It’s pretty easy to choose Jody and Shannon as favorites off this season of The Amazing Race. Isn’t it cool watching a 71-year-old run the race? But unlike most of the older contestants in previous seasons, Jody is an endurance athlete, having run triathlons and half-marathons. Her granddaughter Shannon also does the same, and with that, you have a team with some physical chops.
Alas, that wasn’t to be the case. Luck had a hand in their late finishes in both legs. Their gamble en route to Puerto Varas–taking a bus that leaves later than everyone else but goes direct to the city–almost paid off, but they were eliminated after some difficulty in the Roadblock. In one snap, one of my favorite teams were gone. I had the chance to talk to Jody and Shannon earlier today, Where they talked about the cow that kicked Jody in the head, the triathlons they run together, and whether that kuchen tastes any good.
Jody, how did you get started with being an endurance athlete? I’m sure that prepared you for the race, being the oldest contestant on the show.
Jody: Although I had always thought I should become active, I remained a couch potato until one day when I tried to run up some stairs and nearly passed out. Shortly after that, I turned 69 and realized that 70 was coming next–if I made to that age. A friend had mentioned a triathlon training group, so before I could back down, I signed up for training. Doing an 800-meter swim, a 12-mile bike ride, and a three-mile run was the most audacious, death-defying, life-affirming thing I could think of. Getting fit made The Amazing Race possible.
How did your family react when you decided to go?
Jody: My four adult children and nine grandchildren, including my teammate Shannon, were very supportive and didn’t think I was completely crazy. Or if they did, they kept it to themselves.
Shannon, you were born almost fifty years after your grandmother, and here you are, running the race together, stresses and all. Did the age gap affect your race at times, or was it smooth sailing all throughout?
Jody: There were certainly tense moments throughout the race. I don’t think there is such a thing as smooth sailing when you’re racing around the world. I did not notice a generation gap though. I think my grandma and I are a lot alike and we understand each other quite a bit–more so now after seeing the best and the worst in each other as went from plane to bus to funicular in our pursuit of each pit stop, with all the sleep deprivation and stresses that the race involves.
What was your favorite part of the race?
Shannon: There were a lot of surreal moments throughout the race where it would dawn on us that we were actually in Chile racing around the world. I think my favorite part of the race was finding out in the first leg that we had not been eliminated. But the high wire takes a close second! I kept thinking, “here I am, walking across a high wire in Chile in my race to a pit stop on The Amazing Race.” And it was demanding enough physically that I could really feel proud of myself for accomplishing something that I had never done before.
Jody: I loved southern Chile and want to go there again to spend some time hiking the mountains. I also loved arriving at the first pit stop and realizing that we weren’t being eliminated then and there.
You took the last bus to Puerto Varas, and despite knowing you were dead last, you were very optimistic of your chances. Was there a time during that second leg when you both thought, “this is it, we’re going home after this leg”?
Jody: We never lost hope because luck is such a prominent factor for all the teams. We knew we were lagging, but there’s no point in going negative. We continued racing just as if we might be the first team to reach the pit stop. We also remained totally supportive of each other.
Shannon: I guess that was always a possibility, but we knew enough about the race to know that teams make mistakes all the time, like Mike and Louie getting turned around. We had seen several teams right ahead of us and we certainly hoped we were not last.
Jody, did getting kicked in the head by a cow really hurt? You seem to just take it in stride…
Jody: At the time, I was shaken up but didn’t feel much pain. It wasn’t until a little later that the bump on my noggin made itself known. Since I’ve milked cows before, I knew that one kick wasn’t the end of the world. I got right back to it and completed the task.
Do you think you accomplished what you set out to do on the race, despite being there for only two legs?
Shannon: I think both of us got the taste of adventure and challenge that we were looking for and have now realized how much we both have the travel bug. So the race has changed our lives in that respect and we’ll probably go on to have far more adventures than we would otherwise have had. Also, I feel like we really did get to know one another–the best and the worst of each other–and have grown much closer for that. I have considerable respect for my grandma and I think we’ll take it upon ourselves to have more adventures together in the future as well.
Jody: I believe I proved that there’s more to life than sitting on the sofa, that age is no barrier to having a good time, and that while being older may not be better than being young, it’s just as valuable. I hope I’ve inspired at least one elderly person to roll off the recliner and become active.
What are you both up to now?
Jody: I’m back at my business, Strengthmobile, and working as a personal trainer with elderly and disabled people. I’m also training for my first half ironman triathlon and planning more trips that have an adventure component to them, such as a long bike ride in Alaska this summer.
Shannon: I am currently in Anchorage, Alaska getting some experience and prerequisites for a career in health care. I am signed up for my first full marathon in June and I am planning on doing a 100+ mile bike race from Anchorage to Seward in July. I am also trying out cross country skiing and rock climbing, which seem to be popular activities here in Alaska.
Finally, did the kuchen taste good?
Jody: The kuchen was delicious, though it was a lot more custard-like than the kind I make.
Shannon: The kuchen was absolutely delicious, especially after forgetting to eat in our mad rush from pit stop to detour to roadblock. And anything that you have to get kicked in the head by a cow to eat, as grandma did, has got to taste a little sweeter.
(Image courtesy of CBS)