Leg 6 found us launching ourselves into the depths of the downtown core, but we as yet didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. It was time for the Toronto City Chase, a one day Amazing Race/Urban Adventure Race that was going to test our navigation skills, problem solving, pain thresholds and senses of fun.
So, since you’re reading this you’ve probably at lease browsed my blog by now and know that I’m basically obsessed with the Amazing Race in all it’s incarnations. As a “normal” person, the City Chase is the closest thing I could find that didn’t involve a casting agent. Here’s the rundown: teams of two show up at the starting line, then at the sound of go, you get a clue sheet to decipher with random locations around the city. At each one is a challenge, but you have no idea what it is until you get there. You have a max of 6 hours to do 10 of these 20 or so “Chasepoints” and make it back to the finish line. The only restriction is that you can only make your way around by piblic transportation or on foot. Boom. Needless to say, I’ve been doing these races since 2003 and I fucking love this shit.
This Toronto race kinda fell into my lap this year. I had only moved to Toronto in December, and thanks to winter, I hadn’t really begun to explore the city in depth yet. And then we decided to move to Montreal in July, so I figured, why bother? Then some friends who knew I was never going to say no to a challenge invited me to run the City Chase with them, just three days before moving to Montreal, and I found myself here. Over the years, and the 10000000 moves we’ve done for work reasons, I’ve raced in Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa as well, so not knowing the city wasn’t as daunting as it once was. Thanks to the invention of superphones, navigation is always at your fingertips, and if all else fails, you just follow others wearing the provided race jerseys. It may not be the most creative, but the stalking technique can really help you out in a pinch.
All 400 teams began squished in the distillery district, which is super cute, with it’s old factories and cobblestones. Te weather was fantastic too, sunny and fabulous, and not meltingly hot. After deciphering most of the clues we figured there seemed to be a somewhat linear cluster of chasepoints along the lakeshore, so we decided to head there, going to the farthest one away and working our way back. There is no set course, you can do any of the points in any order, and having a good route can make or break your race.
We make it to the first Chasepoint to discover it’s an adult tricycle race – one teammate must be blindfolded and dressed like a Super Mario character, then they need to pedal around a marked course while their partner verbally directs them where to go.
This is Ada, my fantastic partner, dressed like that time Mario became a South Central gang member.
From there we hopped on a bus to the Princess Gates and queued up to get shot in the ass. Not kidding. Our second chasepoint was “suit up in protective gear and run into this giant tunnel tent thing to put together a puzzle as fast as possible while getting shot with paintballs”. This is probably the only time in my life I’ve been happy to have some luscious junk in my trunk, as my strategy of sticking my nicely padded butt out as far as possible to take the hits worked well. The paintballs burn when they hit you, especially when you get hit more than once in the same place, but compared to the other people we saw getting hit in the back of the head or the spine, my pain was pretty minimal. Fat asses for the win! Also, I had some pretty amazing bruises on my tush afterwards.
Sadistic asshole. Kidding. He was super nice and polite while spending his day lining people up and executing them.
This was my first time down at the Princess Gates and the Lakeshore and it was freaking gorgeous. Admittedly, most of the previous Toronto experience had been more in the CBD, dwarfed by giant concrete and steel towers that blocked out the sun, but this gave me a new perspective. Toronto wasn’t as cold and emotionless as I thought it was, and this area was lovely. Right by the water we found our third chasepoint, which was playing catch with bows and arrows. One teammate got to shoot arrows tipped with what looked like giant marshmallows and the other one had to try and catch them. Super fun, and I also learned that archery tag is actually a thing. I NEED to try this some time.
10 blocks later we were strapped together with giant bungee cords, having to keep from being flung around a park while collecting coloured balls on opposite sides of a field from your partner. Then we were back to the lakeshore for bubble soccer. I went into this thinking “no problem, just ram the other team as hard as possible and we’ve got this”. Then we ended up against 2 big guys over six feet, who plowed us over like we weren’t even there and both Ada and I spent the entire time on our backs. Loosing that match earned us 30 burpees each before we could move on.
This portion of the race we basically just hopped from one pretty, waterfront park to another, cutting through Billy Bishop airport and getting increasingly more urban as we went. I don’t think I’ve done a City Chase before where we did so much on foot without having to loose time waiting for public transportation, which helped our finishing time a lot, especially since there had been a long line at the paintball challenge, so we had burned up a chunk of time there. At the marina we faced a classic dunk tank (that water was a nasty-ass shade of green by the time we got there, from all the other teams who had come before), and then got to fire off (and catch) pop bottle compressed air rockets at the beach, right next to a really fun and crowded street market. Maybe it was a Caribbean party there that day, I don’t know, but the food stalls smelled amazing, I was so tempted to stop and shop, and we were later passed by a team carrying coconut umbrella drinks. That’s how you know you’re a badass, when you run a race while drinking a margarita out of a fruit.
And then we were knighted and forced to joust until we had beheaded the competition.
This photo doesn’t do my mustache justice.
We were closing in on the finish line. A quick bus ride up to Front Street found us singing “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” on a Karaeoke Stage – we had selected Spice Girls, but the guy programming the machine was like “No, you must sing Cyndi Lauper”, so we sang Cyndi Lauper. Badly. No one can hit those high notes unless you’re a cat and it’s 3am.
For the final push we raced back into the Distillery District to find our final chasepoint, only to discover it had closed 3 minutes earlier. To keep it from being too easy, the organizers normally have hours of operations for the points closest to the start/finish, usually opening an hour after the start and closing an hour prior to the end time. We missed it by seconds, and it would have been a cool one, too, where we would have gotten a chance to hold lizards or snakes. However, since the first placed teams had crossed the finish line more than an hour prior, and the staff that were packing up the lizard chasepoint saw the looks of adorable sadness and desperation on our faces, they threw us a bone and gave us the stamp we needed for completing that point anyway, allowing us to turn around and sprint across the finish line just a few feet behind them.
5 hours and a lot of sun, sweat and fun later we had completed the Toronto City Chase, checking in in 220th position. It rocked. One of the reasons that I love the City Chase and keep coming back for more is the randomness of the tasks – these are things that you would never encounter in day to day life. Life is really nothing more than collecting experiences, and this is an amazing way to check off things that you didn’t even know were on your bucket list, while getting a workout, a city tour and a tan. For me, personally, this was also a fitting way of saying farewell to Toronto. Previously I had found the city cold and unimpressive, but I just hadn’t found it’s soul. Now I had a new appreciation for what attracted people to the downtown, especially in the summer, and saw it all from a new, much more fun perspective.
Pit Stop: We dropped a position. We weren’t fast, but we had a ton of fun and crushed a lot of the challenges much faster than expected. However, we did check in more than an hour before the last-placed team.
Eliminated: No one. This turned out to be just the beginning of an exhausting and awesome To Be Continued superleg.