“WIPEOUT” MEMORIES (PART 3): “IN THE ZONE”
Let’s be honest. You want to hear about how I got my ass kicked. Well, the wait is over.
Let the ass kicking commence.
The first Wipeout Zone consisted of four obstacles:
- “Bowled Over”
- “Spring-o-vator” (Big Balls)
- “Spring Fling”
- “Wipeout Kitchen”
Here’s how things went… oh, wait! Did I mention that entire the surface of the zone was covered in “lube” and that since I was second to last, said lube had spent the last two plus hours getting wet and muddy and eliminating all hopes of traction?
No? Well it did.
So as I went to take my very first step down the ramp leading to the first obstacle, I hit the lube. My feet slipped out from under me and I slid down the ramp into the water.
Needless to say, I was off to a shaky start.
After pulling myself out of the water, I climbed up the steps to the “Bowled Over” obstacle. Now in the prep talk, the director told us that the big obstacle to watch for were the giant balls rolling down to “bowl” us over. What he didn’t say was this was just a diversion and the real obstacle were the air ram panels waiting to hit us dead in the face and send us flying into the mud.
So, as I ran along the “alley” looking up at the rolling balls, I heard the quick “hiss” of an air ram deploying. And before you could say “Oh shit,” I was airborne and heading for the mud. Swimming through the mud to the steps (and enjoying a big ole mouthful of mud for good measure), I realized I had to go through yet another alley. And damned if I was going to fall for the same trick twice. Fortunately as I climbed the stairs I saw one panel sticking out a few inches further than the others… gotcha. So I ran toward the panel and stopped just before I reached the kill zone. The air ram deployed and did knock me back, but I managed to avoid a second mud bath.
Score one for Scott. Granted, this would be one of my few victories.
Now I’ve probably run a few thousand miles on a treadmill in my life, but this beastie leading up to the big balls is hands down the biggest treadmill I ever have (or ever will) be on. And this thing was on a one-way trip to the big balls. I back pedaled momentarily when I got on the belt, but quickly realized I was going to be launched whether I wanted to or not. So, I went with the flow and jumped for the big balls. Now I had spent about an hour the week before watching video of the big balls, trying to guess their firmness, amount of spring and an appropriate strategy. Yeah, that crap went right out the window. I hit the first ball, flipped over the second ball and then bounced like a pinball between balls two and three before ending with a splash in the water below.
Now I mentioned yesterday that the water wasn’t heated. This water wasn’t just cold. It was freezing. It was “shrinkage on an epic scale” freezing (if you know what I mean). As I swam to the ladder for the next obstacle, I could feel my energy being syphoned off.
On a side note, ESPN “Sports Science” analyzed Wipeout’s big balls. And they said hitting the water after falling off the big balls had the equivalent force of a major league outfielder running into the wall at full speed. So, ouch.
I paused while climbing the ladder simply because exhaustion was already starting to set in… and I was barely halfway through the first obstacle course.
This obstacle involved jumping off a diving board onto a swinging platform and then jumping from that swinging platform onto yet another platform (all while rocking back and forth about 15 feet over the water). Realizing success was dependent upon timing, I waited until the swinging platform reached its apex and then hit the springboard for all it was worth and did a leap of faith into mid air. Low and behold, I had timed it just right and belly-flopped right onto the swinging platform. Score two for Scott… except of course that I had basically knocked the wind out of myself. And as I gasped for breath I could hear the director on the megaphone telling me I had to get to my feet. As I uttered a few words under my breath that certainly wouldn’t make it past network censors, I got to my feet and looked at the next platform. I did my best to time it then once again tossed my body into the void.
As I sailed through the air, I couldn’t help but think back to the Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes buddy picture “White Men Can’t Jump.” Perhaps I could have been cast to star in its straight to DVD sequel “Stocky White Men in Life Vests Also Can’t Jump.” Well, I did manage to at least hit the second platform before gracefully (and I mean “like a rock” gracefully) flipping backward and plummeting back into the freezing water for another round of “epic shrinkage.”
Three down, one to go.
Well, this torture contraption was surely invented by a sadist… with a sweet tooth. The obstacle consisted of me diving through several “oven shaped” cutouts while in between landing in a tub of chocolate (god, I hope it was chocolate) and then an air ram nailing me in the face with a custard pie (god, I hope it was custard). After flopping out of that mess I had to traverse two pneumatically-controlled rolling pin, umm… “thingees.” I managed to roll over the first one (pun intended) and as I ran up to the second one, the operator fired the control ramming the pin dead into my chest and sending me sliding back under the first pin. Undaunted… okay, maybe a little daunted… I got past the first pin again, looked at the second and thought to myself, “I’m going to roll right over this bitch.”
So, I started to launch myself over the second pin. You know that moment where you think everything is going to be okay? I had that brief instant of joy.
Then the operator fired the pneumatic control.
I want to thank the still photographer from Wipeout, because they froze a moment in time that I’ll never forget. I was 180 degrees inverted… literally “head over heels.” And I do mean literally.
After that it was a blur of tumbling followed by round three of shrinkage and a brief swim to the finish platform where hostess Jill Wagner asked how my day was going.
“Not too shabby,” I replied.
So after the medics checked me over to make certain I didn’t have a concussion or some other injury, they led me back to the waiting area with me still covered head-to-toe in the soggy remnants of mud, chocolate and custard (god, I hope they were).
And yes, I did make eye contact with the final contestant for the zone as I walked by. And yes, I did give him an “Abandon hope all ye who enter” look.
I walked into the bathroom and glanced in the mirror. I smiled.
And then I threw up.
I guess the combination of extreme physical exertion, frigid water, a mouthful of mud, chocolate and custard (I was starting to think they weren’t) was too much shock for my body to handle and I promptly “liquidated my assets.”
As it turns out I was not the only member of the “spew club” as three other contestants (or at least that many who actually admitted to it) also had their breakfasts make an unexpected repeat appearance.
No sooner had I cleaned myself up and walked out of the bathroom, then the producers called “lunch” and a takeout container of food was thrust into my hands.
Needless to say, I wasn’t really that hungry.
As I sat down to move my food from the left side of the container to the right, I chatted with several of the other contestants and we had a good laugh at the hell we had just been through. In the back of our minds, however, we were wondering about our times.
Remember, Wipeout is an elimination competition and only the people with the 12 fastest times would go onto the second round.
Suddenly the door to the production office opened and a PA walked up to us with a piece of paper.
“Here’s the times,” she said as she taped it to the wall.
And like anxious high school theater students we all rushed up to see if we had “landed a part.”
I glanced down the list and saw myself in 6th place. I was only 30-seconds slower than the fastest person.
I’d made it.
“Eat up” cried one of the PAs, “the next round is in 45 minutes.”
Big Blue was utterly exhausted and still hacking up mud, but he was indeed moving onto the next round. After all, it couldn’t get much worse, could it?
Tomorrow on TTK, “Wipeout” Memories (Part 4): “Bye Bye Big Balls”