Thursday, May 19, 2011

KVA- part 2 delayed!

The first snafu - chainstays are ovalized at the wrong place to play well with Kris' choice of dropouts and a CX tire - so I need to get some different dropouts in. Until then, the project is on hold...

So you get a story instead. And no pictures, because this was so long ago that (gasp!) digital cameras were actually expensive and not part of your telephone.

The year is 2001. Or 2002. I don't remember for sure. It was mid-summer, and I was (natch!) up late surfing the internet. Somehow I stumbled upon the website for the (now defunct) 12 hours of Keystone. Hey, right up the hill from us! But I don't want to do it by myself... what sucker could I possibly talk into racing with me?

The answer, of course, is the most gullible man on earth, Brian Fuentes. I quickly did my snake-oil routine ("this will be fun", "nobody fast will be there", "we can make some easy money", etc, etc) and plans were made - I will bring bike tools and parts to keep us running, Fuentes will bring food (this division of labor turned out to be ... suboptimal).

5am, we're up and on the road in my beater Mexican (literally) truck. We arrived at Keystone, signed up, and assessed the state of our bodies and equipment.
Bikes: Drivetrains, brakes, and other key systems are of dubious reliability. Fuentes has not adjusted or lubed anything since what appears to be 1996. He also has no grips, which I have not thought to bring a spare set of.
Food: Fuentes has procured a veritable feast for our 12 hour sufferfest. If by "feast" you mean "bag of unsalted soy nuts and 5 bananas". Crud.
12 hour racing gear: We've got a blanket on the ground that I found in the back of the truck. No tent, no shade, no chairs, nothing. At least I brought sunscreen...

As usual, the race begins with a Lemans start. This time, I lost the argument about who rides first (damn you Fuentes!) Motivation was low, and it's freezing cold at 7am/10,000 feet, even in July. So I put on all the clothes I had, including a Dean Bikes (my old sponsor) hoodie, which I pulled over my helmet (making me look like some kind of retarded spandex alien).

The gun went off and everyone ran. Well, everyone but me. As I said, motivation was low. I also knew that the course features a 2000 foot climb on fire roads up to the top of the resort, so there was (IMO) no point in shocking myself out of my pleasant torpor by running. So we started the race in last place (as an aside, one year in the Winter Park series, I was both first and last in EVERY race at one point or another).

Of course, I could go uphill like a bat out of hell, even off the couch, so I quickly passed everyone but the leader and just sat on his wheel (it turns out our duo competition were the current 24 hour duo national champs, a team from Vail whose names I can no longer remember). We crested the climb together, and then came the downhill...

Ah, the downhill. As of 2001, Keystone had yet to start most of their DH trail construction projects, and there were really only a couple of trails, none of which were super technical. Additionally, I'd been riding my downhill bike at Keystone with the Vietnamese DH mafia (shout out to Duc and Phu!) all summer. So I knew the trail like the back of my hand, and I was used to riding it pretty fast.

Long story short, I dropped the heck out of the dude and rolled into the finish in first place - an event not greeted with great enthusiasm by Fuentes, who I had promised an easy race. He headed out on his lap, reluctantly, and I took stock of our provisions, then decided it was time to start begging the other racers for food.

One of the people who obliged was a young lady who I thought rather comely - and funny, who was at the race to go riding and support some of her friends who were participating. Her name was Sarah, and she was kind enough to give me a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a big step up from unsalted soy nuts). It quickly became clear that she had her eye on Mr. Fuentes (who is admittedly quite dashing) and so to disabuse her of the notion that she should pursue him, I told her "You don't want to date a bike racer. They're all skinny and weird." Coming from a skinny, starving bike racer wearing a lot of mismatched spandex who was begging for food, that must have been pretty funny, but that's how Sarah and I first met.

The race dragged on. Duo is hard, because you almost never see each other, so the amount of help/support/encouragement you can provide to your teammate is minimal. Nevertheless, we managed to hold the lead throughout the day. Around noon, the local Summit county radio station showed up and interviewed several people who were racing, including me. The interview was fairly humorous.
"So, what did you guys do to prepare for this?"
"Um, we've never done a 12 hour race before. We decided to do it last night. Fuentes doesn't have any grips. Do you have any food I could eat?"

Each lap took about an hour, and no rider could leave the start after 6pm or something, so Fuentes was very hopeful that he would not have to do a final 6th lap. Unfortunately, I came in on my final lap about 10 minutes ahead of the cutoff - and we knew the gap to 2nd was probably under 10 minutes. So Fuentes suffered through a final lap, didn't flat or crash, and we won.

Luckily there was free dinner at the awards. We each ate about 3 people's worth of food, then got to stand on the podium and got our big fat $500 check. Sounds pretty good... until we did the math.
$500 prize
$150 entry fee - down to $350
$40 worth of gas - $310 left
$10 of soy nuts and bananas (yes, we did eat them) - $300
Divide by two - $150 each
Divide by 18 hours of being in the car, preparing, or racing - $8.33/hour. Hey, that's more than minimum wage (barely) for a day of horrible suffering!

(Edit: Sarah wishes to note that "that was the most profitable day of your (expletive) life, you skinny weirdo.")

And best of all, Fuentes, who had promised to stay awake and help ME stay awake on the drive home, fell asleep in the first 5 minutes of the drive. Nice work.

So that's how I met my wife, won a race, made a tiny amount of money, and nearly starved, all in one day.


Luis G. said...

Great story Walt!

McCalla said...

I can verify the validity of this account, I showed up for a couple of hours and tried to convince Fuentes to let me buy some grips for him, but he said, "Nah, I'm used to it." Somehow I wasn't surprised they won anyways, freaks.

Mike. said...

That is awesome, I know two guys whose approach to endurance racing (even after years of racing) is still exactly that way.

Feldy said...

Dude, I've heard most of that story before (except the part about Sarah eying Fugates -- insert appropriate emoticon here), but it's still wicked funny! And it's a good thing you learned your lesson and have followed up your lucrative racing career with one in framebuilding.

Dave said...

Great story, Walt, thanks for sharing!

Martha said...

Walt - you're an enormously entertaining writer. I must say, reading your blog to pass the time while I wait for my name to inch up the wait list is well worth it! :) You should get a published column in an industry magazine.

Walt said...

Thanks Martha!