That's right folks, the Cinciditarod. It's a sporting event that cleverly combines the words "Cincinnati" and "Iditarod," as well as the meanings of both. The Cinciditarod is sort of like the grueling 1,100-mile Alaskan dog-sled race, except that it's held in Cincinnati, without dogs, with shopping carts instead of sleds and the course is only five miles. No big.
Forty teams of five will be competing in the race on Saturday, the same day as the actual Iditarod in Alaska. The teams start Fountain Square with one goal: to make their way through the streets of downtown, Over-the-Rhine, Newport and Covington while physically attached to grocery carts (yes, grocery carts). They must make five mandatory stops along the way and pick up grocery items, which will be donated to the FreeStore FoodBank.
CityBeat spoke to Melinda Voss, weird race veteran (she competed in October's Red Bull Soap Box Derby in Mount Adams), about the Cinciditarod, her team (A Streecar Named Delirious) and the important role sabotage takes when you want to be a winner.
CityBeat: How did you hear about the Cinciditarod?
Melinda Voss: My friends and I had signed up for the Broomball League on Fountain Square, but sadly we didn't make the cut. All of the Broomball rejects were then invited to run around the city dressed in costumes tied to shopping carts. We said yes, of course.
CB: Why are you participating?
MV: It's always fun to participate in unsanctioned sporting events. Also, it's great to see your friends push their physical stamina to the breaking point for no good reason. Proceeds go to the FreeStore FoodBank, which has our support. We are also so thrilled to be doing this in downtown Cincinnati. What better scenery to be hurtling by as we dash from check point to check point. Cincinnati has the architecture of New York but fortunately not the traffic. I would guess many might perish in a similar race in New York City.
CB: What are you doing to prepare for the race?
MV: We've had a team meeting in which we finalized our cart theme, costumes and instruments of sabotage. Yes, I was surprised too. Sabotage of other shopping cart teams is condoned and even encouraged within the limits of the law. We've also spent time practicing a song and dance routine. Apparently the routine is a very important component of each teams final score. If we excel at anything we're hoping it's because we've entertained the judges.
CB: Do you have a team name? Who is on your team?
MV: Our team name is "A Streetcar Named Delirious" and is made up of myself, Melinda Voss; my husband, Jason Hatfield; my Mom, Heidi Voss; and my two best girl friends, Beth McDaniel and Mandy Levy. Our theme is centered around supporting streetcars in Cincinnati. We would rather ride streetcars around the city than shopping carts.
CB: What is your strategy?
MV: Plan ahead and stay ahead. We might be the weakest and most unfit, but we're hoping that with a good plan and well-executed acts of sabotage we will win this thing.
CB: What are the rules?
MV: There don't seem to be many rules except we have to stop at five checkpoints across the city and purchase everything on the shopping list. You also have to complete the race in 2.5 hours, which is easier said then done.
CB: What do you get if you win?
MV: That is a mystery. I'm told there are prizes for the following: Best Time (1st, 2nd and 3rd place), Best Cart and Costume, Best Performance, Best Glamour Shot, Best Sabotage, Best Puzzle Solving, Best Obstacle Course and three "random" prizes created by judges during the race. The prizes are completely unknown. It appears we are all racing primarily for bragging rights.
CB: What will you be wearing?
MV: The weather looks like rain, so more than likely we will be wearing all-body rain gear because it's both functional and the one easy thing we could find for matching outfits.
CB: I know you also participated in a race earlier in Mount
Adams. Why are these races important? Or are they important?
MV: That's true. My family and I participated in the Red Bull Soap Box Derby in October. I'm not sure we had a specific reason for entering the Soap Box Race other than the fact that it was dangerous and gave us a reason to dress up in costumes and build something together. The race was important because it got around 30,000 people to cram onto a few streets in Mount Adams, which probably hasn't happened in a long time. I loved seeing that many people return to the city. Imagine what it was like when that many people were actually living in areas like Over-the-Rhine. It was also a wonderful showcase of the city's crazy hills. Cincinnati had to be the most treacherous Soap Box Derby course to date.
CB: Do you think you're going to win?
MV: It seems possible. If groups of people will be tying themselves to shopping carts and racing around the city, it seems very realistic that team A Streetcar Named Delirious will win.
If you can't make it downtown Saturday to chase people tied to shopping carts, fear not: CityBeat will be following the events of the day with video cameras, and with the help of our lovely and talented friends at PROJECTMILL, we'll be making an exciting montage for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned for that next week.
Rules of engagement (from 3CDC):
1. Each team consists of five racers and one shopping cart.
2. Team members must be 18 or older and present a photo ID at check-in.
3. Shopping cart must be obtained LEGALLY.
4. Carts CANNOT be modified, only decorated. Teams may NOT attach platforms which allow them to "ride" the cart. Your shopping cart must roll on four rubber caster wheels. The only exception is that you can attach some sort of sled substructure to the bottom of the cart in case of deep snow or treacherous ice.
5. In terms of cart décor and costumes: No homelessness themes. Homelessness is not a laughing matter.
6. Each team must go from the starting line, to each checkpoint, and then to the finish line. Teams may choose the route between checkpoints for themselves. Skipping or half-assing a checkpoint challenge will add serious penalty minutes to your time, possibly putting you out of the running for prizes.
7. During the event, teams must stay on the sidewalks, within crosswalks, and observe traffic lights. In other words, don’t break the law. We don’t want you to end up in jail, or even worse, road kill.
8. The five racers in a team must be in some way connected to the cart at all times along the route. Four racers must be forward of the back wheels of the cart (the "sled dog" position) and one racer must be behind the cart