Monday, July 16, 2007

An Exercise in Humility
The dictionary defines "hubris" as "overbearing self-confidence, arrogance". Shakespeare often wrote about protagonists that had hubris and became victims of their own arrogance. Well I don't know if it was a case of hubris, but this year's Death Ride was a humbling experience - to put it mildly.

I came to this year's ride having trained more than I'd done before. I lost 20 pounds in the process and I was riding exceptionally well. I conquered the last few training rides with energy to spare. On each ride I finished strong and felt great. The training was right, the weather was right, all signs pointed to a ride where I'd easily beat my previous times. I'd ridden the route 4 times before, so I knew exactly what to expect.

The day started cool at 5:20am. I started well, keeping my heart rate below 140 beats per minute. I climbed the first pass in an hour and 20 minutes, 10 minutes better than last year. Things were going well, though something didn't feel quite right. I attributed it to the lack of sleep the night before, having had only three hours of sleep.

The ride down Monitor Pass to Topaz Lake was spectacular for its scenery. It's still breathtaking to see, as the sun was low in the morning sky. As I headed down, I saw many of the people that had left at 4am making their way back up. I thought I'd likely catch them on the next pass. At the bottom of the pass I refilled my water bottles. I filled my bottle from a cooler; I looked in and it was brownish colored liquid that looked like iced tea. I asked the volunteer what it was and he said it was Cytomax. At this point I should have dumped it out and refilled it with plain water. I resisted dumping it out because my water bottle had ice in it and the water at that rest stop had no ice. Since I knew it was going to be warm, I thought it would be better to have the cold liquid than the air temperature water that they had. So I left the rest stop with a bottle of Perpetuem and a bottle of Cytomax.

Not too long after I began climbing I felt sharp pains in my intestines. Every time I pushed my heart rate over 150 beats per minute or I drank water, I'd get another bout of intestinal cramps. I figured once I got to the top, that the problem would go away. I rode to the top of the second pass, but it took 20 minutes longer than I had expected. That clearly wasn't right. I was riding with one of my teammates, Janet, and said I really needed to stop at the top, since I wasn't feeling well. I made a couple trips to the port-a-potties at the top of the climb. Janet asked if I was okay, I said "no, but it should be okay" I went to fill my water bottle and realized that only a quarter of it was gone. Since the water/cytomax was causing my intestinal cramps, I unthinkingly drank too little water.

I thought since I replaced the water in the bottles, that I should be okay. We made it over to Ebbett's pass. Ebbett's is an 8 mile climb, the last 6 are fairly steep. But it was nothing I hadn't handled in the past. At the bottom of Ebbett's I made another stop to see if I could quell the intestinal cramping. I drank some water and packed my water bottles with ice. I thought, I could still recover.

As I started climbing the 6 mile climb on Ebbett's things started going slower and slower. In previous rides I'd climb it at 6mph or greater. I was lucky to get my speed over 4mph. Every time I pushed, it set off another set of stomach cramps. So I kept my speed low and pedaled on. If the stomach cramps weren't enough, the first leg cramps hit with about 3 miles to go to the top. To keep things in check I went slower trying not to push too hard and trying to keep the heart rate down. I made it over the top at 12:45. I was an hour behind schedule.

I made to the other side of Ebbett's and turned around to climb the fourth pass. When I'm rested I can do the fourth climb in 45 minutes. In previous years it took an hour. I was not that lucky. It took over two hours to climb the fourth pass. Several times I had leg cramps in both legs from my thighs down to my calves. By the time I made it over Ebbetts and back towards Markleeville, I was two hours behind schedule. I knew that I had a four mile and a seven mile climb ahead of me to make the last cut off. I couldn't push more than 3 miles an hour uphill. I realized that even standing initiated another round of cramps. At that point, I hit my lowest point and had to call it a day. There was no miraculous five pass recovery. There's a saying that goes, "sometimes you master the mountain, sometimes the mountain masters you." Today, the mountain won.

After the ride, I just wanted to rehydrate and keep from cramping. So I sat at the end of the ride and applauded as the other teammates came in to the finish. It was great to watch fellow team members finish their grueling test.

That night Sherri and I went to a quiet dinner, where I was considerably less than ebullient. I went to bed and woke up at 2am. The day's events played over in my head as I lay in the quiet room. In the morning, Sherri woke up and asked how I slept. I told her I didn't. She said, "I know it's bugging you; why don't you go finish it today after breakfast." I thought, that's not the same. But I realized, that I can't change the past anyway, so I might as well prove to myself that I could do it.

Unfinished Business
So after our farewell breakfast with my teammates, Sherri and I drove 25 miles from South Lake Tahoe to Markleeville and I picked up where I left off. I got on my bike and my muscles immediately objected. It was as if they were saying, "We need to rest, why are you doing this to us?" I didn't listen and the tightness and aches worked themselves out.

Unlike the day before, there were no other riders out there. I was the only rider on the road that day. I rode past the general store and the courthouse lawn, where the crowds were the day before, only to get a few curious stares from customers at the store. I rode past the empty campgrounds at Turtle Rock Park, where a few workers were cleaning up the refuse from the previous day. I rode past the rest areas at Woodfords and Pickett's Junction where the only person cheering me on was my wife as she waited for me to pass. I rode all the way to the top of Carson Pass. At the very top of the pass, I rode by a couple that were out for a hike. The woman asked if had done the Death Ride the day before. I told her I had. She asked, "Well, why are you riding today?" And before I could answer, the man said, "He's just doing it for himself." He couldn't have been more right. I waved and rode off, completing my "extended" Death Ride.

I was watching the Tour de France last night as I saw a race favorite, Michael Rogers, go from leading the race to having an untimely spill, to having to completely abandon the race. Like with other Death Rides, I learned a valuable lesson. With this ride I learned that even though you plan everything right, something can always go wrong. As part of the fight against Leukemia and Lymphoma, I've heard of patients the same age, fighting the same disease where one goes into remission and the other doesn't survive. Sometimes it's just not your day. Not that my experience is equivalent, but the lesson I learned is that I should always be humble and thankful for what I accomplish.

Thank you for enduring my blog updates and thank you for supporting me and my fundraising this year. I'll hope to do the Death Ride again. I'll keep you posted of my campaigns and challenges. But I promise that I'll never take anything for granted. Visit my blog at http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I got more than a few disappointed emails when readers went to see my walnut crushing exploits only to find out it was a cheap ploy to get people to the fundraising site. Okay, I admit it was an underhanded act on my part. I apologize profusely and will figure out the walnut crushing exploits at a later date. In the meantime, I have another Death Ride to do. That's right, I've completed my fundraising. Thanks to everyone who has sponsored me. You've contributed $3,891 towards fighting Leukemia and Lymphoma. Thank you very much.

I am still committed to riding a mile for every dollar raised. I've ridden over 2,800 miles so far and will continue to ride until I exceed the fundraising amount. I capped the limit at the fundraising deadline a couple weeks ago, but it may be the wine talking here, if anyone wants to make a last minute donation I'll gladly ride those miles too. Here's the donation site http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche

Quick Like a Bunny
I had an interesting experience tonight. I was on my ride home from work along Squirrel Alley and a jack rabbit decided to race me along the trail. He hopped alongside me about 10 feet to my right and kept pace with me for about 75 yards. I don't know whether he's fast or I'm fast but it was pretty cool to have a rabbit matching my speed for a long way. I don't know whether he was doing it to impress his friends or he was trying to get at me. Either way it was pretty cool.

Am I Nervous? Heck yeah, I'm Nervous
I've been watching the weather report for the mountains and it's supposed to be pretty hot on Saturday. It's bad enough to have to deal with the effects of gravity, heat is my other enemy. So I've been drinking gallons of water and have been trying to build up water stores like a camel. I'm sure I'll have a mighty hump by the time of the ride. There's so much that can go wrong that it's hard not to thing about it. My wife is going crazy because I have to double check everything just to make sure I don't forget a critical piece of clothing or supplies. I also have to adjust my sleep patterns so I can get up rested at 3:45am on Saturday morning.

