Exclusive: Mark Yturralde, Bill Hahler talk about 'The Amazing Race'
By John Bracchitta, 10/13/2008
Mark Yturralde and Bill Hahler began The Amazing Race 13 believing that their mental edge would more than make up for any physical limitations they posessed.
However, following a mental lapse and a slow cab ride, the "Best Friends" team became the third team to be eliminated from the show in last night's broadcast on CBS.
On Monday, Mark and Bill spoke to Reality TV World about what their mindset was going into the race, which team they agreed to a "non-agression pact" with, and why the thin air in the hills of Bolivia made it so difficult to focus.
Reality TV World: How'd you both end up on the show? Whose idea was it?
Reality TV World: Ok, Was this the first time you have applied for [the show] or had you done it before?
Mark: No We had applied like ten times before. We've been applying pretty much non-stop since Season 3.
Reality TV World: About how long did it take you guys to find that newspaper ad that we saw on last night's leg?
Bill: We had actually paired up with [Terrence Gerchberg] and [Sarah Leshner] for that. You can kind of see that a little bit in the show, we were kind of next to them. And what happened was we divided up the paper into two-halves and we said 'We're gonna do one half and you guys do one half.'
And so we just starting scanning [the newspaper] and looking for English because of the classified [advertisements were in Spanish]. So we found that [advertisement] in, I don't know maybe 25-30 seconds?
Reality TV World: Really? Wow.
Bill: And then we sort of nudged Terrence and said, you know, L4 [the page number] and then we just took off to the hat shop.
Reality TV World: So you said it really only took you 25-30 seconds?
Bill: I mean, it might have been a minute. It definitely wasn't any longer than a minute.
Mark: We had a whole plan where Bill and I... Bill would start in the front and I started in the back. We were doing the even-numbered pages on the left and Terrence and Sarah were doing the odd-numbered pages. So we cut the [newspaper] into four pieces real quick and then the four of us just went 'Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip"
Reality TV World: In retrospect, do you wish that you had used a U-Turn option on someone?
Bill: Yeah we definitely did. The problem was that we were.... because we had taken the taxi we had gotten pretty far out in front and we didn't know that though. All we knew was that we didn't see anybody. And we knew that Terrence and Sarah had gotten into a cab before we did so we didn't know if they had just taken the other Detour or... We didn't know what was going on.
So, we didn't want to use a U-Turn without knowing where everybody was.
Mark: And I'll tell you, when we walked up to the thing, the first words out of my mouth were "I want to U-Turn [Brooke Jackson] and [Marisa Axelrod]..."
Bill: (interrupting) It's true. He did say that.
Mark: ...and Bill talked me out of it. Ask Brooke and Marisa about that sometime when you have a chance. (both laugh)
Reality TV World: Okay I will, going on to another team... a lot of the teams seemed to be having issues with [Nick Spangler] and [Starr Spangler]. What was your opinion of them?
Mark: Well we knew that Nick was lying to us pretty much from the first second we met him. We said "Hi" and we asked what he did for a living and he told us. Then I went over and borrowed someone's computer and looked him up and found out what he really did.
So that kind of put us a little at guard and because, it's like, the very first thing out of his mouth was "Hi, I do this" and we were like "Oh, well you really jerked us around on that, ok."
But we had a little impromptu arrangement with them, which was pretty much "You don't mess with us, and we won't mess with you" and we'll do this for two legs and then we'll revisit it. They honored that with us. I mean, Nick and Starr never did anything mean to us. I will go so far as to say that Nick and Starr were never anything but nice to us!
I don't personally ave a problem with either one of them so I got a lot of mileage and I really enjoyed giving Nick grief for lying about what he did for a living, because I love a running joke.
Reality TV World: Do you think the show's portrayal of them has been accurate?
Bill: I think one of the things about Nick and Starr is that... One of the things about Mark and I, when Mark and I were discussing out strategies for The Amazing Race, one of the things we decided was that if it comes time to maybe screw over another team if it's really going to put us ahead or keep us from getting eliminated we'll do it. But we're not just going to be evil for the purpose of being evil, and if there's something that's mean or sneaky that doesn't get you anywhere, don't do it.
