Archive for the 'Cycling' Category


Thinking on two wheels

Aug 03, 2009 by Steve Belt in Cycling, Mountain Bike

Iím currently planning my cycling events for the year and working to get back into better riding shape, now that the worst of the heat of the summer is starting to inch behind me.† Iím already registered for The Tour of the White Mountains (TOWM) and El Tour de Tucson (ETT).† TOWM is October 3, so just 2 short months away.† Iím signed up for the 65 mile course along with Chris Z.† Robert and Chris M are supposed to sign up any day now.† This is the distance we attempted and failed miserably at last year, having finished only ~45 miles of the course, before being forced to DNF by race organizers as the rain/lightning was about to pound us into submission.† Honestly, I was toast anyway, so the rain didnít actually stop me.

Finishing the 65 miles will be challenging.† Itís a challenging course, and even without the challenge, just riding 65 miles on a mountain bike is a long ride on dirt.† Currently, my strength is well off what I need, while my endurance is only off by a bunch.† Stated differently: I could ride 65 easy miles without much worry, but TOWM doesnít offer 65 easy milesÖthey are tough, high altitude miles.† That means more hill climbing work in the McDowells over the next two months to build my strength up.† Sunday, I had visions of a Sunrise climb, but failed 1/3 the way up, as I was simply feeling ďcookedĒ, from the early morning heat at only 7:30am.† Due to misplaced sunglasses, I left my house at 6:30am, which was 30 minutes later than intended, and under the direct sun, just couldnít motivate myself to push through both the heat and the pain of the climb.† I still rode for 90 minutes, but it wasnít pretty, and demonstrated to me, just how far out of mountain biking shape I really am right now.

For ETT, my goal isnít to just finish.† Iíve finished the 109 mile event the last 2 years in a row.† Two years ago it was in 6 hrs 23 min, and last year in 6 hrs 1 min.† Both results were Silver medal finishes.† Gold medal finishers are under 6 hours.

Naturally, this year, Iíve got my sights set on Gold.† And I donít want to just make Gold, I want to cruise comfortably into a Gold finish.† That means 5 hrs and no more than 45 mins.† 5 hrs 30 mins would be better.† Iím currently riding the 45 mile Cave Creek loop in under 3 hours, including the necessary stop at Cave Creek Coffee Company.† Thatís a good start, but I need to lop off a good 30 minutes from that ride/route.† I love the route for itís relative lack of traffic, and similarity to ETTís course conditions, so itís tough to want to mess with a good thing, but I found a way to add 9 miles, including another 3 mile climb, without adding any traffic, so from now on, my Cave Creek ride will be 54 miles.

The other big ride I have yet to do this season is the Rio Verde around the mountain ride.† Thatís roughly 50 miles, but it includes either going up 9 mile hill (up Dynamite Road from Rio Verde) or the 10% grades that are in Fountain Hills, depending on which direction is ridden.† Either way, itís no picnic, with terrain significantly harder that ETT, and thus why itís a good training ride.

But the ride I really want to complete during preparations this season, and if I can Iíll know 6 hours is well within my grasp, is the Bartlett Lake Dam ride.† From my house itís nearly a 75 mile ride.† And itís either up or downÖthereís almost nothing flat about the ride.† I tried it last year, and failed to get to Bartlett Lake, riding only 50 miles, instead of the 75.† It was brutally windy that day,† but I know itís a ride I need to conquer if I really think a Gold finish is within my grasp this year.

FYI, the Bartlett Lake ride is one that Lance Armstrong was known to ride back in his US Postal days when he stopped in Scottsdale after visiting Tucson to ride Mount Lemmon.† I suppose thatís the allure for me as well.† If itís good enough for Lance, itís certainly good enough for me.

Iím also 100% committed to riding the 24 hrs in the Old Pueblo again.† Team Are We Dead Yet? will hopefully continue to build on itís experience and strengths and find a way to complete 14 laps this year.† If we can stop sleeping together as a team, I think we can do it.

Iím also probably going to ride Tour de Phoenix (April 2010?), as Chris Z said he really enjoyed the ride last year.† Itís 75 miles, and seems poorly named as the ride never once pedals over any portion of Phoenix soil, but the ride should be fun, and a great way to maintain my fitness/focus after the 24 hr race, which annually seems to be a problem for me.

