Wednesday, December 24, 2008



Merry Christmas from the Asche Family

A few weeks ago my family asked if I was going to write a Christmas letter this year. You may recall that we actually wrote our first family Christmas letter two years ago and I got an earful of responses. Mostly comments like “I can’t believe you would say that” or “I hope you didn’t send a copy to your aunt.” So I shelved the idea. But the family persisted, so here we go. I’ve poured myself a glass of port wine (Taylor Fladgate), I’m listening to Christmas music (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and I’m finally ready to give you an account of the past year. First a sip of port…that’s good stuff.

So I drew names out of a hat, well not actually a hat, a paper cup, to see whose glorious year I would recount first. Sherri is the first up and she has had a very good year. Let’s talk traveling – she went to London to see a living queen, to Egypt to see a dead queen, and to Alaska to see a lot of wildlife and some real Americans. She didn’t actually get to meet either queen. She did however see where they live, so that’s pretty cool – well, only one of them, the other, being dead, doesn’t actually live anywhere. She had a great time in Alaska with her cousin Peggy, and spent time consorting with eagles and bears. Since she was just in Alaska and there was a lot of talk about Alaska during the election season, she was asked if she could really see Russia from Alaska. The only Russia she saw were the white Russians that the Alaskans are fond of drinking.

Emily went to London and Egypt too. She started the year working for a firm that sells executive insurance policies. At least that’s the best I can figure out. All we know is that it’s a bunch of executives that meet with a bunch of clients, golf and drink a lot. So they’re either insurance brokers or they’re executives at AIG. Nonetheless, she likes the job and she’s saving money for graduate school. She’s applied to two schools in London. Since the British have “acquired” much of western civilization’s art over the past few centuries, what better place to become an expert art historian.

Rob is plugging away at DVC and hopes to be finished next semester. He’s planning to major in communications. Any of you that have lived through teenage boyhood or have lived with a teenage boy, know how incredibly ironic that is. Anyway he really is quite creative and very good writer. He offered to write the Christmas letter but he tends towards darker subjects and more observational topics. The letter would digress into a commentary about what’s up with the houses that have only blue lights? Which reminds me, what is the deal with houses and blue lights? Think about it, you never see all red lights or all orange lights. Here’s the prevailing theory in the Asche household – they’re Hanukkah lights. I’ve thought about stopping at one of the houses and asking them what the deal is. We generally think that may be a tad insensitive. So if anyone knows the answer, please pass it along. As I was saying, he would likely digress into other topics but if you’re on Facebook, check out some of his blurbs. His piece on why we don’t get presents any more is pretty good.

Sherri just stopped in to say “Hi”. She asked me to turn the music down and wants to know why I’m drinking port at 10 in the morning. I told her it helps put me in the holiday spirit. “Oh really” she says, “I bet if you took me shopping that would really put you in the holiday spirit.” I said, “If we’re going shopping, I better have a couple more glasses of port.” She said, “Just finish the letter and try not to insult anyone this time.” I said, “Don’t worry I’m avoiding politics, religion and sports, so we’ll be fine”

Ok, back to the letter. I had an eventful year. I kept my job. I voted in the primaries and the general elections. I donated money to support a political candidate. It’s not who you think. According to some people, I drank a lot of port. I hired a professional trainer to teach me how to eat properly and to help me lose 25 pounds. Both goals were accomplished. Over the course of 7 days, myself and 4 friends rode our bikes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean through the Pyrenees Mountains on the border of France and Spain. That was an epic trip. I definitely got a new appreciation of what those riders in the Tour de France do. Ok maybe that was a little more interesting than voting and a lot better than my trip to Wichita.

My port is almost gone, so I’ll wrap this letter up. We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sisyphus was a Cyclist
It was hot, dry and smoky on Saturday when I, along with the TnT Death Ride team, returned to the Death Ride for my third consecutive year. The day before, when we drove into Markleeville, you couldn't see the mountains that lined the valley walls where Markleeville lay. Smoke from recent northern California fires seemed to be concentrating right where we were going to ride the next day. When we got out of the car, we were assaulted with 90 degree heat. I had some serious doubts about the next day's ride. I thought the route would be littered with fallen cyclists along the side of the road trying to catch their breaths. I thought to myself, "Why the heck am I doing this?" This is my third year with TnT and here I am again, ready roll my boulder of a body up 15,000 feet of elevation. There must be something mentally wrong with me. Well that wasn't an original thought, I had that question posed to me by a number of friends in the past. Most recently a couple days before the ride.

We arrived the next morning at 4:45am. The goal was to get on the road around 5:00. Thankfully you couldn't see the smoke as it was quite dark. This year I decided to take a different tactic to riding the Death Ride, I buddied up with friends Alex, Andrew and The Hammer (pictured to the left). As we left in the dark at 5:05 we noticed that it wasn't very cold. In fact, as we rode towards Monitor Pass, there was a warm wind blowing down the valley.

The buddy ride tactic was working quite well. We talked about various topics from vacation plans, mosquitoes, mid-life crises, and what we planned to do with our weekends now that the training season was coming to an end. Before we knew it, we had crested the first pass and we were at the bottom of the second pass. The good news at this point was it turned out to not be that smoky. In fact, it was downright pleasant. I knew not to get too confident. I felt good at this point every other time I did this ride. So The Hammer, Alex, Andrew and I set off to conquer pass number 2.

We got to the top of Monitor Pass again, having climbed two mountains now, and it was only 9:00am. We went down Monitor, hitting a top speed of 46mph and we made our way over to Ebbetts. Our luck was holding, we crested the top of Ebbetts Pass at 11:30. This was astounding since I'd never made it there before 12:15. Wow, I was having a great day. At the bottom of Ebbetts in the Hermit Valley we met my friend Betty (pictured on the right). Betty drove over that morning from her home in Arnold and brought sodas, ice and Milky Way bars for the TnT folks. She commented that I was much earlier than the last time two years ago when I came through at 12:30. We hung out drank Betty's greatly appreciated Cokes, grabbed some ice and headed up the back side of Ebbetts Pass.

Now normally the back side of Ebbetts is my bane. The sun beats down on you, there's no breeze and it's very steep. Well it was still steep, but a serendipitous thing happened, large clouds came in and blocked the sun. This dropped the temperatures at least 10 degrees. The ride to the top of Ebbetts was pretty straightforward. This couldn't be, the only problem I had all day was my heart rate monitor was flaking out on me. Could this be the year where I breeze through this ride? When I met my wife Sherri for lunch, I told her I was having a great ride. When I rode through Markleeville on my way to the fifth pass, there were actually people still there to cheer me on. Unbelievable!

I made it all the way to Woodfords, which is the lowest part of the route, and I thought everything was going fine. Then I noticed, it's quite warm now. Actually, it was downright hot. Woodfords is right at the edge of the Nevada desert. The area around it is covered with spiky shrubs. Fortunately you climb away from Woodfords to the cooler area of Picketts Junction and Carson Pass. But at that moment, my brain said, "Hold on there big fella, it's too hot for us, slow down." Being a person that occasionally listens to my brain, I had no choice but to slow down.

When you're riding and one of the people you're with slows down, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to slow down. It's quite acceptable for the faster riders to go their own pace and you'll meet up at the top of the climb. When you get to the top, they'll have been resting for several minutes. When you get there they usually say "Let's go" and you have to keep riding. This is known in cycling circles as "Paying the slow tax." As The Hammer, Alex and Andrew pulled away, I knew I would be paying the slow tax.

So there I was making the hot and slow 5 mile climb from Woodfords to Picketts. At this point, the thoughts of "Why am I doing this?"returned. At the end of last years ride, my friend Barb, who has completed Iron Man triathlons, said "I cannot understand why *anyone* would ever, ever do this ride twice". Like a marathoner, I realized I had hit my wall. So I did what a marathoner would do, focus on something else and gut it out. So I focused on the well wishes I received the days before. The phrases "Have a great ride" and "Just keep pedaling" kept playing through my head along with the song "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. Okay, if I keep my focus it won't get any worse. I was wrong. It got worse.

As I reached Picketts Junction those clouds that provided shade on Ebbetts Pass decided to call up some reinforcements. The friendly cumulus clouds had turned into nasty cumulonimbus clouds and they were full of hail and they were mighty angry. Lightning, thunder, and hail the size of garbanzo beans started hammering us. Now I can tolerate garbanzo beans in small doses, but smacking you in the head and back is most unpleasant. It felt like the ice balls were being shot from sling shots. Everyone scattered for cover. The outhouses were crowded with people trying to avoid the hail. Roughly 100 cyclists were huddled under one tent. As the hail was coming down, I had the unbelievably good fortune of having my wife drive up in our car. She didn't see me. Fortunately she pulled over about 200 yards ahead and was helping some other cyclist. When I got to her, the other cyclist was quite dry under the shelter of a wading pool that she had brought along for people to cool their feet. She thought, correctly I might add, that the riders' feet were probably quite cool at the moment. The only room in our car was in the back seat. Well, actually, if I moved the ice chests and beach umbrella out of the way. I decided I'll just sit in the back seat and hold the ice chest on my lap. You see the funny thing about ice chests is they are usually full of ice. When an ice chest has been out all day, the ice has melted to a mixture of about half ice and half water. So instead of leaving the ice chest outside, where it could quite capably weather the hail storm, I held it on my lap. Well that is until the I tilted the ice chest a little too much and about a quart of ice water dumped into my lap, soaking my jersey and shorts, and flowing onto my nice leather seats.

At this point I was colder inside the car than outside. I really envied that guy under my wading pool...lucky bastard. After about 20 minutes, the rain let up to a light shower. It was time to leave. Mister Wading Pool also decided it was time to go. He thanked Sherri for the use of the portable shelter handed the pool back to her through the car window. Pools, as you might guess, are quite good at holding water. This one was no exception. As the pool was being fed through the window, the collected water poured onto my front seats. At this point I let out a series of expletives that would make Eric Cartman blush. If I catch that guy I'm going put a water bottle in his spokes. I wasn't going to dwell on it. I got out of the car.

When one has ridden 100 miles and climbed over 13000 feet then dumps ice cold water on his thighs, a very predictable and painful thing happens. I got vicious cramps in both legs. I said to myself, to heck with this, maybe they'll go away if I keep pedaling. "Just keep pedaling" So I got back on the bike, shivering like an apoplectic fundamentalist at a revival meeting, I set out to finish this dang ride. I had lost The Hammer, Alex and Andrew when we all scattered for cover. Well, I guess I'm finishing this one on my own.

There was a seemingly endless line of cyclists making the slow climb up Carson Pass. By the way, the nasty cumulonimbus clouds weren't done. Twice more the hail and rain beat down on us. At one point on the climb the rider behind me hit my rear wheel with his front wheel. Immediately he fell over into the sand on the side of the road. For a split second I felt sorry for him, then I thought, "Sure, fine, lie down and rest." "Just keep pedaling" I passed my friend Jon who was taking a rest on the side of the road. (He hadn't fallen like the other guy) I told him to get behind me and we'd finish this thing. He said there were about 100 riders behind me and would wait for an opportunity to pull in. I hadn't realized the Death Ride had turned into the Bataan Death March on Wheels.

At 5:35 I made it to the top of Carson Pass. I got my 5 pass sticker, my 5 pass pin and my celebratory ice cream. I waited at the top to see several teammates come in and complete the ride. I raided a nearby dumpster and stole some discarded cardboard. I stuffed that down my shirt because I knew the descent back to the finish would be very cold and likely wet.

The pavement was still wet, though it wasn't raining. On the east side of Carson Pass there's a quarter mile straight steep section with a sharp right turn followed by a left turn. I figured that I should apply a little more braking to accommodate for the wet pavement. Wet brakes tend to grip inconsistently and can set up a vibration in the wheels. At 45mph I started a high-speed wobble. I'm heading down a highway, at 45 mph, towards a sharp right turn and my bike starts shaking. The Tour de France, which is going on right now, has a commercial where they show lots of bike crashes. In the commercial they say, "The next time you're in your car, start driving at 50mph, strip down to your underwear and jump out. That's what crashing on a bicycle is like." It's a very memorable commercial; I had no desire to test that now. I tried braking some, it made it worse. "Oh crap!" Then I remembered, "change the physics of the machine." "Get off the seat and just keep pedaling" Sure enough, I lifted my butt off the seat, pulled my knees close to the top tube and moved the pedals. The wobble subsided. That was really scary.

After that, as I returned to the start and I wondered again, "Why am I doing this?"

When I returned the start. Alex, The Hammer, Andrew along with Kimberly, Jon, Sue, K.Sue, Shelley, Grace, Richard, Robert, and many other teammates were there celebrating their accomplishment. I saw the satisfaction they had in finally conquering this achievement. I remembered that we all trained together all season to make this one goal. When we got separated, I lost concentration and had forgotten that it wasn't about me. Sure I could be drinking margaritas while sitting on a beach in Costa Rica, and I will some day, but this day, it was about the team. The Hammer came up to me and said she waited for me after we got separated and tried to find me and that she really wanted to finish the ride with me. It's something we did together. We worked together and we all made it together. It's not about the ride, it was about the camaraderie. So I did the only proper thing, I bought a couple beers and we celebrated like we'd just won the Tour de France.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

On Gravel and Gravity
Have you ever noticed that the words gravel, gravity, and grave all have the same beginning. This thought crossed my mind as I was rapidly descending Mt. Hamilton last Saturday. I started thinking this as I navigated the endless hairpin turns and noticed that in every blind turn there seemed to be a line of gravel in the middle of the road. It takes a whole lot of concentration and quite a bit of luck to come around a corner, see the gravel and find a line that doesn't take you through the gravel or into the oncoming lane. Nothing quite gets your attention like going around a corner at 25 mph hitting bit of gravel and having your rear wheel hop a inch or two off track. Some people would call it exhilarating I don't. In fact I thought it was downright pee-your-pants scary. Thankfully I made it all the way down the mountain,with my pants unsoiled I might add.

This was on one of our more memorable rides. On top of the scary descents, it was 95 degrees in the shade. We climbed the toughest climbs in the Bay Area - Mines Road, the back side of Mt. Hamilton, Sierra Road and Calaveras Road. My heart rate monitor recorded a high temperature on the road of 116 degrees. That's tough sledding even without the gravel. We rode 110 miles, conquered the toughest climbs on one of the hottest days and we dodged some nasty boobytraps. All that was left to do is ride triumphantly back to the cars. One rider after another made the right turn into the parking lot. I was the last rider in the group. Did I mention it was a gravel parking lot? After all the near misses on Mt. Hamilton, I found a patch of gravel that was less forgiving. So like a dog running on a newly polished floor, my rear wheel slid out from under me and I hit the ground before I could even contemplate the gravity of the moment.

Unlike my previous crash where I had quite a bit of forward momentum along with gravity, I only had gravity to deal with. Fortunately I only had a scraped knee and arm along with a healthy dose of embarrassment. Death Ride is in two weeks. I must try to be more upright.

Can't Touch This
Speaking of Death Ride, I have to tell this story. Yesterday we were on our final difficult ride of our training, 93 miles, 7300 feet of climbing. We were riding in a group of 4. We were on a 15 mile stretch along Highway 1 heading north of Santa Cruz. We were maintaining a comfortable 23 mph paceline. Sue had just taken the lead when we saw about 300 yards ahead a triathlete rider. Let me say that in general, triathletes are pretty decent people. Most have been very courteous and cordial. However you occasionally come across tri-riders who have a very annoying habit. They are perfectly happy to hang on your wheel and let you do the pulling, but they never pull the paceline when it comes to their turn. This gentleman looked to be one of the latter types. Which brings me back to Sue. Sue is a middle-aged housewife. Most of her time is spent raising horses and helping with her husband's company. She probably weighs less than 100 pounds. She is just a very nice person. Well, Sue is in front of the group and we noticed that our pace is starting to pick up...23...24...25...26...27...27.5 mph. Sue smelled blood. Without any word from the rest of us she was bound and determined to reel the tri-guy in. The 300 yard gap was down to 100 yards in no time. Like a race horse that gets the bit in its teeth, Sue was flying, 50 yards and closing fast. At that point Sue realized that she couldn't pass him and maintain her speed. You see, you don't get any prestige points for passing someone and they subsequently pass you. If you pass someone, you have to let them know you're the badass on the bike that day. If you pass them only to have them pass you because you're spent, well then, you're just a dumbass. Sue recognized this and dropped off and said to me as I took over the lead, "Go get 'im". Of course, we got him. The group passed him with a courteous, "On your left" which is a roadie's equivalent to "Go find a bike trail, slow poke. " And you know what the tri-guy did next? He got onto the end of our paceline and let us pull him all the way to our turnoff miles down the road. He never took a pull...typical. Sue immediately earned the nickname "Hammer" because she showed when the time required it she could put the hammer down.

