Tuesday, September 18, 2012

#113 Attend A Wine Festival

This is a revised post on my journey into the world of wine festivals. And....what a journey! I had plenty of passion, pleasure and adventure in crossing this off my life to do list! In fact, I plan to cross this off my list every year because it is that much of a good time. Even if you are not a wine drinker, I still highly recommend attending a wine festival. You never know, you just may open yourself to a new passion.

Hazlitt's Cider Tree
This is so delicious. Hazlitt's Cider Tree


A Wine Festival is a gathering of wine making proprietors whom, for an entrance fee, furnish their clientele with samplings of the various pedigrees of wine that they consummate at their vineyard. Vinification is an art. And like any work of art, there is a delicate, time consuming process involved in the journey from the grape cluster suspended on curling vine to the bottle of liquid sunshine sitting on your dining room table.

Did you know the main difference between Red and White wine is the use of the grapes’ skin during the primary ferment? White wines have little contact with the skin of the grape after the initial crushing of the grape commences. There are, however, certain variations of lighter colored wines that do have a minimal amount of contact with the skin to create a rose or blush color.

Did you know high proof brandy is a key ingredient to making port wine? Port wine is a very heady wine. Eating a little semi sweet or dark chocolate with a port wine brings out a sensual flavor that is quite addicting. I highly recommend trying it. I also recommend Chocovine, a Dutch wine that looks like a lot like Yoohoo but is an absolutely fabulous chocolate red wine. Trust me, you will love it!

Speaking of taste, wine quality depends on many factors, one of the most important being the hand picked grape versus the mechanically harvested grape. Most wines made in the United States and Europe are hand picked giving it a superior flavor quality versus countries where the labor is neither as knowledgeable nor readily available so mechanical harvesters must be implemented. Why? It comes down to the human touch really. A machine cannot tell if a cluster is ripe for the picking, has bunch rot, or if bird’s nests, rocks and other nuisances are hiding in the vines. Naturally, the above mentioned factors will play a key role in the flavor of a wine.

Penguin Bay Winery
Penguin Bay Selections

If you ever hear the terminology Old World and New World being used in reference to wine, the most important factor to remember is that Old World Wine is wine that is produced in the classic wine making regions of Europe such as the Bordeaux, Beajoulais, and Provence regions of France, and the Toscana, Calabria and Lombardia regions of Italy as well as many other European countries such as Spain, Portugal, Germany and Greece. New World Wine is wine that is made everywhere else including the United States, Australia and South America.

Let's do this ladies!!
One other important factor to note concerning Old World and New World wine is the difference in taste. Old World Wines are more subtle in flavor because the condition of the soil as well as the soil location are the driving force behind the vintors of the European classics.

Soil grade and weather have the most effect concerning the taste of the grapes. Old World wines seek to create the epitome of flavor each specific grape type can produce whereas New World Wineries often fuse grapes of all qualities from different locations to create vibrant and unique styles of wine.

New World Wineries are also more experimental in the use of different fruits to compliment their grape derived wines. Old World wines tend to be smoother in taste, allowing for the flavor of the wine to be translated by your pallet as a solitary flavor, based solely on the grape used to make the wine while New World Wines are bursting with many different, complimentary flavors challenging your pallet to define each ingredient.

Finger Lake Foxes

I recommend becoming familiar with and enjoying both Old World and New World Wines. I subconsciously find myself drinking Old World Wines when my life is more hectic, my mood melancholy, the weather grows colder or when I am making dishes that have many competing ingredients. New World wines I tend to drink with simpler dishes, when the weather warms or when my mood is more serene or upbeat. I also tend to bring New World Wines to parties and social events because of their vibrancy. (It’s funny how we can sense our little idiosyncrasies in something as mundane and everyday as purchasing wine. The subconscious mind is a thing of wonder to behold.)

How many wine drinkers can you fit in a Mini Cooper.
Before I get to the dos and don’ts list concerning my experiences at wine fests, there is also one other important wine I highly recommend trying to broaden your pallet. That wine is Mead. Mead is most often associated with the Vikings, Viking Mythology, the Dark Ages and The Renaissance.

The main ingredient in Mead is honey. In other words, Mead is made from honey. Mead is best when aged and is not as easy to find as Old and New World Wines. However, it is making a comeback in the United States.

There are now over 150 wineries that vint Mead including some in the Finger Lakes region of New York. It is an acquired taste, I will say that. It is not for everyone. But, trying something that’s origin dates back to ancient times, has been written about in countless historical tales and was favored by many powerful historical figures over the course of man is way too extraordinary not to try at least once in my opinion. (Can you tell I am a history buff?)


Red Cat
Cute little kitty kats!

So without further ado, let’s get to the main event….The Wine Fest. I am an intermediate wine drinker. I would not consider myself an expert in the world of wine, I am surely not a sommelier, but I do know enough to be distinctive and can knowledgeably converse about wine. That being said, I did not feel I was validated as an intermediate wine drinker because I had never been to a wine festival. When a few lovely friends invited me to a girls weekend that included attending one of the biggest wine festivals on the East Coast, I was more than excited for the opportunity. This is what I learned from attending. I hope it helps.


NY Finger Lakes Wine Festival 2012
Becky looking sexy as hell in that Hazlitt hat!
DO check the weather for the day of the wine fest. The wineries in NY were staged under big white tents at Watkins Glen International Speedway. If it is raining out, there is protection from the elements. If it is 90 degrees and humid, it feels 110 and super muggy under the tents. Lighter clothing makes the temperature much more bearable. Some people at the Finger Lakes Winefest were dressed casual while other people dressed more fancy. It doesn’t matter the style you dress. Everyone is there to have a good time, just make sure you are going to be comfortable.

DO NOT wear high heels if you are not experienced walking in them obliterated. Sprained ankles, twisted knees and the occasional scrape or bruise can occur when you fall repeatedly on your ass. I knew better than to wear heels but did make a faux pas in my dress. Do not wear clothing that you have to constantly adjust to prevent from showing perhaps more than you care to because the more you drink, the less concerned you are with adjusting your clothing.

Later in the day you may find yourself looking over pictures you have taken and realize your purple bra became your shirt. Or, perhaps your mini skirt rode a little too high up on your hips as you bent over to pick up stuff you dropped because your fine motor skills went to hell after your 90th sampling of wine. No one is going to point out that your undergarments have become your outer garments because why would they? My advice, leave the stripping to the professionals and wear something flattering but not busting out at the chest!

Mini Cooper for a Mini Lady? I'm so British! 


NY Finger Lakes Wine Fest 2012
Feeling pretty good now! 
DO drink plenty of fluids and eat something! This particular wine fest had little stations with water containers and trays of crackers located throughout the wine fest as well as plenty of food stands. Take advantage of them.

DO NOT be in denial. It’s ninety degrees. You are thirsty. You need to stay hydrated. 250 samples of wine will not keep you hydrated. Just saying. Some of us more stubborn alcoholics look at the water containers and think:

“Why the hell would I drink water when there are all these handsome men dying to pour samples of wine in my little wine glass?”

Well, the water helps dilute the mass consumption of wine so you can drink more wine. Water is absorbed into the body enabling us to stay hydrated. Alcohol has the opposite effect. Saying “I am thirsty” and proceeding to sample 8 different types of wine at a winery stand then sampling the same 8 wines three more times because you are so incredibly parched is in essence, not the correct thing to do. You are just asking for trouble.

