16 May 2010

Urban Assault Ride

Sometimes it really does take three tries as evidenced by us. In 2008 Shelley and I were not able to find the second mystery checkpoint, in 2009 we came in 2nd and this year we managed to win. WIN. I like the way that sounds… :)

The Urban Assault Ride is a combination bicycle race and treasure hunt and obstacle course. You ride (read: race) your bike from checkpoint to checkpoint and at each one you need to perform some sort of physical or mental challenge. Upon completion of said challenge you get a token and can then proceed to the next checkpoint. One twist is that the organizers only announce five of the seven checkpoints in advance and just give you a clue to the sixth one. Assuming you figure this out and get to the sixth checkpoint, that's where you get your only clue to help you discover where the seventh one is. I know, I know… stress! Local knowledge is obviously a huge plus.

There are SO many things that make this ride one not to miss.

  • All the sponsors. From perennial cycling advocate New Belgium Brewing [You get two free beers after the ride!] to Keen Shoes [1st place gets a free pair of shoes!] to everyone else that makes sure the finish line festivities are fantastic. This year Chipotle Grill showed up to give everyone a free burrito. Nice.
  • The organizers. These guys really understand how to put on a FUN event. Not only do they solicit fantastic sponsors (see above) but they also stage fun challenges and make sure lots of people win stuff via raffles and extra contests so not just the teams with fast times come away with prizes. With post-race contests like the now famous bike limbo contest, a 'mustache dance' and 'spear the rear' contest (is that porno sounding or what…) everyone can be a winner(?).
  • The challenges. Human bowling? A Big Wheel race? Piggy-back Polo? Paperboy toss? C'mon, how can this not be fun?
  • The costumes. At any race some people show up to win but at this one many people show up just to have a good time. And all the costumes proves they have the party spirit. From the wigs to the knee-high socks to the leather vests to the short shorts to that fake mustache just to get a chance to dance; party people were in full effect.

So here is how it works. Three days before the ride they give you this online quiz. If you score a certain percentage you get to start in the first wave. Thanks entirely to Shelley we were part if this first wave. Again.

NOTE – if you are not in the first wave you can pretty much kiss your chances of winning goodbye.

To make sure no one cheats (more about this later), each wave gets a different color sticker for your helmet. Then, with a few minutes to go they stage everyone at the start:
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What happens next is barely controlled chaos. They blow the air horn and you leave FreeRange Cycles. You have to run through this row of bike corrals, gab your bike and then ride out of the staging area. Imagine about 80 people all trying to squeeze through a five foot wide chain link fence hallway WITH their bikes… Crazy.

But also crazy fun! Blasting out of Ballard we had decided to hit the downtown checkpoint first. After letting Shelley experience crossing the Ballard Bridge on the grating for the first time (hey, it was faster than getting on the sidewalk) we had our first near-death experience. Some guy was stopped at the light – while the light was green – and decided to turn left to get onto the sidewalk. We were in the process of passing him on the left doing about 25 mph and I have never hauled our tandem to a stop quite as fast. We also managed to do our first ever track stand on the tandem, for about one second. Then this guy finally heard me yelling and swerved to the right preventing him from getting t-boned. Whew… Seriously, there was no where I could have piloted our bike, we were already against the curb of the traffic island.

Riding down Westlake we noticed what was to become a familiar pattern. We would haul ass, pass tons of other teams or open a huge gap and then either have to watch them catch up as we got stopped by a red light or watch in disbelief as other teams simply ran the lights. One such team was another co-ed couple in matching red jerseys and we saw this pattern repeat itself all the way to the first checkpoint. Kinda takes some of the sport out if it don't you think red team? No need to reply, that was rhetorical. :)

Okay, first we are putting together a puzzle on the sidewalk of Pike Street. Then we're passing Metro busses on 3rd Ave. on our way to Chipotle (Jimmy Hendrix clue). Then we're climbing ALL the way up Capitol Hill to Broadway to the bronze statue and then we finally catch the red team.

Martin: "Hey you guys, please stop running the lights, it kinda ruins the race for everyone and it's also clearly against the rules, what do you think?"

Man on red co-ed team: "You're right, you're right, I'm really sorry… I just get so caught up in these events and my competitive nature gets the best of me."

Yeah, whatever. Bu-bye

Then it was down to Recycled Cycles (paper boy toss), over to Gas Works Park (piggyback polo) and all the way up (WAY up) the hill to Green Lake (human wheelbarrow). From here it was down 55th (another major test of brakes) to BikeSport in Ballard and then back to the start for the Big Wheel race and inflatable obstacle course:
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And then? Well then it's time to chill. With the help of free Clif Bar samples, Fuze drinks, two beers apiece from New Belgium Brewing and that awesome burrito from Chipotle. You want veggie? Not a problem thankyouverymuch.

So there we were, Shelley:
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and Martin:
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sipping our suds and watching the contests.

Can I just say… Moustache Dance? Oh yeah, here are my two favorites.

Old but not down for the count.

That guy knew how to get DOWN. Who says a moustache isn't cool? Not his honey.

Or this guy. The Robot will never die!

Not so old but should probably stay on the mat.

The best was saved for last when I was witness to my first ever game of Spear the Rear:

Hide your children.

Did I mention I was going to get back to cheating? Oh yeah… I think I did. :) Turns out team matching red jerseys beat us last year. No doubt by cheating! Thanks to some judicious use of Internet search engines Shelley found out they are a husband and wife adventure race team so you just KNOW they have high expectations.

But enough sour grapes – I love this event! UAR can count on us participating again in 2011. Bring it! I wonder if there is any way for the promoters to get New Belgium Brewing to increase their sponsorship? Two Ranger IPAs just makes you want two more…

Here are all the pictures and video.

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