Brawn over Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiiinsssss

It’s the beginning of a new year, which means it’s time to plan my runcations for 2013!  It’s such a trying task, figuring out which new races I want to try and which of my old favorites I’m going to repeat, and keeping them all within my race budget.  There’s so many choices!  I’m packing my schedule with lots of new blood, but there’s one race I absolutely must do again.  Apparently being chased up a zombie infested hill, sliding into a pool filled with body parts and then shimmying under an electric fence is my cup of tea.

Last October, I participated in the Run for Your Lives Zombie 5k and obstacle course in Temecula, CA.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to participate in a real life zombie survival drill.  How else could I test my apocalyptic survival tactics?  I mean, sure, I’ve obliterated hundreds of zombies in simulation via Left 4 Dead, but how could I know for sure if what I’ve learned from The Walking Dead and World War Z could be put to use in a real zombie apocalypse scenario?  Plus, they promised beer at the finish.  Um, sold!

I signed up to run with the 10 am wave with my neighbors and fellow zombie enthusiasts, Sharon and Justin.  My sister, her husband and cousin also registered to race later that afternoon.  We got there nice and early, decked out in our warrior gear, and we were greeted instantly by a welcoming committee.

Meet my new friend.

Meet my new friend.

Gurl, your calves are lookin' good!

Gurl, your calves are lookin’ good!

After we checked in and got our goodies, we set about putting on our flags.  Each runner wears a belt with 3 red flags attached to it.  At the end of the race, if you still have a flag, you live.  If you don’t, you die and are consumed by ravenous flesh eaters.  Easy enough?  I was determined to survive.  Mainly, because I’m addicted to medals and I was deathly afraid I wouldn’t get a medal if I didn’t live through the race.  We were herded past the decontamination zone aka Vail Lake and into dark, smoke-filled corrals labeled  “Appetizers”, “Main Course”, and “Dessert”.  We chose Dessert, obviously.

The course started with an uneven, uphill dirt path that was far more brutal than I expected.  At the very top of the hill, we encountered our first zombies.  I expected lumbering and lunging but I did not expect speed demons!  Yep, these zombies were chasers.  I found this highly irritating and completely contradictory to my knowledge of zombie lore.  I had my first flag snagged by a zombie that was far more athletic than I was.

My sister and brother-in-law. They’re standing in front of the initial climb aka the hill from hell pre-race.

Eventually, we discovered that if we traveled in packs and pushed our flags to the back, we were less likely to get singled out.  It was almost as if the zombies went after runners who still had all their flags, or the runners who were trying really hard to evade the zombies.  At one point, due to some fancy footwork and nimble maneuvering on my part, a zombie who was chasing me fell.  I thought he’d just fall back into his post and wait for the next onslaught of runners.  No such luck.  He chased me down for a good five minutes before eventually snagging my second flag.  I was shocked and dismayed.  Zombies don’t have vendettas!

In addition to mudpits, zombies fields, and dusty hills, there were two buildings that we had to climb through.   The first wasn’t so bad, it was smokey and dark and riddled with electrical wires.  If you stuck to the sides, you could make it through unscathed.  The second building was a maze.  A zombie infested maze.  Zombies hanging from the ceiling, reaching through walls, and stumbling around corners.   It was terrifying.

Yolo...Unless you're a zombie.

Yolo…Unless you’re a zombie.

I didn’t lose any flags in the house, yet by the time I got out and over the four foot walls, I was exhausted.  The next part of the race was a field of moguls laced with hordes of zombies.  One zombie was offering hugs and you know what, I took one damnit, and I gave that sweet little zombie my last flag.  At that point, I just wanted to be dead and done and run the rest of the race in peace.  I learned a lot about my survival instincts that day.  And it wasn’t impressive.  In fact, I’ve revised my zombie apocalypse plan from “hunt and peck” to “hide and wait”.

Interestingly, when you’re out of flags, the zombies ignore you, but I was still worried about getting that medal at the end.  So I found a nice zombie priest who was ‘saving’ runners and he granted me a pity flag.  Which I promptly rolled up and put in my bra.  Because that’s how far I will go to get a medal.  Shame… I have none.

Turns out, it didn’t matter, though. After bruising my shins and thighs climbing splintered walls, sliding into a pool filled with floating chunks of flesh and crawling on my belly under an electrical fence that did indeed deliver shocks, I crossed the finish line.  While there were two corrals, one for survivors and one for the dead, everyone got the same medals.  And because I definitely wasn’t racing for a time, it made no difference if I lived or died.  I finished and that was awesome enough for me.

That's the decontamination bath behind me.

That’s the decontamination bath behind me.

So awesome, if fact, I did the whole race again with my sister, Sarah, her husband, Shawn, and our friend Amy.

The second time, I started without flags.  I was mainly along for the ride.  Or as bait.  I ran ahead to distract the zombies so the living could get past.  It worked like a charm.  And the best part was searching the course for beer coupons that had been torn from bibs.  A word to the wise… tear those coupons off before you belly crawl through the mud!

After finishing the second race, we rinsed off in the lake and changed into dry clothes.  By this time, the beer garden was hopping and a band was performing on the stage.  We collected our swag, a pretty nifty tech tee, stickers and a thumb drive in the shape of, you guessed it, an actual severed thumb.  Best race swag ever!

Yes, that’s a severed thumb drive.

Something we didn’t know ahead of time but I thought was pretty cool is that you could camp at the race site afterward.  A ton of people were dragging in their tents and ice chests to party after the race.

Beer is better than brains.

This year the race in SoCal is at Glen Helen and I’m planning on camping at the site after the race.  Runners also have the option to be zombies. In previous years, you had to run the race the year prior in order to be a zombie but now you can register as a zombie and run the race on the same day.  That’s a pretty sweet deal.  You can also register to just be a spectator or volunteer.  All in all, this was one of the funnest, most terrifying and challenging races I’ve done.  It was anxiety-provoking and fear-inducing, just like a good zombie apocalypse should be.

Are you ready for the walkers?  Would you survive the outbreak?  There’s only one way to find out.

Use coupon code RFYL13 for $5 off any 2013 Run For Your Lives Zombie Run registration. And remember, tear those beer coupons off before crawling.

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.