La vie de vélo

Adventures in cycling and life

Counting Coup 2009

44 mile MTB race, point-to-point with 8800 ft of vertical starting at 5:30 am. Am I insane? Probably. But it might be worth it since it was a great time and I got my first victory of the year!

Packing felt different than your standard race. I was even more OCD than normal, going over my checklist again and again to make sure I didn’t forget any crucial tools, clothing or food.


Joselyne and I woke up at 1:45 (yes thats AM) and drove down to OC. It was a 5:30am start with lights along blackstar canyon road (20 min outside of Tustin).


We started by climbing a 10 mile fireroad in the near dark. At least a few folks forgot to bring a light and crashed in the ruts. After about an hour of climbing, we hit the ridge. Seeing the sun rise over the inland empire from the ridge top was a sight I will not soon forget.


Then the road traversed the ridge; the up-and-down roller coaster was fun on the way down and brutally steep on the way up (we’re talking granny gear grinds ala the Catway trails). Next it was a 3 mile semi-technical singletrack descent with lots of exposed cliffs and loose shale. The next climb was the kicker – almost 14 miles of steady uphill fireroad taking us up Silverado Canyon, Maple Springs, Modjeska Peak on the way to Santiago peak at 5500 ft.


There were huge patches of snow/ice on the backside that made the descent interesting. (btw a lot of these pics are from various riders on STR .. I was not dedicated enough to take consistent photos)


Down a little lower the descent down Holy Jim trail was epic .. tight, twisty, exposed technical singletrack. Lots of drop offs, berms, stream crossings and great views. For 8 miles. From there its was cranking the big ring back along a heavily-used dirt road to the finish line.

For as many riders as there were on the opening climb, I spent most of the day riding alone, chasing down a few lone riders on the climbs. Once again I used my start-slow-and-work-up method which preserved my energy for the final miles but left me with absolutely no clue as to where my competitors were. I battled with leg cramps all day but somehow managed to keep the legs turning. I ended up finishing in 4:20 and was pretty delirious at this point .. when they told me I won, it took a few minutes to register.

I should mention though that this race runs concurrent with the Vision Quest which adds on another 14 miles and 3000+ vertical .. most of the top dogs (incl. Manny Prado who holds the course record) were doing the longer version. I wonder how the VQ split times compared to mine?

And to top it all off, the post race festivities at O’Neil Park included lunch by El Pollo Loco (I kinda felt like I was cheating on Chicken Ranch .. I swear it was just a one-time thing), naps under the sycamore trees and many more painful leg cramps.

All the kudos are belong to Joselyne for her support, driving, help with packing and her 10.25 mile run to pass the time while she waited for me to finish at Trabuco (running 10 miles is far more hardcore than biking 44!)

Probably the best race/cycling event I’ve been a part of. The vibe was more of an epic group adventure than a race. The Warriors Society and the volunteers that made it happen deserve a huge thank you! The aid stations were fully stocked with gels, bar and banannas, the logistics were well organized (no small feat for a point-to-point wilderness race) and the crowd support for such a remote race was truly impressive.


The event only has room for 350 riders each year and they sold out this year within the first day .. when registration rolls around for 2010, I’d urge anyone with aspirations of epic MTB racing to sign up.

EDIT: Results are in. And some photos of me here and here.


March 8, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. What about the chicken coop?! That was one of the best parts of the day! Oh, and your wonderful girlfriend who drove our tired selves all the way back home… 🙂

    Comment by jawsome | March 8, 2009 | Reply

  2. Congratulations Matt!! I’m happy that I didn’t see the picture of the snowy, slippery, icy trail above the steep drop off BEFORE you did the race.

    Comment by MUZ | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  3. Wow! You have a VERY nice girlfriend!

    Comment by Sarah | March 9, 2009 | Reply

  4. ouch

    Comment by John Comunale | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  5. OUCH!

    Comment by John Comunale | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  6. Awesome race dude! I wish I would have seen you at the finish… I was 13 minutes behind. You killed it!!! Congrats.

    Comment by jameson | March 11, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: