Monday, May 16, 2011

Phoenix Oyster Race: Take 2

According to Blogger:
Update (5/15 10:55PM PST): Blogger should be back to normal for the vast majority of people affected by this issue -- if posts are still missing, please check your drafts (you may need to republish).

Yeah, right. My long-ass post is still missing. I've checked my drafts and half of it is there in draft format....the half I wrote way back in April. The half I wrote and published last week...still gone. Grrr.

Thankfully, I have followers! They noticed that my post stayed in their Google Reader, even after Blogger deleted it. They were able to cut and paste it to me. So here it is...

Phoenix Oyster Race
Alternate Post Title: I Cut Myself with a Bowling Ball
Alternate, Alternate Post Title: "Are we even TRYING to run?!?!"

First of all, do you know that I am the face of the Oyster Racing Series? Yes, indeed-y! Check out their facebook page and you'll see me, Christy and Kiri as their profile picture. Yes, we are that cool!

The Oyster Race came to Phoenix on April 9th. We did the Oyster in Denver two years ago. We had fun but did terribly. We were very excited to try to crack the Oyster again, this time on home turf. We asked Kiri to be our third teammate again and without even pausing to think, she went shrieking away in terror, screaming "Leave me aloooooone!" Hmmm, were we really that bad? (Answer: Yes.) In her place I asked Kristen, another book club friend. She is competitive and outdoorsy and at about our fitness level. I thought she'd be a nice fit.

On the way to the race, we got an idea that maybe Kristen wouldn't be such a good fit after all. That stuff about her being at our fitness level? Ha! Since we asked her to join our team, she has become addicted to running. She's completed a full marathon and though she is not training for anything in particular, she is running 17 miles every Saturday. Uh oh! On top of that, I was still recovering from that crazy migraine. As a matter of fact, in the four weeks prior, my total exercise/training consisted of one 45 minute bike ride and one 3 mile hike done, respectively, on the Thursday and Friday before the race. Contemplate that for a second...that is about 2 hours total exercise in 4 weeks! I have never been this out of shape. Yikes!

The Oyster people talked to me about a year ago about locations I thought would be good if they brought a race to Arizona. I directed them to Scottsdale so they could use the greenbelt and if they were in south Scottsdale, they could incorporate Tempe via bike as well. Luckily for me, they did not take my suggestion of going to an area I'm not too familiar with and they chose downtown Phoenix instead, the area where I am most familiar. Woo hoo!

The weekend before the Oyster hit 100 degrees in Phoenix. The Saturday of the Oyster, the forecast was for rain and a high of 53 degrees. 53!! Brrrrr!!

As promised, when I woke up on Saturday, it was raining steadily. We arrived at Heritage Square at 6:45 am (6:45 am!! Wtf?) to set up our transition area. It was sooo cold and soooo wet. This is how we dealt with the wet:
I had my shade tent for agility trials in my car. I didn't know if it would be worth the hassle of putting it up, but it definitely was! You'll notice our transition area is pretty tiny. The people with the tent to the right of us moved the fencing over so they could have twice the size and left a TA that was 1/2 the size. Pretty selfish, I'd say. We chose this spot anyway because it was the closest TA to the check-in. The girls to the left of us had no shelter so they were okay with us putting half the tent into their TA. They were friends from Wisconsin who flew in from Madison, Miami and Minneapolis to do the race together. They were none too pleased with the inhospitable weather we were offering them!

This is how we dealt with the cold:
Actually, that wasn't enough to deal with the cold. I added another jacket right after this picture was taken. Kristen and Christy added gloves.

When it was time to start the race, the Oyster staff gathered all of the wet, cold teams together and explained that they were taking one of the team members away. I guess this explains why this bus was parked on the street in front:

We debated who to send. I am the best at navigating, but if the teammate had to run further than the other two teammates, I would be the worst one to send. In the end, we decided it would be Kristen. They put a bag over her head and drove her away.
When they got to their mystery destination, she was given the first clue. It had pictures of two downtown area statues on it. Oops - it should have been me that went. I know all the downtown statues. She started running towards us and we ran to her. She had called a few people for them to start researching the statue locations, but when we met in the middle, I knew immediately where the two statues were. One was at the Herberger:and the other was at the ballpark. The picture of that one was really bad, so I'm not putting it on my blog!

We ran back to the TA to have them check our first clue and get our second clue. Kristen grabbed the clue and read something about Lions, Tigers and Bears and we have to go to the zoo by bike. This flumoxed me. The Zoo?? That's like 100 miles away and I don't even know the best route to the zoo. And the zoo isn't downtown so it isn't on my map. Kristen was getting all antsy to leave and I wasn't ready to go because I didn't even have a route thought out. I made Christy look up the zoo on her phone. I asked Kristen to call her husband to see if there is a canal or bike path that goes there. I was still kind of freaking out. Then, finally, I realized that we could take the light rail there! I am a genius!!

We rode to the light rail station. On the way there we passed lots of teams on their way back from clue #1. Yay, us! Once we were safely on the train, I took the clue from Kristen to read what we had to do at the zoo. Guess what the clue said?! After it said the part about lions, tigers and bears and going to the zoo on bike, it very kindly added that if you are going to ride there, you should take Washington and take Jefferson back, but perhaps you might want to take the light rail!! WTF?!? I spent 5 minutes at the transition deciding how to get to the zoo and the clue had the directions?!? This is when Kristen learned the most important rule of adventure/clue-solving races...ALWAYS read the whole clue! And from this point on, I read the clues first. :)

It was a short ride from the light rail stop to the zoo, though all uphill and in the rain, so not an easy ride. It was made harder by the fact that Christy's bike was too big (she doesn't have a bike so she was using Pat's) and I was afraid to change my gears because the chain was sounding weird on my bike and if it fell off, I wouldn't know how to fix it.

At the zoo we were given a clue sheet with 5 animals we had to find and 5 numbers we had to find on each of those animals' description boards. Then we had to put those 5 numbers into a math problem, solve it and give the final answer to the Oyster staff. Fun! Did you know you can ride your bike in the zoo? Me, neither, but Kristen did so we took our bikes in. We stopped at the info desk and had them circle where all the animals were that we needed to visit. Kristen led the way. We found four of our animals easily but one of the tortoises was not in the tortoise area. Huh? We looked again, but the tortoise we were looking for definitely had no info board. Another girl was there too and she was alone. Alone!? Cheater! The rules say you can't split up. We let her know she was breaking the rules (she wasn't trying to cheat, she really didn't know) and we discussed whether we should tell the Oyster staff. We decided that if we beat them, we'd not tattle. :)

We finally found the last tortoise (the correct location had been circled on our map all along) and while Christy did her math-genius thing, Kristen and I took pictures:
And that was the last of the pictures we took. The camera was in my jacket pocket, but with the plastic poncho my jacket pocket was really hard to get to. I thought about taking pictures a few times, but the hassle was greater than the desire.

We rode back to the light rail, downhill this time, but still in the rain, and fretted about whether the cheater-girls team was going to make our train. They had exited the zoo right as we turned in our answer. They didn't realize they had to do a math problem before leaving. We were nice and told them before the rode away. It turns out they had one of the numbers wrong so they had to go back into the zoo and get the right number, so karma got them for not playing by the rules.

The next clue was to go to Civic Space Park by foot and do a slip-n-slide. The "hill" at Civic Space park is not steep enough for a slip-n-slide. You had to get a big running start and you still didn't make it to the bottom. And now we were even wetter than before! We got a secondary clue from the staff there. Next we needed to run to the Public Market and buy 5 items that start with the letters in the word CHIPOTLE. We accidentally bought 2 P's (parsley and peppermint) but finally got it all figured out and ran back to TA. And when I say run, I mean run/walk.

By about this time I was dying. DYING. Have I mentioned that I was just off a 4 week illness? Don't bother telling that to Kristen though. She doesn't accept excuses. Ergh.

The next stop was to ride to the Duce, a bar/restaurant/clothing store/boxing gym (seriously) south of downtown. To find the destination, we had to find an ad in the New Times. However, if you turned in 6 Chipotle receipts at registration they gave you one race clue. You got another clue if you raised $500 for the sponsor charity, which we did. One of the clues we received told us that stop #4 was the Duce so we didn't have to search through the newspaper, thus saving us lots of time. We hopped on our bikes and were off. It's really fun to alternate between running and biking - yet another reason why the Oyster race is so cool.

At the Duce, two teammates had to sit in their bleachers and watch movie clips on the big screen and name 10 of 15 movies. The 3rd teammate had to take a boxing lesson with the boxing coach. I don't see many movies so I offered to do the boxing. Even though I was sucking at the running/biking, my arms were still fresh so I thought I could do okay. And I did okay. Not stellar but okay. The workout was hard! My arms were dying by the end. Christy and Kristen got through the movies very fast. They both knew some on their own and Christy had NFBF on the phone. She'd give him a tiny bit of info "Will Ferrell in a car", "football team listening to a song", and he'd know the movie. The man is amazing.

We rode back to the TA in good spirits. Our next clue directed us to 2 addresses. The first was Gold's Gym. We started running....for about a second and then I started walking. Christy walked with me. Kristen kept running. In case I haven't mentioned it, she's a wee bit competitive. And she doesn't accept excuses, remember. Even when the excuses happen to be factual. She turns around and shouts "Are we even TRYING to run?!!" Christy and I laughed and felt bad for Kiri. This is how she must have felt with us in the Denver race.

At Gold's Gym we had to listen to songs and name the artist for 10 of 15 of them while one team member rode a stationary bike. Obviously we put Kristen on the bike while we rested. Kristen also rocked the artist naming. She really was a good choice of teammate!

Then we went across the plaza to Lucky Strike. We had to bowl a strike or a spare, taking turns throwing the ball until we got it. They didn't give us bowling shoes, so we had to bowl in our socks. I went first, cuz, well, I'm a bowler. House balls are always too big for my tiny fingers so I have to grip really hard, but I did my best with what I was given. As I reached the end of my approach and slid, I REALLY slid. My sock-feet slipped out from under me and I fell...while still gripping the ball really hard and thus slamming the full momentum of the ball into my ankle as I fell down. OUCH. Ouch. Owwwie! And I got a gutter. Christy and Kristen went without getting a strike or a spare. On my next turn I skipped the slide part of my approach and got an 8. Christy picked up the spare and we were out of there super-fast. And in addition to being unable to run cuz I was out of shape, now I was limping too. :( After the race I realized that my ankle was bleeding. Bleeding! That means that I cut myself with a bowling ball!! My lack of coordination and athletic ability really know no bounds.

The last clue was to go to "The Best Sports Bar in Phoenix". To find out which bar, you had to fill in the blanks of "_O_ _H & _ _L_ _ E _" with bolded letters found throughout the clues. I knew that it was Coach & Willies at first glance so we didn't have to go through all that work. When we got there, we had to play a version of beer pong. Standing behind a line, you had to bounce the ping pong ball into a glass of beer. Kristen got it on her first try, even before the guy was fully done explaining what we were supposed to do. I'm telling you, she was a good choice for a teammate!

We didn't know where we were in comparison to most of the teams. There were Half-Oyster teams and Oyster Shooter racers running around and going in/out of the TA so it was hard to judge. Halfway through the race, the Nads from Denver rode past us on a bike leg when we were just starting a running leg, so we knew they were way ahead of us. But other than that, we had no idea.

We came into the TA to check in and found out that we were the first female team back and the SECOND team overall! The Nads won by about 30 minutes, but that was to be expected. They are crazy-fast racers. We were THRILLED with second!!

Pat and Wayne came to join us for the after-party. Free Chipotle burritos and Deschutes beer. I don't like burritos or beer, so I finished off the Double-stuff Oreos. Mmmm...sugar!
The official first place female division team, Storming the Castle! We won $110 gift certificates for a pair of Merrell shoes (I got the new Barefoots and I love them!), free entry to next year's race and really cool gold-plated Oyster cowbells. Yay, us!!

We really did have matching outfits on underneath our winter gear. We braved the cold temps for about 30 seconds to take this picture:The Oyster Race is super-fun. You should immediately sign up for one in your area. And for all you Phoenix folks, there is always next year!!

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