Cycling Over Sixty

An Unbound Journey

July 05, 2024 Tom Butler Season 2 Episode 49
An Unbound Journey
Cycling Over Sixty
More Info
Cycling Over Sixty
An Unbound Journey
Jul 05, 2024 Season 2 Episode 49
Tom Butler

This week on the podcast, host Tom Butler takes a frank look at his progress halfway through the year. He admits to some struggles in staying on track with his cycling goals, and shares a, let's just say, less than comfortable experience with deep tissue massage.

But the episode isn't all about bumps in the road. Tom welcomes back Mike Baltierra, who shares his incredible story of overcoming a health challenge and making a full recovery that allowed him to tackle the grueling Unbound Gravel race. Mike's journey is a testament to the power of fitness and the body's remarkable ability to heal.

Tune in for a dose of honesty, inspiration, and a reminder that even setbacks can be part of an amazing cycling journey.

Links
Mike's Unbound Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRqaPvRZUkY&list=PLAjCNnVvhRuvlOT_H52gGoRos8PVNfBdM

Mike's Laminectomy Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OHPDseQK7M&list=PLAjCNnVvhRutWZIE4eTucQxUhcmiqO78t

Lifetime Grand Prix Unbound Video - https://youtu.be/PUdTT0yopvE?si=Dz01kR4Sv46bqieN

Thanks for Joining Me! Follow and comment on Cycling Over Sixty on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyclingoversixty/

Consider becoming a member of the Cycling Over Sixty Strava Club! www.strava.com/clubs/CyclingOverSixty

Please send comments, questions and especially content suggestions to me at tom.butler@teleiomedia.com

Show music is "Come On Out" by Dan Lebowitz. Find him here : lebomusic.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week on the podcast, host Tom Butler takes a frank look at his progress halfway through the year. He admits to some struggles in staying on track with his cycling goals, and shares a, let's just say, less than comfortable experience with deep tissue massage.

But the episode isn't all about bumps in the road. Tom welcomes back Mike Baltierra, who shares his incredible story of overcoming a health challenge and making a full recovery that allowed him to tackle the grueling Unbound Gravel race. Mike's journey is a testament to the power of fitness and the body's remarkable ability to heal.

Tune in for a dose of honesty, inspiration, and a reminder that even setbacks can be part of an amazing cycling journey.

Links
Mike's Unbound Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRqaPvRZUkY&list=PLAjCNnVvhRuvlOT_H52gGoRos8PVNfBdM

Mike's Laminectomy Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OHPDseQK7M&list=PLAjCNnVvhRutWZIE4eTucQxUhcmiqO78t

Lifetime Grand Prix Unbound Video - https://youtu.be/PUdTT0yopvE?si=Dz01kR4Sv46bqieN

Thanks for Joining Me! Follow and comment on Cycling Over Sixty on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cyclingoversixty/

Consider becoming a member of the Cycling Over Sixty Strava Club! www.strava.com/clubs/CyclingOverSixty

Please send comments, questions and especially content suggestions to me at tom.butler@teleiomedia.com

Show music is "Come On Out" by Dan Lebowitz. Find him here : lebomusic.com

Tom Butler:

This is the Cycling Over 60 podcast, season two, episode 49, an Unbound Journey, and I'm your host, tom Butler. Thanks to everybody who is listening in again to the podcast. I really appreciate that there are a bunch of people out there who share my desire to get and stay fit so that we can enjoy many more miles on a bike. If you're new to the podcast, I have conversations here about fitness and pretty much all things having to do with cycling, and I start out with a brief update on my personal progress. Before I go any further, I want to say that the Cycling Over 60 out with a brief update on my personal progress. Before I go any further, I want to say that the Cycling Over 60 Strava group is a great place to be. Thank you for all the supportive messages and for sharing your journeys, and I know I say this every time, but keep uploading pictures. If you aren't a member of the Strava Club, consider joining in. Last week, I mentioned that I was going to have a deep tissue massage for the first time ever. I have had two sessions now. The first session could only be described as painful, and I felt more sore afterwards than before I went in. Now, I was expecting this outcome because I know other people that have gone in for that kind of massage. The second appointment was today and it was slightly less painful. I'm a bit amazed by the force that the therapist puts on muscles that are sore. I'm having faith that she knows what she is doing, but it is kind of hard to hold still while someone is causing me that much pain. After the session today I felt like I saw some real progress, so that was exciting. The therapist said that there is a lot of tension in my back and it will be a process to get it to loosen up. I have one more appointment before I do the two-day 206-mile Seattle to Portland ride. I'm hoping that that next appointment will be another big step forward. I also plan to do at least one appointment after the ride. I had another new experience with this appointment. I also plan to do at least one appointment after the ride. I had another new experience with this appointment. I have seen cupping before, but I have never experienced it. I'm walking around with purple circles on my lower back today. I think most people have heard of cupping. If you haven't, just look for the ancient healing practice by that name. I'm guessing this won't be the last cupping session that I have. I just hope that I don't have to go shirtless anywhere anytime soon.

Tom Butler:

We have passed the six-month mark now for the year. It's time to look at how I am doing with my goals. It hasn't been great, unfortunately. For this year I set a goal to ride 3,650 miles. This year I set a goal to ride 3,650 miles. I am off the pace by 350 miles. That means I still have 2,125 miles to go. I will need to bump up my weekly goal from 70 miles to 84 miles if I'm going to make it, and I think I need to plan a few 100 plus weeks this summer in order to make sure that I don't have to try and do a lot of riding in the cold in December. I'm still confident that I can make my goal, but I am glad that I didn't try for even more miles this year I set an elevation goal of 100,000 feet and I'm not confident at all that I will make this goal.

Tom Butler:

The routes I'm riding just don't have much elevation. I currently have 65,582 feet left to go over the next six months. Since they closed the bridge between here and the valley, I have lost the elevation that I used to get. On most of my rides I used to drop down into the valley, do some miles and then ride back to the plateau. One thing that I might help here is that I'm getting a little bored with the routes that I ride so much. Maybe that will result in me finding some new routes with more elevation gain. I do live 70 miles from Chinook Pass that goes over the Cascade Mountain Range. If I could find a time of the week where there wasn't much traffic on the highway to Chinook Pass, that ride would add a bunch of elevation and, as Judson pointed out recently, there are other destinations on the mountain that could be explored as well. Whatever changes I make, I do think my 100,000 feet of elevation gain goal is in jeopardy, but I'm not going to give up.

Tom Butler:

When I set my goals last December, I was looking at a weight goal of 195 pounds. In six months I have only lost six pounds, but I'm not worried about that. As a reminder, weight is a secondary marker for me. My real goal is to reduce the amount of liver fat I have. That will have the biggest impact on my metabolic health. The weight goal is just an indication for me concerning my liver fat content. In August, I will be having a DEXA scan done. I'm hopeful that the scan will help me determine what's going on with my visceral fat level better than my weight could ever do.

Tom Butler:

I fully believe that my body will need to make adjustments as I slowly reach the 195 pound goal. It has been decades since my body fat percentage was this low. Taking it for granted that Dr Richard Johnson is correct and nature wants us to be fat, I am putting a lot of stress on my body. The leaner I get, I am comfortable with the idea that it might take me a year to slowly bring my weight down further. I don't want to significantly cut calories back because it makes me nervous that I might affect my metabolic rate. Makes me nervous that I might affect my metabolic rate. One goal that I know I will accomplish happens next weekend when I do my second Seattle to Portland ride. For the next seven days, I will be focused on getting my legs ready to do my best on that ride. I am very excited to see how the last year will impact my performance on that ride.

Tom Butler:

If you go back and listen to the May 5th 2023 episode called A Cycling Metamorphosis, you can learn about Mike Baltierra's transformation through cycling. That conversation and following his posts and videos has made me a big fan. When I learned that he overcame a type of threat to his cycling and then rode in the massively challenging Unbound Gravel Race, I knew I needed to have him back on the podcast. Here's our conversation. I am joined this week by Mike Baltierra, someone I really admire. Thanks, mike, for coming back on the podcast.

Mike Baltierra:

Thank you for asking me to come back. This is really, really cool. I didn't think I'd ever be back on here because you're so busy interviewing a lot of great people and getting some really good stories and some really good information from other people and their experiences and how they've been either enhancing their lives with bicycle riding or the experts who have been helping out with getting our infrastructure put in place around this PNW area for cycling and as well as finding the experts in regards to what it takes to get your health back on track for cycling. So this is a pretty big deal for me, so thank you.

Tom Butler:

Well, I see you as one of those great people and I see you as an expert too, because I think the stuff that you've done personally it's given you some expertise on how to stay motivated, how to overcome obstacles, and we're going to talk a bit about that today.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and also it's not necessarily. I don't know how other people feel about it or the people you've talked to previously, but my motivation comes from being able to live life as best as I can and luckily, through cycling, I've been able to improve and or enhance my lifestyle, and my family sees a big change. My friends see a big change. People I've never met before are inspired, which is kind of surprising to me because I don't really set out to motivate or inspire others. I just like documenting what I've been doing and on my journey along the way, documenting what I've been doing on my journey along the way.

Tom Butler:

That's cool. I love to hear that we last talked on the podcast on May 5th of 2023, and that episode is called A Cycling Metamorphosis and I like that title. I mean, obviously I came up with that title because I think it really was a metamorphosis for you. You talk about how you really turned your health around and cycling was at the heart of that. Does cycling still represent a vital component of your fitness?

Mike Baltierra:

Absolutely. I do believe that if I stopped biking, my health would regress to where it was, maybe even worse than it was. I'm not going to lie I love food, I love to eat, I love sweets. That is my crux, that is my kryptonite. And if I don't have a outlet to where I can go out and burn a couple thousand calories a session, I'm going to be in big trouble. So I have to be mindful of that and I do watch what I eat, I do make sure that I don't overdo it and because, again, that was my big problem before is just overeating quite a bit, especially late night binge snacking, and I have to be very, very mindful to not go down that route.

Tom Butler:

You had a threat to that recently. You had surgery this year, I believe I did. Can you talk about what led up to that surgery?

Mike Baltierra:

Sure, so I've been pretty active. My physical appearance at certain points of my life may not have shown that I was a pretty active person. I played football and I wrestled in high school. I was in the Marines. I played rugby while I was in the Marines and I played rugby again while I was a civilian. So I maybe had like 10 to 12 years of rugby time and I got pretty battered playing rugby, started doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu and back I'm guessing 2010, 2012, I noticed I was having some really painful episodes in my back whenever we would do certain exercises in jiu-jitsu and I went and had an MRI done and they noticed that there was some disc degeneration and bulging.

Mike Baltierra:

One doctor even asked if I ever been into a car accident because I had a curvature in my spine. I'm like no, I got hit pretty hard playing rugby and he's like okay, that explains it. Didn't do much of it, primarily because the doctor didn't want to do anything at the time because I was such a big person, which is understandable Started bike riding, got in a really good shape, lost a ton of weight, revisited a different doctor and they were like you've got spinal stenosis in your L3, l4, l5. And so, in order to correct this. Basically, what stenosis is is where there's impingement of your nerves and your spinal column, because there's not enough room in the caverns of your vertebrae and also within your discs in between the vertebrae to allow the nerves to fully function, and so when they become pinched, it's just like having a pinched nerve in your arm. Either you get the tingling sensation or it just feels like it's on fire. Well, I would get the fiery sensation from my mid back all the way down to my toes and it wasn't pleasant.

Mike Baltierra:

So in order to correct it, back in March March 13th to be specific I went in for what's called a laminectomy, which is where they actually go in and they shave down parts of the bone on the outside of the vertebrae and then they go in and they make a little bit more room in the caverns of the area in your spinal column. That where all the nerves are being pinched. That way relieves the pressure and I can and right when I got out of surgery um prep time for surgery, going in to meet with the, the doctor and the anesthesiologist that took about an hour hour and a half. Surgery only took like 30 minutes and then I was home that afternoon and I can tell right when I got, when I was woken up from surgery, that I would always my legs would always be numb, and that numb sensation went away.

Mike Baltierra:

Wow, I was more worried about how am I going to feel once I start walking around. The doctor was very encouraging. He knew that I was in really good shape. Um, he, he, as he put it, you're in better shape than half the people your age you come to see me, and so he really encouraged physical activity from the get-go. No impact stuff, just walking around, no running, but making sure I can get up and walk around and if I wanted to and if I felt like it, I can ride my indoor trainer, which I did about a week after I got out of surgery.

Tom Butler:

So I think that's really interesting. How long has it been since you started riding? You got fit. How many years ago has it been?

Mike Baltierra:

now, may 9th, 2020, was my first day of cycling got fit.

Tom Butler:

How many years ago has it been? Now a ninth, 2020 was my first day of cycling. Okay, so in four years, somewhere around that, you're at a situation now where your doctor's like you're more fit than half the people I see, so that I I see that as a pretty big deal, you know, and good for you again for putting in that time, doing that work yeah, and it and it's.

Mike Baltierra:

It's a good compliment because and I'm not trying to be disrespectful towards other people but if you take a look around us and you can you can literally see that people don't really do a good job of taking care of themselves and they always complain about. I'm always feeling this way, I look this way. Well, unfortunately, that's that. That's a lifestyle change that you have to take control of, and that's one of my harsh realities was I always pointed fingers at everything else, and once I took accountability and I realized the only person that can change all this is me, then things started falling into place.

Tom Butler:

So I decided to do something different. I made that choice to stop pointing at other things and like do something different. Two years ago, and you know, I think about, like here I am now 61 and there's kind of an age that I am, you know that an age that is modified by the amount of change I've made. You know, I think about be. You know, at 59, if I would have just kept going and not made these changes, I I would have been a certain age. I don't know, maybe that's not the easiest way to understand what I'm saying, but but you know, as my body would have aged in a certain way from 59 to now if I hadn't made any changes, and I feel like now, since I made the changes, two years later, you know, I'm actually younger in ways than I was when I was 59. I'm thinking you feel that way, sam too.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and to get to your comment about not explaining it clearly for people who may not be able to understand unless you've been there, you may not understand that comment. I totally get what you're saying because I'm 54. I don't feel 54. I feel better now at 54 than I did at 34. And at 34 is when I was having some really bad issues with you know. I'm still dealing with getting out of the military. Sure, it was seven years after I got out of the Marines, but that lingers for a long time. Kids, my youngest son or my youngest twin at the Joshua, was going through some medical issues, so took to the bottle quite a bit.