Car/brush fire blocks I-17 northbound

Jul 15, 2009 by Steve Belt in Cycling, iPhone photo

I was attempting to head north to Flagstaff to ride my mountain bike in the relative cool, when traffic came to a halt. A small U-Haul had caught fire and pulled well off the freeway. The car fire then started a brush fire that is now burning ong both sides of the northbound lanes near the old Sunset Point rest area.

The view sucks here

Dec 06, 2008 by Steve Belt in Cycling, iPhone photo

…from the Gateway Saddle in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

Final Random Thoughts about el Tour de Tucson

Nov 25, 2008 by Steve Belt in Cycling

I thought I’d share just a few more random thoughts about the experience riding el Tour de Tucson, not so much related to my ride, but all of the many, many things surrounding it.† These will appear in no particular order, but just musings and stuff that come to mind.

  • Next year I’m setting a goal of 5.5 hrs elapsed time.† That’s going to require serious training to attain.
  • Throughout the ride, it was amazing that every single intersection is blocked off and made safe/ready for riders.† I said thank you at least 30 times to various officers and feel sad that that was a tiny fraction of the number of people I would have liked to say thank you to.
  • I can be faster in the wash crossings…I don’t know why I walk so slow through them.
  • It will be nice to have teeth and no Invisilign braces next year.
  • I need to ride during the week next year…even if it’s just quick 1 hour mountain bike rides from my house.
  • Pizza and beer after a 6 hour ride taste better, even if the beer is only Michelob Ultra and the beer comes from Pizza Hut.
  • Having a non-riding friend (or two) there to see you start/finish is really cool.† Thanks Lori and Chrissy!
  • There was a crash at some point along the race in which a car pulled out in front of a group, and caused 10 cyclists to crash.† One of those cyclist was still in critical care on Sunday.† The driver got out of the car, saw the carnage, and sped off.† Police are still looking for him.† I hope the police find him.
  • My bike amazes me for how comfortable it is over such a long ride.† My right foot was falling asleep a little, but overall, very little road vibration transmits through the bike to me.† Thanks Orbea!
  • I made 3 last second changes to my gear/bike.† For all 3, this was their maiden voyage:
    1. I rode a tubeless tire up front from Stan’s.† It worked perfectly. I wasn’t feeling brave enough to go tubeless on both wheels, but I will before my next ride.
    2. I used a brand new Giro road helmet, which worked perfectly.
    3. I used brand new Pearl Izumi full finger gloves, which worked perfectly.
  • A bit of a clunk developed when coming off a freewheel spin as I hit the pedals to crank.† I think my bottom bracket may finally be worn out, which isn’t bad after 6+ years of riding.
  • I don’t know where they get all of the volunteers, but my hat’s off to each and every one of them.† Thank you.
  • I was a bit sore the next day, but by Monday I could easily have ridden again.† I expect to get on the mountain bike this weekend for some fun on the dirt, as the initial preparations for the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo begin.

Ride Report for el Tour de Tucson

Nov 23, 2008 by Steve Belt in Cycling

For the 109 mile el Tour de Tucson, the day started early, with the alarm clock going off at 4:15am.† Getting ready, the only mishap initially was finding out that the local Starbucks wasn’t open at 5:00am when we arrived.† Fortunately, Bruegger’s Bagels was open.

We arrived at 5:20am, and were one of the very last riders allowed to enter the gold starting area.† I was happy just to be in gold, so that was fine by me.† Many people arrive as early as 4:00am to line up closer to the start, staging their bikes, and then heading back to their car or hotel to get a final bit of shut eye.


The Start

At 7am, the ride starts.† Being about 200 yards back from the start line, I roll past the start at ~7:05am.† I wouldn’t know at the time, but it turns out that 5 minutes would prove to haunt me later.

The first couple of minutes I roll very easy, trying to avoid any crashes, and just looking to find someone that seemed to be going at a speed that I liked.† I was there with my friend Chris Z, and in the start/finish area we had talked about trying to stick together this year (unlike last year).† Once a race starts, however, my stick together plan always seems to go out the window.† I had a goal to finish in under 6 hours (and be a gold finisher), and if Chris was right there with me, that would be awesome…but if not, well, I know he’s having fun whether my wheel is around or not.

River Wash #1

I get to the first river wash crossing (about 8 miles in), and look back and it seems I’ve left Chris behind, even though I was trying to ride smooth and steady.† They had “rolled” the sand of the wash, packing is down nicely, so getting across the 1/4 stretch was pretty quick.† Then a cool thing happened…as I mounted my bike, Chris rolled up right next to me.† He had kept me in sight all along, and so we rode together again for a few minutes.

At this point, more than ever, I’m on the lookout to keep up and draft behind anyone and everyone that’s moving fast.† We take a turn and head south into a strong wind, and someone comes around me, making great time.† I get on his wheel, and the race is “on”.† For the next 30+ miles, I average over 20 mph, and whenever someone faster comes from behind, I get on that wheel, and lay down some amazing (for me) miles.† Essentially, I didn’t let anyone pass me, which as I sit here now, is stunning to think about.† Primarily what worked, was getting behind a few tandems.† There were 3 really strong tandem crews that seemed to be jockeying around, and by letting them do the work to break the wind, allowed me (and many others) to hang back and just enjoy the ride in their slick stream.

40 miles into the race, at around 10am, I realize that I am just flying.† I’m well under the 6 hour pace, and I begin to question just how fast I’m riding.† I’m not exhausted, but signs of fatigue are indeed setting in.† I know the second river wash crossing isn’t much farther ahead, so I slow down for a couple of miles and kinda coast in.

River Wash #2

The second river wash has deeper sand, plus it’s much narrower, so that crossing is considerably slower.† At the exit, I refill my water bottles and eat a couple of oranges.† I’m not feeling hungry, but it just seems like the thing to do.† I know the next section is the make-or-break area, as the majority of the climbing is about to begin.

The next rolling hill section has a number of short steepish climbs, each a little higher than the last, with super fast down hills in between.† By the time we turn north toward Oro Valley I know I have to be extremely cautious with my energy.† I can feel just how close to the point of exhaustion I’m at, but there are still 10 more miles of climbing before the fastest and funnest portion of the course is found…the descent from Oro Valley to I-10.† By the time I get to the high point in Sun City Vistoso I am really struggling, averaging less than 10 mph.

Cruising over 30 mph

As the descent begins, I’m just rolling, hardly pedaling, waiting for faster riders to come from behind and sweep me up, and sure enough, they indeed do just that.† I get swept up by an awesome group, led once again by a tandem crew, and we start making some really good time.† For the next 10 miles, we average 33 mph, which does an amazing thing for my morale.

Just before we arrive at the aid station at the end of Tangerine Rd, I move up to the tandem crew and politely tell them thank you…and in a joke that only a tandem crew can offer, they say, “You’re welcome.† That’ll be $10.”

Stopping at the aid station, I refill my water, and eat bananas, oranges, saltines, and a granola bar.† I know I need food, as my stomach is grumbling.† There are just 19 miles now to the finish, and it’s 11:45am, so I’m feeling pretty confident I’ll finish before 1pm.† I do the math in my head, and 15 mph will get me home in time, which seems “easy” as my recollection is that it’s fairly flat from this point on.

Leaving the aid station, we turn and head south, and I’m again reminded there’s a bit of a wind blowing this day.† It’s probably only 10mph, maybe 15mph, but having departed from the last great group, I’m suddenly alone, and having to do all of the work into the wind.† Being alone, in a race with 10,000 participants is just a strange feeling…even if only for a few minutes.† I want to go faster, but I know that it doesn’t make sense to be riding solo into the wind, with my energy levels this close to fully spent.

Struggling to Finish

Eventually I get swept up and we start making really nice time headed into the final significant hill of the day.† This hill seemed easy to me last year, but this year it threatens to break me.† I struggle to the top and lose touch with the group.† With just 10 miles to go, I’m again alone, and again struggling to keep even a 15 mph pace.

The final 10 miles is surprisingly hard.† It’s slightly up hill the entire way, and headed south, it’s into the wind as well.† Even more discouraging, it’s a kind of rolling section, where you continue to roll up small hill after small hill, each time thinking, “ok, this will be the last one.”† Except it’s never the last one, and I mean this happens ~20 times…every half mile, like clockwork.

During this section, I somehow convince myself that although a gold finisher finishes in under 6 hours, surely, they don’t mean finishes at exactly 1pm…since it took me 4 or 5 minutes to even cross the finish line, I’ll be a gold finisher even if I cross a minute or two after 1pm, right?† So I worry less and less about getting home before 1pm, and just focus on finishing in a relaxed manner, without killing myself.† A number of times I let people go by that are going just a tad faster than me — people I should be drafting behind, but due to fatigue, I let them go.

The Finish

I rolled over the finish line at 1:00:26 for 1159th place of 3817 finishers.† Just 26 seconds after 1pm, and for my effort…I get a silver.† They don’t care when you start…just when you finish.† It’s a ride, after all, not a race.† I won’t pull punches, it hurts just a little bit to know that I worked that hard to come up that short.

I had 2 major goals for the day:† Ride faster than 6 hours and get a gold.† I did ride faster than 6 hours, but not fast enough to get the gold.† Still it was an amazing day.† Times this year were slower than last year, with the winning time 10 minutes slower and 400 fewer gold finishers.† That tells me there was a pretty significant wind we had to deal with.† Based on my energy level at this finish, however, I was probably stronger last year.† I just didn’t have the flat tires and the stop lights (I was never stopped at a stop light this year), that cost me so much time last year.† And this year, I think I rode much smarter.

Needless to say, it was a great day, and I can’t wait to be back next year.† One change of plan is readily apparent:† we are going to line up earlier at the start.† I’m thinking 4:45am would make a HUGE difference.

Heading to Ride the Tour of the White Mountains

Oct 03, 2008 by Steve Belt in Cycling, Mountain Bike

I’m just about to leave the office, pack up and head to our house in Pinetop for the weekend.† This weekend, Epic Rides is having their annual Tour of the White Mountains.† I rode the event last year, and am doing so again this year.† Last year I pushed through 52 miles, and this year I’ve gone insane, and signed up for the 67 mile distance.

Riding with me will be the usual cast of characters: Robert, Chris Z, and Chris M.† Chris M has never ridden in an organized bike race/ride before, so that alone will be interesting.† I’m hoping he can at least complete 30 miles.† Personally, I’m not in great shape, so this is going to be a personal struggle.

My riding plan is to start slow and finish slow, with slower parts in the middle.† We’ll see how well I’m able to stick to the plan.† Regardless, the weather looks to be fabulous this year (which is a welcome surprise), and the volunteers at the event are A-1 top notch.

24 HR Race Results

Mar 18, 2008 by Steve Belt in Cycling

I’m a month late in getting to this, but what the heck, better late than never.

The 24 hours in the Old Pueblo race went pretty well, all things considering.† Robert and I arrived on Thursday afternoon to secure a camp spot, get one†night ride in on the course, and then be able to primarily relax on Friday, before the shotgun start on Saturday at noon.

Thursday evening, however, it started raining/drizzling.† That eventually turned into snow.† It was cold, and I was close to miserable.† Friday, it rained pretty much all day long.† And Friday night, it again snowed.† Waking up to 2″ of snow on the ground in Arizona is a strange thing.

At around 11am, just an hour before the race was to start, it really cleared up, and the sun began to peak through.† It wouldn’t rain again, but the past 36 hours of rain meant the trail was very, very muddy.† I rode the first lap, and really slogged through the mud.† It was a grueling lap, that really took a lot out of me.

Robert went next, and looking at his bike when he got back, you’d swear he was riding some place else.† An extra 90 minutes of drying time on the trail, plus 1000 bikes pushing mud off the trail, and conditions had greatly improved.†

Things went basically according to schedule until team lap #7, when Chris went out for his first night lap.† His light failed him 1 hr into the lap, and the final few miles, which should have taken 30 minutes took a full hour.† Oh well, I thought…that’s racing a 24†hr race.† Then team lap #8 also went poorly, although that rider (Carter) didn’t really explain why.† I rode lap #9 ok, and Robert rode lap #10 pretty well.†

Chris was supposed to ride lap #11 at 5am, but couldn’t get himself out of bed.† He was still dead from the earlier lap.† Carter said he couldn’t go at 5am either, and given I had only 30 minutes of sleep to this point, I decided our best bet was to wait until my alarm clock went off at 7:30am, and re-evaluate the plan at that time.

At 7:30am, I woke up to Carter having completely left the venue.† He had packed up his stuff sometime between 5am and 7am, and was gone.† That was certainly stunning.

Robert and Chris were up, and with 3 of us remaining, and not really that focused on the standings, we decided to pack our stuff into the truck, and just ready ourselves for one final†lap at 10:30am, all together as a team.† We’d only get credit for 1 lap, but we’d get to ride together, which would be fun…and fun is really the whole point of doing the race.

Then at 8:30, I see my buddy John getting ready to go out for his first solo lap of the day, after taking a 6 hr nap, and quick changed the plan to go ride a lap with him, and let Robert and Chris ride the final lap the 2 of them.

So we did that, and in the end, we got credit for 12 laps.† I got credit for 4, Robert 3, Chris 3, and Carter 2…although Robert actually rode 4 laps.† Individually, we’d all hoped to ride 4 laps each at around 90 minutes per lap.† Robert and I were very much on that pace, while Chris was a bit slower, but pretty close, aside from the bonking and not riding a lap.† Carter…well, none of us knew him, and he decided to quit.† I’ll probably never see him again.

The conditions were very, very tough, and while Saturday night it didn’t snow again, it did freeze again, and for the most part, I was cold from my arrival on Thursday until 10am on Sunday.† I could never seem to get my core body temperature up to where I was comfortable, no matter how much I was wearing.† The only exception to that was when I was riding.† Riding, I felt pretty good.

We managed to finish 80th of 125 finishing 4-man teams.† Can’t wait to do it again next year.† Hopefully with a 4th team member that we can trust.

Finished the El Tour de Tucson

Nov 19, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling

El Tour de TucsonOn Saturday I rode the 109-mile El Tour de Tucson on my road bike.† This is a major event, which this year drew over 9150 riders, including Greg Lemond (whom I passed during the second river crossing 8-).†

Leading up to the event, I had been mostly riding with Chris Z doing 50ish mile road rides.† Since my training rides were a bit short, I wasn’t sure what to expect from myself in this event.† The 52 miles I did at Show Low in October on my mountain bike was more comparable to this ride, but I really should have done at least one 75 mile ride in preparation.

Going in to the ride, I had set as a goal the same time I had done in Show Low:† 6 hours 45 mins.† I figured I’d ride at around 18 mph, taking 3 or 4 breaks, and thus 6:45 seemed a reasonable goal.† Since I was there with Chis Z, I wasn’t totally sure if I was going to ride with him the whole time, or if we would seperate.† But†9 minutes into the event, I threw caution to the wind, caught on the wheel of a group that had just passed us, and pretty soon was humming along at 20+ mph, a good bit faster than I expected to be able to sustain.† Before the first river crossing, which was at mile 8, I had left Chris well behind, and was completely on my own.

This event is unique for a road bike race, in that it has 2 river crossings where you have to walk your bike across.† Actually, I carried my bike across, because I didn’t want to get a flat tire as a result of it being in the desert sand.† The first river crossing, which was the shorter†one, took ~8 minutes to walk across.† The second crossing, took ~9 minutes, and allowed for a bit faster walking, since it was around mile 47, and riders had spread out much more.

All was going far better than I expected until 3 hours 20 mins in, when I had fallen a bit off the pace of a group I had been riding with.† They were just going so fast, and I was starting to fatigue so I slowed a tad, and was riding along side another rider.† That’s when I flatted.† It was mile 67.††About the time I had the new tube in the tire a bike patrol guy came by and asked if I was ok.† I said “yep”, and he continued on.† 30 seconds later I realized I wasn’t ok, as I didn’t have any CO2 cartridges to blow my tire up with.† Suddenly I was stuck.† I sat there for 12 lonely minutes waiting for the next bike patrol guy to come by and save my sorry butt.† About 1 minute before we had it fixed, Chris rolled past.† Turns out I had built a 17 minute lead on him.

