Friday, July 29, 2016

Running . . . From Zombies

Is this a product review? This might count as a product review. Be warned.

Anyway, in my journey towards more reliable foot-based forward propulsion, I have been using two apps: C25K and 10K, both by ZenLabs. These two apps have served me well and faithfully, giving me helpful instructions in my ear to walk, jog, turn around, and quit for the day. And hey . . . free is good.

These apps believe that you should be running 5km in about thirty minutes. HA. No. So when I say I "finished" the 10K app, I mean that I completed its final 60-minute run. I did not actually traverse anywhere near 10 kilometers of ground. Or treadmill track, in this particular case. I happen to know I was going a steady 3.8 mph, because the over-informative treadmill computer told me so and now I can't un-know it.

Anyway (again), I've decided that for right now, 60 minutes is about as long as I want to keep running at any one go. I would, however, like to get batter at covering more distance during that time window. Not much more distance. Just some. Baaaaaby steps.

My original plan was just to start over at the beginning of these apps and step it up a notch: jog where it said walk, run where it said jog. Reasonable plan. I may still adopt it. But just to shake things up, I decided to test something different: zombies.

Zombies, Run!, by Six to Start, is like a Choose Your Own Adventure audiobook with an added twist of GPS stalking/surveillance state. You run. It tells you a story in your ear to explain why you are running. I'm only one chapter in, but I'm guessing the reason is usually going to be zombies.

I was expecting great things from this app, having encountered many positive reviews and junk. Since the app has an actual storyline with some dialogue and stuff worth paying attention to, I jettisoned my usual audio book (Casebook of Sherlock Holmes; nearly finished with the whole collection!) and turned on Pandora for that muzik stuff I keep hearing so much about. I picked the Murray Gold channel. I figured, dramatic, sci-fi, kinda creepy -- perfect zombie music, right?

And really, it all went pretty well. As I wandered through the neighborhood at sunset, I got informed that my helicopter was shot down (by whom? Floating plot thread) and that I needed to get to Abel Township (which is somewhere in England, judging by the accents), but as long as I was passing the hospital, I should pop in and grab some medical supplies and records (what records? Floating plot thread). I got all this handy background information from Sam, our friendly neighborhood radio guy, who talks when he's nervous. He designated me Runner 5, as the previous Runner 5 (with whom, it's implied, he'd been romantically involved) just got infected, so the jersey was up for grabs I guess.

I've got only two complaints with this app so far. The first is that it didn't give me a halfway point, even a coded in-character one, so my dumb self might have gotten halfway to Pelican Rapids before realizing I had no way home. In future, must set my own timer.

The second complaint is, um, that, well . . . It didn't let me cheat.

Let me explain.

Okay, so I'd stumbled across a CDC file (note: why was there a CDC file in England? Or why are all these British people in the US? Does the UK have a CDC, and if so, do they call it that?) that could be very important. Someone hovering over Sam's shoulder hinted strongly that this file was my ticket into the protection of Abel township. I also knew that if I got caught by zombies, they'd take some of my stuff, as app technology has not yet advanced so far that my phone could actually infect me through my headphones. I had lots of stuff to take--I'd found a food, a water, some medicines, an ax (BOSS!), some bullets (but no gun), some underwear, a pair of pants and a pair of shorts (but no shirt, poor me). But I had no way to know if the zombies would take all that stuff, or take my CDC file. And I wanted that CDC file. I wanted it bad.

Last stretch of land to the safety of the town. Sam's telling me they're sending out an armed patrol to cover me. Just gotta outrun the zombies . . .

I'd already outrun some zombies earlier. I'd kicked into a sprint for about thirty seconds when the app informed me they were on my tail. Yaay. Good for me. Except you know what's really hard? Getting your breath back, at a jog, after a sprint. So I was still at two steps to the breath when I reached this climactic finale, which is faster than I want to be breathing.

And guess who's the lead zombie after me? You guessed it . . . The Late Runner 5.

Okay. So the character whose place I am taking in the narrative is chasing after me, no doubt to steal the file that is my ticket to community acceptance, watched nervously by her grieving lover, while unnecessarily creepy Dalek-related music plays in the background and it is now well after sunset, people. Good storytelling, certainly. But good storytelling doesn't necessarily mean good running, particularly if my huffing puffing self suddenly goes into vivid-imagination-induced fight or flight mode, and I just cannot . . . (gasp) . . . flee (gasp) . . . fast enough.

But dang if I'm going to let her get that file.

So I hit pause.

I slow to a walk. I get my breath back. Then I hit play and take off sprinting again.

There's no Sam on the radio.

There's no alert of how close the zombies are behind me.

There's still creepy soundtrack, but I put that on there, that's my fault.

The clocks are all running, but there's no indication that I got back into the story when I hit play. So after a while I slow to my usual shamble. I run past my building and turn around at the corner, in case I just need to wait longer for something to happen. Nope. I walk a couple laps around the complex to bring my heart rate down and wait for news from Sam. Or zombies. Or anybody. Nothing.

Maybe I was just so slow I just died.

Anyway, I make it home, take a shower, feed the cats, and go poking around the app to figure out what went wrong. I'm still not sure what, but eventually I find a big "RESUME" button that was not there before and hit it. Thankfully (because I didn't fancy running laps around my apartment in a towel) the story resumes just as I make it into the gates of Abel township. I get a "Next Time On . . ." teaser, and the episode is marked complete.

So . . . is the previous Runner 5 still alive? Jeez, I hope so. Shame to waste a good foil. Who shot the helicopter? What's in the file? What's my secret mission in this place? (Oh, yeah, I have a secret mission too . . . the chopper pilot told me so before she died in horrible gruesome wreckage.) What is the CDC doing leaving important documentation all over the United Kingdom? And will I ever find a shirt?

Find out next time . . .

. . . when I will set a halfway-point timer, play something in the background that WON'T send my imagination into overdrive, and try not to cheat again.

Or at least try to try.

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