From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30 .1

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The Amazing Race Season 30 Episode 1: "You're A Champion, Prove It" - #TeamExtreme Recap

WOW!!!! I can't believe the time is finally here. Amazing Race 30 made its debut last Wednesday night (1/3/18) and ***SPOILER ALERT*** Kristi & I couldn't be more proud to have taken home the W on the first leg of the race! My heart was beating so fast watching it last night that I felt like we were running the race all over again! I've been excited to see the edit for months now (I do realize we didn't have to wait nearly as long as most other seasons) and was curious to see how they fit all that action into 45 minutes of television. If you do the math, that's only 4 minutes per team in the first episode...

Unfortunately, that's a tough task! The production team for the Amazing Race is absolutely extraordinary, but there is no way to introduce America to 11 teams and fit in an entire competitive leg of the race. For Kristi and me, this made us appear to be out for a casual walk in the park and conveniently landed on the mat in first place. Haha! However, there is a LOT more that goes on behind the scenes. During our viewing party last night, friends were asking some common questions, so I figured I'd share my insights into what went on. Like, how we got to that first route marker in 5th place and worked our way to the front of the pack.

How did you get from NYC to Iceland?

One minor detail that this episode didn't discuss was that there were in fact 2 different flights to Iceland. As we left Washington Square Park it was a race to the airport to get on the first flight which would land 30 minutes ahead of the 2nd flight. We didn't know how many seats were on that first flight (turned out there was room for 7 teams) and we were lucky to get to the airport first and secure our seats. Flight 1 was Jody, Indy, OceanRescue, the Twins, Yale and GoatYoga. Flight 2 was NBA, RingGirls, Well-Strung and Hot Dog.

We took a red-eye flight out of JFK and turns out there was no food on flight #1, but flight #2 did have food (lucky ducks!). I don't think we landed a full 30 minutes ahead of those other 4 teams, but we definitely did have a solid head start. However, head-starts disappear quickly when you're too rushed to stop and get a map during a self-drive leg, you don't have your own cellphone to use for navigation, you hand-drew a map from someone's computer, but drew the map and wrote down directions starting at the domestic airport, which was 45 minutes closer to our final destination than the international airport where we actually flew into... and then, you take a wrong turn when you already don't know where you are.

 

You can try this yourself by looking for Reykjavik Airport (domestic airport) and Keflavik Airport (international airport). Get directions to Husafell. where we were was a bit beyond Husafell, but this will give you a general idea of the route. Not to mention, the road signs in Iceland are very confusing (they show business routes differently, so I kept seeing signs for route 1 pointing in every direction and couldn't figure out which Route 1 I was supposed to be on). What you don't realize is that, without a cellphone or map, if you get off course a little bit from your handwritten directions, you get VERY DISORIENTED, which led to the following:

Thanks, CBS, for keeping this out of our edit :) and Kristi, again, I'm sorry I yelled at you, especially because YOU WERE RIGHT and I was wrong. So, despite finding our car quickly and heading off with Yale and OceanRescue, we ended up lost and got to the first challenge in 5th place. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge NBA for their phenomenal navigational skills because they beat us to that first Route Marker challenge despite being on flight #2.

It seemed like you made it through that first challenge quickly? T/F

True. But you could only gain so much time because there were only two zip-line stations. We got there as IndyCar was going out on the line, but had to wait for them to finish before we could begin. Kristi was smart enough to realize that it would be easier if we sent the lighter person out on the line (aka: Kristi), which was advantageous. She didn't drop the line as far as some of the heavier competitors which made it easier to pull her back in. Plus, I understood the dynamics of using my leg strength in addition to my upper body to pull her in.

What was so hard about the buggy challenge?

Well, first of all, we haven't slept for, um, I don't know 30 hours or something... secondly, no food for nearly the same amount of time, third, you have a dude driving you in a buggy around a course filled with puddles and it is his intention to drive insanely fast and ACCELERATE into the puddles, which then splashes all over you while you're trying to spot letters in random locations, out of order, that have numbers on them and you can't write anything down. I was happy to see the edit and realize that Henry and I took the same approach. We both repeated sounds out loud to help us remember the order. We also asked the driver to slow down, so that we could get our bearings. To which his response was, "No, I'm not allowed." It was like the movie Speed.

Ultimately, I made 3 laps down in the river bed and still hadn't found 2 of the letters, but it was the first two letters _ _ GOLFSTORG. So I was riding round chanting, golfstorg to myself for a few more minutes until I decided to go try my hand at the puzzle. I had everything right and decide that 'IN'GOLFTORG sounded more Icelandic than 'NI'GOLFSTORG, so I guessed, and fortunately got it right. Picking up 2 places, putting us in 3rd on our way to the square.

What was up with those shots??

Well, as you saw, Kristi and I each had to take a shot of either Cod Liver Oil or Brennivin, which they also maybe call "Fire Wine" but there is nothing wine-like about it. Apparently. I wouldn't know because I drank the cod liver oil. However, the people who drank the Brennivin said that it was more like rubbing alcohol than wine. It burned something fierce, and caused several people to either vomit or nearly vomit. Kristi fell into the "nearly" category along with Conor. We'll spare details.

How did you end up in first??

I'm still not sure what happened to Henry & Evan on their way to the square, but I assume they must've gotten lost along the way...? Kristi and I decided to stop and write down detailed directions from someone's phone - we still didn't have a map. This paid off, despite being a 10-minute stop, because we didn't get lost going to the square. We found our answers to the questions easily by asking locals. We used the same approach to find the pit stop. Ask-a-local is to the Amazing Race as phone-a-friend is to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. We got solid information from our local friend and I saw the lake as we were driving to the square. So, we made our way to the Pit-Stop pretty quickly.

Kristi and I truly believed we were in no better than 3rd place when we landed on that mat. We were absolutely thrilled, shocked, honored and proud when Phil told us we won the leg! The Amazing Race isn't simply about not making mistakes (though that would be nice), but about recovering quickly when you do. Not a single team ran a flawless race this leg. Some excelled at navigating and struggled in the challenges, others struggled navigating and excelled at the challenges. In the end, we seemed to mitigate our issues better than our competition. We leaned into each other's strengths and even managed to learn from mistakes within the leg to help us reach the pit stop first. The timing of our issues allowed us to continue to climb the ladder instead of fall further behind. Leg 1 carried with it some HUGE learning opportunities that we carried into Leg 2.

Other questions received:

Why were #TheRingGirls and #GoatYoga carrying those bags?

Production gave us some gear to wear in some of the challenges (boots, rain jackets, wool socks, hat, gloves, etc.). Our additional information told us to bring all our belongings with us when we park the car in Ingolfstorg. These ladies took that a bit literally... Kristi and I put the boots on our feet, tied our sneakers to our bag and left everything else behind. We already had clothes for cold weather, so we didn't need the products they provided. Given that we weren't sure if we'd be doing more tasks in Iceland the next leg, we chose to keep the boots. We didn't keep them for the rest of Amazing Race, however.

I'm Not Done Yet

The alarm went off at 6:15 as it has every morning for the last week and a half.  It’s dark outside- winter’s dawn won’t be for over an hour.  My bed feels too hot, and I struggle against the tightly tucked layers of sheets and blankets, to free my left leg and expose it to the crisp air.  Ahhhh.  At first I forget that I don’t need to be awake; it’s finals day for the New Zealand Winter Games, and I failed to qualify.  But my roommates and teammates, Anais and Anna, need to get up, as does our coach Elana.  We are sharing quarters for the month down here as we train and get ready for the biggest potential contest of our lives, The Olympics. For the last week we have been on the same schedule: 6 a.m wake up, slow crawl out of bed, immediately turn the electric kettle on to boil water for our French Press coffee, whose plunger is currently held together with medical tape (it’s all we have on the road).  I prepare 2 eggs mixed with a bit of milk; the gas stove in our kitchenette burns hot, so the eggs cook quickly if you don’t keep an eye on them and getting my gluten free bread toasted perfectly by the time my eggs are done cooking is always a challenge.  After a week, I’m beginning to get it down.

My eyes and head feel heavy.  Abruptly leaving behind the long days of summer for the stunted days of winter in New Zealand makes mornings seem darker than usual—we’ve been cut off of our sun addiction cold-turkey.  My 2 other roommates awaken around the same time and we awkwardly dance through the small living-dining-cooking space, as everyone prepares for the day ahead—Anais with her yogurt and muesli, Anna with some toast with an egg, ham and cheese, Elana with a cup of coffee.  Slowly ski clothes find their way out of the bedrooms, ski pants climb their way up our legs, excess coffee is poured into to-go mugs and we tumble out the door toward our cars.

Elana drives the Ford Ranger—it’s 4-door truck with a short bed, but it seats 5.  All of our skis and poles go in the back of the Ranger (11 pairs in total) and 5 people load into the cab.  My car, as I like to call it, is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado—“The Prado”.  It’s a huge, wide, very American looking SUV.  We have one of the rear seats up, so that we can fit 6 people, 6 backpacks and 6 pairs of boots.  I climb into the right side of the Prado as the rest of the kids fight over shotgun and bitch.  The auxiliary cord gets passed to the backseat somewhere and Lil Wayne begins to sound.  I’m always shocked at how good rap can make me feel before the sun is even up.

We pull out of our drive, remembering to stay left.  Some days Elana is the lead car, and other days I am; some days we try to break ground speed records and other days we try to practice the skill of patience as we sit behind a car going a mere 90 kmh in a 100 zone.  Elana is typically more aggressive on the pavement in the first part of our drive, while I prefer the dirt of the second half.  Getting up to the base of Cardrona Ski Resort takes between 28 and 40 minutes (depending on how we choose to drive) and the pipe is open from 7:30-11 or 10 or 12… New Zealand isn’t the best at creating a consistent schedule.  But, this morning is a contest day, so the schedule will be a little different.  And then I remember, I’m not competing.

Yesterday was the qualifiers for the World Cup.  Going into it I was feeling really good.  My skiing was progressing nicely, training had been on a steady incline and I was prepared to peak for contest day.  My warm-up runs felt solid, and I was done with about 5 minutes remaining of our 35-minute session.  There were 26 girls competing and I felt confident about being in the top 12 to qualify for finals.  The run that I was competing was fairly basic compared to my best skiing of 2 years ago.  Big straight air, alley-oop mute, 540 safety, alley-oop 5, cork 7 tail, switch 180.  That run earned me 2nd place at this exact contest 2 summers ago.

In my first run I landed really low on my alley-oop 5, I didn’t touch the ground with any part of my body and I fought through, determined to stand up and finish the rest of the run.  I was really proud to have skied away from that trick and glad to feel the strength in my right leg after all it has been through.  Last winter, stepping into my binding was a challenge and now I am able to pull off landings that would be tough for anyone of any age, gender, health or strength.  My score was a 68 and put me in 9th.  I was happy to at least be in finals, for the time being.  I made the decision to keep my alley-oop 5 in for the 2nd run- my thought process being that I’m not going to the Olympics without it, and I felt that I will land it better and improve my score from run 1.  Most of that statement was right, I landed the trick better, but still low and somehow felt really slow going into my 720, last minute I thought to do an air to fakie instead so that I could still do a switch 180, but I decided too late and ended up just flailing on a straight air.  I didn’t fight.  My stomach sank, and I felt that I had just made a big mistake.

My intuition was right.  4 girls managed to land better 2nd runs and I moved from 9th place to 13th—one spot out of finals, one short fight away.  But sometimes that is how the cookie crumbles.  My intention for this first event was to do the run that I did.  My skiing is exactly where I had wanted it to be at this time, but adjusting to where that has placed me was tough.  As I said, 2 years ago that run landed me on the podium (granted it was a little cleaner) and now it didn’t even make finals.  It is a proud moment to observe the growth that this sport has gone through, but an intimidating one.  The path that I have laid out for myself has me peaking in December, taking every step, and pausing there for a moment, one new trick in training, one new trick in a contest run; not skipping ahead just for the sake of a competition.

I'm feeling reconnected with the sport that I once loved greatly and drifted away from for a while.  It feels really good to be motivated again, to want to learn new tricks, to be able to focus on the elements that are in my control, no longer distracted by the doings of others. The Olympics won’t mark the end for me whether or not I qualify to compete, so I will just continue look ahead.  I will progress on the timeline that I lay out, not forcing anything based on the looming event that has us all on pins and needles.  I’m not done skiing yet.

Staying focused on your future goals in times when you fall short of your immediate goal is imperative to success.  Know that you have what it takes to get there as long as you are patient.  Often we are only one trick, one day, or one moment away from being where we intend to be, but we give up just before we can see over the horizon.  Do not quit too soon,  “character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”  Thanks for that, Helen Keller.

(Side note: I watched finals that morning.  It turned into a one run contest because the fog was so intense.  My US Freeskiing teammate Devin Logan, ended up winning.  It was her first contest back from an ACL tear she suffered in New Zealand one year prior.  My good friend Angeli VanLaanen got 2nd, her first podium at a Platinum level event since her return to skiing post recovery from Lyme Disease treatments.  Anna Drew ended up in 5th after crashing really hard on a right 900 in training (her unnatural way of spinning).  I was happy to see her healthy and skiing.  And Anais did a beautiful 900 first hit and went a little big on her alley-oop 5 resulting in a crash. She ended up 12th, but is skiing really well. On to the next one.)