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Great Urban Race Austin

October 5, 2008
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette KD

Earlier this year Dave Bogle and I managed to win the Great Urban Race in Dallas. And then, my sister Marcy and her husband John Beard won the GUR in Denver. All of us found the GUR experience to be so much fun, that it was a simple matter to convince six other teams of folks we knew to race with us when the GUR came to visit our home town of Austin. We hoped that our good luck would continue, and that we could place all of teams in the top 25, to get everyone qualified for the championships in Vegas.

At the starting line, about 100 teams were packed into the patio of Mother Egan's Irish Pub. The race director called out "3, 2, 1, GO!", and everyone streamed out of there. We took some snapshots of the cluesheet and emailed them back to our computer support crew back at home, and then started scanning to see if we knew any of the answers. Most of our teams headed east out of the area, not really knowing exactly where we were going yet. But then we all started to have the same idea as we read clue #9:

We all pretty much simultaneously started shouting the same idea to each other: "Let's go to the Frost Bank Tower and get this clue while there's ten of us still together!" And so we travelled in a group to the tower, and Dave took pictures on each of our cameras of our teams with one random helpful pedestrian thrown in for good measure. Can you figure out which guy is the non-racer in this photo?:

And after that initial photo... we all pretty much split up! Even though our teams are working together, we are all free to choose our own course... and since we all like to think that we're the most clever of our group, we don't often follow each other. Weird, huh? Anyways, we knew a couple clues were down south, by the lake, but they also didn't "open" until later. Because of this, our team decided to travel up north first, to hopefully clear up everything in that section before heading back downtown. So we headed towards clue #2:

Our phone contact Chris informed us that the Austin Renaissance Market was up around 23rd and Guadalupe, on "The Drag" by the UT campus. We got in the general area, and a friendly police officer pointed us to it. It was an open-air market of street vendors, so we shouted out "Lisa!", and she waved us over. Dave grabbed us a button pin, which said "I'm with the band". We thanked Lisa, and ran off towards the clue #10:

Slices and Ices was just a couple blocks north, at 26th and Gaudalupe. The vendor inside asked us what flavor we wanted, and we replied, "whichever one is fastest". From the clue we were expecting to receive a icy drink of some kind, but we got an ice cream cone instead. We figured "who are we to argue", and so we took a picture of me consuming what we were given:

Chris had us turn back south. We hoped that meant we'd just finished the northernmost clue, then! A couple of blocks, then we turned onto the west mall of the UT campus, for clue #7:

Our crew had determined that the answer for this one was the Caesar Chavez statue. Well, we knew exactly where that was, as it had been a clue in the Urban Dare race earlier this same year. Another team was taking a picture at the statue at the same time we arrived, and obviously putting more effort into getting quality photos than we were:

Next, Chris told us go southeast, as there were a couple of clues on Red River street. We cut diagonally across the campus, and made it to about 15th and Trinity when Chris called us again, to let us know that our crew had solved another northern clue! Turn around! This sort of thing happens, especially if you're the type that's too impatient to sit and wait for all the clues to be solved. So now we were backtracking to get clue #1:

Turns out that that translates to: "Take a picture of both teammates in front of a sign that says The Story of Texas in red letters". Also turns out that that sign can be found at the Bob Bullock Museum at 18th and Congress. We made it to the museum, and found a sign that said "The Story of Texas" in white letters on a red background fairly quickly, but none with red letters. We called Chris and confirmed that it needed to be red letters. We looked around outside, and inside the main entrance, and encountered several other teams searching the same areas. I decide that there was no way that everyone there was failing to find the correct sign, and that the clue meant to say the sign had a red background, and not red letters. So we took our photo in front of the sign we hoped was correct:

That task done, we headed southeast again to pick up the checkpoints on Red River. Along the way, we encountered another team heading towards us, that stopped to take their picture in front of a "Towing Enforced" sign. We wondered what the heck that was about, so we called Chris to ask if he knew. Chris replied by asking us if the sign had the number "24" anywhere on it. We said that yes, indeed it did. It turns out that that satisfied clue #3:

Aha! Well, then, thanks to the other team that showed us where to find the answer to a clue we hadn't even been looking for! One more scavenger hunt done:

Ok, now it was finally time to get those two clues on Red River that we'd been heading to for a while, but kept getting sidetracked on. First up was clue #12:

Not a very difficult clue... I'm hoping every team out there managed to figure out that the answer was Stubb's:

Next up was clue #11:

Which led us to Emo's:

We asked Chris what was next. He told us that #5, #6, and #8 were all in the same area, but that we'd probably want to skip clue #5:

We agreed that #5 would be a good one to skip. It had just turned one o'clock, so the Segway course had just opened. We imagined that a whole lot of teams would be lined up in the area, waiting to start the training course, and that it could be a huge bottleneck. Never ones to stand in line if we don't have to, we figured we'd use our one "skip" on this point. So, we instead headed for clue #6:

I initally took us in the wrong direction... I figured that the Holiday Inn was one of the downtown hotels along Caesar Chavez street. Oops, nope, that's the Four Seasons and the Radison... turn around again! Chris got us back on track and headed us towards I-35 and the river. I've only run by Holiday Inn a hundred times while jogging the Town Lake Trail, you'd think I'd have known that.

Dave spun around the bat first, and then stayed doubled over for a while after his ten spins. I figured he was about to be sick, but no, he was just too dizzy to move for a bit. I'm sure the other teams, and the race volunteers, were glad that Dave managed to not befoul the course. He staggered around the cone and back, and then it was my turn. We regained our balance, confirmed that the line for #5 looked too long to wait in, and instead headed off for clue #8:

Well, we knew we'd have to travel along the Town Lake Trail to find this one, but which way? I guessed west, so we started walking that way while we called Chris to confirm. Yep, the "Howdy" rock just to the west, by a nearby playscape. Yet another Austin landmark I'd run by a hundred times without noticing... I wonder what it's like to be, you know, observant?

To the finish line! Along the way, we'd have to procure the final scavenger hunt clue:

We'd arranged for Becky, one of our ground support crew, to buy some Tab and meet us at the finish line. (There's no rule against using ground support at these races.) So we arrived at the finish line, and were happy to see that only our own teams were there. Marcy and John had arrived there first, but since they already had a free entry in Vegas they were waiting for our other teams to cross. Jim and Rob finished in first place, and then Art and Robyn finished in second. Richard and Chris crossed the line in third place... but then learned that they had a bad photo! Oh no, what did they get wrong? It was clue #1, the "red letters" clue. They'd taken the same (incorrect) picture that we had, of the white letters on the red background! D'oh!

Well, now we had to make a choice... cross the finish line with a bad photo, and take a 30 minute penalty? Or run all the way back (13 blocks north, 6 blocks east) to the Bob Bullock Museum (and then back to the finish again) to correct our mistake? We decided that even if the extra running wound up taking as much time as the 30 minute penalty, we wanted to cross the finish line with all the correct pictures. Besides, we needed a good running workout, anyways! So, we dropped our packs, and ran back to fix our photo. Turns out the correct, red lettered sign wasn't by the front entrance... instead it was on the north side of the museum:

Finally back to the finish line again, it was mission accomplished. While Dave and I made our share of mistakes this time around, we're still immensely happy to report that our teams managed to sweep the top seven finishing places, and all of us finished in the top ten overall! (Thanks to our wonderful crew... y'all are the best!) So, we'll have a lot of friends joining us for the championships in Vegas in November! See you there!

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