Can Your Relationship Survive the Firecracker 50?

By Jessica McWhirt

June 4–2024. When I first watched The Amazing Race in 2001, I wondered if I’d lose the relationship I had with my Amazing Race partner once we stopped racing. With puzzles, translations, weird foods, and athletic challenges, I assumed my Type A, control freak, hyper-competitive personality would destroy any relationship I had with them afterward.

I know the second we got lost, I’d lose it on my teammate, likely wanting to blame them for our mess up.

I knew I’d be a terrible partner, so I never considered signing up.

So, why would I sign up for a 50-mile mountain bike race, like the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge, with my partner knowing I prefer to win or lose on my own? Why would I trust my partner to do his part in racing fast so we could win? Set high expectations of him only to set him up to fail?

Because even though I’d probably go faster on my own, the feeling you get when you accomplish a goal with your significant other is indescribable.

Jessica and Jackky at the Firecracker 50 in 2023

Well, that’s a lie. I can describe it.

It feels like an inside joke. It’s something that only the two of you can share. You know you both did your part to get you across the finish line as fast as possible and still in one piece. And remembering, at the end of the day, it’s not the results that matter.

It’s being able to conquer a hard-ass course—together.

Jackky, my significant other, and I first raced Firecracker 50 in 2023. When we previewed the course, most of it was still buried in the snow and we relied on our Garmins to not get us lost.

It’s something that derailed most teams in The Amazing Race. The people who couldn’t work well together in a country with a different language and were lost just to getting the next checkpoint before the rest of the teams had no shot. 

When they’d freak out on each other because they took the wrong turn and drove 20 miles in the opposite direction.

Surprisingly enough, Jackky and I do well under stressful situations.

No trail signs? “We’re never lost,” he’ll tell me.

Hungry? “Here, I brought an extra gel just in case,” I’ll say.

Don’t want to push your bike up Little Frenchy? “Let’s just take it slow” we’ll both whisper.”

It’s easy to have a certain (high) expectation of your partner—especially when you’re both competitive. I feared being the slower teammate during my 25-mile lap at the Firecracker 50. No one wants to disappoint their partner. I knew I’d do better climbing than Jackky and I knew he’d descend quicker than me. We evened each other out, but was it enough to secure a Top 10 (out of 77 teams).

After spending 3.5 hours riding through the snow & downed trees, I told Jackky there was no way we were getting Top 10 like he assumed we would. He thought we’d come in around 2.5 hours. 

“There’s no way I’m cutting an hour off my time,” I said. “Sure you can,” he told me smiling like he knew my capabilities more than I did.

What made or broke Amazing Race teams was their belief in themselves. The teams that did terribly fought and doubted each other. They rarely cooperated and I don’t think I ever saw the losing teams laugh.

When you’re 13 miles into your 25-mile lap, climbing 3,116 feet—you need to want to make your partner proud.

You better have had some fun moments previewing the course so when you pass that boulder you two sat on eating smushed PB&Js, you’ll smile as you dig a little deeper.

Or the trees you had to climb under or the snow you trudged through (that the volunteers cleared so you could focus on the actual terrain and getting to the finish line as fast as possible).

I always thought I preferred racing on my own until Jackky asked if I’d be his partner for the Firecracker 50—a 25-mile loop where each partner takes a lap and the quickest combined time wins (they also have solo categories for the endurance lovers, which is still very much on my radar).

And because I’ve always trusted Jackky and his wild ideas, I’ve become a stronger, more confident mountain biker. If it hadn’t been for him pushing me to try new courses, I’d still be riding along Bear Creek Lake Park. Having a partner who’s your biggest fan and someone you know won’t punk out makes trying new courses much more fun.

It’s less scary to climb over chunky rocks and slippery roots when you have a partner there to help you back up when you inevitably fall. It’s fun to adventure through the backcountry of Breckenridge where there’s no cell service and it’s just you two sitting next to a waterfall drinking lukewarm water from your Camelbaks.

There’s an excitement you only get when you’re waiting for your partner to glide down the switchbacks, watching him flow through the tracks and race toward you. And the fumbling of switching the race plate from his bike to yours, then taking off with zero time to kiss but knowing you wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t love them.

Racing with your friend, family member, or significant other, changes the dynamics of racing. It’s you and them versus the world. You win or lose together. You create memories no one can take away from you. And the Firecracker 50 is the perfect course to test your relationship resilience.

Challenge yourself or a partner and give the Firecracker 50 on July 4th a try–REGISTER HERE


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