Dave and Rachel Brown have never been shy about going after what they wanted. Dave recalls the night the Madison couple met at Wando’s, where his future wife took a forthright approach to getting his attention.
“She had the audacity, and the alcohol, to approach me and say I was hot, which I was astonished by,” Dave said.
That drive will likely serve them both well as contestants on CBS’ hit reality show “The Amazing Race,” which kicks off its 20th season at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19. The Browns are one of 11 pairs criss-crossing the globe completing challenges, with a $1 million prize awaiting the winning team.
But the Browns bring much more to the challenge than their chutzpah. Dave, 33, is a 16-year military veteran, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot who spent 12 years in the Wisconsin National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 147th Aviation Regiment. Shortly before returning home last summer and competing in “The Amazing Race,” he was on a tour of duty in Iraq as an intelligence officer for an aviation task force.
And Rachel, 30, works for Epic Systems, the Verona-based health care software company, in a position that requires her to travel every week or two. Anyone who watches the CBS show knows that being able to negotiate travel obstacles is a prized skill for a team.
Dave said he and Rachel were fans of the show before they met, and as a couple have spent many Sunday nights on the couch watching the show. But they watched it more intently than other couples.
“We would actually look at it from the vantage point of being competitors ourselves, identifying individual strengths and weaknesses that our team might possess, and how that might contribute to successes on the Race,” he said.
While her husband was deployed in Iraq, Rachel came across an announcement online seeking contestants for the series’ 20th competition. Over beers while on vacation together in Australia during one of Dave’s R&R breaks, they filled out the application together.
The thought was that, after a year apart, competing on the show would be a great way to reunite as a couple.
“Naively enough, I think both Rachel and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to reconnect,” Dave said. “From Rachel and I’s vantage point, even just spending quality time with one another, or time in general, has been a challenge in and of itself. Rachel, working for Epic Systems, travels quite frequently if not every week for three or four days, certainly every other week. And I travel less frequently, but of course, for greater durations of time with deployments.
“We were just eager and excited for the opportunity to spend 30-plus days of time together.”
Dave and Rachel went into the Race thinking they would be serious contenders, and Dave stated confidently on a promotional video on the CBS website that he didn’t think any of the other teams could beat them. Only they could defeat themselves if they didn’t work optimally as a team, he added.
“Both Rachel and myself are hyper-competitive people,” he said. “I would say that for me, my tenancity, my resourcefulness, decisiveness and even common sense definitely contributed to my involvement on the race. From a military perspective — my attention to detail, mental and physical preparedness.”
He said he thought the different mindsets he and his wife brought to the Race made them a good team.
“Rachel definitely possesses a dramatically different mentality,” Dave said. “She is very much an optimist, whereas I am a realist. So we balance each other in that respect.”
Dave said that the greatest pressure he felt during the Race wasn’t necessarily getting from Point A to Point B first, or finishing the various challenges quickly. It was knowing that the couple, dubbed “Team Army” on the show, was standing in for so many military couples in America who have had to deal with deployments overseas.
“To represent the men and women of the armed forces, and from Rachel’s perspective, to represent the spouses left behind, was truly an honor and a privilege for us both,” Dave said. “The greatest stresser from my persepctive was not the race or the competition. It was the self-induced stress of performing optimally on behalf of our military. It’s really an underrepresented profession in reality TV.”
Now, the stress of the competition is over, although Dave and Rachel are forbidden to talk about what happens on the show before it airs. They’ll be down at Madison’s on King Street on Sunday night, watching it unfold the same as every other “Amazing Race” fan.
“In some respects, being a military intelligence officer and having been in possession of some classified type information, retaining information is second nature,” Dave said. “But something that you’re truly excited about — being on the show — it has been difficult to harness.”http://host.madison.com/entertainment/television/madison-couple-at-the-starting-line-for-amazing-race/article_f734495f-9897-5ad2-a3e0-3592eeeaacc4.html