Race Report: Zombies, Run! Spring 2016 Virtual Race

I’ve never run a virtual race because for the most part, I don’t really see the point, but zombies are sorta my thing* so when I discovered that my Zombies, Run! app hosts a virtual race, I signed right on up.

First, I should tell you about Zombies, Run! in case you are unfamiliar. It’s a story-based running app. The story takes place after the zombie apocalypse in the UK. A whole crew of voice actors act out the story, with you, the runner, playing the part of Runner 5. Runner 5 listens to the other story characters over headsets and as they are sent on missions.

The way it works is when you start your run, you start a mission on the app. There is a snippet of story and then a song from whatever playlist you’ve chosen plays. Then there is another snippet, then a song, then so on. Each mission is about 45 minutes long. And Runner 5 has to run all of them.

It’s really fun and just motivating/interesting enough without being obnoxious. I love it. There are other app functions that I haven’t mentioned here. Check it out; it’s cool.

The virtual race was set before any of the regular Zombies, Run! seasons, taking place at the very beginning of the zombie outbreak. They did such a great job with it. After signing up, I started getting Mission Briefings via email that were pre-story. There were also two training missions you could run prior to the race that set up the story.

Then there was the package I got in the mail from England. Alex was all, “What the hell is this mysterious package?” and then I yanked it from his hands and started jumping up and down.

Four photos in a collage: 1. A photo of the international airmail package with the zombies run logo on it 2. A photo of some of the contents, a card that says "eyes only briefing," a race bib that says, "operative 5 emergency task force," a plastic bag on which is written "special task force uniform" placed over a gray running shirt, an envelope that says, "to be opened upon completion of mission."

I geeked out so hard on all this.

There was a two week period when you could run the race. The day before the race, I got my last email mission briefing that included a phone number to call. Because I am afraid of the telephone, I immediately went online to Rofflenet (if you have the app, you know what I’m talking about) to make sure there were no actual human beings answering the phone and once I was assured I would get a recording (because, duh, there wouldn’t be human operators available at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse; everyone would be too busy), I called what turned out to be an emergency phone number where the panicking public could get regional and health information about what was going on.

I gotta tell you, these people went all fucking out. It was great. I definitely got my money’s worth.

Oh, right, I also had to run. You could run either a 5K or a 10K (the story was the same). I set out on a Thursday afternoon in an effort to save my area from nuclear apocalypse. Because everyone knows that nuclear apocalypse on top of zombie apocalypse is good for almost no one.

I tried to pick a route with the fewest street crossings, so as not to adversely affect my time on the race leaderboards. I had a really good run, right up until I experienced Ham Fatigue*** and had to slow down for a good half mile as I decided if I was going to barf or not. (I did not.) I finished in a totally respectable time and saved the world.

Selfie of me in my Runner 5 running shirt, giving the camera a thumbs up after my run.

Runner 5 at your service.

Well, except for the zombies. I didn’t do shit about the zombies. Also, most of my team was killed.

You can’t win ’em all.

In lieu of a proper medal ceremony (pomp and circumstance is scarce in the zombie apocalypse, yo), I opened my post-mission envelope and Sam awarded me my medal in my living room.

Two photos: 1. Sam putting a medal around my neck 2. Selfie of me with the medal.

I really need to install that medal podium in my home.

As of today, there are four more days for people to run the virtual race. My position on the 10K leaderboard is totally respectable.

Screenshot of my results that show I am #385 of 561 10K runners and I ran it in 1:14:01.

Jack just kindly pointed out that this result is not in the top half. Thanks, Jack. I’m still respectable.

All in all, I’d say that this was a really positive experience. I liked all the pre-race fun and I appreciated that the company really put an effort into making the whole thing fun. I am unlikely to run a normal virtual race, but I would definitely run more of these.

After all, someone has to save the world.

_______

* Speaking of zombies, I still haven’t quite recovered from the season finale of The Walking Dead. Such a scary damn episode. Like, really. Soooo scary. Negan, OMG. And I’ve read the comics and I know what is “supposed” to happen, but I think it’s Abraham.**

** OMG.

*** Related to cheese fatigue, but barfier.

Kids’ Choice Day

This week is spring break for my kids, which leaves me in the position of finding things for them to do that don’t primarily involve sitting in front of some sort of electronic screen or beating the shit out of each other in the backyard under the guise of “outdoor play.”

On Monday when we were out and about, each of my kids mentioned something that they wanted to do and, happily, each thing was both reasonable and close to the other things. It was a Spring Break Miracle! So Tuesday became Stimeyland’s Spring Break Kids’ Choice Day.

It was DELIGHTFUL.

Jack was up first.

Jack’s choice: The park!

Jack had a specific park he wanted to go to—one that has been the scene of trauma for Team Stimey in the past, but was all kinds of fun this week.

Close-up photo of Jack on a climbing structure.

Jack. At the park.

All three kids had a fun time and there was only one major skirmish that took place after I encouraged Jack and Quinn to try to get Sam off of a climbing structure by poking him in the butt with a stick. I gave them the stick. In retrospect, it was a poor idea and an example of terrible parenting. Don’t try this at home, folks.

Photo of all three of my kids on a climbing structure. Sam is sitting on top of a web-like rope net.

Just before the skirmish.

My mom is in town for the week and she learned that she gets seasick on swings.

Photo of Quinn and my mom each on a swing on a swingset. Sam is standing nearby.

That’s her on the left, being seasick. Quinn there on the right continues to not be affected by dizziness.

At one point, I looked up and found Jack ringleading a group of small children in a variety of playground games. “Jack found friends,” I said to Quinn. “Jack always finds friends,” Quinn responded before heading off to spin in circles on some equipment. Sam waited out Jack’s playtime doing what he always does—listening to music and reading on his phone.

Sam sitting in a playground school bus looking at his phone.

Good job getting him away from a screen, Stimey.

Eventually we had to leave though, so Jack politely shook hands with all the younger kids, said, “nice to meet you,” and we departed. From there, we moved on to…

Quinn’s choice: Color Me Mine!

Quinn wanted to paint pottery, so I did something I swore I would never do—take all three of my children into a place where they had the opportunity to knock lots of breakable things off of shelves.

Quinn spongeing off a white cat sculpture.

We’d had vague plans to go there to paint pottery for a long time, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Quinn was so pleased to finally have pottery in his creative little hands.

Jack and Quinn instantly headed over to the cat section, where they both picked out their own cat to paint. Quinn got distracted pretty quickly and switched to a different item to paint, but Jack stuck to his cats, so to speak, and went to work on this adorable little guy:

Jack painting a cat figuring with yellow paint.

This cat’s name is either Flippy Paws or Snickerdoodle, I forget which. Don’t tell Jack that.

Sam chose to paint a castle and even took off his headphones for the whole time.

Photo of Sam sitting next to a small castle.

It’s a bank so he can save his pennies to buy Kindle books and music downloads.

My mom had a whole plan for what she was going to paint. It involved stencils and an octopus stamp and sounded like it was going to be GREAT.

It didn’t work out for her.

Photo of my mom holding up her painted pottery, but she's showing the camera the back of it, which is just painted gray.

Here she declines to share it with the world.

Quinn had moved on from his cat statue to a giant bowl. He got the idea from a display item and decided to paint it like a watermelon so he could eat watermelon out of it. It took a looooong time for him to paint three layers of paint on the inside and outside, but I think it was well worth it.

Quinn standing in front of a bowl painted like a watermelon.

I look forward to hand washing this bowl every day until the day he leaves for college.

After we were all done painting, we headed next door to…

Sam’s choice: Ice cream!

Because it was Sam’s choice, I had no option but to feed them massive amounts of ice cream before lunch. And, trust me, they ate massive amounts of ice cream. And brownies. And candy. And ice cream mixed with brownies and candy.

Photo featuring all three of my kids and my mom. The kiddos are eating ice cream.

There was even sharing. We came a long way from the butt poking stick incident from the morning.

I am the greatest mom in the history of moms.

And then we went to Einstein Bros. Bagels for lunch where I got a spinach chicken artichoke bagel sandwich because that was MY choice.

The Force Is Strong With This One

In case any of you wondered if Sam inherited the Team Stimey Dipshit Gene, I can put your mind to rest with this story of the most hilarious thing that has ever happened.

We went to a movie today and Cool Dude Sam was all, “Ugh. I am WAY too old and WAY too sophisticated to go see this animated animal movie with you all. I am SO humiliated by my association with you,” or, you know, something to that effect.

And then he humiliated himself beyond all else by semi-permanently attaching himself to the escalator.

Photo of Sam standing at the bottom of an escalator. His shoelace is trapped by the stairs at the bottom. He is laughing in a bewildered manner.

This is maybe my favorite thing that has happened ever.

To my credit, I went and asked for help before I took this photo. Photo and story published with the grudging permission of said Cool Teenager who has apparently also inherited the Team Stimey Able to Laugh at Yourself Gene.

The Ellebobarkianda

I would like to introduce you to Quinn’s newest creation, the ellebobarkianda:

Photo of a colorful painted picture that Quinn drew. It is an underwater scene featuring some very abstract things, like weird swimmy animals and a "cat submarine" and corals and on the surface, a boat with someone fishing.

Posted with the permission of the artist.

I should explain. I mean, obviously there is a Cat Submarine with Oreo inside. And that might be Quinn up there in the boat. That creature there in the middle is the ellebobarkianda.

See, it is part gazelle (“elle,” the horns), part bobcat (“bob,” the head), part shark (“ark,” the body), part scorpion (“ian”—misspelled, the stinger), and part red panda (“da,” the tail).

I’m not sure what the assignment was, but I’m pretty sure Quinn nailed it.

I asked Quinn if I could post his picture on my blog and he not only said yes, but insisted that I also post his cat gargoyle picture. So:

Black and white line drawing of, well, a cat gargoyle.

The cat gargoyle—or catgoyle.

He wanted me to have you rate his art on a scale of one to ten, but he agreed when I told him that it really probably isn’t a good idea to ask the internet to assign you a number for your worth, so mere exclamations of, “THAT IS THE BEST DRAWING OF AN ELLEBOBARKIANDA THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN!” will be fine.

Grand Theft Grocery

It’s possible you don’t fully understand Alex and my grocery store thing. We may not go to a lot of fancy dinners or movie dates, but every single weekend, the two of us go to at least one grocery store together and make assholes out of ourselves. It’s kind of like our weekly date.

For example:

Screenshot of Alex standing at a grocery store self checkout with the caption, "I just watched the most hilarious, frustration-fueled episode at the grocery self-checkout that I have ever seen. I took this photo after Alex froze the computer by vigorously stabbing the screen with his finger after repeatedly seeing the "unexpected item in the bagging area" message but before he knocked over the chip shelf to his left. Also before the cashier there was all, "I've never seen--" but stopped herself when she realized she was about to be insulting to a customer. I've never laughed so hard in a grocery store in my life. It would have been even better if I hadn't had ice cream at risk."

This particular date to the grocery store was epic, like attending a ball or something.

This weekend, however, I had plans that conflicted with grocery shopping. When I told Alex, he got a sort of panicked look on his face and said, “That means…I’m going to have to go to Whole Foods by myself.”

By all reports, it did not go well.

Evidently, Alex wandered away from his cart for a few moments to pick up some items, came back to his cart, and wheeled it away. He shopped for several more minutes, putting things into the cart until he looked down and realized…

It wasn’t his cart.

Goddamn, I love that guy.

So instead of taking the cart back to where he found it, he looked around furtively, carefully picked his stuff out of the cart and backed slowly away from it, returning to the scene of the crime, where he reclaimed his untouched cart, put his stuff in it, and carried on with his shopping.

He at least had the decency to feel bad about it.

Screen shot of text messages from Alex. They read: I stole someone's cart. I found my cart. I just abandoned the cart I found. It was full of stiff. I think I left stuff on the leer. I'm a bad person.

I still don’t know what that penultimate message was supposed to say. I think he was having a panic attack.

Therefore, even though the two of us are terrible at the store together, it turns out that we’re even worse alone. Or at least Alex is.

Captain Stimey: Lord of Boring

Hi, friends! I’ve been doing a terrible job of writing twice a week, but I have a perfectly cromulent reason and that is because I have not a lot going on.

Pretty much all I do these days other than parent and go to work is run. Based on the way Alex’s eyes glaze over when I detail my runs to him, mile by mile, I’m starting to think that juuuust maaaaybe the minutiae of my runs is less interesting to non-Stimey individuals. I’m really just looking out for you by not writing about it.

Buuut…I’m a runner and evidently it’s a rule of running that you have to write about your training or it didn’t happen. This was a tough week for it though. On Sunday, I ate a lot of cheese and then went running, which isn’t the greatest combination. The next day, Quinn informed me that I had been “crabby” after my run and that I had been suffering from “cheese fatigue,” and now that’s a Thing at my house. Also, I learned not to eat a lot of habanero colby cheese before lacing up.

I also took two runs in the rain, which was actually kind of refreshing. I took one of those rain runs around Jack’s school before I picked him up from an after-school activity. On the way home we saw this other guy out running. I was all, “Huh, Jack, I thought I was hardcore for running in the heavy rain until I saw that guy pushing a double stroller, running uphill.” Jack stopped, looked at the guy, checked my jacket and long pants, and agreed, “Yeah, and he’s only wearing shorts and a t-shirt.”

Nothing like kids to keep you humble.

Photo of me after a run. I'm wet and wearing a green visor from which you can see water dripping.

I took this picture on my less rainy run to show my mom how awesome I was for going running in the rain. I’m not sure she was totally as impressed as I’d hoped.

Then today I ran 9.17 miles and, yes, I’m going to be that precise because those last couple miles I fought for every one of those hundredths of a mile. Also, I live at the top of a hill, so every single run I take that ends at my house finishes with a half mile up a fucking hill. It sucks. But it’s making me tough, I guess.

^ And that was me NOT talking about running. Consider yourselves lucky.

Hmmm. What else? Oh! Oh! A while back I started reading the Game of Thrones series and I am happy to report that I finished the first book today. Do you know how long it takes to read an 807-page book in 25-minute increments on the Metro to and from work?

*searches Facebook to see how long ago she posted about starting to read the series*

Oh, God. It took four months. Well now I’m embarrassed.

Screenshot of my November 7 Facebook status. It is a photo of "A Game of Thrones." The text is "I've made the decision to start reading the Game of Thrones series. It feels like a big commitment--like, I chose to get married, I chose to have kids, I chose to commit myself to 5,000 pages of reading material. ‪#‎stillhaventwatchedthetvshow‬ ‪#‎iamonpage13‬ ‪#‎seeyouinsixmonths‬"

Guess I was overly optimistic.

I’m loving it though. I just need to figure out how to sit down with a book on my lap without falling asleep. It doesn’t matter what book it is, if I sit down and stare at a page, I fall asleep.

Oh! So, I know this is about a decade later than everyone else in America, but my family has started shopping at Whole Foods. See, I made the mistake of watching a documentary about the food production industry and I started feeling really bad about the farmers and the animals. It was like a repeat of when I read Fast Food Nation a decade ago, but now we can afford to buy meat from farmer’s markets and Whole Foods, so that’s what we started doing.

I mention this not to be all, “I AM A GOOD PERSON,” but instead to be like, “ALEX AND I ARE NOT GOOD AT CHANGE.”

On our first dual trip there, we seriously had a whisper-shouted fight between the dairy and meat sections because we were so overwhelmed by the unfamiliar foods and the packaging with its muted colors and the damn omelet bar in the deli section. If you were at the Rockville Whole Foods on Valentine’s Day, we were the couple that nearly had a fist fight and abandoned a cart next to the chicken refrigerator.

Well. This has turned into kind of an embarrassing post. And that’s without even mentioning my trip this morning to get my driver’s license renewed only to find out that said license is good until 2021 and it’s actually Alex that needs to renew his.

I think I’ll stop here before I embarrass myself more or bore you more. Captain Stimey, signing off.

So, Stimey, How Are Those Resolutions Coming?

Well. I’m having some mixed results with my 2016 resolutions.

I haven’t created any photo books yet. And I’m not doing such a great job with writing more, am I?

Well, maybe that’s because I’m spending so much time doing such a kickass job of my goal #3, which was to lose weight, but also had increased running and fitness folded into it.

I’m down a solid number of pounds and I’ve gotten healthier about my eating. I am proud of me. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m doing it! I’m using My Fitness Pal to log my food and exercise and it has been helping a huge amount. I have exactly two friends on the app (Alex and one other person), which is perfect. It has become this great little motivational, encouraging space that I’m kind of addicted to.

I’ve run a couple of races this year so far, one on January 1st and one on February 7. In a weird coincidence, race photographers captured me in almost the exact same place in my stride in each of them.

Two photos side by side, almost identical, except I'm wearing a yellow shirt in the left one and a purple shirt in the right one.

It’s weird how similar they are, isn’t it?

January is on the left. I think my leg position in the February one is slightly more flattering, but I also think I’m starting to see a teensy bit of body change, which is a great feeling. Let’s only hope that the photographers at my next race capture the same pose so I can continue my comparison.

Speaking of running, I have been so happy doing it recently. All last year I struggled to get out and run. I always felt great afterward, but I was completely lacking in motivation. I didn’t run as much as I’d hoped and it was often a real struggle.

This year I’m falling back in love with running. I’ve already run my first 100 miles for the year—100.04, not that I’m counting or anything—and my body feels so strong while I’m doing it. Instead of seeking flat routes, as I did last year, I’m running up hills (and back down, yay!) and pushing myself to get stronger. Instead of having to force myself to lace up and go outside, I’ve found myself craving runs.

This is a good thing, considering I’m registered for a half marathon in May and a 20-miler in September. I am not playing around this year, people. Tomorrow is my weekly long run—I have 7.3 miles planned—and I can’t wait.

That all said, talk to me in July when I have a 15-mile run scheduled in 95-degree heat. If I’m still this enthusiastic then, well, I will have won 2016—especially if I have some photo books sitting on my shelf as well.