Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What Is Inside A Honey Stinger Variety Pack?

  I recently became a Honey Stinger Ambassador and wanted to stock up on some of their products.  I’ve been a fan of their organic honey waffles for quite a while, but haven’t tried some of their other items.  So when I saw Honey Stinger offered a 10 piece variety pack, I jumped on it.  Honey Stinger uses organic honey as their main ingredient for fuel and helps anyone who wants looking for that bit of energy for their outdoor enjoyment.

  The other day, my Honey Stinger package arrived and I was pretty stoked to check out its contents.  Opening the box, Honey Stinger packed my variety pack in a Cherry Almond Protein Bar box, but had markings indicating that this was indeed their variety pack.

10 items to try, test, and enjoy

Organic Waffles. Love the Wildflower Honey.

 The first group of Honey Stinger goodness were four waffles.  Two organic packs consisting of one pack lemon flavored and one pack vanilla flavored. The other two packs are gluten free and consist of one pack wildflower honey and one pack salted caramel flavored.  Most people find Honey Stinger's organic waffles to be good before or during a run. 

Next, I pulled out Honey Stinger's two bags of organic energy chews.  I received two in their variety box: Pink Lemonade and Fruit Smoothie.  These make for a perfect energy snack, either on the go or just to tide over hunger until a main meal.  I tried the Pink Lemonade and they were so delicious, I was disappointed I only got one pack.
I think Pink Lemonade will be my favorite energy chew

 After the energy chews, I grabbed their two packed-in snack bars.  One is almond butter, dark chocolate, and sea salt while the other consists of peanut butter, milk chocolate, and sea salt. These are advertised as a good snack to have.

Better than a granola bar

Up next, I snagged the energy bar. Don't let the picture fool you, the rocket chocolate energy bar looks a lot better in person.  This category of Honey Stinger products is great for during or after exercising.  

Better in real life

And the final one is the Honey Stinger Dark Chocolate Coconut Almond protein bar.  Protein bars are great for strength training and people recommend eating them during or after a workout.  I, for one, will pass this particular protein bar to my wife, since I am not a fan of coconut in my food.  But that is why a variety pack is good to get, for the variety and if there is something that is not to your liking, you can always give it to a friend, colleague, or a family member.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Veterans Day 5k Recap

  Veterans Day has slowly become one of my more earnest holidays.  This Veterans Day is the first one in which I finally hung up the uniform after 25 years.  It is also the 100th anniversary to the end of World War I aka the Great War or The War to End All Wars.  Veterans Day started as Armistice Day internationally in 1919, but the United States took an extra step and decided to honor all its veterans in 1954. 

  This year, the University of South Carolina Student Government and the University of South Carolina Student Veterans Association worked together to raise money for the Fisher House in Columbia.  The Fisher House is a place for military families to stay while someone receives treatment at a military hospital with duration lasting longer than a day.  My son and I used the Fisher House at Fort Hood in 2002 when my wife and later my daughter were hospitalized with a serious case of the flu.  We were not stationed at Fort Hood at the time, so the benefits of staying at a place very close to an Army medical center, especially for free, had its benefits.  Thus I could get behind this cause.  This inaugural Veterans Day 5k was their way to raise that money.

  However, I did not learn about this particular race until the week of the race.  Now, this particular Veterans Day weekend contained several races with the biggest one being the Lexington Run Hard half-marathon, 10k, and 5k races, so I was pretty surprised to see over 180 runners and walkers out there in front of the University of South Carolina’s Thomas Cooper Library. 

  When I arrived at the starting point, I saw the line for packet pick-up and registration.  The line snaked and wiggled about but I eventually got to the front.  The volunteers took my name but then informed me that they ran out of shirts in my size.  Another volunteer heard this and quickly pointed out that they still had a box of shirts to go through, so after a few minutes, I eventually got my size large shirt.  But I didn’t get a goodie bag like those before me, so I have no idea what promotional information the recyclable gift bags contained.  I wasn’t upset about it, but mostly perplexed since I saw so many bags behind the volunteers.

The original course

  When I signed up, I had no idea what the route would be, but one of my friends had a print-out and let me look at it.  This was an entirely new course for me, and I was thrilled about that. 
  We started a couple of minutes late, but that was no big deal.  Once the horn blared a couple of times, people moved across the start line.  Channel 10 had a news person out there to cover the race, but somehow I missed that until a day after the event.

  Over 180 of us marched past the starting point and ran down Greene Street before turning onto Main Street.  We had a nice half mile of a downhill slope to help.  When I rounded the corner onto Wheat Street, I saw that we would go over Assembly Street via the footbridge; I’ve always wanted to run on that thing, even though it doesn’t look that special.  After the footbridge, though, is where a lot of us got lost, even if it was only for a little bit.  According to the map, we should have climbed up the second footbridge, but instead we ran past it and went down Park Street to circle back to Assembly Street.  I followed the runners in front of me and eventually they crossed Assembly Street to get back onto Wheat Street.  But without any volunteers or police directing traffic, it felt a little dangerous to do this. 

How I ran the 5k course
  The rest of the run stayed on course with little issues until right before the finish line.  As I rounded the final corner towards the finish line, I thought a police officer yelled at me to continue running in a straight line, instead of turning.  What apparently happened though, is that she tried to get the attention of two other runners who just finished the race and were walking away from the finish line; she thought they hadn’t crossed the last stop.  So I spent a couple of seconds pretty confused about which way I was supposed to go because I thought the policewoman wanted my attention. 

  Even with the misdirection at the finish line and going a different route, I did manage to run a complete 5k in distance.  I wasn’t thrilled with my time since I hovered at 28 minutes.  I’ve been slowly losing my running speed since I left the service, but I’ll work on that later.
My buddy and me after the race

  The awards ceremony took place just under an hour from the start of the race.  During the ceremony, we watched as 91 year old Thomas Peel, a World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War veteran, rounded the corner and pushed towards the finish line.  Once the award ceremony resumed, I got a chance to see the medals.  While only the top place in each division got one, the medals looked nice and distinguished themselves from other race medals by being made of wood. 

Nick and Thomas Peel
  Before the awards ceremony, the race director acknowledged that there were hiccups with this race.  It is the first year for the Veterans Day 5k and even with the missteps, the 5k race still went well.  Since the head of the University of South Carolina Student Veterans Association also headed up the ceremony and asked several participants how the race went, I feel assured that next year’s race will go a lot smoother. 
  You can see a brief overview of the Veterans Day 5k here: The Veterans Day 5K

Monday, November 5, 2018

World Wrestling Entertainment's Program to the Military: Free Tickets to Live Shows

  I’ve been deployed to the Middle East several times and for most of them, I’ve noticed that a certain sports entertainment program loves to be shown on the American Forces Network, or AFN for short.  AFN is a television and radio network service operated around the world where American Armed Forces are located.  I remember watching little bits of AFN as a kid in Germany, and I’ve seen or heard AFN plenty of times when I was in the Middle East and South Asia.  They also have a presence in Europe and the Far East.

  That sports entertainment program belongs to World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE.  I used to watch WWF as it was known back then when I was a kid; my brother and I ate it up.  But I stopped watching wrestling when I joined the Army and didn’t get back into it almost two decades later when I learned that the WWE would send some of their wrestling superstars out to the Middle East as a part of several morale boosting tours.  I watched WWE shows, to include pay-per-view events, on AFN while treadmill running during deployments when I couldn’t run outside.  I ran six or more miles with those WWE shows on; I knew wrestling wasn’t real, but I could appreciate the athleticism, stunts, and work ethic.  The only drawback to the WWE’s shows were the one day delayed broadcasts, but when you’re deployed, does it really matter?

  A few years ago, my brother informed me that the WWE had a program which allowed military members and their families to attend live shows for free.  You can read about more about it here (  I’ve taken my family to four different shows in three cities and can relate what I learned if you want to take advantage of WWE’s program. It is a good program if you want to see a top quality wrestling but there are a few caveats to be aware of.

The Phenomenal One, AJ Styles

The New Day versus Bray Wyatt and his henchmen
  The first place I took my family to was in Augusta about two ago for a WWE Live house show.  The James Brown Arena can host up just over 9000 people but as with most WWE shows I’ve seen on the television, there are some sections that go empty and get covered up (more on that later).  Also, Augusta is where I first learned that everyone in your party has to have a military ID card to get in for free.  While my older two and I had a military ID card, my youngest did not because the military won’t issue an ID card to children under 10 years old unless the military parent is divorced or single.  So, out of the four of us who went, I only had to pay for one ticket, and even then, the arena charged me for a child’s ticket.   The James Brown Arena also picked out the seats for us, even before I had to buy my daughter’s ticket, however, we had a fantastic view of the New Day, Alexa Bliss, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Sheamus, AJ Styles, and Roman Reigns.  My phone didn’t take great pictures, but the overall view was phenomenal. 

Becky Lynch and Charlotte signing a match contact
  The second time I took advantage of the WWE military program happened when WWE’s Smackdown came to Columbia last year.  Again, I had to buy my youngest child’s ticket, and again, the ticket distributor picked our seats for us.  The Colonial Life Arena can host up to 18000 people but since this was a Smackdown Live show, several upper sections had black screens places over them to corral people into the background on the TV broadcast.
  I loved watching the show in the Colonial Life Arena because even though we sat in one of the upper sections, we again had a great view of the show and saw Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, and Kane.  The sections in that arena are not stacked as vertically as other arenas, so you don’t feel far from the action.

Flames light up for Kane

Sheamus and Cesaro. Love their entrance
  The third time I went to a WWE show, I took only the youngest and she was shy of her 10th birthday by a month.  Not thrilled about buying a ticket that WWE said would be free, but I am presuming that because this was a WWE Live house show, aka not a televised show, we actually had a chance to pick any open seat available to include seats right along the ring.  I would still have to pay for my daughter so we chose a cheaper seat.  Being that this happened at the Colonial Life Arena again, just about any seat available had a very great unobstructed close view of the WWE superstars and the squared circle.

Shinuske Namamura, the King of Strong Style. The house show's audience was about half full.

  The latest opportunity I had for a WWE show happened in Charlotte for WWE Raw.  My two daughters and I drove up there with time to spare and since my youngest was now 10 years old, all tickets requested would be free.  WWE Raw took place at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center which can hold as many as 20,000 people in the stadium.  We asked for our tickets and the staff issued us three tickets for section 223.  The Spectrum Center’s upper sections are pretty high up and while we had a nice view of the arena, the actual wrestling ring looked somewhat diminutive compared to past experiences.  Fortunately, a very giant screen broadcast the action that the home viewers would see above the ring.   While the wrestling action looked smaller than what we were used to, the sounds carried through probably because the backstage crew places microphones under or near the ring to pick up the sounds of body slams, slaps, and falls. 
Who wants to walk with Elias?

So high up at the Spectrum Center


The main points I learned from WWE’s support to the military:

1.      Free tickets are available the day of the event to anyone holding a military ID card. This includes active duty military, National Guard members, reservists, retired personnel, and military dependents.
2.      Each venue will determine where you sit, especially if the WWE is taping at that event, though you may have some leeway on which seats in a particular section.
3.      However, it is possible that you can get a great seat, especially along ringside, if the WWE show is a non-televised event, but this depends on the venue.
4.      WWE gives the military free entry to every event but WrestleMania.  I haven’t tried this at any pay-per-view shows, but I can confirm that you can get in televised Raw tapings, televised Smackdown Live shows, and normal house shows.
5.      WWE will have some of their superstars visit military bases overseas though the frequency has gone down as conflicts and military deployments decreased over the years.

WWE can be a polarizing organization these days and there are also people out there who look down on something that is fake, but there is an enjoyment to be had watching these people in person. 

(And I apologize for some of the pictures not being the best.)