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Out of the blue I got an e-mail from Amanda, the personal trainer, asking me if I'd seen the Scoupon Amazing Race offer. No, I hadn't, yes, I was interested. It was a promotion for a mini-Amazing Race event being run by the same company but sold entirely through Scoupon and another similar company. Instead of 6 hours it would be 4 and they were running 6 of them on different dates. I promptly bought tickets and e-mailed [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur to ask if she wanted to come and partner me and ask which dates suited her. She did, and we settled on the 17th May as being free for both of us.

The event was starting at 12pm, which was a nice change - even with that I left heading down to the train station so late that I was worried I would miss the train in! This was partly because I went to get a knee X-ray in the morning, as a result of nearly two months of knee pain which was making it difficult to run and occasionally difficult to walk or sleep. I'd arranged to meet [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur at Southern Cross, which lead to some interesting text exchanges until we worked out where exactly the other person was in the station. [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur had had some trouble coming in as her train line was having trackworks and she'd had to catch a train, transfer to a bus then transfer back to a train again to get in. What was normally a 40 minute journey had blown out quite substantially, particularly with the footy traffic. We went to get some city maps from the information booth, some coffees and then headed down to Southbank to register. The race start/finish was at a bar venue down past the Polly Woodside - there has been some serious development in that part of Melbourne since I was last there training for Oxfam in 2010. As we were early we registered, pulled up a bar stool and waited for things to get going. After a while we realised that people were moving outside, so we joined them. There were lots of announcements, all made by a woman with a very high pitched voice who finished every sentence on a questioning upward inflection. ("So we're going to have a good time? For safety please don't run across roads?") This made [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur giggle a lot.

Team captains were asked to move down to one side and then we were off, with the captains (me in our case) headed down a ramp towards volunteers holding clue sheets. I headed towards the nearest person, and then realised that everyone was doing that and that there was another volunteer a bit further away who had no one near him. So I dived down there, closely followed by several other people who'd had the same realisation, got the clue sheet and headed back up to [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur to start working out our route. After about 15 minutes - or, for us, record time - we had pretty much everything worked out so we headed off towards the first checkpoint. Yet again we forgot to photograph the clue sheet so I'll be doing this from (bad) memory.

The race this time consisted of four challenges, which involved doing an activity, four pursuit tasks which involved going to various locations, and completing 3 out of four collect stages in which we had to collect items. The first stop on our route was a collect stage, which was "add up the large yellow numbers in the plaza between the NAB and ANZ buildings". This involved us heading to Docklands, and finding two numbers which added up to 117. One down, yay!

From there we headed a little bit further to "a park with BBQ facilities in the Victoria Harbour precinct." This was the first time I found out we had a Victoria Harbour precinct, fortunately we'd picked up a Docklands map from the information kiosk that had it labelled as such. This was a "Decision" challenge, where we had to choose between eating a century egg (OK, I strongly suspected that this was an egg dyed with food dye) or finding three pairs of matching cards in a panel of 25. We went for the cards, mostly because neither of us really felt like eating black eggs. The panels had gophers in different configurations, and in groups of either 1, 2 or 3. After maybe 5 minutes of us randomly picking panels to see if they matched ("left looking, left looking... oh bugger, right looking"; "Hang on these two match... oh no, that one's looking the wrong way..") we started thinking and did it systematically. Another 5 or so minutes later and we had three pairs... but one was wrong. "Try column E" suggested the helpful volunteer - and two seconds later we had the third match.

Bib stamped and we headed off again, this time towards "Cow in A Tree" for our first Pursuit task. Can't remember the exact clue wording, but we found it quickly enough, I stretched as high as I could so we could punch the bib and we headed for Latrobe St to find the "park established in 1862 on the titles of royalty". OK, Flagstaff Gardens are on King St, but I'm buggered if I know what the other street they were attempting to refer to was. William perhaps? As per usual there were no bloody trams coming up Latrobe St (seriously this street goes past a major sporting arena, you'd think they could manage one at least) so we alternated running and walking up the hill to the Gardens where we could see other teams milling around.

It was our second Challenge stage, and this time it was an Intersection. We had to pair up with another team, take part in a four legged race to the other end of a 100m course, memorise 10 cards between us and then return and answer questions about the cards. We paired with a male/female team who arrived at the same time as us - I felt a bit sorry for the other woman as I was quite sweaty by that stage and she was standing next to me. We got down the course no problems, each pair took half of the cards to memorise (three red stars, two blue dots, one yellow square, three green triangles, four yellow squares) then headed back to answer questions. The first two went fine, then the question was "how many green items were there". "We had two green cards" said the male team member, who was slightly unfriendly - quite possibly because he resented being stuck with such an obviously unfit team. "We had one... three?" No, three was wrong. We looked at each other. Then I had an epiphany. "Do you mean how many items were there on the cards?" "Yes." "Oh", said the male team member, "we had three and five green items." "We had three.. so 11?" That was correct, so we stamped our bibs, the male/female team ran off and we followed them a bit more slowly. We'd started jogging a bit more by this time.

Our next destination was "the 11 storey brick building on Lonsdale St between William and Queen Sts", where we had to identify the two animals on the coat of arms. This was the Lonsdale Exchange Building, and the animals were a lion and a unicorn. And I've just realised that if we'd been a bit cluier we could have looked that up on Google Streetview, heh. Our second collect challenge down, one to go.

Down the hill we continued across to "the Danish store named after Helly Juell Hansen located on the former hardware centre of the city." This was Hardware Lane, and of course there were roadworks going on. It just wouldn't be a race event without road and trackworks would it? The roadworks were right across Lonsdale St, and Hardware lane runs both north and south of Lonsdale St. Based entirely on Little Bourke St being a main centre for outdoor sports related goods we headed south, and there it was. We stamped our bibs to complete our second pursuit stage. Halfway done already and it wasn't even 2pm yet!

Down Elizabeth St we ran/walked to get to the next stop "the vaults near Flinders St station". Banana Alley vaults are a mainstay of these events so we were heading there when we realised we could actually get our third and final collect stage by purchasing an apple. So we did, two of them. [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur promptly stuck the sticker on the clue sheet and ate hers as we continued to the vaults. Once there we were herded in a group of 8 past a beauty salon to a martial arts studio. After taking off our shoes we lined up to learn (very) basic karate. The instructor cheerfully taught us punching forward, defending, moving forward, moving backwards and then kicking. "Congratulations!" he said, "you now know about 0.02% of karate!"

Then he put the moves together into a kata sequence. This is where it got quite funny. Of the 8 people at least 4 had issues with left/right, including both of us and one of the guys who never got it right. We practiced the kata firstly following the instructor (some of us were mirroring the instructor), then with the instructor counting, then finally by ourselves. After the third repeat on our own (during which time we'd actually gotten even more out of sync as a group, and the left/right blind guy at the end had crashed into his partner at least twice), the instructor looked at us, smiled and said "that was the worst kata I've ever seen! Go and get your bibs stamped!" Then he giggled, lots.

We all put our shoes on again, got our bibs stamped - and [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur and I managed to finally catch a tram to take us all of 0.5km to our next pursuit stage. This was Rutledge Lane, which I cannot for the life of me remember the clue for. I knew where it was though, off Hosier Lane. The unco-ordinated guy and his partner were also on the tram with us, and sprinted from the tramstop up Hosier Lane. We followed a bit more sedately - and beat them to the clipper, mostly because I knew Rutledge Lane goes in a U-shape, and they'd run to the top of the U when we'd turned at the bottom. Whoever had tied this clipper up was obviously quite tall, as I had to really stretch to be able to clip the bib. It was also under a dripping pipe, thanks heaps guys!

We clipped our bibs, un-co guy and partner clipped theirs, and we all headed off again towards the final pursuit stage. The clue for this one was "the building named after the stockade" or some such - either way it was the Eureka Tower. We headed back to Flinders St, crossed the river, went down through the backstreets and clipped our bibs. Woo!

Then I realised we were actually quite close to the fourth collect stage. We didn't technically need it, but hey - it wasn't like we were going to win the race, so we figured we might as well do it. For this one we had to find the two locks on the "love lock" bridge across the Yarra and write down the initials on each lock. As we crossed paths with another team they kindly told us it there was one on each side of the bridge and that they were red. We each took a side, and I found a lock almost immediately... but it didn't look right. Fortunately the clue sheet had a picture, and I noticed that the correct locks had "UPLIFT" written along the side. I found the first one almost immediately, then [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur found the second one while I was telling another team where the first one was. All collect stages finished, we ran off again to do our final task for the day.

For most of the race we'd been googling the exact location of this one. The clue was along the lines of "the park named after the founder of Melbourne." We knew it was Batman park, we just weren't entirely sure where it was. It turned out to be a bit further along Flinders St from the Banana Alley vaults, so we would have altered our course slightly if we'd realised. Still, we crossed the Yarra again, found the park (it's where the Yellow Peril was for a while), and found our Obstacle (roadblock) challenge. This involved one person painting the other person's face with a design from a card. Our card had a very pretty cat picture on it, so I started painting [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur's face by colouring in the block white bits. A bit later it occurred to me that starting with the outline and then colouring in might have been more sensible, as going around white bits with a black paintbrush ensures some grey lines. Still, they liked it enough to pass it and we headed for the finish, all challenges done and dusted.

As we got to the finish line we realised that the team we'd been paired with at Flagstaff Gardens were just in front of us, and in fact we all finished with the same time. Heh. We might look unfit... and yes, we'd be unfit, but we are also getting reasonably good at this route planning bit!

We actually finished at 3.30pm, so 30 minutes early which I think is a record for us. If we'd realised where Batman Park was a bit earlier I reckon we could have knocked another 15 minutes off that time to be honest. Also if my knees hadn't been dodgy we could and probably would have started running earlier. Even so, we finished equal 44th which is definitely the highest placing we've ever managed... although there only being roughly 100 teams instead of 600 probably had a lot to do with that! The winners came in in two hours and forty minutes, which involves much more running I think.

We bought a drink, had a rest... and then realised that if we were going to get to our mother's birthday party on time we would basically need to leave right away because the train line was still running buses. So we missed the upward inflection woman's finishing speech. Oh well!

The route we took is here (hopefully) http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/copy/418145830/

In a fit of bravado we've entered into the Great Amazing Race again... this time as a competitive team. We're really going to have to train (and fix my knees!)

Also the reason "park" was bolded in the clue? Some teams headed for Batman Avenue, which is not only about another 2km out of the city, but in the completely wrong direction. Ouch.

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