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Exclusive: 'Amazing' racers Terence Gerchberg, Sarah Leshner dish


By John Bracchitta, 11/17/2008 

"Newly Dating Couple" Terence Gerchberg and Sarah Leshner were most likely the most athletic couple, -- and perhaps the most argumentative one as well -- during their time on The Amazing Race 13 and had always seemed to find a way to bounce back from their race mistakes.

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However, an ill-fated decision to pursue a Fast Forward challenge during the eighth leg of the race in Almaty, Kazakhstan turned out to be a hole too big for the couple to climb out of, as they became the seventh team to be eliminated from the competition during last night's broadcast on CBS.

On Monday, Terence and Sarah spoke to Reality TV World about why they made their fateful decision to try the Fast Forward, what their relationship is really like away from the cameras, and why they think one of the front-running teams is succeeding based on luck rather than skill.

Reality TV World: Let's start right with that fateful Fast Forward.  I just want to clarify what the clue at the chicken factory told you.  Did it tell you that there would be some sort of eating challenge?

Sarah: We did not know it would involve meat. It said "Go enjoy a local custom at a table with a hookah." So we were pretty convinced that [we would have to] brand ourselves with a hookah, or smoke an entire hookah. We never would have gone for it if we had known that it would involve eating. We knew that was our weakness.

Terence: Yeah, A: because I'm a vegetarian and B: she keeps kosher, and we knew the meat was definitely not kosher.

Reality TV World: So you weren't under the impression that it was a food challenge, you [thought] that it involved [some local] customs?

Sarah: Yeah that's what it said, like "Participate in a local custom, sit at a table with the hookah," and if you watched last season they did a tattoo, so we thought "Great, this season it will be [something similar.]

Reality TV World: Okay, because I know that a lot of the food eating challenges on The Amazing Race's earlier seasons usually involved eating some type of meat. But you didn't think this was gonna be that challenge?

Sarah: No. Obviously in retrospect we realize that was stupid and once we were back in the cab and kicking ourselves like "We should have known, we should have known." But we didn't run this race with a lot of hesitation and thinking about what we were doing. We just threw ourselves into it, so it was like "Oh my God we can probably win if we go for the Fast Forward! Go for the Fast Forward!"

Reality TV World: Sarah, Why did you not think going for the Fast Forward was a good idea -- was it because Nick and Starr were already going for it...

Sarah: (Interrupts) No, I just didn't think we necessarily needed it. I thought that if we run a conservative race and make sure that we stay in this, and kind of why risk it?

Terence is a much bigger risk-taker.

Reality TV World: Yeah, Terence, what made you decide to push ahead with it?

Terence: Well it's pretty funny that she could answer it that way. At the beginning we always said we were gonna go for the second Fast Forward. That's why we didn't go for the first Fast Forward, we were going to save it for the second one. 

I am a bigger risk-taker in life, and we hadn't won a race [unintelligible] and we knew that if you win a Fast Forward you win a leg, so it would definitely stretch the momentum and we needed something to get out of third place.

Reality TV World: Why didn't you leave immediately once you guys got to the restaurant and learned it involved eating a lot of meat?

Terence: Being such competitors I thought that I could just swallow the food. If you noticed [on the show] I was holding the water and I literally would just put it in the back of my mouth and swallow it without even trying to chew it.

[The restaurant] was an hour away, they also didn't show that. It wasn't just ten minutes away where we could just turn around and catch everybody. We knew that we put ourselves in a big hole by going for it.

Reality TV World: Did you think [Starr Spangler] was going to struggle more than she did?

Sarah: Yeah, she ate that faster than even food that we like, so hands down to her. She ate that in a way we never could have done no matter what it was.

We obviously wish that when we had gotten there we just turned around and got back in the cab, but we were really so confident and so convinced that we were gonna win that we... we didn't think very much. We were just like "Oh my God, we're here! We need to do the challenge! We're doing it!"
                       
Reality TV World: About how long did you end up spending at the restaurant before you finally decided to give up and go back to the chicken factory?
 
Sarah:
We probably spent about 20-30 minutes there.

Reality TV World: And you said it was a one-hour cab ride?

Sarah: Yeah so that's the thing, it was close to 2 1/2 hours that we put ourselves behind.

Reality TV World: Was there any point after that in which you thought you had made your way back into the race and could avoid finishing in last?
 
Sarah:
We thought we might be able to catch up. We didn't, realistically, do a "Are we going to be able to make up 2 1/2 hours" [conversation], we just thought "This is our only shot," and we never stopped running that entire day.

We worked harder that day than we did on any other leg of the race because we just thought that if we had any chance it's just ourselves and the race course, so we just left gave it 110%.

Reality TV World: About how far behind [Andrew Lappitt] and [Dan Honig] did you end up arriving at the Pit Stop?
 
