Friday, November 15, 2019

The Veterans Day 5k Recap

  Most non-marathon races happen on a Saturday.  But since it was Veterans Day weekend the Veterans Day 5k was not on the typical Columbia weekend run and I got to enjoy my sleep.  And I forgot to look at the race calendar to see what would be happening on that Saturday, so there’s that, too.

  I ran in the inaugural USC Veterans Day 5k last year, and one of the much faster runners inadvertently changed the course and everyone followed their lead, including me.  It made for an interesting time while crossing Assembly Street with traffic coming at us both ways.  (see last year's race by clicking on the video.)

  This year, the course route significantly changed, and it would start and end in different spots.  The route started by the Long Street Theatre, went around the Horseshoe perimeter, made a couple of turns, and ended at 920 Lady Street. 

  Sunday afternoon, I headed out very relaxed and ready to go.  Packet pick-up started at 11:30 AM, and would go on for the next two and a half hours.  I arrived at one of the UofSC parking lots and dropped my stuff off at the library around 1 PM.  I hung out and talked with some of the college kids working, to which one of them asked me about the race.  It seemed that she got stuck in traffic during the Tunnel to Towers 5k the other month and didn’t want to have that happen again. I assured her that the race wouldn’t linger past her work schedule, and that the end was off campus so she would have no issues.

  After a little bit, I go outside and walk up for my packet pick-up.  I see quite a few Team RWB shirts surfing among the crowd which was amazing because I do not recall anyone talking about it on the local RWB Facebook page.  Of course, my RWB shirt was in the wash because someone spilled a drink on my stuff and my Columbia Running Club jersey was nowhere to be found.  Instead, and thankfully because of the slightly cooler weather, I would wear my cotton Columbia Running Club t-shirt for the race, so at least I would represent one of the two organizations out there.

Me and the Prez

  As I mingle among some of the participants, I spot Bob Caslen, the President of the University of South Carolina and retired Army three star general and he was ready to run.  Cocky was out there, too, and it was hard to figure out which one of the two ended up in more picture taking opportunities for social media.  #uofsc #cocky #gococks #goarmy #toomanyhashtags.

  Eventually, we all make our way to the starting line.  According to, 388 people signed up for the race, but I believe there were over 400 out on the course.  The national anthem is sung and once the buzzer goes, we are off. 

  I follow the crowd before me, and everyone makes a right after passing the Long Street Theatre.  I have my Halo 3 theme music going in my Aftershokz, GoPro in my hand, and I’m weaving around strollers and walkers.  I’m enjoying myself as I get close to the gate blocking vehicle traffic on Greene Street.

  And then several of us hear a woman say we were going the wrong way.

Turn Around, You're Going the Wrong Way!

  I could see a long crowd of runners still going forward, but those of us from the back only had the minimal amount of turnaround distance to do.  I feel this certain energy coursing through my veins and I somehow sprint back onto the correct route, and sprinting at the beginning definitely goes against what I used to tell my Soldiers when I was still in the Army.

  I got back on track and there are very few people in front of me.  Eventually, I pass enough people that for a brief quarter-mile I am one of the top ten runners of the race.  Technicalities and mishaps aside, I took that in stride and ran a little faster.  It wouldn’t last.  Slowly, and one by one, the fast pack of runners catch up and surpass me.

"You better run up that hill!"
  We make it to Bull Street, one of two uphills in the race, and this one is THE dozy.  It’s steep and it has four Marine drill instructors “encouraging” us get up that hill.  They were very animated. And vocal.  I run up the hill past all four, and about 50 feet past the final one, I slow down to a walk.  I can hear the last drill instructor behind me yelling that I should not be walking and that I needed to keep running.  At this point, I’m near the apex the hill, and I spot two volunteers to which I tell them as I start running again, “if I wasn’t retired, I might have been intimidated by them,” meaning the Marines.  They laughed.

  I hit the water stops along the route and one of them was on Assembly Street, the other not-as-steep uphill.  After cresting the hill, I run by what looks like at least three platoons of Army drill sergeant candidates, who were out there actually encouraging us with signs, dancing, and clapping. 

  The route had us running in front of the state capitol grounds, and a squad of UofSC cheerleaders followed suit with the Army by cheering us on.  A couple of turns later, I made it onto Lady Street. 

