Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Ray Tanner 5k – Virtual



  2020 has not been a good running year for me.  I planned to participate in several races that I would run and record with my GoPro, but this pandemic slowly caused races to go virtual, one by one. And that includes races that I haven’t had a chance to run in and put on the calendar, Ray Tanner’s famous Home Run series being one of them.

  I registered for Ray Tanner’s race months ago, though I could not find the email confirmation, maybe this COVID can be a computer virus too, who know. But I was getting updates about the race, and that made me feel better.  When word finally came out that it would be a virtual race, I would be remiss if I didn’t say I was sad that I wouldn’t be running in and around the University of South Carolina baseball stadium.

  Since the race was virtual, participants had from 1 to 17 October to knock out their miles. I was still nursing my hurt knee and waited until the 16th to do my run for this 5k, and since I work later hours at the university, I went for my own familiar route on the Lake Murray Dam at night.

  The weather was relatively calm with a slight breeze coming in.  I grabbed one of my smaller headlamps, chose my lemon colored On Cloudflow over my somehow lighter Atrey shoes, and snagged a better fitting phone holder strap to wear for this run.  I drove out to the northside parking lot and passed a couple of cars with people still partying in the picnic area.  I slip on my gear and add the Aftershokz I keep in my car for the needed tunes to distract myself on upcoming path.  I walk and stretch to the starting line, which is just the big green sign on the other side of the parking lot.

  I started my Garmin and away I went.  My Forerunner has a tendency to push out a faster start time whenever I begin a race, and this time it was telegraphing a 7:30 mile before settling on an 8:10 mile, but Strava will say otherwise in its analysis; all the while, my right knee is screaming at me that I needed to adjust how I landed on my feet.

  My knee finally stopped chastising me after a quarter of a mile into the run and I felt in a rhythm; it really helped that Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” was playing by that time and put me in a running groove. It was a slow groove with an average 8:48 for the first mile, but the ground was flat and I had a nice, though small wind cooling me off during this easy autumn evening.  I pass the five towers and notice the cars careening by in the dark.  I hit the half-way point which is a little before the ascent to the bridge with all the lover locks on them.  While there are no castles or mountainous peaks, this scenic area with its promises of love will always remind me of parts of Germany.  As I turn around before the bridge, I feel myself slowing down, if only for a second, though again, Strava said otherwise.

  At mile two, I averaged an 8:59 mile and it was a big contrast to what I used to run, and a reminder that I need to work-out more.  I continue on, still feeling good, albeit slower, but as I get past the 2.5 mile I had to slow down due to a family walking along the dam path and not hearing my “runner on your left” comments until I was almost on them.  Once I past them, and exchanged “hellos” and “good evenings,” I chugged along, but had to crawl to a walk because now my right shoulder was locking up.  I’ve had shoulder problems for a couple of years now, but this was getting ridiculous since 1) I was almost done with the 5k and 2) I wasn’t carrying anything in my right hand so my shoulder should not have been acting up.  So, I walked for good 30 seconds while doing shoulder and arm rotation exercises and quietly cussing up a storm so that the family behind me do not hear my misgivings.  To make up for the time, I work on sprinting the last tenth of the 5k distance and my Cloudflow did not disappoint me.

  I finish up with a time of 28:06 and walk a lap around the parking lot before working on cool-down stretches while trying not to disrupt the people fishing at night because that is still a thing here.

  To go back to before the race, Strictly Running did a knock-out job as usual.  Participants had a wide time-frame to pick up their shirt, for me it was a gray Under Armour tech shirt and I currently own very few of those, and it was so easy to come in (with a face covering on, course) and particular shout-out goes to Brady for his super friendly welcome and taking care of my packet pick-up. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

AAFES Goes Cashless in Wake of Coronavirus Pandemic

  I used to buy all my running shoes from the local PX when I was in the military.  It wasn’t until my final years in the service that I purchased my footwear from running specialty shops.  In that time, I have not handed over any physical bills for shoes in well over a decade… at least.

  Last night, I received news that AAFES, the Army and Air Force Exchange Services (think Wal-Mart or Target, but for two of the branches of the Department of Defense), is asking all its customers to minimize the use of cash and checks, and instead go with credit/debit cards or gift cards.  This will limit exchanging physical items since the Chief Financial Officer of AAFES pointed out that bacteria and viruses can live on paper and coins for a period of time.