Sarah:
The number they told us was seven minutes.

Reality TV World: Do you have any idea why Andrew and Dan were told to go back and re-do the last part of the leg instead of just being hit with a time penalty like [Mark Yturralde] and [Bill Hahler]  were earlier in the race? 

Sarah: Yeah, and this is a very subtle distinction but you can see it through all of the seasons. If it's something that just happened and you can correct it easily, you have to correct it. If it's something that happened earlier in the leg and you can't really simulate it than they give you a half-hour [penalty]to estimate [the time gained].

Mark and Bill, their thing was really early in the leg, and it was hard for them to say "Go back to that plaza that you were at three hours ago and walk to that other plaza you were at two hours ago."

In [Andrew and Dan's] case they had just done it, so it was just like "Go back and fix it."

Reality TV World: Do you think that would have made a difference as to whether you finished last?

Sarah: I have no idea, I think it would have been minimal time. I think that they followed the rules as they are written, and are fair.
 
Reality TV World: Lots of other teams we have spoken to have singled both of you out as the most athletic couple. Do you agree with that?

Terence: Yes, we were. I run, I get paid to run and I ran in college. Sarah's extremely strong with her upper-body. She does a lot of working out, she's in great shape. We're both in great shape so without a doubt yes.

Reality TV World: What strength advantages do you think that you had? You said speed...

Terence: Speed, and when we made mistakes -- like in the third leg when we ran too far away -- our great athletic ability allowed us to recover from that horrible mistake. Climbing down the cargo net we were seamless.

Sarah: We just didn't really have any liabilities. There was never any time when we had to say to the other one "Come on, work harder" or "Keep up with me."

I don't necessarily think that physical fitness is the most important attribute in the race, but for what it's worth I think we had an advantage there.

Reality TV World: How would you describe your relationship together? On the show it looked like, for better or worse, you both are pretty vocal about your feelings to each other.

Sarah: Yeah. I think that the show captured what our relationship is like under stress. When we're not sleep deprived, hungry and frustrated I think we're nicer to each other.

But it was a new relationship, we didn't know each other...

Terence: It was relatively new, and we got a lot to learn, just like the show showed.
 
Reality TV World: Well it went both ways. You both would support each other, and then...

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, during the Pit Stops we would be really nice to each other and make up from all the problems from the leg before and talk about how it was gonna be different. And then we'd start off being really optimistic and we love each other. And then we'd start screaming at each other again.

Reality TV World: During the first leg the show made a point to show you two having an argument about Sarah talking to other teams while resting in the Brazil. Could either of you explain how that argument came about?           

Terence: What happened is, as you found out I'm slightly needy -- which is not really true though -- but what ended up happening was we didn't win, and we were really frustrated because we made the wrong turn and it allowed three teams to pass us and we ended up actually still finishing in third place.

I just kinda wanted to talk about it with her. I didn't really wanna be "held" like the way it was portrayed. And she speaks Portuguese fluently and everyone wanted to ask her things and I was like "Sarah I need you to stay with me because I wanna talk about our [race]. We made a crucial mistake, which is why we didn't win." And she was interested in being friendly and I thought that was inappropriate at that time.

And I still do. (laughs)

Sarah: And I also think that it was, on a broader level, I think that we have different approaches to that kind of thing. I've always worked in big companies and had to be around a lot of people and had to just get along with people. Even if it's a superficial relationship or a fake exchange or whatever, just to do that is antithetical to how Terence runs his life.

He's super genuine, super sincere, and if he doesn't like people he doesn't wanna waste time talking to them but if he does like them he's gonna give them the clothes off his back. I'm much more... kind of in the middle so I don't think we really saw eye-to-eye on that.

Reality TV World: So whenever that would be an issue, you think it was something branching off of that [difference]?

Sarah: Yeah, and it actually came up a lot during the race because I, for whatever reason it's pretty lonely running a race with just one other person that you can't be more than 20 feet away from, so I wanted to have relationships with the other teams, and I think he was much more comfortable just focusing on the race and not paying attention to anybody else.

Reality TV World: What is your overall opinion of [Nick Spangler] and Starr? Other teams really seem to love ‘em or hate ‘em.

Terence: Well, how did you feel about them?

Reality TV World: Oh me?

Terence: Yeah.

Reality TV World: They are interesting... They're definitely playing the game hard.

Sarah: Yeah, that's the thing. They approached this so differently from us. In the early legs they were like "What's your strategy?" and "What are you gonna do to sneak around other teams?" and we were like... we never even thought about any other teams, we're just gonna throw ourselves into the race and play as hard as we can and be good sports about it....

(Terence laughs)

Terence: (interrupting)...I offered them food in the beginning when we were on the plane and they wanted to know my ulterior motive. I was like "Here's some food, you're hungry, nothing more, nothing less."

