Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two Crappy Races and A Flight to Australia

Part I - CitySolve Urban Race
CitySolve released their yearly schedule at the beginning of the year with Phoenix scheduled for March 10. In February, many weeks after CitySolve's schedule was announced, Challenge Nation released their schedule and they also had Phoenix listed for March 10. Why would they do that? What assholes.

I noticed that CitySolve started at 12:00 and Challenge Nation started at 1:00, with start locations just a few blocks apart. Christy and I were already registered to do CitySolve but I thought it might be a fun challenge to try to do two races simultaneously! We've never tried that before. Has anyone? So, we signed up for both!

Our focus was going to be on CitySolve since we were trying to redeem our second place loss last year and reclaim our first place spot from 2 years ago. If we happened to be in the area at the start time of Challenge Nation, we'd pick up that clue sheet and work it too. If nothing else, we'd get to do two costume contests with our awesome new costumes! The kicker to all this is that we'd have to be done with both races by 4:00 because we had to be at the airport for a 5:30 flight to LAX, en route to Australia! Two races and a flight to Australia all in a 5.5 hour time period. :)

I don't want to hear that we are crazy. I already know this. You're thinking that we're crazy just on the premise of this post. Wait until you read the end of this story where I'm standing on a bench screaming in anger trying to incite a riot. (Not an exaggeration.) Then we can talk about crazy!

All packed for Australia, we headed downtown and checked in for CitySolve. The costume contest was first. We had fierce competition from the Wizard of Oz gang (the Dorothy even had on red sequined shoes that she was going to wear for the race! Love it!) but in the end our funny pun won! Woo hoo! Not even noon and we were one for one!

Assault and Battery - Costume Contest Winners:
(We are standing on the wrong side of each other. Oops.
Battery and Assault doesn't make as much sense.)

CitySolve starts their races with a trivia question. They hold up a huge sign with the question and answers that direct you to various street corners in the area. The correct answer gets you to the corner where the clues are handed out. Our question was something like "Which state shares the longest border with Arizona?"   I read the question quickly, decided the answer was C, 1st Street and Jefferson. We took off running and a few of our friends were headed the same way, which was encouraging. When we arrived at the street corner, ahead of most of the teams, there was no clue-hander-outer there. We crossed the street to see if she was hiding in the doorway of a restaurant. Nope, no clue-hander-outer. A group of us conferred and we all felt the answer we chose was correct, but no one took a picture of the question so perhaps we read it wrong? It appeared we were all wrong, so we'd better try something else. We headed to one of the other corners listed . No one there. We went to all four corners listed on the trivia sign and no clue-hander-outers at any of the corners. WTF?!  After more than 15 minutes running all over downtown, we headed back to our original street corner...and there was the clue-hander-outer! She had been told to go to the wrong street corner! UGH!

They fixed the mistake and got her in the right place in time for the later arriving teams to get their clues, but us faster teams were already gone by the time she got there. This meant that many teams had at least a 10 minute head start on us. Teams were already done solving their clues by the time we got ours. We started solving the clues, but realized when you win races by minutes or even seconds (we lost Scavenger Dash this year by 13 SECONDS, remember!), ten minutes is a huge disadvantage. We also realized that there was no way to make the outcome fair, as they weren't able to track what time each team actually received their clues.  In frustration, we decided to write off CitySolve this year and just do ChallengeNation and maybe we could still cash in on a prize.

Knowing what it takes to produce these races, we felt terrible for Mitch and the CitySolve crew. One tiny error makes for a big issue. I don't know how they ended up scoring the race but I hope people weren't too angry.

After our initial excitement of winning the Costume Contest, we were now just feeling frustrated. And that ends Crappy Race #1. Stayed tuned for Crappy Race #2.

Two Crappy Races and A Flight to Australia (continued)

Part II - Challenge Nation Phoenix

The street corner where we got our CitySolve clues was, in a bad judgement call on CS's part, also the corner of the restaurant that was the start location for Challenge Nation. A bit confusing because many CN racers saw people with clues and thought they were late or that they missed something. We helped sort out some of the confusion and went upstairs to the plaza where the CN race was to start.

The Challenge Nation staff asked one person from each team to stand in a big circle with one hand out. There were a zillion teams so the circle was larger than the area that the sound of their megaphone could reach, causing some teams to miss the announcements. Something to work on, but overall the process worked. Everyone had to remain in the circle until all teams had clues. 1, 2, 3, go! After our first clue fiasco, this seemed like a really fair way to do it.

The clues:

Many of the clues we already knew from previous races and just general knowledge. A lot of them were scavenger type, find-a-stranger clues. John from the Avenging Narwhals in Seattle and Kiri were our clue solvers. A few of the clues were tricky, including #6, which we never solved. That was a shame because we really wanted to skip #12. It didn't even open until 2:30 and we hoped to be finished with the race by that time!

The clue instructions were fun. You really had to read the clues. For example, you had to find a stranger from a specific state, have them show their drivers license in a photo with you while all of you formed the shape of their state with your arms. Can you tell this is Washington? :)
Challenge Nation sucks

The specifics of this clue were that you had to take a picture when the minute hand was at a 5 minute increment and you had to mimic the arms of the clock. I guess I think that clock arms should be bent. 
challenge nations sucks
We didn't run our best race. We backtracked quite a few times, and twice went within a half block of #12, Wells Fargo, the clue that didn't open until 2:30. We never did solve #6 so we had to use that as our skip. We were annoyed that we'd have to backtrack yet again to go back to Wells Fargo after 2:30. Despite all that, we were enjoying this race. We liked the clue format which almost made up for the fact that there were no actual challenges. (You would think that a race named "Challenge Nation" would include some challenges and not just photos.)

We weren't in full-on race mode because we had time to kill before we could complete #12 at 2:30. We somewhat leisurely finished the rest of the clues. We got to Wells Fargo at 2:27 and, with a HUGE group of other teams, waited until 2:30 to take our picture. The staff there said that people had been coming in there for the past hour taking pictures and they were letting them. Seriously? What a bunch of morons who couldn't read the rules. The clue specifically stated, IN BOLD, "this clue can only be completed after 2:30." To make sure we didn't get a penalty like all those early teams were going to get, we made sure the time on our phone was visible in the picture. See? 2:30!
We hauled ass back to the finish line. I ran so fast I almost puked. We were the first team there from the 2:30 Wells Fargo group! The only teams that could have beat us were those who had figured out #6. We were optimistic for a high placement! We checked in and were told we were the 17th team to arrive. 17th?!? No way!

As we were getting our photos checked, I asked the photo checker about the penalty for those people who came in before us and used Wells Fargo as one of their 11 completed clues. He had no idea what I was talking about. They hadn't been giving penalties to those teams. I started to get a little angry. The clue specifically stated AFTER 2:30. The volunteer wisely took us over to the race director. This is where things quickly went downhill.

We presented the problem to the race director. Race Director: "Oh, that was supposed to say 1:30. I copied/pasted from a previous clue set and must not have changed it."  Nope, that excuse isn't good enough! The clue sheets say 2:30 so teams should be penalized for not following the actual written rules, instead of abiding by your intended rules. Race Director: "Well, there isn't anything I can do about it now."  Yes, yes there is. You can re-check the photos of the 16 teams who arrived before us and assess the accurate penalty. Race Director: "No, I can't do that. There is nothing I can do."

At this point, I'm starting to get a lot angry. He keeps trying to brush us off. The finish line area is starting to get really crowded with other teams arriving from Wells Fargo. I keep pushing my point, because I'M RIGHT and he is WRONG. (See? Getting angry.)

Race Director: "Well, I can assure you of one thing. I PERSONALLY checked in the top 5 money-winning teams and they all did #6 and skipped Wells Fargo."

Oh, okay. I can accept that. I'm starting to calm down. That is fair. We didn't win the money. They were smarter than us. Okay.  We proceeded to photo check and accrued no penalties so we stayed in 17th place. The top 25 teams qualify for nationals so they asked us for our email address and phone numbers.

I was still a little worked up from our altercation and decided to do a little research. We went into the bar and started asking around for the teams that came in the Top 5. As we found them, I asked each of them if they skipped Wells Fargo or if they skipped a different clue. We found 3 of the top 5 AND ALL OF THEM SAID THEY WENT TO WELLS FARGO!

Okay. MAD AGAIN! The race director LIED RIGHT TO OUR FACES! He said all top 5 teams skipped Wells Fargo. LIAR!!!

We found the lying race director in the entry way of the restaurant. I confronted him with the information I had found and told him that lying is not the correct way to get out of a mistake. The correct way to get out of the mistake would be to fix it. He really, really hated me at this point. Race Director: "There is nothing I can do for you."  Yes there is! You have the phone number of every team in the Top 25. Most of them are still here. Call them and ask them to come back to photo check. If they arrived before 2:30 and didn't skip Wells Fargo, they get a penalty. Easy solution. Prizes haven't been awarded yet. No harm done. Race Director: "There is nothing I can do for you." No, there is plenty you CAN do, but there is nothing you WILL do for us.

This went on for a little bit longer until Christy and I couldn't handle it anymore and he was on the verge of physically escorting us from the building.

As we were passing by the photo check area, which had a long line of teams just arriving, I got up on a bench. I started screaming. "For all of you who just got here from Wells Fargo! They are accepting Wells Fargo pictures from before 2:30! They refuse to fix this!"  Probably not one of my finer moments, but at least I didn't lie to a paying customer! A paying customer with a really loud voice! The people who heard me started to get pissed off too. I don't know what happened after that because we left.

We left. To Australia!  In the airport:
Every time we had access to wi-fi in Australia, I was on Challenge Nation's facebook page either telling the race director that lying is bad business (in my angrier moments) or offering solutions on how they could make it right (in my friendlier moments). Every post was deleted and I was finally removed from their page. I saw a few other posts along the same lines before they were deleted too.

The ironic end to this story is that CN emailed everyone a week later with this:

There were some irregularities with the finish results in our Phoenix race this year, which we have worked throughout this week to address in a fair manner.  In 50 races that we have conducted, we've never had to do this much follow-up, so please accept our apologies for the delay in resolution. However, getting the finish places and times correct is very important to us.

The fundamental issue is that despite the clue clearly indicating that the Wells Fargo History Museum clue was not to be conducted prior to 2:30 p.m., it is apparent that some teams broke that requirement and took that photo prior to 2:30 p.m.  Subsequently, these teams were able to record a finish time that was incorrect, because of our error in fully verifying the photo time for that clue and disqualifying those teams at that point. 

They went on to ask everyone to resubmit their pictures so they could verify the actual winning teams. Oh my god. If he had just listened to me that day, none of this would have been an issue. He literally had the top 16 teams' phone numbers in front of him. Those teams all had finished within the past half hour. All he had to do was ask them to come back to photo check. A ten minute fix. Instead, he thought lying to me would be a better option.

After all was said and done, we finished 6th. Which very conveniently puts the trouble-causing team one place out of the money prizes. Who's with me on screaming conspiracy on this one?  :)

I have half a mind to enter the Nationals just to scream at him some more.  But I won't because I won't be giving him another dime.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to Turn $80 into $450

Step One:
Start out with the above items. From the back: Cat, foam board, sombrero, bubble wrap, ugly shirt from Ross in size 20, shower poufs, sparkly wire decor stuff, blue tie-dye tights from the kids' department at Target, lots of ribbon, 3 battery powered tap lights from Home Depot, 6 sets of LED battery operated light strands bought from Amazon and express-shipped, a blue running shirt and a hot glue gun. Nothing can be done without a hot glue gun! Then, go to Walmart for more bubble wrap, more shower poufs and a boat-load of AA batteries. $80 later, you are set with the necessary supplies.  Ok, the cat isn't really a necessary supply but nothing gets created in this household without his "assistance".

Step Two:
Cut a circular base from the foam board. Cut a hole in the foam board base for your head. Hot glue the sombrero to the foam board, ideally centered over the hole. When you realize that the sombrero is, in fact, not centered over the hole, cut away more foam board so that your head will fit into the sombrero. Hot glue huge amounts of bubble wrap around the base and over the sombrero. Hot glue the tap lights onto the bubble wrap. Align the 6 battery packs for the LED string lights around the base of the foam board and hot glue them in place. Wrap part of the LED strings around the base to further light up the inside and tape them in place. Cut the sleeves off the ugly shirt and then hot glue it over the top of the bubble wrap, tap lights and LED strings. Cut little holes in the fabric to pull the LED strings through. Turn the monstrosity over. Cut the middle wires from the shower poufs and hot glue them to the bottom of the base to make some pretty realistic tentacles. Add some ribbon. After 4 pretty serious burns to your fingers and glue EVERYWHERE, you'll have something that looks like this:

Step Three:
Decide it's not obnoxious enough and add more ribbon and more sparkly wire decor things. Put on the tie-dyed tights and the blue shirt. Realize you are going to be really cold because it's 50 degrees out and getting colder. Add a blue sweatshirt. Put the 5 pound monstrosity on your head. Keep your head tilted slightly to make up for the off-center hole in the base.

Ta Da! You are a jellyfish!

Step Four:
Show up at the 2012 Firefly Run with your awesome and supportive friends. Tap the three lights on the top and flip the 6 switches on the base for the LED strings so that you glow. It would be good if you remember to keep your head tilted so your costume doesn't tilt.
Wander around the area so that everyone can see you. At this point you will also get the opportunity to pose for about a thousand pictures with strangers because they all think your costume is so awesome!

Time Out: Put the jellyfish costume in the car, run the 5K, put the jellyfish costume back on.

Step Five:
Walk around the finish line/party area some more. Take more photos. Then supply your awesome and supportive friends with cowbells.

Step Six:
Enter the Costume Contest. Make your friends cheer loudly and shake the cowbells rowdily during the audience voting portion. (Side note - the rules on the Firefly Run website specifically state that you do NOT have to run in your costume. Otherwise, I would have sucked it up and tilted my head while precariously balancing that jellyfish for the full 3.1.)

Step Seven:
After a tense moment when it comes down to you and the guy with the awesome, but a little too realistic Ghostbusters costume, win the costume contest! Claim the prize - a new generation iPad! Woo hoo!
Step Eight:
Play with the iPad all day on Sunday and then realize that it really isn't what you want, because you'd really rather have a laptop with a keyboard. Decide to sell it. Box it back up. Advertise the iPad on your work classifieds for $450, $49 plus tax less that what they are selling for at Target and Best Buy. Collect your cash.

VOILA!!! That is how you do it! $80 is now $450!!

And for reading this far, I'll give you a bonus story of a very sore loser. This lady was dressed as a fish bowl. I went up to her before the race and made a joke about how we belong together. She just looked at me. I explained that I was just joking because I was a fish and she was a fish bowl...get it? She turned and walked away. Okay...  After the costume contest (in which she didn't even make the audience-selected Top 4), she came up to me. I thought she was going to congratulate me, cuz, you know, I'm really awesome and all! Brian had us pose for this picture before she started the conversation. Note the forced half-ass smile.
2012 Firefly Run

She said, "Can I ask you how you came up with your costume idea?"  I answered, "I thought of things that glow or light up and I thought a jellyfish would be cute. Then I looked online for jellyfish costumes, thinking I was really clever. Turns out there are a bunch of jellyfish costume pictures online! Who knew?! One site even had directions." Smile. She didn't return the smile. She said in a quite accusatory tone, "It's just that last year's winner was a jellyfish." Me, confused: "There was a Firefly Run last year?" Sore Loser: "It was in a different city." This was said over her shoulder as she was walking away.  Wow. She must really have wanted the iPad.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Princess and the Pea

Frankie looks a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps there is a little tiny pea under those 5 beds that is bothering him. What a princess.