And now for something completely different
On a recent ride someone had just took a long turn at the front of our paceline. A pace line for the non-riders is a line of cyclists following close behind each other. Each rider takes a turn at the front, "a pull", drops off and lets another rider take over the front. The first rider goes to the back of the pace line. The pulling and dropping off continues as long as they stay in the pace line. Anyway, as the first rider dropped off and was heading to the back of the line, the riders that passed him said "Thanks for the long pull". At that moment, as happens often, the expression struck me as somewhat - shall we say...naughty. It's certainly not an expression you'd hear in common discussion. I made this observation to the rest of the group and we came up with other cycling expressions that sound dirty, but aren't. So here they are in no particular order.

Thanks for the pull
You were really hammering
You shouldn't twist your nipples more than a quarter turn at a time
You should lube your chain
Did you butter your shorts?
You should put some lube on your post before inserting it in the seat tube

The Death Ride Cometh
I've ridden a bunch climbed a bunch and have tried to get every edge in my favor. Now all that's left to do is ride it. Apparently, according to one of my teammates he thinks I have it in the bag. This picture was taken after a relaxing beer at the end of one our rides. Stay tuned for my post after the ride.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Greetings again. Time for another installment of My Latest Challenge 2.0 - my continuing quest to punish my body on a bicycle while raising money to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma. My fundraising deadline is coming up, so let's go to the tote board to see how I'm doing against my goal of riding a mile for every dollar raised. I've raised $3,541 and I've ridden 2,200 miles. The good news is I still have plenty of riding to do but the fundraising deadline June 22nd. That means if you want to punish me through the summer, you need to get your donation in. Simply go to my fundraising site and make a donation.

I realized I tend to get cranky in my updates. I usually complain about some transgression from squirrels and motorists. This update I'll refrain from focusing on the negative experiences, like one particular idiot motorist on Mt. Diablo a couple days ago, and I'll focus on some of the positive effects.

First, riding over 2000 miles in a few months really tones up your legs and buttocks. Seriously, who doesn't like toned buttocks? "They" say that you can strengthen your buttocks so much that you can actually crack walnuts between your butt-cheeks. I have to say, this claim has always intrigued me. So I decided to see whether one could actually crush walnuts between one's butt-cheeks. Getting the walnuts is the easy part. The hard part is finding a person actually willing to test this claim. I figured all the women on the team were out of the question. I couldn't bring myself to actually ask any of them whether they would attempt to crush a walnut with their butt cheeks. Something tells me they may not take that request in the scientific vein it was offered. Though I'm sure some of them are "walnut crushing fit."

So that leaves the guys on the team. It didn't take very long for me to realize, that I couldn't ask the guys on the team either. That left only two possible courses of action - I would try to sneak a walnut onto their bike seat just as they were about to sit down. This seemed like a brilliant plan. There were only a few problems with it. What if they couldn't actually crush the walnut? They might react with stunned surprise. Have you ever noticed how sharp walnut shells are? What if they crushed the walnuts only to cut themselves on the shells. Again, their reaction towards me may be less than friendly.

Clearly, my only option was to personally put this theory to the test. While I was at it, I decided to determine other crush-worthy items - grapes, marshmallows, oreo cookies, and ping pong balls to name a few. If you want to learn the results of the walnut crushing experiments you have to go here.

Pretty surprising, huh? The things we do in the name of science.

Continuing with my positive attitude, I have to give props to my teammates. I have to say it has been a pleasure riding with such a diverse group of people. We have business owners, surgeons, dentists, nurses, epidemioligists, educators, students, nurses, and anesthetists. All of them are focused on the same goal - fighting cancer and riding farther and climbing higher than they've ever done before. If you're not busy on July 14th and happen to be around the town of Markleeville, you should head over to highway 88 and check these folks out as they make their way up Carson Pass. You'll be inspired as regular folks grind their way up a grueling climb. They'll appreciate the support.

Check out the blog at http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/ and visit the fundraising site. Next update will be after our next two gut wrenching rides.

Steve

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Greetings from afar,

Since my last update, I've been to Mexico, Atlanta, and I'm sending this update from Las Vegas. Only one trip, Mexico was for pleasure. It's been nearly a month since my last update, so there's a lot to cover. Of course, I'm still raising money to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma. If you're interested in joining me in this fight - that is by sponsoring me - please go to my fundraising site at http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche

Traveling and Training Don't Mix
So I was in Mexico for a week. My wife, Sherri, and I spent a week in Cabo San Lucas. Fortunately they offered spinning classes at the resort where we were staying. Spinning is an interesting exercise experience. If you've never taken a spinning class, you should try it out. You get to spend an hour on a fancy stationary bike while a super-fit instructor yells at the class to put more resistance on the bike and pedal faster. The objective of the instructor is to get you as close as possible to puking. People actually pay for this experience!

I told the instructor that I was training for the Death Ride - or in Spanish the "paseo de la muerte". He said if I wanted a real death ride, I should try riding the streets of Mexico. Apparently it's every vehicle and pedestrian for themselves. I saw a total of three cylists in the week we were there. All the other people were apparently smarter than these three. But that's generally the opinion of most motorists of cyclists.

When I got back from Mexico I did a couple rides to get back into the swing of things. Burritos and margaritas are not ideal training foods. The first few rides were quite miserable. It's been reported that Lance Armstrong used to weigh all his food to make sure he did not eat too much. It's amazing how a few extra burritos can add extra pounds.

A donation! A donation! My office for a donation!
Unlike Richard III who did not actually give up his kingdom for a horse, I gave up my office at work for a fundraising sponsorship. Here's the background. We have a shortage of offices with doors where I work. Besides my boss, I was the only employee in our department that had an office. We were hiring a new director of communications who needed a space where he could have confidential communications. So my boss came to me and asked if I'd be willing to give up my office. I said that I would, but that I noticed that neither he nor the incoming director had sponsored my fundraising yet. I said that I was counting on them to "do the right thing." Well I was expecting a nominal donation. I was blown away when my boss popped for a $1000 donation. I thanked him for the generous donation, and he said he was glad to do it. He also reminded me that $1000 means another 1000 training miles. And just when I thought I was catching up.

Since the office for sponsorship deal worked so well, I'm considering other goods and services I can offer in exchange for donations. Here are some of the items I'm willing to exchange for donations - my parking space, the opportunity to rename my cat, an autographed picture of me on a particularly grueling road, a package of power gel (so you can experience what cyclists eat), my old bike shorts (actually worn by me). If you want to sponsor me in exchange for any of these fabulous items, then I'll count on you to "do the right thing." http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche

The Miles Keep Adding Up
I was doing so well. I had the mileage goal in easy striking distance. Currently I have trained 1546 miles and have raised $3291. I'm not complaining about the donation, but this is turning into a difficult task. I'm holding to my promise though. I've been riding over 200 miles a week. I'm going to try and get it up to 300 miles per week. That will help immensely. Over the next three weeks I expect to climb over 45,000 feet and log 500 miles.

Stay tuned. The rides just keep getting more difficult. Thanks for your support.

Steve

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hello again,

I'm back online and writing about my crusade against cancer. As you all know, I'm riding the Death Ride this July in an effort to raise money to fight blood cancers. Anyone wishing to support my cause should visit my fundraising page at http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche
There you will learn that I'm raising money in memory of my mother-in-law, Margie Griffin. If you want to read about my misguided adventures, then visit my blog at http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/

"I am super clever"
If you've been following my updates, you'll know that I pledged to ride 100 miles for every $100 raised. Well I'm pleased to say that I'm finally getting ahead of the curve. Since my last update I've ridden over 340 miles but the fundraising was about $225. So I picked up over 100 miles on my deficit. So how do I do it, I started riding my bike to and from work. That allows me to add another 27 training miles each day. If I do that 4 times a week, I've added 108 miles. That's on top of the training on the weekend. So I will easily match the pledges. As one of my French friends would say, "Ha Ha - you are super clever" For some reason, he peppers his statements with lots of "Ha Ha"s. I'd say it's a French thing but none of my other French friends talk like that.

Anyway, I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. I'm finally gaining ground. The only thing that could possibly spoil my "super clever" plan is to get a large influx of donations. If you're so inclined to make me more miserable - go to my donation page.