About the Raffle
Thank you to everyone that participated in the fundraising raffle. The big hits of the raffle were the autographed Team CSC jersey, the Chatom Vineyards chardonnay, (which got rave reviews from a winner) and a hand made quilt. These were among the 39 prizes given away. All-in-all the event was a big success. We raised close to $3000 for supporting Team in Training. To the people that read this update, Jill, Steve, Steve, Peggy, and Aunt Butch - you were all winners. I'll be contacting you with your prizes.

Death Ride in two weeks, France in four. July looks to be pretty busy.

Thanks for reading,
Steve

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The People Have Spoken
Okay, no more talk about the mid-life crisis, the votes are in. I'm not going to tour with Duran Duran, I do not want anything to do with Walt Disney's frozen head, I would very much like to drink tequila on a beach, but instead I'm going to do something ridonkulously hard. I, along with some friends from the Death Ride team, are going to France. Well the France part isn't that hard. I mean as long as you don't tell them you're an ugly American it's not. Not that they won't be able to spot me right off. Anyway, here's the deal. We will be riding 8 days in the Pyrenees from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. The Pyrenees are the mountains on the border between Spain and France. In the Tour de France the Pyrenees are known as the difficult mountains. They're steeper, higher and the weather tends to be hotter. Here's a quote from a professional cyclist Jonathan Vaughters:

"The Tourmalet and Hautacam are some of the toughest mountains ever paved. Conquered in a car, they are majestic and beautiful (as long as the engine doesn’t overheat), ridden on a bicycle, they are hell. Now maybe Rob will tell us he’s doing this precisely because those mountains are hell. You know, the ‘
just to see if I can….’ idea. Well, sure, I can try to shave a fully clawed, feral cat, just to see if I can , but the question here is WHY?!"

The Tourmalet and Hautacam are two mountains we climb on day 7. Check out the link to the ride description. So we won't actually be riding in the Tour de France but we will be riding the same routes. It's going to be like fantasy baseball camp for cyclists. Except instead of playing in pretend games that are akin to a beer league softball game, we'll ride the actual routes the pros ride. I realize that it looks like there are better ways to spend your vacation, but hey, when these opportunities come along you just have to step up and take advantage. Life's short, I don't want a eulogy about how I didn't grab opportunities and do something extraordinary. So this will be different. If anyone wants to go on this ride, there are still spots open. I'll work on the other items on my list and I am open to a few more suggestions.

After this year's Death Ride we'll take a couple weeks rest and then pack up the bikes and head to the real mountains. So we will be there July 27th through August 6th. If anybody who reads this blog happens to be somewhere in the Pyrenees, I will be happy to buy the wine at dinner.

Tales from the Road

We've been riding our butts off this training season. I haven't written enough about our riding exploits. To catch you up - I have shaved my legs yet again. It's an annual ritual, kind of like the molting of a chicken. Except most chickens don't live that long to have too many moltings. Anyway I've got that clean shaved professional wrestler look to my legs. (I did not shave any thing else) One of my team mates, a guy, shaved his beard, head, and legs. Of course it was a guy, we don't have many women that have beards. Strike that, none of the women on the team have beards. In fact, the biggest treat about riding on the Death Ride team is you get to ride with some fantastically fit women. And they're nice people too.

Alright, back to the guy who shaved his head...that's a little too extreme and frankly a tad bit unnecessary. I have enough trouble keeping my hair in my head that I'm not about to shave it off. I have one of those stretchy bandanas that I wear under my helmet. It effectively give me the appearance of being completely bald, that is not a look I want to aspire to. In fact when I take my helmet off I look like a 6 foot 2 inch Q-tip. Just when I thought the ultra-revealing bike pants were enough indignity, they create these goofy skull caps. Sure I get the form over function bit, but couldn't they have at least put a design on there like some type of animal. At least then when I take my helmet off it would look like I had an animal on my head. Now that would be cool. Can you imagine the look of surprise if I took my helmet off and it looked like I had a raccoon or snake on my head?

BTW if you happen to be in the vicinity of Markleeville CA on July 12th, you can see some fit women and some bald men, a couple hairy dudes, and maybe a guy with a raccoon on his head. That's the date of the Death Ride, only a month away - yikes!

More Raffle Tickets
I'm still selling raffle tickets. Anyone interested in tickets, drop me an email. I can get them to you. If you haven't received yours yet, they're on their way. The raffle is on June 25th. If you're in the vicinity of the Sports Basement in Walnut Creek we will be hosting our raffle. Food and drinks will be provided. Also if you've purchased a raffle ticket you're entitled to 20% off any merchandise in the store. That's a huge bargain.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Saga Continues

So last time I wrote I said I was embarking on my mid-life crisis. I'm sure you've been waiting to hear just what sort of mid-life crisis suggestions have come in so far. Frankly I've been astounded by the number and diversity of suggestions. So without further ado, here are some of the suggestions:

- Get a perm and buy a Corvette.
- Write a book
- Start a tradition of doing something special each year with my kids
- Read Ulysses by James Joyce and tell my friends how smart I am
- Buy a dog
- Hike across the Atlantic
- Wrestle with an alligator
- Ride a stage of the Tour de France
- Quit my job and tour with Duran Duran all summer
- Become a roadie
- Get a hearing aid implant
- Get hair plugs
- Buy a 350Z
- Drink tequila while sitting on a beach in Costa Rica
- Ride my bike to the top of Haleakala
- Take an extreme adventure tour to New Zealand
- Fire a machine gun from a tripod in Las Vegas
- Go to the Super Bowl
- Try to relive Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas trip
- Open a bike shop
- Pick a fight in a biker bar
- Thaw Walt Disney's frozen head
- Visit all of the major league baseball parks
- Get a walk-on role on the Simpsons
- Buy two cats
- Climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro before global warming melts all the snow
- Rent a private island

Well that's a good start and there some on there that I have on my list and some that I really don't think I'll do. So I have a request, let me know which ones you think I should do. If you have a suggestion that's not on the list I'll entertain that. Send me an email at this link Click here to email me


About Those Rides

I had a request to do a write-up about some of the rides I've done. Apparently some readers have taken exception to my creative digressions. So I figure I can give you an update about this year's training regimen. The Death Ride team has been busting its collective butts to train. We did some epic rides this season. The most recent was a ride called Big Basin. Big Basin is a 110 mile 11,000' monster of a ride. We start in Mountain View ride over to Stevens Creek Reservoir, climb a ridonkulously steep road called Redwood Gulch and then ride over to a state park called Big Basin. The ride is remarkable for its redwood-lined roads. After Big Basin we climb over to a small town called Boulder Creek, Bonny Doon, Boulder Doon, or Bonny Creek, after the climb I couldn't much remember. If that wasn't fun enough, we then proceeded to make a 3 mile climb up the side of a cliff. This road called, Jamison Creek, has to be one of the steepest roads on the peninsula. This road hits pitches of over 20%. You know it's 20% because when you ride up it, you have to lean over your handlebars to keep your front wheel from coming off the ground. Once we climbed over that we had to ride 20 miles into the wind along Highway 1 up to Pescadero. As if that wasn't enough fun. After fighting the hurricane blasts along the coast, we turned inland for 9 miles of climbing back over to Mountain View.

This marks the fourth century ride in as many weeks and we still have 8 weeks to go. What strikes me is how determined this year's team is. I've been amazed at the amount of pain people are willing to endure to finish the ride and to be there for their teammates. We've had 5 crashes this season, the previous two we had none. One person had a broken wrist but has since returned. Only one dropped due to an injury but that's because he broke four ribs. Three women crashed on the ride before Big Basin. Two straightened out their bikes and completed the second half of the ride, the third couldn't continue because she tore through her shorts.

Another amazing teammate is one of our honorees, Grace. She's one year removed from chemotherapy and when other women may choose to settle down, she's out there climbing every hill with her teammates. Truly an example of incredible spirit and will. If you ever get the chance, you should meet some of these people. Their stories are inspiring.

You can see some of the pictures by going to my Picasa web albums


Big Basin

Thanks for reading. If you do not wish to receive these updates, drop me an email and I won't darken your inbox. If you like them, then drop me an email or go to the blog to leave a comment.

If you want to hear from some of the teammates, check out this entry from another blog

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Hello again everyone,

I couldn't believe the response from my last update. Apparently I've become a one man marketing department for my nutrition coach, Kim. I had several inquiries about her services. If anyone wants to contact her I'll happily pass along her email address and number.

It's A Big One
This week, although I could write about my recent 120 mile ride, I'm going to write about something we all can relate to. I had my birthday last Sunday. It was traumatic.

This is a birthday I've been dreading for a long time. Right now you're thinking he must have had one of those birthdays that end in a zero (or zed for the european readers). Actually no. Despite my scale saying otherwise, I can't escape the chronological fact reflected on my drivers license. I turned 49 on Sunday.

At this point many of you are saying, "Big Deal" (sarcastically of course) others are saying "I've been there" and still others are saying "I'm not reading any farther". Well it was a big deal, in the non-sarcastic sense, to me. I've always looked at 49 as worse than 50. I provided an example to a friend the other day, you see when you fall off a cliff it's the fall that's scary, you don't remember the end. Similarly it's the approach to 50 that's traumatic and passing over is anti-climactic. So I'm in a bit of a funk over it.

A had a conversation with a psychologist last year about turning older. No, I'm not seeing a psychologist, it was just a casual conversation. I told her that what I was looking forward to was having a midlife crisis. At the time I said I was hoping to get a better car. She laughed and told me that I may not have one - a mid-life crisis that is. What! My whole life I've been conditioned to believe that when you got to certain age you get to have a mid-life crisis. Here she is telling me that I may not be so lucky. Now, I'm 49 and I'm worried that I won't have one at all.