Mike Baltierra:

I didn't have a very good outlet to suppress anger or I was pissed all the time. And now I'm sure you probably feel the same way. Things don't make me as agitated. I don't get as salty anymore. I do get salty, but not trivial things don't make me upset. And because don't get as salty anymore, I do get salty, but not trivial things don't make me upset. And because I always know at the end of the day if I'm really gonna let stuff bother me, I can just go for a ride and just forget about it two hours later I feel, I feel great. So I mean you use that as motivation, sometimes feel you, feel your rides I don't know if it's like that way for everybody.

Tom Butler:

You know, I can imagine there's some people that it wouldn't be, but man, it's just, you get on the bike for a couple hours. You know, I don't listen to anything, I'm just kind of with my thoughts, and I've mentioned it before on here that I see it as a form of meditation and you know the mental health benefits of cycling, you know, for a couple hours, I just find that to be huge. Yeah, absolutely. You have to make a choice to do surgery at some point. Was that much of a choice? Was there some thought that maybe surgery could interfere with your ability to ride? What was that decision-making process like?

Mike Baltierra:

I made the decision that it was definitely going to happen sooner rather than later. Originally we were trying to shoot for late fall, early winter last year, 2023. Unfortunately, as you know, insurance has to barter and go back and forth and tell you this has to be done first. These are all the requisites we have to do before we can approve it. So there was a lot of back and forth so finally we settled on March 13th. Um, was I worried about certain? I was. There were some bike events that I wanted to participate in April that I knew I wasn't going to do because of surgery. But I was already in unbound, which we'll talk about in a little bit. That was my main concern and that was my focus to get ready for it, because I was on one June and there was absolutely no way I was going to miss that and it sounds like you got on the indoor trainer.

Tom Butler:

Yes, were you happy with how that felt? Were you surprised? Did it feel like you expected?

Mike Baltierra:

No, it did not go the way I thought it was going to. And what I mean by that was, though I had been walking around like my doctor asked me to. Fortunately, my kids they still think I'm cool enough to hang out with, so they went on some walks with me. So we walked along the Cedar River Trail out near Landsberg a few times, walked out to the actual river. So, like my oldest twin, zachary, likes to go magnet fishing, which is where you just have a magnet on a fishing pole and you throw it and you hopefully can find some buried treasure or whatever you want to call it. So those are, those were like three mile out and back walks. We did that a couple of times and I finally made the decision, probably about a week after surgery. Okay, I'm going to try and get on the trainer see how I feel.

Mike Baltierra:

And I was pretty stiff and sore because it's a pretty traumatic experience for your body to go through because you're getting cut open and you're having stuff modified inside that you're not. Yeah, it's a, it's a big deal. And so the first day I did two rides, one of three and a half and then maybe another five and a half. So because my right part of my back and going into my gluteus maximus area was pretty tender and pretty sore. But the amazing part was when I woke up the next morning I felt great. I couldn't believe it. I felt like a different person. The suture area was still cumbersome and still bothered me, but everything else was fine. So for the rest of the week I?

Mike Baltierra:

Um a lot of people use Zwift, I use Ruby, cause I think Ruby is more realistic. Um, in regards to climbing, and you can find some real routes on there, like like the chili hillies on there. The STP is on there, unbound is on on there from previous years, so I would find some rides like fondos, or I would find some shorter rides with some climbing to do. And I did that for three weeks because my surgeon was more concerned about me falling off the bike or getting hit and then giving some really bad internal injuries because of falling as opposed to riding the bike. After about three weeks I finally called them. I'm like hey, listen, I feel amazing. I don't feel that I'm going to get hurt if I go ride. And he's like well, if you feel that way, we'll give your bike a spin and see how it goes. And that was around May 1st, and so I was back on the bike about I don't know. I mean I actually outside on the bike about five weeks post-op. If it wasn't for the indoor trainer, I would have been way behind the curve when it comes to, you know, getting outside and doing some events.

Mike Baltierra:

I will not lie to tour to cure, which was the fundraiser bike ride event for the American diabetic association on May 4th. Uh, originally it was supposed to do a hundred miles and then our team lead decided that they wanted us to do 66. Cause there's only two of us, cause two of the team members backed out, I got halfway through it and I had to throw in the towel. Cause there's only two of us, cause two of the team members backed out, I got halfway through it and I had to throw on the towel cause my, my back was not happy. So I I'm a big proponent of listening to your body. I'm glad I did, you know took it the next couple of days off and then just focused on okay, what am I going to do to get ready for unbound, to make sure that I am physically prepared for that really hard bike event?

Tom Butler:

That's a really wise comment. You know, to get along and go. Okay, I would love to push this. I'd love to, you know, do the 66 miles or whatever it was, but I need to pay attention here and I want to cycle another day, so I'm going to step off now.

Mike Baltierra:

Right, because I'm sure you probably feel the same way. As you get older, you start to realize the ego is easier to mend as opposed to your broken body. So I can deal with you know, I mean I didn't finish, but that's okay.

Tom Butler:

You had this major transformation. You know we've talked about it here and it sounds to me like the experience you had of the post-surgery, the healing, the recovery, all of that. It would have been much different if you had been in the same condition you were before. You talked about the doctors not even wanting to do the surgery in the condition you were in, but at the same time it just seems like it's a good demonstration of what fitness level can do as far as post-surgery healing.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and so I'm glad you brought that up, because I did do some research. In regards to what's the recovery going to be like. Of course, everybody's different. Everybody who was working out, they all said the same thing I was back to doing my normal routines about five to eight weeks post-op. Some people who weren't as active took a little longer. I'm glad I was in that category. That didn't take very long.

Mike Baltierra:

I do honestly believe that if I had not been in decent shape because I was training really hard, because I knew that I was going to have to have a break sometime in March to April with some downtime, so I tried to ramp up as many miles as I could and a lot of hours on the saddle prior to surgery. So that way I wasn't. I wasn't I just I was just being selfish, because I had a goal for this year to ride more than 7,000 miles and I wasn't going to let that gap interfere with my goals of riding those many miles. And so I wrote a lot leading up to surgery, and I'm glad I did, because when I took that break I came back totally refreshed. I felt way better and because of being in such great shape, I was able to bounce back from the surgery pretty quickly yeah.

Tom Butler:

That's awesome. Just from that alone that ability to bounce back, that ability to have something go on and then come back from it I mean that's a great reason in and of itself to stay fit, to stay in shape stop recovery.

Mike Baltierra:

On YouTube and there's some people who've asked comments like well, how long did it take for you to cause? I had some people I had the surgery a couple of days ago and my back is killing me, how long will it take? And I always respond the same way. Everybody's different, but for me, day four was the turning point. It really felt like someone that took it, taken an ice pick and just jabbed it in my lower back. That's how uncomfortable it was. But day four it just stopped. It just stopped hurting and I'm like, okay, this is a good sign, because the opiates they gave me, the pain medication they gave me, didn't do anything for me pain-wise, for pain management. Luckily, I was able to just suffer through it for a couple days and it just all went away. Boom Gone.

Tom Butler:

So very fortunate for that. That's awesome. You had decided to do Unbound, like you said, before you had the surgery. Tell me about that. When did you decide to do Unbound? I?

Mike Baltierra:

had it on my radar to do some point before I turned 60. I didn't expect to do it so soon. So I have a buddy. His name is Brian. He was my manager at one of my first jobs and I moved up here from California in 2008. We lost track after I left that company but we reconnected last year and we did. He did RSVP, but him and I rode the Kitsap Kilder Classic together and we've been doing other rides together when we have time to get together.

Mike Baltierra:

And so he'd see my Strava stuff and he's like oh man, I need to get a gravel bike so I can join you on some of these gravel. And I'm not going to. He is a monster on the bike he has. He's got a nice road bike super fast. He smokes it me and all my buddies when we go if we try to ride with them. So I'm like, okay.

Mike Baltierra:

So then he calls me up shortly after the first of the year. He's like dude, I got a gravel bike. I'm like right on. And then he's like and I'm going to register for unbound. I know he did say he registered for unbound. I'm like oh, so that was kind of like the motivation. Like, oh man, maybe I should join too and I'm like are you doing? Because they have different categories? They got a 25 mile, 50, 100, 200, and a 350 mile course and I'm like so what are you going to do? You're going to do the 50 or the 100? He's like I'm not going to Kansas just to ride a hundred miles, I'm going to do the 200. I'm like dude, you are insane.

Tom Butler:

You don't realize how tough that is, so you had had you known something about Unbound before that.

Mike Baltierra:

Yes, because late at night when I try to wind down, I like to get on YouTube and watch videos, and at the time it was known as Garmin Unbound, and so I watched some videos and I'm like and at first I was like there's no way I'm ever going to do something like that A couple of years go by, maybe one year, and then this year is like, oh, wow, I got in, because they do a lottery to get in, okay, okay.

Tom Butler:

Wow. So then, what did you end up doing?

Mike Baltierra:

I ended up doing the 100 because I was in great shape to do the 200. Yeah, I looked at the courses between the two and the 100-mile route was actually just shy of 5,000 feet of climbing and the 200 route was just shy of 12,000 feet of climbing and I'm like, yeah, I think I'll just stick with the 100 for now. The hundy fundy.

Tom Butler:

You know you talk about so many feet of climbing, but then you have to do a translation to what the surface looks like. When you're doing that, you know a hundred miles on that surface and climbing. And this year 2024, it seemed that Unbound really emerged as like the greatest gravel race in the world. Do you agree with that? Do you think that was the perception before? Was 2024 a real jump up?

Mike Baltierra:

2024 had the biggest amount of participants to date. I do after doing some research. Unbound is kind of like that tip of the spear, the pinnacle that people want to achieve, or at least attempt to achieve, to try and set themselves apart from everybody else who does gravel racing. Even the world gravel champion came out to Emporia this year and he couldn't finish because he had so many mechanical problems broke his wheels, from what I understand. We here in the Seattle area are really really lucky with our terrain, meaning that we can actually go out to like the Soqualmie Forest and we can find hard pack gravel, we can find loose gravel and we can find big, chunky gravel, just like they had during Unbound.

Mike Baltierra:

So one of the things that my buddy Brian and I did is we rode the SVT quite a bit. We would start like Duval right all the way to the tunnel and back. So that's over a hundred miles. That's if we wanted the long grinders that don't have a whole lot of elevate, I mean a lot of gradients to it. So the SVT is about 4% at the most. Most of it's 1%, 2% because it's a rails to trails similar to the footails trail. But if we wanted to go out and do some really hard training. We would actually go find some of the service roads out in Campbell Global and they would go anywhere from 14% to 30% gradients and do that a few times and you'll really appreciate 4% gradients, 5% gradients and all that good stuff. So I think we did a really good job preparing for this event and it came out and we both finished. So we were both happy with the fact that we were both able to finish.

Tom Butler:

Now you said a couple of things there. You said SVT.

Mike Baltierra:

I'm sorry, that's the San Colme Valley Trail. Sorry.

Tom Butler:

Climbs up towards the pass. Yes, and then you said service roads and I'm thinking that's four service roads, correct? Yeah, that's an interesting perspective, because it seems like one of those things about the course when I watch videos about Unbound. They're talking about how the riders that come over from Europe they're just not used to how aggressive the gravel is on on unbound.

Mike Baltierra:

Correct and did meet quite a bit of people from around the world, from New Zealand, from Ireland, from Canada, mexico, you name it. They all came into town to try and stake their claim as being an unbound finisher and we did some shakeout rides. Basically, the shakeout rides were for people to. I was lucky I got there quite early in the week so I was able to start getting acclimatized to their humidity. Basically, with the shakeout rides it gives people the opportunity to go out and ride in a group with other people, whether it was 15 miles or 25 or 30 miles, to get kind of used used to the terrain, to figure out what's wrong with them, with their bike, with their kits, whatever they can make, make the adjustments they need so they can have a better experience on race day. And so I talked to someone from Ireland and he's like I'm not used to this humidity, I hope I can finish. And I'm like so what are you doing? The 100 or the 200? I'm doing the 200. I'm like, okay, good. So yeah, everybody's experience is different.

Tom Butler:

My understanding was that this year the course was different than it has been the last two years. Correct, I think there's like a Northern course and a Southern course. Am I getting that right? How would you describe that course? What are some of the features? What would you say is like the biggest challenge?

Mike Baltierra:

that that north course poses for riders. Well, for for us, we were told that if it had rained, the mud was going to be a big issue during check-in. Or if you went to some of the vendors around town and you bought stuff, or if you were at the expo buying stuff from some of the vendors, they made a really big and they were like here's your paint sticks in case you have to scrape the mud out of your tires and your fenders or whatever, if you were running fenders or if you. Anyway, it was just people didn't want to do the hike a bike like they did the last couple of years. Last year was pretty bad, but in regards to this year's course, I can say that I was surprised. I was really, really surprised because we left downtown Emporia, we went north and for the first, so our first checkpoint you only get one checkpoint on the a hundred mile route, which is at mile 54. That's where your SAG support group is at. I had paid for support because I didn't have anybody to go with me and so, getting the mile 54, we actually got there very, very fast. I think we got there like in three hours and 45 minutes.

Mike Baltierra:

A lot of it had to do with the fact that it was mostly tarmac leading out of town, hard pack gravel because it's all farmland out there, so a lot of the routes were hard packed. On the first 54 miles there were some loose, chunky stuff. There were some water crossings, which I was kind of disappointed with because I was really looking forward to putting some of my mountain biking experience in there. And I'm like I picked my line to go through this little Creek that they had and someone pulled right in front of me and stopped and got off the bikes. We had to walk.

Mike Baltierra:

I'm like, oh, and then shortly after that was like a 13% gradient and I tried to climb that but then everybody else was getting off their bikes. So I don't, you know, you don't want to go slow and fall off, so, but after that it was just fast rolling rollers. Once we got past the checkpoint, that's when all the climbs and all the rollers were just murderous. It was that got demoralizing pretty fast. But you had to keep telling yourself press forward. You're that much closer if you just keep pedaling.

Tom Butler:

I think of Kansas as being flat. You're talking about these demoralizing rollers. Yeah, you know, here we are, with rainier in the background of like.

Mike Baltierra:

Like most of the places you ride are pretty close to the foothills of mount rainier, and yet you found those rollers to be really tough well, it wasn't necessarily the rollers that were tough is when you got to the crest of a roller and you looked out and it's just miles upon miles, upon miles upon miles of Amber waves of grain and dirt roads going into the horizon. You're like I got to ride all the way out there.

Tom Butler:

And I don't think you're like building up as much speed coming down from one hill to the next.

Mike Baltierra:

Actually what it was. It was pretty fast. I think my top speed was almost 40, just because it wasn't necessarily they were steep rollers, they were just long drawn-out rollers. I mean, they would just go for miles. So the climbing rollers weren't too bad. There was one particular hill called Kohola Lake that had this gnarly climb. I pulled over because I was having some crampings and, plus, I got to see the elite women just scream on by and climb up that hill. I was just like holy smokes, they are fast. So that's cool, that's a cool experience.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and and earlier in the race, uh, so the the elite 200, they left pretty early in the morning. They were the first group to go, so they had the elites go first. The men were separated from the women because they wanted to give each group a fair shake at finishing the race on their own terms and their own time, without any interference from either one, because I guess there were some issues with that last year with the starts. And they also had the regular people that were not in the elite, such as my friend Brian. They went after them, and then then it was the 100 and so on and so on.

Mike Baltierra:

Well, there was a part of the course where it was about mile, probably mile 130 for the 200 riders and maybe mile 35, 40 for us, where we all merged together and because, lifetime, the people who put on the event do a really good job with production. They had helicopters flying over, they have like these big old, um all terrain vehicles coming by with like big old jigs and cameras hanging off the side so they can follow the riders. And there was one point where we were told that we have to get off the course because the elite men's 200 were coming by and they were filming all that for whatever. And then, um, we've. I didn't notice until I went back and looked at my GoPro footage. There was one section where there was a whole group of us and we were attacking this one Hill and we were going pretty, pretty good for whatever pace we were going. And then the eventual first place person, lachlan Morton and Chad Haga, who got second, they just screamed on by. They climbed that hill like it was flat.

Mike Baltierra:

They were pew and I'm like whoa. And later on in the video there was another group of 200 men uh, the, the elite 200 men's group that just screamed on by. And I'm just sitting there thinking, man, I wish I was young, I wish I was a hundred pounds lighter and I wish I had those nice bicycles so I can do that. I can maintain a 20 to 25 on our pace. It was really exciting, it was super awesome.

Tom Butler:

There is a a YouTube video. I'll put a link to it in the show notes, but there there are race highlights from this year and it's it's a fun video and it's it's put on by lifetime grand prix free or the video is put up on lifetime grand prix channel. Do you think watching it really having little information about? Unbound just seems like they ramped up the production this year for the elite competition, separating the starts out for men and women. It just seemed like that made a big difference at the finish for the women and then they had a separate lane, basically a separate run up to the finish for the elite competitors versus the other riders, and it just seems like we can expect Unbound to continue to be one of those world-class events.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and from what I understand in previous Unbound events, it could have been last year's and I could be mistaken when I say this, but I know that there was an issue where the elite 200 were trying to sprint for a finish and some of the regular riders had interfered with one of the other riders, causing him to have to drop back so you wouldn't hit that person on the way to the finish line. Having the separate shoots to come to the finish line was awesome, because I just cared about finishing, I didn't care about placing, I didn't care about time, I didn't, I just want. They gave us a 3am cutoff as the as the, as you have to be back by three o'clock or you're done. So I gave myself 12 hours. I did it in less than 10. I was super happy about that and to be able to cross that finish line and everybody's cheering you on and you can hear your name called out over the PA system oh man, it's, it's just it's. You have to experience it. It's pretty awesome.

Tom Butler:

So I will have to take your word for it, because I I'm not going to be experiencing it. Okay, well, fair enough, but I'm just saying you never know, someone who's listening may want to try it, and yeah, I would encourage anybody to give it a try. I just don't uh.

Mike Baltierra:

I don't know that.

Tom Butler:

That's for yourself doing it though that kind of, that kind of suffering. I don't know, but it's interesting that it. It would be a different experience if it had a lot of rain, absolutely.

Mike Baltierra:

Um. We were very, very fortunate it didn't rain much at all. It rained thursday and friday, just a little, and whatever mud we did experience wasn't even that bad. It was just damp, nothing crazy, didn't cause any problems at all. The only problems that most people had to deal with, especially people who were not used to well, people in the Mid-South were like oh, this isn't summer yet, this is pretty mild. But you got people coming from out of country who are not used to 80 to 90 degree weather with high humidity, and there were some people that were falling out because they were not acclimatized.

Mike Baltierra:

There was one person in particular and I feel really bad for her. She was a 350 mile racer. We were 10 miles from the finish and she had to throw in the towel. We when I say we, there was a group of riders there, so it was one water oasis is what they called it. So basically it's just a big giant water Buffalo that just spilled water so you can come in and fill up your water bottles and your hydration packs and whatnot, and that was about 12 miles from the finish.

Mike Baltierra:

So we get to one of the turns that goes back into town and out of nowhere, this girl comes up and she's asked, she's asking this group of riders like hey, do you have a phone I can use? I think I'm having heat exhaustion, I'm having a heat stroke and luckily I just filled up all my bottles here. You need to put these in your armpits or put them somewhere that you can actually try and cold down your core. And then she made some phone calls and I don't know what happened to her because she had helped. Come get her. I hope she's okay. But yeah, there were other people who just they just didn't finish because they couldn't do it because they were not acclimatized. And that's why I was saying earlier I'm glad I got there early, get acclimatized to the environment a little bit. You and I both know here in the PNW the summers what it's just another Seattle summer. Just deal with it.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, it is different here, though, than, like Alabama. Oh for sure, I can imagine people coming in from Alabama versus people coming in from the West Coast. That would be a big difference. Mm-hmm, how do you feel about your gear? Did you feel like you had the right gear?

Mike Baltierra:

I think so. I think I over-prepared gear-wise for this event. Luckily, I have a shop not too far from my house they're a Northwest Tri and Bike, so shout out to Ian and Andrew for keeping me and my gear in top working order order. They jumped through hoops to get me a new drive stream for my bike. A lot of people were running gravel wheels. I didn't care about that. I'm like you know what. I'd rather bend a wheel than break a wheel, so I just stayed with my OEM aluminum wheels that came with my 2021 Trek Checkpoint SL6. I ran Rene Hurst Hurricane Ridge tires, super reinforced. They were 700 by 45s, no 42s. I was running 700 by 42s, totally tubeless. To prepare equipment-wise, I figured like you know, I ride around here quite a bit I should be fine. But then I started watching videos from people who didn't finish from last year who were saying, okay, this is what I'm taking with me this year. There was a guy named Bruce Lynn who works for the Pros Closet. He had a whole series of videos of stuff that he was doing to prepare for unbound. He was doing the unbound 200 last year. He didn't finish because he broke his chain and he tried to make it into a single speed, but then it just wasn't working out for him so he didn't finish.

Mike Baltierra:

So this year I made sure I had plenty of sealant. I had plenty of Dyna plugs. I had plenty. I also took inner tubes just in case. I took lots of CO2, co2 dispensers. I took patch kits, gorilla tape, just in case, because you can buy boots that you can put on the outside of your tires. Luckily, the Renee Hearst tires that I have are not just reinforced on the mid portion of the tires but their sidewalls are reinforced from punctures also. So I made it through the entire race without any mechanical issues whatsoever.

Mike Baltierra:

I did have one concern, because I was probably at about miles 60 or 70 shortly after the pit stop and I noticed I thought I heard sealant coming out of my tire. So I stopped and I looked. I didn't see anything. So I just kept going and it wasn't until that big hill I was telling you about, uh, I call Hall at Lake, where, um it, there's a tarmac section that goes over the over the Lake, and I felt my the back of my tire and shimmy, and back and forth.

