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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) on: October 19, 2010, 09:08:15 AM
zenoiz


Location: San Jose, CA
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« on: October 19, 2010, 09:08:15 AM »

Maybe this is not truly bikepacking content, but it was going to take us two night rides + the entire day, so I guess it could qualify as 'ultra'. Below a recap (also posted on mtbr); I will say that the whole idea was inspired partly by the lurking and reading I have done here on the many awesome events you guys came up with...

I’ve been obsessed fascinated by the idea of pulling off an unsupported 100-miler at Henry Coe: riding one giant, pure dirt loop, without repeats, out-and-backs or pavement. And so the Hard COEre 100 was born. A century at Coe means one can count on at least 20,000 feet of climbing, as the trails – a concoction of bumpy singletrack, steep firebreaks and jeep roads, half-overgrown game trails, rocky creek beds and old horse carriage trails – tend to go either up or down, at mostly unforgiving grades.

I probed around a bit and found Ratpick and Plymmer – two of the strongest riders I know – prepared to share in the madness and line up with me for a 2AM start of this inaugural version. The evening before, my goal was to get at least a few hours of sleep in before the start, my main fear was not to hear my alarm and suffer rightful embarrassment. Carbo-loading by ingesting two IPA’s was just right to obtain both objectives, and would hopefully provide good energy for the ride as well.


The inaugural loons riders at the start

And so three souls lined up at the start – we’d be carrying more weight than usual (lights, batteries, warm riding gear, all our food), and it finally started to dawn upon me that the schedule and route that I had thought up in front of my computer was verging on the edge of madness, given what I thought my own capabilities were. But I quickly pushed the worries aside, I wanted to play and see, and just try to make the best of the curveballs that Coe would throw at us.

A ride like this needed an appropriate warm-up, so what better way to start it than the slow grunt up Lyman-Willson trail with its 30% grade wall in the middle? The most memorable part of it turned out to be a skunk running along in front of us for a while, forcing us to opt for the steeper part of a short braid in the trail. After reaching Camp Willson we decided to not pause and push through to Willson Peak, climbing further up Steer Ridge. Unfortunately the moon had set already, as the nocturnal views from Steer Ridge would have been magical. Now the fun could really begin: the combo of singletrack descents Spike Jones / Timm was a total blast in the dark – my setup of helmet mounted incandescent light and bar mounted LED worked great and I hesitated only on the trickiest log rolls on Timm. Plymmer took out some snagging branches with his sheer enthusiasm, I believe.

We were up for a 5 hour night ride, on its own already respectable, but I remembered this setup worked perfectly for almost 8 hours during the Moonlight Madness ride, so I didn’t worry too much about battery life. Alas, I should never trust anything using batteries, as I was about to find out.


Plymmer climbing out of Lost Spring trail, after ritual release of inner demons

Next up was a bit of Coit road, a bit of Anza (up, then down) and more Coit. Coit Spring / south Cross Canyon was the next notable climb, and at the crest we took our first real break. So far all was good, and we dived into Cross Canyon, a fast, furious descent. Then: my helmet light started to get dimmer and dimmer, and quickly failed entirely; another lesson learnt (test everything thoroughly and preferably right before you use it) but not a good spot and time to learn it, with Cross Canyon being among the most rocky, techy parts of the route. I still had my LED bar light of course, and it took some getting used to, and a few clumsy stumbles on the tricky dried out creek crossings, but it worked.

We told ourselves to not bother trying to clean the hardest climbing sections on this ride (one of our normal passtimes on Coe rides) – though Ratpick in particular gave honest attempts on many of them – so the Cross Canyon Wall remained undefeated. Really hard to imagine it can be cleaned anyway these days, it is looking more rutted and loose than ever.

A few gentle miles of Willow Ridge road were up next and then it was time to check up on our recent trailwork near Hoover Lake. I couldn’t enjoy it very much due to my challenges with illumination but it rode well – minus dabs on the early switchbacks but I’ll blame those on the darkness.

In my current predicament I wasn’t particularly looking forward to Willow Ridge trail, a steep plunge on narrow, poison oak infested singletrack to Los Cruzeros, and I had to take it very slowly. But once we started the climb out of the Narrows on Lost Spring trail, dawn broke and my battery worries were over (for a while). Seeing the sun rise after a long night ride is always good for a decent morale boost, and I enjoyed the climb out towards the top of China Hole East. After Ratpick and I had crested the climb, we were upset by a loud, infernal grunt rising from the depths of the Narrows – the only thing this could signal was Plymmer not cleaning a climb. Coe cries every time Plymmer dabs!


