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Oyster Adventure Race – San Francisco

October 5, 2010 Fitness, Friends, Fun 3 Comments

September 25 marked the Oyster Adventure Race in San Francisco and I raced it for the second consecutive year. My co-ed team consisted of me, Greg, and our friend Monique — The Aphrodisiacs.

I have been trying to get Greg to apply for The Amazing Race for several years now and he won’t indulge me. His hesitation is that too many things are left to chance (like getting a bad taxi driver) rather than having actual skill or speed. Boo! So, this race is a good compromise for us. Admittedly, it would be more fun if we could get friends to race with/against us. Even so, by the end of September I’m so burned out on my own routine that it’s a great diversion and a hard workout (without really thinking about it).

After a craptastic summer in the Bay Area, the sun was shining and it was actually warm in San Francisco. Sunny and 80 degrees! There were about 100 teams participating in the Oyster Race this year and we were better-prepared after being newbies last year. I made sure the data plan on my phone wasn’t giving me fits (as it has been lately), I picked up an EZ-Fold map of San Francisco, and we brought a couple of chairs for post-race lounging. Next year, will someone remind me to bring a cooler??

This year’s race began similarly to last year’s: one participant from each team got on a charter bus, put a bag over his/her/my head, and we were driven to an unknown destination. While we captives were breathing deeply with bags over our heads as to not get car sick on the winding roads, the two remaining team members were back at the Transition Area (TA) solving a logic puzzle.

We parked and the race officials instantly began calling out team numbers — those who had solved the puzzle! The minutes dragged on and I felt like I was the lone racer when I sheepishly asked, “Is anyone else here?” Several people sighed with relief when we all realized we weren’t the only ones with illogical team members!

After another couple of minutes, the race officials said, “Okay, you can go. Your teammates aren’t going to get it if they haven’t gotten it by now.” Let the games begin! Upon exiting the bus, we were given our first clue:

PASSPORT 1 – OYSTER THROWBACK – BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
Destination – Welcome to the Presidio. OK, so maybe you know where you are and maybe you do not. The important thing is to make your way on FOOT to meet up with your teammates and take a team picture in front of each sculpture pictured below. All THREE racers must be in the photo WITH the Passport present. Return to the Transition Area with your photos to receive your punch mark and next Passport.

(they showed a picture of an obelisk sculpture I had not seen before and then a photo of a Yoda fountain)

I called Greg to see if he or Monique knew where the Yoda fountain was. They didn’t, so we hung up and I looked it up on my phone and called them back with the address. I knew it was going to be down the hill from where I was, near the transition area. I started running in the same direction as all the other teams and found a smattering of people just waiting:

I’m not ashamed to be a lemming! By seeing these other racers standing idle, I started looking around and saw the second statue right behind me — I found out afterwards it’s called The Spire. Aha! Better to have them run up the hill to meet me and take this photo, then run down the hill for the Yoda fountain and back to the TA. I called them back and gave them my cross-streets. It was a hard uphill run right off the bat! We did a little off-road bushwhacking and got our photo:

Greg and Monique had already found the Lucasfilms HQ where the Yoda fountain was, so we high-tailed it down the hill for the photo op:

PASSPORT 2 – GILBERT GODFREY
Destination – Battery Godfrey. On BIKE, locate Battery Godfrey and find the Oystereers wearing orange. Before leaving the Battery, you will receive a clue to complete which will lead you to the second half of this leg of the race. HINT: Bring a pen.

After a slow transition (we really need to work on our transition times) and a quick look at the map, we were headed to the area just west of the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. Incidentally, this is where Greg and I usually park when we come to the City to go on a Marin County bike ride so he knew right where to go. Unfortunately, I realized mid-ride that I had forgotten the camera. Doh! Thank goodness for the camera on my phone!

We found Battery Godfrey and were given a puzzle to solve: PASSPORT 2 – MYSTERY
Name the 8 U.S. states that start and end with a vowel. Correctly place them in the slots below to obtain the letters you need to unscramble your next mystery location. When you have discovered your mystery location, find it and take a team photo in front of it. Good luck!

We did this surprisingly quickly and they told us there were two words: __ __ __ E and __ __ __ __ __ __

The letters to use for the first word were LNO and the second were SRAOIL. I figured the first word was “lone,” so Googled, “Lone Osrail” on my phone, hoping it would say, “Did you mean _______?” It didn’t… So I then put in, “Lone, Marin County” and one of the search results it came back with was LONE SAILOR STATUE. Hooray for Google!

We rode our bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge — a first for Monique! — and found the statue:

And… back across the bridge! If you haven’t ever walked/run or ridden across the bridge, it can be less fun than it sounds, mostly based on weather. Most often (and especially in summer), you get gale-force winds on the San Francisco side and it’s so cold you swear you are in the Southern Hemisphere. If you’re lucky, it’s nice on the Marin side and you dread going back. That day’s trip was a breeze – so beautiful and warm! But alas, it was a race and I had forgotten my camera… and those are pretty good excuses for not getting Monique’s maiden voyage across the bridge on her bike. I did, however, get a shot of the majesty of the bridge during one of our I-could-have-taken-a-nap-this-is-taking-so-long transitions. I’ve lived here 7 years and I’m still in awe:

PASSPORT 3 – PIER, PLAY AND PADDLE
Destination – Aquatic Park and Pier 39. On FOOT, locate the Check Point at Aquatic Park where two team members will gear up to paddle. The third team member will continue on FOOT to Players Arcade at Pier 39 where you must earn 25 tickets by playing games. Upon completion, meet up with your teammates and return WITH the tickets to the TA – you will need these tickets for a future leg.

Aquatic Park and Pier 39 are reasonably far from Crissy Field to travel by foot (approximately 4 miles one-way). I knew this one would take awhile… Greg and Monique are fast runners (in the 7-7:30 minute-mile range). They were out for a leisurely stroll and I was at my balls-out race pace with an average 8:30 pace. UGH. We got to Aquatic Park and figured out who would do what. It came down to this: I didn’t want to keep running another ~1 mile or so down to Pier 39 to play the games, then run the ~5 miles back to the Transition Area. Greg is a strong paddler. Monique is a real trooper for taking that one for the team!

At Aquatic Park, Greg and I waited a few short minutes for fellow competitors to come back in one of three two-person kayaks in use for the race. We then carried it back over to the beach (heavy), got it in the water, and quickly paddled out to the Oystereer waiting in a kayak to punch our Passport. We paddled back, making sure to stay on the correct side of the buoys as not to incur a 2-minute penalty. By the time we got done, there were at least six teams waiting for kayaks — getting there early was critical! We ran back to the Transition Area and our rock-star runner Monique was less than a minute behind.

We passed only a few Oyster racers during the outgoing trip, so we knew we were doing reasonably well. On our return trip, we passed a lot of teams — and a lot of them were walking. This gave me hope for a reasonable standing! It was fun to cheer each other on!

PASSPORT 4A – LET’S GET OUTSIDE
Destination – Merrell. On BIKE, take the 25 tickets you earned at the Pier to the Merrell store in Union Square in order to receive your next set of instructions. NOTE: Passport 4 is two parts – plan accordingly. You must have your 25 tickets to continue on to the next part of this Passport.

In last year’s race, we had to ride from the Presidio to the Castro through town. This meant a lot of steep ups-and-downs in heavy San Francisco car traffic. NO THANKS. We opted to take a route that was likely a little longer in distance, but less hilly and less busy with car traffic. We went around to the side streets running parallel to the Embarcadero and worked our way over to Union Square that way. Only a couple of short hills and very little traffic!

We found the Merrell store, turned in our 25 tickets, and got our next clue: PASSPORT 4B – HOLY GUACAMOLE!
Destination – ???? This Denver Native was born in 1993 at an old Dolly Madison ice cream location. Expanding greatly in 2006, it started being publicly traded under CMG on the NYSE. On BIKE, find the correct San Francisco location hosting your Oyster task. Return to the TA with your goodness in order to receive your punch mark and next Passport. HINT: There are three of these entities located within less than 0.5 miles of the Merrell store. It’s up to you to locate the correct one. All 3 team members must be present to perform the task.

A quick Google search revealed the answer: Chipotle Mexican Grill! (We should have guessed it… Merrell and Chipotle are both sponsors of the Oyster Race). We found the addresses for the three restaurants and started our process of elimination. Lucky us — we found the correct one on our first try!

Our task at the Chipotle restaurant was to have one team member (in our case, Monique) act as “bike stand” and hold all three bikes while the other two members had their dominant hands zip-tied together for the challenge. We had to make guacamole with our zip-tied hands. It was a little awkward trying to position ourselves over the workstation and do the work without pinching the other team member, but it was pretty quick overall. We were disappointed they didn’t give us chips to eat with the guacamole! We took the same route back to the Transition Area, escaping all but one hill altogether.

PASSPORT 5 – SLACKLINE CHALLENGE
Destination – The Presidio. On FOOT, use the photo below to locate the slackline challenge in the Presidio. (The photo showed the street signs at the intersection of Ruger and Lombard Streets)

We quickly checked the map and headed that way. I posted earlier about this task here. Two team members had to walk across the slacklines with assistance from the third team member. Monique was very fast at this, and I bet she can do it the “right” way without any assistance. Overall, our team did much better than any of the other teams we saw struggling with it. Again, people had to wait for other teams to finish and you could really lose a lot of time depending on when you arrived at that challenge. Our running wasn’t very fast on the way back — we were tired, we were going cross-country through yards and things, and I was still giggling at Greg’s quip.

PASSPORT 6A – AWWW SHUCKS
Destination – Swan Oyster Depot.
On BIKE, locate the Swan Oyster Depot to complete your next challenge. Once completed, get your passport punched by the Oystereer and receive the instructions for the next part of this passport. NOTE: Passport 6 is your FINAL leg – it is also multiple parts. Make sure to get your final time recorded upon crossing the finish line.

WHEW! Final leg!!

The Swan Oyster Depot is on Polk Street – my old stomping grounds! Alas, we’d have to climb a big hill (or two) to get there. We headed out, really wishing we were finished at this point. The winning team was already enjoying their victory beers! We found a reasonably easy way up to Polk Street, but I was mistaken on how far down Polk the restaurant was. The really unfortunate thing was that the Polk Street Festival was going on. Rather than head back down the hill and have to climb up it again, we opted to dismount from our bikes and walk through the festival. S-L-O-W. At the Depot, Greg gladly ate the required oyster to get our next clue. The lady helping us there seemed out of sorts (read: drunk) and both Monique and I laughed when she remarked, “Eewwwww! You’re chewing it?” as Greg enjoyed his snack.

PASSPORT 6B – CRUNCH!
Proceed to Crunch Fitness, where two team members will make their way to the Spinning room. One team member must pedal on a Spin bike as both team members work to identify 10 out of 15 songs and artists from the playlist.

We climbed and extra hill to get out of maneuvering through the street festival to make it back down to the Crunch Fitness on Polk Street. Greg and I headed in for this task. I started pedaling while we heard 5-second snippets of songs playing over and over and over. We knew several immediately, but we were unsure of others’ song title and/or artist. It took us three or four times through the loop to finally feel confident with our answers. Success on the first try!

PASSPORT 6C – DESCHUTES, SHE SCORES!
Destination – Bar None.
On BIKE, locate Bar None and complete a game of Mirror Pong. Sink three balls into three glasses, drain the contents, get your passport punched, AND get a Bar None tattoo. Return to the TA with your proofs of completion. Proudly raise your hands high as you cross the finish line as you’ve completed the 2010 San Francisco Oyster!

Greg knew right where Bar None is on Union Street and we made our way down the hill. Mirror Pong is actually just beer pong with three glasses of Deschutes’ Mirror Pond beer. I’ll take it! Greg shot the first two in reasonably short order. Monique then took a few tries as a lefty before turning it over to me and I sunk the last one. We drank as much of the beer as we could (Monique isn’t a drinker, so they didn’t force us to drink all three beers) and they bid us farewell. To the finish line!!

This year’s race covered roughly 35 miles on foot and bike and we finished in 5:32. Good enough for 5th place out of 25 co-ed teams. WOO HOO! Last year’s race took just over 40 miles and we finished in 4:43 (8th place finish).

Nothing like enjoying a Chipotle burrito and Deschutes beer on a sunny Saturday in San Francisco, basking in our accomplishments:

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