Well at least his seat got cleaned
Speaking of miserable, last week we had our first seriously wet ride. The weather report said rain and possible thunderstorms. What it didn't mention was the wind. So we endured gale force winds and cold rain. Well if it doesn't destroy us, it must be making us stronger. There is a rider on our team, who will remain nameless. (And I'm not talking about myself) . He claims "his wife" washed his bike shorts with too much detergent. This detergent was still in the chamois. For non-riders, the chamois is the padding in the bike shorts. Eventhough it's called a chamois it's often made from other non-animal materials. Anyway, you take the combination of water, as provided in copious amounts of rain, plus the aforementioned detergent; add the agitating motion of moving your legs back and forth and you get, what else, suds. Not just a little residue, but full-on bubble bath type suds. Imagine coming up behind another cyclist and seeing suds coming from his seat. You'd think the person had rabies, with the exception that he didn't exactly have a foaming mouth. I guess the a name for this condition could be "hemorrabies"

Ah nuts!
As I mentioned I started riding my bike to work. I have a whole new appreciation for the people that ride their bikes to work. They have to endure the worst traffic behavior. I've only ridden a few days and I've been honked at twice, cut off a few times and I had to "thread the needle" between two cars that were trying to occupy the same space. The next time you see someone riding to work, you should tip your hat to them. They're dealing with some real nuts out there.

Speaking of nuts, I'm happy to report that the kamikaze squirrels have returned. I thought since I have a new place of work, hence a new riding route, that I was done with the little nutjobs. Instead, part of my ride from work passes squirrel town. Only this time they brought some bigger friends. The other day I was almost upended by a jack rabbit. For crying out loud, why's a jack rabbit hanging out with squirrels in the first place. What's next? ducks? cows? So far it has been an uneasy truce between me and the squirrels. You'll be the first to hear if anything develops.

Finally, I met with my good doctor this week. He told me that I didn't need anymore follow-ups and I should only come in if there are problems. Of course I told him, "I hope I never see you again." Realizing that it didn't come out right I said "Well, I mean that in a good way." He said, "That's alright, I hope I don't see you either." Hmmmm... what did he mean by that?

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading along.

Steve

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hello again everyone. I'm back with another gripping update about my latest challenge. My biweekly (or is it semi-monthly) update on my training and fundraising. I'm back for another season of fighting cancer while riding hundreds...er...thousands of miles on my bike. I'm raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society in honor of my late mother-in-law, my friend Stacy, who both battled Leukemia. If you'd like to support my cause, visit my fundraising site at http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche

Ever so slowly forward
If you've been following this year's update you'll know that I pledged to ride 100 miles for every 100 dollars raised. I've ridden 100 miles each of the last two weekends. That's the good news. You've donated over $1600. That's great news. I've picked up my training pace so I should be able to match the fundraising. Sure I'm 980 miles in debt, but my average continues to increase. Now, of course, you could really put me in my place and make a donation just to make me work harder.

Yelling at cyclists
I've noticed an interesting phenomena this season. For some reason people in cars like to yell at people on bikes. I'm not going to go on another rant about inconsiderate drivers and their vulgar epithets. I could fill pages about the various rude remarks hurled in my direction. I was riding on Saturday and some knucklehead in a pick-up truck yelled an unintelligible remark at us. I asked a teammate what the guy said, he said the guy yelled "I'm a fool". Now I don't think that's exactly what he yelled, but it made me think that whenever someone yells something derogatory at us, we can just think they're advertising how ignorant they are. That yelling happens everytime I go riding. It's the non-derogatory comments that are more interesting. If I'm wearing a jersey with the logo of my favorite team, I always get several supportive shouts. The puzzling ones are those that ask questions from their moving cars. Picture yourself in this situation - a car comes up on you, your focus is on not being hit, as the car passes you hear something, it takes you a second to process what you heard and actually interpret it, then by the time you realize it's a question you're only response is an unintelligible grunt. I personally fret over the fact that they think I must be an idiot. From their perspective they asked a question and all this cyclist could do was manage a grunt. Real smooth.

Usually they're asking if they're on the right road, which way is such and such. If you feel compelled to yell at a cyclist, because obviously so many do, you should yell something that will really make them think. I think it would be amusing if you yelled, "Hey, what's the capital of Montana?"