I mustache you a question. Red or White? Or both?
Also, treating the companies offering samples of their dips, hot sauces and olive oils like an all you can eat buffet should not be considered a proper meal. When has a tiny pretzel stick dipped in hot sauce ever been considered a meal? I guess when you have lost all touch with reality it is a meal. And by the way, It’s HOT sauce!

Hello? You are a wuss. Eating that habanera sauce then running to the nearest wine stand to get 20 wines samples to clear the burn from your tongue didn't work out so well for you did it? But then again, you are already in a purple haze so it’s all good right?

You are a big dawg. You don’t stay on the porch, you run with the pack. Hell you lead the pack. (Especially when you don‘t have to drive. All bets are off when vehicle operation is not a factor for Fess.) Bottom line, if you have been walking around consuming wine for 8 hours and haven’t had to use the restroom once, that is a blazing red flag that perhaps you are dehydrated. Man up and drink some damn water so you can drink more wine!


NY Finger Lakes Wine Fest 2011
Slainte!! Drink up girls!

get plenty of rest. Wine fests are technically a sport. The more alcoholically enduring you are, the more you can drink. The more liver stamina you have, the more you can out last the youngsters. “Yea buddy, you may be 25 but I can Outwit, Outlast, and Outplay you because I just freakin rock.”

(It has been rumored that the Irish side of my family has an iron liver gene because I never saw my grandmother eat a piece of food in her life but man I watched that woman drink. She woke up in the morning and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer. By noon it was Pabst with Canadian Club chasers. By the evening, it was Canadian Club or bust! Same for her brother. Neither of them passed from complications due to liver disease. Both lived into their 80’s. Go figure.)

Hanging out with another ass! Why wouldn't I?
Who can compete with Irish Iron? We are Champs! I do not consume THAT much alcohol because I am only 3/6ths Irish which is like half Irish now that I am looking at that fraction in writing. ( In other words, I am half Irish. ) As for my strategy, I just make it up as I go really because I am a genius. Perhaps under the third tent we visited, I almost fainted not once, but twice. Not wanting to alarm my friends, I casually wandered off without letting them know and sat on a bench in the blazing sun.

Eventually my friend Becky found me sitting upright, my knuckles white from holding onto the seat of the bench for dear life. Perhaps Becky sat next to me. Now I am not saying that we didn’t nap publicly for about 20-30 minutes but someone may have had drool running down her mouth while the other one almost fell forward off the bench several times cuz her knuckles had become numb from trying to hold her drunk sleeping ass upright. Needless to say, we got some much needed rest and some wickedly uneven sunburns.

The Fessminski napping bench. 

DO NOT Stay up until 4:30 in the morning drinking around a campfire, crocheting little wine glass holders for your friends the night before wine fest because sometimes an Eagles fan gets stuck sleeping next to a Steelers fan wearing a 2x jersey like a night gown, who pretends to sleep while said Eagles fan is telling the boat cat to hush 13 times before eventually exiling kitty to the great outdoors. The Steelers fan may have been trying very hard not to crack up while NOT assisting her very tired good friend in the quieting of the cat because that is what good friends do.


NY Finger Lakes Wine Fest 2012
This red cat is lewd and tattooed!

DO invest in a wine glass holder that you can wear as a necklace. A friend gifted the group of us with lovely crocheted wine glass holders. Being new to wine fests, I thought it was very sweet but did not realize just how important this little contraption was. Walking around wine fest I noticed many, many people with all types of wine glass holder necklaces thingys.

I thought it was just something wine fest denizens did until I heard the first uproar from the crowd. I thought people were just cheering because they loved wine. Then I heard the second, then third, then fourth uproar.

“Wow, all these people love wine just as much as I do!” I thought. I even participated in the uproar. It was when we had moved to our second tent that I realized why there were all these uproars. You see, as I mentioned earlier, mass wine consumption effects your fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are the coordination of small muscles such as the muscles in your fingers in conjunction with your eyesight. Do you get where I am going with this? I am going to explain anyway so no worries. Things as simple and everyday as buttoning a coat, zipping a zipper, and yes, holding a wine glass can become rather difficult when inebriated because your vision is most certainly affected by the inebriation. This pretty much throws manual dexterity out the door.

In other words, drunk people drop and break things like wine glasses causing cheers from the crowd. This can be quite catastrophic because unless you have a back up glass handy… Broken Wine Glass = No Wine Samples For You.

As the day wore on the cheers became more and more frequent. (Gee, I wonder why?) I was so thankful for my wine glass necklace holder thingy because I am a clumsy gal. I managed to keep my wine glass from breaking thanks to my thoughtful friend. I was also able to sample many wines all day long making me a dehydrated, still fighting off the fainting spells, completely dazed and confused but nonetheless happy gal.

Your wine glass is your life line. Protect it at all costs! 
In fact, people were so enamored with our crocheted wine necklaces that we were approached often throughout the day and asked “Just where did you get these awesome homemade necklaces?”

Our response, “Our friend Becky sat around the campfire all night crocheting them for us.” People were so impressed by the skills and talents of our dedicated friend Becky. Now, that may have been the complete truth had it not been for the lady that actually made them walking around selling them throughout the wine fest. Like we are going to see any of these people ever again.

DO NOT try lying if you are not very good at it. Say you are semi buzzed and have lots of misguided confidence flowing through your bloodstream. You want that Red Cat bag but refuse to pay five bucks for a raffle ticket to get the bag for free because it really isn’t free if you have to buy something. (Yea…they aren’t fooling this bird!) So maybe you wait until the raffle ticket guy has a crowd around him then walk up to the stand, planning to just lift the bag. At that very moment, he makes eye contact with you and smiles. He’s cute and you go stupid. Being the quick on my feet thinker that I am, I was able to rebound rather quickly.

My deception. :)
I went to Plan B which went down like this. “Yea, I bought a raffle ticket but you forgot to give me my bag cuz you were busy.”

If there was ever a more unconvincing lie told by someone over the age of 3 I would be completely floored. He totally didn’t buy my story. Maybe it was the strawberry blonde hair. Maybe it was just pity for this train wreck of a girl with her purple bra hanging out of her shirt and stickers about being Nautie hanging from her hair.

Perhaps it was all the purple wine stains marring her light green crocheted necklace thingy because her manual dexterity was in question. It could have been the way she swayed back and forth with this sinister drunkin grin on her face standing in front of him like a little shoplifting angel/devil. Perhaps I am just THAT charming. I will never really know what caused him to cave in to me but he did. He gave me the bag. Victory is Mine!! Yes!!


Sinister Sister...hey, if the shirt fits the wearer.....
DO crash any VIP event you can. In fact, not only should you crash the event, you should sit right smack in front of the event holder and eat his food even though you are missing the pink wrist band that technically entitles you to the food.

In fact, grab a water and a bag of chips for your friend who had the sucky job of wheeling the shopping cart full of wine purchases seven miles back to the car. Maybe someone accosted her on the way to the car, eyeing up the wine purchases. Maybe she gave him the verbal tongue lashing of his life and could really use that bottle of water you were so thoughtful to steal for her.

Like A Boss. NY Lottery and garbage picking fun! 
Perhaps your friend, we shall call her B.B., decides to drive the car up to the VIP party site and do donuts in the field to get your attention. It worked for me. I walked over to the car but the rest of the group was still socializing with the VIP event holder.

So, I get in the car, sit for 30 seconds, get out of the car and start dancing to the music playing while the socializing friends still socialize and the other party attendants stare at all of us like “Who the hell are these gals?”  Meanwhile my friend drives through the caution tape blocking the non VIP people from the VIP people and party crashers making us all equal.

