Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thinking about the Zombie Apocalypse and Volunteering at the NJ Ultra Festival

Scenes from the Zombie Apocalypse Training Course.  From top left, going clockwise: (1) Doing tandem jumps with Cheryl and Yuki; (2) Marveling at how much fit in that teeny tiny tin; (3) Proudly displaying our marksmanship.  

Things that were awesome since my last post:

(1) Zombie Apocalypse Training

This has nothing to do with running or Grand Slam training, but really, I highly recommend it.   A few months ago, my friend, Cheryl wanted to surprise her boyfriend with a day-long Zombie Apocalypse Training course and she asked if Rob and I would be interested in taking the class with them.  Since it involved zombies, we readily agreed.  So, a couple of weekends ago, on a bright and crisp Saturday morning, Rob and I found ourselves driving down to south Jersey to the secret location of the class.

While the basic premise of the course is silly, the skills were anything but.  Granted, there was no way they could teach everything in one day, but we get did a good overview of what we should know in case zombies started taking over the Earth.  The instructors covered first aid skills, hand to hand combat basics, collecting emergency supplies, handling and the use of a variety of weapons, including the crossbow and the handgun, shotgun, and rifle.  Much to my dismay, I learned that in order for me to use my dominant eye, I had to shoot left-handed.  

Oh, and we learned the basics of knife throwing.  While the instructor admitted that knife throwing isn't really an efficient way to kill zombies (especially if they come en masse), killing one or two zombies with a well-thrown knife could make you look cool in front of your fellow apocalypse survivors.  I learned that I am especially bad at throwing knives - despite standing only a few feet away from the target, I could not manage to make the knife stick even once.  Ulp.  

At the end of the day, the instructors set up an obstacle course involving our recently learned skills and had us compete against one another.  We beat up zombies with sticks, sutured a pig's foot, threw knives, and fired at various targets.  The team with the fastest time would receive a special prize, but alas, our team did not win.  We came in a relatively close second, though!

Okay, even though I would be the first one to admit that the Zombie Apocalypse is not coming any time soon, the course made me realize that there are plenty of other emergency-type events that might occur, and so it doesn't hurt to prepare.  There is no way that I will become a Doomsday Prepper and I won't invest in firearms or a crossbow, but I will make sure to have extra water and basic supplies for my house.  I definitely do not want to be part of the crazy mob scene that is the supermarket before any major snowstorm or hurricane.  I could spend that time running, you know?

So.  Zombie Apocalypse.  Be prepared.  Or not.  

(2) Volunteering at the NJ Trail Series' Ultra Festival

I love volunteering at ultraraces.  First row, from left to right: (1) Stephen England and Tiffany, all bundled up before heading out for the night shift at the far aid station; (2) Elaine Acosta is still feeling good at mile 60; (3) Emmy Stocker and Mat Gerowitz, 50K Finishers; (4) Otto Lam takes a mini break at mile 70.  Second row from left to right: (1) Joe Del Conte hangs out with me at the main aid station; (2) Yoshiko Jo looks incredibly strong at mile 70; (3) Tatsunori Suzuki takes some food to eat during his next lap; (4) Louis Lam shows off her famous pork dumplings.

Right after Zombie Apocalypse Training camp, I drove up to Augusta, New Jersey to go volunteer at the main aid station at the New Jersey Ultra Festival.  NJ Ultrafest takes place on the New Jersey State Fairgrounds - it features a ten mile loop and so depending on how the runner is feeling that day, he or she can run anything from a  50K to 100 miles.  

I love the night shift, because you see people at their best and worst, sometimes both.  By the time I arrived, the participants who were still on the course had been running for more than twelve hours.  After talking briefly to Rick and Jennifer McNulty, the race directors, as well as some other runners who had already completed the 50K and 50milers, I learned that conditions this year were challenging.  A combination of muddy trails and cold temperatures were slowing down times considerably and there were quite a few 100 mile entrants who dropped down to a 50 mile or a 100K.  I didn't blame them.  I can handle mud.  I can even handle cold.  But the two?  For nearly 24 hours?  Argh.  

Fortunately, even though there were some people who dropped, there were still plenty of other runners on the course, giving me things to do.  Since I was working in the kitchen, my main goal was to feed the runners as they went by.  During my shift, I made or warmed up cheese burgers, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, penne pasta, and pizzas.  I doled out cups and cups of chicken noodle soup and vegetable broth.  Oh, and I poured lots of coffee.  People were tired and needed their caffeine.  The work wasn't difficult, so I still had plenty of time to catch up with my running friends and made new ones.  

I was already exhausted from waking up at 5 a.m. to attend the Zombie camp, so my memories of that night are scattered.  Memories of note:

- The cold.  Oh my gosh, it was cold.  I wore jeans, thermal top, tshirt, fleece, and windbreaker.  And I was still freezing.  I did not fathom how the runners were managing outside.
- Speaking of the cold, the New Zealand man who was running in only a tshirt and shorts.  According to Yoshiko, he upgraded to wearing gloves when it got colder.  I wish I had his fortitude.
- Eating steamed pork buns.  My friend Louisa arrived in the middle of my shift, bearing a large container of steamed pork buns.  She had originally brought them for our friend Becky, but Becky wasn't there.  So I ate one.  And it was delicious.
- Otto Lam saying that this race was harder than Beast of Burden Winter 100, which boasts of below freezing temperatures and snow for 24 hours straight.  His words?  "At least at Beast of Burden, you can run on top of snow.  Here, you can't run on top of mud.  But now that the weather is getting even colder, at least the mud is freezing solid."  Despite his words, I wasn't too worried about Otto.  I knew he would finish.
- Yoshiko Jo making the race look easy.  When I first saw her, she was in third place for women overall, but she looked so fresh at mile 70, I knew she would end up placing first.  And, of course, she did :).
- Elaine Acosta, looking chipper at mile 60.  And then Elaine, bleeding at mile 70, but still looking very steady.
- Tatsunori Suzuki, looking strong.  He told me that he was moving to Japan soon, so that this was probably going to be the last time I saw him in the States.  Awww :(.
- Rick and Jen's kids.  They're so smart and funny and adorable.  I love seeing them at races.

I only worked from 7 p.m. to midnight, but I wanted to see my some of my friends one more time, so I ended up staying past 1 a.m.  As I walked back to my car, I saw the New Zealand man, still running in his shirt and shorts.  I wonder if he finished.

(3) My neuroma feeling a lot better.

Maybe it is my imagination, but my neuroma does not feel nearly as bad as before.  I visited a different podiatrist last week; the good news is that my neuroma, untreated, will not do any damage to my feet.  The pain might get worse, but as long as I keep running the way I normally do, there should be no structural damage except the already existing nerve inflammation.  The bad news: If I want to get rid of it completely, I probably will need surgery.  However, at this point, surgery isn't an option - the surgery itself is very simple, but the post-op requires six weeks of no running.  Which obviously I do not have time for as Western States is in less than thirteen weeks.

So, I will just continue the following:

(1) Wearing boring shoes during my day to day activities.  No more four inch heels unless they are absolutely necessary.  
(1) Massaging my feet before my runs, especially the area between the third and fourth metatarsals.
(2) Stretching my calves.
(3) Going to regular physical therapy and acupuncture.
(4) Using metatarsal pads to stretch my feet.
(5) Taking serrapeptase.
(6) Wearing sneakers with ginormous toe boxes, like my new Altras.
(7) Praying.

(4) My workouts.

Despite my neuroma issues, it's been going well.  I have been doing plenty of climbing on the stairmill and super incline treadmill and have been logging lovely miles outside on the weekends.  Umstead 100 is this Saturday, so I have been doing a wee bit of tapering.  Last week, I only ran thirty miles and finished two climbing workouts.  At this point, my legs are starting to resemble tree trunks, but as long as they are strong tree trunks, I am pretty stoked.

Things that were not awesome since my last post:

Can't think of anything.  Life has been pretty good.