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  • Quick Glance:
  • Host: Run For Your Lives
  • Shoes: VFF KSO
  • Venue: Rusty’s Walnut Creek Ranch: Not So Great…I won’t be doing more events at this location…(read on)
  • Would I Run It Again: Yes! (But only in a different venue)
  • Muddy Toes Rating: 9 out of 10! (Great event, poor venue)

RFYL 181

Well folks, here it is…the final review of 2012!

And isn’t it fitting that this is the event that started the chain of events that led to me becoming the Muddy (J) Maniac that I am today! I think so!

If you have been reading for a while, you know enough about me to understand the paragraph above, if this is the first article of mine you’re reading, you should read my bio (here) and my Tribesports.com Feature (here).…go ahead, I will wait…..

Ok, good you’re back…let’s get on with it, shall we?

First thing: Yes, I got infected….I am ashamed to say that a year’s worth of training didn’t save me from joining the ever-swelling ranks of the walking dead…

That didn’t stop me from having a good time, though…so on with the review…

I woke up bright an early to take on the hour and thirty minute drive to the venue…Mrs MuddyJ was originally going to join me at this event as a volunteer, as well as my photographer…but alas, she woke up feeling a bit ill, as we all are prone to this time of year, with rain/shifting temperatures and the like…so I told her to stay in bed and get better…it’s just not fun to be dragged out to something outdoors when you aren’t feeling well. As ALL of my married readers should know: (single guys take notes here) If the Mrs is not happy…YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE HAPPY…

I had packed my camera bags (yes, plural) and my Race Bag the night prior, loading everything into the trunk of my trusty 350-Z(ombie) (I love my car!) so that the morning wouldn’t be so rushed… I got dressed, donning my spanking new Gladiator Rock’n Run shirt to carry on my “shed it and don the next” tradition.

I kissed Mrs MuddyJ good-bye for the day, grabbed my home-made energy gel, and headed through my laundry room, and out into the garage..I opened my garage door and saw:

...a scene from oh-i-don't-know...mebbe just about everyfrigginZOMBIEMOVIEEVER MADE

…a scene from oh-i-don’t-know…mebbe just about everyfrigginZOMBIEMOVIEEVER MADE

A fog as thick as pea soup had rolled in overnight, and as the feeble light of my garage-door-opener spilled out onto the field across the street, I couldn’t help but smile…even the weather was cooperating to set the mood for me!

I took the route that Google laid out for me…happy as always to get on Texas SH-130 where the speed limit is 85mph… in my 350-Z(ombie)..ahhhhhhhh yeeeeeaaaaahhhhh—I even turned on Radio Abel to help get me “in the mood”

With clear roads and smooth sailing, we (meaning my car and I) made it to the venue in little time…and then ran smack-dab into a WALL of cars trying to enter the parking area…luckily for me, I was NOT coming from Austin…that line of cars stretched to the HORIZON!

The parking area was the first sign that this venue was not equipped to handle this large of a crowd…it took 30 minutes from the time I pulled into the driveway to the time I showed my volunteer parking pass and parked. The most frustrating point: some one thought it would be a great idea to have all the cars fan out to 4 separate cashiers to pay, and then bottleneck back down to one lane, which went directly into a hairpin turn…all in the span of about 100 yards…

I had made it to the entrance of the parking area with over an hour until my wave…but by the time I got parked and out of the car, and promptly stepped in a huge pile of fecal matter….ugh…I had 25 minutes to make packet pick-up, gear check, and get to the corral…I hustled off towards the sounds of music, crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t run into a WALL of people at the entrance…

During my registration for the event, I had signed up for the FIRST WAVE, listed @ 0900 hours…but @ 0830, there were ALREADY RUNNERS on the course.. I guess as the event filled, they added a few waves to the beginning of the day…I have seen this happen before at other events, and it never fails to get under my skin. I sign up for the earliest wave possible so I can get out onto the course when it is not clogged by walkers and much slower runners….in fact, MOST OF THE COMPETITIVE RUNNERS I KNOW do the same…the earlier the better. If an event is going to add waves to the front side of an event, I should be notified and given the option to move my time forward…(rant complete)

As I made my way to the packet pick-up area, the entrance funnelled through a waiver tent…I grabbed one and  signed it, and hurried to packet pick-up, waiver and ID in hand. A helpful volunteer gave me my packet, flag belt and t-shirt..and no more direction than that…this wasn’t looking good…

I turned around and surveyed the area quickly…I walked right through a security checkpoint without even realizing I was doing so. (oops! to my knowledge, this was a rarity, the security at this event was actually very good, i must have looked like a staff member.) I stepped into the line of port-o-potties next to gear check for a quick PRD, then I washed my hands and doffed my shirt and stuffed it into my bag….

I pinned my bib to my right leg (off-center, as always) and strapped on my flag belt. I checked my bag @ gear check without much issue and was pointed to the starting corral, with about 10 minutes to go before my wave, but I was missing a chip timer! I headed back to the packet pick-up tent and was issued a new one quickly, then I headed for the start…phew…I had made it! No repeat of the Spartan Sprint Debacle today!

The corral was split into three “courses” : Appetizers, Entrees, and of course, Dessert. I jumped into the line marked “Appetizers” and soon we were released and on our way….

If you have ever run a trail race, you have to be familiar with the “caterpillar effect”…(run walk, run, walk, run, walk) and this race was a shining example of the phenomenon…however, due to the Zombies, breaking away from the pack could be a bad thing… the trail was narrow, slick from recent rains, full of inexperienced runners, and lined on both sides with CACTUS… passing people who were walking side by side was a chore, and three abreast was impassable…

…so I walked, content to stay with the main body of the pack for protection from the Zom’s…There were runners that weren’t as patient and tried to push their way through and around, yelling not-so-encouraging obscenities at those in front moving slower…these were also the same runners who stopped dead in their tracks and STARED blankly at the small mud pit that was our first obstacle…pppphhhhh, amateurs…..

I charged through the waist-deep ice-cold muddy water and out the other side without much thought, and the pack started to thin as the first obstacle acted as a speed bump…rounding the corner, I saw my first set of walkers…

I don’t think that the zombie actors were all following their instructions very well. There were supposed to be Walkers, Shamblers and Sprinters.…I am not one to whine, but it seemed like EVERY zombie my wave encountered was a Sprinter… at least for a few steps…combine that with a slippery, tight (and cactus-lined) course ,as well as the fact that you couldn’t run over them, and the difficult task of finishing with at least one flag became a nearly impossible task!

I lazy vaulted over a downed tree and hit the other side at speed without breaking stride, I faked left and sprinted right, successfully dodging a Santa Zombie and a Mrs Claus Zombie pair…thinking I was in the clear about 10 meters passed them, I started to slow…and then I felt an agonizing sensation (don’t worry, only my pride was wounded) as I heard (and somewhat felt) the first of my flags being torn off my belt…by the Santa “walker” I had just passed! NO FAIR! I left him in my dust!

Rule#1: Cardio Don’t wear your flags hanging off the back of your flag belt.

The first of three flags gone, I started sticking closer to other runners, but I quickly abandoned that strategy after nearly running over a few others as they back-pedalled upon sighting any Zombie..

I picked my lines carefully, ducked between trees, twisted and turned, whirled and jumped…anything I could do to stay just out of a zombie’s outstretched hand…

I was doing well for the next mile, winding through muddy trails, using trees for directional shifts and keeping a pace that allowed me to break into a full sprint at any time… I was doing well for myself…and then the trail opened up and emptied out onto the first of several horde infested fields…

I went into a full sprint, evading quite a few zombies when the unthinkable happened: I got careless and wound up to close to one…..my second flag was taken…now I understand how it happens in the documentaries….

A short distance back into the woods, and we all ran into the maze…a small building made of exposed beams and black plastic sheeting…

I wandered through cautiously, the strange feeling I was going to meet up with Dexter at any moment because I had a distinct feeling I was an unscheduled guest in his “kill room”: my only clue that I was going the right direction was that there weren’t runners coming back towards me…

A line of other runners fell into step behind me….

