Team Beekman wins $1 million

Underdog with N.C. ties triumphs in 'Amazing Race'
Dec. 16, 2012 @ 08:03 AM

RANDLEMAN — For those unfamiliar with “The Amazing Race,” here’s what you need to know about former Randleman resident Brent Ridge and his teammate, Josh Kilmer-Purcell, who won the CBS reality show’s $1 million grand prize last weekend: They were underdogs.

In fact, of the 11 teams that began the competition, you might’ve picked them to finish 11th. If you had picked them to finish first, you would’ve been laughed off the couch.

“We were one of the older teams in the race,” explained Ridge, who is 38 (Kilmer-Purcell is 43).

“And we’re not athletes — we’re very cerebral people, more academically oriented. In general, people think if you’re running a grueling race around the world, you’ve got to have athletic ability to do it, but that’s not the case. Whether it’s ‘The Amazing Race’ or everyday life, it’s not brute force that gets you where you need to go — it’s emotional intelligence, and that’s what we brought to the race.”

Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell — who are not only business partners but life partners — live in New York, where they operate a goat farm and have launched a line of goat cheese and other farm-related products under the brand name Beekman 1802. They also starred on another reality show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys” (Planet Green network), which chronicled their business enterprises.

On “The Amazing Race,” the two men competed as Team Beekman, though they were more generically referred to as “the gay goat farmers.”

The show took contestants across the world — from China to Indonesia, Bangladesh to Turkey, Russia to the Netherlands — in a battle against the clock and each other. The show’s finale, on which Team Beekman won the competition, aired last Sunday night.

Ridge, who is also a licensed physician, said he and Kilmer-Purcell more or less lucked into applying to be on the popular reality show.

“We had always been big fans of the show,” he said. “When our first cookbook came out from our company last fall, we did a signing in California, and someone approached us talking about how they were fans of our TV show. They also had a connection to someone who worked on ‘The Amazing Race,’ and we just off the cuff said we would love to be on the show. A few days later, someone from the show called us and got us to apply.”

The actual competition took place between mid-May and mid-June, but Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell actually began preparing for the race sooner than that, trying to devise a winning strategy.

“As a middle-aged couple, we knew we’d be one of the older teams in the race,” Ridge said. “We were unlikely to win any physical challenges, so we tried to focus on the things we knew have defeated teams in the past, like communication. More often than not, it wasn’t one team defeating another — it was a team defeating itself.”

The other part of the team’s strategy, Ridge continued, was simply to focus on not finishing last in any leg of the race.

“We knew it was unlikely that we would dominate and win every single leg,” he said. “Our strategy was not to lose a leg, because in the race, the only leg that counts for you to win is the last one.”

The biggest challenge, Ridge said, was battling through the exhausting stress of the competition.

“We went to nine different foreign countries in 3½ weeks,” he explained. “Just traveling internationally is stressful, because your internal time clock is all screwed up, you don’t know what day it is, and you’re not eating and drinking and sleeping on a normal schedule.”

Add to that the stress of worrying about what the other teams are doing, plus the high-stakes stress of competing for such a life-changing amount of money.

“That amount of stress over 3½ weeks starts to take its toll,” Ridge said. “You’ll see racers make some stupid decisions because they don’t see something clearly. When the stress is building up, it’s really easy to overlook even the simplest things.”

According to Ridge, he and Kilmer-Purcell overcame the challenges by remaining true to themselves, staying positive and being flexible.

“There’s no time in life or in the race that everything will be going your way,” he said. “You can either let it get the best of you or you can rally back, and I think our saving grace was that no matter how bad things got at points in the race, we never quit — we got up the next day and did it all over again.”

Ridge said the couple’s plans for the $1 million in winnings include paying off the mortgage on their farm, investing in a building that will become the new headquarters of Beekman 1802, and launching a new line of food products, 25 percent of the profits of which will be used to help other small American farmers pay off their debts.