Cache Valley's own Julie Best had to surmount daunting obstacles before even getting to conquer the actual ones as a contestant on the season finale of “Million Dollar Mile,” an athletic-competition show that airs Saturday on CBS at 7:00 p.m. MDT.
“It was probably one of the funnest things I've ever done in my life,” Best said.
Executive Producer LeBron James designed his obstacle-course TV show to attract and test the country's most elite athletes. Contestants have a chance to win $1 million if they can complete the 1-mile run/obstacle course and exit the course before they are stopped by a “defender” — hand-picked athletes such as the youngest Spartan race winner in the world, Green Berets, or Kona Iron Man race champions.
Though Best, the co-owner with her husband, Jason, of Air-Bound Gymnastics in Logan, could not comment on which obstacles she chose nor the outcome of her race, she said that the road to selection was a grueling process. Best found out about auditions while browsing Instagram on a break during her work as a Nordic Track model.
“It said that they were wanting weekend warriors to try out for a show that was a mix between Ninja Warrior, Spartan Races and MTV's The Challenge,” Best said. “Everybody's been trying to get me to go on Ninja Warrior. I have a really strong upper body, but Ninja Warrior requires a different kind of strength — like more finger grip strength, which is different than what a gymnast does. I'm also a fast runner. … I just had a feeling that this was going to be my show — that this was made for me.”
Best applied to audition in August and got a call-back two days later. Over the next few weeks she was interviewed several times and had to provide videos of her doing specific things like back flips and tumbling. During the selection process, Best trained 4-5 hours a day until she was finally selected in October to be flown out to L.A. for a 3-day trial period. She was put through medical tests, swim tests, and a combined fitness test that included a timed obstacle course that she had to complete 5 times in a row as quickly as possible.
“People were throwing up by the end of the trials,” Best said. “There were thousands of people who were brought out just for the trials, and these were the ones narrowed down from the interview process! There were probably at least a million people who originally applied.”
Best also had to rock climb against three male competitors. She beat all three.
“Everybody asked if I were a rock climber, and I had never done it before,” Best said. “They even told me later that two of the people I raced were Olympians.”
After the trials, there was agonizing silence for weeks. Two weeks before Thanksgiving, she received the call that informed her she was being flown out two days later to be a part of that week's filming of the show. But there would still be many more obstacles before being selected to conquer the ones on the show.
Upon arrival in LA, all contestant phones were confiscated and contestants were put up in hotels.
“You were not allowed to go anywhere,” Best said. “You had to stay in a little room and could only go out with one of their escorts.”
Sunday involved 11 hours of taking green screen action shots; consulting with the hair, make-up and wardrobe artists; and pre-run filming.
Monday, the contestants were informed of rules and regulations. Tuesday, the final selection process began. Contestants were to watch for emails sent at 2 a.m. that informed them that they had been chosen to race that day.
For Best, no email came Tuesday nor Wednesday.
“It was pretty tortuous!” she exclaimed.
By Wednesday, Best had heard that producers had already sent some contestants home and that they hadn't been able to film as many as had been planned each night.
On Thursday, the last day of filming, Best was finally notified to get on a bus with 14 other potential contestants. She said they all knew there was only time to film around 5-6 races, so there was still a good chance of not making the final cut.
Best was steered into a room on site to wait with the others. After four people had already been escorted out of the room to race, a producer finally came in and said she'd been selected to race.
But Best still had one more challenge to face before the starting buzzer would sound — an onstage interview with the show's host — former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. She had been informed that he would speak with her before the race, but she had no idea who he was.
“By the time I actually met him, I knew who he was,” Best said, “but I wasn't star struck like others. He asked me if I was nervous and I told him, 'No, I'm OK. Just get me racing.' He responded, 'Don't be nervous to talk to me.' I said, 'Oh, I'm not. I don't even know who you are.'”
Best said that Tebow then just spent some time chatting with her.
“It was cool,” Best said. “It was actually a little of a relief to talk to him like any other human being.”
Earlier that day producers had asked Best to remove a bracelet she wore that displayed the word, “breathe.” Best explained to the producers that she always wears it to inspire her daughter, Jadaci, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, to push her physical limits and keep fighting for her life. The producers not only allowed Best to keep the bracelet but told Tim Tebow to talk to her about it in the interview.
Best was shown which obstacles she might face the day of her race but had never run the course when the start buzzer sounded.
“I actually started running the wrong way on one of them,” Best said. “I don't know if they are going to show that or not. But doing the obstacle at night is very different. It's dark and you have bright lights shining all up in your eyes.”
Best estimated there were 28 people brought out to film that week, but only about half actually raced.
Because of having already committed to compete for the first time as an elite professional Spartan racer in Anaheim on Saturday, Best will not even get to watch her own race air!
The Bests invite community members to join them at the Sports Academy on Tuesday, August 6, at 7 p.m. for a “Viewing Party,” where Julie will get to watch the show for the first time. Though the Bests know how the race ends, they ask that those who have already viewed the outcome keep it a secret for those who will be seeing it for the first time.