Exclusive: Nat Strand and Kat Chang discuss 'The Amazing Race' win
By Reality TV World staff, 12/14/2010
Nat Strand and Kat Chang began The Amazing Race's seventeenth season with the same goal as so many prior all-female teams: becoming the first team of women to win the long-running CBS reality competition.
But unlike every team before them, Nat, a 31-year-old doctor from Scottsdale, AZ, Kat, a 35-year-old doctor from Santa Monica, CA, actually managed to accomplish their goal and emerged as The Amazing Race's first female champions during Sunday night's finale broadcast.
On Monday, the "Doctors/Friends" talked to Reality TV World about their The Amazing Race experience.
Reality TV World: So how's it feel to become The Amazing Race's first all-female winners?
Nat Strand: (laughs) It feels reallyyy, reallyyy good. (laughs)
Reality TV World: Why do you two think it took so long for an all-female team to finally win?
Nat Strand: (laughs)
Kat Chang: I think it's extremely extremely difficult to win The Amazing Race no matter what team you are on or how your team is comprised, and I think there have been some really strong female teams before that have gotten close. So in the end, it just takes a bit of luck as well.
I think for Nat and I, our personalities and I think definitely our training as being physicians has really helped us because we're used to being sleep deprived and we're used to being stressed out, and that kind of helped us with the endurance of the Race. And so for the last leg, we felt pretty fresh even though I think perhaps at that point, some teams get pretty tired.
Reality TV World: So do you think there's any significance to the fact that it was a pair of doctors that finally broke the streak or do you think it was just coincidence and some lucky breaks?
Nat Strand: Yeah, I definitely don't think it was coincidence. I think our training helped us remain focused when you're in a chaotic environment. Anesthesiologists, they describe it as hours of boredom and moments of terror, because when something goes wrong you have to think fast and you really have to act quickly and keep your focus on the situation at hand.
So we're used to that. So I think that helps you a lot in the Race. You can see it on the last leg. All of these teams that made it to the top three were very good teams, but you could see some teams were making mistakes that they weren't making in the earlier legs.
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They weren't being as thorough with their taxis and they weren't being as focused, and I think that's probably just fatigue and dealing with the stress of being in the final leg. So, I definitely think that our training probably helped us to keep our head in the game and maybe not get distracted by fatigue and anxiety and stress and our fears.
Reality TV World: Did you leave the TV studio knowing you were in first place for sure or did you think there was a chance [Brook Roberts and Claire Champlin] were ahead of you?
Kat Chang: We left the TV studio knowing that we were in first place at that time. The other stations where there was the iPad -- no one had been there yet -- so we knew that we were in first place.
So, really, we were pretty confident that if we didn't get lost on the way to the Pit Stop, or if there wasn't too too bad of LA traffic, that we would be in first place. So, the real question was whether or not we'd be stuck in traffic.
Reality TV World: Yeah, the show obviously last night made it look like you were pretty nervous about that. How accurate was that? Were you confident, not confident, were you really that nervous?
Nat Strand: Yeah, we had a pretty good lead and we knew that, because even when we left the studio we still hadn't seen another team, so we knew that we were in, done and out before anybody else even got there.
That being said, I mean (laughs) even if you're going 20 miles per hour and you want to be going 85 miles an hour if you're heading towards the finish line with a million dollars, so it was hard to sit in the cab, it was hard to be at a red light.
And you never know for sure until you actually get to that finish line, because there certainly have been several surprises in the Race when people pop up in front of you and you have no idea how they got there. So, you're never sure until you actually hear [Phil Keoghan] tell you, but we had a good feeling.
Reality TV World: So I'm sure like it seemed like an eternity, but do you have any idea about how long that cab ride actually was?
Nat Strand: I would guess maybe 30 minutes.
Reality TV World: So plenty of time to fret?
