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 Team Sun take on 'Amazing Race'   

Toronto Sun's Jim Slotek and Jenny Yuen at the finish line in The Amazing Race Canada Media Challenge in Toronto, July 9, 2013. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)

The Amazing Race Media Challenge

 Jim Slotek, Jenny Yuen, QMI Agency
Jul 12, 2013

"Our brave fathers side by side

For freedom, home and loved ones dear

Firmly stood and nobly died

And so the rights which they maintained

We swear to yield them never

Our watchword ever more shall be

The Maple Leaf Forever"

OK, now memorize those lyrics to a song Canadian kids sang in school long, long ago. Right now. Take a minute.

Now imagine going halfway across a park and reciting them word-for-word, while your partner crosses her fingers and tries not to swear. I went back and forth to the lyric-fence about 30 times, each time missing it by a line or even a single word.

Thus did Team Sun drop from the somewhere near the top of The Amazing Race Canada Media Challenge in Toronto, to seventh out of eight in a frenetic duplication of the show's competition.

The good news: if it were an actual episode of the show, the team from KISS 92 FM would have been eliminated -- morning show personality Maurie Sherman finally giving up trying to memorize the lyrics and being assessed a time penalty -- and news reporter Jenny Yuen and I would have survived to compete another day.

Kudos to Chris Jancelewicz and Sarah Kelsey of the Huffington Post/AOL who beat us by more than a half hour and won $5,000 for their charity.

That parent company CTV was represented by two teams in the race, from CTV and the 24-hour news channel CP24 (who placed fourth and third respectively).

We were assured that our experience was an accurate representation of what the Amazing Race Canada contestants faced in every corner of the country (up to and including a production assistant -- in our case a friendly kid named Ian -- assigned to each team to keep them honest). And we'll be able to compare when the show debuts Monday.

For our part, it was a definite workout. From the initial clue -- "Make your way by transit to the Red Canoe sculpture and find your next clue" -- it was slow-as molasses-transit and taxis (Toronto streetlights were still out from the previous night's record-breaking deluge), punctuated by the kind of full-out foot-racing I haven't done in decades. I earned that hamstring pull.

My favourite challenge: a tour through the Cadillac Lounge club, studying the memorabilia and answering trivia questions about the lineup of the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and the kind of soda pop James Dean endorsed.

Producers happily gave us how-to-win tips after the fact, including fitness (to be honest, I used to run a lot, but haven't for any distance this year) and -- most importantly -- complete trust in your partner.

We certainly have that. I have complete trust that, under pressure, Jenny could have memorized the words to The Maple Leaf Forever a lot faster than me. And she gets full points for patience.



I've never seen an episode of The Amazing Race. But now I've lived one -- for a few hours anyway.

Not that I hesitated at all when entertainment writer Jim Slotek asked me to be a part of Team Sun for The Amazing Race Canada media challenge this week in downtown Toronto.

After all, I thought, I've had some experience hustling around the city, completing missions with a partner in City Chase years ago. And I was up for the competition, expecting the challenge, based on my rudimentary knowledge of the reality TV series, would be part-mental, part-physical.

Going into the race, my biggest fear was slowing Jim down if I ran out of steam.

And my fears came true as we entered our first challenge -- seeking out Toronto's famous red canoe sculpture.

As a city reporter, I'm used to going to different places. Chances are, if you tell me a landmark, I can tell you exactly where it is.

Except this one.

Jim and myself had zero clue where this elusive red canoe could be.

I knew facts like, it was on a Top 10 list of "Best Makeout Spots in Toronto." But aside from that? Nothing.

So we did what you do in a race when you don't know where you're going.

We ran.

In whatever direction.

And shouted.

At random people.

Looking for some help to point us the right way.

Probably not the best strategy, in hindsight. Cooler heads might have prevailed.

"Uh, I think it's down near Fort York," said one man in a suit we hit up.

It was better than nothing. And when we found ourselves on a streetcar with two other teams, we knew we were on the right track at least.

From there, we scattered. And after a few more hurried inquiries, we found ourselves sprinting westwards toward the red canoe.

Located at Canoe Landing Park. Funny that.

Nearing the canoe, my face beet-red, I was trying to catch my breath as Jim accelerated. One of the conditions of the race? You can never be 20 feet from your partner. That meant pushing myself to catch up. Turns out, the mental part of the race, I can handle; the physical -- maybe not so much.

But I did learn some charming facts as we made our way through the gruelling race course. Among them? The Cadillac Lounge's big pink Cadillac was made in 1963. And St. Andrew Playground is nowhere near St. Andrew's Station.

As for those Maple Leaf Forever lyrics, while Jim was frustrated trying to memorize them, honestly, I was just thankful for the break after all that running.

And though we came in seventh place, I'm proud of us. We worked hard and still had an ounce of humour to show for it when we finally made it to the finish line.

But notably, our challenge was three hours. I can't imagine doing this for three-and-a-half weeks.

If that were the case, there would be plenty of heated arguments.

Even if over something as silly as a big, red canoe.  (photos at this site)

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