Our Great Urban Adventure
A few months ago I registered Jeff and I for the Great Urban Race in Washington, DC. This race is a “sister” event to the Warrior Dash (I did this last year in PA and we are doing this next weekend at Budd’s Creek, MD) so I knew it was not going to be your ordinary race! From the website we knew it was similar to the TV show “The Amazing Race” and we knew it would take 2-5 hours to complete – what better way to spend a Saturday! We decided on the drive to the race that there were a few additional items we needed – sling back pack for Jeff, fanny pack for me (yes, it is very attractive on me), $50 preloaded credit card, energy bars, DC map, and preloaded metro cards. After stopping 4 times, we got all our supplies and made it to the race site on time! I was a nervous wreck as we parked the car ($15 but excellent location!) and proceeded to get our packet. We got our race numbers and shirts (how dare they use light blue – that is our t-shirt color) and headed back to the car to regroup (pack the sling bag, fanny pack, look at the map another 20 times). We both decided to lose our long sleeve shirts and just wear our “I Love Google” team shirts (and later so glad I did!) – so there we are undressing in the parking lot – after all “we are runners” and this is acceptable (yeah, I had a sports bra on). After checking out the port-a-potties, me having to make 2 extra trips back to the car for “stuff” I forgot, and getting our picture taken – we were ready! As the GUR crew begins the pre-race speech, we edge to the front of the crowd to be sure to get our clue envelope as soon as possible – we agreed I would be the one to get ours (surely because I am the pushiest member of the team!). As the race crew begins handing out the envelopes it turns into a pushing match as everyone starts grabbing their envelopes – no worries, I was probably the 6th person to grab one and headed back away from the mob to show Jeff.
We weren’t allowed to open it just yet, so we snapped some pictures and waited patiently (ok, so I was not really patient as I eyed some of the competition edging closer to the metro). “Ok, open your clues!” – everyone tears open their envelopes and dashes towards the metro! The orange clue sheet had super-small font on it and I couldn’t read a thing – ugh! I look at Jeff and ask “how can we get on the metro if we don’t know where we are going?”. We walk for a second and we both notice clue #3 is asking where Abraham Lincoln was shot – yup, we know that one! We sprint down the stairs to the train (woohoo, we pass a bunch of people stopping to purchase their fare cards) and hop on the train as it pulls away seconds later. Just like the other teams on the train, we pull out our metro map (yeah, I was thinking ahead and had it all ready!), our DC map, clue sheet, and our smart phones. We frantically begin solving the clues and looking up addresses. Seems like we weren’t on the train long before we were at our stop – we decided not to transfer trains to get closer to Ford’s Theater…after all, we are runners and we can run there. We sprint across the The National Mall, across Independence Avenue, and across Pennsylvania Avenue – I’m out of breath. Jeff smiles and says “Wow, we sure are hitting all these lights perfectly!” I smile and nod – but in my mind I was hoping for a “Do Not Walk” light so I could rest! After passing the street that the Theater was one and having to back track a few blocks, we made it! And it appeared as if we were the first team there! Jeff accepts the challenge and quickly tosses pennies into 3 top hats. After successfully completing the clue at the Theater we agree to sit on a step and solve some more clues. We try to pinpoint locations on our map and write addresses on our clue sheet. We next head 3 blocks over towards Mickey’s Patio Bar (which according to their website – was closed) – yup, the internet was right – it was closed…hmmmm….perhaps we solved the clue #6 wrong? Next stop is a few blocks over at Merzi’s an Indian Restaurant – there is about 7 teams in front of us – drats! We spend the time figuring out more clues and I send a few to my sister in Maine. Since the challenge at Merzi’s involved eating and ranking hot sauce, I accept it and successfully complete clue #4 (I must say I was plagued by the after taste for over an hour after we left the restaurant!). We grab a job application (for clue #2) from a restaurant across the street (why didn’t we just ask at Merzi’s?) and strike out finding an orange. We note that another location is on the same street 4 blocks up – we run down the sidewalk through the tourist towards the Regional Food and Drink Restaurant/Bar for clue #12. Inside I notice the challenge is one of those crazy horse shoe puzzle thingys – I stink at those! Jeff quickly makes his way to the table and no quicker did the GUR staff hand him the puzzle he handed it back to her – solved! Wow wee – impressive (later I learn that Jimmy is to receive a thanks in this one)! I get a call from my sister as Jeff is trying to buy an orange from the waitress – for clue #2. My brother-in-law Mike tells me he figured out clue #11 and that the location is close to the Verizon Center. We backtrack about 4 blocks and 1/2 circle the Verizon Center looking for a work of art printed on our clue sheet – no luck! We cross the street and soon notice a few other teams heading inside the Smithsonian American Art Museum – aha! The Museum staff directs all of us to the location of the artwork. As the clue sheet directs, we have someone take our picture in front of the artwork. Along the way to our next clue location we solve clue #9 which is a tic-tac-toe by finding a tour bus to get a picture with and persuading a stranger to let Jeff honk their car horn (his teenage kids got a big kick out of this!). We find a convenience store and buy a birthday card for clue #10. We head towards Buffalo Billiards for our next challenge – it seemed like it was a 5 mile run and I was having a hard time keeping up with Jeff as we made our way past the White House – wow, what a speed tour of DC! Inside Buffalo Billiards we are both stumped at the game tables that the challenge is about. After waiting a few minutes to get our place on a table, we agree that Jeff would go solve some more clues and I would attempt the game. It took me awhile to figure it out and when I finally got 7 points (with the help of another team counting for me since I had no clue what I was doing) I grabbed my confirmation of completion for clue #5 and met Jeff at a table. He was kicked back eating nachos and drinking a huge beer…kidding…he was busy solving clues and looking up locations. After about 5 minutes, we decide that Dupont Circle is our next stop. Walking out of the bar, we are surprised that Dupont Circle is steps from where we are – yeah! We drop a birthday card off to the GUR staff and receive a sticker as confirmation of completing clue #10. Next stop, directly across from Dupont Circle to Pizzeria Paradiso for clue #1. This one was hard, it was matching beer bottles to clues (and they wouldn’t even give us one to drink) – we finally figure it out and agree we need to drink more beer! As we head away from the Pizzeria, Jeff notices I left my cell phone on the table – yeah, that will come in handy later – think I will take it with me (thanks Jeff!). According to our clue sheet, we have only 3 more clues to solve…hooray!!! We know that there are 2 challenges north in the Adams Morgan area – I’m envisioning a nice relaxing break on the metro…that thought quickly vanishes as Jeff decides it is quicker for us to run…kind of wishing I wasn’t a runner at this point! I’m just a tad competitive (ok, that’s a lie – I’m obsessively competitive), so I agree to run. As Jeff navigates us by his smart phone, we sprint (it sure did feel like a sprint to me!) 1 mile to The Diner restaurant for clue #7. Did I mention the 1 mile was practically all UP hill? I have all I can do to keep up with Jeff and was really starting to tire at this point. Luckily we spot the restaurant and no one is in line for the challenge! Jeff seems to still be so full of energy so he does this challenge which requires him to walk around the sidewalk with a tray of 4 full water glasses – easy! After that, we are happy to discover clue #2, Strgoga Yoga is only 1 block away! We are instructed to take off our shoes are proceed to the 3rd floor. A GUR staff member asks who wants to take the pictures and who wants to get on the mat – to my surprise Jeff gets on the mat! Oh yeah – I’m looking forward to taking these pictures! He has to do 5 yoga moves (or poses – not sure what they are really called) and I have to take pictures. It was rather humorous – at least for me it was! And when we finish, we are presented with our proof of challenge completion. We have 1 more clue to solve and 2 are remaining that we haven’t figured out yet. We still can’t figure out clue #6 that was the Mickey’s beer clue. I sent clue #8 to my sister and decide to call her back. It was a crazy word problem and I hate those! As I stare at the clue sheet, I immediately see the answer – or at least think I do! I remember seeing another team down in Dupont Circle – they were posing for a picture in front of the Massachusetts Ave street sign – aha! I got it! Double letters in a street sign in the answer! We start running towards Dupont Circle – and within a few blocks Jeff stops and points to a street sign that says “Willard Street”. Huh? I don’t get it. He quickly explains that it doesn’t have to be the Massachusetts sign – just any street sign with double letters – he’s a genius!! We find a stranger and have them snap a few pictures, we finished 11 clues!!! We are ready to head back to the finish! We continue our run back to Dupont Circle, this time it is much easier – downhill! I check the metro map and then the metro app on my phone. We count down the minutes until the train we need leaves – and of course, once we get there we are on the wrong side of the platform and the train is speeding away. Next train 16 minutes. I can see it in his eyes – he wants to run again. It is miles to the finish – I’m beat – not sure I can make it. We have a short “discussion” and then decide to wait for the next train. Along comes a train labeled “Special” – Jeff wants to get on it, I do not. We have a short “discussion” and do not get on. Uh-oh….I was wrong (really, still wondering about this one) we could have gotten on that train. We wait for the train we need and then continue our final quest to the finish line. We have to transfer trains once and I hold my breath hoping Jeff isn’t going to ask me to run again. On the last train, we notice at least 4 other teams on the train. Most of us stand up before the train stops at the Armory metro stop. We all sprint (this really was a full out sprint) through the station and up 2 escalators. I am so tired on the final escalator, I can’t run – it is so steep, I move as fast as a possibly can. When we got to the top – we run again. Jeff can see it in my face – I just want to be done. We pass several teams and make our way to the finish. There are a ton of other teams there, and we knew we wouldn’t place in the top 25. Regardless, we are thrilled to have completed the course in 3 hours 30 minutes and with NO penalties! The GUR staff checks our clues and we smile as we tell her we will be doing the Warrior Dash next weekend. I’m looking forward to that race – I know for sure it is only about 3 miles and after covering over 12 miles on foot at GUR – I’m looking forward to a shorter event! We are both exhausted but very excited as we leave the race site – it was a wonderfully fun and memorable day that we will never forgot!