A rather awesome part of long night rides: witnessing the birth of another day

The descent into China Hole was fast and fun, and particularly nice in the fresh daylight. Next up was the, for Coe standards, easy, ‘family-oriented’ climb up China Hole West. After jointly dabbing on the toughest part of it, the first, elusive switchback, we slowly but surely dragged ourselves up Pine Ridge. The Manzanita Point fireroad leading to the park’s headquarters (HQ) had recently been graded (a mountain biker’s curse) and turned into a sandy mess in spots. The plan was to take it all the way up to HQ to refill on water and enjoy some other perks (full service bathrooms, instant coffee or hot chocolate for 25 cents!), which ment we would have to deviate a bit from the ‘rules’, as it implied a short out-and-back section, and even a very short stretch of pavement. But as it really falls in the noise overall (the out-and-back is about 0.6 miles), and it serves a clear purpose (water supply), we decided it was an acceptable exception (that’s the advantage if you make up the rules!).


Plymmer needed some dusting after Ratpick was done with him here


A sea of fog rolling into the valley below

Our pace had been dropping throughout the ride, or rather, our breaks getting increasingly long and more frequent – and I knew it was going to be very hard to finish it in something resembling daylight, which was weighing a bit on me knowing my battery situation. But the coffee/chocolate at HQ was a godsend and got us all psyched up again for the goodness that was to follow: Flat Frog and Middle Ridge (ok, with some Hobbs-drudgery in between). Middle Ridge is of course about the finest singletrack descent one could dream up. I walked the steep climb at the beginning of it to save myself for what we’d get on our plate as soon as the downhill fun would have dried up.


The joys of Middle Ridge

So much fun just had to have a price. Poverty Flat would be the appetizer for what was to come: an unclimbable loose mess, an excursion towards the outer limits of what we were willing to put up with. Meanwhile it had started to warm up, and temperatures were definitely exceeding the 80F barrier of my comfort zone. The main course was Bear Mountain. Plymmer and I had stoked Ratpick – a Bear Mountain virgin – about it and I hope it delivered. The first stretch was a long hike-a-bike for the three of us, but it was impressive to see how Ratpick managed to clean a formidable section later on. It was clear that he had the best legs today; a climb like this doesn’t leave much doubt. But the mountain did get him in the end: he seemed to suffer a slow leak in the rear tire and needed to replace a tube. Myself, I think I ended up hiking almost half of its 4 mile overall length.


Bear Mountain: the Crusher of souls, the Obliterator of hope


Delivering on its evil promises


We pretty much looped around this lonely house-on-the-hill

Fortunately, Bear Mountain road does have an end, and we were relieved to zip down towards Mississippi lake along County Line road, on occasion staring into the Orestimba Wilderness on our left. It’s always a joy to see Mississippi Lake appear and after riding a fun stretch of singletrack around it we took a break and filtered some water. The next part of the route was the only one I hadn’t ridden before: a stretch of Willow Ridge road followed by a descent on Rat Spring trail – the Willow Ridge part seemed innocent enough on the map, a gradual climb followed by some ‘rollers’. But these rollers turned out to be a rather painful affair – ridiculously steep walls that were generally just a tad too long for me to power up through momentum – I was still in the process of recovering from Bear Mountain and felt beat down by the heat and now this. I suffered/hiked through them, but needed a long break at Pacheco Camp to regain my composure and some strength.



But a worse thing was that we were now more than three hours behind schedule. I had tried to design the route so that leg 2 (which we just completed) and 3 were the hardest, and leg 4 easier and faster. Riding legs 3 and 4 was going to leave us with an ETA of at best 10pm. Given that I would have to rely on a wimpy bar LED, and Ratpick's and Plymmer’s lights may have had only one or two hours left, we made the hard decision to pull the plug on the whole route, skip leg 3 and finish by continuing with leg 4. It would still give us 80 miles with ~15,000 foot of climbing.


