Wednesday, March 20, 2019

That Time I Ran Two Races In One Day


 You may have seen my running videos. Usually I do a race a week or two and upload a montage of it later that day or the next, but there are the rare days where I record two events on the same day.  March 9th was one of those rare days.

  When I usually sign up for a race, I look at my calendar to see if I’m free that morning, pay the fee, and block that date out.  But for March 9th, two races were scheduled, and both supported great causes. 
the start line

  I first signed up for the March for Meals 5k which supports Senior Resources Inc. and their Meals on Wheels program.  I’ve done this particular off and on again since 2015 mostly because Army commitments would prevent me from running in it each year consecutively.  Besides the opportunity to donate to helping senior citizens, this race takes place in one of my favorite running areas: the Timmerman Trail.


Wooden Foot Bridge
  It’s a pretty relaxing paved trail that spans over several wooden foot bridges and a few concrete and iron bridges as well.  The March for Meals 5k starts in front of an activities center and has you running on a road for the first half mile until you get to the Lexington Medical Center’s administrative building parking lot. 



  It’s a very nice, scenic path through the woods and overlooks a few creeks along the way. While the 5k route didn’t allow us, there are parts of the Timmerman Trail that also run alongside part of the Congaree River for a bit.  



 
  The race itself was nice, the medals are pretty distinct from others in that place winners get a plate or a medal spoon. I did well enough a few years ago to earn one, and it is still one of my more treasured trophies.  This year, Senior Resources showcased their newly acquired taco truck and all participants received a free taco, be it beef, chicken, chorizo, or veggie.  This was a big bonus for doing the race. The shirt was an improvement this year as well. In previous years, the race shirt was a long sleeve Hanes t-shirt. This year, the shirt was made of a thinner material.


The crowd. Just beyond them was the parking area.
  In fact, the only issue with the race is the parking, and how to get to the parking area. Each year, participants end up driving through the start/finish line to get to the dirt parking lot.  Most times, this is not an issue, but as it gets closer to race time, people gather at the start line and you always have one or two cars show up to park, in which everyone has to get out of the way.  There is another way to the parking area, so hopefully, volunteers at next year’s race can direct people to go that way instead. 

  As for the race, I ran a decent 8:15 average mile. There were a few hills in there, but nothing like downtown Columbia, Charlotte, or even Atlanta.  However, I didn’t expect to push myself since I had a race that night and halfway through the morning run, I decided that I should range-walk or jog the second race.  That didn’t happen.

The Run for Her Life 5k Opening Ceremony


The Start
   The second race, the Run for Her Life 5k, was a charity race for the Lighthouse for Life to raise awareness on domestic underage human trafficking.  And this race was a glow race that took place in Saluda Shoals Park. There’s something about glow races that brings people out of the woodwork.   It was packed, but I could hear the DJ playing in the starting line area, packet pick-up went great, and the race shirt was a tech shirt (a big plus in my book). 



  The race took place well after sunset and they modified the course a little due to the rains from the previous night.  As usual, I started in the back, but my wife and youngest started in the middle. And let me say that I planned on running slow,
but once the horn went off, I got swept up in the enthusiasm, eagerness, and festive mood from other people and I started to run faster.  My daughter wanted to run as well, so she brought off from my wife.






 
High Fiving at the the finish line
I didn’t catch Tori until about half a mile into the race because of the crowds.  Once I got alongside my youngest, I stayed with her, and she was such a trooper.  We enjoyed the glow lights along the course, partook in the water stations, and most of it kept each company.  While I averaged a 10:15 mile with my daughter, the important thing was that I ran almost the entire race with her.






  Tori walked a little, but she kept going and finished strong. I got to see my little 10 year old cross the finish line with the heart of a lion, and she made me so proud.

