Albany couple talk about ‘Amazing’ adventure

Bill and Cathi Alden of Albany in a promotional photo provided by CBS. (Photo: Sonja Flemming/CBS)

SONJA FLEMMING

If you’re going to be a contestant on CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” Bill and Cathi Alden say it definitely helps to have been a teacher.

The reality TV show pits 11 two-person teams against one another in a race around the world.

The Los Angeles Times reported this year’s race will travel through four continents and 20 cities and cover nearly 40,000 miles.

The season starts at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“Spending 30 years, both of us, dealing with people, you read people well. That was definitely an advantage,” said Bill, who taught science at Calapooia Middle School for 29 years. Cathi spent 25 years as a teacher and administrator with Albany schools, then another few years as an administrator in Corvallis.

Until the show is over, the two can’t talk about their specific experiences or how it all turned out. But they can say it fulfilled a fantasy for two longtime fans.

The Aldens’ son, Jeremy, told them about the show about six years ago. Farmers as well as teachers, the Aldens would watch the teams struggle with challenges involving animals or manual labor and say to one another, “We could do that.”

“About three years ago we were watching the show, and I looked at Bill and I said, ‘I’m sorry, Bill, I don’t mind rejection, but I can’t stand not trying. Are you OK if we apply for this?’”

Bill’s reaction: “What?”

After the initial shock, Bill agreed. They didn’t make the cut, and when CBS called again last year, they didn’t advance then, either.

But in March, the station called again and asked for an updated video. This time, the Aldens were in.

“We fall into the ‘old people’ niche,” Cathi said, laughing. “Apparently, they were short on old people this season.”

In their video, which can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/3gz6tjo, the Aldens mention their 41 years of marriage and the skill they’ve gained in working together as a unit. Nothing about the month-long filming experience changed that status, Bill said.

“We are so accustomed to working together, that it’s almost like you have another arm or something, and the other person steps in and takes over their specialty,” he said. “It actually strengthened our belief in how we work together.”

It helped, he added, to watch a lot of clips of the shows ahead of time and plan out who would drive, who would navigate, how to handle taxis, and some of the other common issues.

Cathi worked hard to learn the location of every country in the world and all of the capitals. “You never know when that’s going to come in handy,” she said.

“I learned the states of the U.S.,” Bill said. “I did my part.”

The Aldens are dedicated triathletes, but Cathi hiked with a backpack every day to strengthen her upper body in addition to her usual training regime.

Triathlon experience helped them psychologically, Bill said, because they were accustomed both to younger competitors and to gutting it out to the finish, no matter what.

Still, the thing about the show that surprised them most was the intensity of the competition.

“It is a race from beginning to end, and the pace is incredible,” Cathi said.

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