Vail second homeowners competing in Nat Geo’s “Race to the Center of the Earth” for $1 million |

Vail second homeowners competing in Nat Geo’s “Race to the Center of the Earth” for $1 million

Seven-part series airs on Monday nights, Episode 2 coming up

The creators of “Amazing Race” have created “Race to the Center of the Earth,” a global adventure race featuring one team from Colorado.
National Geographic, Special to the Daily

On Monday, Episode 2 of the premier season of National Geographic’s “Race to the Center of the Earth” debuts, featuring four teams in an ultimate adventure race for $1 million. From the creators of the “Amazing Race,” the seven-part series features the four teams around the world embarking on their own quests in hopes of beating the others to a buoy in the middle of the ocean — on which the $1 million prize is stashed.

David Bacon, founder of BW Bacon Group in Denver, has a second home in West Vail and is on one of the teams of three with his co-workers Paul Montague Jr. and Mindy Murphy, who has her second home in East Vail.

Filmed in October of 2019, Bacon and his team have been keeping the results secret — even from their co-workers and families.

“We’ve been harboring this kind of dirty little secret for 17 months,” Bacon said after the first episode premiered last week. “It’s cool. Especially now where we’ve been going through this pandemic, it’s like we’re opening up this time capsule of this experience that feels like it was from another era.”

From left, David Bacon, Paul Montague Jr. and Mindy Murphy, of Team North America, are interviewed in Tadoussac Village. The three-person team work together in Denver, with Bacon and Murphy both having homes in Vail as well.
Joe Queen, National Geographic, Special to the Daily

The race is a two-week challenge with each team having to conquer one of four brutal courses designed, tested and timed by expedition experts. Every day follows a predetermined path of GPS waypoints, and the goal is to end the day faster than the experts’ pace. While each course is different — teams are in South America, Russia, Southeast Asia and North America — each course has been vetted for fairness. Nearly every form of transportation imagined is teased in the season preview, and racers are made up of amateur athletes from all walks of life looking for an adventure.

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Bacon and his team were given the North American route, a route that goes over 3,000 miles through Canadian wilderness, starting in Quebec and ending in Vancouver. Their course features navigating ice cold wetlands, the vast badlands of Alberta and reaching the summit of Mount Norquay as well as spending a night on The Big Wall on Cape Trinity.

“We’re like reliving this experience that we had back in 2019 with millions of viewers now,” Bacon said, adding that his family is on the edge of their seats each week as well. “None of them know. I promise you.”

And while Bacon is the boss in Denver, he enjoyed the camaraderie his team of three had on the adventure, and continue to have.

“I might be the boss in Denver, but I’m not the boss of an adventure race team,” Bacon said.

North American team members David Bacon and Mindy Murphy watch Paul Montague Jr. scale The Big Wall at Cape Trinity in Episode 1 of “Race to the Center of the Earth.”
Ryan Shaw, National Geographic

Since the first episode aired, Bacon said his phone has been blowing up with messages, all positive. In fact, it “continues” to blow up, he said.

While he enjoys the messages specifically about himself, he really appreciates the messages about his teammates.

Montague Jr. was 25 years old when the show’s search team reached out about being on the show, thanks to some awesome rock climbing pictures on his Instagram, The search team liked his content and character, but were hoping for teams with average ages more in there 30s, to help better represent the average athlete, Bacon said. That’s when Montague Jr. turned to his co-workers.

In Episode 1, their team was faced with trading their cubicles for scaling an unforgiving sheer granite face — The Big Wall in Quebec.

“A big motivator for me just being out here is to show representation,” Montague Jr. said on the show. “Climbing, big mountaineering — you don’t really see a lot of people of color, and there should be more. If some little kid out there is flipping through the TV and sees me on the side of the mountain … I think that’s inspiring.”

Bacon said he was proud of his teammate Montague Jr. for his ability to recognize and acknowledge his position. Bacon said he’s also received message about daughters of friends being inspired by his co-worker and teammate Murphy.

Team North America celebrate making it to one of their waypoints in Episode 1 of “Race to the Center of the Earth.” The seven-episode series premiered last week and airs on Mondays at 8 p.m.
Ryan Godard, National Geographic

“The experiences we had were just bananas, I mean they were bonkers,” Bacon said. “It really brought the best out of us, and I certainly hope the show brings the best out of all who watch it.”

He added that being the father of three, he was concerned about his ability to be a productive teammate with the weight of leaving his family for a month with no contact lingered. So before he left, he wrote letters to his kids that his assistance delivered while he was gone to show that even though they had no idea where in the world their father was, he was thinking about them.

And his company BW Bacon Group, a technology staffing company celebrating 20 years this year, also made him proud while he was gone. With a team of 10, losing three of them for a month was a challenge, but he said his team “crushed it” while they were gone.

From left, David Bacon, Mindy Murphy and Paul Montague Jr. make up Team North America in “Race to the Center of the Earth.” The show was filmed in October 2019.
Erik Umphery, National Geographic, Special to the Daily

Bacon’s life travels have taken him around the world, but he’s constantly spending time here in Vail. He’s been digging deep into researching his half-brother, Paul Bacon, who was instrumental in the early days of Vail and known for creating the early manuals around ski racing in Vail. Bacon’s three kids are in the big mountain program with Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.

This season’s “Race to the Center of the Earth” could be the first of many. With no basis to draw from, they weren’t too sure what they were getting into back in 2019.

“It really was such a gift,” Bacon said. “I think throughout the whole show, and I don’t know how much they’ll portray it, but we really felt like we had already won just by having the opportunity to be on the show and have this incredible experience.”

“Race to the Center of the Earth” airs on National Geographic as well as other streaming services at 8 p.m. on Mondays for the next six weeks, with the finale unveiling the $1 million winners.

“It’s kind of nice to look forward to something,” Bacon said. “So now we’re just stoked to be on this ride for seven weeks. So far, so good.”

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