On Bike Seats
I mentioned last time how you had to have no shame when it comes to wearing bike shorts. To elaborate on the whole bike short phenomenon, there is a good reason to wear bike shorts. Bike shorts are made to protect you from your bike seat. They put padding in the shorts because there isn't any padding on the seat. When most people look at a road bike they think that seat looks uncomfortable. You know what? They're right. Most bike seats are uncomfortable and they get even more uncomfortable after a long day. I believe there's collusion between the bicycle seat makers and the short makers so they don't make one aspect of bike too comfortable. There's even a product called chamois butter that is designed to protect you from your shorts which protect you from your bike seat.

So this product is a cream, with the consistency of soft butter no less, that you rub on the padding of your bike shorts. That would be the inside of your bike shorts. There's one manufacturer that calls its product Chamois Butt'r. I guess that's their way of making sure the chamois butter goes where it's intended to go, i.e. your butt. Do they really think people will put this on toast? Anyway, if you really want to give yourself a treat, and I mean that in the most sarcastic way, you should take some cold sour cream (cold butter won't work since it hardens) rub it in your underwear, then put them on. Do that, and you'll pretty much replicate the experience a cyclist goes through when they put their bike shorts on. At the risk of stating the obvious, you will not like it. Makes you want go out and ride.

That's all for this update. Check out the blog. http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/ Next time I'll have some pictures up there so you can see some of the strange discoveries we find on our rides. And no, I'm not going to post pictures of flattened roadkill. Even I have some sense of good taste.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Welcome back to My Latest Challenge 2.0. Things have been progressing very well. I've added a few new people to my mailing list, so if you're seeing this for the first time, check out the rest of the blog at http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/ There you will learn that I am, once again, embarking on an unwise challenge in an effort to raise money to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma. And if you feel inclined to make a donation to support my effort, go to my fundraising site at http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche

This May Be Harder than it Looks
I made the bold claim that I would ride 100 miles for every $100 raised. So far I am woefully behind. I have trained 420 miles and I have raised $1,127. I expected to gain some ground, but I think there's a lot of people that want to see me put in the hundreds of miles. That's okay, I'm still confident I'll easily match the donations. That is unless, some overly generous person steps up.

I think there should be a multiplier for particularly grueling rides. Our sadistic coaches took us on a ride on March 3rd that was particularly challenging. Apparently they've discovered roads that don't show up on most maps. There was a particular road, called Morrison Canyon, that is not wider than one car, is really steep, and to top it off just when you think you've reached the top. It actually gets steeper. At the very top of this hill is an area that looks like a scene from the Hills Have Eyes. There were a lot of strange antenna arrays and many keep out signs. Thankfully I made it, eventhough I narrowly missed ending up as a hood ornament for a car that was coming up the road too quickly.

So What is the Hardest Thing about Riding a Bike?
I get a lot of questions about how it feels to sit on bike seat all day, or how my back holds up to climbing hills. The question on everybody's mind but rarely asked is, "How are you able to walk around in bike shorts?"

Let's face it, bike clothes are one step above Speedos when it comes to sporting attire. Since the rider isn't wearing anything under his or her bike shorts, it's equivalent to walking around in fancy underwear. And of course, just like bathing suits, some people look better than others. I fall into the others.

The worst part about wearing bike clothes is that oftentimes, you find that you're in places where everyone else is dressed in normal clothes. Unlike the Speedo folks who generally are going to be around a pool, I've had to endure walking through the office, that's right - my place of work, in my bike clothes. I've heard every kind of comment - from whistles, to "you've got a lot of guts" and one person asked if I was going swimming. I have no idea what they were thinking. I've also gotten a lot of comments when I was out riding. I can always count of some suburban mouth-breather to tell me from his truck window how gay I look. I even had one woman yell, "Hey fella, you've got nothing to be proud of." Sheesh... she doesn't think I won't remember when mother's day comes around.

