique as he tried to improve his focus on this trail; but the conditions just weren't good for a clean pass through. Having almost cleaned the wall the previous week, I made an attempt but it wasn't going to happen; perhaps too much weight, or being under lights. I'm disappointed as once the rains come, the wall is going to be rutted and impossible again - but there is always next year!
We continued up Cross Canyon to Willow Ridge, Dirk and I out front and Roy at his own pace. Roy had done a lot of riding in the past month to regain his former fitness and while still slower than Dirk and I (both of us have been doing big rides this year), he was much closer to our pace this time. Roy's ability to just keep riding through the pain is legendary and inspiring to watch!
We turned up Willow Ridge towards Hoover Airstrip. Last attempt, this was close to dawn so our eyes were always wondering east looking for signs of dawn. This time, we started earlier so would have to wait until much later for that welcome intrusion of light on the horizon.
More wildlife on Willow Ridge with a constant succession of rabbits wanting us to chase them. They are terribly amusing at night, running up the road, zig-zagging across the road to avoid being caught. We chased a few for kicks; even at 20 mph they could stay ahead of us! One rabbit made the mistake of looking at my light and surprised me by running towards
me! I'd heard the expression "rabbit staring into headlights" just like deer, but this was the first time I'd experienced it!
We had exempted ourselves from the monthly trailwork for this ride, with some guilt but knowing that this was the only weekend that was going to work for us until next year. So we pondered as we rode along Willow Ridge, planning to ride the Hoover Lake Trail, the subject of the later trailwork, how we might leave something amusing for the trailworkers to chuckle over when they arrived 6 or so hours later. Inspiration failed us, but as we rounded some of the new switchbacks, a pile of rocks near the trail gave us an idea, so we erected a rock monument on the trail in a safe location. Hopefully someone got a chuckle out of it!
Further down the trail, we came across a little display left for us with an empty (yes, I checked) bottle of Pliny The Elder artistically arranged. I got a huge chuckle out of this and very much appreciated that PaulL had gone to the effort
Down Willow Ridge Trail, this time with fully functioning lights so at a fast pace. Los Cruzeros turned out to be the coldest location on our ride; I'm fairly sure it was sub-freezing. Dirk had a chainsuck incident near here although he resolved it extremely quickly (thankfully, or I'd be frozen there even now!).
The Mahoney Wall was in much, much better shape than the last attempt, with the few rain showers compacting the sand and smoothing out the surface. Dirk made a very good attempt at cleaning it, while Roy and I decided to watch in awe and save our legs for future climbs. Lost Spring was in great shape and I believe Dirk and Roy cleaned it; I dabbed on one spot and I surprised myself at not being annoyed in the slightest. Such a different mindset from a normal Coe ride!
Bring on the daylight!
I was quite looking forward to the China Hole descent under lights, and it really was a lot of fun. My bike seemed much more jumpy than usual, and it's a testament to what long night rides can do to your reasoning abilities; I never even thought to check the lockout (which was, of course, locked out!) Again, quite chilly down in China Hole so we didn't even stop long enough to eat. The climb up China Hole (north) was mellow, as usual, but particularly memorable on this occasion because it brought sunrise. We got to watch, as we climbed, the first hint of light to sunrise itself. I found it quite magical to watch the world start to appear out of the blackness around us as the sky grew brighter; the colors that appear are wonderful after nearly 7 hours of monochrome!
The sunrise gave us quite a show as we climbed up to HQ.
We rested a little at Manzanita Point, where the main point of discussion was the small chance that HQ was going to be open to serve us coffee. This was quite deflating for me, as the coffee hit at HQ had been just wonderful on our previous attempt. While climbing up Manzanita Point Rd to HQ, we were thrilled to note that the previously sandy parts were now quite solid from the rain showers that have been through in the past month. This gave us hope that Poverty Flat wouldn't be the hill of sandy torment that it was last time!
It was at this point that I realized that I had lost my riding glasses. They had been fogging up on the climbs and since it was too cold to remove clothes to enable sweat to get out, I just took of the glasses and put them around my neck. That's normally not a problem, but this time the battery cable for my helmet light managed to dislodge them and they are now somewhere on China Hole Trail. A bit like "My Preciousss" in LOTR, these glasses seem to *want* to be part of Coe; this is the second time they've abandoned me here!
HQ was, indeed, closed but we since we had agreed to try and keep this break as short as possible, we planned to stay until 7am, just in case they opened then and might have coffee ready. In the meantime, we set about the various tasks we needed to get done: refilling Camelbacks, minor bike maintenance (chain oiling, etc), breakfast, charging up our Garmins and, of course, trying to update the MTBR thread. 30 minutes later, we bombed down the fireroad for an always fun ride along Flat Frog trail. Hobbs Rd seemed tougher than normal (perhaps just because it was the first climb after our break); I was extremely amused when Roy pointed out this funky tree right by the side of the trail; I must have never seen it before because I was so focused on the climb.
I also spotted a coyote running away from us on Hobbs.
Crashes on Middle Ridge
At the Middle Ridge trailhead, there was a "trail closed" sign, clearly meaning Hobbs Rd beyond Middle Ridge was closed for controlled burning. We took off down Middle Ridge. For some reason I had a great desire to clean the two climbs, even though doing so zaps so much energy that it is probably inadvisable on a long ride like this. Nevertheless, I cleaned the wall and was still panting at the top when Roy and Dirk arrived. I paid for it pretty quickly when my legs began cramp signals when climbing the second Middle Ridge climb. The descent was fun, as always, marked by two crashes. Mine was fortunately in an open area, caused by a stick jamming in my rear wheel with the ensuing loss of control sending me tumbling over the grass. Dirk's was caused by a branch snagging his handlebars throwing him way off the trail. We both escaped injury or serious bike damage.
At the bottom of Middle Ridge, we were somewhat surprised to see water in the creek, given all previous creek crossings had been dry. One of the Poverty Flat Rd crossings had quite a deep pool over it which, with the cold temperatures, we did our best to walk around rather than ride through guaranteeing cold, wet feet.
The dreaded Poverty Flat Rd
The Poverty Flat Rd climb turned out to be in great shape - perhaps the best I've seen it. The recent rains had "concreted" the moon dust into a very smooth, solid, rideable surface and we all cleaned it with no problem. There were signs of the recent controlled burns all over with a bit of smoke at the bottom of the Poverty Flat climb - fortunately, it didn't get too thick.
The descent down Shaffer Corral was fast and fun and gave us back the spring in our legs. The Narrows is an unpleasant trail, for the most part, being a bit of a horse track. I was following Dirk and watching him bounce around on his hardtail wondering how he could deal with it (it was killing me with full suspension!).
Bear Mountain - of death!
It wasn't until we reached the start of the Bear Mountain Rd that my thoughts began to wonder to Bear Mountain. It is such a huge climb, and I began to wonder how I would attack it. Last time, I was feeling so strong that I gave a big effort on each segment to try and climb it, sometimes successfully. Dirk took the lead this time, so I decided to let him be my climbability measure; if Dirk tried to climb it, then I'd give it a go too. To say this was being competitive isn't exactly right, but it did provide the motivation to give big efforts when I saw Dirk cleaning the steeps.
The moment we hit the first climb of Bear Mountain, the temperature went up 10-15F°; as if the steep climbs weren't enough!
I think we actually managed to ride much more of the mountain than last time. Even so, I don't see cleaning the whole climb in my future, although Roy knows of someone who has done it.
So, some 43 minutes of riding and pushing and we were at the top. It really feels so good to finish this one. I jumped up on the mountain's survey marker, at the high point, and almost jumped for joy, especially since we had nearly all downhill for the next few miles.
We had some early lunch at the top of Bear Mountain, at around 10:30am, and did well to keep our stop to only the planned 20 minutes. Nevertheless, we had soaked up 2 hours of the 2:45 hours we had budgeted for breaks already which meant that we had little hope of being done by sunset. But that wasn't a problem at all as we were well prepared with lights and all there of us had the resolve that we were going to get it done, no matter how hard.
All downhill from here!
The descent down County Line Rd to Mississippi Lake was fast; it was great to feel the cool breeze after a hot climb. Mississippi Lake seems like an oasis after the dry desert-like territory of Bear Mountain and it was nice to ride around it cooling down. Dirk set a nice fast pace around the lake getting us to Willow Ridge Rd.
Willow Ridge Rd was one of the most painful parts of our first attempt; so much so, that we dropped it from the route since there was an alternative, mostly downhill without losing that many miles. But there was still the climb up from the lake, and after quite a bit of downhill, it was a chore. We had a little difficulty locating the Heritage Trail but once found descended it carefully.
