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Great Urban Race New Orleans Championships 2009

November 7, 2009
New Orleans, LA
By Marcy Beard, Team Vignette-MJ

John and I were excited to qualify for the Great Urban Race championship weekend again. We had so much fun last year in Las Vegas (think: NY NY roller coaster!) and we couldn't wait to find out what the GUR crew had in store for us this time. New Orleans is quite a contrast from Las Vegas - less flashy but more colorful, less gambling and more partying, harder to find a bathroom but otherwise more comfortable to walk around, and certainly with better food choices.

Three weeks before the race, John injured his knee at an A&M alumni rugby game. We didn't even know if he could participate in New Orleans, let alone run, until a couple days beforehand. I stuck with him ("for better or for worse"... not to mention I just really enjoy racing with my husband), he got a knee brace, and we adjusted our goals. The plan was to go at whatever pace he could go, not stress over it, and focus on having fun.

We started the morning on Bourbon Street, which was closed off the whole day just for us (wow!). There were a lot of teams there, some strong competition and plenty of people capable of getting into the finals. So we better not make any big mistakes, regardless of our speed. There was a quick pre-race briefing and then we got our clue sheet:

The very first line mentioned Tulane, which was good enough for me. We started west on Bourbon Street to try to catch a trolley down St Charles toward the university. As soon as John took off running, I knew my idea of "taking it easy" was not going to involve running slowly today. I had to work to keep up, wondering what I had gotten myself into. No towline for me today! I would just have to try to keep up.

Along the way John's pocketknife fell out of his pocket, and he'd be lost without it. He went back to get it as a woman racer ran past, remarking something about how he should just leave it. Well, you never know when it might come in handy...

Luckily there was a trolley hanging out at Canal Street, so we jumped on and bought day passes along with several other teams. We had to wait a bit for everyone to buy their passes, and John actually suggested we jump out and run a couple streets over to try to catch whatever trolley might be already moving in front of this one. OK, that was officially a sign that his knee was not going to be a limiter this morning. By the way, I nixed the idea and instead we focused on the clue sheets.

We had some time on the way to Tulane, so we started working on an overall plan. Tulane, a couple stops on Magazine Street on the way back, then finish everything in the French Quarter. Sheila told me on the phone that the crew was having difficulty finding the bell for checkpoint (CP) 10. John and I studied it, gave some suggestions, and figured we might have to skip that one if it didn't get answered.

To back up just a hair, as soon as the race started at 8 a.m., I kept hearing an insistent little "beep" from my phone as I was on the line with Sheila. While we were on the bus, I had time to try to figure it out, wondering if perhaps someone was trying to get ahold of us for something race-related. It turned out that both John's and my phone were being auto-dialed by some phone service with a number like "000-012-3456". Wow, that's annoying! Luckily I had time to deal with it, because it took several tries to get back on the line with Sheila. We didn't hang up the rest of the race, and I just had to ignore the little beeping. Apparently someone decided to try to sabotage our team. Thankfully it was a minor annoyance and didn't end up affecting our race. But come on, that's pretty rude.

Anyway, back to the race, now reaching the Tulane campus. We jumped out and started running toward the Lavin-Bernick Center for CP 1. Along the way we took slightly different lines through the courtyard to try to find some chalk triangles on the ground for CP 9. We weren't successful finding the chalk drawing, but as we crossed Freret Street I glanced up to see the bell for CP 10. Score! Other teams noticed the bell just after I did, and we all ran over to help each other take our photo with each teammate touching the bell:

From there we slightly overshot an alleyway but soon were on the way into the building with room 201. As soon as we got inside, John started for the Information Desk while I yelled "Room 201?" and someone walking by casually replied "Upstairs on the right" - Thanks!

Once in the room, we joined a couple other teams doing word search puzzles. More teams piled in behind us, and soon there were many pairs of hands dripping sweat on the puzzle papers. John and I divided up the words and got to work. It was a large puzzle that took a while, and once we found all the words we had to pull out the remaining letters and spell a sentence. It took several tries to get something that made sense, and I made a mess of the little boxes. The woman at the front asked for clarification, so I wrote it out again word-by-word, she compared it to her sheet (obviously there were many different versions of the puzzle and answer), and stamped our clue sheet. She, in fact, stamped CP 2 so I had to ask for a re-stamp on CP 1. Phew, that was a long one.

We exited and circled the building, wondering where the elusive chalk design might be. No luck. I debated trying further north (since the bell was to the south, maybe it would be opposite from that?) but we were already heading south again. We asked a group of students who were tired of pointing out the building with the word search. But no, they had not seen any triangles - in fact, that question made them giggle in a strange way that made me wonder what was up.

Along the way we saw our friends Jeff and Julie, and then Kip and Dave. None of them had found the triangles yet either. When we got back to St Charles, we decided to bail on the triangles. We had found the hard clue (the bell); we would just have to get the rest of the checkpoints. This turned out to be a lucky break, oddly enough. We found out later that the chalk triangle drawing had been messed with by someone with another color chalk, and the resulting drawing looked like this:

We know a few people who wasted time on this one, and it was only by skipping it that we avoided that fiasco. As we stood at the trolley tracks trying to decide whether to go back and look some more, an east-bound trolley approached and made our decision for us. Onboard, another team told us about the triangle mess. We were grateful we had missed it.

We jumped off the trolley in the Garden District and ran south to Magazine Street. John's knee was still holding up, and he adjusted his pace so I could stay close to him. At least I had time both ways on the trolley to thoroughly read the upcoming clues and I didn't have to focus as much on that as we ran. This is definitely a race where you have to read the fine print.

At Magazine and 2nd Street we found some friends waiting with 10 dollar bills with the letter "F" in the serial number. We turned in our donation to St Jude and got our photo with the correct tagline (there were four options to choose from):

We passed a team trying to decide which tagline to use, and another on the way west on Magazine Street to Mystic Blue Signs. At the sign store, we got instructions in the window that one teammate must piggyback the other. We needed a photo with both teammates, one race number, and the sign in the window. We tried doing this ourselves, but wow, I think we need some help! Luckily a passerby offered assistance, and he took this excellent shot:

I would have attempted to pick John up, but thankfully he (and his knee) were up to the task of putting me on his back instead. Good thing I don't weigh as much as I used to.

John had a bead on our next destination, a juice bar on Carondelet Street That worked great, until we ran right past it, turned around, and ran past it again trying to find the courtyard on the other side of Carondelet. Finally I checked with the guy inside and he pointed across the side street - oh, THAT courtyard - thanks!

CP 4 involved squeezing oranges with our hands to make orange juice. They told us we could use whatever tools we brought, or we would just have to use our hands. And the oranges were whole to start with, not cut in half. And guess what? John has a pocketknife with him! He cut the oranges while I started squeezing, and soon we had a glassful. John downed it before I could ask if it was any good and maybe I could try some... We got our two stamps on the clue sheet, wiped our hands on some towels they provided (thanks!) and took off again.

Sheila kept working on bus options to get John's knee some rest, but John wasn't having any of it. He sped south toward the Convention Center and I did my best impression of a runner not being able to keep up with a guy who was limping. We spotted the Hilton Hotel tower, and just as we had to veer into the parking lot to avoid a bus coming out, John spotted the Cruiser station to the side. Nice catch, John!

A really nice guy (who turned out to be the owner of the Cruisers and a former Austin Wrangler) helped us get settled in with helmets and seatbelts. We had seen (and laughed at) these little cars with tourists bopping around the streets, now it was our turn! John took off while I clutched the map on our clue sheet. Wow, these things are fast! And loud! And super cool!

We giggled as we sped along. We even checked the clue sheet for any rules about following traffic laws (there weren't any!) but John was good and stopped for all the stoplights. I noticed that our car had a music player, so I hit the Play button. Michael Jackson's "Beat It" started playing - how appropriate! I started singing along, probably much to the chagrin of Sheila who was still on the line with me. "You better run, you better do what you can" - we laughed and laughed!

At Lee Circle we needed to figure out how to get us, the car, and the Lee statue in a photo. We made it around the circle without a good plan. John finally pulled up to the curb where he spotted a couple guys on the sidewalk. He asked for their help with a photo and they were more than happy to oblige. We needed to back up to get back onto the road so he could get a good photo, so when John figured out that we didn't have a reverse gear (oops!) he used his left leg to wheel us backward. We held up a limo briefly and our new friend got this photo:

Thanks so much! We took off again, tooling down to Convention Center Boulevard and back to the Hilton. The ride's over, bummer. We were pretty psyched that we got to ride in the Cruiser, because we probably would have skipped that CP if we still had a skip point available. And look what we would have missed.

OK, now for some more running. We followed the train tracks, road, and parking lots around to the French Market where I spotted the answer to CP 3. The last digit in the year the sculpture was made was a 3, so we held up 3 fingers each:

Just a short distance away we found the Performance Pavilion and some volunteers for our "charades" challenge. We had two chances, but I was pretty sure I could make the first one work. At least, I thought so before we started. John got "1st word = RUN", "3rd word = RED", and "4th word = LIGHT" really quickly. OK, so what's that spell? Apparently there isn't any wiring in John's brain to connect those words into a phrase. I tried mimicking driving, which confused the issue. Finally John spouted something like "Run under a red light" and the volunteers gave it to us, perhaps because he finally got all four words in. Phew, I didn't expect that to be hard! We usually communicate so well that it's hard to imagine how we can completely miss sometimes.

The volunteer asked why I had a stamp already on CP 2, so I explained about the CP 1 lady putting it in the wrong place. She looked a bit confused, maybe wondering why we came to CP 2 if we already had a stamp? I didn't have time to explain, gotta go!

We flew across Decatur Street and into Jackson Square for our picture of CP 12 (the Cathedral, a real clock, and a statue of a man on a horse, all in one picture):

John led us toward the St Louis hotel on Bienville. The doorman pointed us to the left and into a conference room where there was an "alligator challenge" waiting. I had skimmed the text for the clue and somehow assumed it would be some kind of a puzzle where we'd assemble some large toy alligator or something. But there were two alligators already on the floor and all we had to do was carry them a short ways. At this point I moved on to assuming they were plastic or stuffed alligators.

John knew better, and he got really excited. I should always stop and question why when John starts whooping "Yes!" He told me to pick up the head since the tail was more dangerous. OK, whatever. I moved toward the alligator when suddenly it turned its head quickly toward me and hissed in a very not-stuffed manner, looking at me right in the eyes and challenging me to stay away. It was a seriously pissed-off animal!

I made about 5 large steps backwards, somehow not running into anyone in the process as I freaked out. John said, OK, I'll take the head then. Its mouth was taped shut, so there was that at least. I stayed back from the tail that might swing around and hit me (it didn't), while John picked it up under its armpits like instructed. I placed perhaps a pinkie finger under a bit of its tail and we went around a couple chairs, returning the creature to its place on the mat. I kept telling it, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" as we carefully carted it around the room. Hopefully it got something nice for dinner (?). We didn't get any pictures of us with the gator, but here's one of Jason and Rob with it instead:

I muttered, "oh my gosh, oh my gosh" as we got our clue sheet stamped one last time and headed out. Just a short run back along Bourbon Street and there was the finish line! We got a bottle of Sho Nuff sauce from our friend Zach, ran around the banner and were officially done. Phew! Here is me doing my "it's a live alligator!" impression for the GUR staff:

Our photos checked out, and we were floored that we were even in the finals, not to mention the first team back. Soon afterwards teams started arriving from all directions. It wasn't long before all 8 slots for the afternoon race were filled. Kip and Dave managed to squeak in at number 7. It was a close finish all-around.

It was a challenge getting a bit of food in us plus our various electronics somewhat recharged before the next race, but soon we were back on Bourbon Street. The Elite Eight teams boarded a bus - I love the finals bus ride! This time there was no blindfold, no confiscation of phones, just a nice ride up the highway. Looks like we were heading to City Park.

There was a quick review of the rules: We would receive 3 clues and then the following 9; we could skip one non-mandatory CP out of the whole 12; and we had to return to the finish line by 4:00 pm (in about 2.5 hours) or we would be disqualified. That last announcement was a bit stunning. We had never had a time cutoff before that might come into play for the winning team. John had the presence of mind to ask the GUR staffer what time he had on his watch so that, like in an orienteering rogaine, we would know exactly when we needed to get to the finish line if it came down to that.

Everyone hopped off the bus near the museum in City Park. They handed each team a box with a Lego racecar (same design for each team). That's a new one! We had to assemble the car, including the stickers. Luckily it wasn't too windy, so I was able to keep track of the sheet of stickers and read ahead on the assembly instructions while John worked out each step. We had only a couple minor backtracks, but we weren't even close to being the first ones done. Some teams rocked this one!

If I had thought about it, we might have kept our car as a keepsake, but after we got it inspected and received our clue sheet, I forgot to ask. Soon we were running around the Big Lake toward the boathouse as I scanned the following clues:

At the boathouse we were handed the following puzzle:

I glanced at Kip/Dave's page, but they had different details, so we moved away to work on ours alone. The next few minutes were pretty agonizing. We immediately eliminated two possibilities (the dead guy and one suspect based on weight). I wrote notes, played around, wrote more notes, and thought I had a reason to cross off Larry Edison. I used to do logic puzzles, and I know how to set up a grid to make it easier, but it seemed like this grid would need to be three sets by three sets instead of a simple two by two. My brain could not get past the idea of having to draw so many lines! Was this really that complicated? (The Answer: yes, it was!)

We heard an announcement that if we got it wrong twice, this would count as our skip for the whole afternoon race. Other teams started getting up, and we got antsy. Apparently people were giving up and making guesses, but we didn't know that - maybe everyone had solved it already. Or were they making guesses with a 50/50 shot at the right answer in two tries?

Finally John pushed for making one guess. I decided randomly on "Bob Fox" - John asked and came back with the bad news - that was wrong. However, he also noted that the GUR staffer had quickly glanced at the sheet and was easily able to give a yeah or nay answer without referring to a cross-reference sheet. John threw out a theory that it was the guy with 6 letters in his last name, or maybe the guy in the 6th position on the list, because our sheet had #6 on it.

I thought that would still take too long - maybe the right answer was in the same position for everyone. And it was reasonable to assume that it was either the top or the bottom position. The top guy was the dead dude, so let's try the bottom one. That name also had 6 letters and was in the 6th position, so John was happy. I was not excited about making a guess! Our race might all come down to this... I re-circled the Larry I had earlier crossed out and John went to check while I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

But we were right!! OMG, John, how did we do that? I did minor in Psychology in college, but I didn't learn anything like this.

To celebrate, we jumped in a rowboat. John literally jumped off the dock and rocked the boat but good. I opted to stay on the dock and undo the rope from two dock cleats (it would have been cool if they had made us untie knots Survivor-style!), then climb gingerly down. John grabbed two oars and started to try to figure out how to steer this thing. I had visions of a recent Amazing Race episode, except this boat wasn't inflatable (thank goodness).

After a slow start and a bump off another rowboat, John got into a rhythm and I tried to direct him since he was facing backwards. He was doing well, but he asked if I could check and see if there was a pin holding in the oars. Doesn't look like it - oh! Yes, there is. We freed the oars and turned them into canoe paddles. Much more up our alley. Plus we could both see where we were going.

We were directed to go around the fountain (which was spewing water high into the air) and back. John took an interesting line right next to the fountain source instead of going all the way around the spray like I had anticipated. I briefly protested about getting wet, but then I realized that we are adventure racers and what's a little water? Not to mention my phone was already soaked from the oaring John had been doing earlier. We managed to squeak our wide boat between the water shooting up and the water splashing back down, with only a bit of noise from me (I think!).

Coming back went a lot faster and soon we were back on the dock. That was fun! We got our last set of clues and started walking back around Big Lake as I scanned them. For once I had no real idea where any of these were:

I was pretty sure none of these were in City Park at least, and I suspected we needed to get back to the French Quarter, so we aimed for the exit to the park. We looked up to see a trolley parked at the corner - oh my goodness, we could really use that trolley! We had not actually expected to see it there based on the trolley schedule, but if we could catch it we were not going to argue.

So we ran hard, briefly tried to get on the wrong side of the bus, and finally made it onboard along with Kip, Dave, and our friends Jeff and Julie. Team Dos XX was also on the tram, but we didn't see anyone else as the tram pulled out. That was a lucky break. We had expected to run at least several blocks to Canal Street instead.

Sheila started giving us locations of CP's. They seemed to be scattered in/near the French Quarter plus a couple on Magazine Street. At least we probably didn't have to go back to Tulane - except that CP 10 was plotting way west on Magazine Street, not far from the university. Not only that, but CP 6 initially appeared to be far to the east. That was a tough CP to solve, based solely on a Chinese symbol. We wanted to skip one of those two checkpoints, but we weren't sure either answer was right.

Our crew kept working on those two as we hopped off the trolley near the Molly Marine statue. We were supposed to get a photo with all teammates touching the statue - except that the statue was behind a high fence...? We opted to believe that the race directors didn't seriously want us to climb that fence and trod on memorial ground (I'm sure there's a reason that fence was there, in other words). Jeff took this picture of us touching the fence:

From there we headed south to start our journey down Magazine Street. We ran down Canal and turned right on Magazine, watching behind us in case a bus magically appeared, but none did. We weren't surprised, as there wasn't one on the schedule at that point, but you never know, seeing as a trolley appeared at City Park when we didn't expect it. John's knee continued to pleasantly surprise us by not causing huge problems.

Jeff and Julie ran with us, easily keeping up. I guess I was the only one struggling to stay with John that day, but I relaxed and set a pace I could maintain for a while. This race appeared to be pretty long for the limited time we were working with. Sheila relayed that our crew had finally found the answer for CP 6 (nice job!) - and it was on Magazine Street between two other CP's, so that made sense. But the CP 10 location was definitely right, and we were definitely skipping that one because it was a loooong way away. No pie for us today.

We kept running and finally got to the flower shop where CP 11 was located. We walked in and they told us we were the first ones there. Yay but where's the cooler? They pointed us to a wall. Actually it was a big door to a walk-in cooler. Oooh, that's a lot of flowers! We had to search through them, carefully so as not to damage any, and find a fake one. We started pulling whole bunches (carefully) out of one vase at a time to look at the bottoms, since the tops of the flowers all looked pretty real to us.

Finally we got one - it was definitely fake, now that we had seen so many real ones. We got our clue sheet stamped and got out of these as team Dos XX pulled in. Jeff and Julie waited behind for Kip and Dave while we continued west to our next stop.

We briefly passed the Jim Russell record shop for CP 8 because the building numbers jumped unexpectedly, but we did a U-turn and found it right behind us. The people hanging out there were really low-key. I had to ask to verify that we were even in the right place? Yes, they said we were. But that was all the info we were getting out of them. Yes, they have 45's. There are 45's all over the store, in no particular location. No, we can't help you with anything.

OK then, let's get to work. John and I started browsing sections of little records, looking for a Danny White 45. We started looking under W's, but didn't have much luck. I tried to be careful with all the records - there really should have been a rule here about not damaging anything, much like for the flowers. It was hard not to sweat on them or leave them in disarray, but we handled them as gingerly as we could.

I must have missed a "W" section where I had first started, because the Dos XX guys found their 45 first. We zeroed in on the approximate area they had found it and soon we were waiting behind them as they listened to their 45 on a record player with headphones on. Cool! I watched as they decided they had the words they needed and proceeded to head toward the door. I also watched their little record still sitting on the record player. Hmm, I wonder if they might miss it later?

The woman at the counter took this moment to speak up - "You need to bring it with you!" she told them. I proceeded to have a minor conniption fit about how she had said she couldn't help and now she was helping. It's OK, it's OK, I'm sorry I yelled, I said as I calmed down. The Dos XX guys told me later they had realized at the same time that they needed the record, so it ended up not mattering. I asked the woman to at least do the same for any other teams who accidentally left their 45 behind, just to be fair. I'm not sure she understood what I was asking, but I tried.

So we put our 45 on the turntable, listened to a woman speaking in French (?) and then heard the man's voice say "What You Say?", which is understandable given what the woman had said. We took our record (and only our record, for whoever suggested that we took more than one) and got out of there.

More travel west on Magazine - boy, this is one long street with a lot of stuff on it. We saw Dos XX having a discussion outside the record store, but we continued on to wait for a bus that was supposed to arrive in a couple minutes. We found the stop and then waited... and waited... we thought we would see Dos XX and/or a bus at any moment, but nothing appeared.

Finally we just had to run, which I wasn't too excited about. But there was nothing else to be done - the buses must have been far off schedule, because it took us a while to run a few blocks and we never saw a bus. John had finally slowed below my pace and he was limping more noticeably, so I ran ahead to each stop to pause and look back. No bus. Keep running.

We made it to the spa (phew) and climbed the stairs to the porch for our smell test. Most of the items were pretty obviously different, except peppermint/spearmint. We got it on our first try, a nice quick challenge - once you got there.

That was enough of Magazine Street. We tried one more time waiting a brief moment for a bus going back the other direction, but gave up on that really fast. Instead, we ran north to St Charles to try our luck with the trolley again.

Just as we approached St Charles, a trolley started pulling away from the stop in front of us. Oh no! John and Jeff (who was back running next to us) put on a burst of speed to try to flag down the driver, but it didn't stop. We looked ahead and saw the next stop only a block away. The guys made another sprint and practically begged the driver to stop and wait, which he did this time. Oh thank you thank you! Another pedestrian crossed to get on too, giving me time to catch up without holding up the entire operation. And boy, we got a lot of use out of those days passes for once.

The trolley was quite crowded, but we were still able to study our map and clue sheet while standing in the back. We needed a plan for the remaining points, and it better be good. We were running seriously low on time for getting back by 4 pm. We counted 4 checkpoints remaining: 2 challenges and 2 photos. One challenge involved staying on a mechanical whale (?) for 7 seconds each - well, that should be quick unless we just can't do it. That left the "build 30 Miss Jenny boats" challenge - who knew what that would entail? We decided to leave that one for last and leave ourselves 5 minutes to get to the finish line from there, whether we were done or not.

The trolley made decent time until it hit Lee Circle. Then it kept stopping and waiting for minutes at a time. We really should have gotten out at that point, but we were hoping to save some distance on John's knee. Finally we gave up and got out a couple stops before Canal Street, running the rest of the way and then across to Bourbon Street

Next stop: The mechanical orca, the only one in the nation! We made our way to the back of the Beach bar to find what looked like a mechanical bull painted as a whale. John dropped his pack, signed a waiver, and jumped into the padded pit for a shot at it. Wow, that looks pretty hard! John hung on with arms and legs wrapped around the orca, managing not to fall off until the count had reached "seven!"

Wow, OK, here goes me. My calves cramped just stepping into the pit, not a good sign. I climbed on, grabbed the rope, and closed my eyes. The thing started bucking and heaving, my sunglasses came off my head, my legs slipped off the back, and soon I was just hanging onto the rope with everything I had. Each jerk and spin required a huge amount of concentration, and I knew I was near the mat but still not on the ground, just grasping the rope for all it was worth. Finally - "Seven!"

What is this crazy sport we do?

We got a stamp, worked our way back out of the bar, and then ran south toward the World Trade Center and a statue of a previous governor of Louisiana. This was a fun pose:

Then we took the same train track/road/parking lot route as this morning to get to Jackson Square. We had seen the silver man there during the first race, and he was happy (for a nice tip) to help us out with this shot:

Notice that I'm trying to breathe while John is totally comfortable, like normal.

Finally we had to go see what the Miss Jenny boat thing was all about. We ran over to the Bubba Gump Shrimp place and followed a volunteer upstairs. We would be building paper boats, with about 10 folds, maybe 6 tabs to put in place, and one round roof piece to pop out. When finished, it would look like a shrimping boat, I guess, but without the mast.

We started with one apiece and struggled to get them together. The volunteer told us it would get faster. I don't think I could have gotten any slower, but we needed it to get a lot faster if we were going to finish 30 of these. Our friend Jason asked if he could help us, but the volunteer told him flat-out no. I was immediately impressed with this volunteer.

We got a few more boats together and slowly started picking up speed - but would it be fast enough? It was now about 3:40 and we had many boats to go. We timed one set at 2 minutes. Not good enough... yet. I got calmer, my heart rate dropped, and slowly we got more focused and tuned in to the task. I also liked popping out the roof piece, trying to make it "fun" whenever I got to that part of the boat.

Kip and Dave came in, and they put a few together while coming to the conclusion that they definitely did not have time to finish 30 of them. They asked the volunteer if they could give us their completed boats instead. He initially said no, but Kip explained that the race director had announced that "Teams can help other teams" right before the race start that morning. The volunteer backed off on the ultimatum and gave us an excellent response, to the effect of "You can do that if you like, but if the race director asks I will have to tell him." That left us to make our own decision and then the race staff to decide if it came down to that.

John and I continued folding and getting more efficient at it, now timing them at 40 seconds each. We agreed we would continue our own set to see if we could finish this ourselves. If we ran out of time, we had a choice to use some of Kip/Dave's boats to finish out our 30. Kip and Dave stated that we could have as many as we wanted, then they left to get another checkpoint before heading to the finish line.

Finally we were down to about 8 more... then 6... the clock was ticking... John recalculated how long he thought it would take to run to the finish and gave us a couple more minutes. My hands were flying through the stack of flat boats and converting them to Miss Jenny's faster and faster. Much better! 4 left ... now only 2 ... we're done! The volunteer smiled and gave us our well-earned Bubba Gump sticker. Thank you, thank you!

We dashed out of the building, with a route clearly in mind to avoid crowds and traffic as much as possible. St Louis - Chartres - St Peter - Royal, only one or two blocks apiece before making a turn and working our way to the finish. John decided we should cross the finish line from the east like in the morning race, so he ran past Orleans to St Ann, no time to argue, just run!

We turned the corner to a huge, cheering crowd, crossed the line with a couple minutes to spare, and pretty much collapsed. The Dos XX team had skipped two CP's (the spa and the pie, both far points on Magazine St), done everything else, and arrived at the line at about 3:35 with a 30-minute penalty. That was certainly a valid strategy and almost won it for them. We arrived just before 4 pm. Three people from the GUR staff checked our stamps and photos, reverified everything, and called it good - we were the first team to finish the course without a penalty!

I'm exhausted now just writing about it and reliving it in my mind. The 4 pm time constraint made for the most interesting strategic decisions I've seen in an urban race. Any one little mistake on our part could have put us past the 4 pm deadline. It was an extremely close finish, and I applaud Dos XX's efforts.

Overall, this was the most fun-filled day of urban racing I've ever had. The Great Urban Race folks deserve kudos for coming up with a challenging, widely varied, surprising course. I highly recommend it - check out their schedule for 2010!

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