One of the many critters we encountered on our day out here

After eating a bit and employing my secret end-of-ride weapon (GU shots) I started to feel better again. The last part of the route was a bunch faster indeed and featured highlights such as the Kelly Lake trail (East) descent, the Dexter + Grizzly Gulch singletrack (great downhill!) and some exhilarating high-speed downhill fun on Wagon Road (speeds approaching 40mph). Plymmer started to look a little pale and we were afraid that he would decide to climb up Serpentine rather than stick to the route (yes, he’s one who would opt to climb more in order to feel better!), but our fear was fortunately ungrounded.


Catching some rain drops on the way home


Plymmer cresting the final climb on Wagon Road

It was very rewarding and great fun riding this in a small group, but there is a final, near-500 foot climb on Wagon right before the descent home, and my original intention was to propose to Plymmer and Ratpick to duke it out here, close to the very end, for the ‘win’. Of course that wasn’t relevant anymore, and Ratpick would have handily smoked us anyway, so I didn’t even bring it up. Hence we rolled together through Hunting Hollow right before sunset, around 6.15pm, back to the lot, to enjoy some post-ride festivities.

Now, after letting things sink in for a few days, it is clear: we can't wait to get back out there and finish the job.

More recaps in the Norcal mtbr thread and on the HC100 site.

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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #1 on: October 19, 2010, 02:27:29 PM
Marshal


Location: Colorado
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2010, 02:27:29 PM »

humm, I get out to CA a few times a yr and have ridden a few hours worth in this park, hummm


looks like you had a great ride!  When you going back?
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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 08:28:46 AM
zenoiz


Location: San Jose, CA
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« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 08:28:46 AM »

humm, I get out to CA a few times a yr and have ridden a few hours worth in this park, hummm


looks like you had a great ride!  When you going back?

Well, next weekend there is a full moon... hmm. A bit too early for me to do another attempt though but a reasonably dry, full moon winter weekend would work.
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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #3 on: November 16, 2010, 01:25:28 PM
zenoiz


Location: San Jose, CA
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« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2010, 01:25:28 PM »

We saw a new window of opportunity open up last Saturday and went for it... the 100 mile loop with 20,000ft of climbing took us a grand total of 21 hours and 12 minutes; 15 and a half hours moving time, perhaps with some slow hike-a-bike hours that the GPS may not even have registered as moving and a couple hours of lying semi passed out on the dirt... great fun!

Here's my recap http://blog.mtbguru.com/2010/11/15/675/, more here on http://www.hardcoere100.com/results.html and this mtbr thread
http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=665755





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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 07:57:58 PM
ScottM
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2010, 07:57:58 PM »

Nice work on the rematch!  This sounds like a very hard hundy.  21 hours, and you are right that the GPS won't pick up some hike-a-bike as moving time.

Good work and thanks for the update.
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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 07:13:04 AM
EMathy


Location: Alameda, CA
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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2010, 07:13:04 AM »

Count me in!  thumbsup

I've been wondering about what route to put together down there. Being in Alameda, the South Bay is a bit of a mystery to me.

If nothing else, that's a KILLER route to go out and play on. I'm going to have to figure out how to get down there soon. Nicely done!
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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 09:46:02 PM
zenoiz


Location: San Jose, CA
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2010, 09:46:02 PM »

Nice work on the rematch!  This sounds like a very hard hundy.  21 hours, and you are right that the GPS won't pick up some hike-a-bike as moving time.

Good work and thanks for the update.

Thanks - there is a bit of hike-a-bike and 'zero-track' to negotiate, and the night riding tended to slow things down as well. And after mile 60, we were in survival-mode rather than race mode. In 'normal' hundies I'm up to 2 hours or so slower than the fast guys, so there's definitely room for improvement...
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  Topic Name: The Hard COEre 100 (inaugural version) Reply #7 on: November 24, 2010, 09:58:58 PM
zenoiz


Location: San Jose, CA
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2010, 09:58:58 PM »

Count me in!  thumbsup

I've been wondering about what route to put together down there. Being in Alameda, the South Bay is a bit of a mystery to me.

If nothing else, that's a KILLER route to go out and play on. I'm going to have to figure out how to get down there soon. Nicely done!


It's a bit of a challenge to do the full route in winter (short days), and early spring may have a lot of water running in the creeks that will slow you down. That said, go and check it out; some great riding there. Btw, next year we may go 'above ground' (we're talking with State Parks), the provisional date is Oct 1, 2011.
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