Pay no mind to the people dumping water over the lady passed out from heat exhaustion on the ground by the side of the bus. ( She should have taken a nap on a bench. Just sayin.) It’s a party, you weren’t invited, but it’s all good because you are drunk and don’t give a f@ck! Life is short. Lick it!

DO NOT rub it in the party goers face too much that you and friends are way cooler than them and know how to have a good time.


Sexy Bitches!! 

DO use your gender to your advantage. If you are a female and you are at a wine stand, go to the male bartender. He is more likely to give you as many samples as you would like and the samples sometimes turn into full glasses of wine. He may even forgo people waiting in line to reach over and personally serve you because he recognizes a rock star when he sees one. My friend Becky in particular had a male bartender practically pour us an entire bottle of wine just by making eye contact with him. I swear I heard the Love Boat theme playing somewhere in the distance. Girl power!

He was like an M&M in her hand!

The boys doing their thing.
Work it!

DO NOT go to a female bartender and expect the same treatment from males. Quite a few of them roll their eyes at you or give you a condescending look. Not all the females were like that though. Some were very friendly and helpful although the one gave me a crazy look when I told her my friend’s dad sometimes took his boat from Lake Seneca and sailed it to Ontario. Yea, unless the boat flies, that is not possible. What I meant to say was that he did something that brought him out to the Atlantic, I think. That story must have been stored in one of the many brain cells I offed that day because I forget it and it is rare that I forget anything, drunk, sober or otherwise. It’s a blessing and a curse.


Our mascot....Mr. Weebles sitting in Mr. B's recliner. 
Bad Mr. Weebles!!
Some other smaller things to remember.

DO yell across the crowds to find other friends that are attending the wine fest. Random people will also start yelling your friends’ names which better assists you in finding them by the port a potties.

DO NOT send your friends smart ass texts at the Winefest. (Corey) When I text you and ask “Where are you?” and you reply “Here.” it just leads to more texting.

“I know you are here. Where here?” Responding “By the giant Sunoco sign.” does not help either since there are 30 things surrounding the giant Sunoco sign. This inevitably leads to the yelling for your friends thing.

.02 Yea...I'm that good!
DO take the breathalyzer test if it is available. Not only do you get to blow into a straw which is fun in itself, but that 2.2 you were willing to take bets you were going to get can sometimes turn out to be a .02.

“You are just a good alcoholic” may be uttered by one of your friends in front of the cop who nervously points to driving scale that says you are only slightly inebriated even though you almost fell on your ass walking to the table.

You may have also blatantly stole more that one Frisbee even though it was a one per person deal right in front of his law enforcing butt while he looks at his little machine and wonders if it is malfunctioning. ( If you have not noticed an underlying theme by now, I sometimes get a touch of kleptomania when drinking but it is only harmless little things. I promise. I hate that I get like that.)

DO NOT really drive even if your test comes back .02 when you can barely stand. You know yourself better than anyone. Let someone else drive or park it until you can drive. It’s not worth the risk or all the future fun times you will be sure to miss by being careless. Also, when the friend that is driving is handing the cop doing the field sobriety tests his ass by firing away answers to his questions correctly in rapid succession, don’t try answering the questions too. It just makes your brain hurt and confuses the cop. Some of the questions he was asking Becky I would have had to have clarified even if I was sober. Becky does rock!

One of my favorties! Lucky Dog from Torrey Ridge.
DO talk to the vendors of the vineyards you are especially fond of. They welcome the conversation and often times give you deals on their wines as well as the best times to visit their vineyards for some great specials and events.

DO NOT be rude. If there is one thing I noticed at the wine fest, everyone was smiling, happy and having a great time. There was such a positive vibe in the air. Even the cops were cool. They did sobriety checks on all cars leaving the wine fest, but rather than issue DUI’s, they just made people park in the field until they could pass the test which I thought was totally cool.

DO get the two day pass if attending the Finger Lakes Wine Festival. The gals and I were not sure we could handle going two days in a row. It is only $10 more and when we woke the next morning, we were raring to go again.

There were so many things we did not get to see the first day including the Brewer’s Circle, which for an extra $10, gives you access to unlimited microbrews and various other beers produced along the Finger Lakes. We also missed the Cooking Circle which gives demonstrations on various cooking techniques as well as more sampling and you know how I heart samples.

DO NOT chug a 24oz Twisted Tea five minutes before entering the wine fest. Dumb move on my part.

DO bring a bag for smaller purchases but definitely take advantage of the reserve order system. It makes life so much easier, especially if you purchase a large amount of wine.

DO NOT lose your reserve order tags because unless you have them, the wineries have no way of verifying what wine purchases are really yours.

DO help yourself to plenty of stickers with sexual innuendos to pass out to your friends at work.

DO NOT be shy about covering yourself with wine fest bling. Where else can you wear a sticker that says “Spit or Swallow” and not get crazy looks. (Not that crazy looks have ever stopped me.)

Proud to be a redneck!

DO keep an open mind. Even if you are not a wine drinker, wine fests are such a fun time. I highly recommend attending one just for the atmosphere. There are other beverages available at wine fests and people were walking around with beers they brought because they wanted to have fun with their wine drinking friends.

DO NOT be afraid to try new and different things. You would be surprised how tasty different variations of wine and microbrews can be!

The sign I wanted to "gift" Becky. Mr. Chicken rocks!
Attending the wine fest was such a great experience for me. I found some new favorite wines as well as some really great vineyards I plan on visiting next time I am in the Finger Lakes region. For those of you unable to attend the wine fest, the vineyards and breweries are all condensed along the Finger Lakes. It would make for a great little weekend getaway.

Some of the vineyards join together and create a passport, which for a small fee, entitle you to free samplings at all the vineyards on the passport. Usually there are 30+ vineyards on the passport, which ranges in price from $12-$20. The vineyards also offer coupons off their products and some supply you with free glasses or other little gifts just for visiting.


Living it up in the Finger Lakes!

To the lovely ladies I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with, thank you so much for the invite. Thank you for laughing with me as well as supplying me with plenty of laughs. Thank you for giving me a “You can’t make this shit up” weekend! To Captain B, thank you for allowing me to steal your recliner in front of the air conditioner yet again for a nap and for taking us out on Lake Seneca! I swore I wasn’t going to go swimming but ended up in the lake anyway because I always do things I swear I would never do and I like it that way! Il mondo e tuo!

Partying with our Northern American Family, the Canadians

Fess' list of the best in show wineries for taste, presentation, and personality:

1. Pazdar Winery- (Secret Lovers, Eden's Crush) The gentleman was so patient. We practically tried all 20 wines. He happily obliged us. Becks and I made BFF's at this stand. A little on the pricey side but for good reason. They are all good. They even have 3 different degrees of habanero wine and 6 different chocolate wines. Will definitely visit this winery.

2. Three Brothers Winery and Estates- (Barely Naked, Flirtation) Fun bunch, gave generous sample portions. The wine names were the best, but they also tasted fantastic. They were in the mid-range price. Will visit this one too.

3. Hazlitt Vineyards- Just all around perfection and fun! A good time winery with fun, fresh and fabulous wine.

4. Glenora Wine Cellars - Probably the best tasting, smoothest wine I have ever tried from a US vineyard. The Blueberry Breeze is terrific. Wish I had more money because they are pricey. Bottles start at $12 but well worth it. The staff was really nice too. Will visit this one.

