Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do run (and bike and paddle) Boston!

Great Urban Race Boston!  John and I were excited to return to Boston and do our first urban race of the year.  It's funny, I love Boston but I don't really know it all that well.  We are enjoying learning as we go.  Maybe not ideal as an urban racing strategy, maybe we'll need to work on that for next year.

The race started in Harvard Yard, which is a really cool area to hang around in and explore.  We met a nice volunteer at the Visitor Info booth with the most awesome Boston accent - I can't get enough of listening to that.

The race itself started at noon a block from the Harvard Square T stop.  We checked over the clue sheets and for once didn't have a really solid idea where most of the clues were.  We picked out Sargent's Wharf and decided to head downtown.  There was an inbound T just about to close its doors as we ran down the stairs and jumped on - lucky catch!

On the T we studied the clues and searched our maps for Somerville.  The only useful thing we managed to get off the clue sheet was reading the really small print that was part of CP 5 and writing down the important part - I was happy to have an immediate answer when Sheila asked about it after we got back above ground.

We started out on State Street at the Black Rose, which was a lucky choice as a first checkpoint.  The challenge was to arrange colored cans into a "64" pattern by sliding them (no picking them up or moving them out of the rectangle already defined).  It took us awhile, there were only 4 puzzle stations, and a line had formed by the time we were done.

From there we ran to the wharf, briefly passing it up because it looked like just a parking lot, but then we discovered the volunteers over by the water.  They gave us each a large chunk of butter to coat our hands, and then pointed us to a large, heavy (not alive, at least) fish that we would have to transport down the boardwalk.  The person holding the fish couldn't move, so we handed it off as we went, making sure not to drop it, and not ever considering trying to toss it!  Not sure why the butter - to make it harder to hold the fish or to protect our hands from the scales or to keep us from smelling fishy?

Down at the other end, far away from the paper towel rolls we had seen when we started, we were told to crab-walk down to the dock where a couple "lobstah" guys were waiting.  Time for the live animal part of the show - sweet!  John got to pick up a lobster while I used a tool to clamp a rubber band around one of its claws.  The creature seemed mostly curious about the whole thing, moving its eyeballs around to try to get a view of us.

The real challenge was how to get the camera out with butter-coated hands - luckily the second guy went along with the idea of pulling it out of John's pocket (the cord was hanging out, at least) and even put it back for him afterwards.  These Boston lobstah guys ain't shy.

After much paper-toweling of butter from our hands, we headed across the North End to get the center point for our tic-tac-toe square (a sign with the word "Famous" in it):

Around the corner we found a gallery called Shake the Tree where they had put out a few copies of a book about food trucks.  We were to look through it to find ingredients from a certain recipe - I asked them if they knew we were coming in with butter on our hands?  We tried to be careful with the books as we also tried to read fast.  Eventually I copied out 7 ingredients, they gave us a flyer, and took our picture out front with John shaking something that is NOT a tree:

Sheila (on the phone) guided us southwest across a few streets and up a small hill to a bar called the 21st Amendment.  Other GUR teams lined the sidewalk working on something, so it looked like a puzzle of some sort - John ran in to get our copy.  We discovered we needed to match up 21 states with their respective wacky laws prohibiting things like slurping soup or keeping an alligator in your bathtub - funny!

This took awhile but we finally finished that task in return for a flyer from the bar.  We also got our picture with each of us displaying the number "21":

Running over toward the Boston Common, another team joined us and John chatted with them briefly in a mad downhill dash toward a food truck for another tic-tac-toe square:

Next we needed to "head east on West" where we found the Brattle bookstore and a cool mural:

That was all for downtown - back to the subway to visit the Back Bay.  On the crowded T we worked on other tic-tac-toe squares but didn't find anyone wearing red socks or a Baltimore Orioles jacket.  Oh well, we were getting well-versed in what we needed to finish that CP, so there was hope we could do it.  And we got to talk with some locals.

Back at street level, I tried getting ahold of Sheila again, but our test of a new phone system was failing rather completely.  John reached her and chatted for a minute while I jumped up and down on alternating legs.  That was when I decided my knee must be doing OK (I had been resting it since the previous weekend and we had wrapped it for the race).  So that was something.

We finally found our next CP, Kings Back Bay bowling alley, where we needed to complete a fill-in-the-blank celebrity puzzle and get our photo with a set of photos and bowling pins:

We went back to Mass Ave to look for a bus going north, but didn't see any coming so we opted for the T back into town and then out again on the red line.  While making the transfer, we wandered the platform looking for red socks, when we came across team The Fast and The Furious - hi guys!  They had soundly beaten us in the Boston GUR last year, and we were pretty stoked to see them.  They weren't nearly as excited to see us.  None of us could believe that we were over 2 hours into the race and still had a whole 'nother section of CP's to hit.

Sheila directed us to the Somerville area, which was completely off our maps and a place I had not even heard of (whereas most of the time around Boston I'm at least familiar with the name but still that doesn't help me in the least).  We got off the T and started running north, following the Boston guys (TF&TF) up to a park.

Here we were instructed to do a wheelbarrow while transporting a frisbee, a soccer ball, and a softball.  John stuffed a couple items down his shirt and the soccer ball between his legs, then I carried his feet while he hand-walked along the grass.  Once at the other end, I returned to the start so John could toss me each item in turn - 3 solid throws and catches, and we were done, yay!

We actually managed to get out of there slightly ahead of TF&TF, running back down toward the main street.  Look, there's a woman with red knee-highs!  John ran up to ask her about getting a photo, but she turned out to be another racer, and she obviously had been getting the same question all afternoon as she was by now well-versed in the rule that "strangers must be non-GUR participants" for the tic-tac-toe.  Oh well, good try John!

Sheila helped us find Comicazi (cool name!) on Highland Ave where we had to find a Star Wars character and take our photo to apply an Instagram filter.  I was a bit worried about this one... we just bought smart phones for the first time a week ago, and we have spent the last week getting used to how they work and setting up various apps.  Would we manage this on the fly?

Find yoda - check.  Open Instagram and get the camera on - check.  Take a selfie with our new phone - check.  Apply the "1977" filter - check.  Upload picture - "Failed" - uh oh.  This caused some consternation, but I left that window open and hoped the photo wouldn't disappear before the end of the race.

To dispel the suspense, here is the photo in question:

While all that was going on, we had forgotten to get a flyer from the business, but luckily Sheila thought to ask about it - thank you for saving us, Sheila!

Next was a quick jog down the street to a place vying with Comicazi for the coolest checkpoint name - Kickass Cupcakes.  I yelled up to John that this is what we were looking for, and a woman walking toward us with a white bakery box in her hands was like "Yes, you need to go there" - awesome.

We found the bakery (but not TF&TF - they skipped this one) and ran in to get our little cupcake with a note on the top.  It said "Take a picture with a frosting kiss mark on your cheek" so we quickly got this shot:

Then the lady behind the counter explained that we also needed to each apply a tattoo and use the materials at the little table to complete the tasks.  There we found some wet wipes to help get the tattoo part done.  A photo of the result (and it's still on my leg today - kick ass!):

Also on the table were several tubs of frosting, little spoons and cups, and a sign that said "Do not eat the frosting..." - aw, fake frosting? - "... for Great Urban Race only" - oh phew!  We ate the little cupcake in a couple bites and proceeded to discuss whether we needed to draw something on my face in lieu of the blue frosting shmush, so we decided to be safe and get something on the other cheek that looked like a kiss mark (while the team next to us had to do cat whiskers - very funny!)

After spending way too long in the bakery, we were finally back on the street and running toward a school parking lot.  We still had not finished the tic-tac-toe and I had visions of us running around the Harvard campus at the end looking for one photo with 2 people with different university shirts on.  How hard could that be?

Sheila guided us to the spot where there were several Chevy cars, so we got in to figure out a short car-related puzzle (we did not need to call Click and Clack, sadly).  Then we got our photo with the car - just like the product placements in the Amazing Race!

Sheila let us know about a street one block away that was an intersection of two streets with names of trees.  John wasn't aware that this was the goal of this photo, but he did manage to capture it even so:

We had several options now for finishing the tic-tac-toe.  Running toward the T station, John veered off and yelled "Red Sox!" which I didn't interpret correctly because I tried to tell him that we actually needed Baltimore Orioles instead.  But no - actual RED SOCKS!  The woman was more than happy to let us take a picture with her ankles, thanks so much!  Tic-tac-toe - check!

We ran into the T station and then waited a while for an inbound train, but it came eventually.  One stop south, then we booked it up many flights of stairs and to the finish line where The Fast and The Furious (but no other teams!) were waiting.  Just over 3 hours to complete the course, wow that was a long one!  Our Instagram photo was still visible on my phone, phew, and we had all the other photos and parts and pieces that we needed.  Second place, score!

The costume contest was awesome, as usual.  A couple of Cinco de Mayo characters, our favorite entry:

The winners!

That was wicked cool!  And a nice start to our 2012 urban racing season.  Thanks for a fun event, GUR folks!

And to finish off the explanation of this blog post title... on Sunday we rode bikes around the Charles River bikeway and rented a kayak to paddle on the river among the sailboats.  We enjoyed the heck out of that.  The cameras took the day off, you'll have to take our word for it  :)


Steve Pero said...

You two have way too much fun. You know I was born in Cambridge near Hahvad sq., grew up in Somerville on Willow St (tree name) and used to frequent the Irish Rose ;-)
You need to get on the amazing race!

Anonymous said...

I am amazed that John was able to tell that woman was wearing red socks. AWESOME!