Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Only Way Out is Through

This post was written by my dear friend, and biggest cheerleader, Jennifer.  We ran the More/Fitness Half Marathon together, her first, and although she won't admit it, I have a feeling she's going to take on the full 26.2.......

Hello, Sleeper Baker fans! I would love to use this space to tell stories about Molly that date back to the 80s, and post pictures of her not suitable for mass consumption, but I have been instructed to write a race recap instead. She’s all business, that Molly.

I signed up for the Run For Your Lives zombie obstacle 5K,  now let me explain why. First, my children —five-year-old twin girls — love playing Plants vs. Zombies, some crazy iPad game that pits, well, plants against zombies. It’s a little violent, but in a cartoonish way: Pea pods that shoot fire, vegetables that march in little rows, zombies with bloody, exploding heads. On second thought, maybe I should be monitoring this game… Anyway, I thought the girls might get a kick out of watching me run this, and there would certainly be more fun things to look at than usual.

Second, I kinda wanted to try my hand (err, foot) at running an obstacle 5K. They seem to be all the rage these days. They appeal to the masses, apparently, and like most trendy things in life, I’m a little late to the party on this (Case in point: I “discovered” Mad Men after it was three seasons in. But I am proud to say I jumped on the Downton Abbey bandwagon at the start of Season Two!) And, really, why get out of bed for just a regular 5K when I can get out of bed for a 5k that features a great tee shirt, a cool medal and the undead?

I had just run a half marathon (with Molly! My running guru!) two weeks before so I will admit I was a bit cocky. And by “cocky” I mean I was strutting around like I was some Olympic marathoner and wearing space blankets just to get attention. OK, so I wasn’t’ really, but you get the idea. This 3.1 miles, I had it in the bag! That’s nothing for a half-marathoner such as myself!  I had trained for the half over 13 weeks and was logging a ton of miles. I could do this with my eyes closed. Ha. Famous last words, which might pair well with a slice of humble pie. I learned a very important lesson here: Respect the race, no matter how short.

My zombie race was in a town north of Boston. We had to park off site and take a shuttle to the race location (first children thrill: We rode on a yellow school bus!). This is the terrifying view that greeted me as our bus round the corner:

Look carefully: That would be not one but two slippery slopes that slide you into two freezing vats of muddy water. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We had some time before my heat, so we walked around the zombie festival. Some people really dressed up:

(I almost wore MY green body suit, too. That would have been embarrassing!)

We people watched for a while and then I checked out the results board and was horrified to read that the quickest time so far was 56 minutes (races started at 8:00; I was in the 12:30 heat). Was I reading this correctly? 56 minutes for a 5K?! I quickly scanned the other posted times and noticed a horrible fact: People were taking up to two hours to finish this race, and average was around an hour and a half. That upped my anxiety level by, oh, 1000. What have I gotten myself into?? (By the way, this would turn out to be a phrase I repeated throughout the race!)

Alas, it was too late to back out now. I kissed my children and wife good-bye (confused with pronouns? Don’t be: I’m a lesbian, fully legally married in the great state of NY and Massachusetts! And now, thanks to my gay status, a topic of controversy in American Politics!) and took my gay self off to my chute.

A metal gate pulled back, fake smoke wafted out and we were off. That first hill was steep, but I was still in cocky mode, even after seeing the finish lines. I sprinted up it, passing people left and right (most people weren’t even bothering to run. What did they know that I didn’t?) and only slipped a couple of times on some muddy patches.

But my confidence faded instantly when I rounded the corner: The course track was mud. Not a little mud; not patches of mud. Mud as in all mud: 100 percent, deep, sole-sucking, ankle-covering mud. And thanks to some cordoned-off boundaries, there was no way around it.

Running? What running? I was walking now, with everyone else, another slow-moving member of the masses just hoping to finish under two hours. It quickly became clear that I would not be setting a PR in this race.

What also became clear is that some zombies took their jobs very seriously. They grunted and lunged and grabbed for my flags: We wore three flags on our waist: The zombies try to grab them off us. If they get all three by the end of the race, then we become the undead. Dodging lumbering zombies might not be that hard on a normal surface. But in mud? It became a nightmare. I slipped in the mud more times than I can count. Luckily the water obstacles we ran through every quarter mile or so would get much of the mud off of us. (Hint for those tricky water pits: Watch the people in front of you because you want to follow the path that is calf-deep and not knee-deep or waist deep!)

There was one of those crawling obstacles, a couple of mazes (including one that included dangling, electrified streamers that I touched not once but twice because I couldn’t believe I was shocked by electricity. Yes, I am the type to touch things with Wet Paint signs) and one pretty steep hill at the end. The obstacles were, honestly, a nice break from the mud. It was difficult to walk, let alone run. That said, there were a couple of stretches where I could run, if I ran on the edge of the sloped hill. And when I did run, people would laugh and ask me why I am bothering. I would try to run through the puddles too: I found it easier to get through them and not get stuck that way. All told, I probably ran about a mile, tops. I must say that while I expected some mud and obstacle and zombies, of course I really thought there would be more running. It was quite the opposite.

I made it to the top of the last hill and to the last obstacles (those slides!) in 59 minutes. The finish line was in my sight, but the scariest part was yet to come: I had to climb a tower and slide down into a vat of water mixed with some sort of substance to make me extra slippery. The I had to slide down the second slide, after being lubed up,  into —you guessed it — another vat of water.

I’ll admit it: The slides scared me. The first slide was ok: On a scare scale of 1 to 10 (1 being stuck in a car with two kids for a long drive and realizing I left the DVDs at home and 10 being, well, living through an apocalypse), it was a solid four. But the second slide was terrifying. I sat down and pushed off before I could talk myself out of it. I was going so fast and could not control my direction. Before I got the end, my body twisted and contorted and I slammed into the water sideways and head first, and was completely submerged. I had a mini panic attack underwater for a second before I surfaced. And hauling myself out of that giant tub was no easy feat either.

All that was left was the run down the hill to the finish line! Of course, it was muddy (but not a bad as the course) and I lost my footing several time.  That’s me, to the left of the girl in red. Check out the woman in front of me: There were some scary holes on this course!

But there was one last surprise: I had to crawl under an electrified fence. There was a sign that warned us that the fence was electrified but I didn’t believe it. As you can see by the look on my face, it really WAS electrified and it hurt! And yes, I had to touch it. With my butt.

I made it to the end and that’s all that matters! My official time was 1:08:06, which means I was averaging a 19.27 minute mile. It was a great family event, at least for us. That is a bright side of destination races. Madeline and Avery, the little troopers, did not seem bothered at all by the zombies. In fact, the didn’t seem bothered at all! In fact, they looked jaded, bored and tired! Hey, at least they weren’t traumatized!

The best part? The shower I took at the hotel after. Most amazing shower ever! Next time I do it, I will sign up with friends (You are on warning, Molly: If it is anywhere near you next year, I’m signing us up!). It was lonely being alone. So many people were in giant packs. It is clear they trained together. They even had special cheers and claps! I want that too!

On the bright side, being alone gave me lots of time to think. And while every race and running is a metaphor in some way, this one was for sure. My interpretation: Periods of time in life might suck sometimes, but you just have to go through it. Don’t slow down, because why spend more time than you have to in a bad place? Keep on keeping on, because the only way out is through. You get muddy, beat up, hurt, scratched and fatigued, but you will cross the finish line.

So, in summary: Respect the race. The only way out is through. And sign up for obstacle 5Ks!

And here is a picture of me NOT muddy. As you can see, I am not always wet and covered with dirt. I’m the hat-less one on the left:

Check out Run For Your Lives website: they have a ton of pictures! They also have a Facebook page.


heather said...

My coworkers want me to do one of these with them in August. I'm ok with slides but I think I'm going to have to pass if there are electric obstacles. I'm not quite that masochistic.

Johann said...

Awesome fun! Well done for finishing this. That electric fence is something else!

Christi said...

Thanks for the recap of the race! That sounds like a lot of fun!

Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb said...

I'm totally freaked out by this race but props to you. I'm impressed!!

Shannon said...

I've heard of this zombie race and thought that I might like to do it at some point, but not now! No siree-not after seeing that electric fence. :)


Unknown said...

Jennifer/Molly - what a great race report! I am terrified just reading about the obstacles and the mud. Although I would have been like you - testing the electric just to make sure it was real.

RunToTheFinish said...

yeah see the whole electric fence thinig is what keeps me from doing one of these :) I am positive I would severely hurt myself

Black Knight said...

A great race report with beautiful (scary???) pic.
Not the right race for my old body.

Kristen Lawrence said...

You are hysterical!! Great race report. You officially scared me from muddy adventure races for life ;) Your kids are cuties!