Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Missing the target

Winnipeg mother-son team far from trigger-happy as Amazing Race quest ends

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It was a tough one to watch. And a much, much tougher one to endure.

The elimination of Winnipeggers Nicole and Cormac Foster in this week's instalment of The Amazing Race Canada surely ranked as one of the most heart-wrenching exits in the reality/competition franchise's history, with mom Nicole struggling mightily to pick off a series of rifle-range targets during a "Yukon biathlon" challenge while son Cormac did his best to stay upbeat long after the pair's Race fate had been decided.

"Those moments were easily the hardest part of the race," Cormac said after re-experiencing the end of their Race by watching this week's episode. "Being there, watching my mom struggle with this Road Block for almost six hours, and not being able to do a thing to help her -- that was really hard."

Added Nicole: "It was very emotional, and watching it (Tuesday) night, it was like we were right back there again. But no matter what, we are so proud of how we ran the race."

Longtime fans of both the U.S. and Canadian versions of the series, the Fosters met their Amazing Race match on Canadian soil. After enduring the show's first-ever international foray, to China, they and the other remaining Race contestants took the 12,000-kilometre flight from Macau to Whitehorse, where they had to choose between sled-dog or camping-site detours.

From there, they continued to the Yukon-biathlon roadblock, involving mountain biking and target shooting, which proved to be the Fosters' undoing. The challenge's instructions called for teams to assign someone with steady hands to the task; in retrospect, Nicole says perhaps this one would better have been suited to Cormac's skills.

"In our house, the joke is that Cormac should be a surgeon, because he has the most steady hands ever," she said. "But in that moment, with everything else going on, what I thought of was that he'd done one more Road Block than I had, so I thought I should do it, because what if we needed him later on for some kind of strength challenge?"

Cormac said he asked his mom about her shooting ability -- or lack thereof -- but in the end, he supported her decision.

"I was asking, 'Mom, can you shoot?' But I really don't know what I was thinking -- I should have just answered the question: 'Who has a steady hand?' I do," he explained. "Moving forward, I think we learned that you just answer the question. If we had just answered the question, things might have been different."

As Tuesday's episode of The Amazing Race Canada drew to a close, viewers watched Nicole's rifle shots miss the biathlon targets again and again and again and AGAIN as the other teams, one by one, completed the challenge and moved on to the canoe-paddling sprint to the finish line.

What the televised segment didn't show, however, was the sheer difficulty of the challenge -- with every failed five-shot target attempt, Nicole had to make a gruelling, uphill/downhill, one-kilometre-long penalty lap on the bike.

"Each lap probably took six or seven minutes," said Cormac. "My mom wasn't aware of the time, but I was standing there with my watch. And you could see how hard some of the other teams struggled just to do two laps -- well, she had to do 22. What she did was amazing."

What the episode also didn't show was just how long Nicole kept shooting and riding after all the other teams had departed for the final Yukon River race to meet series host Jon Montgomery at the mat.

"We were there with everyone else for about two hours, before (seventh-place finishers) Pete and Mickey left, and then we were there alone for almost another four hours," said Cormac.

"For me, doing it, it didn't feel as long as it really was," said Nicole. "I had no concept of the time; I thought I was still doing it really fast... What I do know is that the camera on my bike stopped working; I figured once I outlasted the camera, we were probably out."

If there's one thing that can be said about the Fosters' exit from the race, it's that they finished with their feet flying, their heads held high and without so much as a hint of quit in either of them.

"I had a few moments (during the challenge) when I was breaking down and I was apologizing to Cormac because I felt like I was totally disappointing him, but I also realized in that moment that this was an opportunity to show him, with my actions, what I've been saying all his life," said Nicole.

"As parents, we often say things, but this was my chance to show him -- I was not going to quit; we were going to finish this. That's what kept me going -- we were not going to take a penalty; we were going to finish, no matter what. And I'm so proud that's what we did."

The end of their Amazing Race came far sooner than they'd hoped, but Nicole and Cormac Foster have nothing but positive things to say about the experience.

"We knew that we were most likely going to be out, but we wanted to embrace the moment," said Cormac. "We ran to the mat like we wanted to, and our experience, on the whole, was amazing. The Amazing Race Canada was the best thing we've ever done."

If there's one regret -- and it's a very small one -- that the Fosters share, it's that they were eliminated from The Amazing Race Canada just one leg before next week's episode, which brings the remaining teams to their hometown.

"When we found out that the next leg was going to Winnipeg, that was tough," said Cormac, "because we know we would have killed it in Winnipeg."

Added Nicole: "We so wanted to race in Winnipeg. We anticipated that there might be a Winnipeg leg this season, and we kept saying how much we really wanted to race in Winnipeg. But in the end, it just wasn't meant to be."

Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2014 C3

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