For Tom's (belated) birthday celebration, his wife Kelly took him, me, and our friends Amie and Duffy to see a local production of Evil Dead: The Musical. As a long-time fan of the Evil Dead franchise, and their star Bruce Campbell, I was super excited to see this. I was particularly excited about the prospect of getting covered in (fake) blood. I bought a cheap white shirt from the thrift store just for the occasion.
We drove to Marysville, about 30 miles west of Columbus, and had dinner at Benny's Pizza. Benny's was absolutely packed. We presumed it was from the All Ohio Balloon Fest that had taken place earlier in the day, but our waitress informed us that Benny's was always busy. Indeed, she thought the crowd was actually a little small for a Saturday night.
After dinner we drove to Darks Woods, which was basically a farm plot. The signage for the show consisted exclusively of a small sign -- like the political signs you see in people's yards this time of year -- bearing the Evil Dead logo. We drove right past it before we realized that was, in fact, our destination. A quick turn around, and we were driving down a long dirt road toward a large, mostly empty parking lot.
The show was scheduled to start "at sundown", or roughly 9:20. We arrived about 8:30 and were told that the show would begin soon. We had hoped to arrive early enough to get seats in "the splatter zone", but alas, the venue was nearly full when we arrived. This isn't saying much, though, as the little clearing in front of the stage only had bench seating for about 100 people. A number of folks had brought their own chairs, and were sitting around the periphery. Luckily we found a vacant bench toward the back so that we could all sit together.
The stage was fairly small, and the lighting was all powered by portable generators. The hum of the generator was a constant background noise throughout the entire production. Around 9:30 the lights dimmed and the actors took the stage. The show opened with a song that set the tone for the entire experience. Throughout the night various actors' microphones cut out, or got crackly. Most of the performers were able to project even without the mics, but not all of them.
I don't want to sound overly critical, because I really enjoyed the show. The songs were a lot of fun, the spraying blood was hysterical, and the overall show was perfectly campy. The actor who played Ash, though, couldn't hold a tune. To be fair, he sang a lot better than I could, but even my mostly tune-deaf hear could tell he was way off on many of his songs. Several of the actors goofed their lines a couple times, which was surprising as this was the last night of the show's run. I'd've expected them to have it down pat by this point.
During intermission, Tom summarized the experience pretty well: the best high school production he'd ever seen.
The actual production was extremely well done. The main set on the stage was the cabin in the woods, in which most of the action took place. In a number of strategic points in the stage -- a corner of the table, a spot in the door frame -- were hidden small nozzles from which blood would erupt. When a demon would be shot by the door, the nozzle in the door frame would eject a spray of blood, splattering the audience in that section. The timing was mostly good on these, and the overall effect was extremely entertaining.
For the scenes in the woods, a curtain was drawn across the front of the stage. This curtain was covered in camouflage netting. The particularly clever thing was that it was drawn or pulled back by a guy in a ghillie suit that almost perfectly blended in with the curtain itself. This was a great touch, and always made the audience laugh during set changes.
This was clearly a low-budget production, but they did a lot with their limited resources. I'm really glad we attended. Despite the less-than-stellar performances and the technical challenges, it was a lot of fun! If you ever get the opportunity to see Evil Dead: The Musical, I highly recommend it!
Jonah and I ran the 2012 Run For Your Lives zombie-infested 5k obstacle course yesterday. It was the most fun I've ever had running, hands down.
Registration was handled just outside the large field. Each racer signed a waiver, and then obtained their racer packet with everything they needed. Each packet contained a technical shirt with the event logo, a timer chip, their number bib, and their health flags. The race was run like a game of flag football: each racer wore a belt with three large red flags attached to it. Zombies would try to pull the flags off during the run. If you completed the race with at least one flag remaining, you survived. If you completed the race with no flags, you were an unfortunate victim. The only real difference is that the "dead" were not eligible to win time-based prizes.
I had registered us for the noon wave, so we arrived just before 11 to ensure we could get checked in and then acquire a lay of the land. The pre-race area was a huge field. Along one side of the field were a couple of tents selling food and merchandise. Next to these was a large stage hosting a number of different live bands through the day. Along the far side of the field was a large bag check area, a tent for changing in privacy, a first aid tent, and a media tent. Next to these were a couple of tents from the primary sponsor for the day, Subaru USA. On the last side of the field were the race's starting and ending locations. Adjacent to the latter was a "decontamination zone" in which muddied runners could wash off the grime.
