Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Race Report: Run For Your Lives 5K

When I learned of the Run For Your Lives 5K series, the first thing that came to mind was:
How cool! I can sign up as a zombie and get a novel speed workout.
Unfortunately, there was no NorCal venue in 2012, so I would have to wait until May 2013 to get my stumble on. The race was conveniently timed to be about a month after American River 50 Miler, so I signed up. I tried to convince Twirly and others to join me, but the novelty was lost on them.
To be part of the Zombie Horde required a five hour commitment. Two hours for make-up and general zombie transformation, and then three hours on the course, chasing participants down in order to infect them. Each runner got three flags of the football variety, and whomever crossed the finish line with at least one was considered a survivor and got a finishing time and survivor's medal. Those who returned flag-less were given a finisher's medal indicating that they were in fact, infected.
Zombie's received an infected finisher's medal (I ended up running almost 6 miles during my shift), a beer ticket and a t-shirt. Spectators were allowed, and Twirly joined me for the day just East of Clear Lake, although she failed to see why or how zombies had become so popular. She dressed in her brightest, rainbow-iest outfit and declared herself the zombie anti-dote.
In the ZTC awaiting transformation
I had vacillated on my costume in the weeks before the event. I wanted to be comfortable, but memorable. Complicated outfits like business suits and scientist garb were off the table. I considered life guard, but my 25 lbs of excess weight precluded a shirtless option. I also did not want to have to buy clothes which I was going to trash afterwards, so that left me staring into my closet the night before. I picked out some shorts splattered in paint from the boat yard, and a golf shirt from the 2010 US Open. My father and I had volunteered at Pebble Beach that year, and I had an extra uniform shirt which was nice and lightweight. A golfer I would be.

Waiting for the paint to dry
We arrived at the event just as the fourth wave of runners was starting. There were a few who had finished already, as a new wave of runners started every 30 minutes. We figured attendance must have been thousands by the end of the day. I entered the "Zombie Transformation Center" and began the change. My clothes were shredded with a serrated blade, and make up was applied via air brush, spatula and brush. The final touch was a spattering of blood. It was messy, but fun. Eventually the horde was divided into 14 groups and spread around the course.

Freshly bloodied

As each runner was given three flags, we were instructed to allow them to keep at least one until the later zones. I was in zone 9, which meant that any runner with two flags was fair game. We were allowed to take their last flag, but advised to offer it back to them so that they had something to run for as they neared the end. My zone had about 18 zombies, and three of us were chasers.

It was a hot day, and water quickly became the focus for both zombies and runners alike. The course only had two aid stations, and the two bottles of water provided to each zombie quickly went dry. We sent someone to the aid station to pick up a few gallons for our zone, and the rest of the day went pretty smoothly. The stumblers would act like gates and funnel the runners towards the chasers, who would wait until the runners had passed before running up behind them.

Think flag football for three hours.

I had a blast chasing people of all ages and shapes. I even got my groan down pretty well, for if I didn't groan, they assumed I was another runner behind them and it was too easy to rip a flag off their belt. We all agreed that three hours was a long shift; two hours would have been perfect.

I could tell that most of the runners were not "in training". There were the obvious zombie fans; the goths and emos that had come out not for the exercise, but because there were zombies. Then there was the enormous contigent of stoners. They could run for brief stretches, but ran out of breath quickly and became apathetic. The runners in the crowd set a pace and did not stop. I saw five of them, maybe. Mostly, the runners were groups of overweight friends, but they all had a good time running when necessary, and as long as they ran, I chased. A few were too fast for me, but mostly, I would catch them and take their flag.

I was exhausted by the end of my shift, and it was obvious I had hurt my hip/groin. My limp resembled a stumble, and my chase only lasted a step or two. When I returned to the Apocalypse Festival to find Twirly and start drinking beer, the pain had gotten worse. I needed a shower and food. There was a water tanker truck providing a forceful blast of water to remove mud from the runners and make-up and blood from the zombies, which felt awesome in the heat of the afternoon.

Feeling undead at the finish, sporting bling
Once I was cleaned up, fed and had a couple beers in me, we agreed it was time to go. My legs cramped in the car on the way home, and I could hardly walk the next day. As I write this four days later, my quads and calves are still extremely sore, and I have come to the realization that I probably pulled my groin...

I guess distance running is not the best conditioning for flag football.

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