Sarah: They kept doing things to other teams during the race, and then apologizing to them at the Pit Stops. As opposed to someone like [Kelly Crabb] and [Christy Cook] who were very genuine in that they didn't want to work with anybody else [and] they didn't want to be nice to anybody else so at least you knew what you were gonna get.

Reality TV World: They really seem to be in front of the competition consistently, are they doing anything especially well or are they just getting lucky?

Sarah: I think it's a lot of luck, I really do. The legs end with teams finishing within a few minutes of each other usually, and so if you get a little bit of momentum because you're extra confident... We were frustrated because in India we got out last because coming in we got held up at customs while they got out first, and then they were able to ride that through the entire leg, and then they rode it through the next leg. That kinda thing builds on itself.

Terence: They were very lucky in the India thing that they were making up time. we were actually the first off the plane, we were the first off the plane a lot of times. So you know, even in the very first leg that they won, [unintelligible] they rode our coattails.

Reality TV World:- How did you both fare in the light Bolivian air during the Third leg? We've heard that teams had a much tougher time with the air than was shown on the show.
 
Sarah:
I had a much, much, much tougher time than it showed. I mean I had to get oxygen twice, and they didn't show anyone getting oxygen except for Mark, but that was for the storyline.

Terence acted like he was at sea level. Literally I never heard him breathe hard, I never saw him sweat. He was fine.

Terence: I've run at those altitudes before so it didn't bother me.

Reality TV World: When you were in Kho Andeth you guys had your boat die in the middle of the water. How much time do you think that set you back?

Sarah: It felt like hours, it probably was like 20 minutes to a half-hour

Terence: About 30 minutes.

Sarah: But I think that's an example of where I think a lot of other teams would have gotten [eliminated] on something like that because you're stranded in the middle, you're dependent on these people that you can't communicate with to fix my boat. If I was by myself I couldn't have rowed that stupid thing. Terence didn't even hesitate, he was like "How do I fix this, how do I make this stop being an issue for us." That was really impressive.

Reality TV World: During that Kiwi challenge in Auckland you both seemed to get through it rather painlessly while a lot other teams ended up switching challenge because it hurt too much. Was it as easy for you as it seemed on the show?
 
 Terence:
No, it was actually a lot harder. There were rocks on the bottom of it and it was cutting up [the skin on our feet]. And Sarah, again, was an incredible sport. I thought our spout was clogged up and it probably was, and I said "Sarah why don't you stick your hand in there," so she sticks her hand in. 
 
We actually had a lot of fun. We kind of wanted to switch -- I have really sensitive feet -- and she knows I have sensitive feet but we were such troopers about it and we never quit at any task we did. That was just another thing, everybody quit and we were like "We're gonna stick this out and finish it quick." We drank the kiwi juice and said "To life!" and we were there. We were done.
           
Reality TV World: You both seemed to be in the middle of that second leg incident where Tina ran around telling everyone she had convinced the airline to switch to a bigger plane -- What exactly happened there, do you believe that's what happened?

Sarah: It happened exactly the way you saw it. She stood up and she said... what she actually said was "I got them to change the plane so that we can all get on the plane," and we were like "That makes no sense! How could you do that?"

Terence: We got there 20 minutes after her too. I could understand if she had maybe two hours to work on it, but 20 minutes!? That's amazing...

Sarah: And it also doesn't make any sense, what she said was "Don't worry, I changed it so that everyone can get on the plane," and we were like "You're playing this just as hard as everybody else, you're not gonna change the plane to accommodate us."

Reality TV World: What was your favorite experience on The Amazing Race?

Sarah: I really liked New Zealand. New Zealand was a very long leg -- it was probably two-to-three times longer than anything else. That was the time we had the opportunity to kind of relax. We were driving for hundreds of miles at a time  and we were just operating very [well], I was giving him directions, he was trusting me, he was executing. It was spot on.

Even though the challenges were really hard... The kiwis were probably one of the harder challenges that we did, I had to have medical attention for the bottom of my feet (laughs). But we never quit, we worked together well, we didn't yell at each other. It was great.

Terence: And for me it was going down the cargo net in Fortaleza. We were singing, we were dancing. And they didn't show one of my favorite moments, which would be me high-fiving Mark as we passed because it just showed our sportsmanship and our... just, camaraderie. So, that was one of my highlights.

Reality TV World: What about least favorite experience?

(both laugh)

Terence: Having not eaten meat in fifteen years and having to put a... it wasn't making a hot dog, it wasn't eating a hamburger, it was eating the biggest portion of food. First of all, I eat small portions and this was enormous. So hands down that for me. It was absolutely disgusting

Reality TV World: Actually I forgot to ask, what did that taste like? I had no idea what that actually was.

