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USA Insider Race to Survive: New Zealand

Emilio & Heather Say Race to Survive: New Zealand Made Them Ready for the Apocalypse

The first team to get eliminated on Race to Survive: New Zealand admit they got their course legs just a little too late. 

By Tara Bennett

Spoilers for Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 1

In every competition reality show, a first team must fall.

How to Watch

Watch new episodes of Race to Survive: New Zealand Mondays at 11/10c on USA Network

In the case of USA Network's Race to Survive: New Zealand, Rhode Island "gym rats" Emilio Navarro and Heather Sischo got their second wind a little too late to stay in the race. 

The urban warriors admit they didn't have the kind of experience or wilderness chops as the rest of their competitors, but they are beyond proud they made it through a brutal mud flat race, a kayak sprint, and braved a jump into a river to get to that final crate. The outcome wasn't a set of medallions but the two told USA Insider what the race taught them about themselves and how the terrain of New Zealand is no joke!

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In our prior interview, you mentioned that you were most ready for the race from a fitness perspective. Were you able to bone up on necessary wilderness skills once in New Zealand?

Emilio: We did have some very minimal training evolutions, as far as now that we were on the actual terrain. And I was going in gung-ho. Thinking we're not gonna go for no caches. We're gonna get out front and we'll figure it out. When we start surviving, we'll fish. But when we were doing a week of figuring that terrain out, where within 24 hours it can rain, it could snow, it could be hot as can be, and doing some of the actual skills, I was like, "Heather we're gonna be so sacked for calories and energy. We're gonna have to go for food. There's no way we can do challenges and continue with the race."

Race to Survive: New Zealand contestants race on land in Season 2, Episode 1

From the literal "go" signal, the mud flat to the water path knocked you both out. How did you avoid having that sap all of your resolve?

Heather: You've also got a 40-pound pack on your back that's knocking you over and then you have to get back up. We're not used to big heavy packs. So it was a whole new ballgame right off the get-go. I called it a "bucket of suck" amongst a lot of other colorful words. That swamp chewed me up and spit me right out.

Emilio: There's a reason why you had the two city[-based] teams in eight and nine after going through that marsh!

Heather: Besides the Brooklyn brothers [Mikhail Martin and Steffen Jean-Pierre], the rest of the teams, they do this every day. We're fit. We climb some mountains here and there. But not day-to-day. I think we were getting better. If we could have restarted, we would have done actually a lot better than we did right off the bat. But that's not how it rolls. 

You both had a bickering vibe that was unique. Was that a problem for either of you at any point?

Heather: Every single night after our race day, we were cool. We were pumping each other up and picking each other up. We would let that day go. And if we argued again the next day, we dealt with that the next night. We didn't even have to talk it out. It was like, "We're cool. We're good." We never held on to that.

We are very, very tight and I think we're so close in a friendship that we can tell each other off in the moment and literally pick up the rug three minutes later, shove it under, and be like, "Let's go. We got stuff to do." I'm not mean, we're just that close.

Emilio Navarro and Heather Sishco in Race to Survive: New Zealand Season 2 Episode 2.

You did come in last, but you gave each other a big hug and seemed really happy in the end?

Emilio: What's making me proud now is the feedback that I've gotten from friends and people's comments that have reached out to me. So I'll tell you that starting from where we were, as far as hitting this race, we evolved every single day. We had it down pat come day three, day four. We were task-orientated. We were getting better. 

It just proved to me that you put your mind to anything and work as a team, you keep going no matter what because you never know what's ahead. We just had a no-give-up attitude. I got something out of it that I wanted, which is it broke me. That was when it was supposed to be river and water rafting and there was no water, and that was so grueling. I really had to reach down so deep. But I got broken and I was proud that I let it linger for like about 15 seconds. I acknowledged it. And I reset and said, "Let's go!" Heather was right there. We really had to push through that. It almost makes me emotional because that was the hardest, hardest piece of the whole race, dealing with no water and a pack raft that we had to carry. And that's not including the weather we had to deal with.

RELATED: Top 5 Items the Race to Survive: New Zealand Contestants Need for Survival Camp

Heather: Yes, we were in last place. But take yourself on a race for like a full week and be in last place. Do you know how easy it is that you could just tap out? You could just easily be like, "They're not gonna know. We're never gonna see them again. Who cares? Tap out." And not once did I ever ever, ever, ever even think, "I'm gonna stop." A crate with a medallion or no medallion, I'm getting to that crate. I'm getting myself to that crate. And I'm very, very proud. And I think everybody should know: Never ever give up. And I know it sounds so dumb because everybody says that, "Never give up." But it's so true. Here we are just two regular people coming off the city. We're two ordinary people. Do not second-guess yourself. Keep going.

Emilio: It forged us. For me, I feel like if we have an apocalypse, I got my bag ready to go. I'm gonna survive! There's nothing you can throw at me. 

Watch new episodes of  Race to Survive: New Zealand every Monday night on USA Network.