We had little confidence in the sunny forecast displayed on my weather app as we barreled down the freeway under dark drizzly skies, trying to make up time from a late start. A two and a half hour drive awaited us on our way to Horseshoe Bend Ranch in central Washington for the 5K Run N’ Gun, hosted by Home with Heroes — an organization who’s mission is to bring outdoor activities to veterans.
Eventually, we outran the rain clouds and the sun poured across fields of enormous wind turbines, sprouting from hilltop to hilltop. Conversation turned to how we were going to find our way once we lost cell reception. Eventually, we tangled our way down the gravel back-roads to the gates of the ranch, parked our car and stepped out to realize that though the sun was beaming its glorious happy rays down upon us, it was also windy. And it was cold!
Glad to have found an extra hoodie in the back seat, we geared up and trotted excitedly to the check-in table. I recognized my contact by his impressive red beard, but didn’t get a chance until later to say “Hi.” We got our blue racer bracelets and generous stash of swag and headed to the congregation area.
Brandon, my intrepid husband and race partner, was hovering around the raffle table for the Colt competition rifle, eagerly looking for someone to take his money and drooling happily at the other vendor tables. I patted him on the back, left him in his candy store and went to set up my GoPro. I just downloaded the app for it on my phone. That turned out to be the best and worst thing I could have done.
After a little milling around, and one trip back to the car to stash our unneeded things, the event was kicked off with some announcements and introductions by a host from our local Country radio station 98.7 the Bull, who was running the race with his co-host and country music singer Samantha Landrum. Miss Landrum also graced us with her talent to sing the Nation Anthem. Then, we were all given a safety presentation. First and foremost the goal of the day was safety. I feel they did an excellent job of not only instilling that message in all the participants but also demonstrating it. There were as many friendly, attentive volunteers and range safety officers as runners and it made the day go smoothly and positively for everyone. I have never been to race where every single volunteer seemed to be happy, smiling and genuinely glad to be there.
We moved into line for the first station. We ended up standing in this line a little longer than was comfortable, but that was partially due to the wind which, while terrible then, would be welcomed a couple miles of running later. The racers started in, two at a time in two minute intervals to keep there from being backups at the shooting stations. This was actually one of my concerns before the race, but we didn’t end up waiting more than 30 seconds at any station.
I stepped onto the platform for the first shooting station: 2 clay pigeons with a Benelli 20 gauge shotgun. I missed both shots. Having only fired a shotgun on one occasion, into a dirt hill, I was expecting that result.
The next station was a one mile run away. My cold muscles were yelling at me, and telling me “we need to train more” as I heard the most disappointing sound of the day. BEEP BEEP BEEEEP from overhead. My Go-Pro battery had died already. The wifi from the camera sync had drained it in less than 40 minutes.
Not wanting to let it ruin my spirit, I hustled through the first workout station, 25 air squats and 25 situps, then on to the second shooting station: 6 shots at MGM targets with a 9mm Glock at 12 yards. I had mildly high hopes for my skills here. The last time at the range my husband had me shoot his .380 and I had quite hilariously (to me) shot the target off the stand, so I knew I was capable of hitting something. Alas, I did not.
[Side story: the RSO at this station is my new favorite person, and completely saved the day. Upon arriving at the station I had mentioned the sad story of my premature battery death. In response, he offered to switch batteries with me from his fully charged GoPro he just happened to have with him. Dear Mr. Volunteer, If you happen to be reading this THANK YOU! My recap video and most of these photos would not have been possible without you.]
A quick jaunt down the road we came to a sledge hammer vs. tire, and fireman’s carry with ammo cans challenge. Boom, zip and we were off.
Down a hill and over a mud puddle we came to the third shooting station: 6 shots at MGM targets with a Colt Comptition CRX-16 rifle at 50 yards. I have the most “experience” with this. That experience being one day at the range “helping” to site-in my husband’s AR. After the RSO pointed me at my targets, instead of my husband’s, I had the most successful round of the day. POP. “HIT!” POP. “HIT!” POP. “HIT!” POP. “HIT!” POP. “HIT!” POP. “HIT!”
Running low-fives were shared as we ran on to pushups and bear crawls, culminating with high-fives from volunteers as they handed us our ear muffs for the next shooting station: 2 clay pigeons with the Benelli 20 gauge shotgun. I think I ended up hitting one clay pigeon this time.
[Another side note: I know next to nothing about, and have very little personal interest in guns but I can tell you… these shotguns were beautiful!]
On to the next physical station. There were various-sized fallen logs which we could choose from. I picked a middle-sized log that looked to a fair challenge for me. Turned out to weigh almost nothing. Lunges down to the marker, and 25 over head presses, then carry it back to the beginning. Easy peasy, on to the next one!
The next-to-last shooting station was combo: 5 shots at MGM pistol targets with a Glock at 15 yards and 6 shots with the Colt Competition CRX-16 rifle at 100 yards. The RSO was very patient and helpful guiding me through how to site with the hand gun and helping to steady it. I think I got about half of the targets for both weapons on this one.
One long hill stood between that and the next shooting station – one last pair of clay pigeons with a Benelli 20 gauge shotgun. I think the shotgun stations might have been my favorite. I think I’ve always wanted to yell, “PULL!” and shoot at something, just for the experience of it.
Finally, we goofed our way down the last stretch of trail and crossed the finish line. With smiling faces we shook hands with the race organizers and chatted while we waited for the shuttle to take us the mile back to the starting point where there was a delicious lunch from Slick’s Big Time BBQ waiting for us.
Check out the fun 2 minute recap video from my GoPro footage!
There was a SOG tomahawk throwing station set up for bonus points that I really wanted to try, but we were distracted by food and didn’t get to it before it was shut down. Darn.
While devouring our pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, we chatted with a fellow racer who we had started in line with and passed once or twice on the track. Come to find out it was Mitch Ernshaw of 750 The Game. We hung out with him for the rest of the event, and he even gave my husband his raffle ticket. Many new friends were made this day.
In addition to the great race, and wonderful people, there were a host of stellar raffle prizes from the vendors, including: the previously mentioned Colt Competition Rifle, SOG throwing tomahawks, wine, a fishing pole, and other cool gear.
I was also impressed that they took the time to recognize the veterans who were in attendance – runners and volunteers. This event truly was dedicated to the veterans, with companies offering sponsorships to make attendance possible for some. While most races are attached to a charity of some kind, the recognition is usually boiled down to a mention in the registration form or a logo on a banner. But the Run N’ Gun event focused on their mission, the race, the runners, and the volunteers.
My husband and I were so impressed with the people and the event that we’ve already decided to come back next year, and already have a growing group of our friends who are anxious to join us.
BACKGROUND AND FUTURE
It all started from a YouTube video of a similar idea on a smaller scale. The race organizers, who are all friends decided that they wanted to do something like that and had just the place to do it. Originally it was just supposed to be for a group of their friends, but after getting into insurance and liability, it was determined that they might as well open it to be a larger, public event. Then, they decided that while they were at it, they could turn it into something beneficial and used an affiliation with Home with Heroes to officially plan and execute the 5K Run N’ Gun in just three months.
Next year they hope to find a venue more central to Vancouver and Portland. They want to add a concert and camping and opportunities to interact with the weapons the day before. As of right now, the thought is to possibly combine it with their pre-existing annual fundraiser concert to add camping and have the race the following day.
I. Can’t. Wait.
HOME WITH HEROES