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Great Urban Race Las Vegas Championships 2010

November 6, 2010
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette KD

The Morning Semi-Finals Race

We had three teams travel to Vegas for the 2010 Great Urban Race championships: Marcy and John, Tom and Richard, and Dave and me. We gathered by the pool area at the back of the Luxor casino and waited for the start, talking with other teams from across the country that we'd gotten to know over past couple of years. At 9am we received our clue sheets, and the race was on!

Since the Luxor was on the south end of the strip we immediately started heading north while scanning the clue sheet. We noticed #7 was on Sahara Street and #9 was in the Sahara Casino, so that was enough information to decide that we may as well catch a ride on the monorail. The monorail starts at the MGM Grand, and ends at the Sahara, and would definitely be the fastest way to travel that distance north.

It's not obvious how to get on the monorail without actually going through the (large) MGM casino, but we'd found a backdoor shortcut the day beforehand that seemed pretty quick. Turns out that Tom and Richard had actually found an even faster shortcut, and so they made it onto the monorail before us. Luckily we still had time to quickly buy our tickets and hop into the monorail car before it departed. Cool, we'd caught the very first available ride north, along with a couple other teams.

On the ride north we had time to read all the clues and make note of the scavenger hunt items that we should be keeping an eye out for to satisfy #11. Our phone contact Chris told us to ride the monorail to the end and then enter the Sahara casino and find the Nascar Cafe for #9. Sounded like a good plan to us.

We exited the monorail, and ran down the escalators and into the Sahara. We had to run pretty much through the entire casino to reach the Nascar Cafe, but at least we were the first teams there. The GUR volunteers at this point told us we'd have to answer the questions on this poster to get credit for the point:

Dave and I know nothing about Nascar, so Dave started working with Chris over the phone to figure out the meaning of the various flags. I asked a couple waitresses in the cafe if they or anyone else working there knew anything about Nascar racing. Apparently nobody working in the Nascar Cafe knew anything about Nascar... which seems like an obvious flaw in their hiring standards, if you ask me! But anyways, Chris was able to look up the information we needed about the flags on the internet, and so soon we had the answers to the questions and we were on our way again.

We exited the casino and headed east on Sahara Street. We were headed to the Las Vegas Cue Club for #12. However, it turns out that there's no entrance to the pool hall from the back side that faces Sahara Street, and it was part of a very long building complex that would take some time to run all the way around. Chris told us we'd be returning this way anyways, so we continued running on past #12 to get #7 first, at Rainbow's End Natural Food.

Here we were given six different food items and had to pick three that would stay within certain bounds for calories, iron, and sugar. We figured out pretty quickly that one of the items had to be included for its high iron content, and we were able to eliminate some others based on their calories and sugar. We'd narrowed the foods down to just a couple possibilities, so we made a guess on the three items (you were allowed one wrong guess). Our guess turned out to be correct, and so we got our stamp and headed back out.

We traveled back to the pool hall for #12, this time on the front side of the outlet buildings so that we would be able to reach the entrance. We went into the Las Vegas Cue Club along with about three other teams. The GUR volunteer explained to us we'd have to shoot the pool cue across the table and have it stop between two lines in order to continue. Since I can shoot pool reasonably well (looks like college was good for something!), I got the volunteer's attention to make sure he was watching, and then executed the shot on the first try. We left the other teams behind and started running south.

#3 was at the Las Vegas Hilton, in the wedding chapel. Here we were given six items corresponding to six traditional anniversary year gifts (wood, pottery, silver, etc.). We had to match up the items to the posted list of years. Chris was able to look up a list of the anniversary year gifts for us quickly enough, so that was that. For our efforts we received a marriage certificate, which we had to take our picture with:

#6 was at the Marriott. We took a short cut by cutting across a parking lot, and along the way I spotted a motorcycle. Even better, I had the presence of mind to remember that one of our scavenger hunt items for #11 was a picture of us sitting on a motorcycle. So we took a seat (Dave decided to sit backwards for some reason), and Marcy and John happened to be running right behind us at this point, so they took a picture of us:

We entered the Marriott and took the elevator to the 17th floor. We found the right room and were told we'd have to grab a playing card from underneath a bunch of crawling worms. Dave grabbed the card before the volunteer even finished explaining what we had to do, and we headed back down the elevator.

#10 was at the nearby Clarion. Here we had to roll a couple of giant inflated dice until we made them add up to four. They were light and bouncy, so it could take a long time for them to stop rolling. Marcy and John finished this one quickly and were out of there, but Dave and I kept missing the target number. If we'd had some tape we would have stuck a weight to the bottom of the dice, but... we had no tape. What kind of adventure racers are we, anyways, traveling around without any emergency duct tape? We experimented with throwing the dice so gently that they wouldn't roll much, but even that was hard to do with precision. Finally after about twenty tries, we rolled our four, and headed out to see if we could catch up to Marcy and John.

We'd been east of the Strip ever since leaving the Sahara casino, but now it was time to head back. #1 was Stripburger, which we'd actually visited the previous year during the High Trek Adventure race, so we knew exactly where it was. We also knew from the clue sheet that we'd have to impale a balloon with a stick without the balloon popping. Hey, that's yet another challenge where tape might prove handy, we thought. We came across a car rental spot along the way, and ran up to the counter and asked if we could borrow a long strip of scotch tape. The gentleman obliged, and we carried the tape stuck to our map a couple blocks to the next point. Thanks, helpful car-rental dude!

As expected, at Stripburger we received our balloon and wooden skewer, and were told to impale the balloon without popping it. They provided some other items that would presumably help with this task, like detergent and such, but we figured we might as well try out tape method first and see if that worked. We applied the tape near the bottom of the balloon, and poked the skewer through, and it held! Well, it only held for about two seconds before it popped, but the volunteer had seen it before it blew up, so he said that was good enough. We got this picture to prove we completed the task:

To the Palazzo Casino's Double Helix Wine Bar for #2. Here we were handed a corked bottle with a marble and a piece of wood inside. We were told we'd have to get the marble past the wood to have it touch the cork. We could see that the wood had the words "Jacob's Revenge" on it, so we had Chris search the internet to see if he could find out the trick to solving it. But John and Marcy's team also arrived to do the challenge, and John figured out that tossing the bottle so that it spun through the air (landing on a couch) would do the trick. So just like that, we were done before Chris could look up the method. We took this picture to get credit for the point:

We exited the Palazzo, and in front of the casino I spied an awaiting bus. We had no need to actually catch the bus, as we were just going to cross over to the other side of the Strip for our next point. But the bus had something we did need, a Penn & Teller advertisement, which was another scavenger hunt photo for #11. I'm usually not so eagle-eyed during these things, so I was happy that I'd actually remembered and spotted two scavenger clues already. Both of our teams ran down to the bus and we caught our picture with it just before it took off:

Alright, so now we had two pictures for the tic-tac-toe scavenger hunt photo. If we got a picture of us wearing wigs, that would give us three in a row and we'd be done with #11. As luck would have it, Chris told us that Danny, our ground support crew person, had procured a couple of wigs for us, and that he would meet us near our next point. Man, is our crew awesome, or what?

We dashed across the street and into the Forum Shops at Caesar's. Chris told us Danny was on the third floor, so we ran up the circular escalators to find him at the top. Danny had convinced one of the shop's owners to let him borrow the wigs for our photo (thanks, Danny!), so we were all setup to take this oh-so-stylish shot:

It's a good new look for us, don't you think? While Danny returned the wigs to the kindly shop owner, we scurried through the mall to #4, Planet Hollywood. Here one of us had to eat a bowl of pasta without using our hands. Both Dave and I love to eat, so we weren't sure who should do this one. Then Dave mentioned he could use a bathroom break, so that decided that: I started chowing down. Many previous events we've done just require you to take a picture of your team with the food... and since we're always in such a hurry at these races, we wind up just throwing the food away. And we hate to do that, as we love free food! So we thought it was nice to have a food special test where you were actually required to eat the food, for once.

Marcy and John were eating pasta next to us, and Danny arrived and cheered us on. Technically the clue said I was supposed to keep my hands behind my back, but the volunteer administering the test allowed me to break the rules slightly by using my hands to keep my hair from falling into the food.

Done with the food challenge, we headed out of the Forum Shops and south to the Miracle Mile Shops for #8. Here we had to take a photo of us with Shaquille O'Neal's handprints. Our crew led us to the Gallery of Legends store within the Miracle Mile to get this point. We found out later that there was actually another set of Shaq's prints located outside the Miracle Mile, which would have saved us a couple minutes of extra running. Here's us with the giant handprints:

And hey, that was 11 out of 12 checkpoints! (We'd used our free skip on #5.) So all we had to do was dash back to the Luxor. We crossed over to the other side of the road to see if we could get lucky with a bus, even though it wasn't all that far to run. No buses were in sight, so we ran all the way back. Well, at least we'd had one nice monorail ride at the start of the race before switching to running all the rest.

We decided to go through Excalibur and the interior pedestrian walkway that connects to the Luxor. The walkway had people-mover conveyor belts on it, so we were able to run at warp speed while on them. We just had to keep yelling ahead to get folks to move to one side to let us through, as people tend to just stop and stand side-by-side on those things, blocking anyone from passing.

We made it to the finish line, and... we were the first team back! Yay! They checked our photos, and declared them to be good. Marcy and John finished right behind us, and Tom and Richard finished in 4th, so all three of our teams would be returning for the Elite Eight race to compete for the $10,000 prize.

In Between Races

We relaxed in a hotel room, ate, drank, and recharged our phones. This race was nice enough to give us a couple of hours to prepare for the next race, which we very much appreciated. At some other championship races we've done, the time between the two races was hardly enough to charge your phones, much less get in a decent meal, which makes things unnecessarily stressful.

Our three teams joined the other five of the Elite Eight at the starting line. The Great Urban Race had started both of its previous years Elite Eight races with a van ride to a mystery start location, so we figured that would likely happen again. Sure enough, the GUR staff escorted us to the front of the Luxor. There we found a white limousine waiting for us. Ooh... a limousine... we're moving up in the world, no more vans for us!

Unfortunately, we wouldn't be able to properly enjoy the luxury of the limo, as we were going to be blindfolded as we rode. They also strapped two colored wristbands on each of us, for use to get into various "mystery things" later on in the race. They made us turn off our phones for the ride so that we couldn't communicate with our support crew. It wasn't like we could say anything useful, anyways... as we were blindfolded and had no idea where we were going.

As we drove to the destination they informed us that there would be a three hour cutoff for the final race, so we'd have to return to the finish line before that to be official. And they told us to get ready to do a puzzle as soon as we were all out of the limo. Finally the drive came to an end, the blindfolds came off, and it was game time!

The Afternoon Finals Race

We looked around and immediately saw a sign that said "Fremont" over one of the nearby buildings, so we knew we were near the Fremont Street Experience. In 2008 GUR had driven us a couple miles off the Strip to a house in the middle of nowhere, and we had to figure out where the heck we were. It looked like that aspect of the competition wouldn't be nearly as tricky this year.

But there would be other tricky things to contend with... the first being the starting line puzzle. They led us to a table, where we had a set of tangram puzzle pieces to work with. They handed us a book of patterns and gave us a pattern that we'd have to reproduce. I went right to it, and solved it almost immediately. Much better than two years ago when we were one of the last teams to finish the initial Elite Eight puzzle... this time we were one of the first. Here's a picture of Tom and Richard working on the puzzle:

After we solved the tangram a GUR staff member handed us a hotel key with a room number written on it, and pointed us to the Gold Spike Hotel entrance. We got on the elevator along with another team and headed up to third floor. It turns out that each team was given the key to a different room... neat! We entered our room, which was empty except for a small safe sitting on the middle of the bed. On top of the safe was a sheet giving clues to the safe combination. The numbers in the combination would correspond to the television channels that specific shows appeared on. We read in the shows to Chris, who looked up the networks for the shows. Then we compared the networks to the hotel TV channel-listing card. And voila, we had the combination.

After a couple tries (is that left-right-left or right-left-right...?) we got the combination to work, and inside the safe was our clue sheet. Dave took pictures of it and used his phone to send them in:

We skimmed the clues and noticed #8 was at Fremont Street Flightlines. Since we knew we were near Fremont Street we figured this one had to be nearby, so we headed out to find it. We actually could see the zipline not far from the hotel entrance, and it was only a couple of blocks to run over there to it.

We got in the elevator along with Marcy and John (hey there!) and another team. At the top a Flightlines worker was expecting us, and he quickly helped us put on harnesses. It turned out that only one person per team would be doing the zip line, and the other person would have to run and meet them at the end of the line. I let Dave do the fun zip part, and went back down to street level to follow the line to the end.

The zip line traveled a few blocks down Fremont Street, so I ran along and took a couple photos of Dave as he came flying along. We didn't need the photos for the race, or anything, but I figured as long as he was doing something so cool, I may as well record it for posterity:

While running down Fremont Street, Marcy and I came across a showgirl that was posing on the sidewalk for pictures. I pointed out that I thought we needed a picture of the showgirl. Marcy replied that wasn't the one that we needed for the picture. Since Marcy is almost always right about such things, I figured I just had read the clue sheet wrong (we still hadn't had any time to carefully read the clues yet), so I trusted her and kept running. It turns out we actually did need a picture of a showgirl for the tic-tac-toe scavenger clue #12. Marcy had thought that I was suggesting that the showgirl was #9, which was a picture of a jester statue in front of Harrah's, and she'd been replying that the showgirl was not even close to being right for that clue.

So that was a bit silly on my part... I should have double-checked the clue sheet while waiting for Dave at the end of the zip line, but I did not. If I'd noticed that, we could have easily gotten part of #12 by simply going a block back up Fremont Street after he finished. But anyways...

Marcy and I found a banner near the base of the tower at the end of the zip line, and figured that was what we were supposed to take a picture of when our teammates were done zipping. But then Dave yelled from the top of the tower that the actual banner was up there. So Marcy and I ran up the exit stairs, and we met our teammates at the top of the tower. We got this picture of us in front of the banner with Dave still wearing the harness:

Dave rapidly took off the harness and we climbed back down to street level. We asked Chris if he had a plan on where we should go next. Chris said they'd solved most of the clues, and they were all south, back down the strip. We were surprised that there wasn't even one other checkpoint up in the Fremont Street area, so we asked him how many clues they had left to solve. He replied there was only one clue that was unsolved at this point, and we said that was good enough for us. Dave and I started jogging south, figuring if the final clue did happen to be up north, we could just use it as our skip.

As we ran south we also made our way over to Las Vegas Boulevard so we could catch a deuce bus if our timing was good. But we would have no more public transportation luck for the rest of the race... it was going to be all running for us from here on out. It turns out we should have instead traveled down a parallel street a couple of blocks over, because then we could have caught the Gold Line bus. Well, we're getting pretty used to running instead of catching buses by now, so this was nothing new to us.

We started passing some of the many famous Las Vegas wedding chapels along the way, so we ducked into a couple to see if there was anyone wearing a wedding dress, which was also for the #12 tic-tac-toe clue. No luck. Dave made the observation that unless there were a bunch of cars in front, there probably wasn't anybody inside getting married, so we decided to stop wasting time at every chapel and just kept running.

Our destination was the Stratosphere for #2. The guards at the elevators were expecting us and they waved us into the VIP elevator. Well, at least we didn't have to run up 109 flights of stairs! We read the clue sheet carefully in the elevator, and noted that it didn't say we actually had to ride the "Insanity"... we just had to get our picture with it. Fine with us... unless there was a GUR staffer at the top telling us we had to ride the thing, we would just get our picture and go. Turns out that there was no staffer, so we quickly took a photo of the scary looking ride:

Back down the elevator, with our ears popping from the air pressure changes. Chris told us to head east on Sahara Avenue to #10, Pair-a-Dice Tattoo. Here one of us had to trace out a tattoo in the shape of the Great Urban Race logo on a sheet of "fake skin", then we had to carry the resulting sheet with us to the finish line to prove that we'd done it. Richard and Tom had actually been at this point just ahead of us (they'd caught a bus from Fremont Street, and had skipped the Stratosphere point for now), and so here's a picture of them doing the tattooing:

In addition to carrying back the fake skin, the clue also specified that we had to take a picture of us in front of the actual business, so here's our picture outside of Pair-a-Dice Tattoo:

Done with the tattooing business, we headed south again. If we'd been thinking faster we could have taken a quick monorail ride for two stops, but as it was we tried to catch a bus instead, and then gave up on the bus (because it wasn't running on schedule). So we just ran to #6, which was on the 17th floor of the Marriott, one of the same places we'd visited in the morning race. As we were heading into the hotel entrance we saw Tom and Richard heading out. While they'd made it to this point before us, unfortunately they'd just realized that they'd forgotten to take their picture back at the Pair-a-Dice Tattoo, so they were going to have to backtrack several blocks north again to get it. Bummer!

In the morning race at this same location we had to get a card from underneath a pile of worms, but for this second race there was a different challenge waiting for us. They had a bed of nails laid out on the floor, and a couple of guys explained that one of us would have to lie on them. They went through a brief demonstration where they tossed fruit onto the nails, to demonstrate to us that the nails were actually real, and sharp (sharp enough to impale the fruit). Then they showed us how to safely lie on the nails, as one of the men held on to the arms of the second man as he slowly lay back onto the nails while spreading his weight out evenly. They tried to do a bit of psyche-out on us by pretending it was actually hurting the guy lying on the nails, but we'd seen this trick before so we didn't fall for their act. Dave bravely lay onto them without any pain, and we got our picture:

We headed back over to the Strip, towards the Mirage. Along the way we saw an advertisement outside the Venetian for David Spade. Hey, that was another scavenger hunt picture for #12! So of course we went ahead and captured it:

We entered the Mirage and headed to the Secret Garden for #3. Our wristbands allowed us to skip the line and get right inside. A dolphin trainer was waiting for us, and he called us over and told us to take off our shoes and socks. Then he explained that we had to choose one of the tricks from the list for the dolphin to do, and then figure out how to convince the dolphin to do it. Well, we figured that "kiss" would be pretty easy, as we guessed that the dolphin was trained to kiss anyone who leaned over it in the pool. And sure enough, it was, so we got our dolphin kiss, then the trainer commanded the dolphin to jump out of the water and pose with us for this picture:

Dolphins are pretty amazing creatures, and it was very cool to have the chance to interact with one during a race. Since we were here in the zoo habitat anyways, we asked one of the nearby Mirage staff if there were any lions nearby, which was another scavenger hunt picture we needed for #12. It turns out that we asked exactly the right person, as she perked right up and said she could lead us right to the lions. Excellent! The nice lady led us further into the Secret Garden, and we got this picture by the lion cage:

If we had known that our crew had already figured out that there were also lions right near the entrance to the MGM Grand, and that we'd have to visit that casino later anyways, we might not have bothered to get the picture of the lions at the Mirage. But it only took us a minute out of our way, and it's generally a good policy to be better safe than sorry when getting a picture you may or may not need, so it was probably a good move to get these lions while we were so close to them. We headed back out of the Mirage, pleased to see that there were no other teams in the area and that we'd reached the dolphins before anyone else.

We crossed over Las Vegas Boulevard again and entered Madame Tussauds for #11. That is to say, we tried to enter Madame Tussauds... the guard at the entrance didn't like it one bit when we tried to walk in without a ticket. We explained that we were part of the Great Urban Race and that we had these VIP wristbands that were meant to let us in, but he was not impressed. We told him that the race should have let them know we were coming, but he said he hadn't heard of it. Well, then.

We were convinced we were at the right spot as far as the clue sheet was concerned, so we started a stopwatch to track how much time we lost here due to being held up. We asked the guard if he could ask his manager about the race, and he called for the manager to come down over his walkie-talkie. Minutes passed, and no manager appeared. We got antsy just standing that and we took a picture of the guard just because we didn't know what else to do:

We asked how long it would take for the manager to arrive, and the guard said he had no idea. Dave finally decided to do what we should have done immediately when this happened... just forgot trying to get in using the VIP passes and instead buy tickets ourselves. The tickets were $25 apiece (yikes!), but we were racing for $10,000, so you gotta do what you gotta do.

With the tickets the guard let us pass. Now this delay was admittedly was a bit of a hiccup in the race, but we'd like to point out it was pretty much the only thing that went wrong for us that day, from a Great Urban Race organizational standpoint. All throughout the rest of the race, the various staff members at the casinos always knew we were coming, and they waved us quickly past the lines, and they got us to the challenges promptly and efficiently. This single instance represented the only stumbling block, and apparently this was the only staff member involved that hadn't been clued into the procedures required to enable the Great Urban Race to use his location. Additionally, after we finished the race the GUR staff promptly refunded us the money we'd paid for the tickets, and told us they would have credited us with a time bonus to compensate us for the delay at this point, if it had been a factor in determining who won. And we were the only team that wound up having to pay for the tickets, so apparently the manager finally came down to inform the guard about the race. So, while it was a race problem, it was handled satisfactorily by GUR.

Moving on... we entered Madame Tussauds and started looking through the various famous statues. We knew we were looking for either Beyoncé or Snoop Dog, so we cruised through the celebrities until we found them. Here's us with Beyoncé... in real life I can't get this close to her because of that darn restraining order:

We actually only needed a picture of one of the statues, but since they were both in the same room we went ahead and spent the extra five seconds to take a picture of Snoop Dog too, just to be sure:

Speaking of doing things just to be sure... we weren't sure if our original picture of the David Spade advertisement would be readable, since we had taken it from across the street. Well, since we were now right by the Venetian, we decided to get a bit closer to one of the advertisements and get it to be safe:

Ok, time to head down the Strip some more, towards Harrah's. Along the way we saw the opposing GUR team of Chris and Ryan come out of a side alleyway. We looked down the alley, and saw Elvis sauntering along. Wouldn't you know it, Elvis was yet another tic-tac-toe scavenger hunt picture for #12, so we got our picture with him:

Thank you, thank you very much. We traveled past the front of Harrah's to the south side entrance, where there was the jester statue for #9. There were actually two jester statues there, almost identical, so we had to look at the picture on the clue sheet to figure out which was the right one, by how it was holding its arms:

As we headed further south along the Strip, we knew that there were often parrots in front of Margaritaville. Which was yet another tic-tac-toe scavenger hunt picture for #12. This would make our fourth tic-tac-toe picture... but we still didn't have three in a row to complete the clue! Well, nothing to do but keep taking pictures as we came across the items. At least there were now several different remaining items we could use to get three in a row in various ways:

We told Chris about our tic-tac-toe status and had him figure out what else we needed to find. He came back with good news... our other ground support person Marilyn actually had cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, and she could meet us at the finish line, so we would be all set to get our three in a row with that picture. Cool, we no longer needed to worry about finding more of those items for #12.

So we ran with a purpose towards #5 at MGM Grand. We entered the Casino and started following the signs to CSI: The Experience. Turns out that that attraction was way in the back of MGM, and MGM is huge! I'd never really wandered around much inside that casino... it felt like it took us forever to travel through it. But eventually we got there, and headed down the steps into the CSI lab.

The GUR staff was waiting for us here, and they gave us a wine glass with a fingerprint on it and challenged us to match it up to one of three suspect's fingerprints. Two of the prints looked very similar, and the third was a bit smudged, so I took my time examining them. Even though we were allowed one wrong guess, we knew we were in the lead at this point (we'd been the first team at all the recent checkpoints), so I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that. I finally decided on my guess, and fortunately it was correct, and so we were good to go:

Only one final point to visit! But first, we had to find our way out of there. We went to the back exit that led to the monorail, but all the doors that exited to the outside of the monorail were marked emergency exit only. There was an MGM staffer there, so we asked if we could go through the doors, and he said no way. Too bad the staffer happened to be there... we revisited the same area of the MGM for kicks the next day, and since there was nobody around, we tried the doors and learned that they weren't alarmed or anything. Ah, well.

But we didn't feel like incurring the wrath of the employee by blatantly opening the door right in front of him, so we wandered around the interior of MGM until we came across another, more legal exit. We ran east on Tropicana Avenue to Coco's Bakery for #4. Here we learned that one of us would have to frost a cake while blindfolded. And then we'd have to eat the entire cake! Oh, boy... this was a lot more food than I'd eaten at the morning's pasta challenge.

Dave was blindfolded, and I tried to coach him through the process of frosting the cake. Eventually he gave up on using the spatula because it was too hard to tell what parts of the cake he was missing, and he just used his hands to frost the remaining blank spots of the cake. Hey, when you're racing you do what you gotta do.

The volunteer lady told us our frosting coverage was good enough, so off came the blindfold and we started chowing down. It was a lot of cake. I was feeling the earlier pasta challenge, and the big lunch I ate. Usually we lose weight while racing... but not this time!

We made good progress on the cake, and no other teams arrived to join us, so we were feeling good. Feeling good about our race chances, anyways... not feeling so good about our stomachs. We asked the lady to bring us over a pot or something just in case we had to throw up. She asked if we were serious and we said, yeah, of course we're serious... we've been running around all day and now we're frantically shoving a ton of cake into our systems, here! She brought over a pot for any emergencies, but fortunately it turns out that despite some false alarms, we didn't need to use it.

We finally finished the cake, and the lady stamped our clue sheet as proof. Then we took a picture of the empty cake plate for good measure, even though Chris was telling us in our ear pieces "you don't need a picture, guys". Our mouths are still full of un-swallowed cake in this shot:

We left Coco's just as Marcy and John were heading in. Then as we ran along Tropicana Avenue we passed Chris and Ryan who were also heading to Coco's. We traded friendly high-fives with them. We were just glad that they hadn't entered Coco's while we were still eating, as we knew from their past performance at the City Chase championships that those two guys can really eat!

We didn't figure it would be possible for anyone to pass us at this point since we'd left Coco's before anyone else had even started frosting their cake, and it wasn't very far at all to the finish line from here. We neglected to factor in that a team could have chosen to skip that point... our skip choice had been #7, but there's no telling what choices the other teams had made. But anyways, we figured we had the win wrapped up, so we had Chris read us back everything on the phone, to verify that we'd indeed gotten every single picture we needed, and that we were carrying back all the various items we needed from each of the challenges. Everything Chris said sounded good to us.

So we headed back through Excalibur, back along the interior people movers, and into Luxor towards the finish line. Just before the finish line was the one final picture we needed to get... a shot of us with Marilyn wearing a cowboy hat and boots (sometimes it pays to be from Texas), to finally finish off our tic-tac-toe for #12 (we definitely have some "cake mouth" going on in this shot):

And then we crossed the finish line, as the first team back! Yeah, baby! All we have to do is survive the camera check. And then they asked for our clue sheet. Sure, we have it right here... oh wait, where's our clue sheet?! Oh, no! It turns out that we'd accidentally left the clue sheet back at Coco's! Without the stamp on the clue sheet, we couldn't get credit for the checkpoint, and so our team was disqualified at the finish line! NOOOOooooooooooooooo!

Well, nothing we could do about it now. We let the crew know they should tell Marcy and John that the race wasn't over, so they should keep eating that cake and trying to win. We figured that Chris and Ryan might pass them at the eating challenge, as they could likely eat faster. So we anxiously waited to see who would cross the finish line first... and it was...

It was Andy and Tyler! How'd that happen... they hadn't been anywhere near the cake place?! Oh, right, they used the cake as their skip point... which was undoubtedly a good move, as it did take us quite a while to frost and devour that thing. Andy and Tyler's pictures were all good, and they hadn't foolishly lost their clue sheet, so they won the $10,000! Wow, bummer for us, but not making any silly mistakes is a critical part of these races, so I've gotta say that Andy and Tyler earned it, and that they ran a heck of a great race.

We pieced together exactly how we lost the clue sheet, as usually I make a habit of glancing behind us after leaving any challenge to make sure we didn't accidentally leave anything important behind. We determined that when we got up to have the lady take the picture of us with the empty cake plate, she accidentally knocked our clue sheet (that she'd just stamped) onto the floor while taking our picture. We got our camera back from her, and looked at the table to see if we'd left anything else laying there, and saw just our pile of maps. We grabbed the maps and headed for the door, not noticing the clue sheet was on the floor behind the table. Nobody noticed the clue sheet until Marcy and John were well into their cake eating challenge, when the volunteer saw it lying on the floor and picked it up, asking the teams that were there if it belonged to any of them. At that point, we were long gone and it was too late to recover from the mistake.

I'm not trying to blame the volunteer lady at all... it's completely our team's responsibility to keep track of these things and not lose them, so it was entirely our fault. Perhaps now that's one more mistake that we'll never make again. Of course, Dave and I lost the 2008 GUR championships over another silly mistake... in that race, we also crossed the finish line first, but we neglected to take our photo at one of the final checkpoints. At $10,000 per silly mistake, these "lessons learned" are sure getting expensive! Someday we'd like to cross the finish line first at one of these races and then actually receive a giant check! (You know, a giant check that we actually get to keep...)

Marcy and John managed to stay ahead of Chris and Ryan to finish next, in second place. Chris and Ryan got third. Tom and Richard crossed the finish line eighth, but since we'd been disqualified altogether we took last place instead of them, which they appreciated.

So obviously we were bummed we didn't win this year, but the disappointment is only partially for ourselves. We're more upset that by failing to win, we didn't get to properly show off what an amazing performance our support crew delivered. At these events the racers get all the glory, but it's really the crew members behind the scenes that are doing all the dirty work: Solving the clues for us, plotting our routes, guiding us by phone, and calmly answering all our mid-race questions even as we're yelling at them. The way that our crew consistently gets us to the finish line first at these things makes me believe that we have the best crew in the business. When we fail, it's invariably because we racers pulled a bone-headed move, not because our crew let us down. So even though the results don't reflect it this time, I'll still say it: Y'all are the best clue solving team in the nation.

And while I'm praising things, how about the folks that put on the Great Urban Race?! This was the most spectacular clue race we've done as far as the number, quality, and sheer fun-ness of the challenges. The organization of the event was super smooth, and all the volunteers were very friendly and professional. Even though we didn't win the big money this year, we still had an amazing time running it. It's clear to us that the Great Urban Race is definitely setting the standard for excellence in the clue solving race business. So sign up for one... you won't be disappointed!

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