Erik, Derek, and I were actually the few that signed up early (before September 10) for the Henry Coe Mountain Biking Challenge. And we showed up this morning geared up and ready to go. After the race announcement, the racers left for the gate at the end of Gilroy Hot Springs Road, the official start of the race. But. We. Did. Not. Go!
That's because I was completely shocked when I asked the announcer about the course and learned that two out of the three fun sections (in my own opinion) had been taken out. The original sport course is marked in blue in this map (or see the official map). The three most fun trails in my mind are: Cross Canyon Trail (downhill first, flat along creek bed, then uphill), Kelly Lake Trail after the lake (strenuous climb with two steep sections), and Serpentine Trail (strenuous climb with one steep section, and easier than Kelly Lake Trail climb). So, when I learned that there would be no KLT climb nor Serpentine, my jaw dropped. As I explained to a friend in an email:
When Derek and I talked to Travis (one of the race organizers) in the parking lot two weeks ago, he hinted that he might take Serpentine out due to complaints (right, Kelly did not come up in our conversation), I gasped out loud, "NO! It's the fun part!" But immediately, I caught myself (being selfish) and suggested, he should do whatever he needed to do for the event, and I didn't have to sign up for the race. I didn't say that as a threat, but Serpentine on that course just meant that much to me. (And that was when I still assumed that we were climbing Kelly Lake Trail.) He said, "No, you go ahead and sign up, and I promise I'll leave it in." (I guess later the complaints just got too loud and powerful for them to ignore.) So, I was extremely disappointed when I found out that two out of the three fun parts (on the course) were taken out and decided to drop out as I promised. Erik and Derek just stayed with me even though they didn't care either way. (Erik didn't even know what the course was.) The race organizers were extremely nice about it and afterward emailed us an apology, which we did not think necessary because we understood where their decision came from and they probably did the right thing for the event.
Since the race course was supposed to be closed to non-racers, we (mainly I) decided on another route, which turned out to be very fun:
Hunting Hollow Road » L: Lyman Willson Ridge Trail» L: Bowl Trail » R: Middle Steer Ridge Trail » L: Steer Ridge Road » R: Spike Jones Trail » L: Timm Trail » L: Grizzly Gulch Trail » R: Coit Road » R: Anza Trail » R: Jackson Trail » L: Elderberry Spring Trail » L: Rock Tower Trail » L: Domino Pond Trail » S: Cattle Duster Trail » S: Grapevine Trail » L: Anza Trail » L: Coit Road » S: Gilroy Hot Springs Road » Hunting Hollow Parking Lot (20.0 miles / 4357 ft)
It was a very leisurely ride because we were just happy to be out there and there was no race pressure. Plus, Erik and Derek had both been sick and were not feeling very chipper. For example, we spent a whole hour sitting at the top of Jackson Trail! They had a topic they had great fun dwelling on. When I rushed over to the race organizers' tent to discuss our alternate plan, I spoke fast, very fast — like at 85 mph fast. And I was probably loud too. For that, I had something else to blame on, a little 50ml bottle of 5-Hour Energy drink. I had to take it earlier because I was feeling drowsy after we got up super early and I needed to drive as Erik was too sick (hacking up lungs). Boy, did it get me wound up!!! Also, other racers had already left the parking lot by then. I had to make a quick decision — either I drop out of the race, or I go chase the other racers. I was under time pressure too. Erik and Derek were stunned how fast and loud I talked! I was never upset (a little disappointed, yes), but I must have sounded that way. Later I apologized to the race organizers for that. Erik has banned me from taking that drink again in the future. But hey, if you ever get too drowsy for driving or other tasks, you know what I will recommend.
All in all, it was a great ride. We didn't make it far because I left my camelpack at home and only had one bottle of water with me (wanting to be self sufficient, I didn't ask Erik for water). Most of our ride was on single tracks with challenging uphills and fun downhills. The temperature was really nice. The blue sky was scattered with picturesque clouds. See my gallery for yourself.
Patrick provided following stats for Serpentine climb and Kelly Lake climb:
I measured Serpentine as:
– average grade 15.2% (max 30%)
– 586' climbed
– 0.82 mi long
– took me 12:53 minutes
I found Kelly Lake just as difficult:
– average grade 11.4% (max about 33%)
– 536' climbed
– 0.87 mi long
– took me 13:30 minutes
There are 2 really steep hills on Kelly Lake (>32%). If you take out the couple of small descents, the average is more like 17.7%.