Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Zombie Finger or, how I broke my finger at Run For Your Lives...

So this one is just about my finger... how did I break it? Being a zombie at Run For Your Lives.

yeah, something's not right about that ring finger.
By Monday morning there was really no change in my finger. I had kept it splinted up with stuff I bought at Walgreens on Sunday morning. But I had also come to the decision that it was probably fine, and that I had just dislocated it, and "fixed it" by straightening it.

But Wil really wanted me to go see a doctor... which I frankly didn't have time to do, but I figured I should just go and see Dr. Deans so she could give me a clean bill of health.

They squeezed me in within a few minutes. Dr. Deans took a look, felt around a bit, and suggested I get an X-ray because "things feel kinda loose". Down to the radiology clinic I went, where they took three views of my hand. Then back upstairs, where I was put in a room to wait for the results. Ten minutes later, Dr. Deans burst in and said, "Well, it's a fracture, so we're gonna get you in to see the orthopedist today!"

Ah. I thought I would spend an hour or so with Dr. Deans then be sent on my way. I could see the day unraveling before my eyes. The orthopedist was over at Northgate, so I walked home, sent an email to my team that I would miss the next set of meetings, and then drove to Northgate.

Got to the office pretty early, and then started filling out page after page of new patient forms. It seems pretty cruel to make someone with a hand injury fill her name and address out 7 times. By the end, I wasn't even trying to make it legible anymore.

When I was taken back to the exam rooms, it turns out that, because I didn't carry an actual film x-ray (which had been done digitally in Ballard), they needed to take another set. (WTF?) Hopefully my insurance won't freak out about that. So I was sent over to have an additional set of x-rays taken. Awesome!

A few minutes later I met Dr. Scott Ruhlman, who confirmed the break by telling me I sure had done a good job on my finger. Of course, then he wanted to know just how I broke my finger, so for the umpteenth time I had to tell the story. (Dumb enough to break it, bad ass enough to straighten it, smart enough to take off my wedding ring...)

Dr. Ruhlman explained that I had a spiral fracture, which results in the ligaments in my finger slowly pulling the bones down toward the hand. What we needed to do is straighten out the finger, pin it in place, and let the bones heal. They happened to have an opening in their schedule for the next day, so I jumped on it. After all, who wants to wait a week to start getting healed? Besides, my mom was already in town, so she was able to stay overnight and take care of her little girl. :)

We decided there wasn't any point in trying to splint it overnight, so I walked out of the office with a big purple finger, and hurried in to the office for the afternoon.

Tuesday morning finger. Yep, still broken. 
Tuesday morning I got up early to finish a work project (score!) and then headed to the surgery center at 8am. More paperwork (of course!) but I was taken back to the pre-op area quickly. Got into my sweet gown, hairnet thing, and slipper socks, and waited. Oh, I also wrote my initials on my hand where I wanted them to operate. I LOVE THAT.

After a while Dr. Ruhlman came out to say hello, talk me through the operation, and answer any questions. He was going to try not to need an incision, but use x-rays and pins through the skin. (To be honest, I don't remember if this is what he did. Hey, I was doped!) He also told me he was going to do a Bier Block, which would numb my arm from mid forearm down, rather than just numb the finger.

Then I met the anesthetist, who told me he would give me a "slug of drugs" which would make me really relaxed so that I wouldn't feel the needles when they numbed my arm, but wouldn't knock me out. Of course, remember very little after I walked into the operating room and climbed on the table... other than meeting the nurses and explaining to the anesthetist why Brooks shoes were the best running shoes. Yeah, that's me, always working!

Then I was waking up ... seemingly mid-sentence with the anesthetist. He told me I chatted throughout the surgery. What on earth do I talk about???

I went into the recovery area and sat for a while. Dr. Ruhlman came out and said it went really well; a nurse brought me some saltines and apple juice (manna from heaven!); and my mom came back and hopefully did a better job of listening to the pot-op instructions than I did.

On the way home I picked up some percoset at Bartells... which I don't like much because it makes me feel queasy. I spent the afternoon trying to take it easy.

The first night was strange; while feeling came back pretty quickly to my pointer finger and thumb, my middle finger and pinkie were just dead meat. Well, not quite dead meat, because I could move them... but I couldn't feel anything. I remembered a colleague -- no stranger to finger surgery -- say that one of the possible side effects of a Bier Block was nerve damage, so I kept lying in bed worrying that I couldn't feel anything and trying not to cry. Of course, the numbness in those fingers also meant that my ring finger was numb... which means I didn't have any pain.

Went in to the office yesterday and almost immediately regretted it. But I was able to interview one candidate for a position and check in with my team, so it was worth it... Oh, and Jana introduced me to the Geico "Hump Day" commercial, so it was TOTALLY worth it. :) But I only held out till noon, when I headed home to work from the couch.

The feeling didn't fully come back to my fingers until this morning, though I still don't have much pain in my ring finger. Hopefully I am past the worst of it!

A few random thoughts: 

The only really good thing is that, since I already hit my out-of-pocket maximum for my insurance this year, I am not going to pay a couple of grand for a moment of folly. 

Percoset makes me break out in a sweat about an hour after I take it. Why is that?

I was really afraid that I would lose sensation in my fingers forever. 

Camels are inherently funny.

Forty-eight hours later and my hand is still quite swollen, I haven't managed to get the "iodine" off my fingers, and I am already bored of the splint. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Run For Your Lives race report

Last weekend Wil and I ran the Zombie Run in Seattle -- a fun enough, if underwhelming, zombie-themed 5K. This weekend, however, I had roped my LSF (long-suffering friend) Suz into doing the Run For Your Lives 5K with me -- as a ZOMBIE!!!

We signed up for the middle shift -- 10:45 - 12:45, or something like that -- because the race itself was being held in the back of beyond... somewhere called McCleary, that's southwest of Olympia. In addition to the 90-minute drive, we also needed to arrive two hours before our shift so we could be turned into zombies...

Suz picked up up a little before 7 -- and she burst out laughing at the sight of me. See, I didn't just want to wear street clothes... even street clothes that I didn't want anymore. So I went to my local Goodwill the day before and picked up a very handsome leopard-print nightie and some curlers. Add some fluffy "slipper socks" over my running shoes, some running shorts (so I didn't flash anyone -- I figured I would be scary enough...), and a ratty black bathrobe, and I was ready to go.

We drove and drove and drove... but traffic was light and we made good time. We weren't quite sure what to expect when we got there... would there be signs? Gold star for the organizers -- there were large banners out on the highway so it was easy to spot. And you know how I appreciate good signage!!!

We turned into the driveway and joined a small line of cars. Gold star number two: they were super organized with how they took the parking fees. As zombies, we actually even got free parking. Woot!

The parking itself was a little painful -- I'm always amazed at just how long it takes to get cars parked in a field -- but within a few minutes we were out of the car and on our way in. I vacillated a bit on whether or not to wear my bathrobe, knowing it would get destroyed, but in the end decided I would rather have the extra warmth. It was a very good call.

First we stopped at the waiver tent, signed the documents, and then got our "packets" -- a black wristband with our zombie zone number on it and a little card with zombie rules printed on it. Humans received race bibs, too.

Then we joined the line at the Zombie Transformation Center, right on time. It was interesting to see what other zombies-to-be were wearing. Humans were standing around watching the transformations... it was a little like being in a zoo.

First stop was wardrobe, where 4 or 5 guys with various knives and cutting blades shredded clothes. Slight demerit here: it hadn't occurred to us that we would need to take off the clothes we wanted shredded... I think a lot of other zombies had the same issue. But I handed over my bathrobe and they went to work.

Then we went to the next stop -- the makeup line. Chaser zombies -- the ones who would actually be running after the humans -- got less makeup because they were "fresher". Stumbling zombies, like us, got more attention because we were more decomposed. Ewww. 

Some zombies, including both of us, were given prosthetic scars. First they cleaned our skin with rubbing alcohol, then glued on thin latex "scars".

Suz having her scar applied

hmm, am I allergic to latex?

Then on to the next station, where an artist used an airbrush to apply a green-grey-yellowy base pallor.

greenery yallery, Grosvenor Gallery (shout out to my G&S fans out there...)
The next artist airbrushed on contour -- hollowing out our cheeks, under our eyes, etc.

Suz getting contour -- which looked AWESOME!!!

Then a third artist applied "mud splatters" and general dirt by flicking dark paint off the end of a stiff brush.
it's VERY DIFFICULT to get this much makeup off!!
The final stop in the tent was for blood, where Suz and I got sticky dark "blood" on our scars as well as in other spots on our faces. Gory goodness! The masterpieces:

Suz -- looking properly zombified

Sunny - looking a bit worried
We had 45 minutes before our shift, and 30 minutes before the "blood throw" ... so we were allowed to leave the zombie pen and wander around the party. Humans from the first waves had already finished, music was playing, and nervous humans were waiting for their turn to start.  We wandered over to a hill overlooking part of the course -- a series of wide dirt "lanes" with hairpin turns and plenty of hills. In the distance we could see the "smokehouse" -- essentially a giant tent, filled with smoke and live wires with low-voltage electricity. There was also a covered grandstand that occasionally had streams of humans sprinting across it. But we couldn't see much else.

I kept forgetting that we were in full makeup -- we posed for several photos and chatted about the "transformation" with humans. But soon it was time to go back to the pen and get bloody.

ye olde buckets of blood

the blood line...
We joined a line of zombies trudging slowly toward a splattered tarp and some muddy ground, where one of the artists reached into a 5-gallon bucket and threw handfuls of red, sticky goo at each of our fronts and backs. The splat -- when it hit you -- was cold, and surprisingly gelatinous. Clearly not just corn syrup -- it must have had some gelatin in it. But it was sticky an somewhat uncomfortable. Ewwww.

blood thrower!
Shortly thereafter we received our zombie instructions. First the obvious -- no actual human flesh eating. Some zombies threw up their hands and stormed out. (Just kidding.) Then some talk about basic safety -- no tackling, punching, biting, etc. We were also told to look out for overly aggressive humans, and that if we saw -- or experienced -- a human hitting or knocking down a zombie, we were supposed to report it to the course monitors. In either case, the offender would be removed from the course and escorted off the property.

life flag
Then we were told that we also had to let some of them live. (Zombie groans and grumbles.) Each human is issued a belt with three "life flags" attached to it, which they wear while running the race. The belt is kind-of like a flag football belt, with vinyl flags attached with strips of velcro. Zombies are scattered along the course in various zones, and our job is to try and take the flags from the humans. Humans who finish the race with at least one life flag receive a "survived" medal, while other runners receive an "infected" medal. But, because humans are sad when they don't "survive", we zombies were instructed to let some people live.

We had guidelines... in the first mile, or zones 1-4, zombies could take no more than one flag. Scare the humans, sure... let them feel like they had outrun a zombie, sure... but keep 'em alive. Zones 5-8 (the second mile) could go for a second flag, but not take anyone's last flag. And for those of us in zones 9-12, we could take last flags... but not on every human.

Eventually we were split into our zones and walked out to the course. We were told not to get greedy and take any flags while we were en route to our zones... and at one point a large "herd" of us had to cross the course while a few humans were running... and I heard one say, "Oh, wow. That's so unfair."But we let him live...

Our zone was the dirt hills that we had seen earlier. Convenient for us, though it would have also been fun to see some of the other parts of the course. Suz and I were sent with another two zombies to a flat spot at the top of a small hill. As stumblers, we weren't allowed to chase the humans, and the chasers in the flat just before our hill weren't allowed to chase humans up the hill.

We took our positions and waited. After a few minutes, our first few humans came stumbling through. My first thought was how tired they all looked -- how muddy, tired, and frankly defeated they looked. Even just running up the little hill to our perch seemed to totally gas people out. Not that that stopped us from launching attacks.
(maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh...)

I don't know which of us got the first flag... but soon each of us had several. I'm not gonna lie -- there was some zombie high-fiving going on... and I don't think I was alone in letting out a war whoop after one particularly satisfying grab. Sometimes I would lunge at a human who would change direction - right into Suz's path. Sometimes Suz set them up for me. It was pretty fun. Some of the humans gave up their flags really easily -- others were bound and determined to hold on to them. Some humans essentially cheated by putting on their belts under long shirts, so the flags were mostly hidden. Still others decided to wear their flags in what the organizers described as the "swimsuit area", thinking that that would deter zombies. Well, no...

A few humans tried to hold on to their flags with their hands -- but the course marshalls were clear about this -- humans couldn't just grab and hold their own flags. Some humans were smart, gathering in groups before running though a zombie area. Some teams actually organized themselves so that humans with flags were protected by those who had lost theirs. (Smaaart.) Other humans got more aggressive and pushy. Some hit out pretty hard trying to keep us away from their flags. Others almost tackled zombies.

I don't want to imply that the zombies were all pillars of the community... one of the chasers near us was overly aggressive and frequently broke the zombie rules. But for the most part, the zombies seemed to be having a good time. Our little group even encouraged "lifeless" humans who passed us, telling them they were in the last mile and that they were doing great. Sometimes when we took someone's last flag, our group would quietly chant "one of us... one of us...". Hilarious.

So we happily hunted for about an hour. But at one point, while pulling a flag, I felt a sharp pain and then nothing. After pocketing the flag, I looked at my left hand.

I don't have a picture... but.. well... basically my ring finger wasn't straight anymore. Somewhere below the top knuckle it took a strange left turn. I couldn't figure out, at first, what was going on. I mean, why was my finger shaped like that?

Then I think my inner child kicked in... and I thought, "Oh, wow.. that's broken. I have to fix it, or I'll get in trouble."

So I reached down with my right hand and pulled my finger straight.

My initial thought was, "Well, okay, I fixed that. I totally just fixed that."

But then something wiser in me said, "Umm, no. It's still wobbly."

I should quickly point out that all of that happened in about 3 seconds. I stood there flexing my hand a little... and then turned to Suz and said, "I think I just broke my finger." I think she thought I was kidding... but then looked at me, looked at my hand, and said, "Really?" I'm not sure who said it -- probably clever Suz, though she (as Long-Suffering Friend) may have still been trying to figure out if I was serious -- but I think I said, "I'm taking my ring off and putting it in the zip pocket of my shorts."

In the intervening days I have A) felt like a total badass for straightening my own finger and B) felt like a genius for remembering to take off my wedding ring before my finger swelled up.

I stood around for a few minutes, sorta wondering what to do. As a rule follower, I felt weird about leaving before my zombie shift was over. (Yeah, I know. Dumb.) But I decided that -- if Suz didn't mind -- I'd quite like to go to the medical tent, please.

We said our farewells to our fellow zombies and made our way to a young race official. I said, "Hi... I broke my finger." He looked, said, "Do you want me to call someone?" and when I said, "Well, I just figured I should tell someone that I was leaving my post early." He then fiddled with his radio and called in a "WHITE FLAG... ZONE FOUR... BROKEN FINGER..."

We stood there for a few minutes while I felt increasingly stupid. Suz suggested we could just walk to the medical tent, seeing as it was next to the Zombie Transformation Center. The official hesitated, but when I assured him I could walk there unaided, said that he'd tell whoever turned up that we had gone to the tent.

On the way there Suz spotted an official-looking guy talking into a radio. I thought I heard him say "White flag", so I asked him if he was looking for a zombie with a broken finger. He took a look at my hand and said, "Yep... Let's go."

The staff in the med tent were friendly, sympathetic, and helped me immediately. They splinted my finger and tied it to my pinkie so I wouldn't move it too much. They also told me I should see a doctor, but that I could wait until Monday rather than go to an emergency room or urgent care.

We then went to the zombie tent to check out. As we were walking, Suz and I were wondering if we would still get our shirts, medals, and "drink token", or whether we would have been disqualified somehow. But I figured that they would at least give me a freakin' medal.

But of course, they were cool. They gave us our sweet shirts, "infected" medal, and -- because this event was a dry event, and one of the zombie perks was meant to be a free beer -- a $5 merch token. Now, I didn't need a koozie, a shot glass, or sticker... but they did have a sweet comic book that I thought Wil might enjoy.

Run For Your Lives 5K Infected Medal
We headed to the car, chatting with the next round of zombies-to-be who were lined up outside of the ZTC, and telling them to watch out. As we walked, we both admitted that, other than the broken finger thing, we were pretty much happy with the way the day turned out... that we were both pretty much happy to be done being zombies.

Back at the car we took off some of the icky stuff... I had brought garbage bags, into which I shoved my bathrobe and nightgown. My muddy shoes and socks I put in another bag -- I was keeping those.

So I know what you're thinking.... WHAT ABOUT THE FINGER???

Friday, August 23, 2013

Muddy Buddy Seattle race report

Even before I started running, I wanted to do a Muddy Buddy. I remember my climbing pal Lori Vos saying that she was flying somewhere to do one (Colorado? With her sister?) years ago.

Okay, okay, let's back up. What is this Muddy Buddy thing anyway? Muddy Buddy is -- I think -- the original adventure race. But from the outset it's been about having fun rather than being too roughy-toughy. Teams of two people -- and one bike -- travel a course together, alternating between running and biking, and completing obstacles along the way. At the start, buddy 1 rides the bike to the first obstacle, leaves the bike, and completes the obstacle. Meanwhile, buddy 2 runs to the first obstacle, picks up the bike, and then rides to obstacle #2. After completing obstacle 1, buddy 1 runs to obstacle 2 and picks up the bike. The two buddies continue leapfrogging each other throughout the course -- lather, rinse, repeat. Just before the end, the buddies meet up and crawl through a massive mud pit, crossing hte finish line together in true muddybuddyhood.

In short, I wanted in. But for years when I looked at the map of events, the nearest event was in Colorado. I even wrote a letter to Mr. Frog  once, saying, "Hey Mr. Frog -- Look at the map. Seattle needs muddy buddy!" And even though we often travel to running events, somehow the logistics of flying a bike to a destination just seemed too hard. So no Muddy Buddy for us. I think last year it might have made an appearance in Portland -- almost close enough 00 but since last year was the 40@40 project, we didn't make it.

So, joy of joys when we discovered that, finally, Muddy Buddy was coming to SEATTLE!!! I still had a little anxiety about the biking part, but I figured I could get thorugh a few miles as long as it wasn't technical mountain biking. (It's not.)

Even better news was coming, however. Seattle would also be hosting a Muddy Buddy Mud Run! Still  an obstacle race with your buddy, but no bike needed. Perfect! Oh, and the cherry on top? Competitior (which now owns Muddy Buddy and the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series) announced a "Rock 'n' Mud Challenge" -- run Seattle Rock 'n' Roll and Seattle Muddy Buddy and get a bonus medal.


Need I remind you that -- because we ran Portland RnR AND Seattle RnR we already received two other bonus medals; the Pacific Peaks and the Rock Encore Heavy Medal. Three races, ~30 miles, SIX medals. Bliss!!!

Anyway, race day finally came -- the day after the Zombie Run, which had my legs feeling a little weird, what with all the dashing and side-to-side motion.

We drove out to Issaquah and parked easily -- just a few feet from a GIANT INFLATABLE SLIDE!!! Oh, wow. I felt a mixture of excitement and terror. But I was mainly giddy to finally be at Muddy Buddy!

Muddy Buddy swag

We had picked up our packets the day before at REi -- a sweet tech tee, a ubiquitous string bag, some coffee beans (really!), and, as REI members, wristbands for a members lounge. This race just gets better and better!

So all that was left for us to do on race day was relax, look at some of the obstacles, and watch the first wave start. We had no idea what the course looked like -- I didn't even know how long it was -- but we watched the first runners race off into the woods, and they didn't come back for 15+ minutes.

When the first runners emerged, two women led. We watched them go up and down the slides before they ran out of sight again. When the leaders finally came back into view for the last view obstacles, the ladies still led. We just had enough time to see them hit the mud pit before we had to scamper off to our wave start.

To reduce congestion at the obstacles, they split each wave into a few starts. I think we were at the very back of our wave (4th of 4), but it did mean that we were only held up at the first obstacle.

We headed out on the trails in the park. It was a little crowded at first, but not bad. We splashed through part of the lake (and boy oh boy do I look GIDDY here)

A bit more running and we hit the first real obstacle -- a set of walls to climb over. We had to wait our turn for the first one, but only for a minute or so. Oddly enough, the two high walls were easier because there was a tiny ledge to brace your foot on on the way down the other side.

On the way to the next obstacle we passed a lot of other teams. But, boy, seeing the 25-foot cargo net climb made my stomach lurch. But I ran up to the net and started to climb. The scariest part? Turning at the top to come down the other side. Yikes.

I should point out that -- though I suppose I could have fallen off to top of an obstacle, I never felt they weren't super stable or well built.

Then more running, more obstacles. Every run we passed a few teams, which was really satisfying. Climbing walls? Check. Crawling tunnels? Check. Giant inflatable slides? Check. A "hugging balance beam"? CHECK!!!

One flaw -- mainly on my part -- I had no idea how long the course was, so I didn't know how much we had left to do. But suddenly we arrived back in the main park area, and splashed through another bit of lake. Coming out of the water my legs felt ridiculously heavy, but it was probably not just because of the wet shoes.

There was another rope-climbing wall, which I struggled with, and then a "slippery slope" -- but then, happily, we arrived at the mud pit.

I have to admit, the only slight disappointment with this otherwise awesome race was how little mud there was. But, oh, what a mud pit!!! Team Wil-Sun got a nice shout out AND got ourselves plenty muddy. :)

Once we climbed out of the pit, we held hands and crossed the finish. A volunteer gave us our medals, took our timing chip, and directed us to a photo booth, where we captured this classic:

After the run we picked up our Rock 'n' Mud medals (clank! clank!) and headed over to the beer garden to sample both a surprisingly tasty Cayman Jack margarita and a delicious pint of Red Hook. We also inadvertently made friends with a group of people who had a matching number in the SmartWool challenge.

See, at the SmartWool booth you could pick up a number. Find your same number and both of you get a free pair of SmartWool socks. Genius!!! Anyway, Wil and someone had the same number, so they went off to get their free socks. When they came back, they still had their number stickers... so we tried it again. All apologies to SmartWool... but I do know that the purpose of this sort of promotion is to get people to try product.... and that no vendor wants to bring stuff back. So I don't feel too bad about getting another free pair of socks. Which, btw, are AWESOME.

We also headed into the REI member lounge, where we had a slice of Veraci pizza (yum!) and some salad... though we managed to miss the Keen bag giveaway.

While we enjoyed a Red Hook I spotted a legend. I dragged Wil over to the fence and pointed. It was Bob Babbitt -- AKA Mr. Frog, founder of the Muddy Buddy series. Bless his heart, he came over to say hello, and we had a really nice chat. I told him how thrilled I was that they were in Seattle, and we talked about business, the growth and history of Muddy Buddy, using Craigs List for bikes, potentially adding a "tour pass" system, great races, and running for 10 minutes or so. I swear, it was like having a private audience with a rock star. No, really.

Overall... AWESOME. Loved the medal; the beautiful winding course, especially since each obstacle was something of a surprise; the great beer garden; the REI member lounge (I overheard someone say, "Who isn't an REI member in Seattle???"); two giant slides; efficient start; and just an incredibly fun experience.

One potential opportunity? MORE MUD!!! I admit, I struggled with the rope climbs... which made me tell Wil I wanted to learn how to climb a rope, to which he replied, "Yeah, for all of those rope-climbing events in your life." Maybe. I'd run this race any day. A+++.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Seattle Zombie Run race report

Busy weekend! Okay, so it’s Tuesday night and I’m just getting down to writing up the weekend events…

Friday night we went to a little place called Embellished in Edmonds to (attempt to) paint “Starry Night”. Yeah, maybe the fact that I hadn’t painted since… junior high? … should have told me that I shouldn’t start with a Van Gogh masterpiece? Anyway, this is the result:

Starry Night (on the Prairie)
I’m actually pretty happy with it. Suz’s is MUCH NICER.

Anyway, Saturday morning Wil and I ran the Zombie Run in Magnuson Park. Weeks and weeks ago (months and months?) I bought a deal on Zozi for $25 that got both of us in to the race. Why not?

Again, this is the summer of “weird little races” – so a Zombie Run seemed like a great addition to the list.

We arrived a bit early at the park – our “check-in” time, as humans, was a highly civilized 10 am… but being Team Wil-Sun, we got there early… But all that meant was that we got free parking equidistant from the park exit and the race start, we checked in and got our bibs and packets in 2 minutes, and then were able to just hang out and relax for an hour.

Packets were nicely thought out: a shirt (white, sigh), a “zombie survival pack” string bag, a “life belt” and three balloons, and a very funny stretchy terrycloth headband. As usual, I laugh when I see bib numbers at an untimed event… especially when I’m not sure there were course photographers…

We got our stuff, took it back to the car, and got our stuff ready. We inflated our life balloons properly… not just adding a teensy amount of air, the idea being that we could make them harder to pop. C’mon people, play the game right. Whenever I saw people with tiny little balloons, I thought “What tiny lives you have.”

Wil ready to run!
Life balloon (latex free!)

Oh, and of course I can’t forget this… a zombie squirrel. Well, maybe mummified squirrel:

We milled around before the run started. I was surprised at how small the event seemed, though I will say it did seem well organized. Creepy music was playing over the PA, and busloads of zombies were being driven away from the check-in hangar to be distributed around the course.

A few minutes before 11 a helicopter flew over. People seemed to think it was a news helicopter, but it clearly wasn’t – no branding. But boy oh boy do people like the idea of getting on the tv news… (So weird!) The entire time we were running, the helicopter circled overhead, lending a slightly creepy, intense feeling to the day. (Honestly, this was cool. I promise. )

Starting chute -- note the life balloons on the humans
We got into the starting chute and waited. Apparently check-in was taking longer than expected (oh, humans, when they say to arrive at 10, please don’t arrive at 10:55… ). A blood-splattered scientist took up a megaphone and started to tell us about the outbreak… a load of chemicals were spilled, which triggered a zombie virus. Or something like that. We were told that there would be “safe zones” at each mile, where we could recharge our life balloons and get some water before continuing on.

Some more creepy music, a few more buzzes from the helicopter, and then we were sent out to fend for ourselves…

Race Face!!!!
The first kilometer or so we just trotted along. Possibly my favorite part of the run was this sign:

A little ways past the sign we came to what I had, in my mind, imagined as a flipped tanker truck, but was actually a UHaul rental pickup and some large plastic barrels on the ground next to it… the chemical spill. Oh. But they had two “workers” next to it with megaphones, imploring everyone to turn back because there were zombies ahead, and warning everyone about the danger.

Being brave… or foolish… we continued on. As we entered a little patch of trees, we saw them – our first zombies. The path was pretty narrow and the runners were still really bunched up, but the zombies weren’t too aggressive and it was easy for us to avoid them. But I could hear the popping of life balloons as we darted from side to side to avoid the zombies.

As we continued along, there were more and more clumps of zombies along the trail. I managed to keep all my balloons up to the first safe zone, though Wil lost one in a wide space with a lot of fast-moving zombies. This was the best part of the course, I think – lots of fast zombies in a large space with what looked like airplane tail fins – the zombies and runners could hide a bit.

Humans who lost their lives pretty much stopped running and just walked until they reached a safe zone and could get more life. I'm not gonna lie -- sometimes we used these dead humans to block the zombies...

life-less humans
At the first safe zone Wil picked up a replacement balloon and we slurped down some water. It was getting hot – almost 11:30 by this point – and I was weirdly sweaty. Maybe because of the sweatband???

We headed out and immediately were set upon by a horde of zombies. I had my hair in a ponytail and while a zombie was grabbing for a balloon, he got a fistful of hair instead. OUCH!!! Now, I almost always have 2 or 3 extra hairbands on my wrist. Today? None. Dangit. When we got to a slightly less zombied zone I tried to just knot it on top of my head, with little success. A more secure up-do would have to wait till the next safe zone…

Wil lost his life balloons, but managed to scavenge a bit of life when we saw an unpopped balloon on the ground. I lost two of three before we made it to the second safe zone. We were allowed one balloon each in the safe zone, I had some more water, and then knotted my hair and tried to secure it with the one hairband I had.

Then we were back in it – with just over a mile to go to safety (aka the finish line) and two life balloons each. The paths were narrow, and riddled with zombies. We approached a tunnel. Outside a man in combat fatigues stood with a megaphone telling everyone that there were heavy concentrations of zombies ahead. As we tried to get through the narrow tunnel, we both lost our remaining life balloons. But, I think, we died heroically so that our fellow runners might live. At one point Wil let out a bloodcurdling “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”, which made all the zombies – and a lot of humans – freeze. Ha!

The remaining kilometer was more gentle for us because we didn’t need to keep sprinting or dodging. I actually managed to take a few zombie pics. Best zombie of the day? The sweet one handing out flowers. I assume he had been a vegetarian when he was a human…

We noticed that very few humans had any life balloons left as we hit the home stretch. One woman had one stuffed under her shirt. Yeah, okay honey, so you “survived”, but was that really the point?

It was hot, we were antsy, and most people were still on the course when we finished… so we decided to just head home. We did, however, stop at the Violet Sweet Shoppe on the way home since we were over on that side of town. So very yum!

Nice things about this race: clever swag bags, efficient packet pickup, nice additional merch. I also feel like I got a good workout because there was a lot of short sprints and side-to-side motion. Lots of stuff I don’t do all that often. Oh, and the sweet headband was hilarious.

Room for improvement: I believed the hype. I thought it would be more built-out than it was. I honestly expected a tanker truck on its side. Yeah, okay, I now realize that this was unrealistic. But still. I wanted a more immersive experience.

Next weekend Suz and I are doing Run For Your Lives as zombies – can’t wait to see what it’s like on the other team!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Run 10 Feed 10

Run 10 Feed 10 - I'm running to change the world
Run 10 Feed 10 is a running event with both actual races and a virtual component. The premise is simple -- run 10K, and donate 10 meals in your local community. The "races" are being held in September and October in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago. In addition to the races, a growing number of "fun runs" are being held across the country, including here in Seattle, Boston, LA, and Miami. I would have signed up for the Seattle race on September 28, but I'll be in Illinois that day running the Alpine Races Half Marathon.
Run 10 Feed 10 bag
Luckily for me, there's also a virtual option -- a "run my own 10K". I signed up for that, and will dedicate the first half of the half marathon to Run 10 Feed 10. For my $28 registration fee, I'll receive one of these sweet "feed bags":
Of course, most importantly, I'll also be donating ten meals. So it's a huge win.
I remember running a 5K around Green Lake several years ago... as the several hundred runners gathered, a woman came up to us and said, "So... what is this race?" We told her the name, and she said, "Oh... cool.. what does it raise money for?"
And it struck me... it didn't raise money for anything... well, other than the event organizers...
I'm not gonna lie -- I don't always race for charity. In fact, I rarely do. But all else being equal, I like to do what I can, when I can.
It's easy to get involved, whether you want to join one of the races or fun runs, or run a 10K on your own. Just go to to learn more.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Torchlight Run 5K race report

The Torchlight Run is a Seattle tradition -- one of the highlights of the local running calendar. I had only ever run it once... though I did register for it a couple of years ago and ended up bailing as it was the night we got home from the Alaska Marathon cruise...
Brooks is one of the main sponsors, so employees get to run for free. Free race? Yeah, I'm in!
The race is always held the night of the Torchlight Parade, and starts an hour before the parade. The course has been changed --improved, frankly j-- from the previous time I ran it, so the runners run down the parade route and back on the glorious Viaduct. This race is quite possibly perfect for me -- you get a mile or so of cheering crowd, get to high-five kids, and then you get to run on the top of the Viaduct. Oh, and it starts at 6:30 pm, so you don't have to get up early!
Suz and I decided to run it together. We left her car downtown, found Eric and Grace on the parade route and left her bag with them,and then headed to the Seattle Center. First we stopped to see the ladiesin the Brooks tent, and picked up a sweet tattoo:

Then we pretty much just milled around until the start... once we took the traditional pre-race photo, of course!
Suz and I pre-race.
(as Suz commented later, she was already red, and the race hadn't started!)
The race starts with a relatively steep downhill... which, of course, we had to run up at the end. But never mind that! A few turns and we joined the parade route! Lots of cheering fans, lots of kids standing at the edge of the road hoping for high fives. Did I mention I love this race?
We ran the first mile, and spotted Eric and Grace in the crowd. They cheered wildly, and snapped this awesome photo:
Sunny and Suz during the Torchlight Run
quoting Suz: "you look really chipper"
We continued along the parade route, then turned down the hill to get on the Viaduct. As we reached 2nd, we (and the rest of the pack) were stopped... by cops... to let buses through. WHAT???!?!?!? That was weird. But we weren't in it for time, and were headed on our way pretty quickly.
Then up onto the Viaduct, where the 8K split to the left and we turned right to head back to the start. Oh, Viaduct, how I love thee! Another gorgeous night in the Emerald City:
Suz and Sunny during the 2013 Torchlight Run
I'm not gonna lie, we dawdled on the Viaduct. It's just so nice up there, and such a nice night... But then it was time to get moving. We exited the V before the tunnel, and then ran down Western. Suz was flagging a bit, which meant I went into ultra-perky mode. I did tell her that I often am the one who fades, and that Wil has to get perky... and that I know how annoying it is. :) But I still kept pushing her, and she responded. (Yay Suz!)
We walked up the big steep hill at Denny, then ran again on the flat toward the finish. Another steep hill remained, which we walked, but once we got to the apex we started running again to the line. Yay!
After the race we got some water and snacks, and then went our separate ways -- Suz to meet up with Eric and Grace to watch the parade, me to walk to the bus stop and go home. On the way to the bus stop I walked past the parade floats all waiting to go -- and lots and lots of princesses in their sparkly tiaras. My favorite moment was when a little girl walked up to a very sparkly lady on a horse and asked who she was. The lady said, "We're the Ellensburg Rodeo Royalty!", which made me happy. I mean, who wants to be a Daffodil Princess when you can be a Rodeo Queen?
The next race is the Race the Reserve Half Marathon in Coupeville on August 10!