Exclusive: Cathi Alden and Bill Alden talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 11/28/2011
Cathi Alden and Bill Alden were optimistic they could turn their luck around heading out from the ninth Pit Stop of The Amazing Race's nineteenth season despite their last-place finish in a non-elimination leg.
However, the couple lacked opportunities to catch up to the other teams via tasks or traveling, and their competitors found success with minimal mistakes throughout the tenth leg -- forcing the couple to remain behind the rest of the pack and never recover from last place, resulting in their elimination from the around-the-world competition.
On Monday, The "Grandparents" team talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
Reality TV World: How far behind Amani Pollard and Marcus Pollard do you both think you finally arrived at the Pit Stop?
Cathi Alden: You know, we had a hard time figuring that out, but it was probably 30-60 minutes. We're just judging that on when it got dark out.
Reality TV World: Cathi, in your final words after your elimination last night, you talked about how you had both decided to go on the Race because you felt older Americans are overlooked. Could you elaborate on that a little bit? And what were your mindsets going into the Race knowing that you'd be competing against younger teams?
Cathi Alden: We are in our 60s and we still think of ourselves as being very capable and competitive, and yet in the larger world, sometimes people don't look -- They don't consult you. I mean, they kind of overlook you. And so, I think one of the things that we had hoped was that we would bring a positive, healthy attitude from an older perspective to the Race.
We compete in triathlons with people that are vastly younger than we are. We know we won't beat them, but we're competitive and we're respectful, and they're very respectful to us. So, I think that was kind of our mindset -- was that this would be kind of like any other race where there are more people that are capable physically, but yet there's room for everybody.
Reality TV World: We saw you guys make a comment earlier in the season about how you weren't concerned with [evenly] balancing who did which Detour tasks as you went from leg to leg because you didn't know how far you would actually get in the Race. Were you not expecting to get this far and if that was the case, then why? Did you think just the physicality of the Race would be an issue or were there other reasons why you questioned how well you'd do in the competition?
Bill Alden: Expecting how far we would get was not a concern of ours. Every minute that we were still on was great and then we faced the next day and did our best.
As far as the task, we figured that the best strategy at first was to take our strengths and if it was a physical task that I could do using strength, then that would be the obvious and Cathi with the mental tasks. And then if we went far enough, then we'd sort it out. We'd start counting them out and divvying them up the way we had to.
Reality TV World: What was your reaction to how the other teams had perceived you throughout the Race? It seemed like you surprised a lot of people with how well you did in difficult tasks. The Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan seemed surprised with your standings at times, while other teams would often say they couldn't believe you guys beat them and passed them and such.
Cathi Alden: Well, I think that speaks to kind of the stereotypes that people have of older people -- that they're not capable. And so, it was really fun, to be honest -- to kind of kick a few booties here and there. The teams were kind and gracious to us kind of throughout, but nobody ever sought us out as an alliance, and I think it's because they figured that we wouldn't be as strong as we were.
Reality TV World: You both seemed thrilled when you arrived at the Pit Stop during last week's episode in last place and learned it was a non-elimination leg where you would continue racing. Did you have any sense or idea while racing that you guys might luckily receive another chance to keep racing or were you convinced you'd be eliminated?
Cathi Alden: I was so sure we'd be eliminated right after the bodybuilding. I didn't even put on underwear. (Laughs) I just put on my shirt and my pants because I was not wanting to get them covered with that tanning oil. So, no. We were absolutely floored when we got to keep on racing.
Reality TV World: The show last night made it look like you guys got a little lost heading to the location where you had to meet up with the pigeons. What happened there -- and since you started the leg in last place, would you attribute your last-place finish to being so far behind that you could never catch up to the other teams or would you say losing time from getting lost ultimately caused your elimination?
Bill Alden: We knew that we were in the neighborhood of probably 15-20 minutes behind the other teams from our rowing around the canal, and so it boils down to those situations -- good directions, bad directions -- and the directions that we got to the wall were frequently not good. We stopped several times because we got out into some areas and just meandered around.
So, when we got to a little town to find the wall, the wall wasn't what we expected. It was a hill and there again, the street signs didn't make sense, and then when we got to the wall, it was dark and so we couldn't see the clues as easily as some of the other teams. So, it was just -- like the whole Race, little things accumulated to big things and so, we gave it our best.
We also got into traffic that we couldn't do anything about because we were following the routes that we needed and we got into the afternoon traffic. So, yeah. We got behind and so we did our best, but we knew that we couldn't change what is. If somebody else had a bad stroke of luck, then we'd have a good one. That didn't happen.
Reality TV World: Many team members looked like they had a little trouble during the slalom portion of the car racing Roadblock task. Bill, how many tries did it take you to complete that specific portion of the task? The show made it seem like you breezed through it with no problem.
Bill Alden: Actually, the slalom was right up my alley. I had a ball! I did it. I never hit a cone. I did it perfectly every time as far as the time.
The problem (laughs) was that you had 20 inches to spare in that box and I had never driven a mustang, so I didn't know how far up it stuck. So, I was stopping too soon and so to answer your question, I think I did it four times before I got the car in the box. But I always did it in about 13 seconds.
Reality TV World: You both chose to forego the waffle-making Detour task and did the water one instead after a couple teams warned you it was really hard. You seemed to complete the water task with ease, but in hindsight after watching last night's episode, do you think you made the right decision or do you think you actually would have excelled at the waffle task?
Cathi Alden: I think that we did make the right decision because what Bill and I did best is take a challenge at building whatever it is and just do it.
It looked like, both from [Cindy Chiang] and [Sandy Draghi] -- those teams doing the waffles that there was a requirement of precision in terms of getting the waffles correctly done and correctly placed that can take a lot of time in going back and forth, back and forth.
So, not only did they tell us that was hard, but Marcus and Amani called up to us from the canal saying, "This one's good!" So we knew that part of the Detour went fairly smoothly.
Reality TV World: We didn't see much of you guys during last week's Legoland task. How did both of you do during that task? Did either of you get a little queasy? How difficult was it for you and how did it go overall?
Cathi Alden: It was a piece of cake, honestly. We just put our heads down and put that puzzle together. We did it once. We think that maybe it took us five or six spins, because we could only work when the ride was spinning, but we were great during that. It was as we were driving after that, that Bill got a little queasy. But it was great, because it was long after we needed to get the task done.
Reality TV World: You both got lost going to Legoland and that obviously put you into last place at the time, so what was your reaction when you discovered you'd all be taking the same train to Germany? Since you all basically ended up on an equal playing field at the bodybuilding task, were you even more disappointed you had finished in last place because of the fact you were given the opportunity to catch up to everyone by taking the same train?
Bill Alden: Well, yeah. You're always disappointed when you come in last. (Laughs) But once again, it kind of boils down to our age and the era that we grew up in that we were very accustomed to following rules and so, as far as the speed of which I drove, I think that was our big problem.
I wasn't willing to let it all out on the autobahn [which has no speed limit] and once again, we got a map, but it was all written in languages we didn't read. So, that creates another problem. But yeah. It's frustrating. You're also getting more and more worn out from lack of sleep and other things, so overall, you're worn down and so forth. So, you probably lose your edge. I know I did, and so, that hurts too.
Reality TV World: Both of you seemed a little shocked last week when you realized you had to wear those skimpy bathing suits and do bodybuilding poses. What was your mindset going into that? Were you nervous or uncomfortable at all? Because it seemed like for the most part, you had fun with it.
Cathi Alden: I don't always have a lot of foresight, and so when we went to the bodybuilding, it didn't dawn on me that we would have to put on anything different than what we had on. So, oh I just died when I looked at that tiny little thing. I mean, dear heavens. Yeah.
Bill Alden: I'm not comfortable dancing anyway and so, then to learn a routine once again, I'm not really great at that. So, you put all that together and then having all those women out there yelling and booing and whatever else, yeah. That was...
Cathi Alden: Tough!
Reality TV World: How many times did you actually have to try to complete the bodybuilding task? The show made it seem like you attempted it twice, so was that accurate or did you have to do it more times than viewers got to see?
Cathi Alden: What we did was, we took a great amount of time in between our trials to learn it and learn it and learn it, because we weren't really crazy about going out and doing it again.
Reality TV World: Okay, so it was only twice, right?
Cathi Alden: It was only twice.
Reality TV World: Cathi, when you had to recite the poem during last week's episode, did you know immediately where you had messed up in the poem or did you not realize at all which part was wrong until you had to go back and read it again? How frustrating was that for you?
Cathi Alden: No, I knew the minute I said the word "untold." I was like, "Where did that come from!?" So, I was so frustrated with myself, but again, that's the Race. You do what they tell you to. So, I went back to the statue and then back to the [stage].
Reality TV World: How much time do you think you lost having to go back and do it again?
Cathi Alden: I would probably say maybe 20 minutes.
Reality TV World: Were you surprised that [Ernie Halvorsen] and Cindy had Double U-Turned you a couple of weeks ago when you had to do both the "Bunny" and the "Butter" Detour tasks? Were you confident you could still avoid coming in last place at that point or did you worry that would be the end for you guys in the Race?
Bill Alden: We knew that we were right up near the top of the pack and in fact, we knew we were second, I think. So, we would -- well hell, in a perfect world, we wouldn't have U-Turned anybody.
But we were concerned about the rabbits. We hadn't seen anybody do it and we didn't know how tough it would be. So, that's why we U-Turned [Laurence Sunderland] and [Zac Sunderland] because it was a survival thing at that point.
As it turned out, the rabbits were fun and we got through it quick! To say we were surprised, in history -- I think we've watched almost all of the episodes -- and have never seen a front-running team U-Turn a team or even anybody. So, it was just a -- yeah if you're in first place, it seems strange -- or it seemed very strange to us. But no, that was it, and so we went on with life.
Reality TV World: If Ernie and Cindy hadn't U-Turned you two, do you think you still would have taken advantage of the U-Turn opportunity or would you have passed on it?
Bill Alden: No, we would have passed.
Cathi Alden: We would have passed. From the beginning, our strategy was that we were going to be unkind only if we had to for our own survival.
Reality TV World: When you guys arrived at the Double U-Turn board, what made you decide not to U-Turn [Andy Finch] and [Tommy Czeschin] since they had won most of the legs and seemed to pose the biggest threat in the Race? What went through your mind? Was it more of a short-term decision in choosing Laurence and Zac rather than considering more of a long-term fix with Andy and Tommy?
Cathi Alden: To be perfectly honest, our fear was that we would U-Turn Andy and Tommy and they would beat us anyway. They had been so strong in every aspect that we knew that they were working on the butter task, because they had came in before we left that.
They just had been pretty flawless in all aspects, so you think, "Well you U-Turn them and then they whip right through the rabbits and have better luck driving than you do and you haven't gained anything." So again, it wasn't out of kindness as much as it was strategy.
Bill Alden: Well, there was a little kindness because we knew that they had U-Turned Marcus and Amani. Even though they had done it wrong, they had done it, and we had kind of bonded with Marcus and Amani.
Reality TV World: Unlike you two, who basically never bickered during the Race, the show's episodes have made it look like a few of the other teams got along okay at the beginning but have been clashing more as the Race has continued. Was that consistent with what you guys saw during the Race?
Cathi Alden: It was. Bill and I truly were so grateful for each other's strengths throughout the whole Race that we had no quarrel with the way things were going. We could see that the tension was getting to especially Sandy and Jeremy and to Ernie and Cindy. They didn't have a lot of depth to their capacity to be behind once things got tense.
Reality TV World: You two have been married for 42 years and are childhood sweethearts. What are your thoughts on whether Jeremy and Sandy and Ernie and Cindy's relationships could be long lasting? Despite the obvious tension, do you think they have what it takes to make it?
Cathi Alden: Well, one of the things that Bill and I know is young relationships always have a lot more squabbling and bickering than mature relationships. So, I think they're probably right where it's appropriate given the amount of time that they've been together. I would hope that if they choose to stay together, that they put in the energy and the effort to learn how to communicate better.
Reality TV World: So you'd say the potential is basically there for them to last right?
Cathi Alden: Yeah, for sure! They're decent people and they have good intentions. They just have a little feistiness on the surface.
Reality TV World: How were you cast on The Amazing Race? How did you end up on the show?
Bill Alden: (Laughs) Well, I should probably pass that on to my wife. But we were watching for six years or so. We watched and we thought how we could do that and how fun it would be and so forth, and then the next thing I know, my wife has an application and then the next thing we know, we hear back from them.
And then the next thing we know, we're down in LA. I mean, it wasn't as easy as that, but Cathi's very persistent to say the least.