Mike Baltierra:

I'm like oh no, and so I I think I may have bent the wheel or something. So I looked and I'm sure enough I saw some. Whatever I'm like, okay, hopefully I can finish, because once you get past the checkpoint you are on your own, you have no support. You either throw in the towel or you're walking the rest of the way. Fortunately, I finished. I checked my stuff the next morning after I cleaned everything up and I noticed that a rock had penetrated the tire and the sealant and the CO2 had brushed out so fast. It actually caused some warpage. But it's okay, I finished. So that's all that really matters.

Tom Butler:

So that's interesting. Are you going to be?

Mike Baltierra:

doing it again. I'm going to try again. One thing I'm not sure of and I'll have to double check most events that have lotteries and if you make it, you can. You're actually you're grandfathered in, I guess, to the next event you try to attempt. So I don't know if Unbound is going to have another lottery for those who previously tried to get in. I'm going to have to look into that. I didn't see anything on their website so I don't know yet. But if I get the opportunity to go back, absolutely I'll try it again. Will I do the 100 or the 200? That's unknown. 100 was a great experience. I would probably try to do that again, to try and better my time compared to this year. Or do I just say, go for it and try the 200? I don't know yet. So, yeah, I, I would definitely.

Tom Butler:

Yeah, I had an awesome time and I would definitely do it again, regardless if I, if I finished or not and you thought the train that you could get on here in washington prepared you for that, or you thought it would prepare you for it. Do you think that's the case? Do you think that the terrain that you have access to here is is great preparation for it?

Mike Baltierra:

Yes, and you have to really be mindful of how you plan out your training, cause you don't want to go gung ho at the beginning of the week and be tired at the end of the week, and it's part of your training cycle. So I would mix in, you know, a lot of tarmac time with gravel time, and when we went out riding gravel, brian and I, when we got riding, we would ride it as if we were going to ride unbound. So we rode with everything that we're going to carry with us and we were going to ride it with the hydration packs or whatever we can stuff on our pockets for nutrition. So that way, when it came to race day, there was nothing that was going to catch us off guard for nutrition. So that way, when it came to race day, there was nothing that was going to catch us off guard.

Mike Baltierra:

I do think that, because Brian lives in Redmond and he would start from his house and he would meet me in fall city, because of all that extra road time, plus prep time, plus getting to the forest to ride around and riding with other people that we encounter along the trails, I think all of that really got us prepared, and both mentally, physically and spiritually. I mean, there's something about being outside that you have to be like in the zone or in the Zen, or whatever you want to call it. But there's something really special and very, very different being out in the middle of nowhere, as opposed to being in town riding with cars and other people and have easy access to amenities like food and water or bathrooms. When you're out in the middle of nowhere, kansas, you're basically stuck on your own.

Tom Butler:

That's interesting. Most people that listen to this are not from the Seattle area. Obviously, we have a good deal of people listening from the Seattle area, but when you're talking about fall city and that area, it is a spectacular area. So you're out there training for a pretty serious race but at the same time you're really experiencing some just spectacular nature.

Mike Baltierra:

Absolutely, and unlike Kansas, our forests are very shaded, so you can. If you get too tired, you can pull off to the side and get a little reprieve from the heat and the sun out there. Now you're out, you're white, you're out in the open, you're a toast.

Tom Butler:

If you do this again, you're not going to be coming off of back surgery.

Mike Baltierra:

Correct, so I don't have to worry about that type of prep work anymore. So that's a good thing. I can train harder next time, so that's going to be advantage.

Tom Butler:

Do you? Did you question at all? You know, as you're traveling to Unbound, were you questioning. Is my back in in good enough shape or you know? Is this a mistake? Did you have any feedback from doctors that you shouldn't be doing this? What? What was that process like?

Mike Baltierra:

So about late April, early May, my doctor finally cleared me and said you can do whatever you want, no restrictions, a hundred percent. Get back to whatever you like to do. That I I it's I'm trying to find the right words to describe it but it didn't give me any doubts as to whether I can finish this race or not. It actually inspired me that much more to try to get more prepared within that short time window before Unbounce. I literally had like four weeks to get ready, even though I had spent four weeks on the indoor trainer. You and I both know the indoor trainers. It's a great tool. It does not come close to being outside. The experiences are way different. With that being said, I didn't have any doubts going to Unbound as to whether I was going to finish or not. The only doubts that I had were during the Tour de Cure event, and I'm sitting there thinking to myself how am I going to do this If my back has bothered me this much right now? What's it going to be like in a month? Do I ask for deferment to next year? Do I suck it up? Do I not show up? And I'm like you know what? No, get out of that mindset. Stop doubting yourself. You have the ability to do this. You have the mental mindset and capacity to do this. Now it's just a matter of getting comfortable in the saddle, because you haven't been on the saddle in a little bit.

Mike Baltierra:

To make it happen and I'm glad I had people I surrounded myself with who likes to go on group rides NW Triumph Bike every Sunday they do a group ride. A lot of them like to go ride gravel and we would go ride around Maple Valley and it's not the most gnarliest gravel, but it's some gravel, has some rollers out there, and so got a little bit of that time in. And then, plus riding with Brian, he kept me motivated and we did so. The defining moment was when I met up with him on the Snokomi Valley Trail and we rode out to the tunnel and back. That was 80 miles. I'm like, okay, 20 miles in Unbound, there you go, boom. So that was that's was. That was three weeks out from unbound. That's when I knew, okay, I'm ready.

Tom Butler:

Well, it's interesting, you have a doctor that tells you you know, go, you're cleared to do whatever you want to do. I don't know that that doctor is. When he says that, has in mind a hundred miles. Oh, he knew what my plans were, he knew, he knew what was going on.

Mike Baltierra:

Because, oh, he knew what my plans, he knew, he knew what was going on. Okay, because originally I went saw him before last year's stp in 2023, the seattle portland ride. That's when we started getting the ball rolling and trying to get my back fixed up and I told him hey, listen, I'm active, I do combat sports and I ride my bike and I do this. And he's like, okay, we'll make sure we can get that all squared away for you. And, uh, he's like, we'll make sure that you're ready for whatever you need to be ready for. And he, he was right. And I'm glad he's active too, because he understands how, how important that is.

Tom Butler:

So yeah, that makes a huge difference and it's just, it's kind of blowing my mind to think about the advances we've had in surgery. That that's you know that that progression happens. Yes, it's awesome. Yeah, there is the physical preparation, but I'm thinking that the mental aspect of Unbound is as much of a deal as the physical aspect. Can you talk about that?

Mike Baltierra:

The one thing I tried to do my best is not psych myself out. You know this and everybody else rides a bike and they know this. It's basically you versus yourself. You're going to be your own worst enemy If you decide to throw in the towel and you're going to be the first person to criticize your performance or to critique your performance.

Mike Baltierra:

I wasn't overly concerned about a whole lot of stuff at Unbound in regards to whether I was going to ride it or not, whether I was going to finish. The logistics was kind of a challenge because everybody who's coming to town needs to find a place to stay. People in Emporia they're not dumb. They all know to jack up their prices on their Airbnb, so stuff was really expensive. So I actually stayed in Topeka, which is about an hour North of Emporia, and I would just drive into town.

Mike Baltierra:

I was more worried about getting flats, chain breaking. Am I going to have problems with my bike? Because that's the one bike I was telling you about that I actually crashed and broke a couple of years ago. That Ruckus Composites down in Portland fixed up for me. Matter of fact, I emailed them after I got done. I'm like, hey, my bike survived unbound. They were super stoked about that. That's so very cool. The the mental part of it came during the event when, like I was talking about all the rollers and just miles upon miles of dirt roads and just seeing it go over the horizon in. And then, especially if you're by yourself, I was by myself for 15, 20 minutes at a time before I would catch up to anybody or people would catch up to me, and then the pros would come by and then you get all motivated again. So I think for me the hard part was just dealing with being out in the open the most.

Tom Butler:

That was the worst part, but other than that it was a fantastic time, fantastic time now it seems like a basic question and in if you're out there by yourself, this isn't an issue. But it seems like, even if you're in a crowd of people out there, like there's a lot of dust, yes, how do you breathe?

Mike Baltierra:

um, it's funny you mentioned that, because I've actually been trying to be very mindful about how I breathe, because I find that I I'm a mouth breather quite a bit when I get tired and the last thing I like is, even around here you're writing and you get like some bugs in your face and or, since we have a lot of green trees around here they like to drop, like their pollen or the little tiny pine cones, the little seeds or whatever, and they all get in your face and in your mouth.

Mike Baltierra:

And for me, I tried to do my best at the beginning of the race Cause that's when the big pack of people were all cramped together, was getting out of town, for like the first hour or so was making sure I tried to breathe through my nose, primarily because when you're in that pack of people you got rocks flying up at you and luckily I have some really good Oakley's prescription glasses.

Mike Baltierra:

I ditched the contacts. I got tired of putting contacts every morning to go ride, so I finally got a prescription pair of glasses and all I remember is like ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, just rocks just bouncing off my face and off my glasses and I'm like, wow, they weren't joking about this part, but yeah, it was uh. And then you get in the town or when you get to a spot where you can clean up a little bit, and they give you, like like during stp, they give you like those green towels, you know, just so you can wipe all the sweat off or whatever. Well, mazda provided a bunch of stuff because they're a sponsor of the event. So I'm like cleaning myself off and I just got all this gray and brown dirt coming out of off my face and my nose and everywhere else.

Tom Butler:

So, yeah, it was pretty filthy there's also something fun about that too, though, if you think about it.

Mike Baltierra:

Absolutely my biggest surprise is that, um, so I I really wanted to be mindful of cramping because I knew I was going to be out in the open, so. So I hydrated as best I could throughout the week I carried. So this is you're going to laugh when you hear this so I bought myself a Uswe, u-s-w-e hydration pack. So I bought a 1.5 liter bladder pack for for riding Pretty aerodynamic, so it doesn't cause a whole lot of drag. I'm an ambassador for a company called Ore Factory Racing so lot of drag. I'm an ambassador for a company called ore factory racing, so I bought some of their bags. I had a saddle bag with just some equipment in there, but the frame bag had also had a 1.5 liter bladder in there as well. So so, right, there's three liters plus my two water bottles. So I had water with me the entire time and I filled them up like three, three times on the route, at the beginning of the route, at the first checkpoint, and then again at the water oasis, and I don't think that was enough water. I was, oh, wow, yeah, I, um, I still cramped up pretty bad. So I need to be more mindful of my, you know, salt intake or electrolyte intake. But if you see the picture of me crossing the finish line, you'll see my jerseys all covered in salt, my pants are all covered in salt, just because I you sweat so much and all that, all that sodium just pours right out of you.

Mike Baltierra:

Another cool thing too is meeting other people, cause you know there's the expo that's going on. So you get to meet a lot of the vendors and you got a lot of meat. A lot of the participants are in town for whatever reason, whether they're selling stuff or whether they're participating or they're supporting their friends and family. I got to meet some people who were taking products from a company called Tailwind Nutrition. Basically it's high carbohydrates on the fructose glucose side, as opposed to using maltodextrin. One guy did the 200. He just said he had no food at all. He just used Tailwind the entire time.

Mike Baltierra:

So I'm starting to look into possibly doing that for Seattle to Portland, where I would take less food with me but take more to liquid nutrition, so that way I don't have to worry about stopping all the pit stops and filling up everywhere. My goal this year for STPs, for just to try to do it in a day and, I think, one of the big concerns I had from the last two times I rode STP was is we had a lot of downtime, meaning that we would spend too much time at the pit stops. I downtime, meaning that we would spend too much time at the pit stops. I'm going to try and avoid that this year. I'm not riding with the same group of people that I rode with the last two years, so I think that's going to make a difference. Also, I know they give us a window of 16 hours to complete it in a day I'm going to, if I, if I it.

Tom Butler:

So your first time doing it in a day, that's, that's interesting, okay. Unbound has the a reputation of being a strong sense of community, and I even heard a race organizer talk about that. That. That's like they're. What they focus on most is that, is that community, and it sounds like you felt that you experienced that.

Mike Baltierra:

Everybody from the residents of Emporia welcomed everybody into town, to the writers themselves, to the event organizers it was an absolute blast. I didn't see any negativity. I didn't see anybody getting upset. I mean, I don't know if you experienced it last year on STP, but there are some residents along the route who don't like us being there and they get really upset. Not the case with Emporia. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that these riders are bringing a lot of money into their local economy. They were telling me they brought in like $5 billion last year or something like that. So they're probably pretty happy that we pretty much make their annual revenue for one day or one weekend or whatever the case may be. But yeah, everybody in that town was awesome, it was great.

Mike Baltierra:

I wish more people were that accepting or that it was. It's indescribable, it was, it was, it was a great time. I I. It's hard to explain. It really is a hard thing to to try and convey to other people Like you get there and it was just like you're welcome with open arms, like hey, we're glad you're here. What can we do for?

Tom Butler:

you. It must also be. You know, like you said, there's a lottery to get in there, so the people that are there like really want to be there Absolutely. It seems like that creates an energy as well.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, and there was one video I saw last year where this guy didn't finish and he was talking about was spending all the money to get there and was spending all the money to prepare for it, was spending all the money to get in a lottery worth it. He's like, absolutely, because I'm doing something that no one else is going to be doing, or they all think I'm crazy to be doing it, and I feel the same way. Everybody I know dude, you're nuts, I'm like you know what Everybody has their own path. I may not take the easiest path, but I'm really happy right now. I'm happy I did this. I did something that not everybody can say. They attempted to try or even complete, because there's a lot of did not finish people out there. I'm not trying to bag on them, but I finished and that was a big sense of accomplishment for me and that's the one goal I had for the year was to go to unbound and finish it and say I finished it without any issues and I did all that and I'm really happy about that.

Tom Butler:

That's so cool. Did you have a bit of recovery to do after unbound, did you? Were you pretty wiped out, or how was your recovery process?

Mike Baltierra:

Believe it or not, I woke up the next morning feeling pretty good. I was actually really surprised. I had to call my buddy, brian, to see how he was doing because, um, I didn't hear from him the entire day. It turns out he made a wrong turn and I added a couple extra miles to his route. I got in about midnight but, um, luckily he had his brother there with him as a support crew and called me up the next morning.

Mike Baltierra:

Cause here's another thing that was uh. So he had his support crew, which meant that he had his own tools, his own food, whatever it is on the paid for support. They give you a list of stuff they're going to have for you, and one of them on there was they're going to have lunch and you're like, yes, I get to eat at the checkpoint, and the only bummer part was you can only give them stuff that would either fit in the bag that they gave you, or I had a bin just full of tools, but I had an extra set of wheels just in case, and they wouldn't let they. They're like it's got to fit in here. I'm like so I actually had to give it to brian's brother, but then I text him like hey, dude, I'm good to go, don't need to worry about finding you blah, blah, blah, but there were no sandwiches there and I was. That was the only bummer part of the race man, yeah, yeah.