She matter-of-factly pointed out that a mid-life crisis is a realization that the dreams and aspirations you had when you were younger do not the match the reality that you are experiencing today. And when you get to that point, you either fight it or accept it. That made me depressed. Here I was hoping for a good irrational reason to get a new car and lo and behold I may not be so lucky. She also went on to say that I didn't seem like the type that had any dream or aspirations when I was younger, so I couldn't be disappointed. She went on to say that I was probably happy with the fact that I wasn't in jail or sleeping under a highway overpass. Wait! What? What's she talking about? I have dreams all the time. Why the other night I had a really great one, but it's probably not appropriate to mention it here. At this point, if I realized if I were to see a psychologist, I certainly wouldn't see her.

Here's my dilemma. I actually don't need a car. So that's out. But I'm looking for suggestions for what I should do to commemorate my mid-life crisis (potentially) Drop me an email with your suggestion. I'll peruse the ones that sound best and maybe publish them. If you want to relate your experience I'd like to hear that too. If you want to just drop a line, well that would be great as well. Click on the link here steve's email

I'm Still Raising Funds for TnT
I still have plenty of raffle tickets for sale. My friend Betty Bennett donated a case of award winning wine from Chatom Vineyards. This 2005 Chardonnay won gold medals at the California State Fair and the Orange County Fair. So if you were worried about winning bike stuff, there's a very cool gift for you. If you want to buy tickets, drop me an email at the link above. I'll send you the directions to make the purchase.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Enough with the fat already
Welcome back to another scintillating update about my adventures in cycling and raising funds to fight cancer. Over the past three years many of you have read my tales of cycling challenges and mishaps. Since many of the folks that read this update do not, will not, and never plan to get on a bicycle they can barely relate to the absurdity of the experiences. Well today I decided to write about an absurd experience that many, if not all of us, can relate to... dieting.

For the past three years I've always made it a challenge to lose weight to get in shape to do the Death Ride. You see it's a simple physical fact that the more you weigh, the more work you have to do to get your bulk over 5 mountains. I was always envious of the 150 pound guys that glided by to finish hours ahead of me. Sure I thought about pelting them with the Ding Dongs or Twinkies I happened to be eating at the time, but my mom taught me never to waste food. Heck, I was envious of the 190 pound guys.

Every year I would start my Death Ride preparation with the all important diet. My approach to dieting is very sophisticated - eat less, exercise more. I figure if I simply increased my expenditures and decreased my intake, that the balance would take care of itself. Unfortunately I applied this approach to my money management philosophy and had disastrous results. If such an approach worked on cash it could certainly work on fat. So I carefully measured out what I ate. I was a regular consumer of low fat salad dressing, diet sodas, fish, vegetables, etc. When that didn't yield the results I was looking for, I tried various published diets like Atkins, Fatkins, South Beach, North Beach, and China Beach and they all helped me reduce weight but they all had their limitations.

It seems there was a weight that I could not get beyond - 200 pounds (or as l like to think about it, one tenth of a ton) I would lose weight to get to 201 but it never seemed to last. I'd get close and a few weeks later I'd be back up to 208. Which reminds me, why is it so hard to lose weight when you can easily gain 2 or 3 pounds in a weekend. Clearly this is the dieter's curse. Anyway, I felt like Chuck Yeager trying to break the sound barrier, only it was my pound barrier. I wrote last year about my fancy scale that tells me how old I am based on my height, weight, and body fat percentage. It has never been a friendly scale. To refresh your memory, or to save you the time of looking it up, my scale would tell me that I was in my 50s when clearly my drivers license told me otherwise. So I never got much slimmer and I never got any younger.

This year I took a more reasonable approach, I asked for help. I was so determined to break the pound barrier that I hired a nutrition coach. My coach, Kim, is as fine an individual as you'll ever meet. Just don't be caught eating junk food around her, then you'll catch hell. Kim is a certified nutritionist and a coach for professional bike racers. Her specialty is helping brides-to-be lose weight to get into their wedding dresses. I figured she was perfect for me.

The first thing Kim did is she had me keep a diary of everything I ate and drank. (I was thankful she didn't do an analysis of my...ahem...leavings... that apparently costs a lot extra.) Then after a week of detailed food tracking she took the information, entered into some fancy analysis program and scheduled a review.

We met at a restaurant for lunch. I ordered my usual fare of a sandwich and an ice tea. Over lunch she proceeded to explain that I really shouldn't be eating the junk I ordered for lunch. I felt shame, so did the waitress. Kim's words are still ringing in my ears -- she said, "You are on what I call a high-calorie starvation diet." Pretty much everything I ate was wrong. I learned that my morning bagels, afternoon coffee, occasional energy drinks, diet sodas, dinners of pasta and various meats with occasional vegetables, were effectively a high-calorie melange of crap.

Then she told me the most unusual news. I needed to start eating like my ancestors. I don't mean eating outside in the dirt. That's probably going too far back in my lineage. Of course my mom will tell you that her ancestors never ate in the dirt...but I digress. What she meant was that I should stop eating processed food and poor quality meats. So my diet went from the supposedly healthy habits of eating diet this and low-cal that to eating natural things like food cooked with butter. I went from drinking non-fat cappuccinos to drinking them with whole milk. She even let me eat bacon! Wonderful bacon! The one thing she did have me eliminate was gluten. Gluten comes in all forms of wheat products like bread and pasta.

One would think that with a diet of natural fats, fresh vegetables, and meat without antibiotics that I wouldn't fare better than previous diets. I'm pleased to say that the coach knows what she's talking about. On March 22nd, much like Chuck Yeager, I broke the pound barrier and I'm finally below 200 pounds. I still have a way to go, but considering that a couple years ago I was at a whopping 230 pounds, I'm happy to be headed in the right direction. Want to know all about the diet? Drop me a line and I'll tell you everything I know and refer you to Kim if you're interested.

So check out the picture of my fancy scale. The number you see is the age that my scale says I am. Of course the first picture I took was taken from too high and you would see too much Steve and not enough scale. Here is the PG version of the picture. And I know, those are some good looking feet.


About those raffle tickets
I still have plenty of tickets available and we're getting new stuff in the raffle. Check out the awards at this link http://www.impactzone.com/DeathRide2008Raffle/ Of the many cool entries there is a priceless handmade quilt. So if you're interested in raffle tickets contact me at my gmail address. If you have an item to donate you can also drop me a line. steve.asche@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Back in the Game
Well it took me a while to get back on the bike, but with some trepidation and a significant outlay of cash I've completed two rides. I was off the bike for two weeks and wasn't in too much hurry to get back on. Fortunately my son, Rob, came to the rescue.

For his birthday he wanted to do something he'd never done before. This is a typical birthday request since the kids were young. Usually we go someplace to see something new. For this birthday he said he wanted to ride his bike to the top of Mt. Diablo with his ol' pop (i.e. me) Well this presented a bit of a dilemma since it was only a little over a week after the crash. Of course, I did the only responsible thing - I said "What time are we rolling?"

So two weeks after the crash, on a very cold and windy morning, I donned my trusty Cal cycling jersey, my son wore his Lucky Bicycles jersey, we started our assault on Mt. Diablo. I'm sure the emergency room doctor that treated me after the crash would have voiced a bit of displeasure. Nonetheless, family before fate, we clicked in and started our ride.

The first thing I realized was that I was hyper-aware of every pothole, crack, and bump in the road. I found that I was gripping the handlebars a little tighter than usual. Maybe the cars passing by would take my mind off of the expectation of crashing... nope that doesn't work either.

So the lad and I started talking about assorted topics from his ne'er-do-well friends, summer jobs, and cycling. Before long we were on the lower slopes of the mountain and we were joined by my friend Kim. Kim said my crash scars looked to be healing well and we talked about how well Rob was riding. Kim said that it looked like Rob could pretty much "clean my clock" on a climb. She said, I should be thankful he doesn't challenge me to race for another Xbox. (Rob beat me once up a hill by our house a couple years ago and I had to buy him an Xbox as a payoff to a boastful fatherly claim.)

Kim left us at the halfway point while Rob and I continued to the top. Along the steep upper mountain, I told Rob that you only need to focus on the next turn or waypoint. That way you don't get bogged down with thinking about the monumental task ahead of you. Before we knew it, we were cresting the summit of the mountain. My wife Sherri, our daughter Emily and Emily's boyfriend Jimmy met us at the top with a picnic lunch. As we sat in the chilly wind, I realized that all the trepidation I had was forgotten. So my son got his birthday wish and I was back in the saddle. That was a pretty good way to get back on top.

So How About Some Raffle Tickets?
As I mentioned in previous emails, I'm raising money for the team by selling raffle tickets. We're giving away some very cool prizes - handheld computers, dinners, bike paraphernalia, lubricant, and even meat! Check it out I'm not joking http://www.impactzone.com/DeathRide2008Raffle/
If you'd like donate something or if you want to buy tickets drop me an email to this address .

Monday, February 18, 2008

Touching the Floor
The cycling season started off with a bang this weekend. Well, actually, if you want to simulate the sound of a bike crash, take a drawer full of silverware and drop it on your patio. Then follow that with your favorite exclamation of pain. Professional riders in the Tour de France refer to crashing as "touching the floor". In pretty much every situation, you do not want to touch the floor.

I touched the floor this Saturday. And not some casual slip where you lose control and end up in the bushes crash, a genuine smack-into-the-asphalt-end-up-in-the-emergency-room crash. If I were a car, I'd have probably burst into flames. Thankfully, I did not spontaneously combust on impact.

We were near the end of our 55 mile ride. I was traveling along a flat road. I was in the bike lane but I wanted to turn left at the upcoming intersection. I had my right hand on the handlebars and I was looking over my left shoulder at the traffic coming from behind. At that moment, my front wheel hit a bump in the pavement, which caused me to pitch forward. Since I only had one hand on the handle bars, when I pitched forward the right hand pushed my wheel sharply to the left. Since bikes do not roll very well when one wheel is perpendicular to the direction of travel, my momentum flipped me right over the handlebars and onto my shoulder, arm, face, hip, and knee. I actually don't remember this part of the accident.

The first thing I remember is lying on the ground and having several people talking at me. I could think of three things - "I have to get home because we have dozens of people coming over for a party.", "How's my bike, I just need to get up and walk around to feel better.", "Why is somebody pushing his thumb into my temple?"

The next thing I know a couple paramedics are talking to me. "Where'd they come from?" They asked my name; I remembered it. They asked what day it was; I knew that too. They asked me where I was; I said "I was lying in the street somewhere and can I please get up I have a party to host. " They said, "no, you're going to the emergency room." (party-poopers)

My wife, Sherri, had decided to take an alternate way home from the store after picking up 3 bags of ice for the party. Quite coincidentally, she came upon the scene of my accident shortly after it happened. She was a little dismayed by the scene. From her description, it sounded like a scene from a Dracula Gone Wild film. Apparently, there was quite a bit of blood on me and on the pavement. I can only suspect it was my blood since I doubt anyone came along and threw blood on me like some PETA protester would do. Since I wasn't wearing a fur bike jersey, it's safe to conclude it was mine. Apparently when I crashed, absorbing the blow with the right side of my face, my sunglasses hit first, cracked, and put deep gash right above my right temple. It occurred to me later, "That's why someone was putting his thumb in my temple earlier; he was trying to stop the bleeding."

The fine folks in the emergency room attended to my cuts and scrapes. They firmly washed the road rash and took a wire bristled brush, that's used for removing loose paint from your walls, and scrubbed any bits of asphalt from my wounds. I didn't actually see the brush they used, but from my tactile experience, it could only have been a steel brush or a small bed of nails. The fine doctor cleaned the gash in my head, sutured me up and had me cool my heels for a bit.

While I was in the ER with Sherri by my side, people were showing up at our house for the potluck we were hosting. Sherri called our son, Rob, and asked him to be the party host.
Every chance I got, I told the ER folks that I had to get to a party. They made some sympathetic comment, and as soon as they got out of earshot, they said, "he needs to stay another 45 minutes. " By the time we got home, the party was over and the guests were gone. Rob had set aside a couple plates of food in case we were hungry. Well I certainly was and I appreciated it.

The next day I took my broken bike to the shop to repair the broken handle bars and to check it for any structural cracks. Of course I had to get new helmet too, since my old one had done its job and was now ready to be retired. Let's see broken handlebars, new brake lever hoods, new tape, new jersey, new bibs... $$$! I also went to the scene of the accident. The bump is nothing more than a 4 or 5 inch bump in the bike lane caused by a nearby tree root. Any other time, I'd just roll over it. But when your not focused on the road, it's enough of a deviation to put you on the floor.

If you want to see the pictures, go to http://notabouttheback.blogspot.com/

About those Raffle Tickets
After my last update, several people asked about getting raffle tickets. Here's what you need to do. You send me a check made out to me. I will send you raffle tickets and a receipt from Team in Training thanking you for your donation and verifying that your contribution was to a charitable cause. If you'd like to make a donation, contact me at steve asche if you'd like to see what's being given away, go to Death Ride Fundraising Raffle.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Third time's a charm

It's the middle of winter, all the trees are bare. Well except for the pine trees, that is. So while everyone else is participating in winter activities like snow skiing, staying out of the cold, working on their needlepoint, and going to hockey games, I'm doing - what else - riding my bike. Once again I'm back training with the fine folks at Team in Training for another go at the Death Ride. (For those of you new to my updates, this is my third year of doing the Death Ride with Team in Training. I've done the Death Ride, a 129 mile bike ride that climbs over 5 mountain passes in one day, to raise money to fight blood cancers.) Before I get to this year's quest, let me catch you up since the last update.

$4,116 dollars raised, 4,300 miles ridden
Last year I made a promise to ride 100 miles for every $100 donated. You contributed $4,116 and by December 31st, I had ridden 4,300 miles. Along the way I climbed over 300,000 feet or over 60 miles straight up. I had some really great rides after the Death Ride. The most notable was riding with my son, Robert, as he completed his first century ride. We did the Foxy's Fall Century in Davis. I was the proud father when after he completely bonked at mile 60, he rallied after having something to eat and he finished the ride.
Here he is at the last rest stop at mile 90.

I also had some great rides with my TnT friends. Check out this view of the vineyards in Sonoma County. Pretty incredible scenery in those parts. Of course that happened to be the same ride where I was riding down hill right after taking this picture and I had a bee fly into my helmet. Before I could stop and remove my helmet, the bee stung me in the head. Fortunately I'm not allergic but the side of my face hurt for over a week. I ended up having to take antibiotics before the swelling dissipated. Despite the bee interlude, it was a pretty good season. With the dwindling bee population I would have thought my chances of getting stung would have decreased. I had two stings last year - one down the shirt and one in the helmet.

So now I'm back at it. I'm going to start clogging you mailboxes with my chatter about rides, being overweight, my teammates, idiot drivers, and my quest to fight cancer. This year is a little different than past years. Instead of raising money as a participant or mentor, I'm actually a captain on the team. (I have no idea why they call us captains.) My responsibility is to help the team come together and help them attain their fundraising goals. So instead of focusing on my personal goal, I'm focused on helping my team. One of the way I'm helping my team is by doing fundraising to feed the team. As it turns out, the TnT folks provide some money to offset the cost of food for the riders as they do their training rides. That's money that can be better applied to funding cancer research and victim support. So instead of relying on the TnT folks to pay for the participants' support, the team coaches and captains are going to raise money by selling raffle tickets. All of the proceeds go to support the team. Any excess money goes to the leukemia and lymphoma society.

You Can Win Big with TnT

So here's the offer: several local businesses and restaurants have donated awards for our raffle. It's really cool stuff too. We have dinners at Bridges, Forbes Mill, Piatti, a mobile computer from Socket Mobile, several bicycling related gifts and more to come. Here's how you can help. If you would like to donate a good or service to the raffle that would be fantastic, if you'd like to buy some tickets - their $1 each or 25 for $20. To see what's being raffled go to http://www.impactzone.com/DeathRide2008Raffle/ if you want to buy tickets, then email me steve asche Tell me how many tickets you want, send me a check and I will send you as many tickets as you buy. This will really help the team. It's also a chance to win some pretty cool stuff.

So that's it for this week. If you no longer wish to receive these emails, let me know.

Thanks
Steve