The Sports Page

The Race Turned Upside-Down

It’s a week full of reversals. The race continues its backward progress, this time from Istanbul to London, while last week’s flip-flop of the leading and trailing pairs recurs. Teams either avoid the airport mistakes they made last week, or make the mistakes they avoided, and strong teams take on a mental challenge while the weaker get physical. The leg rounds out appropriately with a task that includes driving backwards. In the end, order is restored as perennial foot-in-the-gravers Meredith and Gretchen are finally, mercifully, sent packing.
Pretty much by default I’ll hand it to Rob and Amber for learning from experience, double-checking the flight options, and then rolling the dice with an ultimately successful gamble on a connection through Frankfurt.
Not a lot to choose from for Play Of The Week this time. Pretty much by default I’ll hand it to Rob and Amber for learning from experience, double-checking the flight options, and then rolling the dice with an ultimately successful gamble on a connection through Frankfurt. That, paired with a well-timed sprint through Heathrow, put them into a lead that they held for the duration. No honours for Ron and Kelly for taking the same flight as it seems they didn’t even think of it until they saw FRANKFURT listed in living colour on a departure board. That last minute thinking, combined with a perpetual inability to get the first train out of whatever airport they happen to be in, is going to cost them.

As is so often the case, I had a lot more to work with for the Smooth Move. I’m tempted to make a joint award to Ron and Kelly and Meredith and Gretchen for their inexplicable decision to take cabs across London, a city with arguably the world’s best mass transit system – the Underground – serving its central core. Taking a cab from Baker Street to Greenwich is possibly the worst way to get there short of walking. Still, that wasn’t the worst decision this leg. That distinction is held by Meredith and Gretchen’s choice of Detour options. Folks, the task you chose is called brawn. Look at the other teams; then look at yourselves. Figure the odds that you will ever be able to make up time on a task that involves hauling 800 pounds of boat around. You’ve gotta play to your strengths.

As is so often the case during the latter stages of the race, Where The Wheels Came Off The Bus is at the airport ticket counter. Direct flights are good, eliminating possible delays at connecting airports. Confirmed flights are good, eliminating fears of getting bumped off a standby list. But when there are four teams left, and three of them are physically stronger than you, good isn’t going to cut it. You need to take a few chances and work every angle - coasting on a direct flight isn’t enough anymore. Of course, given that both direct flight teams caught up to the earlier Ron and Kelly, being on that first flight wouldn’t necessarily have saved them – but it couldn’t have hurt.

The Amazing Guided Tour

I’m hearing a lot of grumbling about the use of guides by Rob and Amber. “That’s not fair,” some say, “they should be doing the work themselves.” This reached a high pitch this week – rumour has it in part due to a bogus spoiler that crushed more than a few hopes – as their latest guide provided them much assistance in solving clues on the Detour.

Setting aside the obvious drawback in insisting that Racers solve every clue themselves – that would be the near-certainty that some TAR1 teams would still be in Paris looking for Foucault’s Pendulum – I’d like to address the alleged invalidity of the use of guides.
I like to think of TAR as extreme tourism. For the most part, Racers do the kinds of things we all might do on vacation; they just do ALL of them in less than a month, without as much intervening laying on the beach with umbrella drinks.
I like to think of TAR as extreme tourism. For the most part, Racers do the kinds of things we all might do on vacation; they just do ALL of them in less than a month, without as much intervening laying on the beach with umbrella drinks. Bungee jumping, horseback riding, white-water rafting, market shopping, exotic food eating – most of us do at least some of things while traveling. And, most of us rely on the kindness of strangers when we find ourselves wrong-footed in a strange part of the world.

“But,” I hear some of you say, “there’s a difference between asking for directions, and having someone lead you around.” Certainly there is. And that difference is often down to luck, and interpersonal skills. Racers who happen to find someone willing to do that, and who are socially adept (or physically attractive) enough to inspire their guide to stick with them, will have an advantage in this area. In the same way, Racers who can drive a stick, or who are physically fit, or who have iron stomachs, or who do not fear plummeting to their grisly deaths, will have advantages in other areas of the race.

