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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.
January 20, 2009
A brisk weekend
I just survived my annual trip to the Hamptons for Whitmore's Landscaping Super Cross Cup final round of the NACT. This is my third trip to this race and I keep coming back because Long Island is beautiful in the fall, host housing is the best and Myles, the promoter, pays the top five women prize money equal to that of the men.
California had been enjoying above average temperatures for the past week or so….along the lines of riding home from work in the dark wearing only shorts and a jersey kind of temperatures. So the temperature on Long Island was a bit of a shock to the system. I was smart enough to bring my new knee length down coat, a questionably purchase when one lives in coastal California. Will I ever need to wear it in Berkeley? Probably not, but its function as a sleeping bag that you can walk in was greatly appreciated all weekend long.
Tim and I got in late Thursday night and had luck on our side as we found our host housing in the woods without mishap. It's the same place I stayed last year and in the absence of then World Champion Erwin Vervecken we got upgraded to the World Champion guesthouse. We had our very own glass house in the woods for the weekend, complete with rafters of turkeys and herds of deer wandering past the floor to ceiling windows.
Friday's pre-ride went well, I got to ride around with Sue Butler (recently inked Single Speed Cyclocross World Champion) for a bit. I didn't get to see her new tattoo but I did see a picture of her in her golden single Speedo. We rode the course in both directions as Saturday's race went clockwise and Sunday's race counterclockwise. It was chilly out but not yet frigid. On my scale of bike riding in the cold it was an earwarmer and legwarmer day.
On Saturday air started blowing in from the Arctic because it was about ten degrees cooler with high winds. This caused an upgrade to hat, wind front base layer and if I had remembered to put them in my race bag, tights. It's not often that you see people warming up in down jackets. I was cold at the start; the thin Lycra of a skin suit doesn't offer much warmth for the area between the top of your legwarmers and the bottom of your skin suit. A thermal skin suit would have felt really good on a day like this.
My start was slow and as we went in to the twists and turns of the course I was in about fourteenth place. Not really where I wanted to be and for the first time all season my legs agreed with my brain. Together (legs and brain) we made some good passes on bumpy grass sections and had enough juice to keep it together in the single track and on the slowest paved downhill I've ever had in a race. The normally fast downhill was cancelled out by the mighty and cold wind blowing straight up. You had to pedal quite hard to get to the bottom.
I was happy with my ninth place finish because it gives me hope of one day being fast again. As soon as the race was over I got in the car and turned on the heat. I didn't really need a cool down, I was already cold. Just so everyone doesn't think I'm all soft from living in California I queried several Canadians regarding the weather conditions and they all agreed that it was cold.
When Tim and I left our glass house on Sunday morning it was already warmer than Saturday's high temperature. I remembered my tights this time and downgraded my headgear to just an ear warmer but I kept the wind front base layer. Another slow start put me in a not so good position, my legs worked well for the first two laps and I moved into ninth place.
Then my legs quit working and I went into damage control mode and tried not to go backwards too quickly. I finished in twelfth place two spots away from UCI points. Once again I went straight to the car to put on more clothing. Because it was so much warmer today a cool down spin (in my mobile sleeping bag) seemed like a good idea. The spin lasted about three minutes before the better idea of getting out of bike clothing and into normal clothing took over.
Tim and I spectated the men's race while socializing with Natasha Elliot. You might remember her from my last trip to Belgium. She's stepped it up a notch this year so expect to see good results for her this Christmas season in Belgium.
To top off my weekend I fit both bikes and six wheels into my bike case in less than thirty minutes. Does it get any better than that?
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Tim Gasperak / gasperak.com