Monday, February 19, 2024

Relay Around Tucson

When I heard about the RAT (Relay Around Tucson) I was intrigued.  It's a race on The Loop bike path, which I know well (at least in our neighborhood).  A team of up to 10 would take turns running segments of the path, starting at Rillito racetrack, making a loop around the entire city, and ending up where they began.

I've always liked the idea of a group relay (maybe eventually something longer like Ragnar or Hood-to-Coast).  Sounds like a fun time with friends interspersed with a bit of running in interesting places.

So we put the idea to the Tucson Orienteering Club, and when we got a bunch of interest, we suddenly had a team - yay!  We called ourselves "O Rats!"

Photo credits include Alan Craig, Yvonne Poe, and Cristina Luis, plus Damion Alexander on bike - thank you all!

Gathering at the start with some semblance of a plan for the day:

Alan is ready to tackle the first, and coldest, leg of the race:

Go RATs!

Looking good, Alan!

Early on we noticed Team Shrek, with their fun Shrek-wear and face paint:

They were definitely in the running for best costumes:

Alan approaching the first exchange, with the Catalinas on the horizon:

A successful hand-off of our team wristband to Charles:

The rest of us drove a couple more vehicles than necessary for the first part of the race, as we didn't realize that most of us were prepared to spend the entire day following along and cheering on our teammates.  Eventually we got ourselves into one vehicle as a couple people had to leave to be productive or something.

It turned out to be a huge amount of fun driving around together, hanging out and getting to know each other, watching the runners, helping each teammate get ready, and enjoying the beautiful weather:

Charles ran two of the shorter (back-to-back) legs and we popped in at the second exchange to cheer as he cruised past:

Which didn't leave Gavin much time to prepare for the start of his run.  He was only slightly late getting the wristband from Charles, then he made up for it with a big effort along the Santa Cruz river (so many underpasses!)

Meanwhile I scrambled to get myself ready.  My teammates kept me updated on Gavin's faster-than-expected progress, even letting me know exactly how much time I had to get in and back out of the porta-potty...

Gavin approached the exchange with the slap-on wrist band at the ready:

Just for kicks, I posed with an outstretched arm, ready for Gavin's perfect hand-off:

And a couple of our teammates documented the event, too funny:

The reflective vest was required for my leg because of several road crossings.  It helped being familiar with these so I could look ahead and judge when the walk signals might start and end.  I hit 2 out of 3 of them with no waiting, that was a minor accomplishment.

Damion the bike photographer came by on the Ajo Way section, Hi Damion!  Hey, can you ride ahead and punch the "walk" button at the next intersection?  Many thanks!

Finally done with most of the street crossings, time to focus on just running as well as I could.  Our team was setting a precedent of "solid effort" and it was good motivation to run like I was racing.

One of the funniest things about the relay was the RaceJoy app that most of us had downloaded onto our phones.  It would track each runner so the next person in line could be ready to go on time.  Even better, we could send inspirational greetings to our teammates.  Once we discovered the extent of those options, the entertainment really began.

There were all kinds of canned "way to go!" and "looking good!" cheers available, plus some odd ones and many with hilarious sounds.  My favorites involved a Scottish accent.  Also, you could type in custom messages and a monotone female voice would read them off to the runner.  Gavin started sending Wikipedia facts about random things for no particular reason.

I only wished I had turned my phone volume up louder so I could hear them better while running, but I sure could tell that my phone was getting pinged a LOT and it made me laugh.  For every runner on our team that got this treatment, they would turn around and start texting harder to the next person, so by the end of the race we were amusing ourselves and admiring each other's creativity.

I was pleased to be able to pass a few other teams, including Team Shrek.  I was also glad to be finished with those 6.9 miles, time to hand off to speedy Billie - go Billie go!

Damion rode alongside her for a ways (they knew each other already) and she showed off her athleticism:

Superman posed for photos while we were waiting at the next exchange:

John getting ready while the rest of us clown around (and send encouragement to Billie's phone):

This was a well-designed relay exchange, complete with a chute to make you feel fast and all official-like:

John ran off for his 5.2-mile leg that turned north across the desert, and the rest of us drove around to the other end.  Hey, it's a fellow Rivian adventure person, with an excellent license plate to boot!

John finishing his leg and handing off to Yvonne - go Yvonne!

I saw the "mer-people" team posing for a picture and couldn't resist snapping one myself - another excellent group of costumes:

Yvonne handing off to Billie for the start of leg 9, as we continue running faster than any of us had expected:

Billie was our team's secret weapon - fast AND with a ton of endurance.  I could have run a (short) second leg, but nowhere near as quickly as Billie did.

Before we knew it, we were at the final exchange (where we discovered a snack table for the first time - it's probably good we didn't see one of those at earlier exchanges).  Cristina headed down the path in search of the finish line:

Go Cristina!

Our team was in high spirits as we drove back to the place we started:

We had a few minutes to wait, so Billie got to experience the inside of Tug-E's gear tube (I think she could sleep in there):

Somehow we got all focused on the status of Team Shrek, as we had been back-and-forth with them for much of the race.  We figured out how to track their last runner and it looked like maybe they were catching up to Cristina?  For some reason, it became urgent that we stay ahead.  Billie started sending app messages to Cristina to "keep running, stay ahead of Shrek!"

Whether it mattered to Cristina or not, she did run fast enough to reach the finish line before the green team.  Yay for the O Rats!

Woo hoo, we did it!  Also, they gave us some really nice jackets:

A pile of RAT medals:

Damion took one last picture of us before we finally had to go our separate ways.  It sure was a blast y'all!

Friday, February 16, 2024

New Year's in Vegas

Last blog post about 2023, finally!  Time to return to Las Vegas for a couple days (one main reason is detailed below).  We did some reminiscing about past races with friends.  My favorite experiences in any city is time spent doing urban races.  The "good old days", from our perspective.

The theme of this particular visit was something new, however.  There's this Sphere thing there now, and you really can't miss it:

The display is always moving and changing - sometimes it has giant eyeballs:

We briefly looked at ticket prices for an inside-the-sphere experience (ex-sphere-ience?) and decided to watch from the outside instead.

An up-close look at a small fraction of the gagillion LED lights:

You know I rarely take pictures of our food.  This lunch, at Down 2 Earth, was deliciously photo-worthy (and close to a Rivian charging station):

Um, sure... but what about when I make this face?

We walked up and down the Strip, remembering mad dashes in various directions for checkpoints and selfies:

We saw a couple fun shows - Potted Potter (all 7 Harry Potter books condensed into 70 minutes of silliness and lively use of props) and RuPaul's Drag Race (with a lovely host and talented "competitors").  Shows like these are excellent reasons to go into casinos, for those of us who rarely gamble.

Something else new and also tall (maybe not quite as tall as the Sphere though) - she's near the Vegas Arena, and she's quite stunning:

We didn't manage to capture the fountain show at Bellagio...

So instead, here's a picture from 2002:


A global (and rotating) Sphere scene:

Ah, here we are at the "reason for Vegas" - a New Year's Eve show with John Oliver and Seth Meyers!  We heard the announcement for it while listening to the Strike Force Five (explosion!) podcast, and it didn't take long to throw together a little trip to Nevada.

We attempted way too many pictures trying to get a decent selfie on the way into the show, most of which were like this (or worse):

Here's the only shot that halfway works, although even our mimicry was rather lacking:

At least the show itself was really good, hilarious and entertaining, and fun to see John and Seth doing stand-up comedy instead of their TV gigs.  The rest of our trip was good, and this topped it off to made it completely worth it.

A brief interlude while waiting for the midnight fireworks show (which was way past our bedtime, but hey, how often do we get to ring in the new year in Vegas?), so we wandered over to the back Conservatory of the Bellagio.

Admiring the elaborate Nutcracker display:

A giant Clara on a huge couch:


Then it was time to find a place to watch the fireworks.  We'd scoped out a parking garage roof (above where we parked Tug-E, conveniently) and started that way.  With the crowds on the Strip and the road closures, we ended up having to run to make it on time...

Happily, we had at least 34 seconds to spare (we could see the Sphere from our vantage point, for the official countdown):

What an amazing fireworks show!  It was coordinated from the tops of various casinos up and down the Strip, all doing similar (and large) displays of light and sound:

We could see much of it from our parking garage roof (which was also much less crowded than the streets).  A shot from the finale:

Happy 2024, y'all!

And finally, one random picture that I think we took by mistake while clowning around:

Super fun trip!