“I’m never doing anything you suggest ever again,” Vincent yelled at me as he ran ahead to avoid Zombies.
“Why?” I asked as I ran to catch up.
“Are you serious? What do you mean ‘why?”
BUT WE DID IT!
The days leading up the race my friends, Vickie, Joe, and Vincent all expressed how nervous they were. They’re all athletic people. Vickie is an accomplished long distance runner, Joe completed the Spartan Race last year, and Vincent boxes at least twice a week. I am an accomplished twice a week Zumba attender. If they were nervous, I should’ve been terrified. But for some reason I wasn’t. I set myself a fairly easy goal: Just complete the damn thing.
For those who don’t know me all that well or noticed, I’ve lost 34lbs in the last five months. It’s been a combination of working out and Weight Watchers. I’d set up goals along the way to keep me motivated and training. This 5K was the first goal I set up for myself. Using the Couch25K program, I was able to get to the point where I could run a mile. Throughout the process I became frustrated with my bad feet, knees, and shin splints; but not doing the race was never an option. So I trained as best I could. I knew that the harder I worked and more weight that I lost, the easier this would be. Since this race also included obstacles, gaining upper body strength was important, because I didn’t have any of that.
This isn’t just any regular 5K. This a 5K in the woods, with obstacles, hills, and zombies. Yes, these zombies want your brains and they achieve that by taking all three of the flags that you wear velcroed around your waist. If you lose all three flags, you can finish the race. You just finish “dead.”
On May 5th race day happened. Joe, Vickie, Nicole, Vincent, and I made our way up to Amesbury Sports Park at 10am to get through registration, check our bags, and crap our pants. (For having over 6000 participants, this whole extravaganza was extremely well organized and registration was a cinch).
As we made our way to the start line for our 12pm wave, we found a few people we play Dodgeball with that had done the 10am wave. Out of the three that had finished, one person made it out alive. The phrase “there’s a lot of mud” was thrown around a little too much for my liking. These three people are also super atheletes and they were talking about how hard the race was. The best advice we were given, by the person that made it out alive, was to jog most of it and then sprint to get away from zombies. Very well.
There were three possible tunnel starting points. “Appetizer” for the serious contenders, “Lunch” for those seeking a bit of a challenge, and “Dessert” which we all opted for. Our first obstacle was running up the biggest fucking hill I have ever seen – complete with scaling over rocks. I should’ve stopped at the top and considered it a victory, but I kept going. Our pact to stay together was impeded by that goddamn hill. Thankfully, Vincent hung back with me.
The first mile, for me, was a comedy of errors complete with losing my sneaker in the mud and falling flat on my face in front of a rather compassionate zombie who helped me up and whispered “Just go…” without taking any of my flags. There was the house with the electric wires and the fog; the small maze with “Stay in the house, Carl!” painted on one side and “Free cookies!” painted on the other; a muddy hill you needed to climb on your hands and knees; and a small man made pond you had to wade through that was much deeper, grosser, and colder than you expected. All this plus zombies equaled the demise of two of my flags during mile one. Vincent was able to hold on to all three flags during the first mile despite me saying “Good job, buddy! Three flags!” and drawing attention to him like the unintentional idiot I can be sometimes.
Mile two: Mud. Just mud. Lost my shoe. Mud. Vincent took down a sappling avoiding a zombie in the mud. Mud. Watery mud. Slippery mud. Sticky mud. Mud. This was the longest mile ever. I can only relate the difficult of this to Daniel Stern’s Marv walking up the tar covered steps of the booby trapped basement in “Home Alone.” I lost my last flag. Vincent held on to his. I kept my mouth shut about it. There were times that I told him to just run ahead and do what he needed to do to survive – which is what I would actually do in a zombie apocolypse. I would not survive if my only route to survival was mud. But, like a good friend, he would wait for me to catch up. My favorite part of this was when I fell in a little river, put my hands down to help myself up and came up with mud gloves. MUD.
Mile three flew by! After we rounded the corner from the water station there was a gaggle of zombies just waiting. One of them grabbed Vincent’s last flag. At first, he was upset because he had made it so far, but the last mile was a narrow path of (surprise!) mud that had zombies jumping out of every bush at every turn and he realized that he probably would’ve lost it anyway.
The second to last obstacle I am going to have a difficult time describing. I climbed up this wooden structure where the steps were equal in length to my body and covered in (say it with me…MUD). I was terrified. I don’t like being more than three feet off the ground ever, but somehow I climbed this thing and pulled myself up at the top without any assistance or death even surprising the dude that offered to help pull me up at the top. Then, I slid down a slide into a giant pool of muddy water forcing a giant wave of water over Vincent, who was already trying to climb out.
Together, we ran over to the next giant tarp slide which was about 3/4 of the height of the original hill. I flew down that thing, screaming and laughing the entire time, and created another epic splash in to…wait for it…muddy water. We climbed out, carefully walked down the side of the hill, avoiding the mud, crawled under the electric fence. At this moment we saw Vickie, Joe, and Nicole waiting for us and cheering us on. We Daniel Bryan”Yes!” chanted our way across the finish line and clocked in at just under 1 hour and 29 minutes.
Out of the 6000 something people that completed the race, we were around 4300 – which was much better than I had expected for myself. Joe finished in the 400s and Corey, who we play dodgeball with, finished 9th. I’m not sure where Vickie and Nicole placed, but they finished around a respectable 1 hour 10 minutes. I’m super proud of everyone.
After we were handed our medal and took a group photo, we toweled off, changed, and ate. Vincent housed a 2lbs turkey leg which may have been a bigger feat than actually completing the race. But the real fun didn’t start until after we got home, washed off all the mud, and discovered all the awesome cuts and bruises that we had.
This was one of the most amazing experiences that I have ever had for a number of reasons. I earned my first medal. I wasn’t afraid to get dirty or hurt myself to be successful. I never stopped training for this even when my body told me it needed to rest. But most importantly, I had an awesome day with a great group of people and it’s nice to know that I can hang with them race style going forward. I’ve accomplished a lot with this weight loss so far, but completing this race and those obstacles while friends were cheering me on was the most awesome feeling. Crossing the finish line with Vincent was so cool. And that pulled pork sandwich was delicious.