The island of Bora Bora in French Polynesia was the dream honeymoon destination for Buffalo-area natives Katie Kaczor and Max Bichler before they got married last fall.
But when the newlyweds visited, it was hardly a honeymoon. It was their first stop as contestants on the 22nd season of “The Amazing Race,” a reality television show in which teams travel the world and perform tasks at each stop, racing toward a $1 million prize.
This season premieres at 8 p.m. tonight on WIVB-TV Channel 4.
“We hope to take an ‘official’ honeymoon – a relaxing honeymoon – once the show airs in its entirety,” Katie Bichler, 25, said in a telephone interview Friday. The show will wrap up in May.
Participating in the race had been another dream for the bride, who grew up in Orchard Park. Her 31-year-old husband is a native of the Town of Tonawanda.
“I have been a huge fan of the show for years – since it came out,” she said. They applied online before getting married Oct. 6 and learned in December that they would be among 11 teams competing.
With just a month to prepare, they began training. “We were running a lot,” Bichler said.
Contestants started out from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles for parts unknown.
“You don’t know in advance,” she said, adding that contestants are “thrown into the fire and you have to figure it out.”
The first stop was Bora Bora.
“That was exciting for us,” Bichler said. “We originally wanted to go there for our honeymoon. Bora Bora’s absolutely beautiful.”
According to CBS, Season 22 travels to nine countries on five continents. New Zealand, Botswana and Switzerland also are among the stops.
“The race is extremely stressful,” Bichler said. Not only is it physically grueling, there’s also jet lag, exhaustion, lack of sleep and hunger to deal with, she said.
“You run on adrenaline. You’re constantly go, go, go,” she said.
It’s sure to be a more relaxing night for the couple Sunday in North Tonawanda, where they plan to watch the premiere with family and friends at a favorite tavern.
A graduate of Nardin Academy, where she was a standout golfer, Katie Bichler earned a doctorate degree from the University at Buffalo’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. A former member of the Buffalo Jills cheerleaders, she works as a pharmacist in the Southtowns.
Her husband is a graduate of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and Northeastern University in Boston, Mass. He works as a regional sales manager for Rocky Patel Premium Cigars.
The couple met about four years ago on a golf course in Canada, where both were participating in a charity golf event that benefits a scholarship fund at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. Unbeknownst to Max Bichler, his future wife was the event’s reigning champion.
You’ll have to tune in to find out if the Bichlers become the next reigning champions of The Amazing Race.
Meanwhile, viewers might notice the maroon and white rubber bracelets that they wear.
Featuring the colors of Orchard Park High School, they’re worn in honor of Peter Brady, an alumnus and former volleyball star who was left paralyzed from his shoulders down when he broke his neck in a swimming pool accident last Memorial Day.
“We were kind of like his legs in the race,” Bichler said.