Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review: Zombies, Run!

Here's an excerpt from an email I got from my buddy Marino yesterday that was my introduction to "Zombies, Run!":
The game creates the illusion that your run is taking place in a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Ever since I read that sentence I've found myself spontaneously shaking my head, laughing, and thinking to myself, "This is either brilliantly awesome, or completely idiotic. And maybe both."

First, let me make now thing clear. I'm not a zombie geek. I'm a running geek. I'm a GPS geek. And I'm an Apple fanboy currently on my 3rd iPhone. So the idea of an app that would turn a normal, kinda boring training run, into a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland, is . Or idiotic. Either way, I couldn't wait to try it out. I grabbed my phone, agreed to pay the $7.99 (Guh!), and stared at the screen, wondering why the hell it wasn't downloading faster.

On Marino's recommendation, I planned to run on the trails, in the woods, for "a better suspension of disbelief".

I'll admit, I felt a little ridiculous. I don't even run with music! And here I was, donning  headphones, to run among make believe zombies. All zombies are make believe, but these are really make believe. Regardless, I started my "mission" with simultaneous feelings of excitement, trepidation, and embarrassment even though I knew that no one knew I was about to play pretend in the woods.

Here's the deal... you are a survivor who is in one-way communication with "base". During your run mission they talk to you, moving the story along, telling you what's going on, giving you assignments. They talk to you at the beginning of the run mission, and between songs on your selected playlist. (I recommend slashing guitar rock... goes well with zombies.) You also pick up items along your run, items that the base needs, like food, medicine, batteries, etc. You don't have to vary your run, or change direction, or bend over. As long as you keep running, you'll accumulate supplies. You know you're accumulating things because a robotic-type voice half-mutes your song and tells you, "Picked up underwear".

When you start your mission, you have the option to turn on "Zombie Chases". Look, if you've paid $7.99 for a game called "Zombies, Run!" and you don't turn on Zombie Chases, you're an idiot. Ok, I know... they put that in just in case you're running in traffic... I get it. But honestly, if you're running in traffic, you shouldn't be wearing headphones at all now, should you. Besides, come on... you're playing a game that, in the title, tells you to run from zombies. You don't go to the pool and not swim. You don't go to a bar and not have a drink. Turn on the chases.

As you're running, and gathering supplies, if you have Zombie Chases turned on, which of course you do, occasionally, you'll get a warning that zombies are in the area.

You know there aren't any zombies in the area. You know there aren't any zombies anywhere. But still... it gets to you.

Then... the beeping. The beeping means they are close. Faster beeping means they're closer. The beeping is telling you... you guessed it... "Zombies, Run!" And you really do want to run. You really don't want to get caught by the zombies, the zombies that aren't there, but kinda are.

Yeah, I was totally sucked in.

You can actually hear the zombies behind you. You hear twigs snap, which is, indeed, more effective if you are actually in the woods. A chase lasts about a minute. Supposedly, you just need to speed up, not reach a certain speed, to outrun the mob. I was "chased" twice in my first mission. They caught me the first time thanks to the gully I had to cross. The second I managed to outrun. And it was a serious chase. I don't want to give too much away, but one of the zombies used to be a runner like you, but she got caught. And she's fast. I'll be honest, I was moving pretty damn fast at the end of that chase. And I had a distinct vision of a zombie-runner-girl wearing a green singlet, trying like hell to run me down and eat my brains. Those beeps get into your head.

If you don't outrun the zombies, you don't die, or become undead, you "drop" the supplies you've collected, I guess to distract the brain-starved. So, the more zombie mobs you outrun, the more supplies you bring back. 

So what? Well, after your run mission you get to divvy up your supplies to the various buildings back at base. The more supplies in a building, the higher its level. Higher level buildings unlock more missions.

On the techie side, there were a few glitches... like I couldn't understand the robot voice over my music, and when I paused the mission and restarted the music didn't come back until I restarted it manually, and during the run mission I noticed that it was measuring in kilometers and found no way to switch to miles, and most glaring, after the run mission I couldn't retrieve my time, distance, and pace. I'm sure these are being worked on. And it's very possible I missed something. I've only done one mission and I wasn't diligently digging for things, just trying to use it as a normal person would. [Update (4/11/2012): Downloaded v1.1 and glad to report many issues have been resolved. Keeps distance and time log, can select miles, shuffles your playlist, game volume is adjustable and better.] 

Does running really need to be gamified? No, of course not. But I'll tell you what, Zombies, Run! is a lot of fun, and a great distraction on a short run. I'm already looking forward to my next solo run... not that I will really be alone...

Zombie, Run! $7.99 on iTunes
I give it 4 out of 5 brains.

Good running,
Doug AKA Runner 5

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sick During Marathon Training

What's worse than being sick?

Being sick when you're supposed to be training for that marathon that's looming, out there, in the not very distant future, like a fully operational Death Star. You're supposed to be training your body to defend itself against the distance and the course. Instead, your flat on your back.

It can happen. Trust me. I've spent that last 2 days sick as the proverbial dog. Which when you stop to think about it is a weird proverb because even when my dog's sick, she seems just fine when she's not actually in the act of being sick. When I wasn't in the actual act of being sick, I was in bed, and either shivering or sweating like a pig, though pig's don't sweat.

I think we should keep animals out of our proverbial metaphors, at least when it comes to bodily functions.

So, what do you do about your training if you get sick?

Good question.


Patience is the key.

Your body just saved itself from some nasty marauders who meant to do it, and you, serious harm. Give it a break.

You're probably dehydrated. You might not have eaten anything for a couple days.

Missing a few days of training because you were sick is not going to ruin your marathon. Jumping back into hard training too soon, and getting yourself sick again, just might.

Respect your body and what it's been through. Give it a day or so after you are back on your feet. Then, try an easy run. If that goes well, then you're back in business.

But what about the training you missed? Do you make it up?

Another excellent question.

You're weird.

Those sick days are lost days. Don't try to make them up.

If you were down less than a week, ease back into your training, and be honest with yourself about how you feel and how well you are running. The more days you were sick, the longer this will take. Once you are running 100%, pick up with the training plan with the workout you had planned for that day. Essentially you pretend that those sick days, and ramp back up days, were part of the training all along, replacing whatever workouts you had for those days, and starting back on the original program as soon you are ready. It might be a bit of a jump up, since you could have missed a build-up step or two, but do the best you can. In no time, you'll be right back in the groove.

If you were down for more than a week, it's time to reassess your goals. You were REALLY sick. It's going to take a while before you're 100%. Consider changing your race to one a month or so later. If you can't do that, acknowledge that you're going to go into the race less prepared that you planned. Not your fault, just bad luck, and part of the plight of the marathoner. When you are full strength, after you've eased back into running, start back on your training plan where you left off, minus 2 weeks. That will give you a little slack to recover your mojo.

These are rough guidelines. I'm no doctor.

One of the key benefits of training for a marathon is the keen awareness you develop of our body. Like a good jockey does with his race horse, listen to your body, don't force it, give it time to find its stride, and then run it hard for all it's got.

I think that metaphor held together ok.

Good running,

Image from here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rest Days

paintings of Rest at Harvest by Adolph William Bouguereau

Rest at Harvest

Unless your doing something stupid like running every day for a year, your training schedule will include rest days.

Here's the thing that most runners don't know... rest days are NOT days off.

Just because you aren't running doesn't mean you get to do nothing.

Rest days are a chance for your legs to recover... so you can beat them up some more.

Your legs get to rest, not you.

On rest days spend some time helping those legs recover.
  • Stretch. Often. Better yet, hit a yoga class.
  • Break out that foam roller you bought at Target, used once, and put in the corner. 
  • Rehydrate - don't go anywhere without a (reusable) bottle of water.
  • Take care of your core. Maybe do a little work on the upper body.

Oh, and don't pig out, either. You aren't on vacation.

Rest days are just as important as long runs, tempo runs, and intervals. Use them to prepare your body for more training, not as an excuse to undo the training you've already done.

Good running,

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vicarious Running

To try to break up the monotony of the weekend's scheduled long run, I thought it would be fun to try live tweeting along the way.

I've been snapping pics during runs for years, so the idea of tweeting seemed like no big deal. Plus, a little live feedback, encouragement, even hazing would provide a few seconds of distraction from the arduous task of moving my body, and the water I was carrying, the required obscene distance.

But, turns out... it was pain in the ass.

Taking a picture when you're sweaty, and huffing and/or puffing, and your heart is trying to pound a hole in your rib cage, is wuh-aaaay easier than typing something remotely coherent under the same conditions. I know, obvious, right? Well, sure.. NOW it is.

Wake up the phone. New tweet. Picture icon. Take a picture. Actually take the picture. Use picture I just took. Type tweet. Post tweet. Uhg.

Stopping to tweet totally killed my pace. And my momentum. And after 10 miles, my will to live.

Worse, the hassle made me think twice about taking some pictures, and twice was all it took for most of them to be cut from the movie. Too bad, too, cause some of them were kinda fun. Just not fun enough to endure the torture of the tweet.

And when i did tweet, I'd start editing myself after I'd posted, thinking "Oh, man, I should have said 'blah blah' instead.", but it was already posted, read only.

Still, fun experiment. I learned a lot. I'll probably tweet some live pics from Big Sur just to share the beauty and the agony, and to let those few who care that I'm still alive. But, a regular feature of DR365 this isn't.

With that glowing introduction... I present the Doug Run 365 Long Run (no longer) Live Tweet:

9:30 AM - 5 Feb 12: Live tweeting on my long run this morning. Vicarious types, run with me!

9:38 AM - 5 Feb 12: I won't be totally alone. A few others on path this am.

9:53 AM - 5 Feb 12: Minor equipment malfunction. 

10:19 AM - 5 Feb 12: 86th street chicane.

10:41 AM - 5 Feb 12: Warmish sun, chilly shade making it hard to regulate temp. Sweaty and cold most of the time. [ed. - No picture. Trust me, it's better this way.]

10:49 AM - 5 Feb 12: PBR can art in Broadripple 1/2 way thru long run. 

11:01 AM - 5 Feb 12: Holy crap. Transformer just blew up 50 feet from me. Heart pounding extra hard now. [ed. - No picture. We've all seen what a transformer looks like, right?]

11:09 AM - 5 Feb 12: Speed.

11:41 AM - 5 Feb 12: The southern stretch of the Monon is long, straight, monotonous. Perfect training for the last 6 of a marathon.

11:53 AM - 5 Feb 12: 10th street.

12:07 PM - 5 Feb 12: Got[ta] thank my cheering section.

12:15 PM - 5 Feb 12: To commemorate the Super day in Indy, I'm posting today's mileage in huge ass romans [on the circle]. XV baby!

Good running,