Small groups of people dotted the landscape -- some fresh from running their wave, some yet to run, and some clearly there just to observe the spectacle. Most runners were wearing what you'd expect for a competitive run, but there were a lot of people wearing clever or ironic zombie-themed shirts. We saw a number of shirts with the rules from "Zombieland", several varieties of "don't eat me", and a host of others. One group was dressed as super heros (Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and Robin), and another group was dressed as movie characters (Buzz Lightyear, a Ghostbuster). At least two different guys were dressed as Shaun from "Shaun of the Dead". And there was one ninja wrapped head to toe in black.
The Subaru sponsorship was pretty clever, I think. They were advertising "the official escape vehicle of the zombie apocalypse." If you arrived in a Subaru vehicle you got to park for free. They were also running a "zombie revenge" game for people who had not yet run the race. You'd compete against another player to perform a couple of silly tasks: hurl stuffed zombies into an open grave, roll a tire through an obstacle course of upturned zombies hands presumably, and finally through a ball at a dunk tank to plunge a man in a zombie mask into the water. If you won, you'd get to replace one of your health ribbons with a special blue ribbon. If you completed the race with that blue ribbon you'd win a goodie bag. We later found out that the goodie bag contained seat covers. Clearly the folks at Subaru had put some thought into this.
Between the Subaru tents and the race starting point was a large stretch of open space filled with shambling zombies. This was, in fact, a portion of the course, and was fenced off from the field. A considerable number of spectators stood along the fence watching the runners. This was, in fact, a thoroughly enjoyable thing to do. We'd watch a couple of runners approach from our right, out of the woods. They'd look at the large open stretch before them and hesitate. Almost without fail runners would wait until a sufficient number of them had grouped together, and then sprint through this gauntlet in a pack. This was the correct strategy: a single runner would have been easy pickings for the 30+ zombies milling about here.
I wasn't sure, when we arrived, whether we'd be facing Romero zombies (slow, mindless) or "28 Days Later" zombies (fast, focused). At "Run For Your Lives" we faced both types, though in truth there were probably more Romero zombies than the other kind. At the gauntlet pictured above runners had to evade both fast and slow zombies, and this made for some entertaining spectating as runners zigged, zagged, and jumped their way through the horde.
As noon approached, Jonah and I went to the start location. There were well over 100 people in our wave, and the mood was extremely upbeat as we waited for the gates to open. The guy dressed as a ninja walked up and down the line of runners fist-bumping everyone. The guy behind me was wearing a Sparta mask, and indeed wore it through the entire event. Lots of jokes were made, and lots of casual encouragement was offered. We were all eager to get started.
I've been running 5K pretty regularly for awhile now, so I was feeling pretty positive about completing this event in a reasonable time and without feeling like I over-exerted myself. Three things conspired to thwart me. First, all my jogging to date has been on basically flat ground. The course at "Run For Your Lives" covered rolling hills. Indeed, the first quarter mile of the run had us going sharply up before leveling out for a ways. The second problem to completing the race in any kind of reasonable time was the unfortunate fact that the obstacles in the track were not well suited for the volume of runners participating. This meant that runners queued up for some of them. We came to a complete stop for two obstacle. The final thing that ruined any hopes of a timely completion were the zombies themselves.
I really, really, wanted to complete the race with at least one health flag. The zombies made this very, very hard to do. At the first clump of zombies, the group of people with whom I was running were all motivated and energized. We approached the zombies at speed, and essentially sprinted past them to round a corner. Around this corner were more zombies, requiring us to sprint for considerably longer than we had planned. As we cleared this batch of zombies, several of -- myself included -- slowed to a walk, panting hard. This proved to be the overall cadence of the event: run at a comfortable pace for a bit and maybe clear an obstacle, sprint past zombies, and then slow considerably in order to try to recover.
This cadence was interrupted more than once by zombies that chased us from behind! We'd slow to catch out breath, and then hear pounding footsteps behind us. The first time this occurred, we assumed it was other runners. We were wrong. Fast-moving zombies swarmed around us before we knew what was happening, and our loose collection of runners was scattered as those with some reserve of energy sprinted on ahead, and those without lagged behind in the zombies' reach.
I lost two health flags in the first mile of the race. This made the last two miles even more stressful than I would have expected. If I had two flags, I could have taken a couple of more chances. But with a single flag, I had to really evaluate each zombie cluster to try to find an optimal path.
I was, frankly, surprised by how many zombies there were. I had expected a few, here and there, scattered throughout the course. In reality, there had to have been more than 200 zombies throughout the race. They were usually clumped together in packs of ten or a dozen, but more than one section had swarms in excess of thirty zombies. These swarms were, in a word, terrifying. There was almost no hope of getting through such a swarm unscathed. As one approached a swarm there was no immediate way to tell which of the zombies would simply shamble toward you and which would actually run to intercept you. Strategy, such as it was, was further complicated by the other runners, none of whom really coordinated with one another.
The zombies were also all very well done. There was a huge variety in clothing and gore. Some of the zombies were moribund, some were energetic. Some were covered in blood, some had only a pallor. The people that applied the makeup did a wonderful job, and all of the volunteer zombies performed well. It was, in all honesty, a lot of fun to run through a group of diverse zombies.
The obstacles were, on the whole, fun. There were a couple of streams through which we had to run. There was one mud pit, several barrier walls we had to jump, a rope wall, and a simple maze. There was also a faux barn on the outside of which was written "Warning: Electrical Hazard". We had to go through this structure. Inside it was dark, and there was a fog machine to further complicate things. Hanging from the ceiling were a number of live wires. Contact with any of them sent a shock to the victim. I've no idea how strong the shock was, thankfully, because I was able to navigate without touching any of them. There was just enough light to see the wires if you were careful, and the safety goggles I elected to wear rendered the smoke machine significantly less of a problem.
The final obstacle was a set of monkey bars over a large pool of foul looking water, complete with floating entrails. This was the single biggest bottleneck in the entire event. The obstacle permitted three runners at a time, but there were well over a hundred queued up. We stood in line -- in the baking sun -- for at least twenty minutes as we waited our turn. I don't know if the slowdown was due to an unexpected number of runners, or something else, but it was a bit of a downer to run through the course only to come to a complete standstill at the end.
Unfortunately, neither Jonah nor I were able to complete the race alive. I lost my third and final flag somewhere just before the three-mile mark. It was a real bummer to learn that I'd lost my last flag, and it drained some of my motivation for running the rest of the race. As we approached zombies, there was no reason for me to run past them. There was no reason for me to try. I did try, at least somewhat, because I was having a good time; but I know I would have been more highly motivated at the final stretch had I retained at least one health flag.
We were told that there were health kits along the route. If you found a health kit, you could use that to essentially replace a lost flag. That is, even if you lost all your flags you could still complete the race "alive" if you carried the health kit with you. I didn't see any such kits during my run. It's possible that earlier waves had collected them all, and they were never replenished on the course. Or it's possible that I simply didn't see them. If only I'd've found one, I could have completed the race "alive"...
All told, "Run For Your Lives" was the best 5k I've run. I absolutely plan to do it again next year.
Angela and I went to pick up Josie from daycare on Friday. It's always a treat for Josie when we both arrive to collect her at the end of the day. Her face lights up, and she hugs us both enthusiastically.
While Josie was putting on her shoes, the daycare provider lowered her voice and said "Something happened yesterday that I forgot to tell you about. Josie said something several times, and I couldn't figure out what she was saying. When I did finally understand, I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how you two would have wanted to respond..." Her voice trailed off a bit, and my blod pressure rose a little. What could Josie have done?
Her vocabulary has been absolutely amazing lately, and she seems to learn new words almost hourly. With her newfound communication skills, she's also become more than a little bossy. She says polite words in a not-so-polite tone of voice ("No thank you!"), so I was worried that she had learned a not-so-polite word and had used it at daycare.
The daycare provider looked at Angela and I for consent to repeat what Josie had said, which we nervously gave. Then she raised her arms out in front of her and said in a half-guttural moan "Zombie. Zombie".
Angela and I both burst out laughing, and I gave Josie a high-five. That's my girl!
"Scott has been working on that with Josie for weeks!" Angela said to the daycare provider. She was obviously relieved that this was acceptable behaviour for Josie.
I've been running pretty consistently three times a week for several months now. As the weather has improved, I've been skipping the gym and just running through my neighborhood. The initial switch from treadmill to street running was considerably harder than I had expected, but I'm now regularly running three to four miles per session.
I ran the Arnold Classic 5K back in March. I ran it primarily as a reason to motivate myself to keep running -- a goal toward which I could work to improve my endurance and speed. I finished the race in just under 28 minutes, which isn't fast by any stretch, but it was a result with which I was happy.
Since then, I've been trying to slowly improve my results. I've been running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I can comfortably run 5K through my neighborhood without feeling completely wiped out. Last Friday I ran just over five miles. I specifically set out to run farther than I'd ever run, and so was able to pace myself for the distance. I was specifically going for distance, not speed, so my pace was a bit slower than a normal run. To my surprise, at the end of the 5 miles I felt like I still had more in me, and could have kept going. But I didn't.
In addition to RunKeeper, I've also been logging my runs on Fitocracy, a social exercise site. I don't make use of the social aspects, but I do find value in the fun and positive support the site itself gives me. The notion of "leveling up" for the exercise I had planned to do any way is fun, and mildly motivating. What's a real motivation, though, are the Fitocracy Quests: simple exercise challenges to get you to go farther, or try new things. After logging my 5 mile run last Friday, I saw that I was just a mile short of a 10K jogging quest. Surely I could go that extra mile and run a complete 10K in one session?
I also noticed a fun and easy looking quest titled "Paper Boy". Simply run as fast as possible for half a mile, and then ride a bike for 20 minutes. I decided to clear out several quests at the same time on Wednesday: Paper Boy, run 1 mile in under 8 minutes, and the "Tour de Neighborhood" quest to bike for 10K. Running one mile in under 8 minutes was considerably more taxing than I had expected, but I did it! The bike ride afterwards was a pleasant cool down.
This morning I set out to run a full 10K. I knew it would take considerably longer than my normal run, and I would have to pace myself accordingly. I had really hoped to be able to jog the whole time, but I simply couldn't do it: I had to walk a few different times to catch my breath. Each time I slowed to a walk, the effort to resume running grew harder and harder. After 56 minutes, though, I finally reached my goal!
I don't feel any compulsion to repeat this effort, and I'm more perplexed than ever by anyone who wants to run even a half marathon. This six miles was really taxing, both physically and mentally. It doesn't help that I've finished all the story missions in Zombies, Run!, leaving me to listen to far less interesting "supply run" missions. I can honestly say that the stories in Zombies, Run! really kept me entertained and energized while running, and I'm very much looking forward to additional content!
In the meantime, it'll be nice to run a comfortable, easy 5K on Monday.
I started jogging late last year, and have been doing a fair job of sticking to a consistent running routine. But running for 30 or 40 minutes isn't very mentally stimulating. This is doubly so when running on a treadmill, as I was pretty much forced to do during the cold winter months: nothing of real interest to look at save for the vapid talk shows on the gym's television screens. Running outside at least lets me see something other than the static gym equipment surrounding me.
I tried listening to a variety of podcasts -- including my favorites The Drabblecast and Escape Pod -- but the pacing of too many of the stories just isn't conducive to keeping me motivated to run. I have hours of music on my phone, and listening to that is about as good as I can get. Even still, I have to skip past tracks that are too slow, or that I've heard recently.
So when I learned about Zombies, Run! on Kickstarter, I decided almost immediately to become a financial backer of the game. The premise is simple: you're running from zombies. That, in itself, probably doesn't make a very good game so additional elements have been added. As you run you collect random items you'll need back at camp. You can allocate how those goods are distributed in order to increase the size of your camp.
There's a storyline that unfolds through character narrations as you run. Between these little vignettes your music plays, so that you're not overwhelmed by story during your workouts. And there's an option to enable random zombie chases that require you to run faster for a minute or more in order to escape the ravening dead.
I listened to the first mission this afternoon while walking the dog. The basic formula is dialogue, then a song from your selected playlist, then more dialogue. This repeats until you've heard all the elements of the mission. The first mission introduces a couple of principal characters, and gives you some basic motivation.
The format works fairly well, and the voice acting is better than I had expected. The mix of story and my music is just about right, as too much talking during my run would distract me and likely slow me down; but too little talking and it would take too long for the story to unfold.
It's not bad at all. It's an entirely passive "game', as there is no real way to interact with it while I'm running (save for running faster to avoid a zombie chase, should I enable that option). The base building mechanic is interesting, and ostensibly unlocks additional missions. I'm not as interested in that aspect of the game, but I suspect it'll be a mandatory component if I want to find out what's happening. The storyline after the first mission does have me wanting to learn more, so I'm actually looking forward to my next run which is, after all, the reason I wanted to get something like Zombies, Run! to begin with!