view from our room at Hilton Caribe
My Dear Readers,
the post you’ve (okay, maybe I am the only one who’s very excited about this one :-)) all been waiting for, the recap of the Great Urban Race Championship that took place this past weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico! As you may remember, following the GUR Chicago, I qualified for the national championship race in Puerto Rico. My Lemur Femur partner couldn’t make it, so I tagged along to my friend’s Kyle team. You may remember Kyle as my kick ass partner from the City Solve and Xplore Races in Chicago. In the end, 5 of us (all girls), managed to make the trip to San Juan and compete in the race as two different teams. Kyle, Solaire, and I landed in San Juan on Thursday night so we can explore the city pre-race on Friday, while Audrey and Christy joined us on Friday evening.
I have wanted to visit Puerto Rico ever since the heroine of the telenovela we used in my beginner’s Spanish class in college went there on her long trip to multiple Spanish speaking cities. I forgot what was her goal on that trip, but all I knew was that there is this beautiful island where they speak super-fast Spanish I was definitely not wrong in wanting to visit it. We had an amazing time and I am definitely hoping to be able to go back on a longer vacation to explore the rest of the island. If you’re considering it as a vacation destination, here are a few reasons why you should go:
- warm ocean water! As a Californian who used the Pacific Ocean as a replacement for an ice bath for my legs after the half-marathon, I definitely enjoyed being able to swim without shivering.
- amazing people! Everyone was extremely friendly to us. Just to give an example, at one of our dinners (Casita Miramar), the waiter gave us one of the drinks on the house (on top of free appetizer, plantain soup, and ouzo type post-dinner shot) because we trusted him enough to hand him the credit card before he brought us the bill!
- charming blue cobblestone streets with lots of cute shops in Old Town.
- great food! We had some amazing seafood, skirt steak, and plantains!
I think I could write a whole post on how amazing our trip was, but for now I will just focus on the race! After doing some research on public transportation in San Juan, and witnessing how humid and hot it can get, we thought we may have a tough race ahead of us. As it turned out, we didn’t have to worry as the race was shorter than expected and the bus situation turned out in our favor.
The race started at 9 am PR time (8 am EST, 7 am CST, and 5 am (!!!) PST). Given the early times we struggled to get people to help us google the clues. Thankfully, we have some very supportive husbands and friends, and with their help we managed to solve the clues and map out the locations pretty fast. We decided to start with the clues closest to out hotel then progressively run towards Old Town and try to take a bus back. As it turns out, despite our expectation of a ~10 mile race spanning multiple neighborhoods, the race was very contained in a 3-4 mile radius. As most GUR races, this one also came with a tic-tac-toe, in Spanish, so I was happy to refresh my knowledge of Spanish. We started the tic-tac-toe with a picture of a spiral staircase at our hotel:
tic-tac-toe 1: spiral staircase
On our way to the first clue, Christy spotted an easy to climb tree for our second tic-tac-toe square:
tic-tac-toe 2: monkeys in a tree
After this we had to cross a major street to make it to our first clue. We always try to be careful when crossing, so we were patiently waiting for the cars to pass, when a police car stops and honks at us to cross! Another example, of how amazing Puerto Ricans are We safely made it to the St. Jude clue location and signed a banner:
st jude clue
After this, we ran for quite a bit to make it to our second clue location on the pier. There we had to learn a few dance moves and take a video of successfully performing it. You will just have to use your imagination for how awkward the video ended up
Afterwards, we made our way to the Chicago Burger Company for the Bacardi challenge. This challenge was very frustrating. We had to use a mini-catapult to throw some water packets into a mini-barrel. As it turns out, the water packets were not the same weight, and despite my efforts to calibrate the distance, it took forever to get 3 packets in since I couldn’t always re-use the same packets. Anyways, we made it, and took a picture to instagram:
The next stop, was at Senor Frogs next door, where we had the most disturbing challenge ever: swallow a goldfish. We really don’t understand the point of this challenge, but we had to do it despite feeling terribly sorry for the poor fish. Christy took one for the team and we got to move on. That video will never make it on the internet!
The next challenge was more pleasant. We went to a spa and I volunteered to use my foot to remove 10 marbles from a water bath. I would have loved a pedicure, but we had to move on!
Right around the corner, there was the pigeon park, where we had to feed the resident pigeons.
After feeding the pigeons, we made our way to Galleria Botello where a clue was waiting for us. As it turns out, we had to take a picture with a 7ft lady residing by the monastery turned hotel that we saw on our trip the day before.
El Convento 7 ft lady
On the way to meeting this lovely lady, we stopped by the Spicy Caribee for some hot sauce tasting. Before the race, Kyle and I had an agreement: I would eat spicy stuff, she would eat bugs, so I ended up being the guinea pig for this one. We had to rate the sauces in order of the hotness, and I made the mistake of tasting the hottest one first, which didn’t make it easy. As it turns out, I was right to think all the sauces were spicy, they’re all scotch bonnet pepper sauces!!! My poor tongue
spicy spicy sauces location
Thankfully, the next clue took us to Ben and Jerry’s where I volunteered to be spoon fed ice cream by Kyle while blindfolded. After being touched inappropriately, hit in the nose with the spoon, I got to taste the sweet relief of a huge spoon of cold ice cream! The picture was taken while I was talking or something, because it doesn’t do justice to the relief my tongue was feeling
Ben and Jerry’s
Afterwards, we made our way to a arts and craft store where Christy and I filled in a Spanish sentence like pros!
Puerto Rican Arts and Crafts
And it turns out we were almost done! We just had to complete our third tic-tac-toe square, singing Livin’ La Vida Loca! We decided to run to the bus terminal since that was our best chance to find a bus given their scarcity on the city streets. When we got there, there was another team who was trying to get a bus to their last clues, but I stepped in and asked the bus driver about getting back to our hotel using a bit of Spanish. It turns out my charms worked, as he decided to drive us there, not take any money, only stopped once for other travelers, and dropped us off as close to the hotel as his route allowed him even though there wasn’t even a bus stop there! How amazing is this?
We crossed the finish line in a bit over 2 hrs to take the 13th and 14th places
I still can’t believe the race I’ve been waiting almost half a year for is over! I am definitely missing the ocean views, warm weather, and island food. Yes, I know, I cannot complain given that some of my teammates had to go back to the freezing cold Midwest, while I can still get sunny days in California, but LA is just not the same. Also, what’s up with the 30 degree F temperatures in Los Angeles? I froze my butt off waiting for the airport shuttle last Thursday morning!
I am convinced I was born for island living! If you know of any jobs where I could use my chemistry and/or cooking skills on an island, let me know