Archive for October, 2007


Kona 24 hours in the Old Pueblo

Oct 31, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling, Mountain Bike

The Kona 24 hours in the Old Pueblo is a 24 hour mountain bike race down near Tuscon that is on February 16, 2008.  Robert, Chris Z, and I have agreed we’re doing the event together as a team.  We need to find a 4th (at least, it would be a good idea if we did), but otherwise, we are all committed.  When doing the event as a team, the event takes on a relay format.  One rider does a lap, and hands the baton to the next rider, and so on. 

Having done it before as a 4-man team, I’m going to guess we’ll probably do around 16 laps.  It’s tough to say though, as when I did this event before, the course was 17 miles long, and now it’s been shortened a bit to 15 miles.  And not knowing who our 4th rider will be (assuming we get one), doesn’t make this guessing game any easier.  Robert will definitely learn a lot about himself in the event, as he’s never really done any type of distance racing.  Knowing what it feels like to be running on pure cardio, because you’ve burned every last bit of quick energy out of your system is what this type of event is all about.  That and riding at 2 am, when it’s 30 degrees outside, and your cold, tired, and it’s pitch black outside.

My last entry into the event was back in 2004.  Our 4-man team completed 18 laps to finish in 12th place out of 86 teams, so we were pretty happy with our results.

Robert needs to get busy getting some miles in so that the event doesn’t kill him, but I think Chris and I are already in good enough shape that we can each complete at least 4 decent laps without much worry.  Should be a good time, but we have lots to do to get ready for this event in less than 4 months.

El Tour de Tuscon

Oct 31, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling

Chris Z has been prodding me a bit to consider entering the 25th Annual El Tour de Tuscon, which is coming up on November 17th.  He’s planning to do the 109 mile length, which will be his personal longest ever ride in one day.  I think he’s done the MS 150 a number of times, but that’s a 2 day event.

We rode together on Sunday, doing 45 miles or so, and felt pretty good doing it.  I don’t think either felt significantly faster than the other, as we stayed together easily, and for the most part just moved along at a comfortable pace for each of us.  I felt reasonably good at the end of Sunday’s ride, so I’m giving the Tour de Tuscon some serious consideration.  109 miles in one stretch on a road bike would be similar to the 52 miles in one stretch I did for the Tour of the White Mountains on my mountain bike.  I’d probably finish the 109 miles in a very similar time, and feel about the same when I was done…dog tired, but alive.  And since my mountain bike is currently out of commission, this would give me even more encouragement to ride my road bike, with a bit of a very near term goal.

I dunno.  I’m thinking about it is about all I can say right now.

Regardless, we’re loosely planning some more training rides this weekend, and that’ll probably help me decide how strong I feel.  I’ll have to get a feel from Jan whether she wants to take a weekender to Tuscon, as that would definitely help if she could be there.

Tour of the White Mountains Results

Oct 14, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling, Mountain Bike Tags:,

Over on MTBR I posted this ride report.  There’s no sense in re-hashing the whole thing here, so just click on over.  Yesterrday (and why I’ve waited this long to post here), they posted the results. Of 30 finishers in my category, I finished 27th.  That doesn’t sound great, until you consider how many DNFs there had to have been.  I mean look at the pre-race photo with nearly everyone starting.  I figure close to 100 started, so that means something like 50  or so must have DNFed.

That makes me a feel a little better.  I’m still pretty stoked to have finished.  That was a tough ride.  I’m somewhat glad my friend Chris didn’t go with me.  He wasthinking the 41 might be all he could handle, and I’d have done that with him.  The 41 would have been no challenge (at least to finish), while the 52 had me concerned through the first quarter of the race that I might not finish.  Plus, the only part I got lost in was a section that the 52 does differently than the 41.  What fun would it have been, if I didn’t get lost like everyone else?

Industry Nine WheelsMy bike, on the other hand, is feeling the effects of age.  Both my front and rear wheel are basically shot.  So this week, I did some research and settled on a set of Industry Nine wheels.  These are the new “latest thing” in chi-chi things for your bike, and so, of course, I need a set.  Unfortunately it’s going to be a while.  Speedgoat says 6-8 weeks before they are in. 

Standard J-bend spokes To the untrained eye, these probably don’t look all that special (aside from the red color), but looking closely, you’ll notice that the spokes attach to the hub in a very different and unique way.  Well, not that unique, because the Mavic CrossMax wheels attach similarly, but compared to a “standard” hub, these spokes are unique.  A standard spoke attaches to the hub via an eyelet that requires the spoke to have a J-bend at the end.  The spoke slides through the eyelet, and the J-bend allows the spoke to make the 90 degree turn it needs to.  In order for the spoke to be strong enough to be bent and still take all of the stress it has to, the spoke is thicker.  High end spokes are thicker at the ends, and then thinner in the middle, but they still suffer from breakage at the ends, due to the bend.

An advantage with the Industry Nine hub, is in the weight savings they can have, at the same or even higher strength, in comparison to a traditional hub.  With no J-bend, the spokes can be a bit thinner, making each spoke lighter, while still providing the same or higher strength.  That alone is a huge benefit.  But another benefit of the Industry Nine hub is in how quickly they engage thanks to their internal pawl design.  My CrossMax’s engage after about 8 degrees of wheel rotation.  On technical climbing sections, that’s very noticable, and at times a bit frustrating, as you lose some of your stomping power waiting for the hub to engage, especially while trying to get over a tricky rock or ledge.  If you wanted better, Chris King makes beautiful hubs with engagement in 5 degrees.  For over a decade, they were indeed the King.  But now Industry Nine has come along and done them 2 degrees better, with engagement in just 3 degrees.  Oh, and these new hubs are even lighter than the King hubs…simply amazing.

My only concern about the new hubs is that I can’t get the rim I wanted to lace them to.  That would have been a Mavic XM 819.  Why that rim?  Because it’s a UST rim, and thus well suited to going tubeless.  Instead, I’ll be learning how to get the equipped DT XR 4.1 to hold air without tubes.  DT provides a tubeless kit, which I’m getting, and hopefully it works better than I’ve read from some reports.

The final bit of fun, required by the new wheelset, is that these are disc brake wheels.  My bike has always had V-Brakes, so along with the new wheels comes new disc brakes.  I chose the Formula Oro Puro disc brakes, because they are light weight, and they have received nearly perfect reviews from everyone that’s ever used them and offered up an opinion.  The Formula’s are a relative newcomer, just like Industry Nine, so I guess I’m on the bleeding edge with regard to my new brakes as well.  Hopefully all installs well, here in a month or two.

For now, I’m going to focus on a bit more road riding.  I took the Orbea out for 45 miles yesterday, and a brief 26 miler today.  I like riding my road bike, I just don’t like riding it while having to share the road with cars.  Yesterday’s ride felt very good.  Much better than the same ride from 3 weeks ago, so it looks like I must be getting a little bit more fitness, which is certainly nice.

Off to the Tour of the White Mountains

Oct 05, 2007 by Steve Belt in Mountain Bike

I’m leaving Phoenix within an hour to ride the Tour of the White Mountains. I’ve decided to give the 52 mile distance the go, assuming the event will let me register for it when I arrive (since I’m still not registered). I figured what the heck, you only die once.

I’ll have my new camera. Hopefully I catch a decent photo or 2.

WordPress 2.3 Upgrade

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General Tags:, ,

WordpressWordPress is the software for this blogging platform.  They released their latest version 9 days ago, and I naturally waited for the more experienced bloggers to do the upgrade before I ventured into the craziness.  I figured let someone else be the guinea pigs.  Well, there were enough posts about it for me to get a feel for what to look out for, so I’m giving it a shot.

First I saved off my private content, which turned out to be super easy, with the database backup plug-in that I have.   Then I de-activated all of my plug-ins.  Then I downloaded the new upgraded onto the server, and overwrote my wordpress installation with the new files.  I was supposed to delete everything first, but that seemed a tad risky…I don’t like deleting if I don’t have to. 

Next, I ran the upgrade script which took less than a second.  In fact it was so fast, I thought for sure something didn’t work.  From there, I went back to the plug-ins page and sure enough, I could see one new feature work right away, the plug-ins upgrade alerter.  I got busy downloading all of the upgraded plug-ins, and activating everything that was active before.

As a test I wrote a test post, which immediately failed with this error:

WordPress database error: [Table ‘wordpress.wpsteve_categories’ doesn’t exist]
SELECT c.cat_ID AS ID, MAX(p.post_modified) AS last_mod FROM `wpsteve_categories` c, `wpsteve_post2cat` pc, `wpsteve_posts` p WHERE pc.category_id = c.cat_ID AND p.ID = pc.post_id AND p.post_status = 'publish' AND p.post_type='post' GROUP BY c.cat_id

Ugh. That’s not what I was hoping for.  I went to the Wordpress’ release notes, which stated that the categories table was removed.  This meant the offensive code above surely must have been a plug-in that hadn’t upgraded.  I decided to turn off my 2 sitemap plug-ins, because neither had an available upgrade, and sure enough, I can now save without error.  Now I just need to get a new auto-sitemap generator.

Otherwise, it all looks good.  As a result of the upgrade, I’m finally going to get around to implementing tags, since that was the #1 new feature of WordPress 2.3, while before you needed a plug-in to get tag support.

Update: The Google Sitemap-XML Plug-in that was giving me grief was updated by the author today.  I’ve downloaded the new version of the plug-in and it seems to be working as exptected.  Nice work.  I think this basically gets me back to even, and only in about an hour.  Not bad, really.

Ninjitsu update

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in General

Maui Saito NinjitsuI posted about Maui Saito’s Ninjitsu on the Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog today.  That post describes a bit about what Master Maui’s trying to teach and how it differs from many of the martial arts programs that are out there.

But, you haven’t heard anything about what I’m actually doing.  I’m loving the martial arts training there.  Right now I’m a yellow belt, along with Hayley and Emily.  I’m getting somewhat close to trying for my orange belt.  I just wish I could attend more of the open session Friday afternoon classes.  On Fridays, Maui and I are able to look over the test and see what I don’t yet know, and then I can practice those items in more depth.  I really love being there on Friday, but because his Friday session is 3pm-6pm, it’s not always possible for me to get in there that early.

As an example of the kind of “fun” we are having, on Monday we actually hit each other for the first time.  We practiced our most powerful punch struck into each other’s stomach.  First we’d strike just to brush their gi, and then we’d strike to make a 1″ penetration of their stomach.  Master Maui hit me as hard as he can, with almost 1″ penetration (I think he held back a tiny bit), and since it was my stomach, it really didn’t hurt.  I could feel his power, but no pain at all.  Then we all practiced that on each other, and honestly, it was fun.  At least, it was fun for me to hit someone without the intent NOT to hurt them.  1″ into a fleshy area, like your stomach won’t hurt.  1″ penetration into a rib, could actually break a rib, and that was the purpose of the practice: get used to punches with an intent not to damage, but still demonstrate our proficiency with the move.

Along with punching, we practice blocking (typically more time is spent here), wrist grabs (the most painful thing we practice), tumbling so that you don’t get hurt, and sword play (like a samurai).  The sword work is very interesting, and while I never thought of myself as any type of gymnast, I’m reasonably good at tumbling now.

One thing we’ve done very little of is practice kicking.  We’ll get to it I know, but it’s not something that we need at this point in our understanding of the art.

