Prepared pals go to 'Amazing' lengths
September 26, 2008
They have taken an oath of reality-TV silence, so local “Amazing Race” contestants Mark Yturralde and Bill Kahler can't say whether they won or lost, or even how they played the game.
But you can be pretty sure that when the self-described Comic-Con geeks ran their final race earlier this year, they were wearing the right underwear for the job.
“I very clearly remember a discussion we had about underwear that went on for 90 minutes, where we argued about what type of underwear we should get and what the underwear should be made out of and how many pairs we would need,” Yturralde said last week.
“We went out and bought different sorts of travel underwear and wore them in advance to work and tried to wash them in the sink to see if they would dry, and then we would discuss the merits of this one versus that one.”
Gee, Mark, you guys are pretty geeky, aren't you?
“You have no idea,” Yturralde said.
Well, now we do. And come this weekend, so will everybody else.
Yturralde and Kahler make up one of 11 teams competing in the 13th edition of “The Amazing Race,” the globe-trotting CBS competitive reality show that returns to prime time Sunday. For this installment, the series sent its contestants on a 23-day journey that covered five continents, making stops in Cambodia and Kazakhstan and taking in a floating city along the way.
As always, the details are under wraps. But no matter where the racers ended up, seasoned “Amazing Race” watchers know they were met with exhausting physical challenges involving heights and perhaps bungee jumping, weird food, hairy taxi rides to far-flung airports and acts of sabotage by fellow contestants.
We also know that one team will be doomed to a first-episode departure, and the 42-year-old Kahler and the 41-year-old Yturralde did everything in their control-freak power to make sure they were not that team.
“We've watched 'The Amazing Race' for years, so we've seen people do things that were mistakes,” said Kahler, who met Yturralde more than 20 years ago at an SDSU science-fiction club. “They brought bags that were too big, they wore shoes that were totally impractical. So we tried to give ourselves every advantage we could by thinking about things ahead of time.”
So Yturralde memorized the routes in and out of major U.S. airports, and the duo combed travel Web sites to determine which international airports had the most delayed flights. A word of advice from Bill and Mark: Never go through London's Heathrow Airport if time is of the essence and prize money is at stake.
But even with all their careful research, focused shopping and expert packing, the old friends encountered challenges they couldn't have anticipated. They can't say what those challenges were, of course. But they can say that the excitable, thrill-seeking Yturralde and the quieter, more methodical Kahler each rose to the occasion in his own special way.
“I know a lot of very intelligent people, and Bill is hands down the smartest guy I know,” said Yturralde, a volunteer treasurer for the annual Comic-Con pop-culture convention and the principal technologist for Cardinal Health in San Diego.
“He did some things that I can't really talk about right now, but they blew me away. I would say, 'My God, I can't believe you did that, that was so freakin' smart.' ”
As for Kahler, an associate director for financial aid for a local law school, he was impressed with Yturralde's ability to win friends and influence almost anybody.
“Seeing Mark go out there and use his people skills was something to watch,” Kahler said. “Mark has always been just brilliant when it comes to getting people to do what he wants and do it without resenting him for it. I hope everyone gets a chance to see that.”
On “The Amazing Race,” teams are usually identified by the teammates' relationship. The current lineup includes a “Newly Dating” couple; a “Dating Long Distance” couple; a “Divorcees” team and, most intriguingly, “Married Beekeepers.”
The label Kahler and Yturralde got was “Best Friends,” and in spite of the commercial showing Mark slapping Bill upside the head, the label was not a lie. As far as we know.
“Leading up to it, we thought, 'Could something happen that would make us so mad at each other that it would threaten our friendship?' ” Kahler said. “We've been through some stressful stuff when we worked on Comic-Con, but usually when something gets us mad, we get mad about it together. It never occurred to me that there could be anything that would just make us turn on each other.
“And you can find out if I'm right about that or not.”http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/features/peterson/20080926-9999-1c26karla.html
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