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Urban Challege Las Vegas Championships 2002

By Marcy Beard / Team Vignette

Never before had we been this close to real prize money for a race. Free race entry, a couple times. Trophies, finisher medals, we had some of those. The big payouts went to the professional adventure racers, when we were lucky enough to be following in their expedition racing footsteps. So when Rebecca Rusch yelled out "Can anyone say $50,000?" for coming in second at Subaru Primal Quest we thought, "You can!" Never in our wildest dreams would we have a shot at the same.

Urban Challenge caught my eye as an ad in Runners World magazine. Aspirations to participate in another of Mark Burnett's grand adventure races will forever draw me toward the words "Eco" and "Challenge". Investigation had me sending emails to my team asking if they might be interested in a running/thinking/trivia race in Dallas in September. Always looking for something new that involves brain and speed, everyone agreed it would be fun. Four teams of two journeyed from Austin and mightily surprised everyone, including our 5-person support crew, by qualifying all of us for the Las Vegas championships a month later. The top 7 teams in the semifinals would race for a shot at the winner-takes-all 50 grand.

Our team of 8 racers and 5 support crew rapidly grew along with our excitement. A "War Room" was set up in Austin, two friends agreed to help in Las Vegas, and elaborate discussions ensued about how to improve on communication and clue gathering. Most of all, we were excited to spend time in an entertaining city with other racers from all over the country. We could tell it was going to be fun!

Frustrations began on race morning. Richard and Gayla missed the trolley we hopped to get to the race start, but soon caught the next one. Map discussions around an outdoor table were interrupted by a very inquisitive stranger and had to be curtailed. The trivia challenge questions drew blank looks from most of the audience, leaving our teams guessing through most of it. Jim and Becky did the best, boosted by Becky's Brady Bunch knowledge, allowing them to leave in an early group. The rest of us fretted over our bad guesses and watched groups of 11 teams leave 3 minutes apart. Finally everyone was out of the gate and we proceeded to assist with reading the clues to our support crew while Jerry, our ground crew guy, made sure other teams did not look over our shoulders.

The checkpoint clues were on a piece of paper pasted around a cylinder, preventing easy faxing. Becky coordinated who was reading in which clue. John read in a couple clues to Scott while Kip figured out one of the encrypted puzzles written in hieroglyphic symbols. I unscrambled the words "Your place or mine" for our first checkpoint, whereupon Richard produced the address for it! He and Gayla had scouted the downtown area the previous day and recorded that restaurant name as a possible location. So we were off and running!

Only a couple blocks over, we located the spot and took a picture of ourselves in front of the sign using the digital camera provided by the race organizers. John quickly called Scott to find out if they knew where to go for checkpoint 2. Each of our teams would start at a different checkpoint, so Kip and Rob also needed checkpoint 2 right away. The second part of the clue was what Madonna told us to "Get into" in the 80's. Lacking anything better to do while waiting for help, we ran behind other teams that looked like they knew what they were doing. Coming across "Tongue and Groove" (not sure what that was), the answer made sense.

Still no word from the support crew for checkpoint 3. We found out later that the "War Room" computers crashed for an hour back in Austin! More chasing, chagrined at having to resort to this tactic, but not having a choice. This clue involved figuring out which 11 words were misspelled and using the misspelled letters to find the name of an establishment. When we found teams taking pictures of "Pioneer Pawn", at least the number of letters made sense and it had an "a" for one of the words I knew was misspelled. We were curious why the crew had not come up with even the first couple letters on that one. We found out later that Word was auto-correcting the words as they were typed in! Becky and Jim were waiting for checkpoint 3, so this got them started on the run.

Richard and Gayla started at checkpoint 4. This clue involved the coded symbols. They discovered that the text sounded like one of the poems they had found on the sidewalk nearby during their scouting trip. Sure enough, as three of our teams converged on that area, we found the right poem with racers sprawled on the ground around it to capture their picture.

Finally we could get out of Downtown Las Vegas and make our way along the Strip. The direction of travel was clear because a later clue put us on the UNLV campus to the south. A bus had just left the bus stop next to checkpoint 4 when we were ready to get on. Many teams milled around the bus stop, debating where to go next and how to get there. Our crew came through on the next checkpoint, locating "The Beach" using the Morse code clue along with its "California Dreaming" title. The hotel was located on a street across from Stardust. Some teams decided not to wait for the bus, running down Las Vegas Boulevard for a 3-mile jaunt to checkpoint 5. Kip and Rob, along with Richard and Gayla, were among them. John and I hesitated, calculated the distance, and decided to wait.

A bus finally came and all the racers jumped on. Our other teams had also determined that they needed to take the bus and had stopped at the next bus stop, but apparently the first set of racers filled the bus to capacity and the bus driver sped on by. Rob and Kip frantically chased the bus to the next stop where one lady got off, but the driver didn't care and they were left behind to run.

It was then that I noticed John didn't have his backpack on. He had removed it for the photo of the sidewalk poem and left it there. Oops. We reviewed what was in it, knowing that going back would probably forfeit our race. Luckily we still had the phone and the camera, missing the bus schedule, my two-way pager, and a bottle of water. We decided we could race without it, but that we would really miss the pack and the pager later. Searching our brains, I finally convinced John to call the support crew for help. They sent Jerry, our "wheel" guy, to the location to see if he could find it before someone else did.

As the bus neared Stardust, racers nervously watched each other and inched toward the doors, trying to decide at what point to jump off. The bus stops at every block and sometimes in between, but if it is moving it will save time and energy. I think some of them also didn't know where they were going yet. Some people gambled and jumped off two blocks early, while John and I stayed on until we saw red lights ahead of us. We scrambled out and across the street, running down the Strip until we found Convention Center Drive.

We ran perhaps half a mile along the street, greeting a couple teams coming the other way. Finally we found The Beach Hotel, snapped a photo, and headed back. John stopped to ask a bus driver for any assistance with our next clue, an obelisk somewhere on the Strip. No help. Kip and Rob came chugging the other way, having run all the way from downtown Las Vegas. Kip told me later that they tried to take a photo of the hotel from a distance, but it didn't work so they had to run all the way to it. They saw Jim and Becky, then Richard and Gayla coming down the street after they turned around, giving our crew a good idea where we all were and what order we were running.

John and I ran on opposite sides of the Strip, looking for an obelisk and pondering where it could be. I watched John running slightly ahead of me, dodged a couple tourists (it was still early in the morning), and had to look twice at a team wandering in the other direction. John yelled that Jerry had found his backpack at CP #4 (THANK YOU!!). As we approached the larger casinos, John called me across the street. Our crew believed we would find the answer at Caesar's Palace ("Where the Hail...?"). Not 100 feet later we turned a corner to see a miniature Washington Monument parked by the sidewalk. We found it! However, we didn't learn until later that John had run right by the Skip Guy and Skip Dog (even after wondering why there was someone with an Urban Challenge shirt and a camera hanging out on the sidewalk in front of them).

Not long after, Kip and Rob ran down the Strip to Caesar's Palace, followed by Becky and Jim. Becky glanced over and caught sight of the Skip Dog! She and Jim yelled for Kip and Rob, but had to resort to calling them to tell them to come back for a photo. The information was relayed to John and we decided to come back to that area after running out to UNLV.

Clue #7 involved a Swami somewhere near the Paris hotel. We ran south, pondering possible locations for a fortuneteller. At the Aladdin hotel we crossed the street to ask a doorman if there was a Swami on display there. He was very helpful and directed us to the Boardwalk further down the street. Thank you! We crossed back over and perused shop names along the Boardwalk area. After reaching the end of the block, we turned around and asked a shopkeeper for help. He pointed back the way we had come, and then said we should come inside for a while (we aren't sure for what) but we declined. Running closer to the stores this time, we came upon a large glass display with a Swami guy inside, very similar to the prop from the movie "Big". One more down, relay the information to the crew, ask for help with CP #8.

Although this clue was supposed to be a "Gimme" according to the title, it took our phone guys some time to figure out that it was the big lion head at the MGM Grand. We were moving south anyway, reading off sights in the near vicinity to Scott in case that would help. We probably just added to the confusion back at home, but it was easier than waiting silently (sorry guys!). After a quick pose beneath the huge head, we took off to the east. The next checkpoint (the cleaners) was already solved, complete with address and running directions. Knowing where to go meant I had to run hard, a mixed blessing at the time.

However, too soon we were back to being stuck for the next direction of travel while we searched our brains for references to Rod Tidwell. Was he on M*A*S*H, or maybe Hogan's Heroes? A reference to "the Colonel" had us thinking about military shows. Even when John repeated "Jerry Maguire" as a thread that the crew was following, the answer did not come to me. We started following several teams back to the Strip, when they turned around and ran the other way. Not having anything better to do, we jogged behind them in the direction of UNLV.

Suddenly John jumped up and down yelling "Show Me the Chicken!" Of course! We had seen the restaurant with that name during our Friday morning scouting trip. How could I not figure out "Show me the money" and the reference to Colonel Sanders? My body was rerouting oxygen from my brain to my legs. Good thing, because it was time to run again. We crossed the street and ran and ran, eventually asking for the address because we didn't remember it being so far from the Strip.

Finally we spotted a huge cappuccino cup in a parking lot, meaning we were close. The two other teams we had been following showed up as we took the photo in front of the Chicken sign. We turned and ran back toward the Strip while the other racers headed for UNLV. Our strategy was to skip the point furthest away (especially since we did not have an answer for it yet) and bank on the Skip Guy and Dog still hanging out in the same place. John implored Scott to make sure Jerry watched them to verify that they didn't move from the spot where Becky had found them.

We settled into a good pace for me, something I could sustain for the distance to the Strip. When we dodged a woman who was getting up from her seat at the bus stop, John realized that a bus must be coming! We jumped on and saved a little time and energy, although we wished we could open the doors ourselves when we had to wait for the bus to stop for the light at Las Vegas Boulevard. We jumped out and dodged tourists as the sidewalks started getting more crowded.

Reaching the Mirage, we nearly passed the Skip Guy again but this time John was more observant and soon we had our treasured "Skip Photo." We immediately took off to find a bus going back to the downtown area. A query to a stranger verified that we were at one of the stops where the 302 Express would pick us up. The 301 was more frequent but it stopped at every street corner and sometimes in between. We waited and John chatted with a man who was also sitting there. We debated about running, but it was obviously not the right move. We paced and watched. No other teams showed up. No bus either. This was tough. Maybe 10 minutes later a bus finally lumbered down the street toward us. It was the Express version! Maybe it would be worth the wait.

We jumped on to find Becky and Jim! They were returning to Downtown to get CP's #1, 2, and the "Last One for Everyone" (all teams finished with this checkpoint regardless of starting position). We had a great time talking with them about the race and figuring out where the Express bus would stop near Fremont Street. Another team in blue shirts and someone's crew person got on somewhere along the way back. John and I plotted our route to the last checkpoint, the Mermaid casino about 4 blocks from the bus stop and finish line. It was clear that we would have to run hard.

As soon as the bus stopped, everyone piled out and took off in a sprint. John ran hard and coaxed the guys in blue to try to beat him, while I tried to keep them in sight. 3rd street, 2nd street... finally we saw the casino and John whipped out the camera. We stood panting and took a picture of ourselves perhaps 50 feet from the big Mermaid sign, while the other two racers took a photo near the front door.

That bit of distance gave me hope. John grabbed my hand and we took off back the way we had come. He pulled as much as he could while I concentrated on staying on my feet and getting some air into my lungs. My legs were screaming but we kept on pushing. I glanced back but didn't see anyone. Apparently John's strategy for wearing them down had worked. We neared the finish line and someone yelled that we were in sixth place. Sixth place! Well worth the difficult running! We crossed the line and I collapsed on the brick walkway to catch my breath.

Kevin (the race director) took our camera while a woman suggested that I move out of the finish chute so I didn't get run over by the next mad dash. About a minute later, 3 teams charged toward the line in a valiant attempt to get across for the last spot in the Finals. It was really exciting and made me realize just how close we had come to not making it. Still, we had to wait for the results of the photo analysis by the Urban Challenge organizers.

Finally Kevin came to me and said he had bad news - we had to race again in the evening! Woo hoo! I ran over to John and he somehow managed to pick me off the ground in a big hug. We relayed the news to our crew so they could celebrate and prepare for more mayhem. Becky and Jim came running across the line next, in 10th place! Richard and Gayla were not far behind, in 13th, while Kip and Rob had some bus issues and finished 17th. We were thrilled with how it turned out.

John and I hitched a ride with Jerry back to the hotel while we talked about opportunities for improvement and thanked Jerry for finding the backpack. At the hotel we grabbed some lunch and talked about ideas, then called Scott to work out details with the crew. John took a brief nap in the chair in the room. The other Austin teams met us on our way out to the bus and wished us luck! Kip was heading to Paul's place to help with the evening clues, Rob was going to the String Cheese Incident concert, and the others were going to hang out at the finish line party.

We waited for the shuttle and talked with some of the other racers. Several had intimidating credentials - 2:13 marathon time, Olympic 1500 meter runner, sponsored by Google (an internet search engine). Seventh place was a co-ed team, but the rest were guys. Urban Challenge organizers walked up and confiscated our cell phones, then we were loaded on a van. I sat in the back corner of the van and listened to comments about the morning race, ground crew, and betting strategies.

The driver started down Tropicana, going west and away from the Strip. He drove many blocks, so far that a couple teams did not have a map of the area we started in. We finally came to a stop at a neighborhood park. John and I had scouted that area the previous day but didn't find anything besides residential streets and small parks, plus strip malls along the main boulevards. We poured out of the van while someone captured our movements on video. John and I downed some SPIZ and quickly sorted the items we had brought in a duffle bag. We determined that we didn't need the backpack since we had done fine without it in the morning. We also nixed the headlamps at that point and tossed the bags back into the van.

A monitor was set up with 15 trivia questions. We did a Survivor imitation by writing the answers (letters A-D) on a spiral notebook as the questions clicked by. Then we revealed our answers one at a time. Teams that had the correct answer got to take one step forward. John and I started poorly but eventually got a set of questions right and ended up in 5th place. Teams started 2.5 minutes apart based on their placing in the trivia. In turn, we grabbed our clue baton and our phones, then sped to a spot on the grass to start talking with the crew.

John started by reading clue #1 (our starting checkpoint) to Jason. I called Shane, who was also in the War Room, to read in part of a later checkpoint, but communication was difficult for a couple reasons. John was on speakerphone in the War Room, so Shane could not speak without cutting off John's voice. Also, the checkpoint tube made it tough to read from different clues unless we were both lined up at the section of paper. However, the crew quickly jumped on CP #1 and we were off and running. One UC vehicle followed each team around the neighborhood for clues #1-4. I barely noticed the one behind us, focusing instead of keeping up with John. John can talk on the phone and run with me all day long (and did, actually!).

We didn't quite have an answer for CP #2 yet, so we stopped and I worked on the symbol equation for CP #4. Some clues were easy to read over the phone, some were almost impossible (see CP #4 from the morning race). In this case we could have communicated it, but it was easier to solve it ourselves. The crew got antsy as we ran to checkpoint 2, reminding us that there were still in the dark on #4. Someone called the phone Becky had loaned to me, but I was too out of breath to answer. All 4 of the first checkpoints were street intersections about equidistant from the starting park. I worked on #4 in my head, coming up with "Tree - something" and "Royal - something", whereupon the crew located the intersection of Tree Trunk and Royal Meadow. We hit CP #3 with this knowledge, allowing us to keep running (no breaks!).

A team in orange ran ahead of us. We passed some kids playing in the street and they asked if it was a race. "Yes!" we replied, so they asked who was winning... "they are at the moment!" was our answer. The streets wound around in circles, but the crew did a great job telling John where to turn at each intersection. The orange team turned right at one point when we went left, but they ended up ahead of us as we ran down a main thoroughfare. We bagged CP #4 and cut through a drainage alley to the main street. Our crew told us we had time to catch the next bus on Tropicana. If we could get to the next block north (a mile away) in 4 minutes, we could take an earlier bus, but that was not about to happen. I was already slowing down due to a side stitch. Another team at the bus stop asked if I was OK, after I ran up and then bent at the waist to alleviate the discomfort. I smiled and play-acted being hurt, saying "I think I'll be all right!"

A third team hit the bus stop and we waiting for a few minutes, reading in more clues to the crew. Finally the bus appeared and the three groups jumped on. Apparently two other teams caught the bus to the north that arrived sooner but was slowed by traffic crossing the Strip. The other two teams were behind us. John and I spoke softly into the phone, verifying that the recipe written on the clue sheet was indeed for Kim chi (cabbage and Kim chi sauce, it must be), and working out the answer to the logic problem. I heard the team behind say something about being stumped on the math problem. It was set up in a non-obvious manner, but I worked through the equation and found an address and a "shop" number, which we relayed to the crew. We had our next target ready, a place called Cheers next to the UNLV campus, where we had to pick up our next instructions.

After a long bus ride, it was dark. Teams pushed out of the crowded bus and hoofed it to Cheers. A man awaited us, handing out new instruction sheets. We were redirected onto the UNLV campus to look for some special kinds of plants, a native American poem, and some use for a set of dates (Month and Day). Hmm... John and I looked among the rose bushes and around the Peace Pool without finding anything that sounded like the right type of poem. I called Jason to verify the names of the plants and asked about a botanical garden in UNLV? Chris came up with a desert landscape area, so we figured it was worth a shot.

The next few minutes were spent discussing the names of surrounding buildings and whether going east would send us off campus or toward the desert landscape. Jason had a frustrating time with the campus map on the screen, and John had a frustrating time following me back and forth while not knowing what we were doing. Finally we ended up in a practice field and Jason stated that we were "very close." We turned and spotted an entrance to a small garden of some type. That had to be it!

John took off on a run, rounded a parked car, and tripped over a concrete barrier about 4 inches high that inexplicably ran next to the car instead of in front of it. The camera, phone, and clue tube went flying, with the phone coming open. At least the camera was OK! Oh, and John was OK too, with small scrapes on an elbow and a knee. The phone went back together and seemed to work in spite of the abuse.

Let's try this again... we started hunting through the garden for a poem, any writing, any hint of where to go. There were benches with writing but they were only names of people. The shrubs and trees were labeled, but we could barely read the words in the dark and we didn't find the specific species listed in our clue. We wished for a small light (the little photon lights would have been helpful). Another team wandered in the shadows with us. I climbed stairs to the building nearby to get a better look, but that didn't help. John took the opposite approach and perused items at ground level. Time ticked by.

Then John whispered to me and pointed out a small stone plaque next to a bench where a homeless man had been sitting. Now that I think about it, I wonder if the man was really someone from Urban Challenge? Well, regardless, we had avoided investigating much that area so as not to disturb him, but John finally had to look closer. What he found was a 12-line "Native American poem" - that's what I like about these clues, you usually know it when you have the right answer!

We squinted at it and I tried pushing some leaves back to get more light on the words. The first date was January 13, so we started from line #1 and counted to the 13th letter. There were 8 different dates, yielding the letters "MTKEITSO". What the heck is Mt. Keitso? No idea. We moved away from the stone and John punched in the number for the support crew to get their opinion. I started searching words on nearby benches, but all I found were names of people. Another racer came by stating that one team was an hour ahead of us! Wow.

Suddenly, right before my eyes, the words "MAKE IT SO" appeared! One of the benches was so engraved. John! Come here! This is it! By now two teams were milling around and searching for the plaque with the poem. We didn't want to totally give away the answer, but we couldn't just wait for them to wander to some other part of the garden. So we sat down, snapped a picture, verified that it looked good, and started walking away. I may have glanced back to see what the other racers thought about that flash of light in the night... and then we were chugging through campus, heading west in the general direction of our favorite area, the Strip.

The next stop was Hard Rock Cafe where we took our picture across the street from the large "axe" (guitar) that towered over the establishment. Then we had a brief discussion about the possibility of a bus back to the strip and I verified that we could not catch one on Harmon. So we ran toward Tropicana in the off chance we would time it correctly and save some energy. I was slowing down and my legs were really tired. Endurance is generally my forte, except when we have been sprinting off and on all day long. I was also out of water and the dry air made me thirsty. The crew told us that a bus was not possible, so we dug in and ran. We took it down a notch to a pace I could sustain for longer periods of time. John's phone started turning off in the middle of conversations with the crew, so he switched to the backup phone from Becky.

On the long run back to the Strip I asked John if he would mind stopping to buy a bottle of water when we got a chance. While waiting for a green light, he ran into a convenient store and quickly made the purchase. Thanks John! The brief rest was great and I was ready to push ahead. Of course, since we were so far behind that I was only thinking about officially finishing. We were probably missing the big party and everyone was wondering where we were. This was not going to be as quick an affair as Kevin from Urban Challenge may have envisioned. But we were going to finish the race even if it took all night! Sorry if we would keep everyone waiting...

OK, time to focus. We loped toward the New York, New York casino, knowing only that it matched the address in the clue. We still had to find the "shop" with 1090 on it. Jerry had been looking for quite a while with no success. To get across the Strip we had to climb stairs to a pedestrian bridge over the street. John took my hand and pulled me up the stairs two at a time. I had to jog while my leg muscles recovered from the exertion, so I used the opportunity to check out the front of the casino. There were some shops along the street in New York-style, so perhaps we would find "1090" there.

John had asked me to remind him to look for the Skip Team (one of the teams from the semifinals) since he usually had the time while running ahead of me. We lamented the fact that we had forgotten to look for them at Hard Rock, thinking that we probably missed them. But since you never know, I turned to John as we were coming down the stairs and said "Look for the Skip Team". He ran ahead, rounded a corner and yelled "There they are!" They were standing in front of the casino pretending to hand out flyers! How lucky is that? Someone helped us get a photo with them and they told us we were 25 minutes behind first place and 5 minutes behind second.

We turned to the task of finding CP #7. Behind the Skip Team was a faux storefront like in a downtown city. The first door we saw was 1092, so John went left and found 1090. Yay! Someone from Urban Challenge took our picture there, and we were off again. Things were looking up. Although our crew was still having difficulty with several clues, at least we had the option to forget one of them.

CP #8 was an unscramble of "I AM YIBAY". We knew that CP #10 was at Caesar's Palace, so we jogged in that direction, talked with the crew, and checked the names of each shop that we passed. We were stuck for answers on #8, #9, and #12. This may take a while!

Suddenly I spotted a bright sign on the other side of the street that said "MIYA BIYA". When you are looking for a B, an M, and 2 Y's, that name stands out. We barely took time to verify the letters before sprinting across the street. At the median we stopped to attempt a photo instead of waiting for a bunch of cars to go by. It worked! The crew was relieved! And so were we.

What are the chances that we will see CP #9 the same way? Well, we weren't exactly sure what we were looking for this time. The crew was suggesting Bugsy Segal so we looked for "Seagull" or anything that might give them a hint. We discussed skipping #9, but they also had not solved #12, so we continued toward Caesar's Palace and pondered.

Running out of time, we bugged the crew until finally we decided to skip #9. As we started to head that way we got a phone call. They knew where #9 was! We had to go to Battista's restaurant, one street over from the Strip. In fact, we were on the correct cross-street to get to it. We turned and ran like heck, around pedestrians and through parking lots to find the big sign proclaiming we had arrived. Whew! Although my legs were shot and I wasn't running very well, at least we had a bead on the rest of the clues and we knew which one we would skip.

The next section was basically survival on my part. We ran by Bellagio and John snapped a quick shot of the fountains that happened to be showing off at the time. We ran to Caesar's and located the Venus de Milo statue (although the concierge had told our crew on the phone that the statue was no longer there - ?). We ran north on the strip in search of the Kim Chi store, CP #11. We ran by the lava mountain bellowing fire and dodged spectators on the opposite side of the street. I feebly asked John how far we had to go, and when he told me it was past Stardust I wondered if we could take a bus. He glanced back occasionally, but there was no bus to be had.

The blocks went by at a reasonable pace and the crowds thinned out to make running easier, although we still spent brief periods on the street to avoid a mass of people on the sidewalk. Finally we reached the correct address and saw the store lit up across a parking lot. We attempted a long-distance photo and it worked - hooray! Now we really had to catch a bus for Downtown.

Hoping to catch an Express, we ran some more, north a couple blocks to the correct bus stop. Our timing was good and soon we were on the "302" Express. I was pooped. A woman on the bus had seen racers from the morning semifinals and exclaimed "Are you STILL running?" so we explained that we did have a break in the afternoon. Several tourists were curious about the race and we chatted away, glad to be almost done, figuring we would at least finish in a respectable manner.

While on the bus we got a call from Jason who reported that the first place team had been disqualified over an incorrect photo of CP #12. Good thing we skipped that one! No additional information was available about the other team ahead of us, except that it was possible we were still in the race. No way. Maybe we would come in second, that would be cool. Back at home, our crew was bouncing off the walls waiting to hear.

People wished us well as we hopped off near Fremont Street. John had taken all of our items (camera, phone, map case, clue baton) in case we had to sprint with another team to the finish. As we started running he dropped one item, tried to pick it up, and then dropped more things. I rounded the corner and was astounded by the huge crowd waiting for us! People were cheering and lining the finish chute. Wow! I looked back for John, who came running around the corner, past me, and through the mass of people. I followed and grinned. That was really cool. This time I didn't collapse after crossing the line, at least.

A couple people said that they hoped we would win. What? What does that mean? It became clear that the second team across the line, the Fluffy Bunnies, had a checkpoint photo in question. Kevin from Urban Challenge asked us about the words on the bench for our photo of CP #5 and then took the camera back inside. People milled around and we wondered what would happen. Not long after, Kevin announced that they had a winner but would not say who it was!

We found our bag of clothes and talked with people who came over to congratulate us. Jim, Becky, Richard, and Gayla were very excited for us. One of the Fluffy Bunny racers came over to tell us that we had won because the Urban Challenge people decided their photo of the Star Trek Experience for "Make it so", at 1.5 miles away from the plaque of the poem, was not "nearby" as the clue was written. Wow, that had to be a tough call to make, as the organizers would allow for alternate clues if they fit the description. Still, until we heard it for sure we weren't going to broadcast this information outward.

The other co-ed team finished not long afterward and we congratulated each other for a good race. Kip and Paul showed up from the Vegas "War Room" and we gathered upstairs at the bar. Jim was the only person who bet on our team to win the finals, so he was hoping to take home $320 for his guess. Kevin got on stage and called all seven of the teams from the finals up there to be introduced. Then they brought out the very-large check that was covered to conceal the names written on it. FINALLY, he announced the winners - from Austin, Texas, John and Marcy Beard!! Woo hoo!! Becky ran up and hugged us, people cheered, everyone clapped, and we stood there in shock and amazement. The other teams shook our hands. Amid the bedlam I was asked to say a few words. The sound system didn't work very well, so in case you didn't hear me, here is what I tried to say...

"Thank you to Kevin and the people from Urban Challenge for the fun, excellent, interesting series of races! We had a great time. Thank you to all of the other teams in the race for an unparalleled display of sportsmanship. Intelligence, creativity, and stamina were evident all around us. Thank you to the other Austin teams - you ROCK! We would not have been on that stage without all of us working together. Special thank you to our crew from Las Vegas, Austin, Colorado, and New Hampshire who came through in a big way. And most important, huge hugs to my husband John, who pulled me around town and never gave up. We hope to be back next year! Thank you!"

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