My Tori



  If you would like, you can see both race videos here:





Thursday, February 21, 2019

Running Shoes and AAFES: Now a Good Option


Under Armour. They make decent running shoes now
  For the vast majority of my military career, I would go to the local Post or Base Exchange, PX for the Army and BX for the Air Force, and just buy the cheapest pair of running shoes that would fit my feet. I didn’t pay attention to tread, didn’t know about quality, and definitely only cared about how little they cost. I knew about brands such as Nike, Reebok, and Adidas and in my younger days figured that name recognition would take care of quality.  I heard all about how to take care of my feet from the Army’s fitness trainers, serious runners, and teammates who competed in high school and collegiate sports, but figured that I wouldn’t worry about my feet and legs unless they started hurting.


New Balance. The first good non-Big Three shoes I would wear.
  My thought process changed about 10 years ago when I realized I was no longer the youthful, energetic person I was at 17 and that while I had been more fortunate than most of my military friends when it came to injuries, I need to take care of my body to keep going.






Brooks. Even more models and colors than I expected
  Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with Nike, Reebok, or Adidas, but the local military exchange used to carry some shoe brands that looked like running shoes but I never heard of before. And it was about a decade ago, that I noticed the Army and Air Forces Exchange Service (AAFES) started carrying running shoe brands that the running world was familiar with. I saw Brooks, noticed Asics, glanced at New Balance and it was the New Balance shoes that I started using because I remembered some of the faster runners in my unit wearing them.  I also discovered that New Balance wasn’t as expensive as I thought they would be.


Asics, a very good brand that gets overlooked
  These days, the local Base and Post Exchanges carry a good variety of running shoes. Running shoes with name brand recognition and a reputation of performing well for runners.  Durability, quality, and comfort need to be emphasized and the shoe section comes out swinging. 


Brooks running shoes a plenty
  I recently visited the local post exchange and saw a various of running shoe brands that would give your average running store a run for its money, no pun intended.  Besides the usual suspects of Nike, Reebok, and Adidas, I came across Brooks, Mizuno, Saucony, New Balance, Under Armour, Hoka, and Asics.  While I have yet to try running in Under Armour shoes, I know several cross fitters who swear by them for their short distance running.  In addition to road running, I also noticed that AAFES carries trail and hiking shoes by Merrell. I’ve worn their gear before and love the traction.

Salomon. Not a brand I was expecting in AAFES

  The one brand that I did not see, and I absolutely love is the On running shoe company.  But to be fair, I’ve only seen three stores in my city carry them and one of them isn’t known for selling running shoes.


 Shoe prices ranged from 40 dollars (USD) to over 120 dollars, with most shoes hovering around the 80 dollar price mark.  Because shoe companies seem to offset their yearly models from other companies’ schedules, you can find some shoe brands models on sale or even clearance.  While most AAFES employees don’t have advanced knowledge on the various shoe brands, they are able to help determine if you need a neutral, stability, or motion control shoe and there are even a few minimalist shoes as options.  I recommend that if you don’t know what type of shoe you already need, you should bring along a friend or someone from your unit or group who knows quite a bit about running shoes to help you.


  And the best part of getting running shoes is that you do not get charged tax, which can save you even more.
 
Merrell. For those who like to go off the road

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Building a Linkedin Profile for When You Leave the Service




  Linkedin has been around for several years, and a few of my former colleagues have likened it to “Facebook for Professionals.”  But it is much more than just another social network; it is a tool to help you find gainful employment, build a network, and at the very least aid in recommending subordinates, co-workers, and teammates in their future job hunts.

  Years ago, I created a Linkedin profile solely for the purpose of endorsing my Soldiers who had completed their time in the Army. My profile was very bare bones, but I had a skeleton of job titles and dates of employments.  As I thought more about retirement, I fleshed out my profile and added more meat and substance to my profile.

  In my year of casually looking for employment, I noticed that my Linkedin profile was key to applying for several jobs in the private and public sector, so I want to share what I have learned or told other military people about Linkedin profiles.