I turned a blind corner while in the lead….

I should have been paying closer attention…

I shouldn’t have let the runners behind me stay as close as they got….

Rule#22: When in doubt, know your way out. (I should have followed the rules)

Turning the corner brought me (literally) face-first into the biggest Zombie Santa I have ever seen (ok seriously, I have seen that many Zombie Santas, but this guy was HUGE) I tried to backpedal, but the wall of other runner’s behind me made it impossible to get enough distance…I yelled, thinking to say something along the lines of ,“HEY everyone, there’s a huge fucking Santa Zombie right here and he’s about to get me-back the FUCK-UP  so he doesn’t get you too (flag gone) Awwww shit”….

….but it came out more like,” yeaaarrrrrghhhhhhh (flag gone) aww shit….”

My final flag gone, I tried to stand in the way of the Zombie Santa (without being trampled) and save my fellow runners…which also became my mission for the rest of the course….many times between this point and the end would I successfully aid other runners by getting between them and the walking dead.

Honestly, losing my final flag was a rather liberating experience…instead of surveying the course ahead of me, and trying to figure out ways around the zombies, I just ran on, scanning the trail for “health packs” (which never materialized) and sprinting only to get between a Zombie and a runner who was still “alive”…

This event is more of an “everyman” course…meant to encourage people to get off the couch and out exercising. They do their job well, the obstacles are more like momentum breakers than any sort of true challenge…the course wound out of the wooded area and out into active pasture land (think POOP, and lot’s of it)

A balance beam obstacle, (which was very slippery) nearly claimed the sexual identity of a young male runner in front of me when he slipped (one leg on either side of the beam), and I jumped off into the ankle deep mud the moment I started to lose my footing to avoid the same fate…I like having a deep voice.

A small patch full of slippery hills and next came another building. It was full of dry ice fog, limiting visibilty to about 18 inches of pitch black creepiness….I walked in, again feeling like I had a date with Dexter, and also thinking that this was VERY similar to Dark Lightening in the Austin Tough Mudder, when off to my right I heard some one shriek…in pain…then from my left….

I stopped in my tracks..my eyes refocused….6 inches in front of me dangled an electrical lead!  I hit the ground, remembering the agony of getting 10k volts delivered to my testicles… then I got curious, and touched a lead…

I got a small shock…just a little more intense than sticking your tongue on the leads of a 9-volt… I felt pretty bad-ass for being able to simply walk-through the field of dangling wires as those around me yelped in pain with each shock…

Next came some walls, 4-5 of them about 48″ tall each and up and over them I went, running along until I hit the next open area… another Field of Terror…being flagless, I simply stayed on my pace until I saw a runner being cornered by a Zombie-then I would get between the runner and the Zombie:

Rule#17: Don’t Be a Hero!

Crossing the field led to a gated area, with a right or left option…you wound through a small corridor, ( a bull chute I think) and crossed a small open area to hop an 8 foot fence. It wasn’t an issue for me, but the guy in the picture below was intent on keeping his flags and FLIPPED over the Wall. I hope he finds me and gets a copy of this picture, I let him know I had taken it!

RFYL 078

Next up were some barbed-wire topped – under-walls…I resorted to a Kong-Gallop to get underneath them-4 in all- and then turned into another horse pasture (complete with feeding trough, and  a lot more poop) …

Three obstacles were left, and I was ready to finish…despite keeping my eyes open for a “health-pack” I hadn’t found one, and I was VERY ready to at least post a decent time…

The first of the last three obstacles was a 50 meter crawl underneath a mass of wood…it was more annoying than tough, but it did manage to scrape my knees up as I crawled along.. it was too short to bear crawl… getting to the end, I stood up and ran up to the base of the next obstacle…the water slide….

RFYL 111 I climbed to the top with no issue, and waited for the runners ahead of me to clear before I launched myself downward… I sat down, pushed off and held my breath… Upon hitting the water I remebered that I really DON’t LIKE ICY WATER…so I moved towards the other end as quickly as I could and hopped out…

As soon as my feet hit solid ground on the other side, I was running to the final obstacle…a low-crawl under a chain-link fence… I got low upon approach and that’s when I noticed the “Electrical Shock/Magnetic Field” warning signs…I tried to stay low, but my curiousity got the better of me as people were slammed to the ground by the shock and I touched my back to the fence…

…ohhhhhh…tingly! Again, this shock was nothing compared to the Tough Mudder’s version….I got to my feet and ran the distance in to the “Dead” chute to collect my finisher’s medal…the “Alive” chute actually had someone checking flags, but at the time of writing this, every finisher got the same medal, regardless of being “infected” or not…

I grabbed a cup of water and downed it, then I headed over to the shower area…I figured it would be the same temp as the pool at the bottom of the slide…oh man, I hate it when I am right…RFYL 114

Despite being frigid, the “shower” set-up was one of the best I have seen at any event so far…plenty of pressure, and no hose to hold onto…you just sluiced the mud off your body as you shivered and let the water do the rest….


the finisher’s medal for this race is pretty bad-ass!

I was really cold by now, and I actually jogged to gear check to get my bag, and then jogged to the changing area. Once inside I got into some dry clothing, I felt instantly better… I donned my kilt and my new Run For Your Lives “war-wear” T-shirt…

RFYL 181There was a professional Photographer (capstone photography) at the zombie cage who was kind enough to take my rig and fire off a photo…the only one I have of myself at this event. Kudos for the professional courtesy…

I grabbed my free beer and headed over to the volunteer registration area. Since my wife HAD signed up and wound up not coming, (and because I would have felt dishonest had I used the volunteer parking pass and NOT actually volunteered) I walked up and explained that my wife had volunteered, but couldn’t make it…I would be glad to take on her assignment if they needed another volunteer.

The volunteer coordinator thanked me profusely for my offer, and said that, Yes, they could use some help in the packet pick-up area. I was given a volunteer t-shirt, minor instructions (it really wasn’t that difficult of a task) and I set about getting people set-up to go off and race.

This is the first time I have run a race AND volunteered, and I think I may repeat that pattern in the future…I got to see a very different side of the race…it gave me a much more rounded view than the sometimes-narrow perspective that ‘only running’ or ‘only volunteering’ can give me.

For the next four-hours I handed out packets to harried runners, many of whom were EXTREMELY stressed out by the time they got to me (due to the parking and traffic issues) -some were snappy, but most calmed when they were assured they would still be able to run in a later wave. Upon hearing that, most people relaxed…

Any problems with the packet pick-ups were quickly and confidently handled by the event staff on hand, who were courteous and professional. I knew this from earlier, when I had discovered my packet lacked a chip timer, but the few problems I encountered (missing/incomplete packets) were quickly handled to most of the runner’s satisfaction—you really can’t please everyone…and many people had a completely ridiculous sense of entitlement!

After 4 hours or so, I grabbed my camera’s from the car, selecting a 70-200mm F4L telephoto lens for my 5D MKii body, and a wide angle 18-55mm IS lens for my 450D body….

I wandered around for about an hour or so snapping photos of interesting things, trying to get some highlights for my readers etc… and I met up with another Zombies, Run! fan…I could tell because he was wearing the coolest shirt I saw the whole day….

RFYL 182

Runner#5 – I seriously need one of these shirts…medium…

RFYL 183

Since his shirt was so cool, I did him a solid and snapped a group shot for him…

Photo’s for the site snapped, I decided to pack up and call it a day…

Just a few final thoughts: I had extremely high expectations of this event, and the event lived up to it’s reputation. All the failures I perceived were due to the venue’s inability to handle something this large. I will gladly do another “Run for your Lives” event, but I will not sign up for an event at this venue again in the near future. It isn’t equipped to handle a crowd/event this large, and I DON’T like running through poop.

I should post some an article or two before the end of the year, but if I don’t:




Enjoy the rest of the photos below… I have a much larger gallery on the MuddyJ Facebook page, so check those out too!