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USA Insider Race to Survive: New Zealand

Race to Survive "Wilderness Wives" Rhandi & Ashley Embrace "Reckless Optimism"

The tough Utah moms raced through the pain and have nothing but appreciation for New Zealand's wicked surprises.

By Tara Bennett
Inch by Inch: Race to Survive: New Zealand E6 Sneak Peek

Spoilers for Race to Survive: New Zealand Episode 6

Over their three weeks of competition for Race to Survive: New Zealand, endurance athletes Rhandi Orme and Ashley Paulson proved their mettle and determination as New Zealand's terrain continuously whomped them physically. Ashley's ankle got mashed yet she still limped to that silver medallion box to complete Race 3 with Rhandi by her side. 

How to Watch

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

The Utah mom team was one of several this season who suffered injuries and just could not move forward in the competition. However, the ladies didn't get picked up by a helicopter and even in pain, moved forward with relentless enthusiasm and belief in one another. 

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For our latest Race to Survive: New Zealand exit interview, Rhandi and Ashley joined USA Insider for an assessment of their race and to explain how bad Ashley's injury really was. 

Rhandi and Ashley confirm that Race to Survive is no joke

Ashley Paulson and Rhandi Ohrme in Race To Survive: New Zealand

As multiple marathon runners and record breakers, Rhandi and Ashley did not go into Race to Survive: New Zealand without awareness of what they might face. Even then, the pair told us that New Zealand and the show course makers were ready to challenge them every step of the way.

"I expected it to be the hardest thing that I had ever done, but I don't know that anything can prepare you for quite what we went through," Rhandi said. "I expected it to be beautiful. I expected it to be hard, but I don't know if I expected it to be as beautiful and as hard as it actually was when push came to shove."

"Going into it, of course, I had watched Season 1 a couple times. I wanted to get a mental prep of maybe throw this at us with this," Ashley said. "But I tell you what ... they upped their game big time for Season 2. We were still in Race 1 and we were laughing about it like, 'Holy crap, what else can they throw at us?' But what a cool experience and adventure to be a part of, but that threw me off big time."

Just how bad was Ashley's ankle injury?

While Ashley's ankle was a problem by Episode 4, Ashley said that, in actuality, it was tweaked before the show focused on it in the edit. "Everyone's ankles were hurting, not just mine," she explained. "We were getting tossed and torn. It really did some damage going down that hill but it was already bad and swollen at Survival Camp 1."

She said their decision to bypass the food cache and take the steeper trail actually allowed her to race longer. "At least for the most part, we were on a trail and not rugged rocks," she said. "I had completely shredded — not just torn but like shredded— my tendons in my foot.  We needed a clear path, which we had. It was still rough terrain, but it wasn't that rocky, rough terrain."

RELATED: Mikhail & Steffen Confirm What Tanked Their Race to Survive: New Zealand Game

Rhandi agreed: "Her ankle and foot were already severely injured. When we looked at the map, we had experienced what the top of the Rocky Ridge was like with her injured. We knew that by dipping down, we had a more clear path. So in hindsight, I don't regret that choice one bit."

Rhandi Orme's story about her mom wasn't an easy share

One of the most powerful moments of this season came in Episode 5 when Rhandi bravely shared the story of her mom's death from accidental overdose and how that has impacted her own decisions. 

Rhandi said that story isn't one she readily shares outside of her close family and friends, but the "rawness" of the race compelled her to share. "When media is removed, when your loved ones are removed, and the comfort of your own home is removed, you're stripped down to your core in just a couple of days," she explained. 

"I felt pulled by my mom and pulled by a deep sense within that it was something that I needed to share," she continued. "I certainly thought about it before going on Race to Survive because when we're raw, hard things come up. I felt if her story can help just one person get the help that they need, or inspire one person to make a change, then she would want me to share it."

Ashley and Rhandi remain "wilderness wives" for life

Rhandi Ohrme and Ashley Paulson look at a map together

When Rhandi and Ashley reached the Race 3 medallion box, it was empty, and their race was officially over. However, they got one of the most emotional goodbyes in the season so far because they made it to Survival Camp to give and get final hugs goodbye. Paulina, in particular, was vocal about how sad she was to see the other women go.

"We did spend more time with Paulina. [The edit] doesn't show it as much, but we were with them a lot while we raced and in Survival Camp," Rhandi said of their friendship. "There was just an instant bond with us building each other up. All of us ladies on the show — and there weren't many of us — we went out of our way to build each other up and to support each other. Obviously, when we were competing, we were competing. And they were our competitors. But I never really saw them as competitors, ever. I saw them as other amazing women. We don't have a lot of representation in outdoor and adventure sports so I just see us all forging a really awesome path of friendship and connection and support."

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

After recovering back home, Rhandi and Ashley are both back on the endurance race circuit — and still feeling the wind in their sails from their New Zealand experience. 

"I've seen benefits just from my last race last month," Ashley shared. "I said to myself, 'I've been through so much stuff with no calories and right now I've got calories.' I was able to tap into that little Race to Survive vibe. And knowing Rhandi was super close to me. I'm like, 'I know she's down there, my wilderness wife!'" she joked.

"I feel so grateful for that experience because that's an experience that's earned and it's not just handed to you," she continued. "I'm grateful to have that forever for when when I go out and compete, and just in life. Letting my kids see that we do hard, hard things and things aren't just handed to us. You've got to work for it and fight and it doesn't always go your way either. But you still show up. You give it your best you give your heart."

Rhandi added: "We are naturally optimistic. We're naturally believing that we can do hard things. But going on Race to Survive, I told Graham [her husband], 'I now have reckless optimism!' Like, I can literally do anything. I thought that before. But oh no. To survive and thrive with your partner going through hard things, with less than I've ever had, created this sense of belief in myself and in others, that if you have the right mind space, and you are determined, you really can accomplish just about anything."

Keep watching new episodes of Race to Survive: New Zealand every Monday on USA Network at 11 p.m. ET/PT!