Barb Howe diary: Heading for the hills

This weekend it was back to my favorite swimming hole, back to the mountains and the Downieville Classic. I've been fired up about this race since I started riding again this past winter. This race is of the old school epic variety--point to point with loads of climbing and descending in between.

I've also been excited to go back to my favorite swim hole in the Yuba River. Friday morning my legs felt heavy and slow, so I cut my normal prep ride in half. Sam, Rachel Lloyd's boyfriend joined me for the drive up. He chose Downieville for his first cross country race and only owns a single speed mountain bike. We stopped at Ikeda's in Auburn for fruits, veggies and cookies before heading into the mountains. I bought a bag of the best nectarines ever. No joke, these were like eating pure ambrosia straight off the dessert cart on Mt. Olympus. They were much better than the cookies, and I have a terrible fondness for cookies.

Next stop was the swimming hole on the Yuba and not a moment too soon, the heat was starting to make me cranky. The water was still cool and clear and this time Sam and I did a bit of exploring down river. We could float from pool to pool in deeper rapids or get out of the water and hop along sun baked granite boulders when the rapids were too shallow. Sometimes I'd spot trout circling the deeper pools, other times my swimming disturbed water bugs flitted across the surface on their endless aquatic travails. We finally made it to our forested campsite in the early evening and met up with Rachel just in time for dinner.

Saturday was clear and sunny, what better way to start a race. The race starts up a long steady grade on a paved road that turns into a gravel road then into a loose rocky road. It's a mass start event--all pro's, singlespeeds, and experts start at the same time. I pushed up as far as possible trying to keep an eye on the other female competitors. I can't remember if there was a whistle, a gunshot or just some one yelling go, but the group surged forward, stopped, surged and stopped again before we really got rolling. This seemed a prudent time to move up as quickly as possible to avoid later traffic jams and people stopping on the hill in front of you.

To read the complete diary, click here.

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