Here's the trick to wearing bike clothes, you have to just not care. The key is to develop a high tolerance for embarassment. Fortunately I have had many opportunities to embarass myself and have succeeded in building a high tolerance. One memorably embarrassing moment occurred when I was in college. I saw a young lady friend of mine sitting on the lawn by the Campanile. Never missing an opportunity, I decided to sit down next to her and have a pleasant chat. At this point, I should mention that there are a lot of dogs on the Berkeley campus. People thought it was trendy to bring a dog to school and let it run around while the dog's owner attended class. Along with dogs come dog droppings, or as my kids refer to them, dog bombs. So as I sat down, I made the sudden and unpleasant discovery, that something was simply not right. Of course, you're thinking, he sat down on a dog bomb. Well not exactly, as I sat down on the grass I placed my hand down squarely into a fresh dog bomb. All chances of impressing this young lady evaporated like water on a hot pan. I had to make my way into one of the buildings, find a washroom and hope I didn't see anyone or have to touch anything. When I returned, the young lady was still there...laughing of course. Nearby there was freshly imprinted hand sculpture, not unlike the ones that kids do for their moms on mother's day (hey...oh...nevermind), except plaster of Paris it was plaster of Fido.

Now every time I feel embarrassed about wearing bike clothes, I think of that warm spring day, and tell myself, at least I don't have dog doo on my hand.

That's it for this week. More hills and more miles in the weeks ahead. Hopefully the rain is gone for a while.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Challenges are Everywhere

Hello again. I'm back for another update about my Latest Challenge 2.0. I didn't have enough challenges so I'm back for another year of self-punishment in the form of hundreds of miles and hours on my bicycle. Once again I'm on quest to conquer 129 miles over 5 mountain passes in one day and raise $5,000 to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma in the process. If you want to support my cause visit my donation website at (http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche). If you want to know more about my quest, then visit my blog. (http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/) Let me catch you up on the latest developments.

Me and my big mouth
In my last update I pledged to ride 100 training miles for every $100 donated. Right now I have trained 250.7 miles but your generous donations are at $520. I have a 270 mile deficit. I intend to reduce this deficit considerably this weekend. As I explained to one naysayer, I have a plan that will allow me to keep my mileage up. More about that in a future update, for now you have an opportunity to make me work. You won't get another chance at that.

I did consider other forms of incentives but after careful consideration I thought better of it. The most intriguing was a company that makes personalized bricks. What better way to reward your patronage than to have a brick engraved with your personal message. I was going to offer to carry the bricks on a ride with me and realized that I had enough trouble hauling my own weight around let alone a bunch of bricks.

He Ain't Heavy...He's Fat!
Speaking of weight, I also mentioned that I would lose 35 pounds in the process. To help me in the goal, my loving wife, bought me a super-fancy scale for Christmas. This scale tells me everything, most of which I don't want to know. She would have gotten me a talking scale, but I couldn't bear the sound of a scale telling me "One at a time please" or "The freight scale is in the back" or "What did I do to you?". Thinking I could endure anything the uber-scale could tell me, I learned the hard way that I was wrong. You see, the scale has this one measurement that tells you your metabolic age. Effectively it computes your fitness and provides you with what your age should be. Here's the deal, my drivers license says that I am in my 40s. My scale tells me that I am in my 50s. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather my scale make cutting remarks than to simply tell me I am old. All this time I bought into the line - "You're as young as you feel". Now I know "You're as young as your scale says you are". My newly added goal is to get my scale age below my real age. I know this is possible because my superfit cousin, who happens to be 10 years older than I, is only 26 according to the scale.

Well that's enough update for now. Tomorrow we tackle a 54 mile ride. This should be a real test for the back. While I'm riding, check out the blog for a tear-jerker story that pretty much sums up why I ride to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma.

Steve

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

From on My Back to on My Bike

I bet some of you were wondering whatever happened to those nice updates we used to get from that bike riding guy. Others of you are probably saying, "I'm glad I don't get those updates anymore." And others are wondering, "How did he get my email address?"

Once again I'm going to be filling your inbox with inane blather about how I'm doing on my latest challenge. As some of you will recall, last year I took on the ill conceived challenge of rding my bicycle 129 miles over 5 mountain passes. I did this as part of a challenge to raise funds to fight Leukemia and Lymphoma. Well thanks to many of you, I collected over $7,500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in honor of my late mother-in-law, Margie Griffin and my friend Stacy Bowman, who is a leukemia survivor.

