'The Amazing Race 36's Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main Say Unseen Injuries Led to Their Elimination

Yvonne Chavez (L) and Melissa Main (R)

Pack your bags, because The Amazing Race is back! Every week, Parade's Mike Bloom will bring you interviews with the team most recently eliminated from the race.

Yvonne Chavez and Melissa Main considered The Amazing Race to be a "relationship boot camp." Perhaps that's why they went through the race crawling under the radar like they were cadets. Though they were taking their relationship slowly, they maintained a consistent pace on the race, setting a record number of middle-of-the-pack finishes. Unfortunately, as the pack thins, it's much harder to stay in that middle. Yvonne and Melissa raced in the Dominican Republic with what they thought would be homefield advantage, given Melissa's previous time there as a former federal agent. But her struggles in figuring out the first Roadblock had their fate cascading like the waterfalls she slid down. The two unfortunately were out of the hunt for the win, but have since gone on to not only move in together, but also start a family.

Now, out of the race, Yvonne and Melissa talk with Parade.com about how some off-camera injuries led to their elimination, their record-breaking streak in the middle, and how the race informed their epilogue into parenthood.

Everything to Know About The Amazing Race 36

You had said that you viewed The Amazing Race as "relationship boot camp." What was your history with the show, and what made you decide this would be the test you wanted?
Yvonne Chavez: 
So I mean, every racer team comes to the show with their own narrative, right? This is a relationship show. So we know we were playing into that, obviously. But we are huge, huge fans. Yes.
Melissa Main: I'm a superfan over here!
Yvonne: Yeah, she is more of a fan. I have seen every season. And she's seen it, I don't even know how many times. She is a true fan. And we love travel. We love doing epic challenges and adventure. So we kind of encapsulated the whole thing of what a traditional race is. And so that was kind of the first checkbox for us. You've seen, we're pretty private people. Even with our invisibility cloak, it plays well on and off-camera. I think that beyond the fan piece of it was we have a super competitive spirit. So that's what the race is. And again, we love a challenge. We're just ambitious people.

And this path to parenthood was a little piece of that story. It was a little bit of a test. I don't know how much it could actually relate to to that actualality of parenthood. But it was perfect timing. We were on that path. And we're like, "Let's do this fun thing. It'll be a great story for her to tell her in the future." What we didn't know was on the path to parenthood, we had a higher chance of winning a million dollars, one out of five, than we did conceiving her. We planned IVF. I was the person who was going to do that, be pregnant. I have these fertility issues all kinds of stuff. And then she took the lead. It was not part of our plan. And here we are.
Melissa: I said, "Wait a minute. I just drove to this appointment. Now I'm pregnant!"

[Laughs.] Well you were able to do what you couldn't on the race: Switch Roadblocks!
 [Laughs.] Exactly.
Yvonne: [Laughs.] If only! Yes, exactly.

Well, speaking of Roadblocks, I want to get into what happened on your race. Melissa, talk me through what happened on that canyoneering task that seemingly put you in a hole you couldn't get out of.
 The waterfall was certainly the most challenging [task] we'd had up until that point. And it was exactly what I was looking for. It was that whole, "six-hour hay bale," whitewater rafting and jumping and getting a flag. We were really looking forward to those kind of extreme type of challenges. And so I was I was excited about it. You saw César come up to me right away. What you didn't see was how long that all took. I mean, we were there for a very long time and they kind of condensed it into seeming short. But it was incredibly challenging. César came up to me, and kind of surprised me; it took me back. So I knew it had to be difficult.

And then when he came over and kind of after he got his check and looked at it, I think his intention was to actually help me even more. But as you noticed, he was whispering. And you didn't see some conversation we had, where he didn't want the other people to hear. And I also had like a pretty strong sense of integrity with that; I did really want to solve it for me. And so I appreciated what he gave me. But at the same time, I already knew by then that the devil was in the details. I didn't realize until I watched it last night that I was actually only one off on the first check. So that was obviously very hard.

We see you arrive at the Pit Stop while Amber and Vinny were still on the mat. Do you know how far behind you were?
 [Holds up two fingers.]

Wow, two minutes! You had said that you were about 10 minutes behind the pack leaving the first Roadblock. So how did you make up that time?
 So, again, things you don't see. I think there's all kinds of fun, controversial things that happen, but let's just stick to what happened to us. Once we left the waterfall, on our way out, one of one crew members injured, I don't know, sprained--
Melissa: Injured his thigh.
Yvonne: Yeah, pulled some kind of muscle. So as we were running back, because it was quite a ways to get from the waterfall, about a mile and a half back. So we kept running, I don't know where it was.
Melissa: Essenitally the crew member, we had to just wait for a couple minutes, which we didn't think that much of. And then obviously now, seeing that we lost by two minutes, we obviously wish we would have said something. But we didn't. But anyways, then we got to cacao. And they didn't show it, but we only had to go down twice to pull the pods. Whereas every other team, as you could see, they all had to go down numerous times. And we only had to go down twice. And so that's where we made up the time.
Yvonne: And on other sides. So you saw how all of us were like all going for the same thing. That was one part of it. I see Rod, I keep making fun that he's three people. 
Melissa: Yeah they cheated! They brought three people. That's what we kept joking. [Laughs.]
Yvonne: I was like, "Dammit, Rod!" [Laughs.] And so I mean good on them. That was one of their strengths. But then with the whole other side of the field, there were tons, what you needed for at least half. So we had those two full bags. But another thing you didn't see is--
Melissa: I sliced her thumb right open. And she's over there with medical working on it. And I'm like, "Keep working!" And so she's sitting with one hand. [Laughs.]
Yvonne: I bled all over the cacao pods. The security guy's got my thumb, trying to help.
Melissa: So we made up a whole bunch of time. We left right after Vinny and Amber. And so what we what we saw was four out of the five teams took one way to get to the Pit Stop along the water. And, as you saw last night, Vinny and Amber went straight down the steps. And that's where they made up those two minutes, because they got lost.
Yvonne: From leaving the stadium and to the pink street, there were cabs out. So what you what you didn't see was some people got in the cab and the driver knew where they were going, or they didn't know. So we asked every single cab that was out there, "Do you know where this is?"
Melissa: And finally the last one said, "I do know where this is." He went quite quickly. It was just everything almost came together for us. And just losing by two minutes was was a tough pill to swallow.

You mentioned before about César helping you in the Roadblock. And Danny told me last week that there was a three-team alliance between you all and them, though obviously that didn't come much into play with how spaced out you were for most of the race. What's your perspective on that?
Melissa: We were unaware. We actually texted César and Ricky and asked, "Were you aware that we were in an alliance?" Because they're good friends of ours. We have close relationships with everybody, every member of the cast.
Yvonne: The thing is, when you go on the race, especially this COVID season, you're not really allowed to talk to each other. We were separated for everything. So with masks on and with the rules of separation, we naturally had connections. You make natural connection, you are drawn to certain teams, that's just a natural thing that happens. And those two teams are César and Ricky, which we wish we would have been able to collaborate closer during the race, and the firefighters. So those were those were the main two teams. We respected them the most; they ran their own race. They were the teams that we were closest to potentially collaborating with.
Melissa: But we absolutely did not have a formal alliance.

On that note, what was your reaction when the three-team alliance boxed you out of the meat Detour during the Megaleg?
Yvonne: The thing is, as fans, I'll be straight up. We have so many relationships with these teams, including Danny and Angie. So it is difficult to be objective. But as a fan, wedo have this competitive spirit where we respect the spirit of the race. And we do feel a little disappointed that that felt a little bit negated or "broken," if you will, by when teams stay together and collaborate as one thing. We were disappointed to see that. And at the race car, we didn't see the extent of the help. We were watching it for the first time. We knew there was things going on. Bbut to give complete answers and do challenges for each other, that's a whole new level for us. And it was just disappointing for us to see. Because that that leg dominoed into the trajectory of what happened with the groupings.
Melissa: It affected the natural order of the placements.
Yvonne: Teams stayed longer than they should have, honestly, with that.

Well I do want to congratulate you, as the team in Amazing Race history with the most consecutive streak of middle of the pack placements. What was your reaction to that while you were racing? And was there a constant to your consistency?
 Yeah, there's something to be said for consistency. I mean, besides César and Ricky, we were the only team that was never in the bottom two, until obviously, we weren't. When there were three groupings, and we were in the bottom, we always led our group. We were a consistent, stable couple.
Yvonne: Ricky and César's consistency, would have loved that. But they're amazing. And I think that when we gave this a lot of thought, I think the biggest point for us--and I can simply--is the imbalanced Detours. When we really look at it, up to the ninth leg, there were eight Detours, because this last one didn't have one. And out of the eight Detours, we chose only two correctly.
Melissa: One was clearly so much faster than the other.
Yvonne: While other teams in the top five chose five or six of the Detour correctly. So when we got from Leg Four on, we were incorrect moving forward on all of those. Where the other teams, it was more of a mixed bag, and there was little bit more movement. So, while the middle doesn't really equate success, really for the most part... [Laughs.]
Melissa: But we raced very far. We're very proud of what we accomplished
Yvonne: And I think when you think about in the full context, the wrong Detours, that fourth leg and beyond, we were in the third group at a 30 minute-deficit, with other teams even doing challenges for each other in within those legs, and then still avoided the bottom two. I mean, I just think that takes a lot of heart and tenacity. So that's why we're proud. We're so proud. We're happy to be talking to you today not bitter.
Melissa: Fifth place out of 13 teams, we're very proud of it.
Yvonne: Five is solid, and we're happy about it.

Let me bring it back to where we started this chat. As you mentioned, the race wasn't necessarily the one thing to get you to move in together and become parents. But what did you learn about each other on the race that affirmed you could take this next step together?
 Well, watching her sing, I knew she could sing lullabies to the baby. [Laughs.]
Yvonne: I thought you were gonna tell me I broke the record for the worst singer!
Melissa: [Laughs.] No, certainly this wasn't the linchpin that said, "Oh, now now's the time to start a family." We had already started before the race the process. And then when we got back, we did see how we worked in stressful competitive situations a little bit more. We were very proud of each other. We wish we'd been sort of pushed to the brink, like I mentioned, the hay bale challenge or rappelling down a building. Something to really, really truly push us, But we did feel that competitive stress spirit, and we loved the way we responded. It was a positive for us.
Yvonne: And I think that the one of the points with these legs, that's maybe something doesn't come through. These were very short legs.
Melissa: One of them broke the record, I'm sure.
Yvonne: With the length of the legs, while very stressful, very intense, we didn't hit that breaking point. We wanted to come on and give you the drama so we can be featured and get all people commenting on like, "Oh my God, how are they ever gonna work?" But, all joking aside, I don't think it's a traditional race, I think, with the endurance and the crazy travel around.
Melissa: We were ready to sleep on airport floors. Multiple teams commented that they would not have done that. So we were very ready for this, this full fledged experience. And so I think what you saw was a good result. I mean, we have a very healthy relationship. I think it was a warm-up. And we're waiting until [baby Viv] turns 18 where she can choose which one of us she wants to apply with.

Next, check out our interview with Angie and Danny Butler, who were eliminated in The Amazing Race 3 Episode 8.