I think one of the problems that Nick and Starr may have is that I think they're a little too ready to take the sneaky option. And I think it's going to make it difficult for them with their relationships with other teams.
Mark: Yeah, we decided early on that we weren't going to be mean unless it moved us forward. Otherwise it really was pointless. And I think that [Nick and Starr] are definitely enjoying the role that they're playing. I mean you can see the glint in Nick's eye. He's having a good time in his own way.
Reality TV World: Was that cab ride to the Pit Stop really the first time you guys noticed you were supposed to have walked to the Detour?
Mark and Bill: Yes
Reality TV World: Ok. Was there anything in particular that led to you misreading the directions or you just not take the time to read it completely?
Mark: I'll let Bill talk about the major thing but I'm gonna say that one of the major [reasons] was just lack of oxygen. That altitude was messing with us big time, it was really making us stupid. I remember having a real difficulty at one point tying my shoes! I couldn't tie a knot! It just really lobotomized me.
Bill: And another thing that happened was [that] a little earlier we had seen Terrence and Sarah hop into that cab, so we were kind of in that mode of "Ok, read the clue and get going" so we did what we had seen them do. I think that's one of the reasons we messed it up is because we just got into that lemming mentality of "Just follow the crowd." They realized their mistake, but we didn't.
Reality TV World: And I guess because you said the lack of oxygen was affecting you, do you regret that you didn't hail a cab to the hat shop?
Bill: No. I don't think that made much of a difference. It made some... I mean I was pretty winded when we got to the top. When you're following around two people who are in as good of shape as Sarah -- and especially as good of shape as Terrence is -- it's hard for guys like us to keep up with them. So they were chugging up the hill and we were huffing and puffing up the hill. I think it made a difference but I don't know if it would have stopped us from making the mistake or not.
In that sense I kind of regret it because it might have been better but we had thought that it was close enough that we'd get there faster because there was a lot of traffic.
Reality TV World: About how much actual time do you think you guys saved by taking the taxi?
Bill: Well it's hard to know, but I think Mark has a thought on that.
Mark: Yeah I think it was pretty close to 30 minutes. I think if [we would have had to] walk up that hill --- which was pretty major -- I don't think it made the difference.
I think the taxi driver that we had to-and-from the [Los Titanes del Ring] was much more of a factor in our elimination than the 30 minute penalty because I think it would have taken us 30 minutes to walk up that hill and get ready no problem. And we'd have to find the place with the big hill to get there? I think it would have taken us more than 30 minutes.
I actually, upon retrospect, think that the 30 minute penalty for taking the taxi ride to the top there was pretty fair.
Reality TV World: Mark, how big a role did your lightheadedness and lack of oxygen play in your struggles to complete the wrestling routine?
Mark: It was huge! I mean you see me say in the show that the second time I lift myself up and I'm practicing and then I get in the ring and I very nearly pass out. I was out there running around the ring, being physical, and it was really just beating me up. It felt like I had just run a marathon or something and could barely think. It was rough. It was really, really rough.
Reality TV World: Did anyone else have trouble breathing during the wrestling Roadblock challenge?
Mark: I don't want to name names or anything but I can tell you that there were a lot of other people who had some pretty serious difficulties and other people took advantage of their oxygen masks and had to stop to catch their breathes once or twice.
But at the same time there were some people that it just didn't effect in the slightest. There were some people who were just like "I'm fine" and went on their merry way.
Reality TV World: Did you see when Terrence got mad at Sarah during the first week for talking to other teams? Were you involved in that?
Bill: We did talk to them a little bit, but we didn't really... We got to know them more during the Pit Stop for the second week I would say. Or maybe the Pit Stop for the first week. Not so much the camp out but the Pit Stop where she... she had talked to us about this. She and Terrence talked to us and other teams and we had had dinner and that's where we really got to know them a little better. But I think at that point we were just kind of introducing ourselves and getting to know people. We weren't getting into a big heart-to-heart conversations yet.
Reality TV World: And then moving to last night's episode. Did you see any of the argument between Starr, [Kelly Crabb] and [Christy Cook] regarding the sports bra?
Mark: Yeah I mean I was standing right behind them. If you look in the shot you see me standing there wearing my little beanie. I watched and listened to the whole thing.
Reality TV World: Did you see anything when it actually happened? Did you see the incident occur?
Mark: No, we experienced the incident right after it had occurred though.
Bill: Yeah we had the initial report of "Hey this happened" you know? She had not confronted Starr yet but [Christie] had mentioned it to us and some other teams that "Hey, I think Starr took my sports bra."
Reality TV World: From watching on TV, there didn't seem to be as much cooperation or alliances as compared to some of the show's previous seasons. You're kind of saying that you talked with a couple of teams and worked together, do you think that they just haven't been showing [those alliances] as much this season?
Mark: Well I think they've been showing better stuff. There hasn't been anything that has happened where I've been like "Wow that was so incredibly cool. Why didn't they show that?" But I think they've probably shown most of the major alliances that we were aware of.
Reality TV World: So besides [the teams of] Terrence and Sarah and Nick and Starr where there any other alliances that you formed?
Bill: Well we never really allied ourselves with Nick and Starr. Like we kind of just had a non-aggression....
Mark: (interrupting) Yeah, we had a non-aggression pact. "You don't screw us and we won't screw you." There was a handshake and a smile on that and, for the record, they kept their end of the bargain.
Reality TV World: Was there anyone you didn't get along with?
Bill: Eh... the worst thing I can say is that we just hadn't met people. There were a couple teams that we just never got a chance -- during the three legs -- to get to know very well.
We didn't really get to meet [Toni and Dallas Imbimbo] that much during that time. Just a bit but not too much. [Andrew Lappitt] and [Dan Honig] we only got to talk to for a little. And [Anthony Marotta] and [Stephanie Kacandes] during the time that they were on before they got booted.
But I wouldn't say that there was anybody we actively disliked.
Reality TV World: Is there anything you [expected to see] on the show that didn't make it on the air?
(both pause to think)
Mark: It was that time I lifted the dune buggy with my bare hands out of the pot hole and placed it back on the sand! (both laugh) I'm surprised they didn't show that. (laughs again)
Bill: Just give me 10 seconds to think about that. (pause) No I can't think of anything. Nope, not really. I have to say though that a lot of the stuff that we did see they showed on the show.
Mark: There's is one thing, during the elimination there was a point where I said something really, really sweet about my wife and I was hoping they would show that to earn me some major karma points (Bill laughs) but they didn't show that and I wish they had.
Bill: The one thing, I should say, that I wish they could have showed -- but I guess they didn't have time to -- Mark did a very good job of convincing people to help him. There were several points at which Mark was able to convince people to... well for example there was one point in the airport where he was able to get some people to rip some pages out of their guidebooks.
Mark: Yeah that was awesome. They should've shown that. They [also] didn't show the really nice lady in the plaza who gave us $300 dollars. (laughs)
Bill: Well not $300, 300 "bolivianos"
Mark: (to Bill) It was like $300 American!
Bill: (to Mark) Nooo...
Mark: (to Bill) Yeah it was!
Bill: It was a lot though wasn't it?
Mark: Eh, whatever it was it was a lot of money! (laughs)
Mark: I would say that my two favorite experiences on the race were the very split second before we left where we are standing in the [Los Angeles Coliseum] and Phil's up there with his hand out and he's got his eyebrow arched and he's like "You're about to go on a race around the world!" And my stomach starts going and I'm getting all excited and like "Oh boy! Here we go!"
That was just freakin' amazing. That was really great.
The second time for me was probably when we shared time with [Ken and Tina Greene] on the [Pit Stop mat for the race's second leg]. That's when we found out about the trouble that they were having with their relationship and, you know, they're great people and I really love them both so much. And just the ability to be there and to find out about that.
That moment was very, very real [and] very, very emotional. That was a pretty touching moment. We had just gotten beaten, but if coming in first and winning a couple of ATVs helps you take a step down the path to repairing your marriage, than screw the ATVs. I mean that. It was a very human moment.
Reality TV World: Did you have any least favorite experience?
Bill: The heat in Brazil was bad. After sweating -- and apparently that's what I do the best based on my viewing of myself on television. I sweat very well apparently -- but after sweating thought that bit in El Salvador and finally getting to the mat, and we got to the Pit Stop [and] there was some pineapple there. And I have never had pineapple that tasted so good than the pineapple right then.
It was so draining just running around, climbing the net and all of that kind of stuff. It was great! But it was just grueling at the same time.
Reality TV World: Is there any particular team you are rooting to win now that you're out?
Mark: Yeah I'm voting for Charla and Mirna!
Bill: I don't think they can pull it off. They're kind of [unavailable].
Mark: Yeah, it's going to be the upset of the century. Seriously.
Reality TV World: Is that code for you're not rooting for anybody?
Bill: We have teams that we like. At the point in time that we were eliminated we were working with Terrence and Sarah and we got along with them really nicely. At that point I think we sort of said to each other that we hoped they could pull it off.
Mark: Yeah, we love Terrence and Sarah.
Reality TV World: I know that when you two entered the race you had extra small backpacks. Did you have any other strategies going in and did you bring anything else unique with you?
Mark: I'm not gonna say just small. I'm going to go on record saying that Bill and I had the smallest bags in [The Amazing Race] history. I doubt anybody... and I [looked this up] I think we have the smallest bags ever, which I'm pretty proud of.
But our main strategies were what Phil said: Play to our strengths. If there's ever a choice between a physical and a mental task, take the mental task because we're just not going to be able to compete physically with some of these people. And don't be mean if we don't have to. And to enjoy it.
We both said just before we left as we were walking out onto the field. We looked at each other and we said "Look, we've been friends for 20+ years and we're gonna be friends after this. So nothing in this race is more important than our friendship and compromising who we are." So we told ourselves we were going to do [this entire race] and be true to ourselves and be who we are. I think we did that
Bill: And another thing we kind of made a point of doing was... One thing I said before we got on [The Amazing Race] was that "The world is full of people who want to help you win the race. All you have to do is respect them and ask them nicely." I think we did that. I thought that every interaction we had with our cab driver were positive.
It didn't work out on the last one, [the cab driver] didn't take us on the best route, but that wasn't because he didn't like us or anything like that. So I think that we really did very well in interacting with the locals in all of the places that we went.
Reality TV World: And actually could you elaborate on that? How much do you think that last cab ride set you back?
Bill: Well, considering that we left before they did, Terrence and Sarah ended up in about third or fourth place and they had left next to last. They were able to make out a lot of time. And if our guy had done what their guy had done then it would have worked out great for us.
But as it stood, he kinda just took his way -- whatever that way was -- and we got there when we did.
Reality TV World: How easy or difficult were those wooden bikes to ride? It looks you two handled them alright but Christie took a pretty nasty spill with hers.
Mark: When we walked up to those rides I looked at them and was like (sings) "Flintstones, meet the Flintstones..."
Bill: We didn't expect them to be from the wood age.
Yeah. (laughs) They were pretty dang hard to ride. [Actually] it wasn't that the riding was so hard, it was just that they were so unstable and [quirky]. They are totally carved out of wood. The only thing that wasn't made of wood was the tires, which are hammered on strips of leather over wood, over wood. So there is no cushioning, no comfiness and you're riding down a cobblestone street.
It's one of those things where whenever you hear anybody talk [on them] they're all going (in a shaky voice) "o-o-o-k, w-e-'-r-e g-o-o-o-i-n-g" (laughs) It was really, really jarring. Everyone said how much their butt hurt after they were riding those bikes.
Mark: I will tell you that another great part of [the race] that they showed. When he hit those bikes and we hit the final tunnel, I looked at Bill and I got this gleam in my eye and said "Time to get some skin in the game" and I picked up my feet totally off of the break [pedal] and went down that hill full-blast. I probably hit about 30 mph going down that tube, that was pretty crazy.
And I remember about halfway through it going like "You know I always wondered how I'd die. Apparently it's on a wooden bike in Bolivia."