So what am I up to you say? Well shortly after I completed the Death Ride last year I was contacted by my coaches from Team in Training and asked if I wanted to be a mentor for this years Death Ride team. Coincidentally, I was recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured disk in my lower back. So while wondering whether I was going to walk upright, let alone ride a bike, I did the only reasonable thing...I said "Yes". That's right, a gimpy overweight guy, i.e. me, is going to do the Death Ride again. It sounds ludicrous and don't tell my surgeon, but I'm determined to give complete this very difficult ride.

Here's the deal - after all that effort to raise money to support cancer research and patient services, they still haven't found a cure. I know, I'm as shocked as you are. Since over 76% of the funds raised by the Leukemia and Lymphoma go to fund important research and care, I felt what better way to invest my time.

So if you think that helping to find a cure for Leukemia and Lymphoma is a pretty good idea, and if you want to support my goal of raising $5,000 to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, then check out my fundraising site at http://www.active.com/donate/tntgsf/steveasche To make things more interesting, I'm committing to ride 100 miles this year for each $100 dollars raised. I figure that if people want to spite me, they'll donate more.

I'll keep you updated on my progress along with various experiences along the way. If you do not want to receive updates, drop me a line and let me know.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why I Ride for Team in Training

For those that don't understand why I raise money to fight blood-related cancers, this story pretty much says it.

From the book, Life Lessons, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler.

“Some years ago, I knew a young boy who was eager to spread love and find life, even though he was at the end of his. He had had cancer for six of his nine years. In the hospital, I took one look at him and knew he was finished fighting. He had just had it. He had accepted the reality of his death. I stopped by to say good-bye the day he was going home. To my surprise, he asked me to go home with him. When I tried to sneak a peak at my watch, he assured me that it would not take long.

And so we drove into his driveway and parked. He told his father to take down his bicycle, which had been hanging in the garage, unused, for three years. His biggest dream was to ride around the block once—he had never been able to do that. He asked his father to put the training wheels on his bicycle. That takes a lot of courage for a little boy to do: it’s humiliating to be seen with training wheels when your peers are popping wheelies and performing tricks with their bikes. With tears in his eyes, the father did so.

Then the boy looked at me and said, “Your job is to hold my mom back.”You know how moms are, they want to protect you all the time. She wanted to hold him up all the way around the block, but that would cheat him out of his great victory. His mother understood. She knew that one of the last things she could do for her son was to refrain, out of love, from hovering over him as he undertook his last, great challenge.We waited as he rode off. It seemed like an eternity.

Then he came around the corner, barely able to balance. He was terribly drawn and pale. Nobody thought he could ride a bike. But he rode up to us beaming. Then he had his father take off the training wheels and we carried the bike, and him, upstairs. “When my brother comes home from school, would you send him in?” he asked.

Two weeks later the little brother, a first-grader, told us that his brother had given him the bicycle as a birthday present, since he knew he would not be around for the birthday. With not much time or energy left, this brave boy had lived out his final dreams, riding his bike around the corner and passing it on to his younger sibling.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

It's January 22nd, 2007 only 5 months and 3 weeks until my next crack at the Death Ride. Last year I rode the Death Ride as part of the Team in Training organization. I endured sadistic coaches, bitter cold, scorching heat and many grueling hours on a hard leather seat. In spite of those challenges, which I've chronicled in past blog entries, I'm doing it again.

So why am I doing it again? Two reasons - I think I can do it better than last time. I believe that if don't give graviity such an advantage and I get my weight down, that I should be able to finish it an hour faster than last years ride. The second reason, is that despite all their efforts, they did not find a cure for cancer last year. As I did last year, I will be riding and raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

To make the effort a little more challenging, I should point out that I have not been able to ride for 3 months and that recovering from back surgery limits one's exercise options. So in order for me to make my objective of shaving an hour off my time, I have to overcome the weakness in my back and I have to lose 30 pounds - 15 of which I gained after my back surgery.

In a lot of ways this will be a tougher challenge this year. I know many people that supported me last year may have other priorities this year. I'm starting out in worse shape than last year. It will certainly be a long road. Please join me on this challenge. If you'd like to sponsor me please visit Steve's Fundraising Page

Thanks
Steve