Great Urban Race 2008 - Philadelphia Qualifier

Finally (or so I thought), the last urban adventure for the season! After a really long City Chase, the Great Urban Race sounded like a much more reasonable race. Plus I had learned my lesson of not packing Mountain Blast POWERADE, so with two bottles stowed in my pack (and one to drink on the way), I was confident we'd have a great day! Kris was my partner this time. Since she lived down the block from me, we could take the train down together. Luckily, about 10 minutes before the train was due at my station (Jenkintown) I remembered that it did not stop at Glenside (where Kris was waiting). Somehow I was able to drive to Glenside, pickup Kris (who doesn't have a car) and get back to Jenkintown in time to catch the train - our first good omen of the day!

After an uneventful ride, we arrived in Center City and met up with two of our opponents, Jenny and Rosemary. The start was at McFadden's on 3rd Street, near Spring Garden. We were greeted by the usual assortment of young and old runners, plus folks in odd and/or creative costumes. We'll try the costume angle one of these years. There were an impressive 125 teams in the race, and I felt pretty good about our prospects after finishing the past three events.

Joe (the race director) blasted out the directions - via a megaphone - a few minutes after noon, then we tore open our instruction sheets. There were - Yow! - three sheets of locations to decipher! And, not a lot of white space (and the pages were deep orange!) to write on. But no matter, we were off! The GUR used some new lingo - MANDATORY clues had to be done (not too surprising) and DETOURS were either/or clues. You are given 12 clues/locations and had to visit eleven of them (thus, one skip... but not a MANDATORY one... which was apparently not that obvious since they had to add that rule after a few races (should have had one clue require you to find out the definition of "mandatory!")).

We scanned the three sheets and found two clues were things we needed to do/have. The first clue was to arrive at the end having the two enclosed GUR temporary tattoos on our arms. Pretty simple, but we decided to do this at the end, since there was a good chance the tattoos would be gone if we put them on now. I stowed them safely away in my wallet. The other involved taking a picture of one of those Duck tourist boatcars (which was simpler than one thinks in the Old City area) or find a real $2 bill... and I just happened to have one in my wallet!!!!! (A long family story) So, we were down to nine to go. Kris knocked out one that had some sort of long riddle telling you where to find something, then hide it again. I did not read the clue but took her word for it (which turned out to be very, very good advice as the teams that did this clue took FOREVER). We focused on the other nine and soon had all of them located and mapped out. We had to take our picture at each location and sometimes do something there.

The first stop was nearby at Dave & Busters (again!). We had to get 10 coupons (five tickets). I figured the quickest way was good ol' Skeeball! Unfortunately, some teams had already arrived here (not waiting to solve all the clues before starting out) and were there already crowding the few functioning D&B card machines (you have to purchase a debit card, then use it at the games). We nabbed a manager, who sold us a card from the bar, but Jenny & Rosemary had the ultimate timesaver solution of giving a kid $4 (the minimum card purchase was $5) for five tickets. They saved $1, the kid made out like a bandit and they were out of there fast: win-win-win! Kris and I nailed the Skeeball fast and - after remembering to get the 2nd part of the clue, a photo in front of "Feeding Frenzy" - were out of there.

The closest next location was not our second stop - I misread my map. Instead we ran up Race Street looking for Elvis sitting somewhere nearby. I had both Joe and Mary (phone support) quickly looking for a statue of him that I just knew was not there. Suddenly it dawned on me - Elvis was at Barstools & More at 2nd and Race Streets! We ran to the spot where he and Blues Brothers would normally be hanging out... but nothing. They must have been closed on Saturdays, or at least that Saturday (please check the course on a race day folks!!!!!). As we discreetly walked by it, I noticed Elvis staring out from the doorway. It was obvious to me that they had not planned this, so I figured we could pick up a lot of time if we could nab the photo before anyone noticed. Unfortunately, the other teams did notice (well several were looking for the location anyway), so we got our photo and split, backtracking slightly to the Painted Bride (again!!) for the clue starting with "Gemalt" in German (meaning Painted) and "Bruid" in Dutch - didn't need the translation on the second word to figure out this one. We had to find "in the buff" on the exterior, which would have been difficult (it was a small tile!!!) if not for another team already there. That's the trouble with those small, wide open space clues - the first team spends a lot of time finding it, then the next team spends no time assuming they get there before the second team splits. I suggest the organizers have had 5-10 different tiles for teams to find. Not that we minded!

After that, it was back down 2nd Street to the National Building (a MANDATORY clue, and the race sponsor). We had to negotiate a big inflatable obstacle course that they apparently bring and use at every race. At the end we got our picture taken and we were off. Kris and I decided to go to the furthest clue, then work our way back. This took us down into the trusty subway and off to 34th Street. There were several other teams along for the ride, though all got off before our stop (hmm...). This location was also MANDATORY and involved going to either a restaurant at 36th and Lancaster (way off track!) or one shown on a certain page of Philadelphia magazine. Neither of my helpers had a Philadelphia magazine, but Kris found a friend who had one and located the New Deck Tavern - on Sansom near 34th Street - which was the closest of the possible choices. We raced there - alone - took our photo and ran to the Circa Centre. It was the correct answer to one of those logic questions that Kris solved and I confirmed. We got the building number in the photo and sprinted towards Market Street.

After crossing the Schuylkill River we ran up to the nearest cart, where the vendor had a wrapped cheese hoagie that one of us had to feed the other (well, just for the photo). I unwrapped it, put it in Kris' mouth, took the photo, and rewrapped it. Two clues to go! The next clue was an incorrectly written anagram. The phrase "Crank Bellman Tone" does NOT anagram to "Mellon Bank Center" but the clue said it was a skyscraper and there's just not that many candidates folks. We snapped the shot, though it later turned out that Jenny and Rosemary were stumped on this one. If only they had put "Crank Bellmen Tone!"

The last stop was the big playing pieces by City Hall. We had to count the dots on the standing dominoes, then take our photo while holding up the correct fingers. There were a few other teams there who apparently had an issue counting to 15. Most finally got it right, but we found at least one team (at the end) which did not. Our trouble was getting the correct number of fingers, our faces and the dominoes in the photo. Several tries seemed okay, but we did one last one - thank goodness - had all fifteen fingers in view. Now, back to the finish!

I decided we should take the Spring Garden bus back, since the subway only got us to 2nd Street... forgetting of course that it turned north and stopped at Spring Garden!!!!! Kris and I ran up Broad Street, applied our tattoos and caught the 43 bus minutes later. We rested a bit, then sprinted along 3rd Street to the end. I rounded the corner first and thought I saw some competitors there get up for us... then I realized it was the judges. And we were first!!!! I screamed to Kris, who was rounding the corner, while scanning for other teams (no one!). We were 1st and ready to roll! The next step was to check our photos. Of course the first set was the domino photos and Joe was being a bit harsh in finding the 15 fingers (I told him the answer was 15). The good photos were vague, but he finally saw the crappy photo and said okay. He breezed through the rest and we were definitely in 1st!!!! After some finishing and check photos we settled in to the bar and waited for the others to finish. 2nd and 3rd came in about nine minutes later, and the rest trickled in for the next few hours. After a good rest, we received our medals and returned home for some welcome rest and relaxation. Vegas, here we come!!!!