Science Fiction themed races that must be created

I ran at the Warrior Dash and Run For Your Lives and now I’m becoming obsessed with obstacle runs. Run For Your Lives really opened my eyes to their potential. After giving it some thought, here’s a list of geek themed athletic events that I don’t have the time to make happen but I would really like to run in:

The Reaver Run

“If we run, they’ll have to chase us. It’s their way.”

You’d thought the Reavers ignored you, but they must have circled back… There’s nothing left to do now but run! Kick your engine into high gear, disable their traps, dodge their grapplers, avoid any Alliance entanglements, and do a crazy-ivan back to the Core Worlds before the Reavers can get you. Post-race refreshment: Mudder’s Milk!

Race into Mordor

“One does not simply walk into Mordor.”

Attempt to cross the Misty Mountains, run through Khazad-dûm dodging goblins, take refuge in Lothlórien, travel down the River Anduin, run from the orcs sent by Sauron, evade Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol, and climb the Black Gate of Mordor to drop your ring into the Crack of Doom. A simply epic race, this might work well as a marathon although the expense of obstacles over a 26.2 mile course might make it cost prohibitive. Post-race refreshments: A beer so brown (that comes in pints).

The Running of the Leaves

“Despite its name, the leaves don’t do any of the actual running.”

Bring your fall weather friends to this race to help the autumn leaves of Equestria fall (those lazy leaves). Start at the park, gallop through Whitetail Wood (make sure you look where you’re going), over the bridge past the waterfall, canter past the steep mountain path (don’t take a wrong turn here), back through the maple trees in the Whitetail Woods (look out for the sticky maple sap), and sprint to the finish back in the park. Can you win without the use of your wings? Post-race refreshments: Not sure, but there will be no fudge.

Track to the Future

“Of course we run. But for recreation. For fun.”

Run from the Libyan terrorists around Twin Pines Mall. Avoid Biff and his gang. Race through the crowd at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. And finally, race past the clock tower at 88mph to generate the 1.21 gigawatts to get back to the finish line where you started—at Lone Pine Mall. Whatever you do, don’t interact with your past-selves, the results could be catastrophic. Post-race refreshments: a Tab or a Pepsi-free.

Pokémon Dash

“Rapidash escaped using Run Away.”

Hold down the B button to take advantage of your Running Shoes. Run over hill and dale through the many different obstacles such as cobblestone, forests, beaches, water, swamp, and lava pools. Use the appropriate pokémon that you catch along the way to run on the easy path for certain obstacles. Post-race refreshments: Pokémon evolution shots.

Escape from the Death Star

“I’ve outrun Imperial starships. Not the local bulk cruisers mind you, I’m talking about the big Corellian ships now.”

Many Bothans died to bring us the plans for this race. Sneak into bay 23-7, up through the detention level, rescue the princess in detention block A-A-23 (actually, have her rescue you), tromp through the trash compactor to discover incredible new smells, swing across the chasm to the adjacent the bridge, dodge storm-trooper blasters, avoid being struck down by Darth Vader as you finally exit the Death Star and jump to hyperspace. Extra points if you do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Post-race refreshments: Bantha milk.

Mythos Marathon

“There are memories of leaping and lurching over obstacles of every sort, with that torrent of wind and shrieking sound growing moment by moment, and seeming to curl and twist purposefully around me as it struck out wickedly from the spaces behind and beneath.”

The Great Cthulhu, the Great Old Ones, the other Elder Gods, not to mention Shoggoths, Deep Ones, Elder Things… there are too many dangers to name. Just don’t stop running. Post-race refreshments: A sip from Lethean streams.

Super Mario Parkour

“Our princess is in another castle.”

Save the Princess by racing from castle to castle through the Mushroom Kingdom overcoming obstacles such as vines, pipes, blocks, jumping boards, and flag poles. Defeat Goombas, Koopa Troopas, and Bowser’s other forces or lose one of your three lives. Collect power-ups and find bonuses and secret areas. Post-race refreshments: Nintendo Super Mario Bros. Power Up! Energy Drink (yes, this exists).

Like I said, I don’t have the time to make these events actually happen, so if you do, please, take these ideas and… run with them.


Introduction to running from zombies

At the request of “Tequila” Matt Black, our reluctant director of mischief: this is a post for Zombie Troopers of Pennsylvania members about how I got started running and about how to get into shape for Run For Your Lives.

Matt says that he never runs because he’s not being chased… when the zombies come, he won’t have that excuse. It’s best to train now—they’ll eat the slow ones first.

Don’t join the ranks of the undead: Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

First of all, this isn’t about losing weight, or fitting into the swimsuit this summer, or addressing your body image issues. This is about running from zombies…

Getting started is the hardest part. When I first started running I decided to commit to running 15 minutes everyday on a treadmill at the YMCA. Between work and family it was an easy (and short) segment of time to commit to without being able to find a reason to talk myself out of it. It became second nature to drive straight to the YMCA after work, and run on a treadmill, without taking too much time out of my day. Eventually I began running longer, but getting into that 15 minute a day habit was key for me.

I was never a runner when I was younger, so I started slow and worked up to running faster speeds within the same time limit. I didn’t know how fast I was supposed to be able to run. I didn’t even have the goal of running a 5k race when I started. When I finally did race, after a good 10 months of running on a treadmill, my first 5k was a small local race. I finished in 25 minutes (about 8 minutes per mile) and placed third in my age group. Running outside on the road was much different than running on a treadmill. I’d recommend trying some outdoor runs early in your training.

If, like me, you’ve never run before, here’s a program to take you from the couch to running 5k (that’s 3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. I wish I had had this program when I had started running. You start by training for 20 to 30 minutes 3 times each week—alternating jogging for 1 minute with 1½ minutes of walking for 20 minutes. Eventually, over the next 9 weeks, you work your way up to running the full 5k distance (if you started now you could just about be ready for the Run For Your Lives event in Atlanta). Once you can run for a full 5k, then you can start working on cutting down the time it takes you to do it.

If you think that you need expensive running shoes, well, you don’t. They’re overrated and some people even run barefoot. A simple low cost pair of gym shoes should suit your purposes. You’re likely to already have a pair.

If you think you’ll need access to a treadmill, there are plenty of inexpensive options: many gyms are offering $20/month memberships (like Planet Fitness, who runs a limited time deal as low as $10/month). I spend more than that on video games. To save even more money, you could also check with your employer to see if they have an Employee Wellness Program and check with your health insurance to see if they offer discounts for gym memberships.

So, just start running—no excuses. You can worry about refining your technique later. Don’t wait for warmer weather, or the beginning of next week, or next year’s resolution. Run on a treadmill; Run on the road; Run early in the morning; Run late at night (get some running safety lights). Most importantly: just get started.


Running with zombies

I ran in the first ever zombie run—Run For Your Lives—on Saturday, October 22, 2011 outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It was a 5k obstacle run (much like Warrior Dash) with the added difficulty of “live” zombies on the field.

Here’s my head-cam video of the run:

My race time was 35:34.5 which they say was a 12:26/mile pace. It was a much better time than I had expected, especially since I had to pause so many times to dodge zombies and the hills were so steep on the second half of the course. I finished at #669 for the runners who survived and #1012 overall.

Event runners tips for next year:

The major issues all centered around the size of the crowd. I didn’t experience problems like these at Warrior Dash, so I’m chalking it up to inexperience and hoping that as they run more of these events they’ll go smoother.

Parking, Busing, & Lines

I was there early so getting into the parking area wasn’t a problem for me. I heard there was a very long line of cars waiting to get in a little later in the day. On my way out I got stuck in the mud. They’ve already addressed the parking situation for next year by moving the location.

Because the wait for the buses was so long I’d recommend placing more porta-potties near the bus pick-up and before check-in.

I had arrived and parked my car an hour before my run time, as they recommended on the site, but due to the long lines (and bus delays) I didn’t run until an hour after my allotted time. Luckily the event was flexible enough to allow for it. Next year I plan on arriving 3 hours before my run time.


The shirt that I received was a nice shirt for running, but I was really expecting a commemorative t-shirt printed with the race logo, location, and date—the race medallion was very nice though. I guess I was a little spoiled by Warrior Dash, where they gave you a printed race shirt, a warrior hat, and a medal.


For a first year event I think it ran fairly smoothly. The three different channels for the runners at the start of the race (appetizer, entree, and dessert) was an awesome idea. It allowed faster runners to choose a path in the beginning where they wouldn’t immediately get trapped behind very slow runners. The zombie makeup was phenomenal (watch the video to see for yourself).

I didn’t stay for the Apocalypse party, but I plan on doing so when I run again in 2012. I also hope to start a petition to get a race scheduled in Pennsylvania. I definitely recommend giving this run a go. Visit the Run For Your Lives website to see if they’ve scheduled a race near you.


Jocks + geeks = zombies?

I’ve been getting myself fit for a little over a year now. During this time I discovered obstacle races, like the Warrior Dash and the Spartan Sprint. However, I always thought it’d be cool if someone could combine fitness adventures with geekdom. Well, someone has.

I’ve just signed up for the first zombie obstacle run: Run for your Lives in Baltimore, MD on October 22nd. I’m hoping that some of my ZTOP (Zombie Troopers of Pennsylvania) friends will be joining me.

From the website:

Protect your brain and run for your life. This is one race where your legs giving out are the least of your problems. Run For Your Lives is a first-of-its-kind event, one part 5K, one part obstacle course, one part escaping the clutches of zombies — and all parts awesome.

Runners will navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies. At the end of this adventure race, you get to celebrate survival (or zombie transformation) with live entertainment and music, local celebrities, vendors, food, and of course, beer!

There are still a few spaces left in the morning and evening heats. If you see me there, say “Hi!”


Warrior Dash PA, 2011

This weekend I ran the Warrior Dash in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, on the Skirmish paintball fields. Warrior Dash is a 3½-mile run with a dozen obstacles (from mud pits to rope walls) placed along the route.

It was a dark, cloudy day, made even more so by the fact that a cloud bank covered the field by the time that my wave began at 3:30. Here’s a video of my run, though I imagine it’s only of interest of people who want to run the Warrior Dash.

[music for the video by Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band]

I was bib #33968, I came in 802nd place (out of 8,281 runners for the day), and took 105th place for my age group (out of 743 runners in the 35-39 male age group). My final race time was 40:33.80, which was an 11:35/mile pace, a little less than 4 minutes slower than the first place finish which paced 7:38/mile.

It was a great run, and a great time. I’ll likely do it again next year, but for now: I must get my head back into web development.


Getting my house in order

You deserve an explanation. An explanation as to why I haven’t, among other things, answered an e-mail, called a friend, attended a convention, or updated any of the fiction markets that I operate (and/or other websites) in quite a long time… I bought a house.

This is a good thing! I haven’t died; I’m not sick; I’m not stuck in a major depression (just a little ennui). It’s just that I’ve become utterly unreliable for everything outside of my family, my day job, and the house. Overall my priorities shifted a bit and my fannish/freelance enjoyment took a back seat. Until this past weekend when I attended The Steampunk World’s Fair, I hadn’t been to a convention since Balticon 2010 (last Memorial Day). I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons with my regular group, my childhood friends, in quite sometime. I haven’t kept up with my e-mail, often going weeks at a time avoiding it. I’ve got a long, long list of things I haven’t done or kept up with.

I have been working hard at a demanding job as a web developer at a major financial institution. I have been enjoying quality time with my family, including game nights, carnivals, birthdays, etc. I have been exercising regularly, eating right (probably not in the way that you think) and improving my health. So, personally, things have been going well for me. I almost wish I had a crushing depression so that I’d be able to excuse my utter neglect of everything else…

Thaumatrope is closed. Announcements to this effect and changes to the website will appear (when the stars are right). It is very likely to reopen in the future. Outstanding payments will be sent out. The site will remain online, and the stories will remain available. I’m planning on publishing an anthology.

Everyday Weirdness is closed. Announcements to this effect and changes to the website will appear (again, when the stars are right). It is somewhat likely to reopen in the future. Outstanding payments will be sent out. I’m planning on publishing an anthology.

Space Westerns is on hiatus. It will reopen. I still have big plans for it. The website redesign is stalled, but when it launches (soon, always soon) that will be the first sign that things are happening on that front. When it returns in full it will return with big guns.

Containment is being updated. If there are conventions in your area that you think should be on it, either add them or let the proper people know about the listing service so they can add their info.

So, I’m starting to be able to be active again. I’ll have more detailed posts about the markets soon, but if anyone has any questions, just let me know.


I’m normal!

As of yesterday I’ve trimmed the final few pounds to hit a normal BMI (at 163 pounds)—I’m a size S again. It’s a royal pain to have to go out and buy an all new wardrobe, especially since I’m still trying to lose a bit more weight, but my XL clothes need to be retired. I’m handing many of them down to my 16-year-old nephew, and conversely he’s handing some of his old clothes down to me. The strangest part is that he just handed down to me a sweatshirt that I had handed down to him last year. Weird.


I’ve lost 30 pounds with 2 easy methods!

If anyone can change me, it’s me.

It’s true! As of yesterday I’ve lost 30 pounds in the past 20 weeks.

Before—height:5′8″; weight:196.0 lbs; waist:42″; neck:17.5″ BMI:29.9; body fat:~38%; waist-to-height ratio:60.3%;

After—height:5′8″; weight:165.4 lbs; waist:33″; neck:16″ BMI:25.2; body fat:~24%; waist-to-height ratio:48.5%;

My original goal was to lose 30 pounds in 10 weeks, which I missed, but I’m not disappointed in the end. I went from about 200 pounds to 165 pounds in 20 weeks. I’m very happy with that. This puts me within 2 pounds of a “normal” BMI, and I’m aiming to lose 20 more.

Why did I do it?

I was fat (see week 1 photo above).

There were three geek-related incidents that came together to push me into losing weight: my wife bought a Wii-Fit; I saw photos of myself at various conventions (and didn’t like how I looked—see week 1 photo above); I stumbled upon the “lose it or lose it” geek merit badge. I got serious and applied two miracle methods that helped me to drop the 30 pounds.

What were these miracle methods?

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise


The easy part: count your calories and eat fewer calories than you expend.

It’s a game of simple math: by eating 500 fewer calories a day than my current maintenance weight (the number of calories required to stay the same weight) I’d lose about 1 pound each week. If my current weight is 200 pounds and I require 2200 calories a day to maintain that weight, then by eating 500 calories less than that a day (1700) I’d lose 1 pound each week. As your weight drops, so does your maintenance weight. For my height, to maintain my target weight of 146 pounds, I would need to limit myself to eating 1934 calories per day. At 200 pounds, by only eating that many calories a day, I would eventually reach my target weight—in a little over three years.

I ate five small meals throughout the day: breakfast; elevenses; lunch; tea; and dinner. If I felt the need, I allowed myself to have a light desert (usually about 100 calories). Even though I ate as few as 600 calories on some days (usually between 800-1000), I rarely felt hungry. If I went to a party, or went on vacation, I didn’t necessarily deprive myself. When I went out to eat I’d only eat half my entree, and save the other half for another meal.

Overall I ended up eating more raw vegetables and fewer carbohydrates. The hardest things to give up were buffalo wings, general tso’s chicken, and duck pad thai. I was able to come up with a low-calorie alternative to satisfy my wing cravings (celery sticks with blue cheese dressing and Tabasco sauce). I’m still looking for a really good low-cal alternative to general tso’s chicken and duck pad thai. All the recipes that I’ve found aren’t quite right.


The easy part: get out and exercise more.

I’d really rather not exercise; I was never what you would call athletic. I originally thought I could lose the weight through diet alone. The math just doesn’t make a compelling case for exercise. I could choose to run for an hour or I could just eat a salad instead of a burger. Besides, I’ve tried losing weight through exercise before and I’ve always ended up hurting myself and then giving up.

Through the insistence of a co-worker, I began 20-minute walks during lunch. I eventually added more vigorous exercise to my daily routine: I began running on a treadmill for 15 minutes immediately after work, since I already had a membership to the Y and it was on my way home. A daily 15 minute run was just what I needed. It wasn’t long enough to take me away from other activities, and I was never sore from it afterward.

It was when I began running that I really began to see bigger improvements. I don’t think that it was the fact that I burned more calories with exercise, but that my body toned up, and the weight appeared to melt away. As I lost weight it became easier to exercise.

Eventually I added a morning calisthenics routine (starting with about 10-15 minutes of push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, jumping-jacks, etc.). Soon I had tweaked this to match the 300 challenge (and then some). As of the end of this week my current workout routine consists of:

  • 4 pull-ups
  • 28 jumping-jacks
  • 28 push-ups
  • 28 squats
  • 4 more pull-ups
  • 28 twists (with 5 pounds each arm)
  • 28 leg-lifts
  • 28 squat-thrusts
  • 28 18″ box-jumps
  • 4 more pull-ups
  • 28 toe-touches
  • 28 crunches
  • 28 lunges
  • planks (for 60 seconds, 45 seconds, and 30 seconds)
  • 4 more pull-ups

The squat-thrusts are really the hardest part of that workout. Altogether, I’ve been getting between 20-45 minutes of exercise a day.

My progress

By keeping careful track of the calories that I ate and the calories burned through exercise I was able to anticipate how much I would lose each week. By keeping a log, I was able to see my progress. Weight tends to fluctuate, not because of any actual weight gain, but because of something that you eat or drink, or the weight of your clothes may be different than what you wore when you last weighed yourself. I tried to keep the variables consistent. I wore the same clothes for each week for my official weekly weigh in and I weighed myself at the same time on the same day each week—Thursday mornings before breakfast.

Diet myths

While researching dieting and excercising (what a geeky thing to do) I came across several myths.

Disclaimer: You should consult a physician before making radical changes in diet and exercise.

You must eat at least 1200 calories a day
I could find no reason for this. It seems to be more of a rule of thumb than anything else. Doctors are known to prescribe sub-1200 calorie diets to obese patients. The supposed reasons that I found for not going under 1200 calories were: you’d be more likely to rebound the weight, you’d be less likely to get the necessary nutrition, and you’d enter starvation mode. My thought was that as long as I knew about the potential for rebound going in, then I could plan around it. My nutrition I could supplement with vitamins. As for starvation mode…
Starvation mode
A 1950 Minnesota Semi-starvation Study: ~40 young, healthy, lean men were put on a diet of less than 50% of their basal metabolic rate (BMR) caloric needs per day for 6 months. Their BMR dropped to about 50% of what it had been. They did lose some muscle, but overall they lost mostly fat until their bodies reached 5% body fat. Starvation mode doesn’t seem to be something that the average dieter needs to worry about.
Muscle weighs more than fat
It’s true, but unless you’re a world-class athlete you should just pretend that this is a myth. Muscle gain will most likely only amount to about 0.4 pounds of muscle a week while you’re dieting to lose fat. To really gain muscle mass you should eat more than your daily caloric intake, and then you’d still only end up gaining about 0.8 pounds of muscle per week (I read it on the Internet, it must be true)

Workout Routine Breakdown

Beginning weight: 196 pounds

Week 1:

Began walking and watched my serving sizes (who knew that a serving of rice was just one cup?). result: 197.3 (+1.3)—GAH! I never should’ve attended that bacon party!

Week 2

Continued walking and watching my serving sizes. result: 194.4 (-2.9)

Week 3

Walked a lot at the Steampunk World’s Fair. result: 193.3 (-1.1)

Week 4

Aggressively began a restricted calorie diet and counting calories: eating smaller meals every 2.5 hours (7:30, 10:00, 12:30, 15:00, and 17:30). result: 190.9 (-2.4)

Week 5

I started my test run in the hotel gym at Balticon. Began running 15 minutes alternating 7.5mph and 4mph. result: 187.8 (-3.1)

Week 6

Increased pace to 8mph and 4mph + did a longer run alternating 8mph and 4mph on Wednesday + began a test set of morning calisthenics + made a conscious decision to exercise before I ate. result: 186.3 (-1.5)

Week 7

Morning calisthenics: 12 sets of double negatives (just the controlled downward motion of a pull-up, performed twice) with 1 exercise (10 rep) break; Extra long runs on Sat & Sun. result: 182.8 (-3.5)

Week 8

12 sets of 1 pull-up with 1 exercise (12 rep) break; Hickory Run Camping: 18-Jun to 20-Jun; Baseball 24-Jun; Began running 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min; result: 182.1 (-0.7)—Yay! did my first full pull-up ever; Monkey Bread is pure evil—Delicious, delicious, evil.

Week 9

6 sets of 2 pull-ups with 2 exercise (15 rep) break; Run 9mph for 8min and 4mph for 7min + began alternating exercise days: sprints/running/calisthenics; result: 179.0 (-3.1)—Graduation party! Woo! (note: Italian party food is not calorie conscious!).

Week 10

5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; I binged on Tuesday. At this point I had lost 20 pounds of the planned upon 30. result: 175.7 (-3.3)

Week 11

Spent an extra week at this level to work on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break; reconfigured calisthenics to better reflect 300 challenge. result: 174.8 (-0.9)

Week 12

NO EXERCISE: I was sick and I relaxed my calorie restrictions to feed my cold. result: 175.5 (+0.7)

Week 13

Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Sushi, sashimi, oysters, crab, scallops, lobster, she-crab soup… Seafood is yummy! I also left the Wii balance board in Pennsylvania, so I missed my official weekly weigh-in.

Week 14

Return from Virginia Beach: 24-Jul to 1-Aug; Began Martial Arts training 1x/week on Thursday night with White Eagle Martial Arts. result: 176.40 (+0.9)—not bad considering that I gorged myself on seafood.

Week 15

Getting back to exercise after about 3 weeks off. Double calisthenics (morning and evening), worked on form: 5 sets of 3 pull-ups with 2 exercise (20 rep) break, switch lunges for single arm clean-and-press (10-lbs); still only running halfheartedly. result: 172.4 (-4.0)

Week 16

4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break. result: 170.90 (-1.5)

Week 17

Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 20-pounds. result: 169.60 (-1.3)

Week 18

4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; increased dumbbell to 25-pounds; increased run to a minimum of 15 minutes at 8mph with no more than one 2 minute walk (with the goal of being able to run 15 minutes straight); between the treadmill and sprints I’m moving about 12 miles/week. result: 167.10 (-2.5)

Week 19

Very little exercise and I binged on wings at a zombie movie marathon; increased dumbbell to 30-pounds. result: 169.9 (-0.2)

Week 20

Decided to hit the gym extra hard this week: ran nearly every day, and did calisthenics (either single or doubles) nearly every day. Double calisthenics 4 sets of 4 pull-ups with 3 exercise (28 rep) break; Hit goal of 2 mile run. result: 165.4 (-1.5)—it’s frustrating to see that I may be plateauing. If I don’t lose 3 pounds next week then I’ll officially declare it a plateau. For now I’m chalking up my lack of progress this week to a celebratory 1 pound burger and a party that I attended with my local Browncoats.

Week 21-30

Anything worth doing is worth overdoing: Beginning in week 21: I’m adding another day of Martial Arts class (Sundays); adding a day for Yoga (for balance and flexibility); replacing my sprints with swimming (3-4 times/week); adding a 90-pound barbell to my calisthenics for proper dead-lifts and floor-wipers; and will continue to increase the calisthenic reps weekly until I hit 50 reps for each exercise.

The goal: to be 146 pounds (or at the very least, lose 20 pounds of fat) putting me dead center of a “normal” BMI by mid-October; to be able to complete a 5k run; and to be able to complete the 300 challenge by November 25th, Thanksgiving Day.

Week 31-40

Maintenance! I’ll use this 10 week span to eat my required calories (no more restricted calorie dieting) and exercise to stabilize my body. The goal is to get my body attuned to this weight. I’m hoping that by focusing on maintaining this weight (and lifestyle) I’ll be able to lock it in.

Week 41-50+

Weather will be getting warmer: Rock Climbing? Parkour? Tai Chi? After all this I’d like to see where my new body takes me next.