Category Archives: Race Review Videos

A Little Urban Adventuring

Team on Boats

By now, I’m sure most of you have heard of the Amazing Race, and that most of your are familiar with adventure racing, and that you’ve perhaps also heard of City Chase, a race series that sort of (loosely) combines elements of both AR and the Amazing Race. In a word, they call City Chase an urban adventure challenge. Well this post will give you a taste of how the City Chase actually works, as Deanna and I recently competed in the Ottawa installment. Like the Spartan Race a few weeks back, I was taking part in the race to provide a video race review for Get Out There Magazine. If you’d like to see the video I put together (it’s kind of frantic), have a look at the YouTube video. I actually had no idea how the race would actually play out, as I only knew roughly what it was about, which is that you race around the city using public transit to complete ‘Chase Points’. First team of 2 that does 10 of them and returns to the finish wins. Plain and simple. Well, as we learned, it isn’t quite as straightforward as that. For our first time, we were actually pretty happy to finish in 172nd place in a time of 5hrs 26mins out of over 500 teams that started out. Besides the little video review I put together, you can also check out the photos that I snapped and posted on flickr. As I was focused on the video and racing, there aren’t too many I liked. When you’ve had a peek at those, pop on back and read about the race!

Okay, so we’ve established that in City Chase, there are Chase Points and you race around the city. You can only go by foot or public transit, which in the case of Ottawa means the O-Train or buses. Every participant was given a 1-day bus pass to use for that purpose. Being a Saturday though, I knew a lot of the routes would have limited bus runs, so Deanna and I did a lot of walking instead of waiting. Lucky for us, the weather on race day was absolutely gorgeous. Sunny skies and temps that would eventually climb to around 30 degrees. Hydration would be important over the course of the 6 hours. I should point out that the race has a hard cap. All teams must have crossed the finish line by the 6 hour mark to officially finish. This can be tricky with the public transit equation, and plays into strategy. Given that 40 or so teams ‘tied’ for 384th with a time of 6 hours even, I’m guessing they let that slide a bit. Amazingly, the top team finished in just over 3 hours! Preparation is the key, which leads me to the explanation of Chase Points.

After a group warm-up at city hall, and a race briefing, the Chase was on. We were told the Official Clue Sheet was available at Lisgar Field, meaning all 1100 racers would be bolting over there to get the information. The clue sheet outlines the Chase Points, and lays out the rules. In total, there were 31 possible Chase Points set in 4 groups. In the first 3 groups, you HAD to complete at least 2 of the chase points (these groups had 3, 4, and 4 CPs respectively), then choose 4 from the 4th group. I expected each clue would just tell you where to go and the nature of the challenge. Nope! It is actually a list of different puzzles, like cryptograms, plays on words, cryptic clues, etc. For example, our first CP we went to was called “Tinkle Toes” and the clue read: Bih-kuhm uh pruh-fesh-un-nl bawl-room dahn-ser aht wuhn uhv thee lee-ding dahns stoo-dee-ohs in ot-uh-wuh. Meet uhs aht wuhn huhn-drid and fif-tee-wuhn Chap-uhl Street. Obviously it was just a phonetic clue, so I got it quickly, but there were all sorts of other puzzles to unscramble.

Experienced teams took clue sheets and basically sat down with a map and smartphone. They worked at unscrambling the clues and trying to figure out where each of the challenges was, and tried to plot an efficient route between them that they could complete as quickly as possible in order to get back to the finish line quickly. Also, those keen on winning probably did CP #1, which was done in advance by raising at least $50 for Right to Play. Deanna and I were not quite as experienced, instead trying to figure out a nearby one we could start with. However, there were also 3 CPs which were awarding VIP line passes to the first 25 teams through, allowing teams to skip to the front of the line if they got to busy CP. I thought that might be a good idea, so with that in mind, we bee-lined for the dance studio to do Twinkle Toes. This was a matter of a jog through downtown to get to Rideau and Chapel. Luckily, we were amongst those first 25 teams, and the challenge, which had us do a dance routine, wasn’t too hard, and we were awarded our VIP pass. Happy with this, we set back out into the sun to get to our next CP, which we hadn’t decided on yet. We’d already burned up about 45 minutes for 1 CP!

To solve a couple of the clues, we had to get creative, first calling on Kevin to try and work on a crossword puzzle for us, then rummaging in a store recycle bin to get a Friday newspaper, which had a clue buried within it. While working on the puzzles, we headed back to the Ottawa U campus on foot, where one of the CPs was, and it was right up my alley! Put on by the Ottawa Orienteering Club, you were given a map of the campus indicating the location of 10 control points that you had to punch. I got to work on it right away, running from point to point with Deanna on my heels. We got all 10 controls in about 17 minutes, one of the fastest times of all the racers. Having completed only 2 CPs, we were starting to get nervous already, as we had 8 to go! We decided we’d need to actually do a little planning and strategizing. We now had 2 ‘optional’ CPs done, and needed all our mandatory ones. With that in mind, we solved a bunch of the clues and made a rough plan. We would head downtown where we could pick up 1 CP on Queen Street, 2 CPs on Bank Street, then head out to LeBreton for another CP. Grab a bus towards Westboro where we’d pick up 2 more CPs, then take a bus to the O-Train. From there, take train to Mooney’s Bay for our final 2 CPs before transiting back to the finish line. With a freshly-minted plan, we headed out on foot with purpose.

Our next CP had us at the Royal Oak at 188 Bank, where we had to each prepare a drink and serve to the judge. There was a huge line-up, but our VIP pass was used for maximum benefit here, allowing us to skip the line. Perfect! Sadly, there was no real alcohol in the drinks, and they weren’t something you’d want to sample, as it was dirty glasses and questionable ingredients. Too bad, as it was getting pretty darn hot. Deanna had one slight problem with her drink. Rather than reading ‘1/2 oz’ of Vodka, she tried pouring a 1/2 glass of vodka! The judges admired her strong drink mixing skills, but decided it might be best to try again :-). In spite of that, we were in and out quickly.

Further down the street at Bank and Gilmour, we grabbed a Blackberry from Rogers for the next challenge, which was to take 4 pictures (out of 6 possible clues) within 30 minutes and bring them back to the judges. This was another pretty quick task, which we completed lickety-split. We were now getting a bit more confident and had found our groove. There were lots of other teams out and about, all having a great time and shouting out to each other all through downtown. We now headed up to Queen Street to find the GoodLIfe fitness. Once there, we had to spend 7 minutes on spin bikes sweating it out as an instructor shouted instructions. If we weren’t totally hot from the sun, this workout put us WAY over the top. We finished the challenge and stepped back out totally drenched and looking for some relief.

Lucky for us, our next CP was just the ticket. We now made our way to the west end of downtown to find the whitewater practice area around LeBreton Flats, where inflatable kayaks awaited us. For this challenge, we had to grab a boat, and navigate the whitewater gates down the river for a bit before pulling out and carrying the boat back to the start. The water was a nice refreshing treat, even though we didn’t get to stay or swim for very long. However, the rocks and sand were absolutely scorching, causing both of us to burn our feet! Once again, we had a great run there, and were back on our way soon, this time heading for the transitway to grab a bus to Westboro. Destination? The Ottawa Gymnastics Centre for a super-fun CP where we got to do trampoline work, climb ropes, play on the rings, the pommel horse, balance beam, and the rings. The piece de resistance for us here was doing 5 cartwheels in a row, which anyone who knows Deanna might realize she wasn’t particularly good at those. However, under pressure, she nailed it!

Our reward for a job well done awaited just down the street at the CP called ‘The Mask’. This CP was located at a spa, and entailed me giving Deanna a lovely cucumber and peppermint facial. She had to wear the mask for 3 minutes. Once the time was up, I cleaned her up, and we had to take a ‘mystery shot’, which ended up being apple cider vinegar. YUCK! Luckily, it was watered down by the time we got to it, thanks to the many teams before us. With this CP done, we were left with only 2 more CPs, both of which were at Mooney’s Bay. A bus and the O-Train later, we were jogging to the site. First up was a puzzle CP where we had to assemble 6 puzzles of places in the world, and match the name of the place to each one after making the puzzle. The puzzles were pretty straightforward, and we quickly worked through them, also correctly matching the place names since I knew most of them from sight. Our only problem was the wind which had picked up and kept blowing our puzzle pieces away. Kind of frustrating, but what can you do?

Our very last CP was right up my alley as well. It involved paddling a kayak out to a buoy and back. However, it wasn’t THAT easy. The real challenge was that your teammate had to be seated on the front of the boat as you paddled. If you flipped, you had to start again. There were a range of boats, and one caught my eye. Fat and wide. Ultra stable. I told Deanna to just hop on the front and we’d get ‘er done quick. Sure enough, no problems. As we were out there, we saw another team trying the same, but they had picked a sleeker kayak, and didn’t fare well. In other words, they flipped! On our return I suggested they take our kayak. After all, we were all done and only had to get to the finish line now. Wrapping up was quick and painless, as we just had to take transport back to the Rideau Centre and walk over to City Hall. We’d had a great day and were plenty hot, so we were looking forward to finishing up. Hand in hand, we ran to the finish to complete the Challenge. Once there, they told us we were among the first 180 teams to finish, and directed to get a goodie bag.

Amongst the goodies? Two free beer tickets to use at the Hard Rock for the post-race party! Awesome! What a great way to finish the race. After hanging around for a little bit, we hit the market and the bar for beers. We sat with a few other racers and swapped stories. It was fun to hear about some of the other CPs that we didn’t get to try, including one where you had to let a tarantula or snake crawl all over you! The bar was totally full now, as more and more teams finished off and made their way here. We only stayed a little bit, as we’d also decided to head over to Zak’s for milkshakes, then join Dave and Meghan at Hintonburger for some delicious supper. All in all, a really fun way to spend a summer day with Deanna, and getting to show her a bit more about the city she now calls home. Can’t say for certain, but I can see us doing it again next year as well. Next time I’m sure we’ll approach it even more strategically and try to better our last time :-). Till that time, have fun, and hope you’re all enjoying the fine weather as well! Ciao.

Pick Me to Be a Race Reviewer

The Video

The [brief] Pitch

So, you’re looking for dynamic, energetic, race reviewers to give you two-minute video reviews of races they do this year in exchange for paying entry fees? Well, I’d say I’m your reviewer! I’ve got a full slate already this year, but if you’re willing to foot the bill, I’m more than happy to add more races. Curious about me and my race career?

The Proposed Races

Although I’ve already registered for a lot of my races this season, there are a few more that I’d love to do, and with your support, I can actually enter them! Here are the races in question:

Team Hyper-Active Gets Physical

Happy Racers at Summit

Time for another race report for all my faithful followers! This time, I’ll be filling you all in on the Raid Pulse spring adventure race. This was a 6-8 hour adventure race being held in an area I’ve not previously raced at, Notre Dame du Laus, which is about an hour and a half from my place in Quebec. I’ve been attending Thierry and Annick’s races for many years now, both in teams, as well as solo. For this particular race, Deanna and I were actually racing together as a team! So far, we’ve raced together as two solos traveling together, and as solos on our own. This would be our first race as actual, bona fide team-mates! We were both looking forward to it. For a glimpse into the race through pictures, have a look at my folder on flickr. There are both pictures that I took, as well as pictures the race photographers grabbed. I was shooting a bit of video as well for another reason, which I’ll get to after the break.

Before I get into the meat of this post, let me say one thing off the bat. This wasn’t a super-easy course 🙂 We are completely pleased with our finish in spite of the fact that we didn’t get to complete the entire course. In fact, a large portion of the competitors didn’t get to do the whole course. When all the dust and bugs had settled, only 2 teams managed to complete the entire race, including the advanced section. Now that I got that off my chest, I might as well enlighten you on the race itself.

Although we could have camped the night before onsite, we had Jonah at home, so we instead opted for the very early morning drive. It made for a long day, but made the most sense. We did our best to get a good night’s rest, by being packed well in advance. Next morning, it was pretty painless getting to the race. On arrival, we finished registration, and were looking forward to the breakfast we’d paid for in advance. Unfortunately, it was mainly cereals, fruit and bread. I’d really been hoping for bacon, eggs, and potatoes. Too bad.

Not much time to dwell on it though, as the briefing was starting up. I paid only a modicum of attention, instead taking some pictures and video. I did have a look at the instructions and the routes. All in all, it actually looked pretty straightforward. Start on bikes, head to a trek, back on bikes, head to the paddle, then back on the bikes to the finish. So why the videos? Well, I’ve decided to enter a video for an opportunity to have Get Out There pay for my race entries! They are looking for people to do video reviews of races, and in exchange, they will pay for race entries. Given all the money I spend entering race, I could REALLY use the money. They won’t refund races I’d already paid for, but there are numerous other races I still need to pay for.

Once the briefing was out of the way, Deanna and I finished preparing our transition bags, and pored over the map and had a bit of a discussion of the course. I put a tow system on my bike, hoping we could use it to help out a bit on the bike. The opening bike leg was quite a bit of gravel roads for a while, where we might be able to take advantage of the tow. Once the bags were dropped off, it was time to make our way to the start line. After Deanna ducked into the ladies room for a final pit stop, I heard the race director announce we’d be staring in 2 minutes, which was 5 minutes earlier than expected! I hoped we’d be able to start with everyone else, but at the end of the day, starting towards the back wouldn’t ultimately change anything.

She made it just in time, and the starting horn was sounded. The entire race group wound its’ way through the little village to start out. Lots of spectators wondering what all the fuss was about. Must always look odd to have 150 or so crazy adventure racers on mountain bikes all geared up biking by your house if you aren’t expecting it. It didn’t take too long for everyone to start spreading out. We were cycling at our own pace, and racing our own race, and completely content with it. Once we got off the main road, we found our way on ATV trails instead. That’s where we encountered a bit of a navigational challenge. Of course, that was my domain, so I’ll take full responsibility there.

We were following a major ATV road, when it pretty much dead-ended. There were probably 8 other teams around us too, and we all were stumped where to go. There was a little off-shoot on the right, and we found that it turned sort of back into a major road. It looked good, and the direction was correct. Given that our actual map only showed 1 route, we were sure this was it. Sadly, after probably an hour and a half of taking various trails and various forks, it turned out this was completely wrong. We worked our way all the way back to the ‘dead-end’ and the off-shoot, which actually went both left and right. Turns out we should have gone right, as after 100m or so, it hair-pinned, and then pointed the ‘right’ way. That was pretty frustrating. A lot of energy had been expended going up and down steep hills, crossing rivers, mud pits, etc. Deanna was a bit frustrated, but we had no choice but to keep going.

After that mistake, we had no problems finding our way to the transition point, although it was still quite a slog with a LOT of steep climbs and technical descents. We did our best, and I helped as much as I could, pushing both Deanna and mine’s bikes up all the hills when Deanna needed a walk break. It was tough, slow going, and the black flies were absolutely atrocious. However, I was pleased to be able to track our progress with much more certainty now that I had us on the right route again. We were pretty happy to see the transition zone, but a little sad to see that there weren’t too many people there. To make matters worse, we were told we had exactly 3 minutes before the time cut-off to tackle the trekking section. We rushed like mad and made it out with less than a minute to spare.

At this point, let me explain how ranking worked in this race. It was laid out clearly at the start. Every checkpoint was worth 25 points, and you had to do them in order (as many as you could). If you arrived after 6pm, every minute you were late, they would deduct a point from your total. So once again, tactics would play a part in how people raced. For us, the trek made sense to squeeze in, as there were 5 check points here, and only 3 on the paddle. So off we went.

Apparently some of the teams in the back opted to skip a few of the trekking checkpoints, but I thought our best chances lay in getting as many as we could. The first one was a very easy hike up a trail to a lookout. That gave us a chance to have some food and ‘relax’ if that’s possible. Bugs were still horrible, so stopping at any point meant becoming a blood donor pretty quick. After CP4 at the lookout, it was off through the woods to grab CP5 along a creek, then up to the very top of Mont du Diable for CP6. CP5 was pretty easy, but then to grab CP6 was a whole lot of climbing, which was starting to tax the team a bit. with some encouragement, and the fact that I was carrying both the packs, we made it up, and the view was totally worth it. We’d also befriended another team in the woods and had traveled together for a good part.

After CP6, it was a run back down the mountain, where we had to choose whether to go for CPs 7 and 8, or just retreat to the transition to bike on. We checked time, and realized that there was pretty much no way we’d be able to paddle at all and get any of those CPs. As a result, we decided to quickly nab 7 and 8 before heading back to the transition. It was a good call, as we got them with no trouble, and also managed to re-fill our bottles from clean streams, as the heat and humidity of the race meant we were all out of fluids, and still had racing to do.

Back at the transition, they were a little surprised that we’d managed to grab all the trekking CPs and tried to convince us to head to the paddle section. However, that would have meant getting off the direct route back to the finish, and likely make us finish after 6pm, which was not ideal for us. We didn’t heed that advice, and instead just put our heads down and pedaled back towards the finish. There was one more CP we could get, CP12, which was on the other side of a dam that we’d get to cross if we found the right side road leading to it. Luckily, that was also a breeze, and a pretty cool view to boot. After that final CP, it was a short 3k ride to the finish.

We pulled in at the finish area with at least 15 minutes to spare. We’d managed to grab CPs 1-8, then CP12, giving us 225 points. In our category, that was enough for 13th place, and overall, put us at 37th (out of 56 total). So as you can see, definitely not last, but nor were we about to hoist a bottle of Champagne :-). However, the most important thing was that we really had fun, and getting to do the race with Deanna was certainly a fun experience. I truly admire her grit when she realizes she just has to get something done. We were still both smiling at the finish, and still plenty in Love, so I guess that says something, right? I’m sure the post-race showers also helped the mood, coupled with the boxes of wine that we’d brought with us (and actually had in our transition bags ‘just in case’).

After the race, we stuck around for all the post-race activities, including slideshows, showers, and, in a race first for me… a PIG ROAST! Yup, while all the teams were out racing, the community volunteers had gotten their pig on for us. We dined on swine, washed it down with wine, and laughed and compared stories with other racers. By the time we left, Deanna had won a new hat, and I’d scored a gift card for a bike shop near my work. All in all, not bad for a day’s work. By 8:30, we were happy to pile back into the car and head home to check on the doggie. Luckily, Dave had been kind enough to take him for a nice walk during the day. Thanks Dave! And that pretty much takes care of that. Another race in the bag, and a little more adventurous experience for my dear Deanna. Stay tuned, as the race season is just heating up. Next up, the National Capital Marathon!