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A marathon at 14,115 feet?

posted Aug 31, 2011, 4:03 AM by Serena GHR Eley   [ updated Aug 31, 2011, 4:28 AM ]

According to the website, the elevation gain from the start to the summit is 7,815 feet; the start is at 6,300 feet and summit at 14,115 feet. With very few stretches not uphill and an average percentage grade of 11%, not only are you battling a steep course, but also hypoxia.  Well, Jordan rocked it.  Finishing the course in 6 hrs 15 minutes, Jordan placed 2nd in her category (3rd overall in her age group, and 27th out of 187 females overall).  What an amazing accomplishment!

Racing over, under, and through obstacles on a course at the Champaign County Fairgrounds, Stephanie Law placed 9th overall (and 3rd female overall) in the inaugural CarX Crazy 5K.  The event raised $25,000 for charity.

"If you saw people in white t-shirts with race numbers frantically running around the city yesterday, you saw some CityChase teams. Here's what was going on:

The CityChase is a day-long contest. It pits partners against all other teams. Your team is tasked with completing a series of challenges, then finishing the entire "chase" faster than any other team. You can be friends, siblings, guy-guy, girl-girl, guy-girl, coworkers - whatever. Just two people that work together all day. There are other rules, but this is the main idea.

My team? A brother-sister team of super competitive, athletic and smart Illinois graduates that think they're better than the other. It is the perfect bonding experience for jerks like us.

Mike and I were over prepared in the wrong ways for yesterday's CityChase event. After looking through multiple Chicago-centric blogs, memorizing useful L stop locations, and ramping up our running to cover distances quickly on foot, we thought we were ready to go. The two of us, and about 1,498 other folks, began the day at Wrigley Field's purple lot at 9am. The MC had some nice words to say and was interacting with the crowd until about 9:40am. There was a cricket-eating event (just for two unlucky participants) and the national anthem (sung by a surprised CityChaser - very well actually). After some more instructions and trash-talking (competitive? us? never....), we got down to business. 

The MC explained the rules of the day, and that our real "Clue Sheet" was still one challenge away. This would be the sheet that holds ALL the information about our challenge options.

So, these challenges were not going to be handed over to us at all. The first task was a qualifier: we needed to return to the purple lot with 7 out of 10 items that the MC read off a list just to obtain a ClueSheet. Some items were:

1. A Spanish word printed on a piece of paper (we first tried the Taco Bell, but it was closed. Thankfully we found the name of "Ernesto y los somethings" in a RedEye newspaper)
2. A QR code, also on paper (we had to google/ask other teams what this meant)
3. A video of you and a stranger singing LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" (Mike charmed some lady, I video'd)
4. Lipstick marks (in the shape of lips) on each participant's face. (Mike 'borrowed' some lady's lip gloss, along with about 10 other teams. I offered to buy her new lip gloss)
5. A live animal. (Somebody walking a dog was brought to the purple lot - everybody wins!)
6. A picture of a "For Rent" sign 
7. The name of the starting pitcher at the Cubs' first night game (Wikipedia, Google, and the postponement of the first night game made this one tricky)
8. A person wearing a Sox logo 
(I can't remember the other two)

Immediately I tore out of that parking lot with Mike following close behind me. We had a backpack (me) and a fanny pack (him) made for endurance sports, filled with things we thought we might need. We were basically wrong on all counts - never needed the goggles, the extra Chicago maps, the caffeinated gum, or the sunscreen. We were too busy to bother with sunscreen, never ate anything weird or were sufficiently pooped to warrant chewing the gum, knew all the Chicago area transit options very well, and never went into the water. We didn't get very far before we started to collect our clues. It would have helped if I had a smartphone, but I knew enough about the event to know that one navigator would be plenty, so long as the other person was figuring out clues.

Mike and I returned with all 10 items and the proof - held on a smartphone. This was key for the entire day to collect videos and photos as I didn't bring my camera (in case we had to paddleboard or swim). Unfortunately, the phone was used to navigate and the battery died just after the CityChase ended. Early in the day we didn't think to bring a charger, and happily sucked the battery dry as we went along. Soon, we had 7 out of 10 items. We ran back from Racine and Addison, not very far, and waited in a cluster of teams to be checked. Our information was checked off, we received a 3 page clue sheet, and we ran off to strategize.

The clue sheet was a mix of codes, riddles, and confusing anecdotes. The rules were printed on the top of 2 pages, and of course we missed on major rule. I'll get to that later. We realized we needed to complete at least 10 tasks. The many tasks were organized into groups. There were 6 groups - we had to complete one item from at least 4 groups, and no more than 3 items in a single group.

Immediately, we knew "group" actually meant "neighborhood." To keep things somewhat fair, a team would need to travel outside of a certain area. We google the first clue we figured out - off we went to the Red Line to head all the way up to Lawrence. Our plan was to determine which neighborhoods were used then start at the furthest one, working our way back to Wrigley.

Our first ChasePoint - a location where you participate in a challenge - was a bust. We knew it would have something to do with a driver's ed car, but there were no volunteers located at the address. Plenty of other teams looking confused, but no way to complete the challenge. We decided to head to 1818 W. Foster to compete in what Mike thought would be turtle races.

We arrived, sweaty and panting, at a bar. The bar was closed - until the surly owner showed up 10 seconds later. We were not at the turtle races. Bust #2. Luckily, one of the challenges was a photo scavenger hunt (get proof of 7/10 items). While we made our stupid detour, we found four of the required 7 items.

1. Get a photo of a team member walking a dog (I got to walk a long-haired Doberman named Colby)
2. Get a photo of an 'honorary' street sign
3. Get a picture of both team members kissing a stranger on the cheek (the owner of the dog was a very nice black lady that didn't mind at all being kissed by a brother/sister team. AWKWARD)
4. Sing the Bear Down Chicago Bears song with some strangers (Mexican family that didn't really speak English - their 6 year old boy was thrilled)

We caught a break and hopped on a bus. The CityChase provides teams with day passes, which were necessary, especially considering the number of L trains we took. We managed to hop off 5 blocks from a ChasePoint. We ran far too fast, and came upon a field near Sunnyside and Lincoln.

We were able to turn in printed proof that our Fundraising Challenge was completed, and also check our first official ChasePoint off the list. The challenge was a series of games involving a potato sack for each participate, spilling oatmeal, playing bags, spitting sunflower seeds, and tossing some balls-on-ropes at a ladder (I can't remember the name of this game). We were checked off and sprinted to the closest water fountain.

Luckily, we spied a group of pee-wee football players. We asked to borrow a kid's Hester jersey, the coach told the kid to give it to me, and I got to play Heisman in a photo. Another item off the photo-hunt list!!

After a few quick thank-yous we sprinted down Lincoln to a bar on Irving Park, formerly known as Schulien's for a movie-trivia game. It was incredibly easy for us movie-loving kids. We didn't need to hear more than 17 quick-snippets to get our 15 items. We grabbed more water at the bar, then off we ran to the Irving Park Brown Line stop!

We waited for the train and came up with an incredibly efficient game plan. I knew the west Lakeview/north Lincoln Park neighborhood we were headed and created a series of tasks that allowed us to do the following:

-knock off two more photohunt by getting our picture taken near a Marquee (The Vic)
-Getting a photo of me sharing a deep dish pizza with a stranger (The waitress at Gino's East) and thus, having out 7/10 photo hunt items completed
-complete a Time Out Chicago crossword (at Mad River, where we downed water and worked with another team - the bars were very nice despite nobody buying anything)
-Encounter bust #3 when we went to the wrong rock climbing wall (at Sheffield/Diversey's Health Club)
-complete a "triathlon" of quarters (it took us less than a minute to hit 10 shots), bowling (knock down 50 pins), and pool (get all the balls in - I turned the stick around and found much more success)

We left the bowling/billiards bar, grabbed two cans of coke from Gino's East, and ran to John Barleycorn on Lincoln. Mike found a clue on the CityChase website
 that told us to go to that bar for some water-fun. Another team at the billiards challenge told us of a burping contest at Mickey's on Clark, so we had to pre-game with some Cokes. Our water task was to set up a three-tier (or more) set of plastic champagne glasses, fill the top with water, and have liquid land in every glass.

Mike's year of engineering at U of I and my steady hands saw us construct a perfect 4-tier arrangement, knock nothing down, and move on with only 5 minutes spent at the bar.  We chugged our Cokes en route to Mickey's, running all the while, and destroyed the belching contest. It was the worst run ever. The burping-contest volunteers had decibel readers and a bottle of Jones' soda for each participant, so we took a few sips and hit 400 decibels (combined) over 6 belches. On our way out to another set of North Ave/Sheffield challenges, I let another belch rip just for fun.

We sprinted to the Fullerton stop, felt sick from ingesting 2 cokes each, missed the red line, took the brown line, jumped off at Armitage and ran to the Fitness Formula Club at North and Sheffield. There, we competed in a shuttle run, pull-ups (10 p/team, Mike did this), monkey bars, sit-ups, and a balancing test. I played "Bikram Yoga Instructor" and kept almost all of the competing teams on our little balance beams on one leg. We hurried out and went to a hockey-challenge on Weed Street.

This sucked. We had completed almost everything we needed, and this was the first challenge where you could lose and not get it checked off. Most challenges let you try as many times as you needed, line of waiting teams be damned. This was a hockey relay, your team against two other teams in a little gym. I ran to 10m checkpoints and donned huge hockey pans, a Wolves jersey, a helmet and gloves that were 8 sizes too big. I had to slalom back with a stick and a ball through some cones, score a goal from 6 ft. away, strip and Mike would have to change and do the same pass, slaloming down and back.

It sucked, it took too long, 2/3 of everybody lost, and we needed to get one more challenge completed FAST.

We regrouped long enough to determine that we could run faster than the bus and take a more direct route to a location near Wells and Walter Payton HS for some wine-related challenge. The run there was exhausting, as we both had eaten little or nothing other than Coke and some pizza crust all day. The backpack full of "essentials" started to feel like dead weight. Mike's calf cramped, I gave him some ClifShot gummis, and I ate some raisins.

So, after running down Clybourn we waited in line to taste three red wines, having to determine which was pinot, cabernet, and syrah. I know a little about wine, and the only thing I knew for sure was that all the selections sucked. We succeeded on the 4th try and ran to the Chicago red line stop with all our proof that we'd completed 10 checkpoints!

We kept checking our fundraising page to see if we were in the lead - and with 20 minutes to go we were ahead. By $300ish. Fantastic.

As we jumped off the L at the Addison stop and ran to the Wrigley purple lot, we saw our time was 4 hours and 50 minutes, like a decent half-Ironman or a quality-newbie marathon time. The volunteer let us know we were team #44 or so, and sadly also let us know:

"Oh, you only have 9 done. The photohunt items need to be checked in somewhere else."

Crap. This is the part we didn't read, or didn't understand. We took one second to pout, then I said, "We can get help from strangers, and I don't know you. What does this clue mean?" and pointed to the photohunt clue that was stuck in between all the other clues - not on the photohunt page of the Clue Sheet - that we neglected to notice.

This tactic worked and we decided to finish. Sadly, we went back to where we started - FOSTER and the lakefront. Initially, we were bummed knowing we didn't even come close to finishing in the top 10, had to travel another 40 minutes just for a stupid checkpoint, and were damn tired and hungry. Then we saw that we had won the Fundraising Challenge. We felt a little bit better, but still had to run the half mile to the lakefront and find the volunteers to check us off. Then reverse our trip.

We met them as they were cleaning their checkpoint and challenge up. The soccer challenge, initially our #2 idea before the driver's ed challenge was a bust, was the same location as the photo hunt check-in. Dammit, had we just done our ORIGINAL original plan we could have decided to skip doing the photo hunt because who wants to trek back up to Foster from Lincoln Park!? The volunteers asked if we wanted to participate in the soccer challenge for fun.

"Um, no that's ok," We walk/jogged back to the L, missed the Red Line and didn't care, got on the next one and finished officially in 5 hours, 17 minutes. Or so. Or something. It didn't matter, we were done.

The post-race event at John Barleycorn saw us drinking and eating our faces off, seeing the photos of different challenges we didn't get to do, and meeting up with some friends. We ran through our experiences and I have to say, we got some boring challenges compared to:

1. Rappeling off of Navy Pier
2. Underwater pogo-stick competitions
3. Putting a snake down your shirt or a tarantula on your face
4. Legit strip poker
5. Paddleboarding (although this challenge took 40 MINUTES?!)
6. Karaoke
7. A Craftsman tool experience (I saw photos of goggles and saws....)
8. The real turtle races

One cool twist we did see but could not use because another team beat us to it was the "Zip-Car/Cash-cab." The only means of transportation allowed were public transportation and your own two feet - no bikes. But, if you saw a special Zip-Car, flagged it down, and saw nobody else inside of it, you could hop in and get one ride to your destination. Answer one question during your ride, and get another Challenge completed. Get it wrong and get kicked out. This would have been very nice as we got lost up on Foster.

The winners finished in just under 3 hours, like a really fast female marathoner time, and credited their experience from years past for their ability to win. They also stayed on Division for about 6 challenges, and probably got lucky with no lines at each challenge. The prizes were given out to the top teams and top female team (two tickets to Vegas and a weekend stay at The Cosmopolitan, two tickets to San Diego and entry in the Del Mar mudrun 5k, two flat screen 40' TVs, spa packages).

Our prize for fundraising the most money? 4 tickets to a VIP Blackhawks experience, including $150 to spend at Billy Goat's and limo transportation. Family fun night just got a lot better.

It was a kickass event, even though some parts were frustrating. Mike and I did not kill each other at all and had a great time, and for $90-odd dollars a person to enter we might be back next year. If you want to compete, let us know!"