From the Cutting Room Floor - TAR 30.11.12

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The Amazing Race, Season 30, Episodes 11 & 12: "It's Just A Million Dollars, No Pressure" - #TeamExtreme Recap

To put our experience on The Amazing Race into words is a near impossible task. The feelings of pride and joy, of disappointment, of overwhelm, and of gratitude, are welling inside of us and will be for weeks to come. But the outpouring of love and support that we have received following the final episode has truly been beyond comprehension. We set out to accomplish a difficult goal and that goal allowed us to spread a message far and wide, that women can be strong, smart, kind, and relentless. The Amazing Race gave us an incredible opportunity not only for that message to be heard, but received. For that, we are eternally grateful.

Kristi and I traveled to 8 countries that we've never been to, we got to experience new cultures, eat some different cuisine (ahem, scorpions), step outside our comfort zones, and push ourselves to the limit for 23 straight days. It was an experience that I'll remember for a lifetime and I was lucky to take it all on with Kristi by my side. While the final two legs of this race presented some challenges and the final result wasn't entirely what we set out for, we are still extremely honored to have finished this season with the lowest average of any all-female team in The Amazing Race US franchise. As a team, we never fell below 3rd place, a feat that has never been achieved by any team, male, female, or combined. It's a badge that we hold with great pride. Read on for our final recap and reflections of The Amazing Race Season 30.

Leg 11: Hong Kong

Where did your taxi take you when going to the Peak?

For the second leg in a row, we had some misfortune with our cab driver. The language barrier was thick, and our cab driver unfortunately took us to the pedestrian access area. We saw a sign that pointed to Victoria Peak (an 8-minute walk), so we decided to hoof it as our cabby was having a difficult time simply turning around. We just said, "you stay here and get turned around, we'll be right back!" I left my bag in the cab and pointed at it to make sure he understood.

The fortunate part about getting lost on our way there was that we were halfway down the mountain when it was time to race back to the detour! Haha! Also, I don't think Indy or Jody were able to retain their taxis at Victoria Peak, so that gave us an advantage getting to the detour cluebox. That's how we were able to catch up to those two teams.

What was so difficult about tying those crabs?

The crab challenge was deceptively difficult. First of all, learning how to pick up the crabs and not get pinched, then wrangle all their legs, then wrap the tie around them without a leg getting loose, was a tall-order! When we watched the demo we were told that we didn't need to do it the exact way, so we were perhaps a bit hasty when we started tying the crabs.

After a bit of difficulty we went back to rewatch the demo. That's when we started figuring out a better technique. There was a trick to twisting the rope (like when you're tying a present) so that it doesn't come loose when you change direction of the wrap. Unfortunately, the crabs that we tied at the beginning all came loose since they were wriggling to try to get free (poor little dudes). So we had about 15 crabs to retie out of 50.

Why didn't you switch detours?

Well, I suppose I should start with why we picked crabs in the first place. After our choice of detours (and switching detours) in Thailand, we felt like the crabs might be more straight forward. Especially knowing that Henry spoke some Mandarin (yes, I know that the restaurant challenge was in Cantonese) we felt that they may have an advantage. Kristi and I weren't racing to play safe and stay in it anymore. We were racing for a win.

When we switched detours in Thailand, we ended up quite far behind the other teams, so we felt it was a smarter choice to stay with the crabs. Certainly, that wasn't the case here, as Indy switched detours and still got out of the restaurant before Big Brother or Team Extreme.

What were you thinking when you saw Big Brother leave the boat?

We were freaking out. Well, I was freaking out. We knew that Indy Car switched detours. We knew we had been working on crabs for a LONGGGGGGGGGG time, we arrived to the boat slightly in front of Big Brother, so for them to overtake us was a terrible feeling. But there was nothing else we could do at that point. Kristi was staying more optimistic at this point and redirected my negative thoughts. We had about 12 more crabs to untie and retie when they left, so we just hunkered down. Kristi was less fearless with the crabs, so she did all the untying and then I'd start retying them as efficiently as possible. Our only option was to stay calm and finish strong.

How about when you got to the Roadblock?

Ugh. After we left the crab detour, we just kept saying, "we hope there is another challenge that can be an equalizer." Something akin to the song and dance in Zimbabwe, something skill based, that we might be able to gain time on. When we go to the roadblock and realized that it was a pure brute strength task and that Kristi basically had to go up against Cody, we were discouraged. We could hear Cody grunting. If it was hard for him, it was going to be really hard for us. That said, Kristi crushed it.

The reverberations through the bat into her hand caused sever pain, swelling and bruising. For two months after the race, she would wake up in the middle of the night with shooting pain in her hands. She broke two bats during that final challenge and bent a third. I was blown away by Kristi's fight through this challenge. It was so painful for her. Also, forgetting to read her clue barely affected the timing. She still had more bashing too do once she read her clue. When I saw BB leave, I started a timer on my watch. We were about 13 minutes behind them when we left the Roadblock, which was about the same gap leaving the crabs. We were just hoping our next clue didn't say "go to the pit stop."

How did you miss the Arch from Washington Square Park?

The first two images we found (the bull and the fez) had the colors of the race, so we were looking for yellow and red. We were repeating the locations of each leg to try to conjure images. Where we failed is we kept thinking Iceland for leg 1. We neglected to think about the fact that we started leg 1 in New York. When we saw that arc we thought it was l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which we hadn't been to. Looking at that black and white arch didn't register a THING! Now had it been yellow & red? Potentially a different story...

As for us being dismissive of the guy pointing the sign out to us, we were convinced he was drunk and had no clue... I mean, he was drunk, but apparently he had a clue! That was a big miss on our part. There were so many drunk people in this area. It was quite a mess of scene. Another drunk guy had given us terrible directions earlier, so we were a bit hesitant to trust anyone.

How did you finally solve the combination?

This was a point of contention for Kristi and I. We found the bull and the fez in less than 10 minutes of arriving at Lan Kwai Fong. Kristi had been trying combinations, in a systematic order in the cab. At this point, having two of the three numbers wouldn't have taken long to figure out. Unfortunately, we abandoned that strategy after a few failed attempts.

It can be hard to maintain your composure under that much pressure and stress. Kristi had just been put through the wringer in the Roadblock and I was trying to be sensitive to her wishes. Ultimately, it led me to unfairly implode. I just wanted to try numbers in a methodical way in case there was something weird with the locks. There wasn't. Eventually, I agreed to letting her try it her way and she was right. You didn't have to do both sides at the same time. And we got the combination: 3-1-5.

Did you know you were in 3rd place and ahead of Indy when you got to the mat?

We were hopeful, but we weren't sure. We hadn't seen Indy for about 10-15 minutes prior to getting our combination unlocked, so we knew there was a possibility that they had gotten out of there ahead of us. We also had no idea we were running to the pit stop, so we hadn't been thinking about our placement that much, we just continued focusing on racing. That's why it was so important for me to hug Kristi before Phil said a word. I just needed her to know that I loved her, that she was the best partner on this race, and that I was proud of everything she had done, regardless of the outcome.

We were devastated to see Indy get eliminated. It was a sad moment for us. We got very close with them during our time on the race and wanted to race in the final leg with them. But things can turn at any point in this race and unfortunately, this was the end for them.

Leg 12: San Francisco

Why was it hard to find the balls with the right numbers on them?

When we first paddled out to the cove, there were already hundreds of balls in water. All of us started paddling around, grabbing baseballs, trying to find some with numbers. They were all blank. At some point, Kristi noticed that there were balls splashing into the water from the ball park above. Really paying homage to Willie Mays & his home runs!

Both Kristi and I have paddling experience, so we positioned ourselves at the back of the cove facing the stadium. When we saw a new ball fly out of the stadium we paddled there efficiently. We knew the exact numbers we were looking for, but it still took some time to find them all.

You were first to get the number correct, but you made it to the bridge second. What happened?

The other teams figured that the only numbered balls would be numbers you needed in the answer. Unfortunately for us, Yale & BB got lucky in more than one way. Yale had found two 6s before they even knew the number they were looking for.  And, somehow BB managed to ask someone on the pier in the middle of the night to look up the answer for them. They managed to find their numbers quite quickly after that!

When we got our number approved by the umpire, he told us to "go to your team zodiac before you open your clue." There were no instructions about getting into the Zodiac. There were no instructions on what to do or where to go next. Nothing in our Roadblock clue, nothing in our ARI clue. We thought we had to paddle back to the pier and started to do so, until we saw BB getting into their Zodiac. Sooooo, that sucked. That's when Jessica and Cody jumped in front of us on the way to the Bay Bridge.