Sarah: Worse than the meat was... they had these chunks they said were potatoes -- and it may be a good strategy to start with the potatoes -- and they were actually huge cubes of fat. So you had to eat really hideous tasting meat, on cubes of fat [unintelligible].

Terence: And there were onions in there, and I thought the onions would be, like, onion-y. But the onions took on the flavors of the fat and the meat, so I had nothing in there that was looking good to me.

Reality TV World: Is there anything that you wanted to make it onto the show that was edited out?

Sarah: Well Terence can speak to some of that relationship stuff that he probably didn't like the way it was depicted (laughs). But I just wanted it to be clearer how much of ourselves we put into the race, because we made huge mistakes that -- I think -- would have cost other teams in the race and they would not have been able to come back from.

So whether it was getting lost in Brazil in one of those early legs where we ran literally five miles out of the way and had to put our cameraman in the car because he couldn't keep up with us, I thought that kind of went by pretty quickly.

Or when Terence fixed the boat, where i think other teams wouldn't have come back from that.

If there was some way to show how hard we were working and how much of ourselves we were putting into it.

Terence: I would have liked them to show the great moments of how we're great sports. Sarah and really never undermined anybody or lied. We really just kept true to ourselves, we just competed really hard amongst ourselves and competed hard against other people. But we never were like... "lie, cheat and steal." We would always offer people things when we weren't racing. We were ourselves and we had a lot of fun.

Reality TV World: What aspect of The Amazing Race surprised you the most?

Terence: The sleep deprivation, and how much harder it was.

Sarah: We trained for challenges, so we trained for about six weeks really, really intensely before the race. We packed our bags with everything we were gonna bring and we went on the treadmill, the rowing machine, the stair master. We learned how to rappel, we went snowshoeing, we milked animals.

We just did so much related to the tasks, and Terence said to me "I think we should practice sleep deprivation, I'm gonna wake you up at 3AM." And I said "No," and I think that would've made a huge difference because none of the training helped. We never had to milk a cow, we never had to rappel down a rock face or whatever, and we were deprived of sleep. So it probably would've been better if we were better prepared.

Reality TV World: What teams did you get along with the best? The worst?

Terence: Probably [Anita and Arthur Jones].

Sarah: [Aja Benton] and [Ty White], Mark and Bill. Kelly and Christy, I liked them even though...

Terence: (Interrupting) I don't. Especially after they said something mean on the TV show. That's why.

Sarah: We made really, really great friends for life, which is not why we went on the show, but is a nice result.

Reality TV World: During the show, we've seen Mark and Bill's small backpacks and Ken's whistle, did either of you bring anything special with you to help during the race?

Sarah: I think we packed great. I would've brought about 80-90% of what we actually brought. We had really small backpacks, they were really light. Terence's as a little bit heavier than mine because he was taking some of my stuff because he could carry more than I can.

We had lots of snacks with us, I think we packed great.
 
Reality TV World: How'd you guys end up on the show -- whose idea was it?

Sarah: We had both been huge fans of the show, and we were on a trip -- one of my friends got married in Latvia -- and someone said "You guys travel like those guys on The Amazing Race. Everything's last minute, fly by the seat of your pants."

So when we came back, Terence went on the website, figured out how to apply, guided me through the process, basically made the video, and completed the paperwork, I just thought it would never, ever happen. I thought you only got cast if you had connections. Then, the irony was they actually called me to tell me that they were interested in us because they assume that the woman does it all.

That was one of the best days of the entire process, getting that call and [hearing] that there's even a chance that you could be on The Amazing Race. We were freaking out.

Reality TV World: Was this the first time you have applied for [the show] or had you done it before?

Sarah: Oh yeah.

Terrence: It was the first time we applied. When somebody said that to us we looked at it and were like "Yeah, let's go for it." So we even made a three minute video and we said "This is us, this is Terence and Sarah..."

Sarah: (interrupting) "... You're either gonna love us or hate us."

We had only been dating for about four months at that point, so I don't think we thought it through very much, like "Well this is gonna be a very long process," and "Where will our relationship be at that point?"

We just thought "This would be so fun and so crazy if it works."

Reality TV World: So what are you both up to now? Are you still together? Is there engagement news or anything?

Terence: It's driving me crazy, I'm waiting for her to propose! (Both laugh)

Sarah: No engagement news. We're working on our relationship, by the hour not even by the day.

Terrence: I'm with the conservative one in this relationship.

Sarah: And I switched jobs, I'm not working on Wall Street anymore. I'm going to invest in socially responsible businesses in the emerging market, so it's kind of a time of big transition for me.

Terence: I'm still coaching runners. I just ran my seventh consecutive New York City Marathon, [The Boston Marathon] in April, and just showing people that running as exercise can help get you out of a darker place, because previously -- before I met Sarah -- my life was not in the greatest place. I wrote a screenplay about it a while ago and I'm just working on that.

(Photo credit CBS)


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