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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thing 27: Urban Dare Revisited, Dominated and Won

You didn't think I trained for the ten miler just to run a ten miler, did you?  Oh no, it was all training leading up to Urban Dare 2009.  And guess what?  It was worth it, because we won.

Let's backup a bit here.  Urban Dare is a scavenger hunt/amazing race activity that GFD and I did two years ago, and totally failed miserably.  You can read about the entire pathetic experience here, but in sum, it took us over four hours and we technically never completed the race.  We vowed to do better the next time.

Then I went to Seattle and missed Urban Dare 2008.

Which bring us to last Saturday, a sunny and clear day perfect for the race.  I was in literally the best shape I've ever been in my life, having taken to the gym the day after Urban Dare 2007, and having kept it up pretty regularly, for the most part.  GFD and I also had a system this year, basically a solution to all the amateur mistakes that we had made two years ago.  I was wearing spandex and sunscreen.  We were ready.

The starting point this year was at McFadden's, where we all congregated to get our t-shirts and do some trash talking.  Then out to Washington Circle, where, like two years ago, we were released for the race depending on whether we go the correct answer to a multiple choice question.  This year, neither David nor I had any idea what the answer was (Treaty of Ghent?), but were already standing in the "B" quadrant so we just hung out there.  And we were right!  We ran to grab our clue sheet, and then got to work.  

I don't want to divulge too much of our patent-pending, 100% effective strategy, but we solved all the clues before we left.

Then we were off.  Our first stop was to run about a half mile straight north, to take our picture was "the gentle giant that defeated the British empire through peaceful means," the Gandhi statue west of Dupont Circle:

Then we ran to just south of Dupont Circle, to take our picture with the statue of the "only U.S. poet to he honored with a commemorative sculpted bust in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey in London."  Our picture with Longfellow:

Then over to the Jefferson Hotel (which is currently under construction), which was "the hotel where Dick Morris got in trouble for sucking a call girl's toes."

We look pretty judgemental about toe sucking, don't we?  

Then it was a couple block north to Scott Circle, "the memorial to the person create homeopathic medicine," where we had to do a dare.  We had to hop on one foot twice around the statue, shouting "yellow" and "purple" as we went.

Next stop, the statue of Samuel Gompers who "founded the American Federation of Labor and served as its president for over 30 years."  This was another dare -- we had to throw beanbags until we got one in each of three holes.  David rocked this one and we were back off and running in no time. 

Further down Mass Ave (and yes, we jogged this whole time), and we took our picture with "the memorial to all victims of communism":
Then up to Union Station for our "bubble dare". This was pretty gross. I had to retrieve a piece of bubble gum from a pile a whipped cream without using my hands, and then blow a bubble.  See how sweaty I am this point? Imagine running three miles, being salty and sweaty, and then diving into a pile of whipped cream.  I was sticky and pretty gross at this point.

Then we took a bathroom break.  That's right, we were so confident that we nonchalantly took a pause to visit the restroom and the water fountain.  Then, back to running. 

Next up, we hit the memorial to those that had been in Japanese internment camps in WWII.  This dare was similar to the one we did two years ago, so we knew how it worked.  We got our word, "mendicant," and then had to add up it's point value based on the value of the letters as they were scattered around the memorial.  This year, no homeless man blocking our view, and we finished this dare in no time.

Down Pennsylvania Avenue now to the memorial to General Mead, who "commanded the Union forces at Gettysburg":

Then a few more blocks down Penn Ave to the memorial for General Winfield Scott Hancock, who was the failed Democratic presidential nominee in 1880.  Here we had to do a wheelbarrow dare, so David got on his hands while I held his feet and walked him once around a set of cones.

Here is were, by a small stroke of luck, I almost fainted.  Ok, so I may have the endurance to do ten miles, but by this time it was 1:30pm and it was HOT outside.  I was thirsty.  I started to see spots and probably should sit down.  I crouched while David bought a bottle of water from a street vendor, and then the 36 bus was coming right then, so we hopped on, hoping to get a bit of air conditioning and a small rest.

Our next stop was the Treasury Building, and the 36 bus goes all the way down Penn and stops on 15th Street next to the Treasury, so what the heck, right?  David was afraid it might slow us down, so we kept an eye on other Urban Darers as they were running down Penn Ave and wouldn't you know it but we ended up passing the team that ultimately came in second!  That bus was our lucky break.

We hopped out at the Treasury and got our picture with "Genius of Finance" Gallatin:
Then we got our second lucky break, the 5:00 Bonus photo.  "Get your picture with the memorial where a topless woman is handing a sword up to her hero," for which we could get 5:00 knocked off our final time.  We had a hunch it might be in Lafayette Park, and we were debating whether or not to run around and try to find it, or just pack it in and go back to McFadden's when we looked up and the statue was right in front of us:

Then we ran the eight blocks down Penn to McFadden's, where, much to our utter amazement, we were informed that we had actually come in first place. See how amazed I am?! I still can't quite believe that we went from being miserable failures at this thing to winning a Super Dare three-day cruise in the Bahamas for free!!

Plus, it gave me lots of fodder for my annual birthday scavenger hunt.

Two years ago:  Our first pathetic attempt at Urban Dare.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things 146, 147, 148 and 20 Revisited

Well, it seems that it took ten weeks before I abandoned one of my new years resolution to blog more regularly.  But, it was in part because I was busy completing a different resolution that I didn't tell you about at the time (in case of utter failure).  And that resolution was to complete the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler.  Which I did.  

So, without further ado, a brief roundup of the Things I've been up to in my absence.

Thing 146: Run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler

I've never been a runner in my life, so what possessed me to sign up for my very first race and have it be not just a 5k, or heck, even a 10k, but ten miles?  Apparently, I don't like to do anything half-assed.

So I started training in December, building up to three miles as a comfortable base distance.  Then I joined a running group that trains for this specific race.  We met on Saturday mornings going ever-further distances: three miles, then four, then six, then (I can't believe it still) eight, until I'd built up to 9.75 the week before the big race.  Eight miles really seems like a lot when you look at map to see that you've run from Foggy Bottom to Lincoln Park and back.  

Race Day was beautiful.  The weather was a warm, breezy 70 degrees, the sun was out and everyone was in great spirits.  The people cheering along the route helped to keep my spirits up as I ran from the Washington Monument, across the Memorial Bridge and back, down to the Kennedy Center, around the Tidal Basin, around Haines Point and back to the Memorial.  And I beat my goal time of two hours by a whopping eleven minutes!  Coming in at 1:48:59, I completed my first ten miler.

Thing 147: Founding Farmers

This restaurant has been buzzing since it opened, and I'm surprised it took me so long to make it over there, seeing as how their philosophy is very much in tune with mine. 
At Founding Farmers we believe that everyone benefits by knowing more about the source of the food they eat. We understand the journey of our products from seed to harvest, and from Farm-to-Table. Owned by a collective of American family farmers, Founding Farmers exists to promote the products and services of family farms, ranches, and fisheries.
Plus, the have a bacon-bourbon cocktail.  Bacon! And bourbon! In a cocktail!  

I went for a work lunch, and my guest and I had a really great experience.  I had heard mixed things about the service, but one time I was there our service was impeccable.  In fact, our waiter walked us through choices on the menu, specialty cocktails and why they were so special, and even shared a laugh with us about biodynamic wines.  And he read my mind when he asked if I was ready for the carrot cake I hadn't ordered yet but was so totally ready for.

The food was great, too.  I had a harvest salad with fresh spinach, hard-boiled eggs, blue cheese, thick cut cubes of bacon and caramelized onions.  My guest had fried chicken and waffles, which I stole a bite of in order to vouch that the fried chicken was juicy and crispy and all those things fried chicken really ought to be.  And the carrot cake was exactly what I wanted, with not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting and these ridiculously good candied pecans.

My bacon bourbon cocktail?  The biggest disappointment.  Perfect in theory, but in practice, you get a glass of cold, spicy bourbon and a hot bacon lollipop on the side, and consuming it in a way that makes sense is impossible.  Either you dunk the lolly, in which case the bacon gets cold and the fat congeals, or you drink and nibble, drink and nibble, which is simply too high maintenance for a cocktail.  
This place is not cheap, so save it for a special occasion.  But that said, I did have a good experience here.

Hey, remember when I saw The Heavens are Hung in Black and it was terrible?  Well, my recent experience at the Shakespeare Theatre was the exact opposite of that.

My friend Sam took me to see Ion, "the Greek tragedy with a happy ending", in the newly built theater in Chinatown.  The play has been updated in language and look, and I have to admit, I just loved the whole production.  The Greek chorus was recast to be a half-dozen modern-day tourists who attended to a royal power couple.  Apollo's temple was a tourist attraction, attended to by Ion, a boy born to Creusa after she was raped by Apollo.  (The back story recap was done with puppets and was both playful and effective).  Mistaken identities and hilarious hijinks ensued, but instead of a stage littered with dead bodies, this play ends in singing and uplift.  

Not every part of the update was a home run, but enough of it was, and it was playful and fun enough to keep everyone engaged and smiling.  

Thing 20, Revisited: Cherry Blossom Picnic

We inaugurated picnic season under the blossoms again this year, with an abundance of dips, deviled eggs, box wine, cookies and a gingerbread bundt cake.  Do not be dissuaded by the crowds, this yearly tradition is not to be missed.

If you do have a favorite picnic place, please leave it for me in the comments.  I want to fit in as many 'nics as possible before the humidity sets in.