I started doing Ninjitsu as a chance to do something with Hayley and Emily, together as a family.  However, Emily has shown that she doesn’t like being with all of the adults that are now in the class at our 6pm timeslot on Monday/Wednesday.  So, we are moving her to an earlier timeslot where she can practice with a couple of other kids her size and age.  Master Maui says Emily is among his best young students.  In the current class, she basically refuses to practice with Hayley or an any other adult besides Maui and I.  So she’s often sitting around unhappy.  Hopefully she’ll feel more comfortable around the younger crowd, and even challenged to do as well as Maui’s other good young students.

Hayley is staying with me at 6pm.  She’s in Study Squad with Oxford after school, which helps get her homework done, so I don’t want to mess that up.

New domain name for the real estate blog

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in General

When I started the Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog I didn’t give much thought to the domain name.  Instead, I wanted it to be free, and since I had the domain, adding blog at the front was indeed free.

But since the blog is doing so well, it’s time to revisit that decision.  I’ve done some hunting around and found a name I like.  It becomes available in October, so with any luck I’ll get it.  I’m not going to share it now, on the off chance that the owner could somehow see it here, but the domain name does include Phoenix in it, which I think is important for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) reasons. 

I’ve also got my eyes on another domain name for a Scottsdale focused blog.  This blog would differ from my current blog, in that it would focus solely on Scottsdale news and real estate information, while the current blog is general to Phoenix, real estate, and even national content.  The blogging description for this new Scottsdale blog would be “hyper-local”, and I’ll do my best to stay on topic and up-to-date with useful content.

Halo 3 unleashed

Oct 03, 2007 by Steve Belt in General

This’ll be quick.  I purchased Halo 3 for the XBox 360 on Tuesday, unwrapped it and got busy.  Nice game.  Not much different than Halo 2, but you gotta love a game that has essentially no loading screens.  There seem to be more cut scenes in Halo 3 than in Halo 2.  Otherwise the action and play is about the same.

Viewed on my big screen in HD is really cool.  There are times when I’m honestly started by an attack from the site and jump out of my seat, due to the sound quality and immersion.

I was never a die-hard Halo fan, but it is a fun game for a first person shooter.  I suck at first person shooters, but Halo is very playable even still.

The Tour is 5 days away

Oct 01, 2007 by Steve Belt in General, Mountain Bike

Ok, the Tour of the White Mountains is just 5 days away, and I still haven’t selected a distance.  Unless my friend Chris Z goes and does the 52 miler, I’m leaning toward the 41 miler.  Right now, I’m feeling more concerned with finishing the event than pressing myself to my limits…although I don’t exactly know why that is.

Last weekend I got 2 nice training rides in.  The first was Pemberton to Windgate Pass.  I’ve been looking up at Windgate Pass almost daily since it was built, and every attempt at making it to the top from the West side has failed.  So I tried it from the East side, via Pemberton, and while the final 3/4 of a mile is anything but ridable for a normal human, after riding 10 miles to get to that point, I wasn’t about to give up with the top in sight.

Sunday’s ride was out at Usery Park, doing the Pass Mountain trail.  This trail is listed at just 7.1 miles,but somehow it took me 2 hrs to complete.  Imagine that pace for 50 miles?  Fortunately Pass Mountain isn’t representative of the type of trail we’ll see next weekend.  What it is, however, is a total body workout.  That trail will test your balance, your nerve, your upper and lower body strength, and darned near every other skill necessary to be a good mountain bike rider.

Here are some trail side photos I took with my new Canon SD870is (click to enlarge):

Pass Mountain Trailhead

Ledgy Climb at Pass Mountain

Backside of Pass Mountain

The “top” at Pass Mountain

Changed the header image

Oct 01, 2007 by Steve Belt in Blogging, General

Friday night I sat on the roof of the office and shot photos for 45 minutes as the sun went down.  Then I doctored and toyed with them, and finally selected this image for the new banner image on the real estate blog:

 Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog Header Image

What do you think?