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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, and a grievous injury in late 2007 she is working to get her fitness back by 2009. Although 'cross is still the favorite discipline of the California resident, she has been known to ride her mountain bike in the mountains for hours on end. She currently resides in Berkeley, California with her cat and eight bikes.

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

August 23, 2008

A late start and a new beginning

Family holiday at the beach.
Photo : Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

For the past several months I've been trying to write a diary to update everyone on the condition of my injury. I've written several and liked none of them. Here I am almost eight months later finally writing a diary I like and I think it happened because I'm finally putting a number on again and racing.

I was quite nervous about my first race back for several reasons, the least of them being that my last race was eight months ago. It was going to be hot in Napa, there's tons of poison oak in the area and I wasn't sure how my ankle was going to take to a long hot race. I've put in several long hot mountain bikes rides in the mountains over the summer but they all somehow involved taking long mid-ride breaks and swimming in rivers.

My team-mate Shannon Edson took the hole shot trying to keep up with her put me in a world of hurt as I haven't gone that hard in a very long time. I was very impressed by the single speeder who put the hurt on me for part of the first lap. I finally caught her on a steep climb.

In the second lap I had a stupid crash and was passed by Jaime Stamps. I landed on the heel of my palm and bruised the thumb attachment making shifting very difficult. On the third lap my ankle started to hurt. (I have about one hundred more excuses for this race but that would get boring) I could feel that it was swollen and descents jiggled it around uncomfortably.

This was when I decided to make the most of the rear suspension on my Hei Hei Supreme. One of the reasons I got the bike was because I figured that it would be more comfortable on my cripple foot than a hard tail. I figured correctly and sat down for several of the downhills, not the fastest way to get to the bottom but more comfortable on my cranky foot.

One of the highlights of the race was on the 'whoops section' when a spectator yelled at me (or perhaps the guy next to me) "shred the gnar." It's been several years since I've heard that phrase and even longer since it's been directed at me. It would be a very long stretch of the imagination to use the word "shred" to describe my descending style unless "shred" is referring to the state of my skin after crashing.

Riding in the mountains.
Photo : Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

Either way I had a much needed laugh towards the end of the race. Upon finishing my left leg acted as if it was going to cramp but I never got the knife twisting in my leg feeling. However I was lucky enough to get all the benefits of a cramp without the cramp itself. That muscle hurt for about two days. It feels really good to get the first race post injury out of the way.

Here are some things I should have already addressed but didn't.


Will you be racing 'cross this fall?
Heck yeah. I'm very excited to race cross this fall and I have some unfinished business over in Belgium.

How long were you off the bike?
Three months. I had to wear the hobbling boot until week eight then I had to relearn how to walk and get enough range of motion in my foot before I could ride.

Top secret raining at an undisclosed location in northern California.
Photo : Barbara Howe
(Click for larger image)

What did you do all of that time?
Pondered the meaning of life, worked and did lots of PT. Being unable to walk makes all of your daily routines take twice as long as normal so I didn't really have too much free time. I did get to spend a week at the beach with my family in March. Swimming in the ocean and trying to walk in the sand was excellent PT. I also worked hard on perfecting a breakfast crepe recipe. I'm still working on that one.

Did you stay active while wearing the boot?
As active as a person can be in a hobbling boot. I swam a few days a week to keep myself sane. I also rode the trainer an hour at a time every other day while wearing the boot. I set up the trainer in the garage and watched poorly dubbed kung fu movies on my laptop to take my mind off the mindless task of riding the trainer.

Coming soon and a waffle recipe in next week's diary!


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by Barbara Howe