Review of the 2010 Seattle CityChase event: As organized as a headless fish trying to fly.

    Today a friend and I participated in the 2010 Seattle CityChase event. The event is a scavenger-hunt style Amazing Race event.

    I’m a huge fan of the TV show Amazing Race, having watched every episode of every season, excluding the horrible season 8 (the atrocious family edition). I’ve also seen every episode of Survivor except for the first 4, as well as every episode of The Apprentice. Needless to say, I have a very good knowledge of how well-ran events like this take place.

    I started out with high hopes of having a great time, but thanks to a few bad factors, I ended up displeased with the race itself. Through a poor lack of event organization, several health concerns, and overall “meh-ness”, I started the day in excitement but left with a bad taste in my mouth from the event.

    Lack of Organization:

    This race was CityChase’s 103rd event, although it was only the 2nd in Seattle. Despite having 102 other events before this, several parts of the race were a mess.

    • Some events had closing times. These were mostly clearly marked on the clue sheet, however 2 events had closing times added AFTER the race had been started. One was announced at several other points, however there was one that was never announced. My team reached this destination (the Capitol Hill Bowling challenge) after 3pm, which was a closing time never listed on the clue sheet (the other events all closed at 4, which was also the end of the race). Due to this, my team ended up forced to do a different event (you must do 10 to finish the race) where I received severe leg cramps due to loose swimming flippers. After that, we had to run to the finish line in 15 minutes with my severely cramping legs to try to make it back to be scored. We were 6 minutes late, and my friends who completed with 15 minutes left ranked 75th place. I’m thereby giving my team an unofficial rank of 76th. One of the lady announcers said she’d officially check my team in, although at 3:59pm (1 minute before the race ended)… however had the race been better organized, I would have actually had a real rank to report.
    • Lack of enough events for # of participants meant lots of waiting, not as much doing stuff. The race bibs had hole punch areas for 40 events, while Seattle had about 20. 20~ Events that 220 teams were trying to do at the same time. You do that math.
    • Volunteer staff had VERY little knowledge of what was going on, and sometimes how to even man their event properly.
    • It was a requirement to wear their provided Tshirt during the race. Neither the website nor their rules mention this, so some dressed in light of thinking that this wasn’t a requirement.
    • The start/finish line did not have adequate parking nearby, so they told teams to bus into the start area. This is fine before a race, but not after the race when you’re exhausted and have to walk a ways to get to a bus to take you home.
    • 3 cars were designated as “Fast Forward” type cars, that if you catch them they will take you to a location within a certain distance. Awesome… except when we passed the starting location halfway through the race, 2 of the 3 cars were parked in the parking lot, not taking people anywhere. Why say you’re offering something and then not follow through properly?

    Health/Safety Concerns:

    All contestants are required to sign wavers, including some events with their own wavers due to specific event/business requirements. Despite all this, one of the events was VERY poorly thought out and executed.

    • Fish Throwing
      Seattle’s Pike Place Market is known for it’s fish throwers, so why not have an event throwing fish? It sounds like a good idea, except for the fact of 2 MAJOR health concerns.
      During the race, the 2.5-3lb fish had LOST IT’S HEAD.
      1) The head was completely detached from the raw fish. This meant there was guts, intestines, and other fish insides coming out of the fish that one teammate would THROW to their partner. The fish started with a head, but throughout the day, the throwing took its tole on the fish.
      2) There was no backup fish that had a head present.
      3) There was no sanitizer to clean your hands with after grabbing the raw fish guts.
      4) This contest was tied to a FOOD EATING challenge. So if you failed at catching the fish guts, you would eat squid or anchovies, using your raw fish gut covered hands. Far from sanitary!
      5) By the time my partner and I got to the fish throwing, the event was modified severely, from throwing it 15-20 feet to only about 8 feet. Rumor: The reason for this change was that someone was rushed to a hospital when the fish’s bones went into their arm, injecting raw bacteria with it. My friend witnessed a different racer who was severely scratched from catching the fish, and that person reported their skin felt like it was burning. Infection much?
      6) The staff at this event didn’t care or show any sympathy to the situation going on. They basically were “yeah you throw the fish from here to there and eat the fish if you don’t.” No mention of why it had no head, nor concern for sanitary issues.

    “Meh”:

    The race normally costs around $179 for a team. I bought a team entry on sale for $100, which I’m still not sure if it was worth the price.

    Events included:

    • Walking in a park using mini beer kegs as stilts. (meh)
    • Taiko Drumming (meh, kinda cool). Taiko drums are awesome, but the pattern they repeated was almost so easy a caveman could do it.
    • Pogo stick in a swimming pool (my fav event actually)
    • A meta-scavenger hunt using a Blackberry phone (event sponsor, kinda meh)
    • Parkour (WANTED to do this, but didn’t get to it)
    • Kayaking (meh)
    • Filling up water into a bucket using a bucket attached to a helmet you wear (meh)
    • Trivia (meh)
    • Finding answers to questions in a museum (meh)
    • Dressing in drag with makeup and singing karaoke (meh)
    • Trapeze/fabric rope (fun, but the trapeze was very simple and you didn’t do much)

    So when you only have slightly more than 20 events, having over half of them being “meh” events (that I either could do elsewhere on my own free time or events that aren’t very exciting) results in a race that has a lot of potential for unusual events, but falls flat. Maybe CityChase isn’t familiar enough with crazier/harder/more exciting things in Seattle?

    Additionally, to figure out many of the location names, addresses, directions, trivia answers, etc… you either needed a smartphone with a dataplan or a friend sitting at a computer to help you out. The info provided was basic, so instead of a physical race / mental competition, it’s “who knows how to use their smartphone the fastest?”

    The good:

    All this negativity must mean I had a horrible time, right? Well, there were plenty of parts that were enjoyable; it’s just the last portion that was REALLY BAD is overshadowing the good parts. If you really want to do an event like this and CityChase is a viable option to you, I’d say try it; unless you don’t like what I’ve mentioned above.

    Overall, I probably had more fun than not. Was it enough fun to do it again next year? Nope. My legs are painfully reminding me that had the bowling alley challenge remained open, I would have finished properly and my legs would not be in pain/discomfort right now.

    I’ll probably look to the other events in Seattle such as the Great Urban Race or Urban Dare to satisfy my future race desires. That is, unless I ever apply and make it on to the Amazing Race.