The mile high club

November 29, 2007

The Mile High Club – Get your sick minds out of the gutter, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about finishing multiple cyclo-cross races at altitudes of more than a mile. It's my new club and anyone that lives at sea level and makes it through a weekend of high altitude 'cross racing can join. Okay, it wasn't really that bad but I am feeling a bit dried out after a hard weekend of racing in Boulder, Colorado.

My team-mate, Jen, just bought a townhouse in Boulder and graciously allowed me the use of her spacious basement for the weekend. She also let me use her trainer as my flight arrived late and there was not enough light to ride on the road. One of the things I love about 'cross racing is that races tend to start late enough in the day that you can deal with stuff like building your second bike in the morning.

Saturday was quite warm and, up at the Boulder reservoir, very windy. There were multiple warnings regarding goat heads on the course. This was very worrisome as I really didn't want to flat and have to deal with gluing a tire at night. I made it a point to very carefully carry my bike across the grassy bits of parking lot and stay on the beaten path while on course. I think the previous groups did a good job removing the goat heads from the course and my tires stayed inflated the whole weekend.

The race began; I had a decent start my first time this season on the front row. The first pass in the long sand pit I got off my bike and was running when I noticed that all the other ladies were riding. The course had changed between my warm up lap and the race; we were no longer routed up stairs after the pit but up a grassy hill. Seeing the other ladies riding I thought that I too should ride that section. Therefore, on all subsequent laps I rode the long sand pit – that's much easier than running.

Jen was on her way to a great race when a gust of wind knocked a large orange course barricade onto her. She got pinned under the heavy barricade until nearby spectators wrestled it off. Luckily it was on the last bit of the last lap and her injured wrist only had to be ridden a couple of hundred metres to the finish. At the end of the race I finished eighth, not quite where I'd like to be but it could have been worse. With the dry weather my bike didn't need maintenance other than wiping sand from the chain; muddy races are fun but lots of work.

On Sunday we benefited from the time change. The altitude was making it hard for me to sleep so I was grateful to have an extra hour to hang out in bed. Sunday's course was one of the best that I have ever raced. It had fast grass, sand pits, a run up and brutal wind. Too bad my body didn't want to race hard today. After a great start things went backwards slowly. Another rider's fumble in the sand pit lost one spot, my inability to breathe lost a few more. Team-mate Amy Dombroski came past me like a train; I tried to get on her wheel but couldn't follow her up the short steep little hills. Sue Butler dropped me at the end as I had nothing left and no longer felt like fighting. During the men's race I went to the sand pit to watch and left feeling like a snail. A few of my trips through the sand pit required the inchworm move to make it out of the sand and onto the grass. I didn't see one guy doing the inchworm. Hmmm, something to work on.

A lovely dinner and a bit too much fun at a bar after the race with other bike races made for a tough Monday. Once again I was very happy to return home Monday night to the beautiful Bay Area. The airlines didn't see fit to put my bikes on the same flight so I got to experience the airline at its finest. The baggage clerk really didn't care that my two expensive precious bikes were somewhere between Denver and Oakland. She assured me that the bikes would arrive between the hours of 23:00 and 3:00, and that I would receive a call between those hours so I could give directions to my house. It took a bit of doing to finally convince the clerk that I would be sound asleep between the hours of 2300 and 300, and that I'd leave explicit directions with them so they would have no problem finding my house. They finally relented and took directions so I could enjoy a solid uninterrupted blissful night of sleep.


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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 a year of sickness and a grievous injury she is finally recovered and aiming for the podium.

Barb has recently signed with Vanderkitten Clothing and looks forward to a season representing "clothing for women who kick ass!" She currently resides in Berkeley, CA with her boyfriend, a room full of bikes and her cat. Follow her adventures here on