Monday, February 8, 2010

Race Report - New Orleans Urban Adventure Race 2009

Production Company: Gulf Coast Adventure Racing
Date: 11/7/09
Location: New Orleans, LA
Length: 4 Hour
Team Name: Pink Whiskey

I've been wanting to do an adventure race with Chrissy for a long time, and when I heard about a short (4 hour) race in a city she'd been trying to get me to go explore (New Orleans), I was sold. We needed a third teammate, though, and although we're not elite athletes, we don't know too many folks who exercise like we do. We compiled a very short list of people we thought might be interested, and who would be able to keep up with us, and after asking our number one candidate, she accepted! Amy had actually lived in N'awlins for a couple years, a number of years ago, and it made perfect sense to add her to the team. We decided to keep the team name I came up with for my brother and I and started training as Pink Whiskey.

We got to the city late Thursday night after a very desolate 6 hour drive. Amy had arranged for us to crash at an old friend's house and he was very gracious. The race wasn't until Saturday, so we decided to spend all day Friday riding our bikes around town, getting a feel for the layout and character of the place. Biking is the ABSOLUTE best way to see New Orleans. The roads are okay by Louisiana standards (they don't have standards) and the traffic was refreshingly polite. We rode to a coffee shop, went and checked out some landmarks, did a bit of shopping, and by noon we were drunk. Which made riding our bikes even MORE fun! Riding around the French Quarter we stopped in every bar we wanted to and had a drink, rode around, listened to street musicians tearing it up, and the hours just melted past. The city was very accommodating and we ate at 3 or 4 restaurants that catered to vegans. We went to bed early, happy and nervous.

Upon arriving at the park where the race was to begin, we were surprised to see how many racers there were. We parked the bikes, i hit the port-o-potty, and the girls stretched while i went to sign-in and get our maps. We got a few minutes to look over the maps - one was a blow-up google satellite map of the park and surrounding area, with a few checkpoints scattered around, one was a tourist's laminated city map with a blow-up on the back of the downtown area, and one was a little laminated map of the bayou. Then it was time to start! A cheesy cap gun fired, and all 300 or so racers started sprinting! I yelled for Amy and Chrissy to slow down (they were psyched!) and we settled into a good pace while the other teams tore off. The map was a bit confusing and the frontrunners found the first checkpoint for us. The huge bottleneck at the point cost us a few minutes, but Chrissy got in there and got our punch. As we took off running for the next points, it was clear that most of the pack that sprinted at the start was winded and walking. Suckers! We snagged the rest of the points in the park and trotted back to the start to grab our bikes.

Chrissy and I were riding our mountain bikes and Amy was riding an older hybrid bike that she had won in a raffle a few years earlier. Her bike was heavy and very slow, and our bikes had big knobby tires that were pointless on the road. Oh well. We switched from the park map to the tourist map and headed downtown, snagging a couple points along the way. Traffic was puzzled, but polite. Who were all of these people on bikes, reading maps?! We got some priceless looks. A few wrong turns cost us some time, but we were still having a blast. One memorable checkpoint was right on the water in a park. We passed several teams who were getting frustrated, and I spotted it in a tree, raced my bike up a flight of stairs and punched the passport. As i was leaving, all of the teams came swarming up the hill like zombies. Next we parked our bikes with hundreds of other racers' bikes in a park downtown where a race official promised us she would keep them safe.

The running leg that came next is the one Amy and Chrissy still talk about. We ran all over downtown, and had several cool challenges. One involved going into the Children's Museum and finding a scaled down A&P grocery store. We were given a shopping list, which one person had to find. Another of us had to ring everything up and get the total right. Once approved, the 3rd person had to put everything back. This was the troublesome part, because seemingly no one who came before us bothered to do this part right, so we took forever locating the goods. But it was cool and surreal. and all of these kids were just gawking at us, running around in our bike shorts and camelbaks, yelling and scrambling in a fake grocery store!

Another cool challenge involved finding a certain famous bar in the French Quarter. There we were each given a cardboard tray and two full glasses of colored water. We were told to find 3 other famous bars in the area, get more drinks from them, and return to the first bar without spilling more than 1/5th of each "beverage." This was hilarious. All the racers were downtown at this point, either doing this challenge, or running to the next part and the tourists (speedbumps) were totally baffled. Amy (a yoga instructor) was a total natural at this challenge, and Chrissy (who made good use of all of her pads in her rollerderby days) did really well too. I was the weaklink on this challenge, but we made it through and passed. Next we had to find the wax museum. Wax Museum?! AWESOME. It was so so dark and cool in there that it was super creepy. The little scenes got more and more creepy as we pushed deeper into the dark, winding our way through a barely lit maze. We were looking for Frankenstein, and split off from a large group of racers that sounded like they were going in circles. Found him, punched the passport, and ran out into the sunshine for a moment of bring-you-to-your-knees sunblindness.

Back to the park where the bikes were, and off to the boat launch. One of the nicest parts of this race was that the boats were supplied. Better for my gas mileage, and for evening the playing field too - some of the teams out there employ scientists from other galaxies to design boats that defy the laws of physics. Anyway, we had 5 or 6 checkpoints spread out along the bayou. It looked to be about 6 or 8 miles of paddling. This was fun, and tiring, but pretty uneventful. The best part was going under the bridges. The bottom of the bridges were only about 3 feet off of the water, and the top of the canoe sat about 2 1/2 feet up! We would paddle real hard, make sure we were heading straight, and then duck! We had to literally lay down in the boat, reaching up and grabbing girders to pull ourselves along. Totally fun. On our way back to the start we got to the last checkpoint and were greeted by an official who informed us that there was another special challenge. We had to pull the boat up onto the shore, cross a highway, and scour a park on foot for 3 more checkpoints. This was a little frustrating as the maps were not to scale and the locations marked were VERY approximate. But we snagged all three and returned to the boats thoroughly exhausted. A couple more miles of paddling and we were back on our bikes. Back to the park, and we were done!

No medals, but what fun! PINK WHISKEY RULES.

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