When you enter a competition like The Amazing Race Canada, at a certain point you know you’re probably going to have to face one of your biggest fears. Like heights. Or perhaps eating some sort of critter that you’d rather not have met in the first place. For Bert and Karen Richards, Tuesday night’s penultimate episode meant that Bert had to face his ultimate fear: being confined in a space with an extremely large handful of cockroaches.
After nailing a painting challenge on a train in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. and working their way through a fly fishing challenge, Karen and Bert were slightly tripped up during the Face Off, in which they lost to Team Give’r in a game of crokicurl. They had plenty of time to recover during the Road Block though, when Karen volunteered to count the number of cockroaches at Canada’s first insectarium.
Unfortunately, those insects just so happened to be crawling on Bert’s head — specifically after the man stated on his official Amazing Race Canada bio page that his biggest fear would be being confined in a space with bugs and having them crawl over him.
Talk about a tough break.
Unfortunately, that phobia definitely set in and made it even harder for Karen to count the critters, landing the parents of two in last place. That meant their elimination just a week shy of the finale, which has got to be a pretty tough pill to swallow.
We caught up with the team fresh off their elimination to dig a little deeper into that last challenge, learn how they managed to push through and finish anyhow and to find out whether those bugs still haunt Bert to this day.
How hard was it to be eliminated right before the finale?
Bert: We don’t have regrets about losing, but we would have loved to have done all the challenges and to experience the entirety of the race.
In your words, what went wrong?
Karen: The crokicurl was one of those situations where… so we did okay, and then we fell down, but got back up. We fell down, we got back up. But with the crokicurl we had to take the penalty after losing the second game. That’s what did it. Kenneth and Ryan crushed us in that game, so I’m sure that didn’t help our spirit when we went into the cockroach challenge. Then there were the cockroaches themselves…
Bert: The one thing was that the cockroaches were also the great equalizer though, because at that point we were all together. If I was able to sit still for Karen to count then we probably could have still been in this thing. But it’s hard to rationalize an irrational fear.
Bert, your profile page specifically says that bugs crawling all over you in a confined space is your worst fear — how brutal was that?
Karen: Exactly! They asked those questions I think so they could make us do those challenges! That’s exactly what took us down. We would have rather eaten those cockroaches.
Bert: I would have eaten two batches.
But there were tears, what goes through your head in a situation like that?
Bert: First, what was defeating me was the sensation of the bugs crawling on me and not being able to prevent that. I’m not so bad with bugs, but you can’t swat them away and you’re in that confined box. And then after a while, it was watching Karen watching me struggle with the challenge. It became less about me being in the box and more about me feeling like I was letting us down. That’s when I started breaking down into tears and stuff. I felt like I had cost us the game and my wife a chance to move forward.
Yeah Karen, what do you say to that?
Karen: What do you say to that?! It was one of the most helpless feelings of my entire life. That my big man was there in this box with these little — but also not so little — bugs and there was nothing he could do. He could have shook the entire thing down, he would have knocked it down if he could. Brute strength. But he couldn’t. I felt helpless. But it would have been worse if I were in the box. But still that feeling of helplessness was really hard.
Bert, is this a fear that developed from something specifically or have you just always had it?
Bert: I have a big imagination, and maybe it’s something that developed over time, watching movies like The Craft, or Lost Boys where the guy is eating the rice and it turns into maggots. I watched a lot of shows and movies as a kid and I flashed back to all of that when it comes. But the truth of the matter is, shave your head bald, put food on it and let bugs pick at your skull to eat and I think you’ll feel the same way.
We see a lot of couples on this show fight all of the time, but you guys always seemed to pick each other up — what’s your secret?
Karen: It’s more of a philosophy. It wastes energy to fight with each other, and it doesn’t necessarily solve any problems. So we try and put our energy into finding a solution to whatever it is that’s facing us. Bert and I have shown that when we do things together we are so strong. So if you put your energy into solving the problem, rather than fighting with each other, you’re more likely going to come up with what you need.
Bert: We always try and stay solution-minded and not dig the hole deeper.
Karen: Not that we don’t fight, but we don’t bicker.
Bert: We’re one of those couples — maybe it’s rare; I’m getting the impression we’re a rare couple — but I mean we don’t bring up other things. If we’re arguing about the fact that you burnt something, we don’t argue about the fact that you burnt it, and then you burnt something else last week. We get over that. We don’t hold grudges.
Karen: The other day we were arguing about a towel, and as I was walking out of the house I yelled out some comment to Bert, and the neighbour was like, “Oh my gosh, you guys do actually fight!” It was funny. But even when we argue we poke fun at each other.
Was coming home bittersweet, at least in terms of getting to see your kids?
Karen: Had I been eliminated on that Mother’s Day, I would have been relieved because at least I could go home to my baby. But we survived that, which was a blessing. So now to come through and be eliminated right before the finale was bittersweet. It’s all good, we got to see our kids and it was pure tears at the airport. But it was so hard to be away. That was such a big factor in what made this hard psychologically, physically, spiritually… the crew and everybody work really hard, and they’re running the race too, but they can call their kids and family at the end of the day. So, not being able to do that was one of the most difficult parts of what we did.
Now that you’re done, will anything from the race make its way into some of your music Bert?
Bert: You know, maybe…
Karen: The cockroach rap. We’ll rap about that!