Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Amazing Race: The Verizon Urban Challenge

My body hurts.  I feel like I was beaten on all sides with a club and I now have three toenails threatening to abandon my feet.  This is why yesterday ranks among the top three most physically demanding days of my life (the other two being hiking the Everest Trail to Namche Bazar and climbing to Camp Muir on Mt. Rainier, both of which I also lost toenails because of).

     I woke up yesterday morning easily without an alarm.  It was like Christmas morning.  Excitement and adrenaline were already pumping through my veins.  Honestly I had been this excited since Jennifer first asked me if I wanted to do the Verizon Urban Challenge with her on Wednesday.  When I saw how it closely resembled my favorite show, the Amazing Race, I just had to do it.

We took the lightrail downtown and then made our way to the Seattle Center, our launch point.  We got there fairly early to allow for planning and strategy so we ended up being team 3.  After we changed into our race t-shirts and pinned on our number we went to sit in the Seattle Centerhouse to study our clues (which I was surprised they gave us), plan out our route (we could go in any order we wanted), and figure out our phone (the HTC Incredible).
    The race was supposed to consist of 50 teams but, because of impending bad weather many didn't show up.  In the end I think we had just over 30 teams competing.  By 10 am  you could feel the excitement in the air.  We lined up on the start line, time tracker around my ankle, phone in Jennifers pocket and backpacks carrying everything else we needed.  When the horn blew teams flew out in all directions.  We immediately made a break for the closest bus stop.  We had carefully planned out our route, and even though there was some unavoidable zigzagging involved we figured this was the best way to do it, the only problem would be the four hour time limit.

While strategizing for the challenge (I'm wearing the shirt), my hair didn't look that good later in the day.  We had more pictures but forgot to email them before we turned in the phone.  Oh well.

I must also mention that as soon as the horn blew it started to rain, and it rained progressively harder through out the day.  I was soaked.

First stop was an outdoor store called Feathered Friends close to I-5.  There was no challenge there but we had to get our passbook signed and pick up at ticket to Safeco Field which we could need later.

From there we made our way to our second stop, the Armory at south Lake Union.  This is were we met our first challenges.  First we each had to take one end of a rope with on hand, which couldn't ever let go of the rope.  We then had to attempt un-tieing 6 knots in the rope only using one hand each.  It seems like it would be easier than it is, but it didn't take us really long.  Second we had to ride a tandem bike through an obstacle course.  This was difficult.  It took us several tries but on our last chance we got it! (they give you 5 minutes to try before you are sent to the back of the line).

Our third "stop" was riding the South Lake Union Trolley from start to finish.  By this point our phone battery was dieing so we swapped it out for a new one, only to get on the trolley and find out the new battery was in fact dead.  Great.  At the beginning of each challenge we had to use the phone to scan a QR code so there's no way we could compete without one.  When we reached the end of the trolley line at Westlake Center.  We talked to the Verizon guy and he called ahead to get us a new phone (he wanted us to wait there for it and we were like Dude! we're in a race!).

From there we caught the light rail to Safeco field.  This is the point when my legs started giving out on me.  No good.  We had to run all the way around the field to get to the entrance.  Here they had several more challenges for us.  First, we had to answer who the first Mariner to win the Cy Young award was, Answer: Randy Johnson.  Second we had to find the concession stand named after the Mariner Moose, where we just had to get our book signed.  Third, we had to throw a baseball at at least 30 MPH, piece of cake!  Third, we had to go into the Mariners dugout and play a memory game.  Good thing I played memory so much with my students in Thailand.  I was done in just over a minute.  And 5th, we had to cross the skybridge to the roof of the parking garage.  There I had to ride this weird, reclining, bike-like contraption that had no seat, just two skinny bars(so uncomfortable) and levers as steering.  I rocked it though and flew through it.

From there we made our way on foot to Occidental Park in Pioneer Square.  There we met our hardest challenge of the day, a diamond shaped beam system where you had to get from one side to the other without stepping off AND you had to be touching your partners fingers at all times.  Did I mention this thing was like 6ft wide?  We had really issues and felt like giving up several times.  It took 18 minutes but we finally made it across.  The look on our faces when we made it past the half way point in the diamond was classic.  It was such an amazing feeling.

From there we ran to a parking lot on Western Ave near the waterfront.  Our skills at this challenge made up for our lack thereof at the last challenge.  Here we were given a plank of wood and 5 pipes.  One partner had the pull on a rope to get us closer to the back of a truck while the other partner was moving the pipes to keep the plank rolling.  The end objective was to touch the back of the truck.  Neither the plank or person could touch the ground.  Jennifer decided to be the rope puller so that left me as the pipe mover.  We had a good groove going and even though we were exhausted we made it so quickly.  Other teams had big issues or even just gave up.  It gave as a little (or big) confidence boost.

From there we ran to pier 57.  For this challenge we had to use an app. on our phone to track the mileage and altitude from pier 57 to the Verizon store on 6th Ave AND we could only use 1st ave, pike street and 6th Ave.  This took a while because it was all up hill and my legs had tensed up so much I was getting charley horses (it was awful).

From there we made our way to the Crocodile Cafe.  We only had half an hour left to compete and 4 more stops.  We were in panic mode.  So we made it to the cafe and had to wait in line to sing karaoke.  I can now say I've sung "Don't stop Believen'" from the stage of the crocodile cafe.  Pretty cool. 

We now had only 17 minutes left and my body was giving out but we were bound and determined to make it to one more stop at the Sculpture park.  No challenge, just needed to get our book signed.

We literally made it across the finish line with seconds to spare.

Then we found out the bad news, we couldn't be considered "completed" because we didn't do the monorail challenge (just riding the monorail from start to finish).  Boo!  They said it was in our book but I didn't read it.  That was a little disappointing, BUT we still had fun, and that's what really mattered.

Although we had ranked within the 8th place to 12 place range all day we ended in the 17th place spot.  And let me say, the first three teams that made it definitely deserved to win.  They made it back almost an hour before us AND they were the only teams to finish every station.  Good job guys!

So now, looking at my experience I definitely have more sympathy for the teams on the Amazing Race.  I used to be so judging when they get irritated or in fights.  Now I totally understand.  These competitions are stressful!  Also I know that if I were ever to compete for the Amazing Race I would need to train for months.  I can't have my body hating me this much anymore!

At the end of the day NO, we didn't win but we still had a lot of fun, AND I would do it again.  Verizon/HTC were also pretty awesome for providing this free event/challenge and giving us t-shirts, backpacks, waterbottles, watches and hand warmers.  So a big THANK YOU to them for giving me such a great day!


Tricia F said...

that's fun! I work for VZW and have never heard of that. and i have an HTC Incredible.

inevitable said...

Thanks for sharing your experience! I just signed up for the race in august. Do you have any advice?