With the tire fixed, I headed to the very next SAG station, needing water, as my bottles had been empty for the last 10 miles or so.††After this stop, I noticed that the riders I was now riding with had changed.† Falling back just enough where I noticed the typical rider wasn’t going as fast as I wanted to go.† I was finding it difficult to “group up” and find a pace line that was travelling at the right speed.

Eventually, a bike patrol lady and a 67 mile rider (he was signed up to ride 67 miles, and thus started 42 miles closer to the finish than I did.) passed me.††Being fresher, they were†riding at just the speed I was looking for.† Eventually our little group became 8 or 10 riders, and we moved along at a nice clip.† Of particular fun was†a slight downhill stretch where we averaged over 25mph for 10 miles.† I must say, it was perhaps the funnest 10 miles of road riding in my life.† Being the rider with the most miles, I let them set the pace initially, but when 4 of the leaders had all taken a turn, and all seemed a bit tired, I finally took my turn.† We had been doing 27 mph, and I kicked it up to 29 mph, pulling hard for†3 strong miles, which was a real blast.† I wasn’t sure if the group was going to be able to keep up, but sure enough, our core group was right there behind me the whole way.† I think everyone enjoyed the opportunity to go that fast.† I know at my size and weight, I have an advantage in these circumstances, but†I pushed my heart rate up over 160 bpm, which was amazing for me to phathom some 84 miles into the ride.

A few miles later, there was a crash a short way ahead of our group, and the bike patrol lady had to stop and offer assistance.† It was really too bad, because it tore our whole group apart.† For the last†20 miles or so, I would essentially ride alone, catching a wheel here and there, but rarely hooking up with any group for even a mile before a SAG stop or something caused it to bust apart.†

At mile 103, just 6 miles from the finish, my rear tire flatted again.† I knew I was riding on low pressure, but I was so close to the finish I didn’t want to stop.† Plus I didn’t have a pump.† Unfortunately, I hit a pot hole and pinch flatted.† Fortunately, the guy riding right behind me asked if I was ok, and then stayed to offer help when I said I had no air.† He said he was tired and needed to stop anyway…just 6 miles from the end!† The second flat took under 4 minutes to repair, but once again, Chris†rolled past me while I was broken down.

In the end I finished with a measured time of 6 hours 20 minutes.† My event official time was 6 hours 24 minutes, because it’s not a race, and they only measure when you cross the finish, not when you cross the start.† It took 4 minutes for me to cross the start, with so many riders.† I’m really happy with the result.† Having expected to take close to 7 hours, and then being able to ride at a†sub 6 hour pace was certainly beyond my expectations.† In the future, I’ll be better prepared, and next year, it will be my goal to finish in under 6 hours.

Registered for El Tour de Tuscon

Nov 12, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling

After a month of waffling over whether or not I was going to ride in this event, today I finally signed up.† The 25th annual El Tour de Tuscon is this Saturday, November 17th.† I’ve chosen the “I must be crazy” distance of 109 miles on a road bike.† That will be by far the longest road ride I’ve ever done.† We’ve been doing 50 mile rides every weekend for 2 months now, without much trouble.† Of course, there is indeed a big difference between 50 miles and 100+ miles.† About twice as much.

I’m optimistic I’ll finish somewhere between 6 & 7 hrs time, but I have no true basis for that optimism, having never come close to riding this kind of distance.

There are expected to be between 10,000 and 11,000 people riding in the event, although not all of them will be doing the 109 mile length.† Many will do shorter distances, but you figure somewhere around 40% of the people will do the 109 miler.

Quick update on Le Tour De Touscon

Nov 01, 2007 by Steve Belt in Cycling

We went to Jeff & Denise’s annual halloween party yesterday, which is always a treat.† I know Jeff’s favorite holiday is halloween, and it really shows with the celebration event they throw.† Tomorrow, I promise to post some pics of the girls in costume, and even some a few from our Disneyland vacation 2 weeks ago.

At any rate, I was talking with Jeff’s mom who mentioned she was planning to house sit for Jeff’s grandmother in Tuscon next week, when it dawned on me…Jeff has family in Tuscon.† Hmmm, this might be a nice way of getting some accomodations for the race.† I mentioned this to Jeff, who’s thinking about entering the race.† He’ll probably decide over the weekend, and basically if I have a place to stay, I’ll be in as well.† Otherwise, I’ll sit this one out.