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It's that time of the year again, Great Amazing Race Pursuit (or whatever they're calling it this year, I forget.). [livejournal.com profile] kirstenfleur was unfortunately (for me, not for her) overseas at a wedding, so I teamed up with [livejournal.com profile] astrocave to form "Hadron's Weasels". The team name came from this incident of course where weasels managed to short circuit the LHC by chewing wires. I thought this was hilarious. Still do.

So we set up a fundraising page so we could skip a checkpoint which was necessary as we explained in the blurb:

The photo is of the Large Hadron Collider, not of [livejournal.com profile] astrocave and myself. When I get a photo together I will put one up. Until then, LHC it is.

Neither [livejournal.com profile] astrocave nor I have been a patient at RCH. But my son has, and lots of my son's friends have. If you have a child in your life then having available children's hospitals can be very important.

I could have put a photo of my son up... I'll think about that one. LHC is kind of pretty.

We would welcome donations so we can skip a checkpoint (I am not as fit as I was hoping, [livejournal.com profile] astrocave is moving house right before the event and will probably be exhausted. Our timing is impeccable) and so that there is equipment and staff in the children's hospital in case my son or any of the many, many children we know (and also those we don't know) need it.

Also a couple of our friends work there and we are in favour of them remaining employed.


There is a reason I should not write blurbs while sleep-deprived.

Fortunately we raised over the $50 required to skip (the event itself raised $20,000) so it worked.

Bright and early I headed off by train into the city to meet [livejournal.com profile] astrocave, went to check the cafe name and location where we were meeting... and I realised I'd left my phone at home on charge. Bugger!!

Fortunately I remembered the cafe name and a vague location, and a kind and somewhat bored hotel receptionist googled the actual address for me so I managed to get there on time. Fully caffeinated we headed across to the event to check in, an hour before start time.

They had run out of XL t-shirts. Seriously? I think they forgot to order them myself. We both got L's, which fitted OK, got changed, sat and chatted. I'd done something to my foot the day before so it was slightly out of whack, which was annoying. More teams arrived. The venue filled up a bit. At 9.45 the warm up and rules started and dead on time the race began. Think that might be a first. I managed to get a clue sheet in a minute or so, get back and we started working out locations.

About 11 minutes later we were on our way out the door with most of the checkpoints worked out. There were two reasons for this - [livejournal.com profile] astrocave has lived in or near most of the areas we were going to, and remembers odd bits of trivia about them, and this year the race was a bit different, in that they'd combined Pursuit and Collect stages into one category (called Chase) and shortened the time by half an hour. To complete the course the Competitive category racers had to get 175 Challenge points and 125 Chase points.

We headed to Collins St to catch a tram, and pulled up the last clue which had come online at 10.15 whuch turned out to be a photo of a location. Fortunately we recognised it after some squinting as being the grassy area outside Jeff's Big Shed (the Polly Woodside in the background helped), and as it was en route to the two locations we were heading to we went there first, arriving at 10.25am after a bit of running (the tram only went one stop before we had to hop off again!) This location didn't open until 10.30, so while we waited we completed a Chase stage, which involved looking up the RCH website and answering a question about what type of monitor the pediatric ICU uses (me: "that's a stupid question. They use lots of monitors." [livejournal.com profile] astrocave: "it's which one they're raising money for on the race. Oxygen saturation monitor." Me: "still a stupidly vague question.")

At 10.30 we got to join with another team to do the challenge. When we arrived one team was already waiting and we'd we come in just behind another team... and then four teams, all of whom wanted to work together, turned up leaving us a bit stuffed. Fortunately a single team rocked up a couple of minutes later, and so we started putting the pieces together of a weird puzzle, one team member on each side. This proved to be strangely efficient, as all of us were seeing the puzzle from different angles and focusing on slightly different things, so we got it done pretty quickly. Off we headed again, this time to the cinema at Backlot Studios, which [livejournal.com profile] astrocave knew from having been to a friend's short film premiere there. Obviously I need more creative friends!

In we went and were handed a series of questions and let into the cinema. A Red Bull promotional extreme sports video was running and we had to sit through it to get the answer to the questions. There were a lot of clips that didn't have questions attached, and overall it was about 15 minutes long I think. Obviously we had no idea where in the loop we'd come in, so there was a couple of frantic minutes while we tried to scan the list of questions while simultaneously getting answers until we worked out where we were. The only one which gave us trouble was the "who scored the point in the tennis match?" question - after watching it twice we still didn't know who'd served and so took a 50:50 approach which paid off. The funniest thing was that you could hear the teams all simultaneously whispering the answers as they became apparent... except in the tennis, where we were all a bit clueless. Also the audible groan when the question "what city does the motorcycle do the forward flip in?" was amusing - we'd all sat through backflips, side flips, jumps over things and were preparing for a tiny indication of the city somewhere on screen when the motorcyclist did the flip... in front of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Two challenges out of 6 (that was a 50 point challenge, there were 7 in total) finished we headed out again. Originally we were going to head to a Chase stage in South Melbourne which was basically a "turn up and stamp" stage, but then we realised we could complete the points more efficiently if we headed north, where there were a large concentration of challenges. So we ran back to Clarendon St an caught a 96 tram heading north, initially intending to head for Carlton. Then I had second thoughts, so we jumped off at Bourke St to head for a Challenge in the Target centre, at a ramen noodle shop.

This, unsurprisingly, involved eating. More surprisingly it was peeling and eating two softboiled eggs one handedly.

"Any egg allergies?" beamed the volunteer as we arrived. No idea what the alternative was if we did, but we confirmed that we didn't and set to work. This challenge was surprisingly messy, and I have to admit that I don't particularly like soft boiled eggs or crunchy bits of shell. On the positive side though the eggs weren't moving and didn't have lots of tiny legs or eyes. So still a win.

Challenge finished, we found the toilets so we could wash our hands, then kept heading north to our first Chase stage. This was at Five Plus Smoothies in Little Lonsdale St, near Swanson St, and involved identifying a mystery smoothie based on the flavours from their menu list. We sipped the smoothie. "I can taste banana. And ice."

Hm. We eliminated all smoothies without banana, which left eight. We sipped again. Still banana. We looked at the list, and eliminated flavours we weren't tasting, such as cinammon. Then we eliminated based on colour (smoothie was green, we guessed blueberry added would make it not green). Finally we had a short list of two. We could still taste banana. Two other teams had the same issue. We compared short lists. All three of us had "Hale Kale" as one and all three of us had something different as the other. So we put "Hale Kale" down and kept moving.

North again to A'Beckett St, where the first clue for the compulsory Amazing Race stage was. I had proposed the route change partly on getting the Amazing Race stage finished, as it was a multistage challenge and we weren't sure how long it would take. We got the first clue. It was a "Decision", with a choice between two tasks. The first task was in the Multicultural Hub and involved stacking. It also had a limited number of stations. So I checked option two, which was in Shed C at the Queen Victoria Market and was a test of matching food with flags. "We're good at this!" I said, so off we went.

The table in Shed C had pictures of food labelled with a number, and flags were hanging behind in the display area. [livejournal.com profile] astrocave grabbed the pen and answer sheet and started looking at the food, ignoring the flags. Soon we had two left. "Do you think that's parsley or coriander?" "Parsley." "Hm, maybe it's Stroganoff..?" "There's a Russian flag there" I said helpfully. That left Black Forest cake. "That flag is Belgian... but put down Germany, they've stuffed it up.." They had, and we were completely correct. "You know that flag's wrong?" I asked the volunteer.

"You're the third person to pick up on it so far!"

I didn't check the Russian flag which I suspect was actually the Dutch flag turned around.

Anyway, we got our clue to the next location which sent us to a coffee shop at the top end of Queen St. On the front window was a poster with a red flag, a shepherdess and a picture of a garden on one line and a picture of robed judges holding tennis racquets on the second line.

"Flagstaff Gardens tennis courts" I said, having suddenly noticed there was an arrow pointing to the shepherdess' staff. Off we ran again - somewhere along the line my foot had finally shifted back into position, which was good. We crossed the road barely legally (just more than 25m from a crossing by my guesstimate) and ran up to where we could see what looked like hundreds of teams in the courts. The challenge - which looked to be a quite rate limiting one - was to use a bow and blunted arrow to shoot an apple off a traffic cone. Twice.

"What do you know about archery?" asked [livejournal.com profile] astrocave.

"Not a lot... Dean does it but I haven't done it for decades. You?"

"Never done it."

Hm. This could be tricky, as we still needed to complete three Challenges and two Chase stages and get back before 2.30pm. Fortunately it was still only about 12pm, so we had some time to get it by blunt force if necessary. After waiting for about five minutes a station became available. Each station had two teams, who took turns to shoot two arrows per member at a time at the arrow. There were about ten stations, so quite a few people were stuck here.

We were at the station with a competitive male team, who were starting to look frustrated. They had managed to shoot one apple off, but the second was proving elusive. [livejournal.com profile] astrocave started for our team, and fumbled. An archery person came over and gave him pointers. [livejournal.com profile] astrocave listened carefully and shot two arrows. Both missed. I shot two arrows, neither of which were airborne long enough to reach the traffic cone. We ran out and retrieved the arrows. The male team clipped the apple which wobbled but didn't fall. The team looked frustrated.

[livejournal.com profile] astrocave shot again, missing. So did I, although I did at least manage to skid the arrow into the traffic cone. Not fast enough to knock the apple off though, unfortunately.

The male team barely missed the apple again, and one member looked ready to punch something.

[livejournal.com profile] astrocave lined up again... and shot the apple off! We jumped around like idiots. I missed again but as a result of doing a full draw did get the arrow to be airborne when it went past the traffic cone.

The male team were, yet again, so close and so frustrated.

Next round both of us missed, although I was at least consistent in being near the apple.

Male team missed again. [livejournal.com profile] astrocave lined up... and shot the apple off! "It's all in the exhale!" said [livejournal.com profile] astrocave[Bad username or site: @ livejournal.com] encouragingly as the male team looked discouraged.

We headed over to the volunteers, who told us we'd completed the Amazing Race stage, stamped our bib and wished us luck.

Then off we headed again, towards another challenge at the City Baths. This was one we'd debated doing - both of us had brought bathers and a towel, neither of us had managed goggles, which were specifically mentioned in the information. [livejournal.com profile] astrocave was in favour of skipping it, but I figured we should at least find out what it involved.

"You need one team member to swim from the shallow to the deep end of the 25m pool, retrieve a toy and swim back."

"I'll do it!" I said, so off I went to get changed, swam freestyle and side stroke to the deep end, dived, got the toy, swam sidestroke back (without goggles I was veering into the wall doing freestyle), gave the volunteer the toy, got the bib stamped and got changed again into my reasonably sweaty clothes. The longest part was the getting changed, heh.

On to a tram again to the Melbourne Uni stop to go to the Kathleen Symes Library on Faraday St. Once there it was... salsa! We were lucky to arrive just as they finished one group, so no waiting. The salsa was fun, although the switching around different partners made me realise just how very uncoordinated some people are. Also I had to keep apologising because my hair was still dripping down my back, heh. "It's not sweat I promise, we just did the City Baths challenge!"

Stamped and ready to go we needed only one more Challenge and two more Chase stages to finish.

Down Faraday St and into Melbourne Uni to South Lawn we went, where there was a Crossfit Challenge. We were both tiring out by this stage and so whinged our way through 90 seconds of holding a weight out in front, 90 seconds of push-ups (I managed to crack up the Crossfit guys by saying "see, boobs are an advantage, your chest touches the ground much quicker!"), 90 seconds of burpees, and finally 90 seconds of walking lunges. Challenges finished!

Off we went again, this time to Argyle Square to find the human sundial. Once there we subtracted the smallest from the largest number (180-100) and converted the answer into Roman numerals (LXXX).

From there it was a quick walk/run to the Rubicks Cube at the Melbourne museum where we stamped our card to collect the last Chase stage, and then headed back on a 96 tram, arriving at 2.04pm, nearly 30 minutes before the cut off. Then we ate our hotdogs, salad and chips and waited for the announcements.

The Challenge stage we didn't do was king fu, which was in the city in Lonsdale St; the Chase stage was the one in South Melbourne.

The winning competitive team finished at 12.37pm, putting us completely to shame. I'm guessing they ran more than we did. The second competitive team finished at 1.16pm, and turned out to be the male team from the archery! They had completed every challenge and stage, no wonder the archery was frustrating them. The social team winners finished at 1.10pm, with the runners up finishing at 1.11pm. Ouch.

In the results we came 24th out of 60 teams. This was actually a bit frustrating, because we'd gotten the smoothie question wrong and so had a 30 minute penalty. If we'd gotten the answer ("Green Light") right we'd have come 11th. Judging from the number of teams who had a penalty and a N against this challenge a lot of teams struggled with it (including the male archery team, who had every single other one.) The difference between the two was that Hale Kale had "Kale, spinach, kiwi, cucumber,banana lemon juice, filtered water and ice" and Green Light had "spinach, pear, celery, banana, coconut water, lemon juice and ice". I did suggest there might be pear at one point, but that was based entirely on the grittiness of the texture, not taste, and spinach does that a bit at times as well. Oh well, next year we aim for no taste testing!

I think it's still the best result we've had in a while though!

This year's race was interesting to compare with the last two years. It was much smaller, both in the number of checkpoints required and in the distance covered. This year all up we covered 13.35km, and went to 13 physical locations (one Chase answer was online, and we skipped one location by fundraising). To do everything would have required two more physical locations (and added about 2-3km). Two years ago we covered over 26km, and went to 16 locations, and didn't complete the course in 6 hours. Last year the race covered locations in Brunswick, Docklands, Fitzroy and a couple just south of the Yarra as well as CBD and we went to 17 locations (and didn't complete the race). The challenges (smoothie excepted, possibly archery too) and the clues felt a lot easier this year - more like a mini race than the actual race. There were also a lot fewer people participating this year, which I think springs partly from frustration in the previous two years.

I honestly thought we would be going further north and south, but I also hadn't realised they'd shortened the time by half an hour. Also no Docklands?!?

On the positive side there were no trackworks or demonstrations screwing up trams this year, so we probably could have finished last year's course at least (not sure about the year before's!)

I would like more 'exciting' challenges, despite the bouldering the year before - rock climbing, paddle boarding, abseiling, king fu again because I missed it, canoeing.. the swimming and crossfit were the most athletic ones (unless the Kung fu got particularly aggressive). Anyway. I hope they run it again next year and go back to the larger design. We'll see... if Melbourne metro starts up it could be the first one run entirely south or north of the Yarra because it'll be impossible to cross Swanston St and every single tram route will be cactus.

Overall though it was a fun day and we both enjoyed it. Although seriously for the love of God, look up the difference between the Belgian and German flags!!

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