Tom Butler:

Especially if you're banking on that.

Mike Baltierra:

Yeah, Everybody else toured through all the food. I'm like man, I'm going to be hungry for 50 miles. This sucks.

Tom Butler:

Do you have an experience that you think you'll look back on always as like key moment that you'll carry with you from Unbound?

Mike Baltierra:

A lot of it has to do with the fact that I got to meet people from all over the world and they were all very, very nice and they were all glad to be there. They were happy to be there, whether they finished or not, they were just happy to be there and they were motivated to be there. And it's definitely something. I know you say you'll never do it, but if anybody out there is listening to this and they're on the fence as to whether they want to attempt to do something like this, I say do it, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, try it, you'll be. You may surprise yourself. You may come back saying, wow, I went out to unbound, but I only did. I did the and that's another thing I need to talk about too in a second. I went out there and did the 25 miler and I'm really happy I did that. So I almost said only only 25 miles.

Mike Baltierra:

So on the Friday night before the race, they had this writer's meeting at the theater in downtown Emporia and the race director came out and two things really stuck out in his in the talk that he gave to us. Number one they want to leave the route in better condition than what we found it. So on the next day, volunteers went out and drove all the courses and picked up all the trash, whether it was trash from the riders or stuff left behind by whomever. If it's, if there's goo wrappers out there, or if there's water bottles, we'll pick it up, along along with tires and everything else, cause we just want to have the community know that we are actually taking care of them, and this is our way of saying thank you for letting us use your town for the week or for the weekend or whatever the case may be.

Mike Baltierra:

And then, second, he's like the only thing that I have a pet peeve with is, if I come up to you and ask what route are you racing, don't say I'm only doing 25. I'm only doing 50. We're all here together to have a great experience. Tell me, with pride in your voice, saying I am doing 50 miles, I'm doing 100. I'm doing 20, whatever the case may be, because not everybody comes out here to do gravel races, and you had the gumption to come out here and give this a shot. So be proud of what you're doing, and I thought that was awesome.

Tom Butler:

I think that is awesome, awesome perspective and you know it's it's funny that I say that I'll never do it because I, you know I thought I was done, I wouldn't do the SDP, that I'd missed my chance to do that. Now I'm doing that for the second time this year. I'm going to be riding in September across the state of Washington on the North cascade highway and you know I would have said no, I'll never do that. You know, like a year ago I would say well, I would never do that. So you know, there's a lot of things that I that don't seem like something that I would do until I do them.

Mike Baltierra:

So until I decide to do them, so it is pretty amazing, once you make up your mind to do something, how rewarding it is once she completed. Because you know, at the beginning of this, this conversation, you asked me did you ever think you'd ever do something like this? And and it's funny because it's the same thing with, like STP, seattle, portland. It's just, I'll never do something like that. Or I knew a friend like Brian when I, when I was working for him, he was like yeah, I'm going to do STP this week, this weekend, I'm gonna do it in a day. I'm like, dude, you're nuts, I'll never do something like that. Or my buddy andy, who, uh, another great inspiration for me. He uh lives on mercer island. He would ride into work in to the union bay or lake union, um, south lake union. I'm like you're nuts, dude. I never seen someone announce like, what if that rides a piece of cake?

Tom Butler:

yeah, what a fantastic comment on human ability. You know know, until you put your mind to something, you really don't know whether you can handle it. Now, what challenges do you have coming up? What's on your horizons? Do you have something planned out, or is it kind of low right now? 200 miles on STP, that's not a small thing. No, it's not.

Mike Baltierra:

So that's one challenge coming up. The motivator for trying to do it in a day and you have had him on your show at one point, it was Greg Roth. Love the guy. Look up to him. He's done every STP as a one dayer and I asked for his opinion. He's like you got it, just do it. You know nothing ventured nothing Like okay done After. That is a blitter ride.

Mike Baltierra:

I'm going to be riding with his team to try and raise money for Fred Hutch for cancer awareness, and it's a big big deal for me because my oldest son has gone through cancer twice. My dad's gone through cancer. I have lots of family members. Everybody in the world knows someone that's been affected by cancer, so this is kind of a big deal for me. That's going to be in late August. There's also RSVP. Unfortunately you can't do that in a day, which is the ride from Seattle to Vancouver, british Columbia, and party. I think the border closes like at 8 PM, so you have to stay in Bellingham, which is fine. Bellingham's a nice little town.

Mike Baltierra:

After that it's up in the air. May do the Kitsap Color Classic again. Haven't decided on that yet, but that's pretty much it. I'm going to try and get back into mountain biking. I found that I got into the best shape ever by mountain biking because in order to enjoy that free flow downhill stuff you got to climb up those hills. And trying to climb up 3,000 feet of elevation in two miles is a pain, but you do that enough. You get some massive lung capacity, so that's for sure. So I'm gonna probably start doing that again.

Tom Butler:

We'll see well, mike, I look up to you. I'm like you're an inspiration to me. It's been that way, you know, from the very first time we talked. Like you said, you're surprised that you inspire people, but I know why you do because you overcome stuff. That's such a great example to to other people who maybe aren't starting out in the best shape, like you didn't start on the best shape, but that can see someone blazing the trail of. If you stick with it, if you get committed to training, if you put in the time that you, you can do stuff that you might not think you ever did. So thanks again for coming on and having a conversation with me.

Mike Baltierra:

Absolutely. I'm really honored that you asked me to come back on here. Being able to show people through actions that they can change their lives and they can turn their lives around is has been a big motivator for me. Getting people coming up to me like, hey, I've seen you online, it's great to finally meet you, or I've heard a lot about you. That's a big deal. I'm just just some dude who likes to ride his bike and I'm just some dude who likes to tell people like hey, I, this is what I've done to turn my life around and if it can benefit you, I strongly suggest it it's. It's just great knowing that I motivate people unintentionally and I've met some really good people through riding and I hope to continue to keep meeting some really great people. And thanks for doing the good work of getting the good message about bike riding out to everybody. Thanks again.

Tom Butler:

Have a good one, and we'll talk later.

Mike Baltierra:

Absolutely, thank you.

Tom Butler:

Bye now. Here is my biggest takeaway from this conversation Don't be quick to think a physical problem will derail your fitness goals. I think it is absolutely true that Mike recovered as quickly and completely as he did because he had a foundation of fitness before his surgery. I've put links to the Unbound highlight video and also to Mike's video about the surgery. I think you'll find both of them really interesting. I know many of you have overcome your own health challenges to stay active. I love it when people post about their triumphs over challenges in the Cycling Over 60 Strava group. It helps everyone see what is possible with perseverance, Whether you have overcome some challenges or in the process of doing so, or maybe you've been fortunate to avoid major health issues altogether. No matter your situation, I hope cycling gives you something rewarding to focus on on your personal journey. And remember age is just a gear change.

Weekly Update
Cycling Is a Vital Aspect of Mike's Fitness
Post-Surgery Recovery and Unbound Challenge
Gravel Racing and Unbound Experience
Preparing for Gravel Racing Success
Mental Preparation for Unbound Race
Staying Hydrated
Gravel Racing and Endurance Challenges
A Key Memory
Wrap Up