Beat the Blerch
If you run and have internet access, you've probably heard of The Oatmeal and the book, “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” (If you haven't, hie thee to the website and go read it already!) After the book was released last year Mr. Inman (that's The Oatmeal, and the author of The Oatmeal) announced a trail race in Washington state. The 2,000 available slots sold out so quickly he added a second day. While there was also a virtual option for the inaugural Beat The Blerch, there is nothing like being there–virtual racing is not virtual reality.
For 2015, Beat the Blerch became a series: two days in Carnation, WA plus a race in Sacramento and another one somewhere in New Jersey. While Sacramento is closer to me in terms of travel, it happened to conflict with another event I'd already registered for, so it was off to Carnation for me! My friend Jennifer asked if I'd like to share costs on a hotel and car, and just go for one night. It might seem goofy to fly up on one day and fly back the next, but I've done so much travel for running and work this year that I am starting to cherish the nights I get to sleep in my own bed.
It's just a quick hop from Oakland to Seattle (I #LUV Southwest Airlines!) and we packed in carry-ons only, so we were quickly at our destination. Jennifer introduced me to the game Ingress (another post for another day) as we grabbed a quick meal and then headed off to bed.
One of the things I love about run travel is hanging out with other runners. When sharing space to prep for a race, I often find I learn sweet new running tips, and this race was no different. Race day morning we laid out our stuff, grabbed some items from the hotel's breakfast buffet, and headed over to Carnation. We we're sure about parking and logistics, so we arrived super early. Like I think we were the fifth car parked in our lot. It was a quick maybe five minute walk over to the packet pickup area, where we got bibs, shirts, and other Blerch-based swag in our runner packets (packaged in a Zappos bag with an adorable Blerch right on the front).
Naturally we also had to check out the Blerchandise. In addition to water bottles, coffee mugs, Oatmeal graphic novels, stickers, shirts, and socks, runners could also get copies of the newly released Exploding Kittens card game. I already had mine–and the NSFW edition–since I participated in the KickStarter. These were the last of the KickStarter edition decks, so any runners who missed out had one last chance…
After dropping our stuff in the car and putting on the bibs, it was time to loll around in the Zappos lounge. I was glad we were early enough to enjoy the pre-race festivities! In addition to the soda and junk food buffet, there were warm grilled cheese sandwiches and a DIY marshmallow treat station. After indulging we lounged on some giant airbed sofas with furry cushions while watching junk TV. I'm not going to lie, I was a little worried about eating half a grilled cheese right before the race. (To save you the suspense: I'm now wondering whether I can hire a grilled cheese truck to follow me to races.)
Actually I had no desire to eat most of the things inside the Zappos lounge. The lounge staff encouraged us all to languish on the fuzzy sofas and watch just a few more episodes of Real Housewives. (“You don't really want to RUN, do you? It's so cozy and relaxing here!”)
Over in the Zappos tent, I also learned something new: “buffet pants” (and bought a pair, of course). Buffet pants are for post-race loungewear….or lazing around the house, or perhaps on the way to a basketball game. (I've actually never worn mine outside the house…)
Prior to the race I indulged in not just the grilled cheese, but also a donut, and a marshmallow covered in chocolate sauce, and a few other carbolicious snacky items. I decided not to eat the packaged candy, passed on the chips, and left all of the soda in the cooler. Past races have taught me that carbonated beverages before a race–no matter how tasty and appealing they may be–BAD IDEA. (Save the champagne for after the race. Or practice belching. 'nuff said.) Seriously though, the grilled cheese was a great idea. The truck just kept bringing them out, and I'd watch to see if there was a plain cheese (some had bacon in them, of course). I was trying to figure out how I could make my own grilled cheese on race day mornings, but frankly I hate mornings and usually barely get up in time to press play on the coffee pot. So until I manage to find a grilled cheese truck to follow me around, this is likely my last race with tasty gooey cheesy goodness for breakfast.
As promised, the aid stations featured cake. Nuun was a great stand-in for the magical purple fizzy beverage. (Seriously, just go read “The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.” You might just want to buy the book, too–then you can bring it to the 2016 Beat The Blerch race to have it signed.) There were also multiple photo opps with Blerches, Sasquatch, and sofas. Shenanigans ensued. Some actual running happened as well, but I was busy taking pictures and enjoying myself, definitely not gunning for a PR or an age group award. For the most part, people seemed to be having a good time. The only drawback is that when you put cake in a Dixie cup, it sticks to the sides, and you have to either pull apart the cup or use a finger (questionable when running) to pry it out. The forks were at the finish line.
I posted a few pictures online for my friends, and the ones who are not runners were notably confused. (“I'm not judging,” wrote one, “and I'm willing to be educated, but…why does that giant marshmallow have nipples?”)
The trail run was pretty cool. It's an area I've never run, so all new to me. There was plenty of shade, and the terrain wasn't particularly crazy or steep. I've never fueled with cake, and expect most of the other runners hadn't either. The hardest part is that the icing sticks to the inside of the dixie cups, so you have to either tear the cup open or use a clean finger to swipe the cake out. Much to my delight, I did not see piles of churdle on the trail, which means people were not over-caking themselves. (This was, by some reports, a problem last year.)
At one point I high-fived The Oatmeal himself. Naturally I had no idea who he was at the time. (“Um, why is that dude running in an inflatable green suit?) Oops. Fortunately he didn't seem to remember when I had him sign my book after the race, or if he did he didn't hold it against me. Probably the former, since there was a giant line of people who wanted him to sign things.
The start and finish area did have a few of the normal race booths, including Clif Bars, Naked juices, etc. (but that's not really why any of us went to Beat the Blerch). Just in case some real runners showed up an expected to see race-related types of things.
Moment of transparency, I can't seem to get these freaking photos to behave themselves. Argh. If you happen to be reading this and are a WordPress ninja, please let me know! I need some help wrangling photos and layout, and I suspect that is going to require me to change the template (which I don't have the mad skillz to do personally).
We did stick around to take some photos with the absurdly large Nutella buckets. One nice perk of this race: free photo downloads. (You can also buy copies for a pretty reasonable price.)
Then it was off to Starbucks for some real coffee. I don't know about you, but hotel breakfast buffet “coffee” doesn't really do it for me. While waiting for the taste lattes to appear, we ducked into the restroom for a hobo bath. I am ever so thankful to Shower Pill for making this much easier–and I am sure those who shared the flight home with me were also thankful! (Shower Pill is like a baby wipe, only made for adults and intended to tide you over until you can take a real shower. The wipes are stronger than baby wipes, maybe the thickness of a washcloth, and one wipe is enough to do an entire adult body.) I'm a packing ninja, so it was a quick Shower Pill, face wash and rinse, quick pat down with a towel (you don't need one with the Shower Pill, but I'd used regular face cleaner to do my face/neck), lotion, deodorant, and fresh clothes all around.
Did you run in one of the Beat The Blerch races this year? I'd love to hear what the California and New Jersey events were like!
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