“But,” you reply, “Rob and Amber’s famewhore status makes them more recognizable, and thus more likely to attract all-day guides.” I’m not sure. A lot of people saw Survivor All-Stars, but if the crowd around here is any indication, a lot of those people wouldn’t give Rob the time of day. Rob seems just as likely to stumble across an embittered Lex fan who would tell him that Sherlock Holmes lived at Number Ten Downing Street as he is to find a true Romber fan.

And, it isn’t just TV stars who can get guides. I once spent a memorable three days in Istanbul. On day one, a genial young man by the name of Ali accosted me and my friend as we strolled the Grand Bazaar. He wanted to sell us a rug. We wanted to buy one, so we got to haggling. And, over the next three days, we came back to see him every day so that he could guide us around the bazaar and help us find what we wanted to buy. He also provided us advice on restaurants, tourist attractions, and dance clubs. Now, once he had sold us our rugs on Day One, he really had nothing more to gain from our company. But we got along, so he helped us out. It’s not that out of the ordinary for this sort of thing to happen.

And it’s all part of the rich experience of global traveling. You can’t stop some people from helping other people, and I’m not sure you need to.


Lies, damn lies, and…

Even with eight extra legs to try and pull their average up, Meredith and Gretchen still didn’t manage to overtake Debbie and Bianca in terms of performance. No question that they were a team long past their sell-by date.

TeamPositionAverage
Rob/Amber12.364
Ron/Kelly23.182
Uchenna/Joyce33.364
Lynn/AlexX4.111
Brian/GregX 4.714
Ray/DeanaX5.000
Debbie/BiancaX5.333
Meredith/Gretchen45.364


Looking at the all-time top ten after ten legs, we see that Rob and Amber have once again claimed the top spot, edging out Colin and Christie - and this in spite of the latter team’s six first place finishes.

TeamTARFinishAverage
Rob/Amber7TBD2.364
Colin/Christie522.455
Frank/Margarita122.455
Kris/Jon622.545
Rob/Brennan112.636
Ken/Gerard332.727
Tara/Wil222.727
Hayden/Aaron642.818
Flo/Zach312.818
Bill/Joe133.091


We also see that there are only two winners in the group, and those ranked fifth and ninth. All this to say that, as I’ve said before, the Race is not always to the swiftest.


Next Week
Uchenna and Joyce are looking more like Chip and Kim every week; the same strong interpersonal relationship, the same shaky start, the same strong finishing kick.
Uchenna and Joyce are looking more like Chip and Kim every week; the same strong interpersonal relationship, the same shaky start, the same strong finishing kick. Rob and
Amber have ruled the roost so far, but now they are up against the Bowling Mom rule; there are two roadblocks ahead and Amber has to do both of them. If there is a really tough physical task, expect them to lose ground. Ron and Kelly don’t have this problem.

In the end, I have to bet on Uchenna and Joyce as the team that has the closest thing to winning form. But really, with three teams left, anything can happen.


Leg 7-11 At a Glance
Start pointRumeli Hasari, Istanbul, Turkey
End pointPotter's Field Park, London, England
Distance traveled miles
Distance to date25830 miles


Start OrderTimeFinish OrderTime
1Uchenna/Joyce2253Rob/Amber0247
2Meredith/Gretchen2357Ron/Kelly0426
3Rob/Amber0037Uchenna/Joyce0441
4Ron/Kelly0053Meredith/GretchenTBD


DETOUR
Brains
Brawn
Solve clues and navigate around London, ending up at 222B Baker Street.Go to Battersea Park, move five rowboats 500 yards, and pile them up.
TeamInOutTeamInOut
Rob/Amber11Uchenna/Joyce33
Ron/Kelly22Meredith/Gretchen44


ROADBLOCK
Drive a bus.
Drive a double-decker bus around a marked course.
TeamTaken byRecordInOut
Rob/AmberRob(6/10)11
Ron/KellyKelly(5/10)22
Uchenna/JoyceJoyce(5/9)33
Meredith/GretchenMeredith(6/10)44



Leaderboard

Leg12345678910111213
Rob/Amber31515211331
Ron/Kelly102442122242
Uchenna/Joyce84236333113
Meredith/Gretchen67777555424
Lynn/Alex551544445
Brian/Greg4932366
Ray/Deana736617
Susan/Patrick2888
Debbie/Bianca169
Megan/Heidi910
Ryan/Chuck11