Was I Prepared For A Reality TV Adventure Race? Part 2

“You’ve been chosen to compete in a month long adventure race. This will be a multi-million dollar Mark Burnett production to be aired prime time on ABC. Here’s a list of things you’ll need to get done before you leave for an unknown location in seven weeks. Make sure you train really hard, because this expedition is going to be incredibly difficult. Also, your involvement in this show is top secret, so you can’t tell anyone anything about it.”

Jim in front

If you missed Part 1, clic here : Was I Prepared For A Reality TV Adventure Race? Part 1

Food Equals Energy

My diet has basically been the same for years. I don’t eat many carbohydrates and almost no sugar. I try to eat a lot of green vegetables, and I consume a lot of protein. I also supplement with at least three protein drinks per day. I kept this consistent throughout my show prep.

People always ask me if they gave us food during the expedition. Of course they did! The producers knew there was no way we could perform without energy. We were provided with more food than we could eat. The problem was that it was always the same food.

Each morning they’d wake us before dawn, and there would be a big basket of egg and cheese sandwiches in the middle of camp. I quickly grew to hate them, but I forced myself to choke one down because I knew I needed the calories for the day ahead.

Once we got to camp that evening, each team would have two large baskets of food. We were sure to find local bread, hardboiled eggs, bananas, oranges, apples, almonds, dried apricots and figs, olives, unlabeled short cans of sardines or tuna, and unlabeled tall cans of peas, corn or beans. We also had dry rice and pasta but I never had the energy to cook it. Sometimes we got apricot jelly, local honey, or peanut butter.

My favorite meal quickly became a banana, peanut butter, and honey sandwich. They also gave us freeze dried meals that were prepared by pouring hot water into the packet. Some of these packets contained more than 2,000 calories, but there was so much sodium in them that they gave me a stomachache, so I avoided them. Sometimes a crew member would give out cans of warm soda and candy bars. I would never consume these things in the real world, but they were a welcome treat and much needed calories after a long day.

Bye-Bye Boston

Almost no one knew the truth. Only my wife and kids knew where I would be for the next month. The only one at the police station who knew where we were going was my chief. He was a fan of The Amazing Race, so he was actually excited to watch us on the show. Dani and Rob made up some stories about where they were going for the rest of our coworkers, but I just disappeared.

Finally, in March, we flew from Boston to New York, from there to Casablanca, and finally to Marrakesh, Morocco. After a two hour van ride we reached the resort that would be our home base during the next three days of orientation.

I should have been exhausted, but I was too excited to realize it. I tried to pay attention while we received additional crash courses in water safety, navigation, rappelling, horseback riding, and indigenous animals.

We did media interviews, we went over all the rules of the race, and we were given all the clothes and equipment we would use during the expedition.

Then, just before dawn, we headed for the starting line. Six Berber warriors on horseback fired their rifles, and we took the first steps of our eighteen day adventure across a rugged, mystical landscape.

This Is Just TV—Right?

It didn’t take long for disaster to strike. On just the second day of the expedition, I tore my meniscus climbing down a mountain in the dark. It was at the end of that day that I came to a realization. This wasn’t TV danger—this was real danger.

Around the campfire, I said to my teammates, “Someone is going to die, and they’re going to send all of us home and no one will ever see this show.” Thankfully that didn’t happen. I was able to make it through most of the race with nightly doses of anti-inflammatories from the expedition doctor and nothing more than a slight limp.

We, “The Cops,” were competing against other teams with names like “The Gypsies,” “New York Firemen” and “The Football Players.” We raced from one camp to the next, navigating between checkpoints and completing elaborate challenges before moving on. We conquered mountains of sand in the 100 degree heat of the Sahara Desert and climbed over the 10,000 foot summit of a snow covered peak in the Atlas Mountains. We swam across rivers and lakes. We rode enormous, insane camels and unpredictable Arabian Stallions. We paddled kayaks, barrel rafts, whitewater rafts, rowboats and sailboats. We rappelled from cliffs more than 300 feet high and jumped from a plane for a 50 second freefall.

In addition to these intense challenges, we also ran for miles across ankle-breaking terrain wearing 40-50 pound packs. All the while, we lived and slept outside at different makeshift camps. I came looking for an adventure, and I got it.

Check out Part 3 of this article : Was I Prepared For A Reality TV Adventure Race? Part 3

About the Author
Jim Vaglica is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Team Labrada Athlete, Jim competed on the Reality TV shows American Grit, hosted by John Cena, and Mark Burnett’s Expedition Impossible. He is a Police Sergeant with 16 yrs on SWAT and the Owner of JimVaglica.com

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