5. Brotherhood, America's Oldest Winery - This stand was so incredibly busy but the staff was so nice. The Lolly Red was so good. It has become a new favorite for me. Worth the wait for the samples. Wish I could have gotten more than 1 bottle. They are priced fair and had specials. Will visit this winery.

6. Kings Garden Vineyard - Another fun bunch. Very nice and helpful. Good sample sizes. The wine is pretty good and the prices are great. Bottles start at $6.99. Will visit here.

7. Montezuma Winery - Love the Dragonfly wine. The Diamond was also really great. Affordable. Great staff. Little chintzy on the samples. Will visit this place.

8. Earle Estates Meadry - I love mead. It is an acquired taste though. Don't know many who like it. However it is something I would only drink on occasion so for me to buy a whole bottle at this time, just couldn't afford to. Told them they should think about doing mini bottles. The Apple Enchantment is fabulous. Will visit here.

9. Knapp Winery - Limoncello, Loganberry, wonderfull staff, generous samples....very expensive. Will have to save up for this one!

10. Pleasant Valley Wine Company- Chocolate Lab Wine. Wow!! And Cheap. Great mixed with their Strawberry to Blackberry Frost which is only $5.99 a bottle. Great samples. Will visit this one!

Honorable Mention- Lucas Vineyards- Was not a big fan of their wine but loved their spirit. They are a fun bunch and always have great deals. This year they had the Butterfly Wine. Now I have a reason to love them. They have a wine I love. It's beautiful. Will visit them for sure!

Other links:




Thursday, September 6, 2012

#353 & #378 Two Birds, One Stone, and A Few Zombies

Bucket List #353 Partake in a 5K Race
Bucket List #378 Try An Obstacle Course

It is Friday afternoon on the last glorious day of August 2012. My friend Jacy and I are headed towards the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Butler, Pennsylvania to be exact. Why you may ask? We were running for our lives. No......seriously, we were. It was all over the news and the internet. See the below link for details.


I told you! Just how did this happen? Well.... It all started one early spring afternoon when Fessler was being nosy and looked at a link Jacy had posted on her friend Andy's Facebook wall about a zombie race. For some really odd reason, I have always been fascinated with zombie movies. Shaun of the Dead is one of my all time favorite comedies but really anything along the lines of the infected from 28 Days Later to I Am Legend just gets my goat. I wanted to be a zombie too!!

Back then I was still a novice in my new found health and fitness lifestyle but...... Jacy could be very convincing. Before I knew it, not only was I going to be a chaser zombie instead of a stumbler zombie but I was also going to participate in the race. It was good motivation and a great goal to assist in following and maintaining my new lifestyle. Plus, I had recently added this to my Life To Do List.

September 1 arrived faster than I could blink. I was excited, anxious, and determined. Although I was not particularly hungry that Saturday morning, I knew I had to eat something. I needed good carbs if I was going to pull this off. I sat in the hotel courtyard with Jacy and proceeded to eat yogurt, eggs, a biscuit with sausage gravy, a waffle and a glass of orange/cranberry juice. I was wishing the continental breakfast had bananas but they did not. I am not a fan of oatmeal either but was wishing I had eaten some too. I did not think to grab a few packets of peanut butter either. Turns out, what I did eat was enough thankfully but I had my doubts.

Like in the movie Zombieland, there are lessons to be learned.

Lesson #1 Carbs
If you are well aware that you are going to be chased through 3.3 miles of muddy hell recreated on earth by the living dead, be sure to have a hearty breakfast high in carbs, lower in fats and protien. Yogurt, eggs, bananas, oatmeal, whole grain breads, juice or a nice fruit smoothie will do the trick. Why not much protien before a 5K race? Because it takes more energy to burn protien than carbs. You need your energy to perform for the next 90 minutes. The carbs will give you that energy without overworking your digestive system. However, this is for race day only. Be sure to always have a balanced healthy diet on non race days.  Also, be sure not to eat a large amount of food less than an hour before the race. That is unless you want to take your chances and see if your morning breakfast can splatter in a cool pattern all over the ground in the middle of the race. I'd rather not but that's me.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
Pre-Race: Nice and Clean 

After breakfast Jacy and I gather our race day and zombie transformation gear and head over to the fairgrounds to join the festivities. I will now be running this race alone. My dear friend Jacy had recently been blessed with the news that she was with child and did not want to take any risks by running the race. She was bummed of course, but after running the race I KNOW she made the right choice. She would still be able to participate as a chaser zombie so all was not lost. She drives us to the fairgrounds. It is here where we learn our second lesson.

Lesson #2 Get The Worm
As we approach the fairground we are completely taken off guard by the extreme amount of traffic there is entering the fairgrounds. We knew there would be some, but this was insane. It was at least a mile long. And even after we could finally park, we still needed to be shuttled to the raceway. Alarm began to creep in. Would I make my race time? I did not come this far only to be told there was not enough time between the race and my zombie transformation to run the race.

I needed to run this race. I was determined to prove to myself that I could accomplish this goal. I am a doer not a talker. I was even willing to relinquish being a zombie to run this race. I did not mention this to Jacy because I was hoping to not have to make that decision. A sigh of relief washed over me when Jacy pointed out that there were plenty of shuttle buses and they were not wasting any time getting racers to the track. They did their job! Our friendly bus driver got me to the track on time. Thanx buddy! I made a mental note to be extra early to any future race in which I may participate in case they were not as prompt and on the ball as the Run For You Lives crew was.

Thanx Mr. Friendly Bus Driver!

As we enter the track we are required to sign a waver. After, we make our way to the registration tent. We get our instructions. I also get my racing belt complete with three velcro red flags. Since I also signed up to be a zombie I would not count towards the final race numbers which was not a problem for me. I just wanted to do the course and have an adventure. It also saved me from standing in another long line to receive my timer. Jacy would keep my time for me.

We head over to the Zombie transformation tent to check our bag, then head to the starting gate in the giant barn like building. The line for the racers spans the entire side of building. It was 10:25. I become anxious for the second time today. I hope they allow me to go out now rather than hold me for the 11 AM race. All of a sudden the line begins quickly diminishing. As I near the gate I notice three tunnels labeled APPETIZER, DINNER and DESSERT. This is where we encounter lesson #3 and obstacle #1.

Lesson #3 Choose Your Meal Wisely
The dinner and dessert tunnels still have a long line of people yet no one seems to be running through the appetizer tunnel. I am confused. Why are there three tunnels? What do the appetizer, dinner and dessert signs mean? I am running out of time. Do I have to wait? A guy walks by me and heads into the APPETIZER tunnel. I say fuck it and follow him. Later I learn from Jacy that the APPETIZER racers are the ones that deal with the fresh, rested zombies. The DINNER racers have zombies that are beginning to tire somewhat but still have enough gusto to get the job done and the DESSERT racers deal with mostly worn out zombies. FUCK!! What did I do? Doesn't matter. I still would have went out as an APPETIZER because I do love to challenge myself. Lesson I learned. Read the information they send you rather than skim though it.

Obstacle #1: Climbing a Fucking Mountain
As I am walking behind the dude I followed into the APPETIZER tunnel a zombie military patrol man starts shouting "GO GO GO! They are coming!" "This is it!" I think to myself. It's time to see if I can run with the big dawgs. "Show 'em what you got little lady" as Jay-Z would say. I start running. As soon as I get out of the tunnel my heart drops. Right in front of me is the biggest mountain I have ever seen in my life. Well not really but it was pretty damn big. In order to get on the mountain I need to pretty much run up a vertical incline. My instinct kicks in and I charge at the hill. I run tip toe to the top, but in the back of my mind I am telling myself  "Please do not fall down this hill. That would suck so bad if you did."

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012 Start
Zombie Hill- Much steeper than it looks.

It gets really steep near the top and the dirt is loose. I reach for the top of the hill and pull myself up. I look over my shoulder. I just did that. I may have done a little victory dance in my head, not gonna lie. There is a woman standing at the top. She laughs and tells me she is already tired. That comforts me because despite my new found health, I still smoke. It takes longer for me to get my breathing regulated. I turn the corner and my heart sinks again. Another incline. It is not as steep but it is much longer. It reminds me of the first hill on a roller coaster before the big drop. I know I need to get my breathing under control. I decide to walk at a brisk pace up the hill and work on my breathing.

Again I find comfort in the fact that many other racers are doing the same thing. There are still some people jogging up the hill but without regulating my breathing, I will not get enough oxygen to my blood which would in turn majorly affect not only my performance but more importantly my heart rate. I keep my finger on my wrist as I climb the hill. It's too high but suddenly stopping would be the worst thing to do. I slow my pace a little and proceed with the climb.

Once I reach the top of the hill I feel some relief. It is a flat path....for about 30 seconds. I turn another bend and there is another hill as steep as the first. "#@$%&!" I think to myself. A lady next to me says she is so over hills already. I find that statement hilarious. Together we laugh and climb the hill. I do not run up this one either. At the top there is another flat path. I want to stop but continue to fight through. It is the first time I feel like I am going to puke and I haven't even encountered any zombies yet. I feel my wrist for my pulse. Doing better but not quite where I want it to be. I am also about to practice lesson #4 which is one I already knew.

Lesson #4 Study The Terrain
A group has caught up to us. All of a sudden we hear screams. We all knew what that meant. Zombies ahead! We all breath a collective sigh of relief when we turn another bend to see no zombies and no hills. In fact, it is a decline. I jog down it. Some of the group jogs with me. As we jump a log and turn the bend there they are. Flesh eating monsters waiting to take our flags. I take a moment to examine the terrain on the path. I do not feel like breaking my ankle today. The path looks good. I take a deep breath. I am a sprinter. I can do this. I take off at full speed dodging the zombies as they grab for my flags. I make it through with all of my flags intact.

I now have my breathing and heart rate under control although I am still not at my full capacity yet. Getting there though. For the next fifteen minutes I run down the hill, dodge zombies, then climb back up the hill. I also encounter the first of five ankle sprains I see on my journey through the course. The guy is really hurt. He is wincing in pain and holding his leg. He caught a rut. I feel sorry for his pain. I notice his team mates are helping him so I push forward.

I am starting to feel good. I get to another steep hill, the steepest yet. There is a small plateau then another hill where zombies are circling around, staring down at us. A guy in our group tells us we should all take a moment to rest because this was going to be rough. I give myself 30 seconds. I need to just do this. I take a few steps back then proceed to charge up the hill. Two other runners are with me. We cross the plateau. The whole time I have kept my eye on the zombies and where they are standing. I quickly decide where I plan to run and race past the zombies on the smaller hill.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
The Zombies are getting restless.

That was exhausting but I still had all three flags!! Yea! Another victory dance. Perhaps I did not keep this one in my head though. We turn the bend and see the line to the slide. I am excited because there are two slides. I love slides. I really love water slides. I also feel incredible now. I am at full capacity. I try to be patient but I am rearing to go. A guy next to me is wearing a watch. I ask him what the time is. He says it is 11:02. I left the gate at 10:35. I spent 27 minutes on the mountain. Better than I was expecting. As I approach obstacle #2 I try to gauge the amount of time I spent waiting to get on the slide because it is totally coming off my total race time.

Obstacle #2: The Giant Mountain Slide AKA The "Your Ass Will Not Thank You For This" Slide
As I am waiting in line I notice a team dressed like Super Mario. They look so cute but they have to be roasting. It is not only hotter than the fortune teller weather man said it would be but the humidity is ungodly. It is like hell personally volunteered to donate this weather since it's "peeps" were wandering around the course trying to fake kill us. Nicely played Hell. Nicely played. Now go fuck yourself. Yea..I totally just said that.

Excitement and a small touch of anxiety starts to flow through me as I begin my climb up the wooden ladder to the mini slide. I take my seat. The water is freezing but it feels incredible. I slide down the mini slide. Weeeeeee!! So fun. I climb out, take my seat at the top of the giant slide and think "You about to slide down a mountain at mach ten into a pool of muddy water. You are a crazy woman!!" "Go Little Bad Girl" by Dave Guetta starts playing in my head. I AM a total bad ass! And in about five seconds my ass is going to agree with that statement.

As soon as I hear the word "Go" I push off and begin flying down the slide with two other people. I scream for dear life. We were not doing Mach 10 as I had previously guestimated. Instead, we have just broken the sound barrier. I know this because I felt an intense pain in my ass halfway down the slide. The pain had nothing to do with the fact that I had broken my tailbone several times throughout the years and it juts out slightly more than it should. It had nothing to do with my tailbone hitting a freakin rock hidden underneath the blue tarp. My ass hurt because it broke the sound barrier. Yea...I'm going with that one. I am also about to encounter lesson #5.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
The Mountain Slide

Lesson #5 Protect Your Orifices
After breaking the sound barrier with my ass the slide literally picks me up and hurls me into a pool of deep muddy water. I swear I flew about 20 feet though the air before landing in the water but that seems unrealistic. It was more like two feet. So what happens next you might ask? Well.... I find myself on top of another racer who is also under muddy water beneath me. I get scared. I do not want to drown anyone but I need to be cautious about kicking them in the head too. I am wearing sneakers. That could really hurt. I quickly roll myself off the person submerging myself for a second time. This time I forget to close my eyes and squish my nose.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012

Yea that shit didn't feel too fantastic. I try to stand but this shorty can barely touch the bottom since it is all mush. So now I find myself not being able to see because there is dirt under my contact lenses. I am also snorting dirty water and mulch out of my nose so it does not go down my throat. On top of that I am doggy paddling through dirty water to make sure I did not hurt the person underneath me. I am so not a glamorous woman. I have accepted that. The person I "surprised" yells to me. I turn my head in her direction but the attempts I am making to open my eyes are met with more dirt and mulch. She asks me if I am okay. I tell her I should be asking her if she is okay. She reassures me she is okay and tells me she did not want me to worry that I hurt her. She was concerned that I hurt myself trying to get off of her so quickly.

Racers are such nice positive people I must say. I apologize 17 more times and we have a good laugh about it. Her partner sees my distress and directs me to a water stand to rinse my eyes. I manage to open each eye in intervals of about a second a piece as I make my way to the water stand. I dump about five cups of water in my eyes and blink so much I become nauseous for the second and thankfully last time. I feel a little guilty about drinking two more cups of water since I used five to wash my eyes out but the dude getting water next to me says I should drink up. I do. I also have learned that as much fun as muddy water can be, I should try to limit submerging myself in it to like....zero times. I feel a pulse of pain on my backside. I think it was my own ass slapping me for breaking the sound barrier with it. I apologize to my ass profusely then slowly head towards the next obstacle.

Obstacle #3: The Mud Bog aka The Widowmaker
I am disheartened. My eyes are still bothering me. I want so badly to do this but I feel dejected. The race official warns us to tighten our sneakers because if not, we will lose our shoes in the mud. I try to look down to tighten my sneaker and another piece of mulch stabs my eye. I give them a few more quick blinks. I become lightheaded. This really sucks. I am alone, my ass is mad at me, my head wants me to pass out right now and it has become apparent mulch hates me so much it just wants to keep stabbing me in the eyes. Still, I muster up the courage to tighten my other sneaker. There will be no pity parties today. Not for this kid.

As I slowly stand up, sheer will pulses through my body. I turn and look at the giant mud bog. There are zombies standing in the mud as well as across from it waiting for a chance to take my flags. "You have to catch me first bitches!" I laugh to myself. I step into the mud. It is slippy and mucky. There is a racer in the pit searching for his shoe. Another who entered the pit the same time as me picks his foot out of the gunky mud. No shoe! "Oh shit!" I say aloud although I meant to keep that to myself. I decide to tip toe through as much of the mud as possible careful not to make either sneaker a widow. As I near the end of the pit I take a deep breath. It's go time. I jump out of the pit with my right foot praying that my left one does not get stuck. It doesn't. Praise Jesus. I fly past the zombies to a straightaway. Here is where I encounter lesson #6.

Lesson #6 Herd Yourself Just Like Cows and Geese Do
There are Zombie gauntlets throughout the whole race. I am not positive if they are an obstacle but I am going to list them as one later in the blog because I came up short one obstacle when mentally making my list. Unless of course that giant log laying across the one path was an obstacle. Nah, I'll go with the zombies. They are way cooler than a log. There is a man standing at the start of the zombie gauntlet with his wife. He tells me I should wait there because running through with a big group of racers will help our chances of survival. He seems like a smart man so I listen. I start pacing while others join the group. Once there are about twenty of us the man yells, "Let's do this!"

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
Zombies looking for some "Braaaains!"

We all take off like a herd of cattle, sprinting and dodging zombies left and right. I must say I am pretty fast and lithe because not only do I dodge the zombies with ease but I am the first runner to the end. These little legs got some horsepower. I'm not tired yet though I remind myself. No need to get cocky. Confident, yes, cocky no. There is another gauntlet of zombies in front of us. We do the same thing. I check my flags cuz one definitely got my shirt that time. Nope! Still got all my flags. This is crazy I think! I am actually doing good.

Obstacle #4: The Firestone Graveyard
Most of the people in the group I had joined stopped for a rest. I was feeling incredible. I wanted to go on. I figured I could always catch another group. I follow a few other racers to the tires. I was disappointed there were not more for me to jump though. Then again, my feet were mud heavy. It would not be cool to trip on one of the easiest obstacles on the course. I skip through the tires carefully. I jog a little. There is slippery mud all over the shaded, tree lined parts of the course. A woman in front of me slips on a slick turn and jacks her ankle. Her man helps her up but she is visibly limping. I offer help. She gives me a painful smile but insists I go forward. Her man says they are going to take a rest and see if she can work it out. I tell her I hope she does and continue on.

I decide it is best to just walk briskly through the parts of the trail that are really shaded. Not only is there slippery mud but there are way more ruts to get twisted in down here than there were on the mountain. Just as that thought crosses my mind, a guy up ahead of me gets twisted in a rut and stumbles to the ground. I head towards him to see if he is okay but he is already up and painfully hopping towards his team mates. I watch him walk over to a muddy spot and rub mud all over his ankle. I also notice he is missing a shoe. "Ah, the widowmaker," I think to myself. Sucks to be him but I admire his determination. I do a few more zombie sprints with some people. I still have all three flags. Go Team Fess....of one! Yea...that is me, a one woman team. And my team is kicking butt!!

Obstacle #5: The Electrode Building
After running through the woods for a bit I come across the fifth obstacle in the race. This is the building with all of the electrical wires dangling from the ceiling. Before I enter the building I can either step around a mud pit or walk through it. On the other side two zombies were waiting for me. I decide to go through the mud. It feels cool and soothing on my feet. I look at the ground in front of the building. It is very slippery. I've seen enough sprained ankles today. I do not want one. However, it is probably going to cost me a flag. I look at both zombies. They are both paying attention to my every move. They both look fit too. I decide to try my chances against the one to the left of me.

I know if I run I am going to fall. I step out of the pit at a brisk walking pace and try to maneuver around the zombie. I sway to the side as he attempts to grab my flag. I start to slip at an awkward angle. As I fight the fall I feel a tug at my belt and hear the sound of velcro coming apart. He had reached around me and took the flag on my left hip. Damn! I finally get myself straight and walk to the building. As I climb through the window I map out where the biggest gaps are in the wires.

I walk slowly towards the other side of the building. There is another racer behind me. She is following my lead. On the far side of the building we hear a guy yelp and confirm the wires are definitely live. Thankfully we both make it to the other side without getting shocked. I know there are more zombies waiting on the other side of the building. I step outside the building noticing more slippery mud. I take a big step over as much of it as I can and make a run for it. I feel another tug and the sound of more velcro ripping. Double Dammit! Where the hell did he come from?? I check to see if the flag by my butt is still there. It is! Back into the woods I run.

Obstacle # 6: The Barbed Wire Crawl AKA The Ass Ripper
As I turn another shaded bend in the forest, I notice a small line. Ahead I see lots of barbed wire low to the ground. Yes!! It's the barbed wire crawl! I was so hoping it would be an obstacle in this race and here it is right in front of me. A race official is warning people to stay low to the ground. I get in line. It is like I am training for the Army I think to myself. Not really but I always thought it was cool to see people crawling under the wire in military movies and commercials, testing their prowling skills. I get to have my chance too. I also learn another lesson.

Lesson #7 Captain Obvious Will Always Make An Appearance
I notice slippery ruts have already been formed from the many other racers whom have come through this obstacle. That will definitely help I think to myself. Then the guy standing behind me says something he should not have said in my presence. I felt like taking the flag from my belt and bitch slapping him with it because of what he said. I'm not going to lie. I have OCD tendencies. I can be slightly neurotic and a tad bit germaphobic. How can I say this? Unless I am inviting your germs to hang with mine...or...unless I know you well...no, ummmm.... okay.... screw it! I do not want stranger germs on me. Plain and Simple!

Usually I am very aware of germ transmittal. I am also aware that in races like this there is a chance you may come into contact with some stranger germs. Yet, up until this point, it hadn't even crossed my mind. I was so concerned with completing the race that those thoughts rescued my mind from the neurosis...up until now that is! Captain Obvious proceeds to inform the crowd that we are going to be sliding our junk over ruts made from other peoples junk. Thanx Buddy! You suck! I had managed to come so far without my neurotic tendencies rearing their annoying collective head. I began to totally bitch slap him with my flag in my head. That helped a little. I giggled as I turned back to the obstacle. It was also almost my turn to get down and dirty with the barbed wire and rub my junk. The guy in front of me was now on the ground starting his crawl. As I am going to the ground I look up to see if he cleared the entry.

"Ouch!!" I think to myself. I just witnessed this guy get his ass ripped by some barbed wire. He had a tear in his shorts and a red scratch. It was bleeding, but not enough to run onto the ground. I duck down and begin my crawl being careful not to rip my butt on the same barbed wire he did. I follow him through the barbed tunnel. I stare at the rip in his butt pretty much the whole time. I can't help it. It's right in my face. Times like these are when I am really thankful that I am little because there really wasn't much room under there. I make it to the end without tearing up my ass! Victory is mine! However I become distracted before I get a chance to do my victory dance.

There is a drink station ahead of me. I am not thirsty which is strange because I am always thirsty. However my hands are filthy. I clean my hands because Captain Obvious has brought the chronic hand washer out of me. I decide to have a drink of water anyway to re-hydrate. As I am sipping my water I notice the guy with the ripped butt walking in front of me with a girl. She also has a ripped butt. Hers is really big and noticeable. Guess it is a hazard of the race. In fact, I start looking at everyone's butt. I notice a few more people with rips as well. I feel my butt. No rips. "You Dork! I think you would know if a piece of barbed wire pierced the delicate skin on your behind," I laugh to myself.

Obstacle #7: Zombie Gauntlets...in other words "Run For Your Lives!!"
The first signs of fatigue are beginning to set in. I am about to head out of the woods into the pounding sun. I have two rather large Zombie gauntlets ahead of me from what I can see. This is going to be rough. I feel for my flag. Still there. I step out into the heat and walk towards the first set of zombies. I look around. It is just me. I pace back and forth for a minute but no one else emerges from the woods. The sun is so damned hot. The other runners are smarter than me. I bet they are chillin' in the shade by the water comparing ass wounds. Not me! I didn't get one. Always the outcast!

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
The Infected with their trophies.

"Think you are going this one alone kid," I tell myself. I look to the woods one more time. There is absolutely no one. I know for a fact I was running in the middle of the pack because I passed a lot of people during the race. Where the fuck is everyone? I look at the zombies, say "The hell with it" and take off like a bat out of hell. I don't think I ever ran so fast in my life. I must have dodged ten of them. I get to the end of the section and feel for my flag. I know there were a few tugs at my shirt. Is it still there? Holy shit it is!

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
Those crazy kids!!

At this point I am too exhausted to do a victory anything. I climb the hill to check out Section 16. Some of the zombies must have left because there were only about five of them there. Two other runners catch up to and pass me. I follow them. They both turn and look at me. Their faces show the same signs of exhaustion mine do. "You wanna just do this?" the one guy asks me. "Yes" I say. The three of us take off down the trail. I feel hands on my butt and tugs on my belt as I wearily try to dodge the zombies.

I don't even check this time to see if my flag is still there. It has to be gone. The guy next to me also lost his last flag. He's pissed. Both runners stop to catch their breath. I want to stop too and rest a moment but decide it would be best to keep pushing ahead. If I stop now it will only make me more fatigued. I walk towards the next obstacle. I am alone again. I do not see any zombies between me and the wall. Ugh! The wall. This one is going to be a challenge for me.

Obstacle #8: The Wall That Discriminates Against Shortys and The Well Endowed
I walk towards the walls. There are two sets of them. A few racers are waiting to jump. I watch enviously as some of them go over it with such ease. I will not be able to gracefully hop over this wall. You see.... I have three disadvantages. Number One: I am a shorty. Number Two: I have big boobs. Number Three: I do not have much upper arm strength despite working on them. As my turn to conquer the wall arrives, I notice a man offering to give people a boost over it. I look at him, contemplate it for a second then politely refuse.  I want to try this on my own. This is where I learn another lesson.

Lesson #8 Think Outside The Box And The Breasts
I muster as much strength as my fatigued and worn body could give and heave myself up. It was not far enough. To make matters worse, on my decent down, my boobs get hung up on the top of the wall. The race official is now grinning at me. "Yea...Hi buddy." I laugh. I look at the construction of the wall. There are buttresses holding them up. I attempt to use them as a boost but my sneakers are too slippery. I slide off of them. Slowly, I back away from the wall. The race official is watching me. He seems interested in my plan of attack. I could get a running start and jump up, but if that does not work I'll look even more ridiculous than my previous two attempts.

I refuse to walk around this obstacle. As I am eyeing up my surroundings I notice a large gap in the second set of walls. I can walk through that gap no problem. I look the first set. They are pretty close together. "Screw it! I'm doing this" I think. I walk towards the wall again. The race official is still watching me. I tell him I believe I am small enough to squeeze through that gap. He laughs as I wiggle my way through it. Some runners stop to watch me.

I ask him if this counts as completing the obstacle. He says absolutely. Nowhere does it say I had to jump the wall. As long as I got past it without completely walking around it, it counted. I walked through the wall. I guess I have an advantage that balances out my disadvantages....my brain. As I proceed through the second wall, one of the runners that stopped to watch me tells me "I'm fine". Just like my shirt says. I felt good! A new burst of energy radiated through me. "What's next?" I think to myself as I walk down the hill away from the walls. I'm ready to finish this race!

Obstacle #9: The Zombie Fun House...This Ain't No Carnival Though
I follow the red tape to the next obstacle, trotting past a few tired zombies along the way. It is a maze that reminds me of all the fun houses I used to go in as a kid. I knew from watching previous race videos that there were no zombies in the actual maze. They were standing not to far from the exit waiting for the kill. Naturally I take the longest way possible through the dark and dank maze. I walk out ready to make my dash to the next obstacle. I know my flags are gone but it is still fun making the zombies run after me.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
Not your average funhouse!

Obstacle #10: The Mud Bath
As I approach the next obstacle I notice it is a giant mud bath similar to the one at the bottom of the slide. I watch a runner go in it. It is pretty deep. Other runners are walking around it. Not me though. I am so going in it. Only this time I do not have to worry about being completely submerged. It is only about three feet deep. I notice where previous racers have stepped into the bath, a little mud water fall is flowing out of the pool. I even comment about it.

Just as I am about to step towards the bath I feel a hand around my hip and another one feeling my butt. "What the hell?" I think. As I am turning I hear velcro rip. I look and see a female zombie laughing as she is removing the flag from my belt. Shock is all over my face. "Dammit! I didn't even know I had one left." I half yell, half laugh. I go to run but she holds my hip. "Fine! Just take it!" I laugh although I am a little pissed. I should not have assumed I lost my flag in Section 16. I should have checked. I've been checking them the whole race. I am also pissed because zombies are not supposed to take your flags as you start an obstacle, nor are they supposed to hold you. Snatch and grab is all they can do.

I know my race time does not count but I would have loved to finish the race "alive". I sigh and let it go. I am too excited about my mud bath! I begin my ascent into the mud bath, careful not to disturb the pretty mud waterfall. I may have tripped into the mud bath. I fight from falling straight into it because I do not want to go under. Thankfully I fall into it with my head afloat. I turn and notice there is a female zombie in the bath too.

She is scaring the runners but not snatching any flags as far as I can tell. I hang with her a few minutes because it feels good in the muddy water. Who needs a spa right? A part of me is hoping I get assigned to this obstacle because I would totally be the water zombie. It was however not in my cards. I did love working Section 16 though. We had a great crew but that is for another blog. What was in my cards was the finish line. It's time to crawl again.

Obstacle #11: The Dark Tepee Crawl?
I have no idea what this obstacle is really called so this is the best I can do. Ahead of me is about 100 feet worth of little wooden triangles. Except for a spot of about 20 feet, they are all covered in black tarp. I have to crawl through them. I look at the ground disgusted by the sight. I ask Jesus Christ what is up it with all the freakin mulch. He doesn't answer me. Jesus gave me really boney knees. I really wish Jesus had put mud under there to protect them. I enjoy the mud. Jesus does't care though. The honey badger doesn't either. He would just walk through this thing and eat the mulch. Probably eat the tarp too. The honey badger don't care if it hurts. I do though. I am not the honey badger. So kids, here is another lesson.

Lesson #9 Mulch Is Your Enemy
As it becomes my turn to crawl, I take a deep breath and tell myself I am almost to the end. As I get further into the tepee I become aware that it is hotter than hell in there. Other racers notice and comment as well. Guess it's fitting. I look ahead towards the light. I cannot wait to feel fresh air. That is when a sharp pain pierces my knee. "OH...................................MY GOD! That really hurt!" I exclaim aloud, dramatic pause and all. I do not know if it was a rock or a sharp piece of mulch but every time I slide my knee a sharp pain goes through it.

When we hit the air the runner in front of me looks at the spectators and says "I actually paid to do this." A spectator laughs and says "And I paid to watch you do it." We all got a good chuckle out of that. I almost forgot the pain in my knee. Almost. As I crawl back into the dark I try crawling without my knees touching the ground. I am small enough that I do not hit the top of the tepees. Finally I see more light. As I emerge from the tepee and stand, I look at my knee. There is a tear in my yoga pants. I got my battle wound. It was a right of passage I remind myself. It meant I actually had an adventure. I actually did something!

I look around to see if I can spot Jacy. She yells to me. I run over all proud. She is happy I made it. She points to the fence I need to crawl under and informs me that it is an electric fence. She has seen people getting shocked so I need to be careful. We can hear the race official informing everyone it is a "live" fence. "One more kid, one more obstacle to go," I tell myself.

Obstacle #12The Shocker...No Not That Shocker Guttermind...The Electric Fence Shocker
I study the fence looking for my best route. It is very low to the ground. I have managed to not get zapped throughout the whole course, not so confident about this though. The fence is highest near the left side, however it dips down pretty low near the exit. The other side is no better. I watch another racer go under and follow her lead.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
The Shocker!

I get flat to the ground, making sure my butt is not sticking up. Jacy had mentioned they had added more water to the obstacle to make it slightly easier to crawl. I was grateful for the water but I could still feel all the mulch under me. I begin to laugh as I worked my way under the fence. I felt like a frog. Not the way a frog is when they are hopping, but the way they are when they are swimming. I couldn't stop laughing. I'm a little froggy. Yea.... delirium is finally settling in. I may have crawled a little too far past the exit of the fence but I wanted to make absolutely sure I did not get shocked.

The Big Finish
I stand up. It's over. I just did that! I felt the tears welling up in my eyes as my smile beamed wide across my face. Excitement, pride and exhilaration pulsated through my entire body. I just completed one of the hardest obstacle courses in the world. I did it in a little over an hour. This was by far one of the most unlikely accomplishments of my life. If you would have asked me a year ago if I could see myself even attempting to do something like this, I would have said not a chance. Yet, here I was, walking to the medal tent to pick up the first ever athletic award I have earned in my life. (My red and white ribbons I won for 50 and 100 yard dashes in school don't count because I was just competing against school mates. This is a REAL award!) I wore it with so much pride. My smile was the brightest it has been in a long time.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
I Did It!!!

For some this may not be a big deal, but for myself, and I am sure a few other people out on that course, it was an unprecedented accomplishment. I will never forget this day for as long as I live. I will talk about it often and I will talk about it with pride. Go Team Fess! What's next on the menu? Bring it! As I head to the showers to clean myself off and prepare for my return to the course as a member of the undead, I learn another lesson.

Lesson #10 Never Forget Your Survival Pack
The showers are three sets of wooden trellises with water streaming from little PVC tubes. They are packed of course. I wait my turn. I notice people with towels and shampoo. I did not think to bring those necessities. I make a mental note to do just that next time. It would have definitely been a welcome comfort. After my shower we head to change into our costumes. I did not bring a plastic bag to store my wet, muddy, mulch filled clothing and sneakers. Thankfully one of the nice "Run For Your Lives" crew members gives me a garbage bag to place my dirty items in. I make another mental note to bring plastic bags.

When changing, I get the first real look at my battle scar. It's a nice long cut. The surrounding area is already turning a nice shade of black and blue. I did not think to bring an antibiotic ointment with me. That would definitely be a must. Thankfully it did not get "infected" but I would have felt better with the proper first aid supplies just in case. There was hand sanitizer available but I also make a note to bring my own next time just in case.

As we walk towards the food area to stand in line for an hour to get French fries I wasn't even hungry for, I make a mental note to bring protien bars and other energy snacks for my next run as well as B Complex vitamins. I just put my body through a brutal run. Our bodies do not recognize strenuous exercise from other traumas. It just knows that it is being put through trauma. B Vitamins taken right after a tough workout or brutal run assist our bodies in restoring itself to a non traumatized state. I left my vitamins at the hotel. I would not be returning to the hotel for at least another five hours. I was going to be more sore from this run now because of my poor planning.

While I did take two baby aspirin before the run for my heart, I only brought 2 Motrin for the entire trip. Another poorly planned move that would cause more soreness than necessary mostly due to inflammation. Live and learn right? Finally, why I left my sunscreen tube at the hotel knowing it was going to be a hot, sunny morning is beyond me. I guess it was my nerves. I do get a slight burn but surprisingly it is not so bad. Actually it is kind of comical. Why? Because I was a zombie of course!

That night when I got to take a real shower at the hotel, I spent five minutes scrubbing my neck and chest because I thought the make up had stained my skin. It dawns on me that my skin is not stained because the red skin did not have make up on it. The white parts did. I now have sun lines in the outline of where the blood splotches were from being a zombie. That's just funny. As I get out of the shower and feel the soreness creeping into my muscles I wish I had brought my icy hot spray. I make another mental note. Next time I run a course, I will be sure to pack my survival gear better.

After I eat, I lay down in my cozy bed and fall asleep for an hour. I wake at 9:30PM and head towards the hotel courtyard in my 2X Big Ben #7 Steelers jersey a friend had given to me. I use it as a nightgown because it engulfs me. It is dark now. The moon is full and beautiful. It is quiet in the courtyard. The patio tables are wet from the downpour that started as we were heading home from the race. I take an ashtray from a table and sit on one of the stone blocks by the grill because they have already dried.

As I savor my cigarette I think about the long day I had. I was sitting at that very patio table in front of me just 14 hours before eating my breakfast, knowing I was in for a challenge but not realizing just how much the next 14 hours were going to change my life forever, change it for the better. From the corner of my eye I notice a lump slowly moving around on the concrete next to me. I turn my head slowly. There he sat. I was no longer alone in the hotel courtyard. A little frog had decided to join me. I couldn't help but smile. My day had come full circle.

Run For Your Lives Butler PA 2012
Zombie Fever Victim

The Obstacles According to Fess
1.   Climbing a Fucking Mountain
2.   The Giant Mountain Slide AKA The "Your Ass Will Not Thank You For This" Slide
3.   The Mud Bog aka The Widowmaker
4.   The Firestone Graveyard
5.   The Electrode Building
6.   The Barbed Wire Crawl AKA The Ass Ripper
7.   Zombie Gauntlets...in other words "Run For Your Lives!!"
8.   The Wall That Discriminates Against Shortys and The Well Endowed
9.   The Zombie Fun House...This Ain't No Carnival Though
10. The Mud Bath
11. The Dark Tepee Crawl?
12. The Shocker...No Not That Shocker Guttermind...The Electric Fence Shocker

Zombie Survival Lessons
  1. Carbs
  2. Get The Worm
  3. Choose Your Meal Wisely
  4. Study The Terrain
  5. Protect Your Orifices
  6. Herd Yourself Just Like Cows and Geese Do
  7. Captain Obvious Will Always Make An Appearance
  8. Think Outside The Box And The Breasts
  9. Mulch Is Your Enemy
10. Never Forget Your Survival Pack

Videos taken from participants in the "Run For Your Lives" Pittsburgh, PA Race 

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