Nat Strand: Oh yeah. (laughs)
Reality TV World: You two seemed pretty cautious when you got to the Finish Line. It looked like you held off celebrating until Phil made it "official." Was that because you were worried that someone had beat you there somehow or did you think you might have gotten some kind of time penalty or are you just naturally really cautious people?
Kat Chang: I think when we were running up and we saw that there was no other team standing there next to Phil, we knew that we had won. We just again, we liked to get the confirmation before we got too excited. (laughs)
Nat Strand: I didn't feel like I was being cautious, I just couldn't wait to hear him say it! (laughs)
Kat Chang: I think we pictured it in our minds quite a few times, so we were just waiting to be sure.
Reality TV World: Based on the fact that you had taken notes throughout the Race, it seemed like you had seen enough previous seasons to know finale memory tasks are pretty common and anticipated you were likely to see one on your season -- was that actually the case?
Kat Chang: Yeah, we definitely were huge fans of the Race so we watched pretty much all of the seasons before, and so we definitely were aware that a memory task was very likely at the end, and it's not the fact that it was just us, anyone going on the Race now is pretty aware, and I believe that the other teams also had taken notes as well.
We didn't take notes on what type of hats the greeters were wearing, but it definitely helped us to just jog our memory a little bit faster than if we were going purely just from our memory.
Reality TV World: I bet they will going forward...
Nat Strand: Oh they sure will! (laughs)
Reality TV World: When I talked to [third-place finishers Jill Haney and Thomas Wolfard] earlier today, they actually said they were a little surprised how easy the final leg seemed to be -- it didn't even feature a Detour task or anything that gave teams a chance to catch up that much, and from their perspective, it seemed to come down to taxis and who got out of the airport first. Do you guys agree with that? Were you surprised how simple the tasks seemed to be?
Nat Strand: I actually think that the end leg was a perfect leg ofThe Amazing Race, and not for the tasks, because it was true, getting [bungee] dropped doesn't involve skill, and riding in a helicopter doesn't involve skill. But what really wins the Race is not the challenge, it's finding the information, it's using what you learned along the Race to help you in the end.
So, for example, Kat and I wrote down numbers of like the LA tourism bureau and we knew from our taxi before to go through and check every single taxi driver. Make sure you have one that has a phone, make sure you have one that speaks English, make sure that you do your research at the airport at your departure location so that when you arrive to the leg, you have some phone numbers and you have some basic information.
So those are all things that everybody did during the Race. And those other two teams have certainly done that before. I think that this leg was made, not by taxis, because what we really needed to do was choose a good taxi, we needed to get the information quickly, figure out where we had to go, and I think that those were skills we all learned during the Race.
So I think although it probably wasn't obvious to people that don't do the Race, the things that made or broke that last leg were the skills that -- navigational skills, information finding skills, and just knowing what the pitfalls would be and trying anticipating those, and doing what you could to get around them.
Reality TV World: Yeah, there definitely seemed to be quite a few taxis at that Rose Bowl taxi stand, and it seemed like you guys went through every single one of them before you picked one -- what [criteria] was it that you used in your decision? Was it checking if they had a phone and an ability to speak English? Is that what you said?
Kat Chang: Yes, so we actually got into a couple of taxis, and I think we actually got into the taxi that Jill and Thomas ended up choosing, and we quickly realized that that was not a taxi we wanted to be in. So we got out and we just went down the line and we asked them, "What kind of phone do you have? Do you have a smartphone? Do you have a GPS system? Do you have...?"
Even just asking those simple questions, we could tell that certain taxi drivers had no idea what we were talking about, so maybe their command of the English language wasn't as great, and then that would become a bigger challenge from going from location to location. And so, ultimately, we thought we picked the best taxi driver and that was a strategic move.
Reality TV World: It looked like you were able to solve the riddles pretty quickly after leaving the Rose Bowl. Was that your taxi's dispatcher that you were speaking to [on his phone] or who was that?
Nat Strand: No, we had gathered some information about Los Angeles tourism bureaus and visitor's centers and informational centers, so we had a bunch of numbers in our notebook, so we just phoned... a tourist center and we asked her to help us out with the locations and we asked her to use her computer to get us the information.
We actually even called 411 for a couple of things about Greystone Mansion. So we just kind of used the tools that you would normally use in everyday life -- just being resourceful...
Kat Chang: Yes.
Reality TV World: Last night's finale showed you mentioning how you two had both lived in Los Angeles while attending UCLA -- do you think that gave you any advantage during the final leg?
Nat Strand: You know, Jill and Thomas live in LA too and Brook and Claire had spent a lot of time there. Unfortunately, we did not go to any of the places that -- I don't normally go to the Port of Long Beach. (laughs) I don't normally take helicopters to the Rose Bowl, but I think it was just calming to know that we were on home ground.
So, while I don't think it helped us in any particular leg, I think it was just nice. We were just happy. We kind of took it as a good omen that we were heading home.
Kat Chang: Yeah, it felt good.
Reality TV World: You guys seemed to come close to getting eliminated in Oman when you went the long way to the mountain after buying a map like [Gary and Mallory Ervin]. What was going through your heads when you were driving for hours -- did you think you were probably going to be out of the Race or had you really still been optimistic about your chances of continuing?
Kat Chang: Well I think that we were -- we knew that we were about six hours behind the teams in front of us -- and we were hoping of course that there was another team that was behind us. We couldn't imagine that it would be anyone that could make such a big navigational mistake that we did, and we were just really lucky that Gary and Mallory had the same exact map and that they did make the same mistake.
The map was just really really misleading and even when we got to the northern side of the mountain, we asked the locals there how to get to the mountain. They all said, "Yeah, you can go this way! And there is a way you can go, it's just down the way." But it was not a very safe way for us to go, so we were told to go all the way around, which took another three hour drive.
Reality TV World: Wow.
Nat Strand: Yeah, there were definitely moments when we thought we were out. I mean, we were trying to be positive but it wasn't until we actually got to the first clue and we saw that there was still another number left and that just totally rejuvenated us. We got a little extra oomph and we said, "Oh my God! We're still in this! This is amazing!"
Probably similar to what Gary and Mallory felt when they saw us coming down the mountain. So I think for us just knowing there was another team out there. But's it's that old The Amazing Race saying, "You never give up because you never know." And this was definitely true in that case.
Reality TV World: Nat, your fear of heights seemed to kick into high gear during the bungee drop in the final leg. How hard was that for you, and was there ever a point where you thought you might not actually be able to go through with it?
Nat Strand: I never thought, "I don't want to do this." I wanted to do everything and I couldn't imagine letting Kat down and letting our team down after everything we had already done. But going up there, me of course being scared of heights, was the one that was furthest out, and then the really scary part -- you had to walk that plank and there was really nothing to hold onto.
There was a couple ropes on each side and I just -- I was just terrified -- I just didn't even know. My legs were wobbly, I was shaking, I just wanted to close my eyes and have it be done with. And when I was climbing over that ledge, I couldn't even make my body move practically, like my arms didn't want to let go (laughs) of that platform.
But Kat was there the whole time talking me through it, being really calming and really supportive, and I think that helped. And I love that shot, actually in the final episode, when they're kind of overhead and I'm like so terrified, and Kat reaches out her hand just to kind of let me know that it's going to be okay.
And it's one of those great team moments and great friendship moments when you just see someone who's struggling so hard and just seeing the other person being such a great teammate. So I knew I had to do it for Kat and for our team after everything else we had done.
Reality TV World: What are your plans for the prize money? I'm assuming you guys have some pretty big student loans.
Kat Chang: Yes, definitely. We just finished our training not too long ago so we definitely have some student loans that we're going to make a little dent in with this money. And then also, it's really important for both of us to give back a little bit and give some money to charity.
Obviously diabetes is an important cause for us. And then of course, we want to have a little bit of fun with it too! So, we're thinking about maybe going back to the Ice Hotel for a little vacation.