Nom nom nom nom nom were the sounds emanating from my mouth as if I had suddenly transformed into the Cookie Monster. But I was not munching on doughy, sweet chocolate-chip goodness, a round morsel of oats and raisins, or a sugar cookie. Instead, I was gnawing at a cauliflower head in the manner I would an apple, which was something of an achievement considering the crucifer was the size of a bowling ball.
Now, while I typically try to eat clean and healthy, it’s not that I had become a raw-foodist or a vegetarian. Instead, this was one of the challenges of Cotopaxi’s Questival.
This task was worth three points, one I would classify as easy-to-moderate difficulty. Just as well; I had assured Maureen the day before that we could take it easy in this scavenger-hunt-like adventure race despite my usual competitive ways, particularly because she was recovering from a cold. And there were only two of us. But first, a little bit of background.
I first heard about Questival during a short session of one of the world’s foremost time-wasting activities, by which I mean, of course, browsing Facebook. This event immediately caught my interest, especially the part about “doing a 24-hour adventure race for the cost of a 5K run” ($35 for early registrants). That certainly appealed to my frugal side, being used to seeing registration fees for marathons be around the $100 mark, adventure relays being around $160/person, and Ironman triathlons over $600.
There was also the non-solo aspect, as participants were required to participate as part of teams of two to eight persons. “No problem,” I thought, “I know a ton of adventurous people who would be up for this.”
Unfortunately, that was my first failure in this event: I could not rally anyone to do this except for Maureen. Everyone, it turned out, had some sort of More Imporant Thing to do that weekend, such as work, being in distant lands for vacation, or graduating from university. Why someone would want to walk down an aisle to receive a piece of paper instead of gobbling pieces of cauliflower is beyond me, but I suppose everybody has their priorities.
Another thing my absent friends missed out on was the total barrage of advertising Maureen and I received from Cotopaxi—the creator of Questival—in the weeks after signing up. They, therefore, probably still have no idea who, what, or where is Cotopaxi. I, admittedly, did not either before the event, but all the email spam that clogged the Inbox rectified my ignorance.
Cotopaxi, it turns out, is a relatively new company that makes outdoor gear. You could liken them to LL Bean or Eddie Bauer except that they seem to be trying to posture themself as more hip and benevolent. They even have a motto of “Do Good” and a mascot of a llama. And they have a smarter marketing team.
I say that because it quickly became apparent Questival—in addition to being a bona fide fun event—was one of the world’s most brilliantly conceived marketing campaigns. In addition to acquiring email addresses from the thousands of people who sign up for the race, Questival gets people excited to do imaginative, crazy stunts that they’d want to share with friends on their social media accounts. (Questival, by the way, is held in dozens of other cities in the United States besides Denver, during different times of the year.)
There were also borderline sleazy challenges where you could earn points for following Cotopaxi’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Maureen doesn’t have an account for any of those platforms, so it was up to me to do the “liking,” which I did in the name of gaining three measly points for the team.
There were also a few challenges that required posting a photo of the challenge to social media, and then taking a screenshot to upload to the Questival Android or iOS mobile app during the event, in order to be awarded points. Which leads me to describe another handicap for our team: we only had one phone we could upload required short videos and photos on, as Maureen was the world’s last Windows phone holdout as even I, a self-professed Microsoft fanboy, had switched to Android full-time a couple months ago. The limited bandwith of only one phone slowed us down a little bit.
A third handicap—in addition to the dearth of team members and phones—was one of organization. Due to having More Important Things to Do of my own the week before the start, I didn’t get a chance to look at the 247 challenges in advance despite Cotopaxi sending them out to teams 24 hours before Questival and therefore was only creating a spreadsheet prioritizing them during the race (which hogged up at least half-an-hour on its own). Whoops.
Ah well, like I said, we were going to take it easy.
Anyhow, below are the challenges that we, Team Cowabunga!, ended up doing. (Why Cowabunga!, you might ask? Because it seemed like most of the other teams were coming up with names based on Cotopaxi’s mascot of a llama, such as Llama Mama or Dolly Llama or Como Se Llama, and we refused to do any more shilling for this Cotopaxi company than we were already doing by participating in this Questival. Cowabunga!, at least, conjured the image of bovine. Maureen actually wanted our name to be a haiku of “an animal that the haiku would initially suggest a llama but ironically end with a cow” but that became a little too impractical, not to mention required using too many brain cells.)
- Successfully arrive at the kick-off/launch party at having parked legally and lawfully or take public transport.
- Complete the kickoff challenge at 7:30 (It will be announced from the stage)
- Find and take a team photograph with this adorable cow statue. (The cow statue, which we determined with the help of Bing, turned out to be outside the Denver Art Museum.)
- Eat at a roadside diner, order the 12th thing on the menu. (We went to Denver Diner, and the 12th thing on the menu turned out to be a Greek salad. We encountered many other Questival teams there too.)
- Everyone on your team eats one raw clove of garlic each. (This challenge ended up upsetting both Maureen’s and my stomach.)
- Post a photo from Questival to your blog and put the url in the caption.
- Watch a sunrise. Take a break and enjoy the moment. (I set an alarm for 5:20 a.m. for us to do this. We immediately went back to sleep until 8:00 a.m., underscoring our noncompetitiveness in this race!)
- Brush your teammate’s teeth for them, turn the water off whilst brushing.
- Cook a pancake, try to make the it in the shape of a llama. (I didn’t have any pancake batter, but Maureen managed to make a pancake out of masa.)
- Contact the nonprofit of your choice and schedule a time to go in and volunteer with them after the Questival. (This was an easy one for me, considering the number of nonprofits I am involved with.)
- Make a smoothie using at least 5 different fruits and vegetables. (We made one out of spinach, bananas, an orange, an apple, blackberries, greek yogurt and crushed ice.)
- Give one of your teammates a piggy back ride up 3 flights of stairs. (Pretty easy because Maureen is light! Certainly easier than running up and down the stairs 102 times like I did the other week.)
- Research how to correctly treat a snake bite then make a 15-sec video sharing what you learned.
- Research the symptoms of heat stroke then make a 15-sec video sharing how to spot the symptoms.
- As a team hold a “wall sit” as long as you can. (We did so for about a minute… good enough.)
- Do a load of laundry. Hang dry instead of using a dryer. (We did this with a bunch of towels. They were the only things I needed washing.)
- Tie a bowline knot in a 15 second video.
- Film a 15 second video teaching how to tie an alpine butterfly knot.
- Go to a public place and eat a stock of cauliflower like one might eat an apple. Pretend that this is your ‘normal’ and film others reactions. (We did this at the home of our friend Amanda, who was having a graduation party that afternoon.)
- Ride a unicycle. (We went to my friend Matt’s for this, as he has a unicycle. I rode the unicycle using walls for balance, since I was not going to learn how to ride one in ten minutes.)
- Write a note with 10 things you love about Colorado and leave it for someone else to find. (We left this list at Fetafeat restaurant.)
- Go to a restaurant serving food from a country you’ve never been to, and eat a dish you’ve never heard of. Be honest, really try something new and make it count. (We went to Fetafeat, a middle eastern restaurant, and ordered kafta kabobs.)
- Order some food and record a review as if you are Guy Fieri while you eat it. Remember to say “money” over and over to be authentic. (I did this at Fetafeat too.)
- Creatively take a photo with your favorite piece of street art that you find during Questival. (We did this with electrical box art near Fetafeat.)
- Boulder one problem outdoors. (Maureen did this at Piano Ridge.)
- Lay face down motionless in a public area for 60 seconds or until a stranger comes to check on you. (Maureen also did this at Piano Ridge.)
- Have a teammate do 50 consecutive unbroken pushups and submit a timelapse video of the feat. (I did this at home. I usually can do up to 60 or 70 if I really try, so this was pretty easy.)
There were a whole lot more challenges we could have done that I was looking forward to, such as successfully kicking a field goal from the 15 yard line using your left foot, performing your best pencil dive off a high dive into a pool (12 feet or higher), swimming 200m continuously, and doling a belly flop at a public pool. Alas, we ran out of both time and energy. Cauliflower doesn’t have that many calories, you know.
Start: May 12, 2017 7:00 p.m.
Finish: May 13, 2017 6:30 p.m. (we called it quits half an hour early)