Monday, March 14, 2011

Great Urban Race Phoenix 2011

The first time that we tried a Great Urban Race, we placed third - which was a complete shock since we were relatively new to urban adventure races. Last year we placed fourth - which was very disappointing since the top 3 teams won cash and free entry to the National Championships. This year we were aiming to get back into the Top 3. I like to win free races! The other goal was to win the costume contest.

I modified my dragon costume...again! I made new, more manageable wings that are glittery and shiny! Oooh, shiny! I also bought a felt hat to glue my spiky headdress to so that it wouldn't keep falling off my noggin. I made a cuter belly on a cuter t-shirt. And I made shiny, dragon-wing glasses covers. Well, actually Pat made the glasses covers. I kept him up past midnight on Friday toiling in my costume shop.The final product:
Oops! Christy forgot to put her nose-mask on. :)

The race started at noon from Sliders Bar. The patio was closed for construction so there were 300 people packed into a narrow bar. We tried to work our way to the front, but we weren't very successful. Ugh! After getting our clue envelope it took us a few minutes to get out of the bar. But I was happy to not have my oversized wings from last week!At my first glance I thought the first clue was at Thomas so, as assumed, the race would take us north on the light rail. We headed to the light rail station. I tried to send Kiri the pictures of the clues but they were too small, so I had to read them to her while we were at the light rail stop and on the train. We didn't have to go very far so all our clues weren't quite solved when I decided we should get out early at Roosevelt. There were a lot of checkpoints in that area and I hoped we'd catch another train to go the extra mile up to Thomas. I did this exact same thing (getting off early at Roosevelt) before with disastrous results so I was a little nervous.

We took our picture at #12, the "modern metal marvel" which we know from many other races to be called Release the Fear.Then we (I) made a mistake. I had mapped clue #2 to be north of the Phoenix Art Museum when it was actually 1/3 mile south...right near the Release the Fear statue. Unaware at this time that I was an idiot, we headed north to the Public Library for clue #6 instead. We first needed to solve the scrambled quote to get the author's name from the wall of quotes, but Kiri had already solved it. We then needed to get a picture of "Il Cubo" as proof we were there. What the heck is an "Il Cubo"? And does it say I-L or I-I or roman numeral 2? Kiri was looking it up to see if it was something famous as we ran (past a very large cube) to the info desk to ask if she knew what an Il Cubo was. She looked at us like we were morons and then looked past us to the big cube. Ah. At the same time Kiri was saying, "I really think it's just a cube." Ah. The cube is so big, you can't even see it all in this picture. I don't know how we missed it. Seriously, we walked RIGHT PAST IT!

The next clue we went to was #6, a picture of the letters "IX AR". We had to find the full sign and take our picture with it. I recognized it immediately as the Phoenix Art Museum. Some teams spent time looking for a sign that said Phoenix Arizona. The museum is just north of the library so we continued that direction.We took the picture and then we headed off to clue #2, which in my mind and on my map was just north of us. And this is where we realized that clue #2 was not, in fact, near where we currently were, but near where we were 3 clues ago. 1/3 of a mile backtrack isn't really that big of a deal, but on this day it was particularly upsetting because Christy was really sick and really not feeling much like running. She had been sick for a few days and probably should have been home in bed. But instead I'm running her in circles all around town. And making her backtrack. All while wearing a donkey costume. Ugh.

So we finally find the warehouse/art gallery whose name I never did find out (we only had the address) to do a challenge. They gave us a bag of Scrabble letters and we had to play and intersect 3 of the words given on the clue sheet. We could not find the X at all - I think it was taken out of the bag - but we used a blank instead to play Mosaic, Oxides and Texture. I like Scrabble. That one was fun!

We then headed down Roosevelt to go to the Puppet Theater at 302 W. Latham. The clue was the usual type of clue with hints about the puppet theater, but then it told us the exact address to go to. Why bother with all the hints if you're going to give away the address? On the way there we passed Lola Coffee. Kiri had said this was the answer to clue #3, but she had told us it was the one way up north near Camelback. I had planned to use it as our skip since it was the only one far away from the other clues. On a whim, as we passed this Lola I went in and asked if there was a challenge here. The barista pointed me to the back patio. You know, if I actually read the clues instead of giving Kiri just the highlights, I would have seen that the clue specified it was on 3rd Avenue and that the challenge was on the back patio. :) And if I was using my brain at all, I would have questioned the Camelback answer because no race puts one checkpoint 2 miles away from all the others and I know there is a Lola in the area of the other clues. I'm dumb. At Lola we had to smell 3 teas and identify their flavors. Christy did this despite being sick and she got them all right on the first try! Yay for whims and yay for good noses. Now we had a skip still available to us!

Back on track to the Puppet Theater for #6. There we had to make a puppet using a paper bag and at least 3 of the 4 provided materials - markers, colored balls, pipe cleaners and tissue paper. That was super fun. We drew eyes with the markers and made antennae with the pipe cleaners. At first I used a big ol' colored ball for our puppet's nose, then realized that it would probably fall off and I wouldn't be able to carry it on my clipboard because it wasn't flat. We replaced the nose with tissue paper. Much better! Sorry I don't have a picture of our lovely creation to share with you. It was truly artistic.

Next stop, Easley's for clue #10. I knew the gist of this clue from a blog I read about the Austin race. We'd have to get a fake mustache and then take a picture with someone with a real mustache. Since I knew where we were going and what we were doing Christy didn't read the first part of the clue describing famous mustaches so she was kind of confused when I kept saying we needed to find a person with a mustache. She only read the part that said "Take a picture of one teammate and the stranger showing their style" and didn't get it. We took a picture of the mustachioed store clerk, but decided that maybe he would count as a race participant so we found this guy later on:Next up, clue #4. Christy had solved the math problem for #4 to get the address we needed. Kiri solved it too, but got a different number close to the one that Christy got. Both addresses took us to pretty much the same location so we headed a few blocks west on McDowell. Turns out Christy's answer was correct because outside that building was a crowd of racers staring at the wall. On the wall were two huge posters of the same picture with 3 differences. We had to find the differences and write them on our clue sheet. Christy and I each found one right away but then had to stare at it for quite a while before I found the 3rd one.

Now was the time to see if I made the right gamble with getting off the light rail at Roosevelt. We needed to go a mile north. Running would take us about 12-14 minutes and the light rail would take about 2 minutes. Shortly after we arrived at the platform the magic announcer voice announced that the next train would come in 5 minutes. YAY, we didn't have to run! And while we were there we found the mustache guy from the picture above, plus two things we needed for the tick-tack-toe clue for #9. Us jumping in front of a palm tree:...and a stranger with at least 2 visible tattoos. This guy was a bit taken aback at being addressed by a crazy manic dragon and her less crazy donkey friend asking if he has more than the tattoo on his arm. However, we have found that wearing costumes makes people very willing to help you no matter how crazy manic you are acting. This guy was even willing to take his shirt off completely so we could see all his ink:Those five minutes were used very productively! Next stop, Thomas, for the code-talkers statue. I had guessed right with my first glance at clue #1. Kiri verified it was the statue I was thinking of. These races have taught me A LOT about my city! She solved the code to also verify that we were supposed to jump in front of the statue. These races have also taught us that if you lift your feet up when you jump, the person taking your picture is more likely to catch you in mid-air. Both our jumping pics were done in one try. The team we took pictures of at the statue had to jump about a million times before we got them in the air because they were just barely hopping.

We were already done with 10 clues and only had 2 more to go. We decided to skip the yoga studio at clue #5 because the challenge of "completing a short lesson" could take a long time. Clue #3 was dropping off supplies at Ronald McDonald House. I knew exactly where we were going because I drove by to find the RMH on my way to the race. Since they were the local charity of GUR, I guessed this might be a clue location. Sometimes I am smart! We invoked the GUR rule of allowing ground support to gather scavenger items for us and had Jace bring us the supplies and meet us at the checkpoint. We went right by a Walgreens during our travels and could have bought the stuff ourselves but this saved us 2-3 minutes and you never know when 2-3 minutes might be all you need. To those of you who think this is cheating, I'd like to say that it's not. The rules specifically say you are allowed to do this:
Ground Support can drop off a "scavenger item" to teams along the course.
Scavenger Item (noun): An item found along the GUR race course that is not part of an exact clue location, but can be picked up at multiple locations around the city. (i.e. "Return to the finish line with a takeout menu that has egg rolls listed as an item" or "Return to the finish line with a post card with a boat on it")
Yes, I think it would be more fun to not allow this type of ground support and make the teams do all that work themselves, but since it is in the rules, we use it for the time advantage.

While on our way to the Ronald McDonald house we debated the merits of taking the light rail or the bus back. The light rail might be a 15 minute wait and would be 6 blocks away but it's really fast and would drop us off right at the bar. We would be able to catch the bus almost immediately, if it was on time, and it was only 1 block away but it is slower and doesn't go directly to our location. Also, if we missed it, the next one wasn't for 30 minutes. What we knew for sure was that if we had to run the 2.5 miles back to the finish line, it would take us about 30 minutes. Christy was feeling really bad by this time and was all run-out. We had Kiri call Valley Metro to see if our specific bus was on time. Miracles happened twice....Kiri got to talk to an actual real live person at Valley Metro and they confirmed our bus was on schedule. So we crossed our fingers and went to 7th Street. No bus was in sight. We started walking, just in case we had missed it, but within a minute or two we saw it coming! Yay! Double YAY!

On the bus, we got lots of weird looks. Some guy was asking another guy about where the movie theater was. Since I had a map in my hand, I went and showed him where it was. He naturally asked what we were doing. I explained the race and that our team name was Draggin' Ass and I was a dragon and my friend was the ass. The whole bus was laughing out loud. :)

We passed Sutra Midtown Yoga which Kiri had told us was the answer to #5. The clue was somewhat ambiguous because it said that it was in the heart of the Phoenix Art District, which it definitely was not (though a review on Yelp says that it is and when you google "gem located in the heart of phoenix art district + yoga", that review of Sutra comes up). There is a yoga studio that truly is in the heart of the Art District called Just Breathe. I guess so many teams went to Just Breathe that they ended up taking them all in, making up a yoga challenge for them and giving them a flyer as proof of completion. Hilarious! Good for Just Breathe for welcoming lots of potential new clients.

We had to get off the bus a few blocks before I wanted to because it detours to the main bus station before continuing back to 7th Street. We had to run about 5 blocks back to the finish line. Buoyed by the bus driver and our new friends on the bus yelling "good luck", we took off running. I ran as fast as I thought Christy could go and to her sickly credit, she kept up with my pace. We were both complaining about having to run though! We ran up to the bar and through the finish arch. As the staff wrote down our time and told us "good job", I tried to see if there were any other teams in the bar. The bar was dark and it was bright outside so it was really hard to see. We went inside to do photo-check and I was still trying to adjust my eyes to see the other teams. Finally I asked the photo-check people what place we were. The answer...FIRST PLACE! YAYAYAYAYY!!!!$300 and, more importantly, free entry to Nationals! Woo hoo!

Now if we could get the sweep and win the costume contest! When they called for the costumed teams, I tried to hang back so we wouldn't have to be first. First is the worst. But people were lazy and I'm too excitable for my own good so we ended up being first in line. The bar served as the stage. We were given the mic and had to explain our costumes and tell the crowd why they should vote for us. All I said was "Our team name is Draggin' Ass. I am the dragon and she is the ass." The entire crowd laughed out loud loudly. I loved that! Everyone got it and everyone thought we were funny! Yay, us! There were some really good costumes that followed us, at least 3 of which I said I would not be sad to lose to. In the end, it came down to one of those teams and us. They were dressed as old people. The guy claimed they should win because during the race they were mistaken for legitimately old people while on the lightrail. I have to admit that I saw them twice during the race and I didn't realize they were racers - I thought they were actual old people. The guy also said that he had shaved his head for the race and he'd have some explaining to do at work on Monday. This made everyone laugh again. The funny shaving of the head beat our funny pun and the "old people" earned a much-deserved costume contest win. I was happy enough that we made the crowd laugh and came in second.

It was a great day! Draggin' Ass won a Great Urban Race! Nationals are in New Orleans in November (oooh, alliteration, my favorite). We can't wait!

Total distance - 8.1 miles. 4.3 miles running, 2 miles on light rail, 1.8 miles on the bus. It was definitely to our advantage that this was a shorter race and involved a limited amount of running due to our fortuitous luck with public transit. Our last two races were 6 and 7 miles of running. 4 is much more in our range! It was also to our advantage that Brent and his ringer, Lance of "We Just Want to Beat Jill" didn't do this race and that Paul Kent only does the Scavenger Dash. If all of you true runners in Phoenix want to stay out of clue solving races, that is perfectly fine with me! :)


Anonymous said...

Kiri is the bomb.
She has your internet searches killed.
Will she be going with you to Nationals?

Anonymous said...

Loved your description of this race! Might need to try it! Good luck at Nationals.