Post Race Depression? How they coped
The Star Online > eCentral > Tv & Radio
Monday October 13, 2008
Amazing Race Asia participants back to normal routine
By S. INDRAMALAR
It has not been easy for some participants to get back to their normal routine after experiencing the excitement of The Amazing Race Asia.
You would think that beating nine other teams from around Asia and emerging the first ever winners of the The Amazing Race Asia (TARA) would have left Zabrina Fernandez on a high for quite a while. After all, it was quite a feat for Zabrina and team mate Tee Joe Jer - two petite girls against 18 others who were almost all bigger than them - to get through the tough physical and mental challenges to win the race and the US$100,000 (RM350,000) prize money.
However, happy though she was about their win, Zabrina found herself depressed almost as soon as the race was over.
“When the Race began, it took me about a week to get into the groove of things and then, once you are into it, you kind of get into a system. I’d make arrangements for food and lodging and Joe Jer would do the laundry ... things like that. It was an amazing high. There were days where by 11am in the morning we would have done so many things. Like in New Zealand, where we had to do a relay (go four laps around a luge circuit), complete a quadbike course and a bungee jump all in the same morning. It was just such a high ... I mean no one really lives like that,” says Zabrina who won the race with Joe Jer in 2006.
The Amazing Race Asia Season One winner Zabrina Fernandez said it took her a long while to get over the race.
Though she was on TARA for just under a month, Zabrina adapted to the frantic pace of the Race very well, so well that when the Race ended, she felt disoriented.
“After we won the last leg, we went back and I had a long sleep. At night, we had a wrap party and we went out and had a lot of fun. But when I woke up the next morning, suddenly everyone was either leaving or had already left and it was all over.
“It was really hard because it’s not like we can all meet up, you know,” recalls Zabrina.
Things did not get much better after she returned home to Kuala Lumpur either.
“I really was depressed ... I could not do much for one month. I mean after such an experience ... you wake up (at home) and there is nothing planned. I was at a loss. I did not know what to do. I’d think, ‘Ok, maybe I’ll watch a movie,’ ” she says.
Looking back now, Zabrina reckons that her melancholy was the hardest on her “poor husband”.
“He tried to understand what I was going through ... but at the same time he was really happy to have me back. It was quite hard for him, I think,” she says.
It took a while but she is finally over it. Well, almost. She became a producer for the second and third season of TARA. She also wears a pendant in the shape of the date they won the Race!
“I wanted to work on the show because I am a big fan of The Race ... yes, I am actually this big geek! You know, I wrote to Michael McKay, asking for a job on the second season but I did not hear from him. He did write back a couple of times asking me how I was doing and all that but he never addressed my application to work on the race.
Vanessa (left) and Pamela Chong, the Malaysian sisters who finished runners -up in The Amazing Race Asia 2. They felt some separ ation anxiety from the race.
“Finally, one month before the start of the Race, I wrote to him again. I was a bit angry and my letter was quite stern. I told him it was OK if he said ‘No’ to my application but that I needed an answer.
“And that must have worked because I got the job as a location producer on Season Two,” she says with a laugh.
Before applying to work on the series, Zabrina had to consult her TARA team mate and friend Joe Jer first.
“I had to ask her permission because once I work on the Race, that would end the possibility of us ever being on All Stars .... if there ever is one-lah.”
(The 11th season of the American version of TAR was dubbed the “all-stars” as it brought back teams from previous seasons.)
Working as the producer on TARA was fun for Zabrina as it meant she got to be part of the experience again and again.
“But now, at the end of it all I am quite happy to come home because it is really tiring,” she says.
Another Malaysian team that felt some separation anxiety from the race were the “Strong Chongs”, who came in second in TARA 2 last year.
Sisters Vanessa and Pamela Chong said they too had post-TARA withdrawal symptoms.
“Pam and I both felt like we broke up. The experience being on the Race was like falling in love and when it ended ... it was like going through a break-up. When we returned, normal life was just very, very boring,” says Vanessa.
Says Pamela: “I would not say that I was depressed really ... I don’t think it was as bad as that. But I’d lie on my bed and think, ‘what’s the point?’ I would go shopping, hoping that it would make me feel better but even that did not help ... I did not even feel like going shopping!”
Last season’s champs Collin Low (left) and Adrian Yap from Singapore admit to being lost after the race.
“I really think we should call it the post-race syndrome,” adds Vanessa.
The two were the only all-girl team in the final leg of the race and emerged second after Singaporeans Adrian and Colin in TARA 2.
“Do you want to know how sad we were? We had downloaded the TARA theme song and when we just returned from the Race we would play the song ... when no one was around because we were not allowed to talk about the Race ... and get excited again,” says Vanessa.
The sisters would also get excited every time they saw or heard the promotional trailer for TARA2 on TV or the radio. Sometimes they’d get excited just hearing the word “amazing”.
“We’d hear the word (amazing) on the radio and get all excited only to realise it is some amazing bargain at Courts Mammoth or something! We thought we owned rights to the word,” shares Pamela.
Apart from the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience of running the race (and coming out second), the sisters also missed the many friends they made on the race.
“When you watch the Race on TV, you don’t really realise how much emotion you (the racers) put into it. The intensity of it all made one day seem like a week,” says Pamela.
“We all became really close and after the Race we’d fly to the Philippines or Thailand and visit each other. In fact, we did not come home immediately after the Race ended ... we flew to Bangkok and hung out with Paula (from the Thailand team) for a while. We missed home a lot but we just wanted to hang on to that experience a while more. And since then, Sawaka (Japanese team) has come over here three times, and Paula and Marc and Rovilson (from the Philippines) too. It’s been great,” says Vanessa.
Adds Pamela: “It became an expensive friendship (visiting their friends from the other teams). We still travel, but we try and space out our trips. Or we try and do some work while we are there.”
The bond formed €“ not just between the racers from Season Two but also Season One €“ has been among the most treasured things the racers gained from the show.
Though it has been more than two years since she completed the race, Zabrina still keeps in close contact with her running mates and has visited many of her fellow racers from season one.
She’s been to Sri Lanka (where she stayed with Sahran), Hong Kong (incidentally Sandy and Francesca from team Hong Kong are no longer a couple), Thailand (to visit Andy and Laura), Singapore (to hook up with Sharon and Melody) and the Philippines where she met up with Ernie and Jeena.
Last season’s champs Adrian Yap and Collin Low also admit to being lost after the race, though not to the point of being depressed.
“Yes, we did feel lost and disoriented ... as if there was no more purpose in life,” laughs Colin. “We miss the racing experience greatly. We have formed a support group through Facebook so that we can recall all our experiences.”
His team mate Adrian (who amazingly completed the final task of the race literally in seconds) has an easier time getting over the Race blues.
“I guess I kinda got used to it after a week or more. I did not feel depressed-lah because I had tonnes of things to do after the race.
“I think we tried not to think about it so much and just immersed ourselves in our work to try and get back to our normal routine.
“We also tried to think of something we could do to contribute back to society. That kept us busy,” says Adrian.
For the moment though, Zabrina, Vanessa, Pamela, Adrian and Colin are reliving their experiences by watching the third season of TARA airing on AXN.
“When we heard about Season Three, we felt like ‘has-beens’! But no ... we still keep our experience close to us. We are watching TARA 3 on TV but it does take courage to watch it because it makes us kind of sad. We are really emotionally tied to it,” shares Pamela.
Adds Vanessa: “Yeah ... I feel like I am about to cry (when I am) watching it sometimes.”
TARA 3 airs on AXN (Astro channel 701) on Thursdays at 9pm. LINK