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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.

August 29, 2007

On Sugar Mountain

The crew
Photo : Rush Howe
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This month's special recovery tip is to spend many, many hours in a car; it makes your legs feel great. Well, not really but I thought I'd try it anyway. I joined Shannon G., her brother Chris, our bikes and cases in Chris's Audi sedan for a haul from Vermont to the city where corruption and destruction spring forth, Washington DC.

Chris was a hero and drove the whole way through sun, rain and traffic, and stopping to fulfil our eating requirements. We stayed at his place in the Adams Morgan neighbourhood, enjoying scrumptious dining and urban cycling. One evening I took a metro train ride to the furthest reaches of the orange line to visit my Auntie in Annapolis. On the way home some of the District's finest inhabitants sat behind me and engaged in a rather loud inebriated and nearly violent argument. Of course they stayed on until my stop.

Chris played hooky from work for a day trip to Gambrill State Park near Frederick, Maryland. The trails there are super fun with lots of rocks, some roots and a few riders (mid-week). I must have forgotten how to ride a bike because in the first ten minutes I hit the ground twice and drew blood.

Thursday afternoon we flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, and met my father at the airport. Two hours later we were in Boone, North Carolina, enjoying a meal with the rest of the team. We then drove in the fog and dark up an ever narrowing gravel road to our home for the weekend, the Hilltop Hideaway Cabin. The name says it all, the cabin was at the end of the road at the very top of a mountain and in the morning the view was breathtaking.

The rain followed us from Vermont so that we could have more mud and slippery roots. The pre-ride gave me a few more bruises, but I really enjoyed the course. It has lots of climbing and some very technical descending.

On race day the rain held off for the start of our race. After worming my way forward in the start grid I went as hard as I could knowing that I'd lose most of my time on the downhill. The bottom was so steep and slippery that I was in the granny gear for a long time hoping that my back would cooperate and not freak out.

The ladies looking focused
Photo : Rush Howe
(Click for larger image)

As the gradient decreased we were quite spread out. I got into a nice tempo with a few other ladies around me, and I hauled it to the top. 'Disastrous' is the word for my first time down the descent. I mentally lost it while in the midst of rolling over a rock, stopped put my foot down, slipped on the slimy rock and landed hard and ungracefully on my hip. Ouch! After that I spent more time running the hard parts in hopes of minimizing ground collisions. By the third lap it was all I could do to make it up the steep bottom climb without dismounting.

On one of the fire roads I reached for a Cytomax gel to find my pockets empty. Somewhere my gels had ejected on to the course... damn it! I really could have used the sugar. Then it started to rain. It wasn't bad until the dark part in the forest. Between flinging mud, darkness and steam on my glasses I couldn't see anything at all, so I stopped to remove the glasses, and carefully pocket them in hopes that they wouldn't get ejected. The final descent was uneventful (as in no spectacular or damaging crashes) and I was happy to finish in 23rd place.

Sunday's short track wasn't as painful as the previous week. After a long warm up to work the kinks out of the old legs Wendy Simms and I had a few vicious warm up sprints; she won. Maybe because it was my last short track of the year and things were finally coming together, maybe it's because my dad was there watching, who knows. For what ever reason, this was by far the best of the season.

I pushed my legs hard each lap, keeping it in the big ring up the hill and trying to be super smooth on the downhill. Every lap my legs hurt more, towards the end it was as if they were filled with rabid wasps. At three to go Frosty made me quit racing thus ending my attempt to actually finish a short track this season. There's always next year. Due to a cheaper entry fee and longer time spent racing, this short track cost only $1.28/minute. What a bargain!

Stay tuned for next week's adventures into multi-sport.



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Images by Rush Howe