Today's Mighty Oak

Race Report: Lauren’s (Virtual) Birthday Puzzle Run



My friend and teammate Lauren planned an eight hour puzzle run for her birthday. And while we couldn’t all go to Indianapolis to do it in the park like she originally planned, we were able to all compete virtually!

Each hour, she would release a new clue. You then than three options for getting the second clue to that hour:

  • Run 2-3 miles
  • Walk 1 mile
  • Do some sort of activity for 30 minutes (this could be wiring, cleaning, other exercising, whatever you wanted to do).

After you got the clues, you’d come up with either a three digit code or three letter word to send back. If you were right, you got one of the eight puzzle pieces. First one to assemble all eight puzzle pieces correctly wins!

You could participate as a team, but I was running solo. You could also front-load miles for those who wanted to do a long run; they would get the clues each hour at quarter after. I decided to run three miles each hour, which gave me a little taste of a last person standing race. I set up in my basement with my laptop, some snacks, water and at 9 a.m., I took off for my first run. Each hour I’d be running 9 loops of my neighborhood.

Hour 1 – Numbers. Run time: 30:15

At the top of the hour, Lauren gave us six Sudokus. The second clue showed us which three boxes we needed to turn into her. I copied one of them wrong, so I had to come back to this after my hour two run, but I enjoyed it, it’s been a while since I’ve done any Sudokus! This is where I also learned that doing these kinds of mental tasks after running is harder than I expected!

Hour 2 – Ballroom. Run time: 28:56

This freaking puzzle! This one gave me the most trouble the whole day. We got the image below as the first clue, and then the second was the crossword that showed what letters to send back to her.

I made a word bank, and eventually Lauren released a better word bank, so I was able to figure it out from there. But man, I was googling everything (names of famous hip hop dancers, George Fred Astaire, synonyms for tango, my search history is something else!) and I tried some wild things, even trying to figure out how to use the clock as a clue.

Eventually I finished up Numbers and resigned myself to keep working on Ballroom for the rest of the day.

Hour 3 – Sign. Run time: 28:31

This hour’s first clue was a sign from Bryan’s Family Fish Market. After my run, I got the blank puzzle with a few letters filled in (like Wheel of Fortune). Eventually, I started crossing off letters from the sign and filled in the puzzle, asking me for the number of MPs in the UK House of Commons. Sent that off, got my puzzle piece and stared some more at Ballroom.

Hour 4 – Bar. Run time: 28:04

Hour four gave us a picture of bottles lined up on a bar. After my run, I was asked to make a Moscow Mule, the three digits being the number of each bottle. Stared some more at Ballroom and got some more substantial food from upstairs and refilled my water bottles.

Hour 5 – People. Run time: 27:47

This hour brought us six people with their ages, pointing to each other. After my run, I got an order of mathematical operations. The first solution I came up with (using the order of operations), was a four digit number, and I knew that couldn’t be right, so I went back and did each step as a separate, individual equation. That yielded the correct three digit code!

Still working on Ballroom, but I also took the pieces that I had and started to put them together in Photoshop. I could see what is was going to be, but still had half of the pieces to collect. This was also where the running was really starting to wear me down. The breaks were good for my legs, but the brain keeps going, even when you’re running, so it was quite a workout the whole day!

Hour 6 – Words. Run time: 27:32

This one also took a while to figure out, and Lauren released a bunch of extra hints for it. At the top of the hour we got three columns of three letter words. Our clue was red, yellow and green boxes that corresponded with each of them.

At first, I thought it was finding similar letters in the green box words, and maybe some overlap from yellow. I also tried finding the most used letter from each column, and the most used letters from each color.

Eventually, figured it out that red words had no correct letters, yellow had a correct letter in the wrong spot and from there, I was able to brute force through it all to figure out the answer, but not until after all my runs were done.

Hour 7 – Clocks. Run time: 27:35

This one was ingenious. At the top of the hour we got eight clocks that were missing their hands. The second clue ave us the hands.

So at first, I tried finding a pattern in the times, and looking at the elapsed time between each clock. I tried adding up the total elapsed time, nothing was working.

Hour 8 – Excerpt. Run time: 27:26

I went out for my last run, hoping to get back quick enough to give myself a fighting chance to finish up Words, Clocks and Excerpt. I made it back, grabbed my computer and phone and ran upstairs to see what I could finish.

The first part of the clue was an excerpt from Sherlock Holmes on a very busy background. The second clue was a color wheel with an arrow pointing to cyan.

If you filtered to read the cyan part, you could make out an extra sentence near the end. I saw the word ‘address’ in it an immediately send in the clue of 221, the first part of Holmes’ address. Knowing it was a three digit code, there was nothing else it could be.

I still needed to get words Words and Clocks. Words I was able to work my way through, it just took me until after run eight, leaving only clocks left to be solved.

Staring at it, I suddenly realized that one of the clocks was from Ballroom! I actually made it harder on myself by going back to that clue and trying to read the time off of it. The more simple, and correct answer was to just send in the time that matched that clock from the second part of the clue. That series of texts, sending in the answer for Clocks as my mind worked through those revelations was amazing and I was cheering in my house! That gave me all eight pieces!

I put them together, sent it in, and won the individual race! A four person team finished up very shortly after hour 8, and a two person team didn’t finish until just before the end of the day cutoff, so I’m very happy with my performance!

As sad as it was to not be together to celebrate her birthday, being able to play this amazing game virtually was great! Following along with people working through puzzles and running all day was really awesome.

I can also say that this is the first time I’ve ever won a race! Guess it takes a combination of mental and physical tasks to give me a chance! But I will say, I’m really proud with my running. Getting consistently faster throughout the day was not something I expected to be able to do, and I really impressed myself!

Lauren did such an amazing job putting this together, changing it to a virtual event on the fly, and coordinating us all as we ran. I think there at least 40 people participating which is so awesome to have such a big group, from all over the country playing!

This inadvertently became my last race for the spring, and I’ve taken the next week off (going the same direction for all of my running around my neighborhood tiny loop has done a number on my left Achilles). I have the Zombies, Run! spring virtual coming up, and then I’m gong to do Laz’ The Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1000K to make sure I keep up my running over the summer and to get ready for the newly rescheduled O24.

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