Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kevin

Kevin was a mountain bike racer I would see at the occasional race, back in the 90s.  He and I both competed in the Sport class, and we often ended up side-by-side at the start line.  After a while, we would watch for each other, and chat a bit as we waited for the starting gun.

There were a few things I found remarkable about Kevin:  He was about 13 or 14 years older than I.  He rode his bike to races, from his home in Evergreen.  He always finished well ahead of me.  And, he smoked cigarettes constantly, when he wasn't actually in a race!

For a few years, in the mid-90s, there was a bicycle hill-climb up the toll road on Pike's Peak.  It started at the parking lot for the defunct ski area, and ended on top of the mountain, at 14,200+ feet elevation.  I loved doing the race, simply because we got to ride our bikes back down the road, to the parking lot, after it was over.  (The toll road is normally closed to bicycles.)

The last year that the race was on, I ran into Kevin at the Start Line.  He had ridden 80-some-odd miles from his house to the parking lot, then spent the night in a tent...at 58 years old.  As we talked, he smoked one last cigarette before the race.

Then, the gun went off, and the race was on. 

I have to admit that I was never under the impression that I was a fast climber.  But, I was still a bit awed by how fast Kevin pulled away from me.  I settled into my rhythm, and ground my way slowly up the hill.  I passed people.  People passed me.  I even took a bit of effort to enjoy the view that had inspired the lyrics to "America the Beautiful".

When I finally got to the top, I crossed the Finish Line, and staggered over to the side, dropped my bike, and looked for a place to sit and cheer for the people who were finishing after me. (Yes, there were a few.)

I saw Kevin sitting on a rock, smoking another cigarette.

"Been here long?"  I asked.

"About 10 minutes," he said, glancing at his watch, and blowing a smoke ring.

At that point, I was seriously considering taking up smoking.

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