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Great Urban Race Las Vegas Championships 2008

November 8, 2008
Las Vegas, NV
By Marcy Beard - Team Vignette-MJ

There was a time when I was tired of Las Vegas - the noise, the smoke, the crowds. Then we discovered urban racing, and everything changed. We gambled with an entry fee to Urban Challenge in 2002, and that paid off big-time. This year we gambled another entry fee, this time with the Great Urban Race, aiming for the grand prize of $10,000. Las Vegas has become one of my favorite cities!

Five other Austin teams joined us in Sin City, all of us hoping to qualify for the finals race on Saturday afternoon. To get there, first we had to place in the top "Elite Eight" in the morning race. We were told that the qualifier would be similar to races in other cities this year, so we were ready for a fast frenzy of all-out running.

The morning race started at 8 a.m. with a mad rush of racers pouring out of McFadden's bar inside the Rio resort. Kip and Dave took photos of the clue sheet while Danny and I reviewed the CP's. Danny gave me several of the locations immediately (Caesar's Palace, Fashion Show Mall), while John put together a puzzle revealing a Treasure Island pirate ship.

It was clear that most, if not all, of the answers were on the Strip somewhere between Flamingo Road and Circus Circus casino. We had missed the #202 bus going to the Strip, so it was time to head out the front door and run.

So we did. I hooked up John's towline to my waist belt and we were off, passing several teams on the run along Flamingo Road over the railway and highway. As soon as we came to Caesar's Palace we veered left and I directed John to the Brahma shrine I had seen during our scouting. One quick photo of CP3 and we were off to a good start:

Danny had suggested that CP11 was also at Caesar's Palace. We ran up to the front door and asked a couple doormen about the "Maximus Simon MMIV - Shopilius" fountain. They thought it might be at the Forum Shops, so we ran north and checked all the fountains along the way. The very last fountain, at the Forum Shops entrance, was CP11:

We knew Treasure Island wasn't far north, and it was on the same side of Las Vegas Blvd, so we ran there next and stopped to inspect the first pirate ship we found. But there were TWO ships - which one was it? John wasn't sure he remembered exactly, but he had the pieces in his pocket. He pulled out a piece, matched it up to part of the ship, and we were good to go on CP2:

Danny told me that CP8 was at the Fashion Show Mall, which was next in line going north. On our way there, we tried to shout to Sheila (ground support riding a bike on the street) to help look for a GUR staff member somewhere along the Strip. She had been told to look for a blue shirt, and we tried to correct her that it might be a white shirt, but we lost touch with her as the sidewalk went too far inland.

Apparently a few minutes later she had a collision with a car! Luckily it wasn't serious and she didn't get hurt, although she had a sore neck the next day. The bike was fine. The side of the car maybe not so much... and Sheila ended up on the street briefly. That was not the intended meaning of the term "ground support."

Just a little ways away but unaware of the crash, John and I found the Fashion Show Mall and started searching for a red sign with a bunch of store names to match the clue sheet. We came up with the following for CP8:

Next up: Circus Circus, a ways north on the Strip. On the way there I spotted a GUR guy, so I yelled "Stop!" to John. We picked up our CP9 playing card and continued on our way. Then we called in the location to Sheila, who let everyone else know, which caused tons of confusion after the GUR guy moved to the other side of the street later! Yikes!

Oblivious once more, we continued on our way to Circus Circus. We knew we needed to find the Skyrise Tower for this one Mandatory clue. The tower was no problem - it was all the way to the back and then down a hallway to the right. Finding the conference room took a bit longer. I started to think that the GUR crew specifically reserved the conference room that was hardest to find. Keep this thought in mind for later.

While running around in the hallways, we saw a team dressed in oldtime basketball outfits. They looked fast, I figured we would see them again. I never did find out where they disappeared to. We found the room about the same time, and Kip and Dave were already there. Now for the CP6 challenge! We were given a string and had to put a bunch of tiny beads on it, matching the length to the sample in front of us.

Quickly we started beading from both sides of the string. OK, "quickly" isn't exactly right. Quickly we started TRYING to put the beads on. With sweaty hands and not-so-calm heartbeats, we tried to figure out any tricks that might help us go faster. We had a near miss after a measurement when we came up short and John almost picked up his end before I got a hand on mine - that would have sucked. But we avoided catastrophe.

The nice thing was that we could continue to talk quietly with Sheila (our phone contact, not the biker Sheila) through our ear buds/mouthpieces, trying not to give anything away to the other non-mob teams in the room. She gave us the run-down about what was left. It sounded like it was mostly on the east side of Las Vegas Blvd, so our route plan was working so far.

The main question remaining was the scavenger hunt items (tennis balls, 10 people wearing a hat), but Sheila didn't have a status update yet. We finished up our beads and John tried to leave, except that our clue sheet was still on the table. I yelled "Stop" to John, which probably startled the whole room, sorry everyone. I waited until John stopped pulling the towrope, while the GUR guy retrieved our clue sheet for us - thank you! Finally it was time to run back out toward the casino front door.

So we did. Or, actually, I goaded John to run while John tried to verify that it was OK to run in this casino (we were told to walk through O'Shea's to CP12); I confirmed it was OK, so go ahead and run! John trotted along, dodging people, while I continued to press him to RUN. Finally he told me to stop doing that - OK, I guess I should be thankful that I can breathe now because later that's gonna change! Also, I think it was really better not to tear pell-mell through the casinos, as evidenced by watching another team get chewed out by a Rio security guard later. So we stuck to polite jogging and I tried to bite my tongue.

We popped out into bright sunshine and RAN across the street to the Riviera hotel. We were looking for the Crazy Girls "Ifs, Ands, or ..." statue which turned out to be... you guessed it!

CP7 was a clock with a blue face and Roman numerals on it. Our crew had determined it was at the Venetian, and I remembered some kind of clock near the canal. We hustled to the Venetian, turned the corner, verified that it was indeed the correct clock, and got this photo:

Not many CP's left! Next in line, heading south, was O'Shea's. Sheila gave us an address. I directed John to run along the side of the street instead of following the sidewalk in toward Harrah's and back. We jumped back onto the sidewalk on the other side, with Sheila telling us we should be close. But we couldn't see it yet... so I yelled "Does anyone know where O'Shea's is?" - and three people said YES! It's around the corner - and WOW - I finally managed the "Rob Butler in a Farmers Market" method of finding something. Way cool!! John was impressed.

We found O'Shea's and walked through to the back to find some tables set up for a "water pong" challenge. John took the ping-pong ball while I unclipped the towline to retrieve the ball when he missed. After a couple tries, John bounced the ball into a cup, we got our clue sheet stamped, and we were on our way speed-walking back to the street.

The CP1 cryptogram had taken some time for our crew to figure out, but they did decipher it. Sheila directed us south to Bill's Gambling Hall where we had to find a cutout and get our picture taken there. We found the cutout easily enough and only had to ask two people to take the picture (no selfie for this one!) - the casino lady wasn't allowed, but a passerby was happy to do it. Once I got him to turn the camera around (because as much as we laughed about the backwards photo in Denver, we just didn't have the time to mess around), we ended up with this:

Only two CP's left! Sheila let us know that we could find the Comedy Pet Theater in the Miracle Mile shops, and we knew where that was. So we ran south, into the Miracle Mile mall, and asked for help at the front desk. While heading toward the back, I finally read the clue sheet and realized that this was actually a ground support clue. Sheila told us that they didn't have news from ground support yet - so we grabbed 6 fliers ourselves for CP4.

That left CP10 as our skip. Time to get back to the Rio! We lost contact with Sheila briefly, but it seemed like there wasn't a bus coming along Flamingo nor would there be soon. John and I had a brief disagreement about how to get to the north side of Flamingo heading west, which was a good learning experience for later in the day. For now I ended up winning the argument, which unfortunately meant going up an extra set of stairs... I've really got to start giving in more. Don't tell John I said that.

OK, so do we wait for the bus or not? I don't recall spending much time on this question, we just started running. However, as we were running over the highway and then over the railway, John kept looking back and I kept wondering if we had made the right decision. There was plenty of time for a bus to pass us - that would not have been fun. Luckily none did, and then we were running through the Rio to the finish line!

Dave and Kip were the only ones there so far - their photos were good, so they were the first team into the finals. Yay! Our ground support tried to hand me a tennis ball and asked if we needed a photo of ten people with hats. I decided "what the heck" and took the tennis ball but declined the photo. Thinking back, since we really were not in a huge hurry to cross the line, we SHOULD have gotten that photo just in case. Something to remember next time...

And it actually got pretty close to making a difference! First of all, we had picked up the wrong flier at the V Theater (we didn't get the Comedy Pet Theater flier!). Joe asked, "What is this?" ... a couple seconds of panic, then we produced the tennis ball instead. Phew! Then Joe couldn't read the names of the stores on the Fashion Show Mall sign. It wasn't the sign they have been thinking of. My camera zoom could only show the middle of the photo - I asked whether it was OK to load the photo on a laptop so Joe could see it? He said sure, so we went over to Dave and Michelle to work on that, hoping for the best.

We pulled up the photo, called Joe over, and he verified it was an acceptable alternative to the one the GUR crew had found. So we were good - major relief!!

While trying to calm down from our near-disaster, we went out and cheered the rest of our teams. Chris and Richard, Robyn and Art, Jim and Rob all made it into the top 8. Gail and Sandy were SO CLOSE - in 9th place. I considered all of us lucky that team Moonwalkers ended up with a 30-minute penalty. Those two are FAST and would have been tough competition in the finals. As it was, we would be competing with the Tweedles (one of only 2 teams to make all 3 Urban Challenge finals), On The Rocks (the team that would have beaten us in Denver except for a penalty), and team Two Bulls who also looked speedy.

Time to relax... we headed out to recover, eat, drink, and prepare for the second race of the day. The morning race had been really fast, so we had a couple hours and didn't need to rush.

Skipping ahead and back to the Rio. The finals race started at 2 pm with Joe introducing the Elite Eight teams. They answered a couple questions (yes, we could skip ONE checkpoint, but the start and middle challenges were mandatory), then told us to follow them. Our phone contacts relayed the blow-by-blow of us walking out the front door and then onto a bus. A bus! We all cheered - I love riding the finals bus.

They collected our phones and cameras, then gave us blindfolds to put on. Our ground crew debated trying to follow the bus, but they weren't sure it was legal (it was never explicitely forbidden), and also they didn't know if they could get the car out of the garage in time. So they ended up watching us leave.

As we pulled out of the Rio, I told John that there was nowhere else I would rather be at that moment in time.

The bus ride was fun - cutting up with the Tweedles, joking about Coconut Grove in the Miami finals, introducing ourselves to the two teams that didn't know everyone else on the bus. It also seemed to take a LONG time. It soon became clear that I wasn't the only person that needed to pee :)

Finally we parked, and the GUR crew led us off the bus one-by-one, helping us down the steps and up the curb/stairs. Yes, we were still blindfolded. They led us into a house and finally told us we could take off our blindfolds. Maybe the idea originally was that we were supposed to see the puzzle at our feet and figure out to put it together. But so many people called for the bathroom that they had to delay the start to let everyone go. We got to see the rooms of the house where the crew was obviously staying - too funny!

OK, now finally it was time to start the race. Back home on the computers, our crew was going bonkers, talking about sticks up noses and people's age in terms of pi. Too much time on their hands = the funniest crew chat I've seen in a long time.

Again, we were oblivious. And it was time to focus... go! We dumped the puzzle pieces and started working. It was a dang tough puzzle, with a bunch of people's faces and various shades of white. At various points we thought we were missing a piece, but it always turned up eventually. It felt like we would make progress and then stall with brain freeze. Luckily we each managed to get in a groove off and on, but I knew my brain could turn off at any moment.

We heard someone on the GUR staff muttering "getting close" and I looked at our puzzle thinking "well, that's not OUR puzzle they're talking about". I whispered to John that as soon as someone stands up, this is going to get really bad. I also wondered how Dave-the-Colorblind and Kip were doing across the room.

Finally we were done - somehow the first ones, and in half the time the GUR folks expected. We got our clue envelope and our gadget bag and headed outside. We opened the clue sheet to find a ticket to the New York, New York roller coaster, which set John off with a big "YES!" A quick scan of the clues led us to think we needed to get to the south end of the Strip (Luxor, MGM Grand).

But where were we? There appeared to be only houses and desert around us. My tiny compass and the sun told me where north was. That was only slightly useful. So John jumped on a wall alongside the street to get a better look. This apparently surprised the heck out of the GUR guys. They just don't know John Beard like I do.

John jumped down and said he had spotted the Stratosphere and other tall buildings. He neglected to say that he had seen the ENTIRE STRIP and it was far away. We got on the line with Sheila, gave her the street intersection, and started jogging west. John and I ran into an issue whereby he wanted to go north while I thought we were near the middle of the Strip (based erroneously on an airplane I thought I saw landing to the south of us) so I wanted to go south. We continued west while Sheila helped clear up my confusion - "You are VERY far south of EVERYTHING." Well then, north it is!

Ideally we would have run north on Gillespie to the South Strip bus station, but I didn't think of that until much later. Instead we found Las Vegas Blvd and started north, first through a big parking lot and then along the street. Traffic was hugely backed up, and we actually came across the reason - an ambulance blocking two lanes over the highway while EMT's moved someone on a stretcher. Hope the dude will be OK.

Back at the house, the rest of the teams were finishing the puzzle and starting their own trek. Dave tried sending a photo of the clue sheet with his Blackberry, but the phone gave him an error. Too bad, because the picture actually got through to the crew, and Dave didn't know it until after the race so he didn't try again with the second clue sheet later.

For the next 30 minutes or more, we ran north toward our first target, Mandalay Bay. Have you ever seen Mandalay Bay? It's pretty big. Even from almost 4 miles away, it's still big. At 3 miles, pretty much the same size it was a few minutes ago. From 2 miles away, maybe a tad larger. I can say with certainty, and I'm pretty sure 14 other racers will back me up on this, that you can run towards it for a long time and it won't really change size. Sort of like a Monty Python scene.

The only thing even remotely exciting to report about this run is that I started swearing under my breath. I haven't asked Sheila yet whether she could hear me muttering curse phrases. I do know she could hear us breathing hard... as we ran and ran and ran (you get the idea). In the meantime, our crew compiled a list of CP's and which order to visit them. They weren't certain about the "Xaviert Cugart & Charo" picture, but decided we should try the Tropicana casino and see if we could find it there.

But first! To Mandalay Bay, of course. At one point a Deuce bus (the one that runs along the Strip) passed us going north but it appeared empty and we were almost there anyway. For real this time! Except now there's a helicopter flying in front of Mandalay Bay, looking pretty small in comparison. I wondered whether a smarter team had caught a bus and passed us, but it was too late to do anything about that. Didn't we used to be smarter and catch buses?

We ran toward the front of the casino and attempted to get directions from the crew about the statue of Vladimir Lenin. They told us to look for the Red Square bar in restaurant row near the entrance. We didn't find it near the entrance, but we knew about the restaurants so we started that way, asking people as we went. Back, back, back, finally we spotted a huge headless Lenin. Cool!

Next stop, the Luxor. We hustled down Mandalay Place and into the Luxor area. John instinctively stepped onto a down-escalator while I wondered whether we should stay on this floor. Luckily we weren't on tow at the time. We had a brief conversation that ended with John convincing me to follow him as opposed to vice versa. At the bottom John found a desk and a nice woman directed us toward the front door. We popped outside to find Criss Angel's Hummer on display:

Sweet, we're moving now. We ran down to the street while I marvelled at all the interesting things we had missed while scouting the Luxor. John towed me across the street toward the Tropicana as a gaggle of tourists started laughing hysterically about our tow system. Wow, that was the biggest "tow line reaction" we've gotten in a long time!

Not knowing exactly where to go, we decided to try a bellhop at the entrance. I showed him the title of the photo, and he went "Ah, Charo, yeah, I know Charo - go in past the cashiers, go right toward the 5000 block, it's in the hallway with a bunch of pictures." He wins the "best directions in the best accent" award of the day!

We went right to it and there was Danny (ground support) waiting for us - cool! I'm not sure where this facial expression came from, however:

Danny ran with us back outside and directed us onto the pedestrian footbridge over the road. One CP remained before heading into New York, New York: Get 20 or more people for a photo in front of the MGM Grand lion sculpture. Now, we're normally rather quiet, reserved people, and we usually shy away from the "get your photo with 10 other people" clues. But in order to save our Skip for the 2nd half of the race, we didn't have much choice here.

We immediately located the Lion and found 5 girls already getting their picture taken. We asked for their help and then started trying to recruit people from the sidewalk to come up there with us - "We're in the Amazing Race!" seemed to work especially well, although I had a hard time promising people they would be on TV (other teams apparently didn't mind!). The group started getting into it, then Jason (ground support) ran up to take our photo.

But wait! I turned around and started counting - only 16 people! Not enough! So everyone got really into it, cheering and waving more people into the photo - finally enough! Jason snapped another photo and we thanked everyone profusely. What a rush!

Phew, that was exciting. Next up - roller coaster! We ran into NY NY and up the stairs where we found someone from GUR ready to hold onto our race packs, phones, etc. We stripped off all the loose stuff and headed to the Express line. John handed the guy a slip of paper - whereupon the guy said, "What is this?" Hmm, our theme for the day... apparently we had left our ticket back with our stuff and picked up some random slip of paper instead. John ran back to get the RIGHT one and that worked a lot better.

Soon we were sitting in the roller coaster car and it started up some steep, steep tracks. John looked up and decided that was the steepest uphill he had ever seen on a roller coaster. I concentrated on the back of the seat in front of me. John looked over and asked if I was OK with this? Well, let's see, first of all I no longer have a choice. And really, I can do roller coasters. I just have to get past that first drop and the rest is always fun. Mostly I was just begging silently "please no Stratosphere, please no Stratosphere in the second half of the race."

So here we go! Sometimes I scream - this time I couldn't utter a sound - oooh, glad that first drop is over, now for the fun part. What??? Another big climb and drop??? Wow, that was unexpected. Ohmygosh, we are really high up and there are no sides on these cars. What an awesome ride! On top of a casino! It had a bit of everything - a loop, whoop-dee-doos, then all of a sudden we were upside-down from the side (didn't see that coming!), then a fast tight spiral at the end. Wow!!! Very, very cool.

We jumped off, yelled a greeting to Jim and Rob who were just getting on, and grabbed our stuff (trying to get our phones back in place). Next we had to find Hudson meeting room #498 somewhere in this huge place. We followed signs to "Meeting Rooms" but didn't find a Hudson. We asked one guy who was clueless. We came down and asked a bellhop who directed us back where we had just been - we said no, that wasn't right. Someone else behind the desk spoke up saying that there was another possibility - he got on the phone and confirmed it was in the New York tower. Awesome, thanks! So many people were so nice to us during both races, we were really impressed with the casino staff people and tourists.

Now we had to find the tower. In the middle of that search, I got separated from John and John found Jim and Rob. Apparently John yelled "MARCY!" in the middle of the casino but I didn't hear him. Eventually Jason found me, we found the right elevator, and we found the conference room on the 4th floor. Jim and Rob were already hard at work with the next challenge.

We had to answer 5 logic/math problems and turn in our sheet. If one was wrong, we'd get another sheet with the same questions (but they wouldn't tell us which was incorrect). All of us had the same questions, so we immediately asked if we could work together. "Sure!" according to the GUR guy. Three of the questions seemed pretty easy, while two of them needed some brainpower. John took #1 while I worked on this:

Four years ago Bob was half as old as Cindy. Four years from now, Bob will be 3/4 as old as Cindy. How old is Cindy now?

I started writing numbers all over my sheet, trying to test various options and figure out a pattern. An equation was beyond me at that moment. All I could come up with was that "8" was important... or at least "4" or some multiple. Kip and Dave came in along with Richard and Chris, and they all started helping John with #1.

Someone walked by outside and we all thought we might have to shut up if a non-Austin team was coming. But no, it was just some passerby.

Finally I got something - could it be "12"? - at the same time everyone else came up with "25" for #1. I asked if someone could verify my "12" so Jim wrote 12 on his sheet and handed it in. That worked - yay! So we all copied all the answers and got our next clue sheets.

On the way out someone asked if we were all here - and someone else noticed that Art and Robyn weren't in the room yet! And our answer sheets were gone - so we tried to recall all the answers. Just as we were moving toward the elevator, Art and Robyn turned the corner. Wait, not ready yet! OK, here's what you need (as they grabbed a pen to write on an arm): 25, radish, 12, 10, and ... E!!! Go go go!

We made it downstairs and out the front door, where I asked John if we could pause to read in a clue or two. It was so loud inside the casino and on the street - when we found a quiet spot I couldn't pass it up. After a bit of confusion about clue numbers, we read in the clue about the Walk of Fame star with "Los Tucanos De Tijuana Singers" on it.

The other teams managed to get the rest of the info to our crew, so we just needed to start collecting CP's. Gameworks was right across the street, and although I was hesitant to spend time on a clue that required us to win 50 tickets, it seemed like the easiest thing to aim at next.

So we ran across the street and down the escalator, getting our photo at the "Deal or No Deal" game as per the clue sheet.

Then we had to figure out how to get 50 tickets. Hmm, I really don't know this game at all. We got a free swipe of a game card from another Austin racer (Rob?) to get us started, and that netted us maybe 24 points. John went over to the desk to pay for a game card, and the guy came over to open the machine and give us several credits. Sweet! So I just started punching buttons and watching tickets come out.

When we thought we had enough based on the screen results, I started up the escalator, but John was counting physical tickets and he yelled up that we were short of the required 50. At the top I ran into Kip and Dave so I motioned them downstairs. Art and Robyn ran up with some extra tickets for John. I heard Kip and Dave saying "we've finished #1, 2, and 3 now..." and then John and I left. Just outside we tried to get back in touch with Sheila, but the street noise was making it really difficult to hear her.

I saw Kip and Dave heading north, so I glanced at our clue sheet and noticed that they had already found the "Tijuana Singers" star. I yelled after them and ran over to jog alongside and ask where the star was. They pointed me back south, so John and I headed that way.

Just outside the M&M store (everything was really close together here), Sheila came running up to hand us a flattened penny (#3). We found the star as Danny came running up to take our photo with it:

Only one left! Sheila gave us two addresses and I picked 3767 Las Vegas Blvd over 3355 Las Vegas Blvd since I knew that would be a lot closer. She told me we needed to find a sculpture called "Meet the Cow" at Smith & Woolensky Steakhouse - hey, I remember that cow! Is it north or south of here? Where is Danny? - he would know!

Sheila suggested it was probably north of us so we jogged a short ways and John spotted the bovine behind glass:

Sheila told us the last one (the word Moules on a restaurant sign) was probably at the Venetian. I told her we could skip one clue, and we agreed that was a great one to skip. Especially since I would have gone into the Paris casino next door before we ever ran a good ways north to the Venetian. Moules is French for mussels - I've had them, I prefer the "frites" they usually come with. But anyway, a moot point, no reason to argue with our crew - time to get back to the Rio!

The one thing I thought I knew is that Kip and Dave were already going in that direction and that the rest of our teams were a short ways behind us. I don't know how I could know this, because we had seen everyone going back and forth like crazy just a few minutes before, but somehow it seemed to be the case. I also wondered where the Tweedles, Two Bulls, and On the Rocks were, but guessed that they were behind us as well.

John talked with Sheila about the #202 Flamingo bus - they determined that it should be arriving exactly now, so we may have just missed it. But John didn't tell me that, nooo, he said we would "have to hustle if we're going to make it" - nice one! We ran across Las Vegas Blvd and headed toward Flamingo, watching to see if that bus was going to tease us by driving by right before we got there.

We dodged several tourists as usual, even making an appearance in someone's Bellagio photo. John said "sorry!" and the man answered "you better be!" - wow, that wasn't as nice as everyone else was today. I yelled back "we really are!" and we kept going.

No bus appeared before we got across to the bus stop, phew... we asked the people waiting, and they had been there for over 5 minutes, so we didn't miss it, phew. I felt like we really needed to get on that bus.

No bus appeared, ok now we really need that bus. John started pacing into the street to look, back to the sidewalk, back to the street. I had to get off tow so I could pace at my own pace. He ran up to the pedestrian bridge to look and he thought he saw the bus. But no, it was just the Rio shuttle bus.

With everyone staring at us, he finally handed me the end of the towrope to clip to my belt. I looked at him and said "I really don't want to do this, I really don't want to be passed by that bus while running over that bridge" but I knew we had to start running. It was the end of the morning race all over again. I could not believe it. Everyone watched as we took off on foot to the west.

The Rio shuttle had stopped at a light, so we knocked on his door but he wouldn't let us on. Ah well, we figured as much. Time to run!

John towed me and I tried to breathe. Up and over the highway, over the railway, toward the Rio in bright lights. John told Sheila to please let us know when Kip and Dave have won, so we can stop running. But she wanted something from us instead - did we get the photo at Gameworks?? John asked me if we had the right photo. I was pretty sure, but I didn't want to pull the clue sheet out of my waist pack while trying to run as fast as my legs would carry me. I yelled back that it was either right or it wasn't, we aren't going back now!

Then our phones started going off - I said to John in the most pitiful tone I have ever heard come out of my mouth, "I just can't do it, John, I just can't answer it now," still trying to breathe and keep my feet under me. John waived it off and we kept on running, thinking hard "No bus, no bus..."

Finally we reached the entrance to the Rio and I called a stop. I figured there wasn't anyone immediately behind us, and we could beat anyone that got off a bus in front of us. I pulled out the clue sheet - yes, it said to get a photo with the "Deal or No Deal" game, not the Gameworks sign. So we're good, OK, let's get inside!

We went running on in, Kip came up talking really fast about Gameworks, we told him we had the photo, so they told us to cross the line - now we can stop running, yay! Joe perused our photos, clue sheet, Gameworks tickets and flattened penny, then stood up to announce that we were the 2008 GUR National Champions - woohoo!

Kip and Dave had a 30-minute penalty for not taking a picture at the Deal or No Deal machine, bumping them down to 4th (bummer, guys!). Art and Robyn caught the next bus and came across the line next for second place (awesome! Girls Kick Ass). Chris and Richard were next, in third place. Jim and Rob got caught up with bus issues, coming across the line next but also getting a 30-minute penalty that put them in 6th place. The Tweedles apparently had bus issues right from the start, plus they didn't have all 50 Gameworks tickets, so they finished in 7th place. Next to cross the line was team Two Bulls with no penalties for 5th place.

And finally, much later, the two guys from Denver sauntered in with tall Eiffel tower drinks and apparently all the correct photos for 8th place. Sometimes it's just one of those races.

We had such an incredible weekend with an amazing group of friends. I highly recommend the Great Urban Race, it is run by a team of professionals and their races are a lot of fun. And for this weekend at least, the Austin Mob ruled.

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