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Great Urban Race Austin 2014

February 8, 2014
By David Bogle - Team Vignette KD

The Great Urban Race folks changed their schedule for 2014, which moved the races to earlier in the year (in order to facilitate a summertime championship race). Kip was nice enough to fly back to Austin to help us qualify for the 2014 championships. Also joining us were Marcy & John (home from New York), Art & Robyn, Tom & Spencer, and Cathy & Tanner. A total of five teams for our mob, which is always fun to race with. Altogether there were 77 teams that showed up to compete in the event. It has been very cold (for Texas) for the last week or two and today was the first sunny and warm (50s) day in a while; perfect for a run around the city.

At noon, we were given our clue sheets and told to go. We quickly sent our pictures of the clues to our super crew back home, and then left the starting line.

While the crew was starting to solve, we quickly scanned the sheet and I was able to identify a clue I knew the answer to (#8 at Stubbs BBQ). This was pretty close to the start, so Kip and I headed that direction. It looked like Tom and Spencer and Art and Robyn had the same plan so we all headed up Red River Street together. It was several blocks away, so we scanned the tic-tac-toe clue as we ran. There were several we could do on the way to Stubbs, so we started knocking out some squares. First up, we got a video of us doing a great line dance in front of a food truck. Next we crawled into a large empty cable spool and grabbed a picture. Wow, that was two squares done in a few minutes.

We arrived at Stubbs BBQ and found the challenge task in the back lot. Here I was blindfolded and Kip directed me to flip over certain tiles to produce the required color pattern. This was no problem for us and we quickly finished (Tom and Spencer were doing the challenge right next to us). We got our picture and asked the volunteer for the other required item: a menu card. The volunteers said they had no such card, which caused some confusion. Being ever helpful, Kip helped go through their volunteer bag where they did have some small cards and the volunteers said to take that as proof. This clue marked the start of an atypical amount of social media requirements for the race. Our picture here had to be taken in the Instagram app and "tagged" with things that the race specified, then shown at the finish line within the Instagram app. Ugh, so many things to do. (Yes Kip and I are over 40, and being proficient with every social media app is not really our strong suit. And as you will see later, I don't think all these apps are the strong suit of most folks that do these races). We have had problems with social stuff in the past, so we decided we better walk for a while to make sure we get all the stuff done right, so that is what we did. While Kip fiddled with instapicturing (or whatever the kids call it), I was able to convince the bouncers at Stubbs to help us complete our tic-tac-toe clue and take a video of them telling us how they met. Bam that completed three-in-a-row for our tic-tac-toe, which was definitely the quickest we've ever managed to finish that in a race.

Our most important team mate (Chris, our phone support guy) directed us to CP #3: Tears of Joy hot sauce shop. We arrived a few minutes after Tom and Spencer and they looked a little flustered. I suspect we were the second team overall to arrive. Outside, the volunteer gave us a sheet of paper with a bunch of questions on it to answer. We asked what the penalty was for wrong answers. She said, for each incorrect guess, we had to eat a drop of hot sauce. Kip quickly volunteered to eat the hot sauce, so rather than wasting time researching the questions on the internet we simply made random guesses. She then sent us in the store. The clerk in this store seemed strangely unhappy to see us racers. We asked about the hot sauce and he said he was not going to do our job for us, and told us to go look around on our own. Alright, so we started walking around the store. We then got yelled at by the clerk for going into the kitchen area. We then found the giant thermometer the clue sheet specified, and got our picture and left. OK, two clues down, despite the setup issues. But we did not waste too much time and we were out of there.

Chris then directed us to head west on 6th Street. Next up was Lance Armstrong's bike shop (Mellow Johnnies). We have been there many times in clue races, so no problem. The clue said to go in the basement to find our challenge. So, we headed down the stairs as we once again ran into Tom and Spencer coming up the stairs, along with Art and Robyn. They told us they did not find the clue challenge... well, that's odd. Well, we went into the basement and could not find it either, so we headed back upstairs. After searching the shop, we found the clue challenge (on the main level, not in the basement). There was a wait for the challenge as only two teams could do it at once... With so many teams in the race, this could potentially create a big bottleneck. The challenge was to ride a stationary bike and answer a few questions about the shop. At least we could help answer questions while the other teams were riding. This sped us all up, so the wait was not too bad. We got our picture on the bikes, and got out of there along with the other checkpoint verification stuff (a flyer).

Chris then directed us to the nearby location of Wahoo Taco. Here we needed to get a picture of us riding the surfboard outside. Easy enough, except for the crowd of college kids trying to do the same. Well, we photo bombed them a bit, and managed to get our picture. We then went inside the store where we were required to do a special task. It involved Kip wearing a bucket on his head while I sort of shot goldfish out of a cup, which he had to catch in the bucket. We missed the first couple of shots getting calibrated, and then we landed one, received our flyer and were off to the next clue location.

Next up was Bella Salon, which was several blocks farther west. We had passed Tom and Spencer somewhere, but then we made a wrong turn and they got to the clue location ahead of us. Here the volunteers had us complete a challenge, which involved me being blindfolded again, and then spraying Kip's hair with a stencil. Once the volunteer was happy with my artwork, she gave us the required menu card and we were out of there. Tom and Spencer were a little slower than us here so we got away slightly quicker than they did.

Chris then directed us right around the corner to Taco and Tequila where we found the St. Jude's charity checkpoint. We signed the banner, picked up the required items and then we had to "Twitter" our picture with a few tags. Yep, we suck at this, so we walked a bit to try and get it right.

Next Chris told us we were heading to the Austin animal shelter. It was very close to us, but there was no direct road to it. Well, it is good we have seemingly done this exact same route, (but in the opposite direction) in a previous clue race. We knew we could get down the big hill (it is littered with small trails from others who have done the same), and across the railroad tracks. So, we got over to the animal shelter easy enough. Here, Kip had to get into a "downward dog" yoga pose (Kip has never done yoga, so he needed a demonstration from the volunteers), while I did a "Minute to Win it" sort of challenge where I had to twerk a bunch of ping pong balls out of a box. Not a very pleasant site watching either of us perform at this one. Once that was done, we had to take a picture of the correct sign, then Facebook it and also check-in at the location. This was slightly confusing as there is a social media app FourSquare that does official check-in things. So, we did what we thought was right and we were out of there.

Next up we needed to head across Lady Bird Lake. We made our way over the Lamar Bridge and then to Uncle Billy's BBQ. Here the volunteer quickly told us there was a long line for the special task, so we might want to skip this one. There were 4 stations where each teammate had to lasso a keg. This is a bit harder than it sounds and teams were really struggling. The good news, sort of, is that there was another checkpoint very close, so we bailed on roping for the moment and headed over to Flipnotics (clue #1). Here we had to do more social media-ing. We had to create a "Vine" of us singing the "Bacon Song". Since we didn't know this song, we searched on YouTube to find the right one (there are lots of bacon songs!). Once we had the lyrics, we recorded the video. The volunteer told us we needed to show the video to the bartender to get our completion of the clue. OK, we headed inside. But since we switched away from the app, it automatically deleted the video (and what the heck is up with that, Vine?!?!) ugh, so we had to re-record the video, but at least this time we knew the lyrics. The bartender approved and gave us our clue completion paper. Kip was very nervous about losing our video again in case they wanted to see it at the finish (and they did), so he now said his phone was off limits and that he would not switch away from this app again! Fortunately, we were mostly done with the race.

We then headed back over to the roping challenge, where there was still a line, so we decided this would have to be our skip point for the race so we left without completing the clue. Bummer since we were right there anyhow! This did confuse Chris a bit as to why we skipped it, but we finally got it all figured out.

We then headed to the Zach Theatre for the next checkpoint photo.

With us skipping the roping challenge, it meant we had to get one more clue, which was a toy shop on 2nd Street. Chris gave us good directions on how to get there, but in Kip and my minds, we thought we knew a better "shortcut" that involved bushwhacking directly north up a hill, through a construction site, and over a railroad (and popping out on the wrong destination street). Chris did keep telling us no, and to turn back around, but I acted as if I did not hear him. Well, Chris was absolutely correct, this was a terrible shortcut! We should know better than to not trust our phone contact, as our phone contact generally has more information available to assess the situation than we do. Here's a photo of Chris working his magic for us.

But, we did finally get to Toy Joy, only to find another challenge with a bottleneck problem. Here we had to put on these rubber "witch fingers" and then pick up little plastic markers and put them in a cup. The problem was that the volunteer was only allowing one team to do this at a time. We had to wait as we already skipped a point earlier. Fortunately there was only one team in front of us (and Kip helped them out a little on technique). We got it done and grabbed our picture on the small ponys.

We were now done with all the clues, so it was just a matter of getting to the finish line. It was still nice and cool outside and we were both feeling well, so we made a run for it. With our navigation mistake (and since we gave up on the lassoing and so had to visit all twelve points), we figured Tom and Spencer (and likely Marcy and John) would be waiting for us at the finish line. On our way we tried to verify all our social media clues, but heck most of our crew does not use all of those media things, so our crew wasn't able to verify them all. Oh well, we figured even with a penalty or two, we could likely still qualify for nationals, so let's just cross and hope for the best.

To our surprise, we were the first team back. We headed to camera check and slowly worked through all the details of the clue sheet. We've done many clue solving races (including many championship races), and this was one of the most difficult camera checks we've gone through. We had pictures on our camera, videos on our camera, Twitters, Vines, Instagrams, Facebooks... and likely some other media that I am not even sure of. The good news was that we miraculously somehow got it all right and we were declared penalty-free. That was great. Not only did we qualify for nationals, but also we accidentally won. While we were picture checking Tom and Spencer arrived, then Marcy and John, then Art and Robyn. So all our teams were flowing in fast!

The real theme of the camera check was penalty after penalty for social media things. It was a real shame that so many people were penalized despite making it to the correct locations and completing the challenges, simply for failing to post the media according to the specifications. Two of our five teams got penalties. Only 30 of the 77 teams that entered managed to finish the course without a penalty. We heard a good bit of swearing at check in. I can understand the frustration of learning you have penalties during camera check. Kip and I have lost two national championships due to penalties. So trust us, we understand! There were so many teams with penalties that our fifth team crossed significantly later than many teams, but they did have all their answers correct, so they moved all the way up into the top 10! Go Cathy and Tanner!