Xplore racers at finish
“All’s well that ends well” is definitely the motto for last weekend’s Xplore Los Angeles urban race! You may remember that I ran this race with Kyle last year in Chicago and we had a lot of fun, plus we won some money as well…always a nice bonus ;-) You can read about the Chicago race here. This year the race has expanded to more cities, including Los Angeles! The race also has a new format where the pictures/videos are uploaded through an app (Bonfyre) and you get real time clue verification. Unlike other races, you cannot get a fixed time penalty for a wrong clue, instead you have to go back and find the right location, so it helps having the real time feedback. You can also chat with the organizers and get fast answers to your questions throughout the race. Given my love hate (mostly hate) relationship with AT&T during races, I was a bit nervous about doing everything on the phone. Thankfully, it all worked out in the end despite a few glitches along the way ;-)
I have to say that the Xplore team does a great job sending emails pre-race and they provide lots of useful information. We received a briefing email mentioning the app, emergency texting, etc, followed by an email sent to just the team members about the app and how to join the two Bonfyre groups: the Xplore LA for everyone, and Dandelion Fuzz (our team name) just for Xplore HQ and the team members. You can talk to HQ using both groups, but during the race your clue pictures are uploaded through your team’s group. The Xplore LA group was used to interact with other racers, share pictures, make a few jokes, etc. The race doesn’t have a start location, instead the week before the race HQ sends a 1 mile and a 0.5 mile clue for the area where you will be able to find an access code that you can use to access the clues online (no paper envelopes!). HQ also sent a final race briefing email with instructions and final reminders.
All the emails, the radius clues, tweets, Bonfyre messages from other racers, etc, are great at getting you excited about the race! I ended up spending some time on the Friday before trying to figure out possible locations since I am still not very familiar with LA. Dandelion Fuzz then had a race debriefing over dinner and got my teammate so excited about the race that he went home and figured out the access location :-) Some of the research came in very handy: we did make it to the Grand Park area to find a fountain and we did discover the access code location prior to the race start, but we didn’t make it to the Bradbury building nor did we have to go to the Blue Ribbon fountain to take a picture with the Hollywood sign.
On race day, at 12 sharp HQ sent the final clue for finding the access code (a map of a street corner and some buildings telling you to find the X on a business awning). Since we were at the right spot (Redwood Bar X Grill from (500) Days of Summer), we just went to xplorerace.com/redwood and accessed the clue sheet. There are 10 clues total, you get to skip one, and clue #10 is the finish line, therefore mandatory. While you can figure out the location ahead of time, you do not get instructions about what to do for clue #10 until you submit 8 correct clues.
The first clue was supposed to close early and it was said to be within 4 blocks of access so we figured it was a good clue to start with. The clue had a diagram of Bicycle (pic) – E + goat (pic). Further info pointed to a yoga place, so we figured out it was BIKE – E + RAM = Bikram yoga! We ran there and we were met by a volunteer outside the studio who walked us through two poses and took a picture of us in action! Then it was time to test the app during the race and guess what: it crashed!!! twice!!! Major freak out, but it turns out even though it crashed the picture got uploaded (twice!), it was verified, and we could breathe once again :-)
Next we went looking for Peace on Earth on Hope St. The area was blocked off, so we messaged HQ and they told us the instructions have changed and instead of a video hugging the statue, we could take a picture. We didn’t get to cool down in the fountain since it was off, but my shoes didn’t mind at all :-)
Peace on Earth
The next challenge we picked was to find 5 strangers to sit with us on one of the pink benches in Grand Park. I have to say people in Los Angeles are not as easily convinced to help out as Chicagoans and we had to promise the picture won’t make it onto the internet. Still some girl got up from the bench and left looking at us like we were crazy people! Thank you to the 5 willing volunteers who helped us out, but as promised no picture on the blog.
We then ran to Hill St to take a picture with 2 newspaper boxes (as many boxes as team members).
We then decided to go to Pershing Sq park to take a video running on a wall. On the way we found a friendly dog owner close to a fire hydrant who helped us complete clue 9: picture with team members and dog owner with legs over a fire hydrant, and dog doing whatever it pleased. Dog decided not to lift its leg since it had already peed on the crosswalk pole. This made for a hilarious picture that will remain on my phone only out of respect for the awesome dog and its owner.
In Pershing Sq we got confused about the “curved” wall we were supposed to find. We picked one, took a video and moved on…later on we were told we were on the wrong one so we decided to make this our skip. When looking at the picture on the computer the wall’s location is quite clear, on the phone, during the race, not so much!
The next location was by the US Bank Tower (Bunker Hill Steps) where we had to count the steps in the stone staircase. The web browser on my phone was acting up so I didn’t realize we got 5 steps error margin until I got home!!! We went up and down the two sides of the staircase and after not getting the same answer, we averaged it out to 103, took a picture and moved on :-)
Bunker Hill Steps
We then ran to the Grand Hope Park to take a picture with the Clock Tower. We had to take a pic at either :00, :15, :30, or :45. Since it was 1:10 and we had about 5 blocks to cover we did our best to make it there as fast as possible, only to find that the clock was running 4 minutes behind…boo! We waited, took a selfie, and a zoom of the clock to verify the time just in case!
Close by we found a Quiznos that sold ice cream so we bought 2 cones, let them melt for a bit, ate some :-), and then smashed them onto our heads to complete ‘the birthday clue’. It so happened that one of the racers decided to celebrate his 10th birthday running the race and he got mentioned in the clue…some racers didn’t think he was real :-)
With this we had 8 correct clues, so HQ sent us the instructions for the finish line. We had to go to the location and do the X pose.
Of course, first my camera quit without taking a photo. We had to redo it and then wait for it to upload and get verified…nerve wrecking!!! We couldn’t see anyone in the bar yet, but my picture was processing for quite some time. Shortly after the picture got uploaded (finally!!!) another team showed up. It turns out that our final picture got uploaded less than 1 minute apart!!! Thankfully that was enough for Dandelion Fuzz to win the first Xplore Los Angeles…woohoo!!!
1st and 2nd teams!
We were then asked to move away so not to ruin some filming session and we settled at the bar inside where we enjoyed some refreshing pomegranate lemonades while we waited for other teams to show up. I have to say this has been the most awesome race crowd yet…everyone was super friendly and we got to make some friends :-) We left after about an hour to shower off the ice cream from our hair, but the remaining teams ended up singing happy birthday to the birthday boy and posting it on Bonfyre…definitely a perk of the online race model!
While we didn’t end up with the most optimal route, ended up completing all clues in the end (one wrong one), and phones were acting up (thankfully different issues with each phone), we WON…so it’s all good :-) Since it’s still early in the Xplore season, make sure to check out some other race locations at http://xperienceadventures.com/. You will be surprised what you can discover in your own city! There is also money to be won and friends to be made ;-)