Ashley and Rhandi on quitting not being an option for them on Race to Survive: New Zealand

RACE TO SURVIVE: NEW ZEALAND -- "Water and Ice" Episode 201 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rhandi Ohrme, Ashley Paulson -- (Photo by: Daniel Allen/USA Network)
RACE TO SURVIVE: NEW ZEALAND -- "Water and Ice" Episode 201 -- Pictured: (l-r) Rhandi Ohrme, Ashley Paulson -- (Photo by: Daniel Allen/USA Network) /

Race to Survive: New Zealand has been a season about friendship as much as it has been about endurance and perseverance. So, of course, I lept at the chance to speak to Rhandi Orme and Ashley Paulson, the athletes and moms who hail from Utah. The two friends were standouts during their time on the competition and so far are the only team with an injured member that was eliminated for a last place finish and not because of a decision to tap out.

When I caught up with Rhandi and Ashley, I asked them whether they’d spoken about how they wanted to support and be of service to each other during such a difficult race but they shared they didn’t have a conversation like that.

Ashley spoke to their vibe stating, “I think it’s just in our nature, who Rhandi and I both are as friends to each other and mothers.  We just click really well. We have the same vibe so there wasn’t a pre-talk. I didn’t need to ask her about it or tell her about it. I just knew that’s how she was gonna be towards me."

Rhandi affirmed this sentiment, mentioning their trust in each other:

"I think that's a huge gift of being such good friends with Ashley. That's her vibe like you get all of her, you get all of her support, all of her love and all of her goodness. She’s all in. And so, we both had that mutual trust in each other. Then we saw it in action as we competed together, we saw it in action as we did hard things. All of our trust was there, I knew she had my back."

Throughout the competition it was very apparent that the two wouldn’t be a team we’d see arguing with one another or cursing at each other due to frustration, hunger, and exhaustion. It didn’t even happen when Ashley competed through a painful ankle injury that slowed them down immensely. Still, in those moments, what was inspiring was how much she pushed and they both held on to hope that there may be a medallion in the crate, they just had to get to it. From Ashley’s perspective, quitting wasn’t an option.

"Obviously, I didn't know how it was gonna happen. I didn't know how I was gonna get off some of these mountains. And it really wasn't an option to quit. We just, we pushed through, we get it done and we fight and I did not wanna go out of the show like tapping out. I get sometimes there's no other choice but at this point, I was still moving forward. So why not move forward towards that crate?

The support of Rhandi was incredible. Her love, her being so patient, like being like it's OK, I'm gonna go behind you. So you set the pace. She's like I want you to set this pace because I know we can go, you know, 20 more minutes and then after that, we would have to break it down sometimes into bite size chunks. We're gonna get off this little rock. What's next? I don't know how we're gonna do it, but we're gonna do it. And so breaking it down, it meant a lot that we were able to actually finish that event rather than tapping out. But I won't lie, there was [that thought] am I gonna hurt myself even more? "

Continuing on in the competition was on Ashley and Rhandi’s minds the entire time. They shared that they had spoken about what they would have done if there had been a medallion in the crate and they’d decided they would go on. This was because of the rest period they would have gotten at survival camp. Rhandi said, “Ashley’s ankle, albeit small, did make a little progress everyday with a full night of sleep and a night of rest.”

Survival camp would have given her injury some time to heal and they never knew what was around the bend with the races. If it had focused on the upper body, Ashley said that’s something she could have done “you just have to be willing to move forward and try and fight.”

Positivity was a big part of Ashley and Rhandi’s story on the show, even Ashley’s parting message as they exited Race to Survive: New Zealand was centered on doing what you want to do even if you suck at it, that life isn’t about being perfect, it’s about living. Her statement resonated with me as a viewer and, for others tuning in, it might have been the very message someone needed to hear to do something they’re scared of failing at.

Ashley expressed that mentality is something that she cultivated in herself.

"It's something that I've just over time [developed] because I wasn't naturally a great runner. I wasn't naturally a great cyclist. I sucked. I wasn't naturally a great aerobics instructor. I remember my first class teaching, three people walked out because 'You can't keep the beat and you're a fitness instructor?' you've gotta be ok to suck and go through those hard times. You've gotta be ok with that. You're gonna suck before you get better. And so it was just my experiences in life that helped bring that little mantra to me. Like, hey, it's ok to not be good at everything. Challenge yourself, get uncomfortable and you're never gonna get any better if you don't. "

The journey they’ve both gone on, filled with triumphs and struggles, has been something they’ve enjoyed sharing with their families as well. Rhandi has five children, ages 4-17, and they all pile together, snacks in hand, along with her husband to watch the competition every Monday night. She said, “I have to pause it a million times because they want to ask questions and know how the food was and, and they have been so sweet and so encouraging of Ashley and I and our journey together and it's been really special to share with my husband and kids.”

Ashley has been watching with her husband and kids as well but she does have a college aged child who gathers her friends together to watch. Funnily, her college kid had seen the first two episodes before them because of scheduling conflicts at home. For Ashley, “It's really sweet to see how excited they are and how much else they wanna know from these challenges and like 'What were you thinking here? Were you terrified going into that cave and [doing a] 600 ft rappel?' It's really just part of the highlight of our week when we do get to watch the show."

Who knows, we may see Rhandi on another competition series one day with her son, Hudson. She described her 15 year old as a “huge outdoorsman” and he was interested in doing Race to Survive together. Ashley’s two older kids, who are globe-trotters “always off exploring different countries,” would be down to do a competition like this she said as they love activities that can give them an adrenaline rush.

For these two, family is everything. Their love for their kids and their husbands is evident in their voices as they speak about them. It’s also why they didn’t stick around in New Zealand after they were eliminated. They caught the earliest flight they could to get back stateside so they could be reunited with their loved ones. Ashley would like to return to New Zealand with her family so they can explore the country together.

Rhandi touched on her heartwarming reunion with her family:

"I remember hugging all my kids at the airport and I just held them all in a big mama bear hug and cried because, you know, I had never spent more than a few days away from them. And so, that was definitely one of the bigger challenges was being away from family while I was gone."

And so ended their memorable run on Race to Survive that I’m sure has led to more than one person deciding to put on their walking shoes to test their own limits.

Next. Coree and Jeff talk life after Race to Survive: New Zealand. Coree and Jeff talk life after Race to Survive: New Zealand. dark