Race Report :: 2004 Howell Mountain Challenge

Date: August 15, 2004
Event: Howell Mountain Challenge MTB Race, Angwin, CA
Category: Expert 35-39
Place: 3rd
Team mates: Laurent & Roger (in different categories)

This is a great event. Sure there’s the heat (high 80’s), the poison oak (everywhere), and the hammer heads (no Sunday ride). But, forget about all that and think about the sweet single-track, the fast fireroad descents, the crazy technical “whoop-de-doos”. Ah, this race is fun.

I hitched a ride up to the event with my team mate Laurent in his 30 year old Volkswagon bus. It’s lowered, low profile tires, and no suspension. Laurent managed to hit every pothole on the way up and back. “The roads are terrible!” he said. Oh, you’re right, must not be the bus without suspension. Ha ha!

Volkswagon Bus Volkswagon Bus Mirrors

Still, it’s a very cool ride and we arrived in style. Actually arrived early and parked in the main lot, a first! Registered, dressed, and headed out onto the course for a warmup. We spun the first half of the course and dropped back to the start.

Lined up, watched the pros head out and then the youger experts. Our turn next and bang, off we went. Pace was fast from the start. Always a dash for the dirt. The course start changed a bit this year. There is now a 30 foot hike-a-bike 3/4 of the way up the first fire road. It was added because the college, which owns the land we race on, sold off the portion at the top for houses. There’s now several big McMansions sitting there. Argh. Very sad.

At the top of the climb the lead group started pulling away. I watched as they slowly left me as I battled the flats past the airport. Motored on and chased hard down and over to the single-track. Soon the twisty trail, woods, and their pace left me in no man’s land. I was stuck racing solo. This continued throughout most of the race. I would catch and pass riders here and there but most of the time I was solo. One younger expert rider did play cat and mouse with me for the 3rd lap. That was good motivation for me to keep the pace up.

Dropped on down off the mountain at the end of the third lap and chased down a final rider at the finish. Just had to sprint to the line for the heck of it.

Didn’t feel too bad afterwards. A little dehydrated but not as fried as I have been in the past. Ate about 2 oranges they had sliced up at the water booth. Those tasted great! Larry walked up, all clean already from his race. He only had to do 2 laps. He had a good race even after partying a little too much the night before. I would have coughed up my cookies if I had done that.

The thoughts of poison oak were starting to make me itch so I headed to the showers. Ah, showers! Another great benefit of this race. We get to use the gym locker room afterwards. Washed myself down with Tecnu and removed the beastly poison oak oil that I know was stuck all over me.

Howell Mt. Challenge Awards

Took my time heading back to the awards ceremony. When I got there a couple friends say that I had been called up for a medal. Huh? I didn’t think I was in contention. I stroll up to Mike (runs the event, nice guy) and let him know who I am. He says someone who said they knew me had picked up the medal. Hmm, who could be? The only person I can think of that was around is my team mate Roger. Ok, he probably picked it up. (Update: Nope, he doesn’t have it. So, someone has the medal).

Villa Corona Mexican Restaurant

Now it was time to head out and get some food. We packed up and joined a crew for burritos over in Saint Helena at Villa Corona. For some reason a nice warm burrito after a hard race is such a great combination. I had a really tasty veggie burrito super style. I recommend this place if you are in town.

Meal done, we hopped in the vehicles and headed home. Another fine day of racing.


Howell Mountain Challenge, Pacific Union College, Angwin, Ca

Villa Corona – Inexpensive good mexican – 1138 Main, St. Helena, Ca


  1. jim

    >> Ah, showers! Another great benefit of this race.
    Do many of your events have showers available after teh ride? I’ve only had two. One was a high school gymnasium, the other was a shower truck the race sponsor rented.
    Did you ever track down your medal?

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