Saturday, February 21, 2009

Great Urban Race Tampa 2009

Jazmine and I competed in The Great Urban Race when it kicked off its 2009 season in Tampa this weekend. It turned out to be a bit longer than we expected, but was still a great time. We both had fun, got some exercise, and the best part is we are not itching to file for divorce after the ordeal / adventure!

We didn't finish very quickly, 4 hours and 15 minutes which put us in 113th place (out of approximately 150 teams). The winner supposedly did the entire thing in under 2 hours, which I seriously think is impossible without cheating. I mean, we covered over 10 miles of distance and I just don't see how it could be done in less than 8 miles. When you account for having to figure out amd locate clues, it just seems silly to finish in under 2 hours, even if you seriously ran the entire route.
Oh well, we weren't there to win, we were there to have fun which we most certainly did!
You can see a
map of our route, including all the stops we made for clues. According to that, we walked/ran almost 5 miles - no wonder I'm sore and worn out!
I give the organizers credit for making it challenging, but I was a bit disappointed in the decision to take us all the way to Hyde Park without a decent public transit option for getting there (at least, none that we could find that was available on Saturdays).

We did a couple of strategic things that I think helped a lot:
  • Based on advice from a blog about last year's race, we stopped on our way to the race at the transit center and bought single-day HART passes. For less than $4 each we could ride any bus or the streetcar all day long. We used the passes 3 times, so it paid off.
  • Because we didn't arrange for a "support person" to be available on the phone to look up clue information, we took the notebook computer and scoped out some free wireless hotspots near the starting point. This proved invaluable as we spent about 15 minutes looking up the clues that we didn't have a clue about otherwise. Without that, we would have had to call someone and rely on them to find information and relay it over the phone. The only thing we could have done better was to use that internet access to get better bus route information; the maps we had did not provide enough detail to find the stops, nor the times.
Here are the clues along with the "answers" when appropriate.
  1. Solve the following puzzle assuming the hyphenated word is "anti-gravity." Then do what it says. Be careful, some letter symbols have subtle differences. [strange symbols were given along with the letters they represent]

    This was a pretty simple "decode" task, but a little tricky because the symbols were small and some
    very similar to each other. The message decoded to "Take a picture of both teammates with the anti-gravity rock." Google quickly helped us figure out that it was on the UT campus, next to Plant Hall. Of course, we walked all the way around the building to find it because we took a 50/50 chance on which way to go and Murphy's Law dictated that we chose the longer way.

  2. Go to Lifestyle Family Fitness in Hyde Park and complete the boot camp in the group fitness room. Each teammate must complete the activities required by the trainers. After completing the challenge you must get a business card from the person near the entrance to prove you completed the task. This challenge is only available from 1:00pm - 4:00pm.

    The Lifestyle location was easy to find, but by the point of the race when we arrived we were already pretty tired from 2+ miles of walking/running and lack of food. The "boot camp" consisted of a handful of machine and dumbell exercises that weren't too bad, finishing with lunge steps that were brutal. My quads were screaming by the end!

  3. Find Judy's Cuties in the Saturday Ybor Market (open until 3pm). Take a picture of both teammates wearing the jewelry set aside for the race. After taking the picture, return the jewelry.

    This was right around the corner from the race starting point and so was the first task we performed. By sheer luck, we walked right up to Judy's booth - in fact, we were the very first team at this clue. So despite our relatively poor finish at least we can take pride in being in first place for 5 minutes!

  4. DETOUR (complete one of the following two):
    Bring a box of Grape Mike and Ike's candy to teh finish line.
    Bring a real copy of a publication named Boat Shopper to the finish line.

    This ended up being a lot harder than it sounds, and this was the task that we skipped. It was not for lack of trying; we looked in at least 5 different stores for either of the items, but no luck.

  5. Purchase a minimum of 3 non-perishable items per team and donate them to 2nd Harvest of Tampa Bay. 2nd Harvest has a donation truck waiting for you somewhere in the Publix parking lot on Bayshore Blvd. After donating your items, be sure to get this clue sheet stamped!

    An easy task/clue, but a nice gesture from the race organizers to help out
    a local charity. The Publix is right across the street from the Columbus statue (see clue # 11 below), so we did them back-to-back. Jazmine actually scouted out bus routes to Hyde Park while I did the shopping.

  6. Take a picture of both teammates with the following sculpture clearly visible in the picture. [the clue sheet include a small photo but no hints about location]

    At first we recognized the sculpture but couldn't remember from where. It turned out to be at the
    St. Pete Times forum, where we've attended dozens of Lightning games over the past few years, so we're embarrased that we spent even 5 minutes Googleing for it. Credit goes to Jazmine for remembering first and convincing me she was right. Google Street View confirmed her memory.

  7. Find Frankie's Tampa. There will be a tray of cheese cubes in the back room. Take a picture of one teammate dropping a cheese cube into the other teammate's mouth.

    Frankie's is on Kennedy Blvd, just west of the UT campus. We did this one right after Clue #1, the anti-gravity rock.

  8. DETOUR (complete one of the following):
    Take a picture of four or more people total with at least one t-shirt from a convert visible in the picture.
    Take a picture of six or more people total with at least two people wearing a necktie.

  9. We got lucky on this one. The streetcar from Ybor to Channelside was packed with racers. Someone convinced a couple of friendly tourists to don their neckties and pose with some of the racers for the photo. I think at least 8 or 10 teams got the same picture thanks to the good nature of the tourists, one of whom even opened his suitcase (he was on his way to the cruise ship that was docked at Channelside) to get a tie to wear.

  10. Take a picture of both teammates in front of the arcade game called Chip Away in Gameworks and win at least ten tickets (that means 20 'points') from any game in Gameworks.

  11. This was the last clue we did, and I'm embarrased at how badly my skeeball skills have deteriorated over the years!
    Originally I was thinking we'd use this one or the Improv one (clue # 12) as our skip clue, but because we could not find the candy or shopper magazine from clue #4, we ended up having to do both.

    (Can you tell by our enthusiastic faces that we were nearing the end, of the race and our patience?)

  12. Take a picture of both teammates in front of this red phone booth in Hyde Park. [the clue sheet included a small picture of the phone booth]

    This was dead simple; anyone who's ever been to
    Hyde Park Village has seen that phone booth, and it's right on the main street as you walk or drive in. Even if you didn't know about it, it would be hard to go to Lifestyles for clue # 2 without seeing it.

  13. The monument is mentioned in the song "Ybor Way" by T. W. Ramsay, 1959. Take a picture of both teammates in front of it.

    Google really helped for this one, as no-one we asked had heard of the song. It refers to the statue of Columbus at the Platt St. end of
    Bayshore Boulevard Linear Park; we stopped there on our way to Publix for clue # 5.

  14. Find Tampa Improv's secondary stage. Once there, you must tell a joke (of your choice) to the judges. If it makes the judges laugh, you'll get a stamp and this clue is complete. I your joke does nor make them laugh you must perform another joke. Your joke can b simple and does not need to involve both teammates. Our judges are looking more for effort than hilarity. You must receive a stamp on the clue sheet from one of the judges! This clue will only be available from 1:0004:00 so strategize accordingly.

    We did this one next-to-last after we returned to Ybor from Hyde Park. It was kind of hard to get up there in front of two volunteer judges who had clearly heard more than they wanted of amateur comedians and bad jokes. Not to mention the other teams who were gathered around waiting their turn.
    The first joke we tried bombed:

    Who's there?
    Impatient cow.
    Impatient c-
    [rushed, interrupting] Moo! Moo! Moo..."

    In desperation, I threw out my own made-up corn joke:
    "What do you say to corn before you eat it? ... 'See ya tomorrow.'"
    One of the judges actually snickered and I think the other one felt pity on us so agreed to give us the stamp.

Here's a map of the route we took (click "View Larger Map" underneath to see details and descriptions of the place-markers):


Anonymous said...

Sounds like you didn't have the "greatest" time. Looks ok, but probably could be better.

Kevino said...

You may want to try Urban Dare Tampa,, on March 7. It is a team race with clues and you face fun challenges at some of the checkpoints.

Simon MacDonald said...

Congratulations Eric! That looks like a lot of fun. Too bad they don't run something like that up here in Canada.

Kipley Fiebig said...


Great report, thanks for writing it! Your comment about how you suspected the winners of cheating because they finished in under two hours made me chuckle. Our teams participate in these types of races all the time, and I can assure you that sub two hour finishes are indeed possible to achieve while still adhering to the race rules. The more experienced you and your crew get at these events, the more ways you'll discover how to optimize your strategy.

Our clue solving race reports



Team O.S.I. said...

We have a puzzle hunt road rally planned for September 12, 2009 in Tampa if you care to play. It has a Six Million Dollar Man & Bionic Woman theme and consists of teams of 3-6 people (all team members have to fit in one vehicle for the game) who go from check point to check point solving challenging clues and doing fun activities. If you or someone you know would be interested please check out our site: