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Barbarella: The Barbara Howe diary

Just as Barbarella bumps through the universe, comically oblivious to the dangers and threats being thrust at her, Barbara Howe has had a few misadventures of her own. After an illness-filled season in 2006, the 31 year-old Velo Bella rider is working to get her fitness back in 2007. Although 'cross is still the favorite discipline of the Marin County, California resident, Howe is returning to action by racing her mountain bike. When not training on and around Mt Tamalpais, she keeps busy cooking and sewing.

Follow the fortunes of this free-spirited individual here on Cyclingnews.

May 3, 2007

Epicenter of Belladom

After racing at the season opening NMBS #1 event in Phoenix, Howe went on to Sea Otter, where the Vello Bella presense was strong. Blue and pink jerseys were spotted everywhere, with road and mountain bikes always nearby.

Sea Otter is a special race because it's located at the epicenter of the Bella kingdom, or queendom if you like. The team was started in and around Monterey and many of the very first Bellas still live in the area. It's the race where the Bella vibe can clearly be seen and heard by all. For all of the years that I've raced Sea Otter, Velo Bella has had a large team booth decorated with pretty sparkly things and blasting disco music. The booth expands a bit each year, this year it was a continuous extension from the Kona trailer through the Bella booth to Vanderkitten and Zeal Optics. This year, the Bella Queen, Sabine, envisioned roller disco and her subjects obliged. There were crazy outfits and many sets of roller skates.

People huddle under tents
Photo ©: Barbara Howe
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My weekend started by driving to the home of long time Bella Laura, her husband Steve, and two dogs after work on Thursday. I've stayed with Steve and Laura for most of my Sea Otters, and it was really good to see them again. Friday morning, I woke up to sunny skies and fast trails. Natasha and I pre-rode the course enjoying clear ocean views and wildlowers. Saturday was short track but I hadn't registered in time for it so I became a spectator. I went to the venue with the Bellas who were racing short track so I could ride afterwards. A light sprinkle of rain started when we left Salinas. Upon reaching the Bella booth the light sprinkle turned into a deluge of biblical proportions. Buckets of rain threatened the integrity of a thousand EZ Ups, rivers of mud canceled the women's NRC race, and plunging temperatures goose bumped countless arms and legs.

Back at Bella HQ, Queen Sabine stood strong in the face of pending disaster by digging a drainage ditch with a plastic wine glass to prevent the creation of new wetlands. Loyal Bellas and Fellas re-lashed tarps and did their best to keep the tent canopies from amassing too much water. Through all of this several ladies did their best at staying warm and loose for the short track as it was delayed for a while. When the rain turned to a fine mist, it was time for a muddy short track.

During the rain, I thought that it was best that I hadn't been able to register for the event. However as soon as I made it to staging to cheer my teammates on I suddenly wanted to be out there myself. It kinda looked like fun, wet muddy grass, off camber down hills, plenty of people cheering, very reminiscent of 'cross. The gun went off, the ladies took off and by halfway through the first lap, Katie Compton (called up last) had a gap and never looked back. She was running deep dish carbon wheels with Dugast rhino's on her mountain, a most excellent wheel/tire combination. After the short track, I got to spend some quality time on the trainer trying to open up the legs for tomorrow's suffer fest. Saturday night, I made lentils with lemon and rosemary for everyone and Natasha treated us to delicious chocolate for desert.

Queen Sabine digs a drainage ditch
Photo ©: Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

Sunday dawned clear, sunny, and chilly. Ferocious winds had blown away the rain and what little warmth there was leaving us with deceptively cold sunshine. My nerves started up early in the morning with a stomach that didn't want to eat. They were intensified by dealing with the parking guy who flipped out to me for parking in the handicap zone even though it was his cronies that told me to park there. He then told me to park in the upper lot (which is closer to Santa Cruz than the race venue), at which time I refused insisting that there had to be parking near by not in the handicap zone. After a few tense minutes of talking and increasing irritability, another parking attendant pointed me to an empty spot no more than 100 yards away. Getting changed into cycling clothing always seem to take four times longer at the venue than at home. I could hear time ticking away in my head thinking about the race and the start and wondering if I had enough Cytomax gels.

The start always comes as a relief it means that you are finally on your way and all preparations are done if if you forgot something then you'll just have to go without. I started off feeling good, trying to stay in a good position and not get crashed on the long road section, passing when possible on the dirt. The rains had made the course even better, solidifying some of the sandy sections and turning other sections into near cement. The first lap went well, I felt strong and managed to eat and drink a fair amount.

The second lap was much much harder. My legs felt as if they were filled with molten lava and my back felt as if it wanted to seize up at the first opportunity. The final climb to the race track finish went head on into a savage head wind. There was a lady close on my wheel at the end and I didn't feel as if I had any sprint in me. I managed a small gap on a short section of single track right before the race track and when I hit the pavement peddled as hard as I could to get down the hill. If I let up at all the wind would blow me to a stop. On the final turn on the pavement it might have been a hallucination but standing on the side of the track was a whole group of people in roller skates, and I saw Sabine skating around with big silly glasses and a crazy hat. Deep inside a laugh let loose and lasted all the way to the line. Tim the mechanic was waiting with clothes and water and I gave him a hug for being there. I was very happy to finish the race and even had a decent placing, 27th.

Till next time,


Lemon and Rosemary Lentils

1 yellow onion chopped
3 lemons zested and juiced
1 1/2 cup pink lentils, rinsed
2 Tbl chopped fresh rosemary
1 large can chopped tomatoes
olive oil

In a large sauce pan, saute the chopped onion until it softens. Add lentils, tomatoes, and 2 1/2 cups of water bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add lemon juice cook for another five or so minutes. Add chopped rosemary and chopped lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.