Did Kristi gain on Cody climbing the bridge?

The ascender wasn't just about strength. There was a lot of technique to it as well. Kristi made up some ground on Cody during the climb. She was less than 2 minutes behind him in the end. We started a timer (again) to figure out our lead on Yale as well. It's good to know what kind of time advantage you do or do not have. It was only about 12 minutes, so it wasn't a comfortable lead, but a lead none-the-less.

How did you pass Big Brother?

As I said on twitter, apparently we can now put Fortune-Cookie-Making into the life-skills-we-posses category. Haha! I don't know where that skill came from, but I was grateful to have it. We had no idea how far in front of other teams we were when we finished, we just knew we needed to get moving Asap.

The cookies were coming straight off the press, so they were HOT! Kristi was the first one to start and wasn't using gloves. It was definitely burning her fingertips, but she wasn't about to stop to put on gloves. In watching her, she was moving much more efficiently than Cody, who was wearing gloves. I figured the gloves were impeding his dexterity. Regardless, I decided to start with gloves on, since taking them off would be faster than stopping to put them on. But I was having a hard time grabbing the fortunes, so I ditched one glove.

What happened in that final challenge?

When Kristi and opened our clue, here is what we read: "Search the U.S.S. Hornet to find 12 airplane parts. Then, ONE of you must assemble your plane to show one image from each leg of the race. When you think your plane is "properly assembled," ask the Captain to check your work. If it's correct, he'll clear you for takeoff."  We read through the additional information and immediately kicked into high-gear to search for the parts. We were thrilled to see that this was the final memory challenge and that our strategy worked to put me in the position of solving the puzzle.

I have a mechanical mind, so when asked to “properly assemble” a plane, I instantly took took this to be a two part challenge. 1) Build a functional plane and 2) solve a puzzle with the images. Unfortunately, my ultimate failure was in paying too much attention to the first part, because in the end structural plane assembly didn’t matter. The big wings were actually dimensional meaning they had a thick edge, what’s known as a “leading edge,” that faces forward on a plane.  I therefore quickly deduced that I had two left wings and two right wings, which should have helped me solve the puzzle even more quickly.  This was my fatal error.

Compare this to the pieces for the tail wings. They were constructed on flat panels of wood and could all be interchangeable. Any of them could have gone on the left and any of them could have gone on the right, from a functional standpoint.

In the end the only thing that mattered were the images.  In fact to “properly assemble” the plane, I had to put two left wings on it.  One wing facing forward and one facing backwards.  A possibility I didn’t even consider until an hour or more after the others had finished and I had deemed the challenge impossible.  See below:

Why was it a plane if the only thing that mattered was the puzzle? How could a plane with two left wings be cleared for takeoff? Why was I the only one to notice the dimensions? These are questions I repeatedly ask myself and questions I cannot answer.

Admittedly, it’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster but in the end I can confidently say I have absolutely no regrets.  Short of wishing for a new brain, there is no amount of studying or preparation that would have made me interpret that clue any differently. There's nothing I could have changed or done better. Kristi and I are so proud that we got to compete in every leg of The Amazing Race. It was an opportunity we had only dreamed of, and we couldn’t be more thankful to everyone that made it possible.  We had the trip of a lifetime. We are thrilled for Jessica and Cody, and continue to send them our heart felt congratulations.

Oh, and since I know there's just enough other nerds out there like me, here's the breakdown of my plane parts. I drew it as soon as I got home to try to figure out if I had missed something. I had not...

General Race Questions:

How many times during the race does luck of cab driver come into play? How many times did it benefit or hurt you?

Cab drivers are always a variable. Any time you need to use public transportation with a driver (taxi, songthaew, tuk-tuk), there is luck involved. We had seen so many seasons of this show where strong teams ended up eliminated because they got a bad cab. We didn't want to be one of those teams. After our bad cab in Morocco, we made sure to always get a map of our location so I could be navigating along with our driver to ensure that he/she was taking us where we needed to go. Here's the breakdown:

Belgium: Indifferent, not great, but not stellar. Still should have kept him at the Roadblock.

Morocco: Bad. Got out of there as fast as humanly possible.

Prague: Good. Best cab driver that we had the whole time. Kept him the entire leg. We profiled a few drivers to find a young driver who was more likely to have a cell phone and speak English. It helped for the former. Wish we could tip him more!

Zimbabwe (Imire): Bad (from Train station in Marondera to Imire). Despite production providing us all with vehicles, our driver was super slow. We were ~7 minutes behind all the other teams until Indy car's suspension went out and Ocean Rescue passed the Safari vehicles.

Zimbabwe (Harare): Good. He knew just enough English to get by, also knew Harare quite well. Combined with my neurotic obsession with using his phone on google maps, we were able to sneak in front of some teams. Kept our driver the rest of the leg.

Thailand: Bad. Would have gotten out if we had stayed in the city, but had no other option. Didn't speak any English. Didn't have a navigational device. Didn't know where either Detour location was despite me showing him on a map.

Hong Kong: Mixed. Started off bad, but stayed with us the rest of the night. Once we were back in the city, he was a lot better.

San Francisco: Indifferent. Made no difference in the outcome of our race. We were just glad we found him so quickly leaving the cookie factory. Still wish I could tip him more.

Did you know people were intentionally trying to give you wrong directions?

We didn't know at the time, but when the race ended, we learned that there were quite a few Big Brother fans out there trying to mislead Kristi and I. Jess and Cody's fan base protect them like it is their life's duty. When they were tracking us around the world, a lot of their fans would gripe about how much they disliked us (simply because we kept doing decently and seemed to be sticking around). In both Hong Kong and San Francisco people attempted to give us wrong directions. Fortunately, Kristi and I have enough common sense to realize that what they were telling us didn't make any sense with what we were trying to solve and where we were trying to go.

If you had the opportunity would you do the race again?

100% without hesitation, YES, OF COURSE WE WOULD! Regardless of all the ups and downs, the difficulty along the way, the trip up on the final challenge, this was the experience of a lifetime. It tops the list as the coolest thing I've ever done, and I've been fortunate to do a lot of cool things in this blessed life of mine.

What was the hardest task you had to perform during the entire race?

Jen: You really need to ask? The final challenge. It was physically demanding to find all the pieces of the plane, it was mentally exhausting trying to figure out the puzzle. It would have been difficult even if the wings weren't tripping me up.

Kristi: The TV’s in Hong Kong were by far the most difficult.  Some of the TV’s were from the 50’s or 60’s and were exactly like hitting brick walls.  I hit them dozens of times as hard as I possibly could only for the bat to bounce right back into my face sending reverberations straight though my hands.  I actually broke 3 bats, including a metal one trying to break through those TV’s.  When I got home I went for an X Ray because the pain in my hands took weeks to subside.  It’s the only challenge where I felt a disadvantage to the men on the other teams.

When did you feel most proud of your partner during the race?

Jen: I felt most proud of Kristi when I watched her doing the Roadblock in Hong Kong. She was in so much pain, there was nothing I could do to help and she never gave up. That would have been a really easy moment to throw in the towel, to say "I'm done." But she never did. She just battled on. And honestly, when I was watching her build that trebuchet in Chataeux Les Baux. She was up against 7 guys and got out of there in 2nd place. It was a shining moment. I was so proud.

Kristi: Gosh, I feel like we passed other teams every time Jen did a Roadblock.  She was brilliant in Iceland, Morocco, Prague, and she definitely carried our team in Thailand.  I was proud of her in all those moments, but I was actually most proud after the finale was over. Despite frustration Jen accepted the defeat with grace and humility and I am so proud of her for that.

How does it feel to know so many fans were rooting for you to win?

Jen: It feels incredible. On one hand I do still feel like I let people down, but on the other hand, I feel completely humbled by how much fans respected how we ran this race. We're honored. The greatest gift we could possibly get out of this experience was the chance to inspire even just one person. Money can never top that.

Kristi: It’s truly touching.  The letters from fans have certainly been the best part of taking of the race.  The messages explaining that we’ve inspired people, and especially women to be more fearless and face life’s challenges is the greatest gift we could ever receive.

And, for one last time, THANK YOU for being a part of this journey! We were blessed to experience The Amazing Race and sharing it with you has made it that much better. I hope each of you can find a little inspiration to dig deep when it matters, to pursue your life's purpose, shoot for your wildest dreams and break down barriers around you. YOU inspire US. So thank you. The World Is Waiting.