Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mid-Season Race Recap

We are more than halfway through the clue-solving race season here in Phoenix so while the rest of the US waits for their seasons to start, I figured I'd give a recap of how things are going so far. The first five races of the season included: Scavenger Dash, Glow Rush, Great Urban Race, CitySolve Urban Race and the Urban Bike Adventure. Challenge Nation happened too, but I obviously didn't participate in that one! CityScape Adventures and Urban Dare are coming up in the next two weeks.

Scavenger Dash - January 26
How we did: FIRST PLACE in the race, tied for First Place in the costume contest. Someday we will get a dual first place without a tie!
What we wore: Bubblegum Machine costumes. The weather forecast was iffy for that day. We didn't plan on a costume since we didn't know what kind of weather to plan for. When we woke up that day, it was pouring rain and it looked like it would be pouring rain all day. We quickly brainstormed what kind of costume we could make with rain ponchos. Christy went to Target for red hats and red tights (we bought Jeggings! I never thought I'd own a pair!) and I went to Dollar Store and Party City for rain ponchos and balloons. We finished making our costumes with about 2 minutes to spare. They weren't the greatest Gumball Machine costumes in the world, but they were decent enough to earn some cheers and we were as dry as we could be during the race!
Race Recap: Like I mentioned, it was raining and it never stopped raining. Ever. The race took us 3 hours! 3 hours in non-stop pouring rain! Our maps were sogged into one unreadable wad of paper. Our phones were crashing. My feet were soaked since my ankle was not fully healed and I wasn't able to jump puddles, I just had to slog through them. But we still had a really great time!
Clues: Pretty good - a fun mix of puzzles and google look-ups. Bonus points for incorporating a clue about dog breeds! It's very rare that I get to show off my only topic of useless trivia and I loved it! A few people were put off by the Steele Indian School Park being called a "downtown" dog park but since it's the only dog park within racing distance we knew where to go. Some people had some major issues finding the specific part of an art installment "Ducks in A Row" but we only had minor issues. We took some pictures of the other parts of the installment at the light rail station but it just didn't feel right since none were specifically ducks. We finally realized we should search the entire light rail station (yes, even the FAR end!) and found what we were looking for.
What went right: One clue required a picture of our feet with a specific footprint plaque at a light rail stop. The footprint we needed was right outside our light rail car and we were able to get off, get the picture and get back on before the light rail took off again. Awesome! Also, our internet support was able to stay with us even after he went to his daughter's volleyball game so he continually helped us with bus times as we continually missed the original bus times or changed our plans/locations.
What went wrong: Nothing major but our costumes made some of the challenges a bit difficult, including a plank-ski challenge that would have been A LOT easier if we could have seen our feet. :)
Challenges: Pretty fun, as usual. Scavenger Dash consistently has the most fun challenges of the urban races. They even incorporated the weather in a challenge - one teammate held a cup with holes in it. The other teammate had another cup (without holes in it) and had to scoop up enough water from nearby puddles to fill the first cup before all the water leaked out of its holes.
Distance: Way too long! Our total mileage was over 15 miles and we ran almost 7 of them, which for my first real run on my ankle was way too much.  Apparently they had received feedback that their races are too short. Well, they certainly fixed that problem! :)
Prizes: 1st place - a free entry to a future race. 2nd place - a free entry to a future race. I don't mean to be a sore winner, but while a free race is awesome, I want more! (Especially since, as a huge fan of Scavenger Dash, I have already registered for all 3 races this year.) Other races give cash and gift cards or sponsor-donated stuff. Also, 1st place should get something more than 2nd. Yes, I'm whining. I admit it, I'm a sore winner.
Overall Grade: B+. You should definitely do this race when it comes to your town!

Glow Rush 5K - February16
How we did: Second Place in the race.
What we wore: No costumes this time. We wore our safety-green Storming the Castle t-shirts. The costume contest was going to be at the after-party and we had a casino night to go to so we didn't plan on staying for the contest. Our friends did win with their awesome Harlem Glow-Trotters costumes.
Race Recap: After putting on a really good initial race with their Phoenix Halloween Hunt, we were excited to do the second race put on by this organization. We won $500 at the first race so we were also looking forward to a decent prize if we won. Glow Rush 5K ran a bunch of Living Social deals and then even more deals and sent out a bunch of emails offering the deal price. With all that marketing they sold a TON of registrations!  It was right after New Years so they got the people with fitness as their resolution and they also got people who thought this was a "real" 5K with neon like the Neon Run. There were 1700 people there! For that many people, they did a pretty good job of organization and they gave away a lot of swag (t-shirt, cinch bag, lots of glow sticks).
Clues: All google searches. I knew 8 out of 10 without even looking them up.
What went right: I knew 8 out of 10 clues without looking them up. We ran as fast as my ankle and my sad state of cardio fitness could handle, there was no way we could have gone any faster.
What went wrong: It was so quick that I didn't even have time to map the destinations, I had to keep them all in my head. We passed one checkpoint (which had staffers handing out tickets or stamping clue sheets instead of picture-stops) because we thought the people gathered around were looking at a map. We're dumb sometimes. We had to backtrack a block after we realized our mistake.
Challenges: No challenges.
Distance: Way too short!! As I said, it was advertised as a 5K, which is just strange. You can't put a distance on a clue-solving race! Our total mileage was 2.5 and we finished in 31 minutes. 31 minutes! Good thing we had free entry from the Phoenix Halloween Hunt because 31 minutes isn't worth paying for.
Prizes: 1st place - One Alice Cooper Bobblehead. 2nd place - One Alice Cooper Bobblehead. Again, 1st and 2nd place should not get the same thing. And SERIOUSLY??!!!? ONE bobblehead as the prize for a TEAM event? How do you share a bobblehead (assuming that you even want a bobblehead)?? This is the lamest thing ever. At least give us a gift certificate for the host venue. Or  movie passes. Or 2 homemade certificates. Or something!
More Opinions: While I was initially impressed with the race directors from their first race, this one was really disappointing. When we arrived at the finish line, they weren't ready for us...and we weren't even first back! They should have realized after the first place team came through that more teams would be coming (duh). We had to ask them to check our clue sheets and tickets. We could have skipped half the clues and they wouldn't even have noticed. After the 3rd place team came in they said "Ok, all 3 teams are here, we can stop keeping track". Um, except that your website says there will be a Nationals and if you stop keeping track how will you know who qualified for Nationals? And your website says that times and results will be posted after the race. I told them they better take that off their website ASAP or they'd have some pretty pissed off racers (they took my advice). They didn't even give most of the finishing racers the courtesy of checking their clue sheets. Why bother assigning people to go to specific sites if no one cares if they even visit them? I would be very disappointed if I had finished out of the top 3 and didn't even know where I placed.
Overall Grade: D (they didn't get an F because they did a good job of managing 1700 people, which is a crazy-lot of people).  If you are just looking for a fun, silly night and you aren't particular about your races, this race could be a fun time out playing with your friends. If you are looking for a quality clue-solving race, this race isn't for you.

Great Urban Race - February 23
How we did: We didn't.
Recap: This is the race I look forward to the most every year and it's the race we have been doing the longest. After a complete mess last year, we were hoping that we would redeem ourselves and that the few missteps that GUR made in their planning would be rectified as well. Also, Nationals are in San Juan this year so we were already planning for that! The Friday night before the race, I got a call from a Chicago number. It was a GUR staffer telling me that they were unable to get permits and the race was cancelled. WHAT?! First of all, this is something I would expect from other race operators and newbies to the scene but not from the big-daddy of the clue-solving race circuit. I was so upset!
 More ranting: Last year I was mad because I fell for their "Buy early for the lowest prices!!!" email and paid $30 more than the Groupon they ran later. I feel that it is just bad business to screw your loyal racer base. It's even worse to cancel a race the night before! I'm somewhat suspicious about the permit thing since most races like this don't get permits, but someone did mention that they might have needed a permit at the venue for going over capacity or for hosting an event in the plaza around the venue. I guess it doesn't really matter since whatever the reason, I didn't get to race and I didn't get to qualify for Nationals. And I also didn't get a t-shirt for the first year in forever. :(
Follow up: They sent an email offering free entry to another GUR and asked that you reply by March 15. I have replied twice now and have not heard a single response from them. Now that is seriously bad business!! I thought the personal phone call about the cancellation was great and even defended them quite a bit on their facebook page but how can they not reply to their own request about rescheduling a new race?
Overall Grade: F-

CitySolve Urban Race - March 2
How we did: Third Place in the race and First Place in the costume contest.
What we wore: Christy unexpectedly went to Florida to visit her ailing grandfather so two days before the race I asked Irene to be my partner. The text conversation went like this,
Me - Christy went to FL, can you do CitySolve with me on Saturday?
Irene - I'll check with Brian to see if he can stay with the kids.
Irene - Ok, we got everything taken care of, I can race with you.
Me - Great! And btw, you have to be a zebra.
Luckily, Irene is a good sport and she embraced the zebra. She was a zebra and I was a giraffe, we wore party hats and pulled party popper streamers and blew party horns because we were PARTY ANIMALS! Yeah, so clever. :) It was Irene's awesome face painting skills that won the contest. I wish it had something to do with the 4 HOURS I spent painting giraffe spots on a shirt with the skill and finesse of 4 year old but the win belongs to Irene.
Race Recap: After last year's starting snafu, Jason had a lot of ground to make up. And he did. He came through with a near perfect race!
Clues: Mostly puzzles, which is fun but makes my strategy of instant movement impossible. The clues were also very specific about things you couldn't do or had to do which I appreciated! They were also all correct. Bonus points for including a clue with a picture of a Coyotes player! I can tell you the name and number of every player on the team. So happy they didn't choose a Sun, a Cardinal or a Diamondback!!
What went right: Uh... we won the costume contest. That's about it.
What went wrong: When I think of all the things that went wrong, I can't believe we finished 3rd! First of all, as soon as I solved that one of our destinations was Encanto Park, I called our clue solver and told him to stop solving clues and to get me time/location for the next bus to Encanto. He told me 12:25 at the Central Station. Cool. We got there at 12:20 and waited for the bus. And waited. It was important to get the bus to Encanto so we could save ourselves 1.5 miles of running. Running is always our weak point. So we kept waiting for the very late arriving bus. Finally, at 12:35 I called our clue solver to see what was going on. Turns out he gave us the time for the WEEKDAY bus, not the Saturday bus. Oh, was I mad!! We sat around getting nothing but one tic-tac-toe clue accomplished in 15 minutes!! The next bus was still 15 minutes away so we had to change course and do the close ones first. Gr. Then I missed a checkpoint that was mapped on page 2 of my maps so we had to go back and get it later. Then I yelled at Irene about a mural (sorry, Irene!). Then we found some people painting a wall and asked them to paint the words that we needed for the bonus clue, not realizing until later that every team would pass by this same wall and get the same exact picture for the same exact bonus time. And our big losing decision was choosing to wait the 10 scheduled minutes for the light rail after our last checkpoint. The light rail was then 5 minutes late and taking into account the time it took to take us to ride to our destination, we checked in 20+ minutes after we finished our last checkpoint. Had we sucked it up and run to the finish, we would have made it there in 13-14 minutes and won the race. We are lazy and we deserved to lose.
Challenges: Good. One was even educational and tied in the race charity! We had to throw a cornhole bag into the hole with our arm weighted with 2 six-pound weights. This was to show how ALS affects your body so that your motions don't seem to be your own. Pretty good idea for a challenge!
Distance: Perfect! Total distance was 8 miles of which we ran 4 1/2. Perfect!
Prizes: 1st place - $300, 2nd place - $150, 3rd place - $50. Very nice!!!  For the costume contest though, we got ONE JammyPack for our team of two. Last year we won the costume contest and still haven't gotten our prize so I guess one item is better than none. Jason said he would email the prize company and cc me so I can follow up with them; and with one reminder he did, so I'll have my prizes soon. :)
Overall Grade: A.  If you haven't done a CitySolve in a while, it might be time to come back.

The Urban Bike Adventure - March 10
How we did: First Place in the race. (I was expecting to get 4th since I got 1st in my first race, 2nd in my second race and 3rd in my third race so I was starting to see a pattern...)
What we wore: We wore red t-shirts. We had a team of 4; me, Pat, Brian and Irene. We should have worn a costume because no other team did and we would have won the costume contest.
Race Recap: I was not impressed with last year's race even though overall it wasn't that bad. I was just annoyed that the winning teams got dog tags (that's it) and the non-winning teams "won" (i.e. were assigned, literally) raffle prizes like restaurant gift certificates and racing jerseys, and because it was windy, and I'm a terrible biker, and I was on a mountain bike, and I was slow, and...a bunch of other whiny reasons that didn't have much to do with the race at all. I only signed up this year because they offered a very good return-racer discount. Then they moved the race from downtown Phoenix (my home turf) to Chandler (where I've been only once in my life). I was very pessimistic going into this one. However, it was pretty darn good! Great job, TUBA people!
Clues: Fairly easy but a nice combination of google clues and picture clues.
What went right: Just about everything. We couldn't have been more on our game.
What went wrong: First of all, we failed to read the part of the clue that said "Challenge open from 12:30 - 3:00" and we chose that as our first destination and got mad that we couldn't find the checkpoint at 12:24 when we got there. :) Second, Irene was pretty slow on her mountain bike compared to the rest of us on our road bikes, so Brian pushed her most of the way. He is awesome!
Challenges: Good! Last year there were no challenges so anything would have been appreciated. This time they had 3 physical challenges, all of which were fun.
Distance: I'm not sure how long a bike race should be, but this one was 15 miles and took about 2 hours. That seemed like a good distance.
Prizes: For first place we got a $30 gift certificate from Road ID and $20 to the host restaurant. Not a huge prize, but good enough for a very small race and better than last year. I don't know what 2nd place got.
Overall Grade: A.  If you haven't done this race before, you should check it out!

1 comment:

Molly said...

Nice recaps! I'm totally exhausted after all that LOL Good luck with the next races!!!