Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zombie Run 5K 2012

This was the Inaugural Zombie Run 5K for Georgia and the first Zombie Run of the 2012 season. Being the first year of an event (here in Georgia) it had some complications and areas for improvement but overall was a very fun and enjoyable event.

The location wasn't too far to get to and there was plenty of parking available. The line to get in and park moved at a decent pace and, providing you listened to the arrival instructions and got there 1-2 hours early, you weren't delayed in getting to the Check-In area. Parking was $10 which is typical and expected. There were more than enough signs to remind people to "Get out your wallet!", "Take out $10","Roll down your window!" etc... The guys handling the money and parking kept things moving right along very efficiently.

Once we parked we had a few hundred yard walk to the Check-In area. I was expecting mud on the course but not 3-4inch deep mud covering every square inch of the Check-In and Spectator areas. This was incredibly annoying. From you minute you entered the gate you were constantly under the threat of slipping and busting your ass. Not to mention all the spectators that showed up to "watch" and had no plans to get muddy. I saw countless outfits and shoes ruined by all the mud. The mud was no big deal for those of us that showed up prepared to get filthy but this area shouldn't be your first Obstacle. It is my hope that next years event corrects this problem. The mud should start at the Starting Line and not before. It should definitely not be all over the Spectator Area. Granted we did have a serious storm the night before so the entire area did get a deluge of fresh rain and minor flooding. Still, that was some serious mud for a Spectator area.

The Check-In area, besides being muddy beyond belief, was rather poorly run. Lines were long for some last names and non-existent for others. My line was only 5 people deep including myself and Jessica and it still took far longer than it should to get our packets. Part of the problem was that the Staff was having to fight to stay upright on all the slippery mud just like the rest of us were. The race shirts were still in boxes near the back of the tent nowhere near the tables requiring a walk back and forth or a yelling for a particular size then a wait for it to be brought over. So much time was wasted just waiting for the shirt and bag with race info. Besides getting this area away from the mud next year I hope the race organizers separate the race packet hand out and shirt pick up if they don't figure out a way to speed up the combined process. It would also benefit them to have extra safety pins available, I had a broken one and it was damn near impossible to get someones attention to get a replacement.

The start was creatively set up into 3 lanes. Appetizers (<9min/mi), Entrees (9-12min/mi), and Dessert (>12min/mi). I found this to be a brilliant idea that other events should look to adopt. I've run in many adventure races and the bottlenecks that occur are usually because too many "Desserts" are in the front of the pack when they shouldn't be. I'm no "Appetizer" but I'm not a "Dessert" either. I don't fault anyone for doing these events no matter how fast or slow you run but if you're a "Dessert" you don't need to be at the head of the corral when your wave starts. You just cause bottlenecks and injuries as faster people try to weave around you. The 3 different corrals utilized by the Zombie Run still requires honesty on the runners part but at least they are trying.

The course was muddy, seriously muddy. I'm talking so muddy that you could barely run without gravity showing you who your daddy was. THUD! SPLAT! There were times when you could get a slow jog in but those were few and far in between. The previous nights monsoon of a storm didn't help matters any. I feel this course was overly muddy and hazardous at times because of it. I was nursing a bruised and twisted left ankle so I wasn't moving at a record setting pace anyway but all the mud made matters 1000x worse. There isn't much the organizers could do about this. I'm sure the course was planned to be muddy and nobody could have predicted the effects of the previous nights storm. I just hope next year that we don't get that monsoon and the course is only muddy in the areas where it should be and not every single step of the way. If we had a dry week prior to this I'm sure many of the flats and hills would have been much more manageable while the obstacles and low parts would remain muddy as intended. We'll see next year I guess.

What would a Zombie Run be without Zombies right? The course was littered with them. There were batches every so often with "breaks" in between to let people catch their breath or slow down for a bit. At obstacles requiring you to crawl over/under/through they had a few Zombies either in the obstacle or just after. When you came upon them on the path they were spaced out so you usually only had to dodge one at a time but sometimes they'd team up. It was times like this when it paid to be in a larger group. Like penguins on the edge of the iceberg we'd wait until someone made a move to draw them off and then the pack would break away and haul ass. Some people, many actually, would slip in the mud and become another distraction for the Zombies. Sometimes it was the Zombie that would slip and fall giving us all a window to get through. It was all good fun. Jessica lost her flags earlier on and decided to be my meat shield for the remainder of the race. It worked out pretty well and I finished "Alive" with 2 flags.
My only problem with the Zombies started near the end of the course. The rules stated that we were not allowed to touch or knock down the Zombies and they weren't allowed to touch or knock us down. They were only allowed to grab for our flags (1 on each hip and 1 mid-back). If you lost all your flags then you were "Dead" at the end of the course. If you had any left you were "Alive". I saw many Zombies, usually guys, deliberately take runners down hard. These weren't accidental slip and falls, these were deliberate body check and tackle moves. One kid got grabbed around the neck and thrown to the ground. These Zombies were clearly violating the rules and they didn't care. As I got closer and closer to the end of the course the attempts to throw or knock me to the ground increased. Zombies wouldn't just grab for my flags, they'd grab onto the belt holding the flags and then yank to try and throw me down. Near the end of the course I was no longer dodging Zombies that got in my way. THEY got into MY path so they were fair game for a body check and I did knock a few down. If the organizers want to push codes of conduct onto the runners they need to make sure their staff of Zombies adhere to the same code. This batch of Zombies definitely didn't get the memo about contact.

When we reached the end of the course we were split into 2 paths. Dead or Alive. The only difference is that the Alive line crossed another timing pad to register your time. I guess if you were Dead then they didn't care what your course time was. The paths converged again right after the Alive timing pad and everyone got the same award medal. I think there should be separate medals for each path. It doesn't make sense to track who made it if everyone gets the same medal.

After we got our medal the line began for the "Decontamination" Showers. Basically it was a PVC construction with holes drilled in it at stages up on a platform of pallets. The "showers" were piss trickles at best and quite ineffective. You'd have to stand there for an hour to get clean. Add to this the fact that there wasn't nearly enough room to accomodate the masses. It was a single setup about 12' across by 6' deep. You could fit maybe 16-20 people at a time up on the platform and that didn't leave any room to try and scrub mud off of yourself without elbowing someone behind or next to you. Most people just gave up after trying in vain to get clean. Next year I hope they have a wider "decontamination" area and more "shower" outputs with stronger force.

Getting into clean, dry clothes after the run felt great and definitely got you warm again but if you were planning on hanging out at the After Party it was an exercise in futility. You were going to get muddy all over again if you spent any time in the Spectator Area. The Entertainment selection wasn't bad. Sure you can't please everyone with a music selection but the MC running the show was friendly, engaging, and energetic at all times. He engaged the crowd and kept the mood upbeat even when it was pouring rain. He and the bands did a great job.

The food and beer selection at the After Party was the best selection by far of any event I've every participated in. ShockTop was on Tap and so so yummy. They had 2lb Turkey Legs that were incredibly flavorful (even better than the ones at the Ga RenFest), and they had menu items for Vegetarian and Vegan runners. This part totally surprised and impressed me. It's about time an event consider EVERY persons eating habits instead of just us carnivores. Having a vegetarian option was a nice bonus for Jessica. The Veggie Burrito she got was damn tasty too.

Overall, for a first year event, I'm considering the Run For Your Lives Zombie Run 5K a Success. I am hoping for a survey to be sent out so I can provide my feedback directly. In the mean time I'll just hope the organizers see this post and consider my feedback for next year and future events.

TL:DR - Zombie Run was a really good, fun time and I'll definitely do it again next year. It's got room for improvement but what event doesn't?

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