At the bottom, we came to Pacheco Creek Trail; towards Pacheco Camp, this trail is mostly a good double-track but out here it was a rarely used horse trail. We bumped our way over it until the double-track appeared then took off with haste to Pacheco Camp. At Pacheco Camp, Dirk was stretched out on a picnic table making the most of the extra rest time a sprint to the finish affords.
Pacheco Camp - decision point
We filtered water, ate, rested a little and were back on the road. It was at this point, on the previous attempt, that we had decided we needed to cut the ride short. We were in a similar situation this time, in that we had rested longer than planned and definitely would not be finishing in daylight. Nevertheless, resolve was strong in the group that we would soldier on and finish.
The climb up Coit Rd was easy enough and we headed up to the Turkey Pond trail. Roy and I had descended it the previous weekend and I remember it being fun but forgot about the three downed trees. All were fairly easy to walk around, though.
Back on County Line Rd, we climbed up to Dutch's Trail. Dutch's is a challenging trail with some short but steep climbs, great views and really fun downhills as it follows the ridge downwards. These climbs were a little more painful than normal with about half the ride done. But it was still great fun. At the bottom of Dutch's, there is a creek crossing then the trail goes sharply up with some steep climbs around the sides of Tie Down Peak. I cleaned the first few but then ended up pushing the later ones. I did feel some frustration about not cleaning this; on any ordinary ride, it would not be that difficult.
Kaiser-Aetna - the Coe Superhighway - of death!
Once on Kaiser-Aetna Rd, we prepared ourselves for the mental challenge of this superhighway. "2 miles of climbing, 1 mile of hell", Roy said. I'd say the 1 mile of "non-hell" is overstated! Well, at least it wasn't hot - climbing this road in 100° temperatures, as often occurs in summer in Coe, is a special torture for those who venture out this way. But the relief at the end is Dowdy Ranch with fresh, potable water, benches to sit on and (although closed now due to budget cuts) real, flushing toilets! We refilled our water, ate what we could, recharged our Garmins then hit the road. We had stopped at Dowdy for 30 minutes, longer than planned but the big push to save time was lessened now that we had decided to ride into the night.
Burra Burra is always deceptive, in that it seems like it should be all downhill, but there is actually a serious climb at the start to the sides of Burra Burra Peak. But when the downhill does come, it is fast and fun. We had earlier jokes about how you wouldn't want to accidentally turn down the Dormida Trail off Burra Burra Trail and sure enough, with Dirk way ahead, for some reason I turned left onto Dormida. It took only about 20 seconds before it hit me what I had done and was able to return with almost no consequence!
Up next was Center Flats Rd. Usually, of course, Center Flats Rd is bringing you home to the end of your ride so the steeps don't seem quite so bad. Today, with almost 70 miles in our legs and the prospect of 30 more to go, Center Flats was particularly draining. Many of the climbs that I had no problem cleaning on previous rides were too much this time and I had to push. The final climb, which is long and steep but normally manageable at a slow pace was too much and I pushed. But there was no shame in this today!
Saying goodbye to daylight
By this time, it was getting chilly again but we had to climb to the top of Wagon Rd before descending so we put off getting our warm clothes until then. The sun was setting at this point and there was some glorious golden hour vistas. At the top, we got our warm clothes out and hooking up our lights ready to switch them on when needed. On the way down the other side, the sunset began and some breathtaking colors appeared in the clouds. It's a great feeling to have watched the whole day pass by from somewhere like Coe.
Getting very sleepy
I was starting to get very tired; I was fine while we were riding, although my tiredness sometimes messed up my motivation to dig deep on big climbs (especially on Center Flats Rd). But it became really difficult when we were stopped for regroups; I had to walk around and eat at these times because if I sat or lay down, I would have fallen asleep! Sometime around here, Roy pulled off a tick that had bitten in behind his ear. I had flicked off a few ticks I had found on me along the ride, but were kept away by my leg and arm warmers. I found it somewhat amusing that all the concern following the removal of the tick was whether Roy would be able to finish the ride or have to bail! We all knew were were doing something unique and kind of historic; it would take something serious to keep us from finishing!
We sprinted down Live Oak Spring, and everyone seemed to have an extra spring in our step climbing Coit then Crest. By the time we were on Crest, it was again dark, although we did now finally have a good moon out to light up the hillsides around us. We bombed down Kelly Lake Trail, another fun night descent. Passing beside the lake, we saw some newts on the trail and a spider on a fresh web and stopped to get photos.
On the climb up Coit Rd from Kelly Lake to Wasno Rd, Dirk and I fell into the now familiar rhythm which we had settled into on most of the fireroad climbs. Somehow the climb goes faster and easier when we climbed side-by-side; it felt like a kind of symbiotic support system giving us the encouragement to keep going through the pain. And so, I was surprised when we reached the top of Coit at how quickly it had seemed to pass.
This climb was also a great indicator of how much strength and fitness Roy had gained since our last attempt. Although we still beat Roy to the top, the gap was only a couple of minutes this time. Weirdly, though, every time I looked at Roy I see Mario eyes!
A well planned route
Our spirits were quite resurrected at this point because we had some fun downhills to come. We worked our way along Wasno Rd then bombed Dexter Trail, continuing along Grizzly Gutch Trail, not stopping until Tule Pond. Heading up the Grizzly Gulch climb from there, Dirk admonished Roy to not turn up Serpentine Trail as he might normally do on a big ride like this!
The final climbs!
At Willson Camp, our determination was put to the final test. We had worried that the route would not come out to 100 miles so Dirk had added a loop down Vasquez Trail from Willson Camp and down Long Dam Trail back to Wagon Rd. On paper, it looked easy enough but Roy and I had pre-ridden it the previous weekend and knew better. But at this point, we were riding to our plan and had no intention of trying to dream up an alternative to make up the miles if we were to skip this loop. So we carefully descended Vasquez then climbed it back up, almost to the top of Vasquez Peak. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be with weary legs. Long Dam, however, was extremely difficult both because the surface was dented with horse tracks and it was hard to find the trail at times, in the dark. But we did find our way out eventually.
Our minds were on the final climb up Wagon Rd; It is a 500' fireroad climb steep enough to be painful. We had climbed it previously with no problem but this time we had about 95 miles in our legs. I fell into the now familiar pattern of climbing alongside Dirk, providing and receiving the motivation to keep pushing. My Garmin's battery was getting low at this point, so I kept the light off and was not able to track our progress up the hill. So it was with quite some elation that we reached the top of our final climb of the ride! Roy was not at all far behind us.
We rested there much longer than we needed to, soaking in the feeling of having done all the climbing and just a cruise downhill to go. We also compared our Garmins and frustratingly came up with three different measurements for distance and ascent. Dirk was fairly confident that his Garmin would click over 100 miles exactly as he rolled into Hunting Hollow while Roy and I were 1-2 miles short. We decided to reassess when we got to Hunting Hollow and figure out what extra loops we needed to do to make sure we all had our centuries.
The final miles
I was a little hesitant about going full speed down Wagon Rd as I didn't have my glasses and wasn't sure how the wind would effect my vision. So I was surprised that when I hit 37 mph, I was able to see fine, although I did shed a few tears! It probably helped that, with the end near, I turned both my lights to their full brightness and turned night into day on the descent! We rolled back along Hunting Hollow Rd at a good pace.
As soon as we crossed the last creek crossing, we heard the congratulations cheers from the parking lot. Given how cold it was and how long after the trailwork day had finished, I was so surprised. It added so much to the ride to have an appreciative welcome party.. Paul and Brian, you guys rock. We reached Hunting Hollow at 9:09pm, but if we had been just a few minutes earlier, "other Paul" and Charlie would have been there as well having braved the cold for several hours. Thanks so, so much guys!
Unfortunately, Roy and I were short of our century by 1.5 miles and Dirk and Roy were short of their 20K by less than 100 feet. So we headed off in different directions to ride to make up the differences. I did ride the 20K as well, but since my Garmin wasn't recording the first 1,000' or so of altitude at the start of the ride, it was well under. Officially, our ride ended at 9:30pm.
I was thrilled to claim my Pliny The Elder prize from the Coe missing sign contest and share it with Dirk. Dirk, I saw you brought a special celebratory beer too - sorry we didn't get to drink it - next time
Paul had a camp stove going and warmed us with soup. After a while, we quickly packed our gear and got into the warmth of our cars. I was shivering from the cold just from getting changed out of my riding gear!
I had packed a Starbucks Doubleshot hoping that the caffeine jolt would be enough to get me home safely. Once on the freeway north, I found myself nodding off and none of the usual tricks were working. I had to pull over to a side street and close my eyes. I got a 15 minute "power nap" and had an easy and safe drive home after that.
The aches and pain will be with me for a few days as a great reminder of this feat! If I ever have to spend another 21:30 hours in agony, I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else!
Ride details at Plus 3
, or Garmin Connect: