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Great Urban Race Austin 2009

April 4, 2009
By Marcy Beard - Team Vignette

John and I and a bunch of our friends were hoping to qualify for the GUR championship race in New Orleans, so we all headed to Pease Park on Saturday morning to see what we could do. Over 200 teams turned out, which might be a record for urban racing in Austin. It was a beautiful day for running around town.

When we got our clue sheets, we took a look at CP9 and asked Sheila to run a Google search for an "mmmpanada" truck. While she was doing that, Rob ran up to me to tell me that the photo for CP11 was of the giant Bevo longhorn behind University Co-op on the UT campus. John and I scanned the rest of the clues, figured out the general layout of the course (UT, downtown, Town Lake), and decided to head to UT first.

As soon as Kip and Dave were done sending photos of the clue sheets, we took off. John wisely tried to go north toward UT, but I unwisely overrulled him and led us toward 15th Street. Kip and Dave followed us while the rest of the crowd headed south toward the lake.

After I tried to sabotage our team by flinging my phone onto the sidewalk and disconnected our call to Sheila, we got ourselves back together and ran east and then north toward campus. John asked why I had turned up San Antonio instead of a street that might have a bus along it. I didn't have a good answer, but at least it wasn't too long of a run.

Soon we found the giant orange and white Bevo that I had seen for only the first time last week. Cool!

We sat briefly to talk with Sheila about the rest of the clues. John noticed another clue on the UT campus, a dance studio. We briefly wondered if that would be a good clue to skip, but since we were right there anyway, we might as well try it. We walked into the studio to the sight of Kip and Dave doing coordinated breakdance moves - if only John had snapped a photo, we could share a piece of the action with you! Trust me, it would make you smile.

The volunteers let them go so we could try next... right foot forward, left foot forward, hips forward, hips back, bend down and touch the ground, (now the hard part!) immediately repeat. John got into it way more than I expected, even continuing to sing the steps after we had left the building.

Sheila told us that everything else was downtown or south of there, except they hadn't solved the cryptogram yet. The crew wasn't able to read the clue sheet well enough, as the photo image was too small. We headed out toward Guadalupe, checked north for any buses - oh, there's a bus! We grabbed our change and John tied his shoes to get ready for the bus ride.

Once on board, we started working on the cryptogram. John spotted the words "Peter Pan", which we knew was a mini golf course on Barton Springs Road. Phew, we hadn't just passed up a clue on campus. We worked out the rest to determine that we needed to take a picture with the Peter Pan statue there.

John chatted with a couple guys on the bus while I worked out a plan with Sheila. I told John we needed to find a place to buy 4 cans of food, and the guy next to us suggested a market on 6th Street. The other guy knew where the Mary Lee Foundation is on South Lamar. All-in-all, a very useful bus ride.

We hopped off at 7th Street and started running east. I asked John a question about the Waterloo checkpoint by mistake, causing him to slow up and wonder if we were going the wrong way. This caused me to wonder why John was carrying the clue sheet. I finally got him to trust me to come toward me so I could take the clue sheet and figure out what I really meant to ask (whether the address for Lucky Lizard was odd or even).

Here is said Lucky Lizard:

We returned west on 6th Street and ran into a market. Standing in front of one shelf we grabbed one can each of fruit, vegetables, meat, and soup. Easy peasy. As we were paying for the cans, Sheila came on the line with an urgent message about a possible bus, but we would have to hurry.

But first, the "mmmpanadas"! One block south we ran over to the food truck, asked for a spinach mushroom version, and snapped this photo:

I had thought we'd give the empanada back to the lady to throw away, but John was having none of that! OK fine, but we have to run. Sheila told us to go west to Colorado, one block past Congress. I ran as hard as a I could, doing an empanada hand-off to John on the way, and as we reached the corner of 5th/Colorado we could see the bus only a block away. Phew!

This was an awesome catch, as the bus took us all the way to South Lamar and John had time to finish his pastry. After crossing the river, Art and Robyn hopped on board, and then Jason and Rob. Sheila suggested we skip either the challenge at the rowing dock, or perhaps the photo at Peter Pan so we wouldn't have to get off the bus on the way back. Great idea!

We tried for a Peter Pan shot from aboard the bus going south, but didn't quite make it:

Jumping off at Lamar Square, John and I took slightly different headings. I followed the path of racers coming toward us - usually they're coming from the right direction. Around a building we located the food drop-off spot. A lady stamped our clue sheet in the wrong spot, so it looked like we had "Completed" the baseball sign CP. Um, that's the wrong place - she looked confused but agreed to restamp it on CP2. That made me wonder for a bit, but then it was time to run back to the bus stop.

Sheila told us there was a bus coming in about 1 minute. Well, we can wait for that! That turned out to be a mistake, as team after team got on and tried to fit sweaty dollar bills into the fare box. John went up to try to help. The bus missed the green light. Back to a red light. MORE teams getting on. This could take forever.

Finally we got moving, jumped off at the Bicycle Sport Shop, and ran around to the Peter Pan statue:

Barton Springs Road was a bit busy, but we made it across and aimed for the Pedestrian Bridge. John made an unexpected veer, causing me to yell for a bit until I realized he was right. We ran across the bridge and then almost too fast down the stairs on tow. Feet, feet, don't fail me now! I made it down safely and we started along the trail.

Teams kept passing us going the other way, and John cheered them on. He said "good job" to a couple women wearing matching shirts, but I didn't see any race numbers, so that might have confused them if they were just out for a run. We found the ballfield and the baseball sign:

Running back east on Cesar Chavez, we saw Kip and Dave heading toward the baseball field. They seemed to be making good time. John led me along the path by the YMCA, then up the hill toward Lamar. We found Waterloo Records for this photo:

Then it was off to the finish line! Michelle met us with an Easter egg, a blue sock, and four people with two wearing neckties. John may have set a personal best in "number of people in a selfie photo" with this shot:

We dashed across the line, got our photos confirmed, and found out we had won - awesome! Kip and Dave raced Spencer and Tom in a few minutes later, but Spencer and Tom had intentionally skipped both points at UT for a 30-minute penalty. The rest of our group did great, and we're excited to be heading to New Orleans this fall!

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