  If you don’t have one already, the first thing you should do is create a profile. Besides the reasons previously mentioned, a Linkedin profile helps you remember previous job assignments and duty responsibilities… as long as you remember to add them. I have used my Linkedin profile as my reference tool on several occasions when I tweaked personalized job resumes by seeing which duties and responsibilities fit and matched the specific job requirements.

  The next thing you should truly consider the privacy and public viewing settings for your profile.  I know several people in the service who set their Linkedin profiles to private. I understand the need to keep lives private, but when it comes to recruiters and job seekers, your resume and parts of your life should be available. I’ve known people who worked at some pretty obscure jobs who made it almost impossible to find on Linkedin, which makes it that much harder to connect and build networks and endorsements.  On the other hand though, if you don’t want your picture out there for Google and other search engines to show anyone searching your name, you can set your profile up to not show it to unregistered users. I do.

  I cannot stress the importance that you have to have a good portion available for recruiters and head hunters to find you.  Your privacy settings also help Linkedin find potential jobs that line up with your job skills or interests.

  Speaking of pictures, you should make sure your Linkedin picture is somewhat professional looking. Or at least, avoid all efforts to put in your favorite picture of something blowing up in the background and you looking surprised. A good photo should have your head and shoulders.  If you are Active Duty, having your profile picture depict you in uniform is not a big deal, but once you get out of the service, change it. You don’t need to wear a tuxedo or a suit and tie, but you wearing your favorite band t-shirt is not going to help your prospects of landing that supervisor job with the county or state.

  When you think you have your Linkedin profile built, Linkedin may suggest a “summary” as a part of your profile’s introduction. I recommend building it yourself. I recently started a new job in the library. Linkedin thought my summary should read as


“Veteran Library assistant with 25 years of experience in supervision, management, and team building.”  While those words are true, individually or in phrases, they depict that I’ve been working in a library for decades rather than a month. So, be careful when letting Linkedin or any website autofill or complete your information.

Linkedin is a great tool, and it will help you find jobs in cities you’re looking in.  And from what I’ve seen in my previous job searches, Linkedin does not questionable job offerings that I’ve seen on other websites such as Indeed.com and glassdoor.com (though they are still ranked among the best in finding job opportunities).  At the very least, use Linkedin to keep an account of your military accomplishments (take bullets and key parts from your NCOER or OER), and build out your professional profile so that when you are no longer wearing the uniform you will have a good start on that resume. And use Linkedin to take care of your subordinates and teammates by endorsing their relevant and corresponding skills.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Race Shirts: Which Brands Runners Love and Which Ones to Avoid

My Collection from the Past Four Years



I recently went through all the shirts I got from races in the past four years.  There are quite a few I like, and some I’ll wear when it’s almost time to do laundry.  But I do like them all, even if a few of the non-performance shirts are pretty thick.  

  I will however say that there is an order of precedence when it comes to what kind of shirts a runner would like to see coming from a race organizer.

  After sifting through my collection of race memorabilia, I created my list of bottom tier to top of the wish list when it comes to what kind of shirt runners like me would like to see in our swag bags.

  Bottom tier contains brands such as Gildan and Hanes.  I consider these the mainstream and underwear brands because most people know those two names has a part of their undergarment wardrobe.

  
Disco Dash (Gildan Heavy Cotton Blend)

  Gildan has several styles and brands that they use.  My Gildan preference from first to worst are:

Anvil  (a nice thin shirt)
Gildan Dry Blend (not thick, but not thin cotton blend)
Alstyle (feels like Gildan’s Soft Style, but I rank higher because of a particular race)
Gildan Soft Style (not-so-thick cotton blend)
Gildan Heavy Cotton Blend (thick cotton blend)

811 Run (Gildan Soft Style)


  Gildan’s Heavy Cotton Blend, Soft Style, and by extension Alstyle are a lot thicker than I would like when it comes to running and cardio training. They aren’t conducive to dealing with sweat; the tops get a lot heavier the more you perspire.
Stephen Siller Tunner to Towers 5k (Alstyle)


Cooper River Bridge Run (Dry Blend)
Cooper River Bridge Run (Dry Blend)
Gildan’s Dry Blend is not thin, but it works a lot better than those others when it comes to a sweaty work-out.  I find it noteworthy that the only Dry Blend shirts I’ve gotten come from the Cooper River Bridge Run.


  Anvil, on the other hand, is a very thin shirt that breathes well and when it becomes full of sweat or water, doesn’t feel anywhere near as heavy as any of Gildan’s other brands and styles that I’ve received over the years.

  Hanes is also used quite a bit when it comes to race shirts, but it has not been as plentiful as Gildan’s variety in the races I’ve done.  From Hanes’ line of products, I have received five different types of shirts to include one line of performance or tech shirt.

Guardians of the Night (Hanes Nano)

Hot Summer's Night (Hanes X-Temp)











  As I said earlier, Hanes and Gildan almost run neck and neck in their availability to race organizers and the thickness of certain shirts.  But Hanes does produce a couple of lines of thinner shirts and the aforementioned tech shirt.

Mont Kemba (Hanes Comfort Dri)
  I’m not a huge fan of their basic shirt nor their Comfort Soft line, but the Nano and X-Temp are acceptable in quality, fit, and comfort.  The Hanes Comfort Dry technical shirt feels very similar to A4’s thin tech shirts.


Port and Company Shirt (Red Shoe Run)
I have a set of shirts made by Sport Tek and Port and Company.  The Sport Tek shirt is a tech shirt that can easily be mistaken for an A4 performance shirt, while the Port and Company shirts feel very similar to Gildan's Soft Blend.






Delta Apparel Shirt (Governor's Cup)
Delta Dri Shirt (Savannah Bridge Run)
  I own two types of Delta Apparel shirts. The first set is similar in to Gildan’s Soft Blend.  The Delta shirt I own a Delta Dri shirt, and it is a thin running shirt that is smooth feeling and fits really good on the body.




  For performance shirts, I have received race shirts manufactured by A4, Expert Brand, and Recover. 


Run Hard Lexington (A4 thin)
Run & Ride Carowinds (A4 thick)
  My A4 shirts come in two styles, thin and silky or thicker but sturdy.  I really like both since they have moisture wicking capabilities, but for A4, I honestly prefer A4’s thicker shirts over their thinner shirts.




Zoom Through the Zoo's Expert Brand Shirt
  The one Expert Brand shirt I own is similar in style to A4’s thicker performance shirts. In fact, the only reason I don’t wear this shirt more often is because the race logo’s design is a little smaller than I would have liked. It’s nick-picking, but when you own over 60 race shirts, more than a dozen regular running shirts, and a plethora of pop culture t-shirts, there’s just some shirts that don’t get worn much.



The Great Chocolate Race. Great Shirt, Not Great Race.
  The one Recover brand performance shirt is in the same boat at my “Zoom Through the Zoo 5k” shirt by Expert Brand.  I actually love the feel and comfort of this long sleeved, thin technical shirt, but it is the race that I’m not happy with, or rather the race organizers, so I don’t want to give them much publicity by wearing this particular shirt.




  But the top two brand for race shirts goes to Next Level and Tultex, with Tultex being the champion. Both have a great thin shirt that gives great comfort and style with little to no sacrifice to quality. 


  I have yet to be disappointed by a Tultex shirt and Next Level is an overall great shirt to own.
True to the Brew Half Marathon (Tultex)
Get to the Green (Tultex)

  However, if a running shoe company provides a shirt for a race, you can bet that will be the top tier for race swag. I've done races where Mizuno produced the shirts and I've done a run in which New Balance provided a shirt, but I've worn my Nike running shirt the most. Shoe companies definitely know what kind of shirts athletes, everyday runners, and fitness enthusiasts want to wear.

Daybreak 10 Miler (Mizuno Performance Shirt)

New Balance Shirt

My Team RWB shirt by Nike (well worn and washed)


  You can check out my videos showing all my race shirts here:



  And you can see the full shirt review of each brand here: