Well, if you’re reading this, you most likely know that thanks to some serious shifting of the leaderboard, we came home with two official winners of the Epic Race – Hydle and Rhinehart – CONGRAT-U-FREAKING-LATIONS guys!!!
After the race finished up, Hydle and I stayed for about an extra week in Switzerland to decompress and enjoy some more scenery. We would have gotten more skiing in, however so far (January 9, 2014) we have officially managed to miss every.single.storm.so.far. So, after skiing groomers for 10 days straight in Europe, we were ready for a break from the groomer days, and ended up mainly relaxing, catching up on fast internet, and checking out Switzerland a bit. I think we also didn’t realize how grueling and exhausting our pace had been until we stopped and we kinda hit a wall after it all ended.
Rhinehart had to head straight back to get back to work, but we had pretty regular phone calls with him still from Europe just decompressing from the trip, chatting about the way it all ended, and discussing the potential for the leaderboard to still change (we were sitting at 20, 21 and 25 until Vail posted the official winners)…and of course missing each other because we got pretty used to traveling as the badass threesome that we were.
Now let me fill you in on one thing about Hydle if you don’t know him that well. He gets SUPER into things, like hyperfocused to a fault, once his mind is set on something. This actually was a trait that I know can be directly attributed in a large part on the overall success of the team throughout the entire trip. The amount of research that Hydle and Rhinehart did prior to even DECIDING if we were going to do the trip probably outweighs the overall research of any team for the entire trip. Hydle has spreadsheets galore on every minor detail he could gather on each ski resort, the type of travel we would do, our scheduling, the rough costs, hotels to stay at, reaching out to European friends for local tips, local hookups on rides and accommodations, etc. It was honestly hard to keep up with because his research was so thorough and involved before we even began the race that I struggled to feel like I could even help or contribute because by the time I was able to look something up and bring it up to the group, Hydle would say “Oh I know, we already have that figured out.” That said, Rhinehart was a huge asset in research, resources, and organization too. The duo of Hydle and Rhinehart combined was pretty unstoppable in terms of overall preparation I would say throughout the entire Epic Race. I helped where I could, but these guys had it dialed to a T.
All that said, the one prop I will give to myself is that I truly believe I’m a really lucky person. I mean, I know I’m a lucky person! So, throughout the trip, the guys kept telling me they were glad I was on the trip because they needed a good luck charm, and guess what, they got one, nailed it!
So now that you know that Hydle obsessively researches everything thoroughly, you should also know that after the Epic Race ended (at 10:17 am precisely on December 20) we didn’t even ski all the way down our one and only run of the day before we ended up at a bar, with Hydle and Rhinehart borrowing a pen and paper from the bartender, and proceeding to solve ALL of the puzzles that Vail had put out on the final day. This didn’t make any sense to me, I mean, the race was over, who cares what the answers to all the puzzles were. But Hydle in particular felt he needed to know if he could have solved all the puzzles, and wouldn’t quit until he did! I think the puzzle solving took about 2 hours in total, but he did it!
So along the same lines as him solving all of the puzzles, he was the same way with wanting to know who on the leaderboard would or would not remain there after being vetted by Vail and all of the rules in place on how to properly finish the race.
Since all of the information we had to post in order to complete the race was public, it was actually pretty simple – albeit time consuming – to sort through every single person on the leaderboard in front of us and make a judgment call on whether we felt they would remain on the leaderboard or not.
The most common reason for the leaderboard changing was a lot of racers actually didn’t catch the part in the rules on the final day that said you actually had to take a photo with the epic race sticker in it on the final day. Many people made it to the final locations, but missed the sticker requirement. This alone dropped off roughly 10 people who had been in front of us on just the first day.
The sticker requirement, combined with knowing that 4 of the first guys on the board had hiked up the mountain (which we felt wasn’t going to be allowed by Vail) meant Hydle especially felt that there was still a decent chance that they may actually bump all the way up into the top 10.
We all knew it was going to be a close call on how it all shook out when Vail actually sorted through everyone, but the more Hydle dug in, the more confident he was feeling about potentially moving into the leaderboard. Remember, the beauty of this race was that all of the entries were publicly posted, so therefore it was possible to determine on our own who had fulfilled all of the requirements.
So, from Switzerland, we spent an ENTIRE day sitting inside one of his friend’s apartments who generously let us stay in it for several days (thank you Rob, Laetitia, and Francis!!). Hydle busted out his spreadsheets and started going through every single racer above us’s content, one by one, extremely thoroughly. By thorough, I mean, if they posted a 4 minute YouTube video, he watched the entire video, even if in the first 10 seconds it was obvious they were at the correct location.
He chatted with fellow racers, he emailed Vail several times, he researched edge cases, and he confirmed via multiple sources that it was in fact against Meribel’s policy to hike to the top of the mountain while the mountain was closed (this fact was crucial because it gave Vail the discretion to remove the top 4 guys who hiked the mountain and got an advantage on the leaderboard on the final day.)
I don’t even think he got up out of his chair in front of the computer for 8 hours straight. He was lucky I was there to keep him fed and hydrated. But, we did run out of food by the end of this day, and I started to get super hangry and cabin fevery, and almost left to just get pizza without him after starving for hours, but he eventually finished it up and we did get to get out of the apartment for some sweet Mongolian bbq on Christmas eve!