  Lady Street felt weird.  I am so used to driving on it, that I never really get to take in how downtown Columbia looks like a normal metropolitan area, and I do not mean that in a bad way.  This time, I’m running down it and soaking in the building architecture.

  Eventually, the finish line is within eyesight and the crowd within earshot.  I sprint from the final traffic light and pass Cocky.  That bird is everywhere.  More cheerleaders line the finish line, motivating people as they approach.  I finish with one of my slowest times ever, but it was worth it. 

  I did not stay for the after-party or the awards ceremony because I had some sick kiddos to get back home to, but those who finished (and had the proper ID) got a free beer and sliders from Carolina Western Pub.  The race packet included a performance shirt and an FN America baseball cap.  I’ll take a hat in a race packet any day. 

Cocky and the president crossing the finish line

  Other than the initial hiccup at the beginning of the course, it was good; the crowd and atmosphere were in happy spirits, and any chance to support raising money for the Fisher House is a-okay in my book.

The video for the race is below, check it out.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Superhero 5k in Columbia Recap

  Strictly Running is great.  I received a reminder email from them about the Superhero 5k a little while back.  I checked my schedule and saw that while I would work at the library that day, I did not have a race scheduled on the calendar.  I ran the DC Wonder Woman 5k the previous week, so I figured that if I participate in the Superhero race, I could wear that sweet red shirt I got from the previous run.

  And then my youngest, Tori, wanted to run in the race.  Years ago, Tori dressed as “Princess Hulk” when we lived in Texas.  Amanda thought it would be a good idea for Tori to reenact that again, but this time for a run. 

  Friday afternoon, I head to Strictly Running for packet pick-up.  They have everything ready, as usual, and it was quick.  In the bag was my bib, a bright yellow shirt, literature on child abuse awareness, and a voucher for a free game of bowling. 

The dog was ready for the race to start
  Saturday morning rolls around, and it is bitter cold.  I verbally ask Google for driving directions to “Segra Park,” but each time I do, my Android phone insisted on giving me three day directions to Sequoia National Park in California.  Five times.  So much for a traffic update, but at least I know where I’m going. Tori and I drive down I-126 to get to the baseball stadium, and the Broad River had a thick layer of fog slightly rising around it.  It made the Columbia skyline look amazing as we drove closer to town.  I haven’t been to Segra Park since it was renamed, and construction happening around it threw me off for a bit.

  We arrived and parked the car.  Since it was still cold and we had 15 minutes, Tori and I sat inside for a few minutes before we braved the 37 degree weather.  She had her Hulk outfit on, but she put Amanda’s old high school cheerleading sweatshirt on over it, and decided to wear a Stranger Things’ Scoops Ahoy hat instead of a tiara.  I guess season three of that Netflix series needed someone to get angry and go green.

  In the meantime, I watch several people wearing bibs get out of their vehicles and walk around the stadium.  At the ten minute mark, Tori and I get out of the car and start walking to where the others headed.  I make it five feet when a woman stops me and asks if my daughter and I were going to the race, and I reply yes.  As I answer, I turn completely around and both of our bibs are in clear view.  The woman asks us if we are running in the race or if we are here to show support, and I say “yes we are,” thinking the bibs are a dead giveaway.  She then tells us that she thinks we are going the wrong way because someone told her that the race started somewhere “north on Turner Street.”

  At this point, I’m so confused after watching at least 15 people walk around the north side of the stadium heading west and I have never heard of Turner Street.  I tell her that I watched several people walk around the stadium, and she replied that maybe I should ask the people at the stadium to make sure.  Tori and I hurry towards the stadium and we see other people trickle out of their cars and head westward… like slow moving, cold shivering miners looking for gold.

  We make it to the starting line with about five minutes to spare.  I spot Alex McDonald (pulling picture taking duties), Naomi Rabon, Jen Kryzanowski, Rocky Soderberg, Kerri Stubbs, and Clara Nance among the mass of running attire and costumes flowing throughout the start line assembly area.  Tori initially wanted to walk the course, once the race started, she was right behind me running along.

  We head north running around many costumes and capes along the way.  At the half mile area, there’s this hill that looks a little intimidating, especially for a kid who doesn’t like the cold weather.  I keep telling Tori that we need to keep a good pace, especially since other children her age are sprinting and wearing themselves out before the first mile.  We trod up the hill and make it, but eventually Tori needed to walk near the 1 mile mark. 

  We make the corner at 1.5 miles and I notice a bunch of people in blue shirts walking towards us.  I didn’t remember seeing a mass of powder blue shirts at the starting area, but Tori had slowed down quite a bit since the 1 mile mark and I just chalked it up to… fast walkers?

Heart Check participants 

  As we pass the third group of blue shirts, Tori remarks that the shirts all say “Heart Check” and both of us thought it was pretty neat that two events cross paths around the same time.  I bet the police and both event volunteers had an interesting time keeping streams of traffic from both events safe and on the right path.

  As we continue past the sea of blue shirts, Tori and I push up a hill and keep going, and the next mile was so flat that was quite refreshing.  As I run along, I reminisce on the Bunny Hop 5k that Tori and I did around there a few years ago.  We go around a few corners and make it down Calhoun Street, and I mean down because of the decline.  Tori and I turn left towards the stadium, and at this point, I have to remind Tori that we are almost done… because she IS done. It’s cold, she hasn’t run in a few weeks, and she wants to go get a Cherry Icee (Stranger Things reference).

Where is my ICEE?

  I make a deal with Tori that she will get an Icee if we finish strong.  She agrees, and I try to pump her up mentally as we round the corner and head along the walkway to the stadium interior grounds.  Tori didn’t care, but we sprint to the finish line and walk to cool down.  She and I finish around the 36 minute mark, but that didn’t matter; we stayed together the whole time. 

  We had a few minutes before Tori and I had to meet up with Amanda at the Soda City Saturday Market on Main Street, so we checked out the stands, grabbed several bottles of water, a hot dog, and some nachos.  We couldn’t stay for the awards ceremony because I had to get ready for work at the library, and a sick Amanda was probably waiting on Main Street, thus Tori and I took off.  Oh, and out car was so warm after standing around in a slightly higher 40 degrees for 10 minutes or so as we left the stadium and made our way to Main Street.
Leading up into the stadium
The finish line is in sight!

Please check out my video showing the course, capes, and costumes for the Superhero 5k.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

DC Wonder Woman College Run Series at the University of South Carolina Recap

  Columbia has a running problem: people love to run. So much so that on 26 October, I counted at least three races around town and one happening up in the Greenville/Spartanburg metropolitan area.   Strictly Running had their Halloween Run 5k, the Go Leo Go 5k would take place at Saluda Shoals Park, and the DC Wonder Woman College Run Series happened at the University of South Carolina. Since I would work at the university library that day, it made sense to me to go for the Wonder Woman race and head to work afterwards.

  I head out and park at the Bull Street Garage, which is free on weekends, and walk down to Blatt Fitness Center where the start/finish line and assembly area are.  At packet pickup, I am greeted by Erin of Grit Endurance and get my shirt and bib.  I love this shirt; it is a red performance shirt with the Wonder Woman logo on it.   Most of the people around me were college aged, which passed muster because the university had been promoting it, at least in the library.  And speaking of the Thomas Cooper Library, they showed their support by having a table set up to talk about its recently acquired vast comic book collection along with a Wonder Woman display on hand for picture opportunities.  As I got to the back of the start line, as per my usual ritual, I noticed that I am basically one of five males in a sea of red wearing women.  That didn’t bother me much, because as the run promotes, “#IAMWONDERWOMAN.”
  The run kicks off with the DJ counting down and Erin also letting us know to get ready.  The course we run is the same course that I ran last year from the UofSC Family Weekend 5k.  And then I remember the hills.  The course route looks like squished Big Dipper constellation, but with an uphill built into the beginning and end of the course.  That second mile is nice and flat, especially since it goes around Hand Middle School, and unlike last year, directions along the course were better because I did NOT take a turn a street or three early (like a few others and myself did last year).  Throughout the course, the sea of red shirts from the start of the race would trickle down to a stream before culminating into a little pond of crimson at the finish line.

  The finish line had the usual assortment of refreshments and snacks for participants, with one exception.  Apparently, Honey Stinger is a sponsor of the DC Wonder Woman race series, and that made me pretty happy. I will eat their waffles all day long and seeing them at the event really made my day because that meant I didn’t have to break into my own stash of Honey Stinger goodies.

  It was a nice fun run, the medal was very bling-y since the middle spins around, the shirt was great, and it was a great chance to go through a part of the Gamecocks’ campus all in one stroke. No pressure to win, just good times to enjoy.

If you would like to see what the event looked like, check out my YouTube video here:

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Hoka One One Sky Arkali - Best of Both Trail Worlds Or a Jack of All Trades?

  The Hoka Sky Arkali.  A shoe that combines attributes of a trail running shoe with a low-cut hiking boot.  The theory is that taking the best features from each category would yield a jack-of-all-trades shoe for hitting the outdoors.  The idea is sound, but in a vein similar to hybrid bicycles, which combine of a road bike with a trail/mountain bike, it does not always go as planned. 

  Don’t get me wrong, the Hoka Sky Arkali is a great shoe, but as I go over my findings, it will become more clear which activities one should undertake with these shoes. 

  I originally received my pair of Hoka One One Sky Arkali from the folks at and I wore the shoes for about a month.  I hiked, ran, walked, cycled, kayaked, and worked in them and this is what I found. 

  For hiking, these shoes are wonderful.  They are lighter than other hiking shoes I’ve worn, they appear very durable, and they grip the ground so well.  My feet felt great while hiking and walking about in the woods, partially due to Hoka’s cushioning, and partially due to the breathability of the upper. 

  However, the Sky Arkali are a different story when it comes to running.  Don’t get me wrong, these shoes are well constructed, but the breathability factor severely goes down because you are moving so much quicker and often.  Also, the Sky Arkali are heavier than my other trail running shoes, which is weird to me because as a pair of hiking shoes, they are lighter than my old hiking boots.  


 The Hoka One One Sky Arkali has several features that make it stand out from other trail shoes.  From the top to the bottom they are: 

The MATRYX upper, which includes strands of Kelvar for durability and strength.  Being a former Army guy, I can tell you that Kelvar is not breathable, but it takes a whole heck of a lot to rip and tear. Fortunately, the MATRYX upper is really just a sleeve-like layer that goes around the shoe and not on top where the tongue and toe box are located.   

  The front has a high-abrasion rubber toe cap to protect that area.  It is not the same at a steel toed boot, but I did appreciate the small extra padding whenever I did hit fallen branches or more roots. 

  The PROFLY midsole appears in other Hoka shoes but I personally don’t know of any of my friends using them, but the PROFLY’s usage shows up in the Mach 2, the Cavu 2, and the Elevon. All I know is that I had a very cushy ride while wearing the Sky Arkali. 

  Two Velcro straps to fitting the shoe around your ankle and heel.  The forward and back Velcro straps are a great boon since they help lock in how tight, yet comfortable, you want the shoes to be.  Only once did a strap come loose, and that was when I tripped over a root and almost fell hard. Almost fell, but twenty feet of stumbling later I recovered.  Because of the location of the Velcro straps, the Sky Arkali sits like a high-top shoe, and this greatly helps with reducing debris coming into the shoe and I definitely did not need a gaiter while out on the trail.  The shoes also feature the longest length for shoelaces I’ve seen yet; I’ve never owned or seen a pair of shoes where the laces start at the top and end almost where my toes end.    

  The outsoles are the best part of the shoes, in my opinion. I have been a huge fan of Vibram outsoles since my deployment times in the military.  Over half my boots had Vibram outsoles and they lasted a lot longer than other boots’ outsoles in Middle Eastern dirt, sand, and rocks.  Vibram outsoles have a history of durability, reliability, and dependability.  They will outlast any other outsole that I have owned or worn.  The grip is phenomenal, but I would expect nothing less from Vibram. 

  While the hiking and running are what most people would be interested in, I do like the Hoka Sky Arkali when it coming to cycling as well.  I do not own clip shoes that most cyclists wear, but I absolutely love wearing trail shoes whenever I ride my bicycle because the outsoles grip the pedals so well, I never have to worry about losing traction while pedaling.  

  The shoes are not waterproof, but I still wore them while kayaking. I had a few muddy areas that I had to traverse before getting in and getting out of the kayak, and the Sky Arkali definitely helped keep me upright and not fall while getting in my little ride. 

   Besides the shoes not being the best suited for long distance running, my major sticking point with the Hoka Sky Arkali is the price point. At $200 USD, £170.00 UK, and 200,00 € EU, you need to be sure that you want these shoes.  They make great hiking shoes, especially in cooler weather, but considering I live in in the southern United States, I am reluctant to wear them in warmer temperatures.  When winter comes, there is no doubt that I would break these shoes out for a winter trail run or hike, though.  

   You can see my first impressions of the shoes here: