May 4th, 2009 11:55 AM
A few notes from the start:
This is really long-winded, and probably of much more interest to me than anyone else, as I'd like to have the details somewhere just so I can look back on it and remember. Many thanks go out to the team that took me in, as they were awesome. If any of them happen to check this site and want to add their thoughts, I'd love to have their view as well. I also don't have much in the way of pictures - lacking a camera, I found my phone wasn't as useful once it got dark and I tended to forget about it anyways.
So, I ran in DC. When I got to Dupont Circle, I was surprised by how many people there were. I started out solo, so while waiting for things to begin, I got my bearings and figured out how I wanted to start off. I also ended up explaining what was going on to at least five or six people. I guess standing around by myself makes me more approachable. Though wearing my 'Capture The Flag With Stuff' t-shirt probably gave a few other people the wrong idea.
At a little past 8, we were off!
I decided to take 20th street south, to be slightly out of the main way. A lot of people had the same idea. I jogged along with them for a few blocks before slowing to a walk as I didn't want to be tired from the beginning. Just as well, I think all the running people were very very obvious to any chasers. It's great to have them in front of you though... if any of them get caught I'd notice the chaos and have plenty of opportunities to hide or change route.
After a while down this road, I fell in with a group by offering to be their rear guard if they would watch front/sides. Always helps to split up the paranoia. We ended up sticking together for a long time.
Reaching checkpoint one, there was a ridiculous line which was pretty annoying, but in retrospect the fact that the theme was bureaucracy was pretty clever. Still, after waiting a while we made it through without having to jump through any hoops (literally or figuratively). At least the line gave us plenty of time to come to a decision about our next stop, which ended up being the bonus checkpoint. (This was a Bad Idea) We had heard vague rumors that the bonus was an 'extra life', and we figured most people would be trying for the bonus between 2 and 3, not 1 and 2.
Getting there was easy. We went north and then cut east, only going a block out of the way to skip having to walk by the Metro stop. There was much confusion about the location of the bonus and the safe zones, but a reasonable chaser sent us in the right direction. There we got a stamp and moustaches, as well as a couple of cards for twitter information and a bus pass. Neither ended up being particularly useful, but it's nice to have options. Does anyone know what the bonus stamp was actually good for? I don't know if I ever got a solid explanation on that.
Getting out proved to be a lot more difficult than getting in. The whole block was patrolled by chasers, including some that tagged us while we were still in the safe zone, causing more confusion. After a bit we got a clean break to an alley to the east.
Things were going fine until I looked behind us and saw an orange ribbon, which was enough for me to freak out, yell 'CHASER!' and take off running. A block further we slowed down, I looked back, saw it again, and almost started to run again. However, it was not so much a chaser as it was one of my teammates whose orange ribbon was hanging out of her pocket. Doh. At least it made things interesting? I guess?
After regrouping with one member who had ran in an entirely different direction, we started heading down New Jersey, which was worrying in how direct it was. I kept wanting to take alleyways or such, even though we hadn't really seen any trouble. At one point I saw a gap between two buildings and decided to head over there to go through the block rather than stay on the main road. Three of us went that way, the other three kept down New Jersey, with the initial idea of just meeting up on the other side. This was also a Bad Idea.
Turns out what looked like a nice big alley was actually an entrance to an underground parking garage or something. Our options were to turn around and go back, jump the fence and fall like 15 feet, or shimmy between two fences to get through. We took the third option, though it ended up being 6-8 inches between the two, a tight squeeze. Halfway through I climbed over to stand on the opposite side, learning in the process that even what appear to be ornamental spikes can still create holes in my pants.
We soldiered onwards, taking sneaky paths and walking behind bushes and shrubberies to reach Checkpoint 2. I think we were pretty far behind most people at this point. It took *forever* to get from 1 to bonus to 2. The other 3 members of our group had already reached Checkpoint 2 and decided to meet us at Union Station.
So that's where we headed next. We got relatively close before being mostly lost (and Union Station wasn't actually on the game map). At this point, somehow we got caught entirely by surprise, almost walking directly into a big group of chasers. I didn't even remember noticing at all, I just went from talking on the phone to our group about directions to sprinting across the street and up a block.
I found out 2 things. First, any team spirit quickly falls to self preservation. I saw one of us duck behind a pillar and just kept on going. Second, it's really hard to tell if you're being pursued when you're putting all your energy into running.
Around the corner I tried to persuade some guard at a car garage to let me duck behind his booth for a bit, but he was not very friendly. I sat behind a pillar and caught my breath. Really, us getting jumped could not have happened at a worse time. Of the three of us, I had both phones. Still, after a couple of minutes it was obvious that no one was following me and I couldn't just run off with someone else's phone, so I walked back around the corner, where all the chasers were also taking a break.
Sadly, we had lost our first member, but at least I was able to give her phone back. Our third had vanished, but we could only assume he would make it to Union Station himself (which it turns out he did, before either of us). I was standing around, a reasonably safe distance from the chasers, unsure of what to do when I pretty much had my decision made for me. I heard my now-chaser-teammate yell for me to run as a couple of the chasers decided I was worth trying to grab, so I took off going east. They didn't even follow me half a block (which was good, as it seems that I'm pretty fast but get tired way too easily) and I was on my own to try and make it to Union Station.
A few streets later I figured out where I was and got back on track, but when I got pretty close to Union Station, I heard something behind me and saw the same chasers coming again. This time I was really pretty tired, but I went about a block and ducked under some construction tape and found a nice corner to hide for a minute.
This, I realized, was Union Station. In fact, I could vaguely see through the fence that safety was right there. But I had no idea where the chasers were, and the only way to go around the fence would mean coming way around in front of the street, where they'd easily catch me if they were already there. I couldn't get under the fence, didn't really want to wait, so I figured I'd go over it.
One of the columns gave me a foothold and I got up top easily enough, but it seems like the previous fence hadn't really taught me a lesson. Now I was sitting on barbed wire 7-8 feet off the ground, and while jumping wouldn't be too bad, I couldn't figure out a way to do so without completely ripping my pants. So I sat on top of the fence for a while, until the chaser group showed up and I smiled and waved.
They were nice enough to give me a hand coming down and figured I was 'in' Union Station enough to be safe. (I was pretty much sitting in the archway) So I rejoined my now-chaser teammate, though we couldn't seem to find the rest of our team. We headed to Shaw-Howard to get closer to CP 3 and convinced the chasers camping the escalators to let us go by appealing to their sense of honor.
My chaser teammate and I partnered up for the rest of the game, which is arguable, but at this point I didn't particularly want to walk the rest of the way alone. It certainly made for interesting dynamics. If we ran into chasers, she could show her armband and hopefully they wouldn't get close enough to see me clearly. If we ran into blues, I could do the same and betray my fellow runners. The only person we actually caught was a blue who had basically given up and was headed home though. My chaser friend just had fun scaring the rest.
Checkpoint 3 was nice. I exchanged a drawing of what I wanted to be when I grew up (badly-drawn velociraptor) for the stamp, and briefly talked to the guy there, who had at one point been the KGB Sergeant at Arms and approved of my CtFwS shirt and communist spirit. I got a red star! That's extra bonus Comrade points.
Heading out from there, 3-4 was pretty short and mostly uneventful. We called out to one guy who claimed to be red, but my chaser friend started towards him and he took off running, much to our entertainment.
4 was also nice, as the campers there provided us with trail mix. For a campfire song, I sang the Portal song, but sadly some there had never heard of it.
From there it was a long haul to Checkpoint 5. We started heading west and ran into a large group of runners waiting at a bus stop, but they ended up deciding to join us as we walked down U street to the west. Crowds there were huge, but I didn't notice a single chaser. It'd be awfully easy to blend in, either way. My chaser friend, with the help of my spare ribbon and a few we had found, upgraded to quad-ribbon-Super-Chaserhood. Somewhere along the way, most of our fellow travellers stopped to catch a bus and we arrived at CP5, once again not seeing a single chaser. Granted, we were somewhat slow, but everytime we got to a checkpoint, it seemed like a lot of blues were still around. I was just sad that they were out of uncooked spaghetti.
From there, we rejoined the group of blues who had mostly made it. I think a smaller group had hit trouble at one point, but there were still quite a lot travelling with us on our way to 6.
The last few blocks were the tricky part. We got quite close before seeing a few chasers straight in front of us. The majority of our group reversed direction and calmly walked off, but that was still suspicious enough to set off flags. We could tell chasers were coming, so we ducked into a side alley and the group dispersed with surprising speed. A chaser came around the corner and tagged one person who got trapped. Another enterprising guy somehow managed to climb straight up this large truck, highly impressive.
I ended up just standing there. My superchaser friend and one other girl who had been with the large blue group and after being tagged had just gone neutral were both standing around, so I did the same. As a group, we and the new chaser walked up the block, while I very carefully made sure my right shoulder just happened to be pointed the other way, using my allies for cover. We met up with another chaser, but I just played it cool until they headed off to find more players, never noticing me. I think once people make an assumption, they don't really even pay attention to what's actually going on.
From there, it was a short walk to the final goal, and under threats from my chaser partner, I ran across the street to safety and a (somewhat legitimate) finish. It turns out of the original group of 6, I was the only one to make it the whole way.
So that was my night... Awesome. A little bit of paranoia, a little bit of running, a little bit of deception. All in all I had a great time, which was my goal from the start.
On a depressing note, walking home was very much not fun. The whole second half, it was easy to ignore that I was tired and my legs hurt because I had a goal. On my way home, realizing that people on the street were just people and not potential allies or enemies made me kinda sad and ready just to go home and go to bed. Just makes me wish this happened more often!
The images below are rough maps of our progress, working from memory.