Falling in love with racing

One treadmill run turned into running every other day. Which quickly turned into running every day. I was still in a sling and doing physical therapy for my mangled (but healing) arm bone. I remember thinking ‘I need a goal’. This was something new and interesting for me. Usually the end goal of going to the gym was to suffer through it knowing I could eat mac n cheese upon my return home.

It was winter. I wasn’t going to find a race to do around here. Or will I?

I started feeling pretty good about how my fitness was progressing and saw that the winter triathlon (cross county skiing, fat tire biking, and shooting) in the next town over was being converted to a summer biathlon (running and shooting) due to lack of snow.

I’m a terrible shot. Just a mess. But I can run. Or at least, that’s what the treadmill has led me to believe. Confession: I hadn’t actually run outside since this whole thing began. I rounded up some coworkers and we registered, because really what the worst that could happen?

Race morning rolled around and I can honestly say that was the last time I wasn’t nervous about a race. I had no expectations and no real goals in mind. Finish. I’d like to finish this race and hit the brewery after. I found all my friends and we pinned our numbers to our bibs. We were given a short tutorial on how to use the laser guns. Yeah, that’s right. Lasers. It’s not nearly as cool as it sounds. It’s kind of like duck hunt without the little dog picking up your digital duck.

The staggered start was fun. One runner would start and a minute later another one would. This was done to keep congestion down at the shooting area. A rectangular box on one side of the tennis court held 5 small laser targets. We would run into the tennis courts, shoot, and run a penalty lap (about a tenth of a mile) if we missed any, and continue on for our next lap. Run, shoot, run, shoot, run. Total was about 5K of running if you didn’t miss any targets.

Saying I went the extra mile sounds dramatic, but that’s exactly what I did. I missed every single target. So, I ran a whole mile more than the course intended.

The course had a couple of little out and backs on the streets of June Lake. I loved it. My friends (and even some total strangers) high fived any time we passed each other. This really was the perfect first race for me. It kept everything super and casual. I couldn’t take myself too seriously because, like I said, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

We all finished. High fives all around. I was ready to head to the brewery and grab some lunch when I was reminded that we HAD to stick around for the awards. “Why dammit? Did you not see that I missed EVERY SINGLE TARGET”

It was a small race. My friends and I were the bulk of the entrants. They started to announce the top females and we clapped for third. A coworker got second. When her name was announced she looked at me and said “Oh you bitch!” I had no idea what she was talking about. Then, they called my name. I WON! I was absolutely floored. The staggered start meant we weren’t coming into the finish line at the same time.

I was hooked.
Racing gave training meaning. And I got a sweet medal. I had an excuse to hang out with my friends. I still struggle with social anxiety, but a race environment is somewhere I’ve learned I will always feel at home. Just a bunch of nerds getting together for the purpose of seeing how hard they can go on that day.

Then, the phrase that will hang in the air well after it’s spoken was uttered, “What’s next?”

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