After his long ass day of Hydle research (and more hours on either end of this long day), Hydle had come to the determination (going into this late night Christmas Eve dinner at Mongolian BBQ) that he and Rhinehart would make it into the top 10. We cheersed a little bit, but I was cautious and didn’t want him to over celebrate in case Vail was more lenient on some of their rules than they had promised. But Hydle was pretty confident, yet anxious for the official results as well.
We finished up our time in Europe, and got on our flights back to the US. We had an 11 hour flight back on Friday, December 27 (one week after the final day of the race). There was no internet access on this flight, and we didn’t know when Vail would officially release the final results. But, the second we turned on our phones back in the US, the first thing we got was the Vail official results email, which we read together while the plane was still taxiing.
It was so exciting to see the official results with Rhinehart in 9th, and Hydle in 10th! We high fived now that it was official, and Hydle started sorting through all of his millions of congrats messages (it was like his birthday but more!)
We got off the plane, and when we finally made it through customs, his two sisters, and two of his nephews were waiting right outside for us wearing full blown beards painted red, and holding up signs that had pics from us on the race, and congrats messages to the team for coming home with some wins! It was so cool to have his family greet us like that, what a welcome home!
We had a 5 hour layover before continuing on to California (I needed to see my family since I had missed both Thanksgiving, and Christmas for this race!) so we went to dinner with his sisters, nephews, and our other favorite team mascot, Darren Droge – to celebrate and catch up for a bit.
Turns out, Adam Warot of all people saw our post that we were briefly in Denver, and rolls up with his one and only shotski, and we took some celebratory fireball shots as well. Killing it Warot!
Once back in California, we had lots of time to now decompress on the win for Hydle and Rhinehart. We facetimed with Rhinehart and his family (thank you Rhineharts and Lauren for all of the support!), and the guys had tons of messages to respond to from everyone coming out of the woodwork to congratulate them!
The guys got several interview requests for various articles about the winners, so they had a couple conf calls with reporters to discuss.
Plenty of people have asked, “how did Hydle and Rhinehart win but not you?” so I will explain.
For starters, I was the weak link anyway – I was the slowest runner by far out of the three of us, and the entire final day was literally a foot race, we skied zero turns. I can keep up fairly well on skis, not so much running! That said, the guys were so amazing and patient and waited for me, helped me, and pushed me throughout the hour and 17 minutes on the final day. Thanks to them waiting for me, we all finished at the same time (Rhinehart unclicked out of his skis and ran up the final hill with me in ski boots for our final shots, Hydle skated up which would have taken me forever!) But, because the final submission was something you had to submit via your phone/cell service, we all had our submissions pre-loaded as we were on our final gondola ride up to the last location on the mountain. But, for some reason, my phone refreshed the web page that I had my photo and video preloaded on as I pressed submit for my final, official submission. So while the guys were posting to the board, I was reloading the content onto the page and then pressing submit. This process took me just about exactly :27 extra seconds. Within that time, Bill and Charlie had posted to the board (which I am stoked they did, because I want them to win before me) and another guy who finished at another location who’s submission popped in right between us. So, 26 mountains, and I lost by :27! Lol.
So, I did finish with the guys, it just came down to a phone loading issue that wasn’t really preventable, could have happened to any of us, and I’m glad it happened to me.
I can’t express how much I know that Hydle and Rhinehart deserved to win this race. Not only was the team preparation so incredibly in depth, but their attitudes, personalities, charisma, passions and content were spot on with what Vail wanted to see out of the racers, and Rhinehart did an edit for EVERY single mountain we skied (including the two a day’s in Europe). I don’t think anyone else on the race put in as much solid effort, as well as having the right spirit of the race throughout. Mad props to my teammates on that.
I am so incredibly and genuinely stoked for them and so proud of them.
And, along those lines, many of the other racers in the top 10 were awesome, and I am also super stoked for them as well.
One final thought, Bill and Charlie (our alliance team members on the final day) we believe still have a shot at making it into the top 10 if any final tweaks still come from the leaderboard. The Vail rules very specifically say that incomplete submissions will not be approved, however somehow Brittany and Cory Heintz – currently in the top 10, still have an incomplete link for their YouTube videos. I know that enough questions have been raised from fellow racers that this is likely still being researched a little deeper among Vail currently. So, in the chance that they move out of the top 10, I would be so freaking excited if Bill and Charlie got to join the leaderboard for lifetime passes. They are great people and fully deserve to make it in if this happens!
The cool thing is, even post race we have all gotten even closer with a lot of racers, it seems that we all have this common bond and understanding among those of us that got close, and I’m excited to have a larger skiing community to relate to and ski with in the future!
All in all, the experience was freaking rad. We are so glad we got to participate in this. It sometimes feels like a dream that it actually all happened. The friendships and memories we made will stick with us for life, and now, Hydle and Rhinehart get to SKI…FOR FREE…FOR LIFE!!! Thank you, one last time, to everyone who supported us from home, everyone who followed us online, reached out and congratulated us, and for watching our videos and reading our blogs! Welcome home to Colorado Hydle. Can’t wait for a Team Fun reunion on the slopes again soon!