  This kind of reminded me of my last several deployments when the base shops would not take coins, but instead use pogs as currency. Of course, back then reducing a type of money was not for sanitary reasons, but for dealing with funding shortages, because no one wanted to pay for a soda in nothing but pennies.

   Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic is something to take seriously.

You can read the email I received below:

How you can help keep military communities safe from COVID-19

Dear Soldiers, Airmen, military family members, retirees and Veterans,

It has been an honor to serve you amid the global disruption caused by COVID-19. As the virus spreads, the Army & Air Force Exchange Service is taking precautions to protect the health and safety of our Nation’s heroes. But we need your help.

Studies show that paper money and coins can harbor bacteria and viruses long after they change hands. We are asking Exchange shoppers to help in the fight against the transmission of COVID-19 through increased reliance on bank-issued credit and debit, MILITARY STAR® or gift cards instead of cash. Please note that cash-back and check-cashing transactions may be unavailable during this time.

While some Exchanges may transition to a card-only environment as local needs dictate, we ask that shoppers minimize the use of cash regardless of location. Customers in need of cash transactions or services can contact their local Exchange to inquire about the status of such transactions at their nearest location.

On behalf of the Exchange, thank you for joining us in the fight against the spread of COVID-19. We are in this together!


Jim Jordan
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Army & Air Force Exchange Service
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Monday, March 16, 2020

The Coronavirus Affecting Races is like the First Sergeant Cancelling Your Four Day Pass

  This was going to be a slightly funny article. Military humor can be a little sadistic and sarcastic simultaneously in times of crisis.  A lot of my civilian friends and co-workers do not get my sense of humor, or lack thereof according to my wife.

  But back to the main point, since the Coronavirus became a real threat to people in America, basically while college and university students went on Spring Break, race directors and organizers have been reacting to the Coronavirus situation in their own way. 

  Events like the NewYork City Half-Marathon; the All-American Marathon at Fort Bragg and Fayetteville North Carolina; the Tobacco Road Marathon outside of Raleigh North Carolina; the Allstate Hot Chocolate 5k/15k series in San Diego, Philadelphia and Minneapolis; and the Quarry Crusher series in Columbia, South Carolina andBirmingham, Alabama have been canceled with most if not all organizers offering to defer each participant to the next year’s respective events.

  Other races such as the Boston Marathon and the Cooper River Bridge Run (10k) in Charleston, South Carolina have postponed their races from the Spring to late Summer or even late Autumn in an effort to keep the event going that calendar year.

  Running is a fickle subject with a lot of people.  Most people dredge running or outright do not do it.  In the military, you are forced upon the activity of running and “you will enjoy it.”  Running is a key part of each service’s physical fitness or aptitude test.  And a lot of people I know who get out of the service do not run after leaving because they hated the way someone or some people made them run “all the time.”

  But there’s people like me, who love to run, who look forward to it.  And signing up for a race is a way of expression for me.  I get out there and I feel free. Of course, I don’t feel completely free when a 12 year kid blows by me, but I’m an old timer now and I’m here to enjoy myself, not beat everyone’s two mile run time.

  Which is why when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, it affected my running schedule harder than expected.  My wife and I had things planned to do after each race.  But now that races are canceled until at least May, there is not much need to us to travel to places like Charleston, Charlotte, Greenville, or even downtown.  And in each instance, we planned to visit sights and eateries in the local areas.

  I had things planned out, I paid the expenses for events, I coordinated with the wife to make sure we had no conflicting agendas (because we don’t need another day of “which race did YOU sign up for?), and then Covid-19 put the kabash on that.  I know the pandemic is serious, and it affects a lot of people, some of them fatally, but watching each race I signed up for get shot down is akin to me being a little E-3 and the first sergeant figuratively kicking me in the reproductive organ area with a motor pool issued steel toed boot and say, “Not today, son. Now go hose off the Bradley tracks on the ground with the pressure washer” while it’s raining.

Because I’ve seen that happen before. The last part, not a 1SG physically kicking someone in the balls.