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[personal profile] hnpcc
So way, way back in 2010 [ profile] kirstenfleur and I competed in The Great Amazing Race around Melbourne. We had fun, and decided we'd do it again the following year. Things got a bit derailed though when both of us got pregnant, delivered boys within four days of each other, and then had tiny one year olds the following year, both of whom were still breastfeeding (well, via a tube in Michael's case). This year however, they were much, much bigger and solid food eating two year olds (well, one of them... the other is big and peg-fed with occasional taste testing of solids) and so we decided to enter as a team again - this time calling ourselves "Mum's Day Out."

The race was due to kick off at 10am, with registration finishing at 9.45am. We agreed to meet at Southern Cross Station at 9.15am, which required me to catch a train at 8.30am. Michael then decided to have a bit of an active night, which meant that Dean came in to wake me up - at 8am. After some frantic running around and a dash down to the station I did manage to catch the right train, although Michael looked a bit surprised when the train pulled out with me on it. I blame reading "Petit Lapin Blanc veut sa maman" to him, in both languages - Little White Rabbit's mum goes away on a train for an overnight business trip, and the whole story is about him missing her and being with his dad. I'm not entirely convinced Michael wasn't thinking "does this mean Dad and I make a chocolate cake? And does Mum bring me a present when she comes back?"

As it happened, [ profile] kirstenfleur and I met at Flinders St Station instead - it turned out that her little boy had also had a gastro-induced very active night. So both of us were bright eyed and bushy tailed and clutching coffee as we headed up to the registration desk in a venue in Queen St. Registration was remarkably straightforward, and we pulled up a corner of wall and floor and waited for the registrations to finish and the announcements to begin. Yet again there were photos - this time we managed successfully to be at the back behind lots of very tall people, so I doubt we're visible. Yay! More announcements. More announcements. The recipient charity for the race was Royal Children's Hospital Foundation, so a bit of a plug for them, and one of the celebrity VIP's teammates gave a rather monosyballic account of having been treated at the Children's as a child ("how did you feel about being in hospital?" "Pretty bad." "Did you miss much school?" "Yep.") I could see why it was his brother who'd appeared on TV, rather than him - he was far more eloquent! More announcements. I looked at my watch. For a race supposedly starting at 10am, we were now at 10.10am. Hm. Finally they got around to actually starting the event and handing out clue sheets. [ profile] kirstenfleur headed over to grab one, and then we sat there with lots of other teams, all on our smartphones working out where the checkpoints were. At least there were enough clue sheets to go around this time!

After about 15 minutes I suggested we head to the Amazing Race Challenge part of the race, not least because we knew where it was (Docklands) if not the exact location we had to go to - the statue of the actor who played Charlene Robinson on Neighbours. Out the door we went, and over to the bus stop out the front - I'd realised the night before that one of the buses running up Queen St went past Docklands, so we checked the timetable, and sure enough there was a bus coming in two minutes. On we hopped, and worked out a few more locations as we went, then jumped off again at Docklands Way. Then we realised we still had no idea where the Kylie Minogue statue actually was. Hm. We found a tent with volunteers handing out clue sheets, which was obviously a later part of the challenge, but couldn't work out where people were coming from to get to that tent. Fortunately we found a tourism office, and the nice and extremely bored guy in there gave us a map and marked the exact location of the statues on it. Back to the tent and down to the open concrete "plaza" to the statues we went, and recieved our first clue. Unsurprisingly it sent us straight back to the tent again. There we got our first task, which asked us to find eight shops displaying mannequins wearing the RCH Foundation t-shirts in their window. Off we went, charging up the small alleyways looking in shop windows, then up the escalators to check the level above. We didn't see any on level 1, but did see a couple below - and then another team yelled over to us that it actually said on the clue that it was ground level only! Heh - now I better appreciate how teams on the actual Amazing Race manage to miss important pieces of information. We passed on the information to about 12 other teams, many of whom were heading up the escalators as we came down.

After finding the eight shops we headed back to the tent and got our next clue, which sent us to the top level of the carpark on the northeast corner of Docklands. Once there we found a Detour, which was a choice between one team member pushing the other in a wheelbarrow around a circuit three times (you could switch between team members) or both team members riding a crazy bike at least one time around a circuit for a total of three circuits. We looked at each other and went for the crazy bikes - [ profile] kirstenfleur picked out one that looked almost normal. The only 'crazy' part was that the front wheel was off slightly and so you couldn't go too fast or you'd bump yourself off. She completed two of the three laps, then I jumped on to finish the third. Detour completed, we headed off to the Icehouse, running through the alleyways of Docklands. Once there we found that one team member needed to put on a penguin onsie and ice skates, skate across the Bradbury rink to the other side, count the number of penguins on a poster and return with the answer to the checkpoint organiser.

"Do you want to do it?" I asked [ profile] kirstenfleur.
"I can't actually iceskate..."

So I put on the penguin costume, a helmet, skates and headed out onto the ice. I haven't actually skated in about 6 years, but it turns out that a misspent youth at the local roller rink still comes in handy for these things - after an initial minute of "argh! slippery!" I found my feet and started getting annoyed at all the slow people using zimmer frames to get themselves across the rink. Turns out I can still zip between people, but I couldn't quite remember how to stop, so I crashed into the wall, counted the penguins (10 adult and 6 chicks for a total of 16), skated back to the volunteer, crashed into the wall to stop again and gave her the answer. 16 was correct, and we collected the final clue sending us back to Kylie. I got out of the penguin suit, helmet and skates and off we went. 11.30am already, but we'd completed one major part of the course!

Now to work out the rest of the course. Since the last time we'd done it they'd changed the format slightly - we were competing in the "Social" category, which meant that we needed to get 175 points in the "Challenge" Stage, 75 points in the "Pursuit" stage and 75 points in the "Collect" stage for a total of 425 points. Most checkpoints were worth 25 points, which meant that we were going to need to get 3 Collect stages, 3 Pursuit stages and at least 5 Challenge stages - there was one 50 point and one 75 point Challenge stage. We looked at our map and the locations we'd worked out using [ profile] kirstenfleur's smart phone. The nearest was a Challenge stage in Rosslyn St, which was a Crossfit gym. Hm. We headed there anyway, walking through Docklands, up Dudley St and across to Rosslyn St. There was a large queue outside. We decided to do the checkpoint anyway, and use the waiting time to work out some more of the course (and have a drink of water and a rest.) We also got to fill out an indemnity form, which is always an interesting start to a challenge. Eventually we were ushered into the gym and found that we were doing 5 pull ups, 10 pushups and 15 squats for 7 minutes, alternating between teammates. The squats were absolute murder - they had a benchmark to get down to, which was very low. There was also a prize on offer for the team managing the most rounds in the 7 minutes. For some reason [ profile] kirstenfleur and got very competitive and managed 8 rounds between us, or four each. This might not have been the smartest move ever!

As we headed out of the gym I felt my thigh muscles cramp up briefly. Also not the best start when we still had so much of the course to complete! Back down King St we headed, initially to catch a tram down Latrobe St to the State Library for another Challenge Stage - and then we realised there was actually another Challenge stage just down King St. So off to the St Johns Ambulance headquarters we headed to spend 5 minutes doing CPR on a mannequin. Got to say, it's a lot easier on an adult mannequin than a baby one!

Back to Latrobe St and we caught the tram to the State Library. Midway there we realised there was a Pursuit stage on Elizabeth St, but decided to ignore it and do the library first until we'd worked out where on Elizabeth St it actually was. In the State Library we found the Red Rotunda, which contained nine photos labelled with letters. We had to list the photos in chronological order. The photos were: Federation (1901), St Patrick's Cathedral (started 1858, completed 1939), the State Library Dome (completed 1913), the start of WW2 (1939), the first Moomba Parade (1955), Melbourne Olympics (1956), the opening of the new Royal Children's Hospital (helpfully this photo showed the Queen in front of a plaque giving the date as 2011!), Phar Lap winning the Melbourne Cup (1930) and the demolition of the Gas and Fuel buildings (1995-6). The real trick with this one was working out whether WW2 broke out before St Pats Cathedral was completed, and whether the date for St Pats Cathedral was the start or end of construction. Fortunately we'd chatted to another team at the St Johns challenge, who'd told us it was the completion date and that it was before WW2 started. So we finished that one quite quickly. 75 points completed, now to start looking at Pursuit and Collect stages as well!

The closest Pursuit stage was the one in Elizabeth St - a bit of quick googling had established that it was at the northern end, past the markets. Unfortunately, as is traditional for this event, Yarra Trams had decided to do trackworks all along Elizabeth St (and all along Bourke St too just for good measure), so trams were terminating north of Latrobe. What we should have done is go up Swanston and then cross over to Elizabeth, but no, we decided to go up Elizabeth. We got to where the trams were turning, caught a tram... and it promptly turned off before our stop, heading down past the Vic Market. Damn. Back up the street we went, and finally found the Pursuit location - a shop called "The Junk Company". The clue for this one was actually quite good - a series of numbers to be deciphered using a telephone key pad. Finding the clipper was a bit harder though - it was right at the back of the shop, and the shop was a traditional second hand shop crammed with books, records, cabinets, and every other conceivable thing. The owner nicely told us it was right at the back, but even then it required another team to find it - we walked right past it. Still, 25 points completed and we were off again.

Back down Elizabeth St, where we caught another tram.. this one went one block and then terminated. *sigh* We really should have gone via Swanston St. This time we were hoping to catch a tram down Latrobe St in the direction of East Melbourne. The clue said "Brr! It's cold in here! Must be some ice in the atmosphere!" Go to the location named after the 19th Governor of Victoria". Apparently we weren't the only team who thought "there was a governor named 'Icehouse'?" But no, it was the Dallas Brooks Centre. We jumped on a number 96 tram, which turned off before we got to the Centre - we stayed on until the tram was about to turn north again, which is only a block up from the Centre. Several teams stayed with us - all of us beat the teams who got off the tram and decided to run the rest of the way! This Challenge stage was worth 50 points, and was a Cheerleading challenge. We all grabbed a pom pom (or two, if you were really lucky) and learned a 2 minute routine. This also turned out to be where you could pick the teams who'd done the Crossfit challenge - the last move in the routine was a lunge, and about half the teams were wincing as they performed it.

We got the bib stamped and took stock of where we were. 1.30pm, with 2 hours to go. We needed two more Pursuit stages, three Collect and two more Challenges stages. We plotted a quick route. Down through the Fitzroy Gardens to Captain Cook's Cottage, where we stamped our bib for another Pursuit stage completed.

Up through the Treasury Gardens and down Flinders Lane to the Swiss Club - then up two flights of stairs. This was the point where both [ profile] kirstenfleur and I started really feeling the Crossfit challenge! The Swiss Club challenge was quite funny - we were handed a piece of paper with "German" written on it. Around the wall were 10 pictures of Swiss things ("hut", "bank", "watch", "bobsled" etc), with the words written in French, German, Swiss German and Italian. We had to learn what the words were and then be tested on them. The only way this challenge could have been easier was if they'd given us French, which both [ profile] kirstenfleur and I speak. As it is, German is close enough to Dutch that I could get the words pretty quickly and we finished in under 5 minutes. Only one more challenge stage needed!

Out the door and back down the two flights of stairs (ouch ouch ouch ouch), and we started heading to the National Gallery to do a Collect stage. Running down Russell St we realised that there was also another Challenge stage nearby, at the Engineers lawn on the other side of the Yarra. So down we ran to play a game of Quidditch. This involved us holding a broomstick between our legs with one hand, while trying to score a goal through one of two defended hoops with the other - all the while trying to avoid a yellow ball being thrown at us. Each of us had to score two goals, and if we were hit by the yellow ball or scored a goal we had to go back to the starting line. Off we went with [ profile] kirstenfleur holding the ball. She threw it at the goal, scored - and I promptly got hit by the yellow ball. Back to the starting line, then off I set with the ball to try and get a goal. The defender was quite good, intercepting all my throws until I managed to feint in one direction and score a goal through the other hoop. Yay! Back to the line again, and off we went, dodging the yellow ball midway. This time I got the goal fairly easily, so now it was back to [ profile] kirstenfleur to get the last one. She successfully distracted the goalkeeper, and stepped to the left while throwing the ball - it went through the goal, and the yellow ball swooshed past her on the right. We had finished all the Challenge stages! Yay!!

Even better it was only 2.30, which gave us an hour to finish the remaining Pursuit and Collect stages.

Up to the NGV, where we had to count the number of fountains outside the building. Vague questions like this one always irritate me - what exactly constitutes a "fountain"? Are the combined inner and outer jets one fountain, or do you count all the jets? As it was, there were 28 outer jets and 6 inner jets, in a motif repeated four times. There was also a separate fountain called "Nautilus", so we put 137 as our answer. We were still dubious as to whether to count the waterwall as a fountain or not - in the end we decided it was technically inside the building. As it turned out, they got answers ranging from 3 to 138 - I really want them to be more specific in their questions!! (They marked us right, so that was OK. Heh.)

Our last Collect stage was quite easy - a clue on the website told us to get a coin minted in the decade the Royal Children's Hospital Foundation was established. Dean told us this was 1989, so [ profile] kirstenfleur searched her coins and found a 5 cent piece from 1985. Easy!

Off to the Eureka Tower ("At 171 metres tall, this is Melbourne's highest building") to get our last Pursuit stage - we happily followed another team who initially seemed to be lost but turned out to know exactly where the entrance was, which was handy.

One stage left! This was the Haunted Bookshop in McKillop lane, where we needed to write down the names of the Tarot cards displayed above the window ("death" and "the lovers"). Fortunately this was around the corner from the finish line, so after quickly confirming we did indeed have all our required stages we ran back to the building where we'd started off.

At 3.07pm we crossed the finish line, finishing equal 14th in our section and equal 49th in the social category overall. I think this is the best result we've ever had! We were 59 minutes behind the winners of our section, which I think we can match next year... heh. Maybe.

After handing over our collect stages - which were all written on the clue sheet, which is why there's no clues written in this. Next year I'll photograph the clue sheet so I have the clues! - we got our drink and hot dog and found a patch of floor to collapse on. And it was seriously "collapse" - we were both exhausted by that stage, which we blamed entirely on the Crossfit challenge and not on the distance we'd run and walked. After we'd eaten and rehydrated a bit [ profile] kirstenfleur suddenly sat up.

"Oh crap. I think I left my myki card at the Quidditch challenge."

This was not good, as she still needed it to get home. I suggested she go over and ask at the volunteers table if anyone had handed it in - and miracle of miracles they had! So it all ended well, even though she then had to dash off to get home in time for another engagement.

I stayed for the awards and the talks, then headed off myself. Looking at the route, it turns out that we travelled about 17km all up, of which approximately 11km was running/walking. No wonder we were tired!

The map for the distance is below (I hope):

Create Maps or search from 80 million at MapMyRun

The Challenge checkpoints we didn't do were:

A swimming challenge at the Melbourne City Baths. The clue for this was a GPS one and in keeping with my absolute inability to get that to work we got three different locations, none of which was correct. What really annoyed me about this one was that if we'd gone down Swanston St to get to the Junk Company we'd have seen the other teams there and done it!

An eating worms challenge at South Melbourne Market. This was worth 75 points, mostly for distance and ick factor. Glad we missed it.

A rockwall climbing challenge at Anaconda in Southbank DFO. Same as last time - we were actually planning to get to that one before we realised the Quidditch challenge was closer!

I can't remember where the Pursuit and Collect checkpoints we missed were, except that there was one at the Seaman's Mission on Flinders Lane.

All in all it was a fun day, although the interesting night we both had probably didn't help matters. Still I think both of us would like to do it again next year - and hopefully improve on our time!
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November 2016


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