Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of 2012

It was a busy year here at OHventures! With over 100 posts, we hiked, biked, ran, ate, and trampolined all over the Buckeye State! Here are the Top 10 Hottest OHventures tackled in 2012. It was a tough list to compile, as there was so much going on, but we think this list truly encapsulates the best of the best.
1.       Winemaking Part I & II: This summer and fall, I handcrafted my very own wine at Camelot Cellars Urban Boutique Winery. I gave out 13 bottles to some pretty awesome people in my life this Christmas and shared with them the winemaking blog posts to see where their gift came from. If you want to make your own wine too, check it out!

2.       Dog Days of Summer: On May 23, 2012, I adopted my “pride and joy” from the Franklin County Animal Shelter. His name was Slider, and he is a 2-year-old Chihuahua. Since then, we have been on hikes, participated in 5Ks, visited dog parks, and even hung out at wineries! OHventures will never be the same with Slider around!

3.       Capital City Half Marathon Recap: You’ve probably heard it a billion times by now (even if you’re only a casual reader), but in 2012, I ran my first half marathon. Read about it here!

4.       Skiing In Northeast Ohio: One of my favorite things ever is skiing, and it all started for me at Boston Mills & Brandywine Ski Resorts near Cleveland! This is a must for anyone’s Buckeye Bucket List, so make it happen!

5.       Bexa Body Fitness: In the midst of my P90X workouts (from January to April), I spiced up my routine by going to different gyms and trying different regimens! Bexa Body Fitness was my FAVORITE. The staff is great, the boot camp is grueling, and the piloxing is – interesting to say the least!

6.       STOMP Bike Ride: I also bought a bike this year and put it to good use by riding in the STOMP Bike Ride in Summit County! I am hoping to make 2013 “The Year Of The Bike”!

7.       Columbus Food Adventures: My mouth still waters thinking back to this awesome day when I went on a Taco Truck Tour in Columbus courtesy of the Columbus Food Adventures. If you haven’t done this yet, your tastebuds are missing out!

8.       Carew Tower: You will never look at Cincinnati the same way once you view it from atop one of its tallest skyscrapers, the Carew Tower. It was the highlight of my daytrip to Cincinnati.

9.       Clear Creek Metropark: Someone recently asked me where I would recommend they go on a nice winter hike and without hesitation I answered “Clear Creek Metropark.” It’s the best.

10.   Dedicated To My Brother: I had to include this on my list. It was the first time I had ever written about my late brother, Nick, and how he has influenced me to lead such an adventurous life!
I appreciate all of my readers for sticking with me in 2012. Here’s to a healthy, prosperous, and OHVENTUROUS 2013!

2012: The Year Of The Run

Photo by OHventures

While the end of the world did not come on December 21, 2012 as the Mayans presumably predicted, I sure took the liberty to checkmark as much as I could off of my bucket list, as if the world WAS about to end. What stood out most above all else this year was my constant participation in running events! 

My competitive running amounted to 40.8 miles in 2012, spread amongst 10 different races around Ohio. I began the year attending a kickoff event for the Capital City Half Marathon, where I unknowingly would discover my love and passion for the sport of running!

Here is a recap of my 10 races from this past year, which were all unique in their own way:

1. Capital City Half Marathon (13.1 miles in 2:26:19): I trained hard (too hard at times), got the proper footwear, raised over $1,500 to fight cancer, suffered a knee injury, and ran my first ever half marathon on May 5, 2012 along with dozens of friends and thousands of other runners! This was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life, but also one of the most rewarding! I will never forget it, and hope to someday do another half or even a full marathon!

2. Run With The Pack 5K (3.1 miles in 33 minutes): Fresh after adopting my 2-year old Chihuahua Slider from the Franklin County Animal Shelter, I participated in the Run With The Pack 5K on June 23, in which hundreds of folks ran with their leashed canines at the Scioto Audubon Metropark in Columbus! I was very impressed with my 9-pound pup’s running ability – and his apparent love for it! The registration fee went to benefit “Pets Without Parents” and got me and my dog active and healthy!
3. Defend Your Friend 5K (3.1 miles in 44 minutes): Taking place once again at the Scioto Audubon Metropark, this doggy 5K proved a bit more challenging for my dog, probably because it was on one of the hottest days of the year (August 2), and at 7PM rather than at 8AM like the previous race. Be that as it may, we definitely enjoyed mingling with all of the other dogs and their owners, and of course were pleased to contribute funds to help the Capital Area Humane Society.
4. Warrior Dash Ohio II (3.1 miles in 43:34): On August 25, my brother Curt and I, joined by his wife Regina, ran in the Warrior Dash Ohio II in North Lawrence, Stark County. There was much more than mud at this run: wecrawled under barbed wire, jumped over fire, and jumped in and out of trash dumpsters, among a dozen other obstacles. We celebrated our achievement, got hosed off, grabbed our free beers, chomped on a turkey leg, listened to the live music, and enjoyed being amongst hundreds and hundreds of other like-minded WARRIORS and OHventurers from across the state!
5. Abercrombie & Fitch Challenge (3.1 miles in 27 minutes): After running with my dog (sorry Slider!) and through mud in the last 3 races, I was more than anxious to run a race by myself again! This time, I was given an invitation to run in the Abercrombie & Fitch Challenge on August 30 at the A&F Home Office located in New Albany. My knee was giving me a lot of trouble but I managed to pick a new friend in the crowd (Wes) and keep pace with him! After the race (whose proceeds went to the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute), we got to enjoy food, booze, and a concert by WALK THE MOON!
6. Oktoberfest Brat Trot (4 miles in 34:48): On September 28, the Columbus Oktoberfest added running to its list of traditions by incorporating a four mile (vier meiler) run known affectionately as the "Brat Trot" into the opening day of the festivities. What's best is that after the run, we got to experience all the fun and tasty German amenities late into the evening. My friend Matt and I eagerly signed up for the Brat Trot, in part due to all of the great perks that came along with it – a cream puff, Bahama Mama from Schmidt’s, a German beer, and a technical shirt!
7. Hubbard Library Zombie Run (3.1 miles in 27 minutes): Zombies have become all the rage in 2012, even popping up in running events! The basic premise is that people dress up as "zombies," who, along the course, "attack" runners by ripping a flag off of them (much like flag football). It's an all-out war between zombies and runners, as each tries to conquer the other. My big bro and I took part in a zombie run in our hometown of Hubbard on October 14, and had a blast doing it, even though it was pretty disorganized!
8. Hot Chocolate 5K/15K (3.1 miles in 25:54): Also becoming popular this year was the “Hot Chocolate” races, which benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities, whose goal is to help sick children in need. My sister-in-law ran the Hot Chocolate 5K in Columbus on November 18. The motivation for running in the cold, cold weather was to get to the finish line and warm up with tasty hot chocolate, chocolate fondue, and other treats! It was one of my favorite races of the year (and personal record) for sure!
9. Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot (2 miles in 18:01): What is now going to be a tradition with my entire family is the Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot, which takes place on Thanksgiving Day (November 22 this year) and gives you the excuse to pig out later in the day! It’s one of many turkey trots across the state that take place on the morning of Thanksgiving. While grandma is busy preparing the dinner, you can burn some preemptive calories to make up for all the starchy goodness you’ll be eating later that day.
10. Jingle Bell Run/Walk For Arthritis (3.1 miles in 24:39):  2012 was winding down and I had almost fulfilled my personal goal to run 10 races in one calendar year. I had 9 under my belt and just needed one more to cap things off. Thankfully, a friend of mine, Beth, invited me to run in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis on December 1. What better way to end my year of running alongside people dressed as elves and snowmen with jingle bells attached to my shoes?! I also ended the year with a new personal record!!!
I am extremely proud of the 40.8 competitive miles I ran this year (and countless more in training). I hope through this blog to inspire other runners in 2013! Shamefully, I must admit that the jingle bells from December 1 are STILL attached to my running shoes, which means I haven’t even ran for fun in a WHOLE month! When the New Year starts, however, my OHventures running around the state will continue in full force! The holidays are over, folks, as is the year 2012. Let’s take a deep breath, stretch, and get our rears in shape in 2013! :)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays From OHventures

Photo by Green Elephant Photography

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all of my readers of OHventures! Thank you so much for your continued support in my quest to show everyone just how cool Ohio can be! See you in 2013!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Golden Lamb

Photo by OHventures

The Golden Lamb
27 S. Broadway
Lebanon, Ohio 45036
(513) 932-5065
The legendary Golden Lamb in Lebanon (Warren County) is known across the state (and country) for its extensive history and impressive guest list! Established in 1803 (the same year that Ohio became a state), the restaurant and inn holds the title of the oldest continuously operating business in the State of Ohio! In over 200 years of operation, The Golden Lamb has served up hearty comfort foods and offered overnight stay for such prominent figures as authors Mark Twain (Samuel Clemons) and Charles Dickens, as well as twelve United States Presidents, including William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, Ulysses S. Grant, Howard Taft, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and more!
Add to that illustrious list of guests State Representative Ron Maag and myself, Michael Evans! We made a recent visit to The Golden Lamb this fall for a quick bite to eat and to catch up (he being my former boss). While eating with Ron, I was told some great stories of all of the political figures who have made their way to Lebanon just to pay a visit to The Golden Lamb!
The Golden Lamb (named such so that those who couldn't read back in the day could easily recognize the golden lamb symbol) is located at the heart of downtown Lebanon, and features a banquet hall, a tavern (called The Black Horse Tavern), a dining area (called the Lebanon Dining Room), and 18 rooms in what is called The Golden Lamb Inn. The entire building seems cozy, homey, and welcoming, from the warm fireplace in the lobby to the elegant chandeliers in the dining room. While it is a classy establishment, it also is simple and quaint all at the same time.
Ron suggested that I order the fried chicken meal, which came with asparagus, whipped yukon potatoes, and skillet gravy, as well as dinner rolls and salad. He ordered the seared seasonal salmon with parmesan vegetable orzo and watercress beurre blanc. The food was just like mom would make: filling and delicious! While the seasonal desserts of pecan pie and pumpkin pie were tempting, we were stuffed from our dinners and opted out. The prices are extremely reasonable for such a fine dining restaurant, with meals ranging from $19-$35. Even better deals are the starters, which are big enough to fill you up nicely: wild mushroom bruschetta and blackened scallops are two popular choices.

While I myself have not stayed overnight at the Golden Lamb Inn, I am told that the place is haunted! Of course, I don't tend to believe in such things, but it is interesting that so many historical figures stayed here, as it was the halfway point between Cincinnati and National Road U.S. 40.

The Golden Lamb most certainly deserves a special visit if not for its food, for the colorful history that it holds in its walls.

Jingle Bell Run/Walk Recap

2012 was winding down and I had almost fulfilled my personal goal to run 10 races in one calendar year. I had 9 under my belt and just needed one more to cap things off. Thankfully, a friend of mine, Beth, invited me to run in the Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis on December 1. Beth was one of my many friends that ran with me in my first race of the year (the Capital City Half Marathon), so she would be the perfect person to run alongside my final race of the year! Since she works at Nationwide Childrens Hospital, her coworkers had a fundraising team set up, and it was great knowing that the race cost of $35 would be going to a nobel cause: to fight arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis (which can be acquired at any age, young or old).
Photos by OHventures
The race was in Columbus (I hope to run more races across the state next year) and started at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on the corner of High Street and Nationwide Boulevard at 10 AM. Despite that, Beth and I arrived shortly after 8 AM so that we could stretch, register, and soak it all in beforehand! And let me tell you, there was a TON to soak in!
Never before had I seen such a large array of Santa Claus hats, elf ears and reindeer antlers at once! Thousands of runners (I do not know the exact number) were milling about both inside and outside of the hotel, gearing up for what looked like the most festive race ever. I myself brought a Santa hat to wear while I ran, and as a part of our goodie bag, we were all given jingle bells to tie onto our shoelaces!! It was a pretty clever touch, if you ask me! Beth and I were what seemed like a small fraction of the race participants who decided to run competitively with chip timers (given that our bib numbers were 46 and 47). That made a lot of sense, too, as it looked like many people might have a tough time running in the crazy costumes they had on: garland, wreaths, and even working Christmas lights were some of the accessories people had on for the run/walk!
Not only were the runners and walkers in the holiday spirit, a bunch of characters were present as well, including The Grinch, Frosty The Snowman, and the Big Guy himself, Santa Claus! Some familiar faces were there too, like Louseal and Krash (mascots for the Columbus Clippers), Crew Cat (mascot for the Columbus Crew), Max & Erma, and even a giant Wendy's Frosty. It was bizarre, but hilarious!
It was about 45 degrees and overcast, which put my new spandex running clothes to the test! I was pretty cold, and in awe seeing fellow runners around me wearing tank tops and shorts (and even a shirtless guy here and there). Perhaps the cold would make them run faster, but I was pretty worried that the cold would do the opposite, and slow me down! The race started facing South on High Street. Beth and I were at the head of the pack (something I learned to do from the bad experience at the Turkey Trot).
We sped down High Street, past Nationwide Insurance, past the Statehouse, and into German Village. I tried my best to catch up with Beth, but she is such a speed demon, that it proved difficult! I kept my own, however, as my RunKeeper application on my iPhone (worn in my armband during the race) announced that I had reached 1.53 miles at the 10 MINUTE MARK! Woah! I couldn't believe the pace I was running! If I were to keep it up, I would finish in just under 20 minutes, which would be my best time EVER. Unfortunately, I was losing steam and slowed down a TON for the second half of the race, which headed North on 3rd through German Village and back to Nationwide Boulevard.
Despite a slower second half, I still completed the race with a time of 24:39. I was very pleased with this time, which beat most of my recent races! I learned now that I need to pace myself accordingly so that I do not lose so much gas in the first part of the race! Beth fared much better and had a time of 22:32, making her the 17th female finisher overall and 6th in her age group!!! It was fantastic knowing that all of our jingling was helping people who suffer from arthritis, and thus can not run in races like we can. It was a humbling thought. It was also very touching to see people who were walking who had signs on their back dedicated to loved ones who have arthritis - some who had it themselves!! It was important to have an outlet for these folks to get out and be as active as they can be with their unfortunate arthritis diagnoses.
My face was redder than my Santa hat as Beth and I celebrated with food from Panera Bread and First Watch. We walked around a bit, with our feet jingling away, taking pictures and cooling down. We high fived for a successful 2012 running season and did a toast (with bottled water) for an even better 2013!

Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot Recap

Photo by OHventures
If you feel guilty about hogging down plateful after plateful of atarchy, sugary, carb-heavy food during the holiday season, and particularly on Thanksgiving Day, there is a simple solution that will make you feel exponentially better about your poor diet choices: participating in a Turkey Trot! More and more cities across the state and country are capitalizing on the growing interest people have for an active lifestyle by holding small races on Thanksgiving morning. While Grandma wakes up with the birds to get cracking on turkey dinner, the rest of the family can throw on some tennis shoes and flock to a nearby Turkey Trot!
These types of races have all sorts of names nowadays: The Flying Feather Four Miler in Dublin, the Smoke The Turkey 5K in Toledo, the Thanksgiving Wattle in Grove City, or simply The Thanksgiving Day Race in Cincinnati. Most, however, go by the moniker of "Turkey Trot." My family and I decided to take part in the 34th Annual Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot in Trumbull County, near my hometown of Hubbard. It was a perfect way for the family to bond, especially given that 2012 had been the year that most of us started to get more active and took up running as a hobby.
The Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot took place at 9:30 AM on Thanksgiving Day (November 22, 2012) on the campus of the Kent State University Trumbull Branch. There was a total of 2,700 runners in either the 2 Miler or 5 Miler, which the announcer noted made it the largest race ever to take place in Trumbull County history (sounds like a small race, but for Trumbull County, it was obviously a spectacle). We knew it was pretty packed with runners and spectators, as traffic was backed up on the highway for at least two miles leading up to the event!
My brother Curt, my niece Jaiden (age 9), and myself ran in the 2 Miler, while my sister-in-law Regina and her friend ran in the 5 Miler. My 3 year old niece and 1 year old nephew were there, but just to watch of course! We saw a ton of folks with strollers, and others with dogs on leashes, who were taking part in the 2 Miler, but opting to walk. Since we have many dogs and a few little kids in our family, we decided that next year, some non-runners in the family (such as my mom and my aunt) can also take part in the walk! We also decided that my dad would need to for sure run with us next year, since he has just recently began running (at age 53)! We knew from the moment we arrived that this would be our first of many years as Turkey Trotters, and that we will make it so that everyone in our family will take part to make their Thanksgiving a healthier one!
The footrace itself was rather hectic and somewhat disorganized, namely because I do not believe they expected so many people. We had chip timers on our shoes, but no race bibs (which to me was disappointing, since I like to keep them as souvenirs). However, even after crossing the "Start" line, thus activating our chips, we were walking or running at a VERY slow pace. Apparently, the slower runners did not get the memo to start near the back of the crowd, but hopefully this will be remedied in following years (perhaps with corrals). This slower start was good, however, for my young niece, who can not run at a really fast pace as it is (not yet at least). After about 3/4 of a mile, I took off ahead of my brother and his daughter so that I could perhaps get a somewhat decent time.
The course was uphill the first half, and downhill the second, making a small loop around a classroom building and back. The weather was remarkably warm and sunny, so much so that I ran in just a short sleeved t-shirt and track pants. A slight chill was in the air, making me run a little faster just to keep warm! I crossed the finish line with a time of 18:01, which would equal a 9 minute mile. Not half bad, considering the very slow start we had moseying behind an extremely slow moving crowd. I immediately got some water and a banana, and waited for my brother and niece, who crossed around the 22/23 minute mark! Not half bad! I was very impressed and proud of both of them, but especially my niece of course.
We then took over watching the littlest kids as my sister-in-law and her friend ran the 5 miler. I again was impressed when she came running in with a time of approximately 45 minutes. This was great, given that she had never run a race of that length!
With euphoria and adrenaline from being so active so early, the four of us threw on our official Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot 5K green long sleeved t-shirts and went to my grandmother's to meet the rest of the family. Everyone was very happy for us and intrigued with our proposal that everyone run or walk next year! My dad definitely wished he had run, if not for anything else to get a t-shirt! It will be a great family tradition to wear our matching shirts as we gobble up the calories we burned while running our Turkey Trot each year on Thanskgiving morning.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Field of Giant Corn Ears

Photo by OHventures
Field of Giant Corn Ears
4995 Rings Road
Dublin, OH 43065

File this one under "bizarre." A giant field of corn ears made out of concrete can be randomly found in the City of Dublin in northern Franklin County. I had "heard" about this peculiar lawn full of human-sized corn for many years, but only recently made the trek to see it for myself. What I found was that seeing these veggies in person was even more intriguing than I thought it would be!
109 gray, stone corn ears seemingly sprout from the ground, lined neatly in rows. All I could think of was how much of a pain in the ass it would have to be to mow the grass here! I also kept scratching my head trying to figure it all out!
The sculptures were installed in 1994 and were created for the Dublin Arts Council by an artist named Malcom Cochran. It is said that the purpose for the piece is to make a statement about how the area was transitioning from being rural and agricultural to more suburban and industrial. The man who originally owned the land was the inventor of hybridized corn, but now the site is right across the street from a Nationwide Insurance building. More history about the area can be read about on plaques throughout the "park."
The shucked cement corn is definitely worth a visit as it can serve as a great conversation piece and something you can do "just to say you did." It's also a really funny photo op, which goes without being said. It serves as a great reminder of the rich farming and agricultural history of Dublin and a very humorous sight all in one!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Carew Tower

Photos by OHventures

On a recent business trip to Southwest Ohio, I decided to make a pitstop in downtown Cincinnati to have lunch with friends and sightsee a bit before heading back home to Columbus. I had limited time, so I asked my friend Sam to help me find the best tourist attractions that I could hit up during my stay. After a quick lunch at Rock Bottom Brewery (which had the best pumpkin ale I've ever had)located downtown at Fountain Square, Sam and his buddies Katie and Todd whisked me away to what is known as Carew Tower.

Carew Tower is 49 stories and 574 feet tall, making it the second tallest building in all of Cincinnati. For a small $2 fee, you can head up a series of elevators to the observation deck on the roof! Here, you will get the most spectacular view of the Queen City possible! On a clear day (like the beautiful November day I visited) you can see miles and miles in every direction. You can even see across the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River into Covington, Kentucky. You get spectacular glimpses at everything from the University of Cincinnati to Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Cincinnati Bengals) to every other skyscraper in the city. You can also see into Indiana!

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1994, Carew Tower is filled with French art deco styles that encapsulate the spirit of the era it was built (1927 to 1931). While visiting the lower levels of the building, one can find a shopping mall and a very fancy bar (where we grabbed a drink, gawked at the beautiful murals and architecture, and did some people watching)! The rest of the building consists mainly of commercial office space, as well as a Hilton hotel.
Interestingly, Todd (who was full of vast knowledge) informed me that the tower served as a model for New York City's Empire State Building! While on the rooftop, Todd also pointed out all of the businesses and landmarks surrounding the city, and mentioned that Cincinnati has more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other city in the nation (including Procter & Gamble, Kroger, AK Steel, and more).
Standing atop this enormous building allowed for me to see the most of Cincinnati in the shortest amount of time. If you ever have an hour to spare while driving through, just park at the Fountain Square parking lot and make your way to the top of Carew Tower. It's also a great spot to go to plan ahead a day trip to Cincy, so you can map out your gameplan from a bird's eye view (literally). 

Hot Chocolate 5K Recap

Photo by OHventures
Dubbed "America's Sweetest Race," the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K has made its way across the country with the promise of a cup of steamy Ghiradelli hot chocolate at the finish line to warm up runners who braved the cold for an early morning jog. The event has attracted thousands upon thousands of sweet-toothed athletes eager to get their hands on a cup of cocoa in cities like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, Phoenix, and Ohio's very own pride and joy, Columbus!
In addition to the obvious hot chocolate handed out to those who complete the run, participants also receive a lot more swag such as a finisher's mug, chocolate fondue with dippables, and even a fitted technical jacket (as opposed to most other races that hand out t-shirts)! These enticing goodies were more than enough to convince my sister-in-law (Regina) to drive three hours with her family to stay with me in Columbus so her and I could run the 5K! While the $45 entry fee seemed steep, we knew that in addition to getting a lot of fun stuff, we also would be contributing to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, whose goal is to help sick children in need. It was an all around win/win to sign up!
The Hot Chocolate 5K took place on Sunday, November 18 in downtown Columbus. It began at 7:30 AM - earlier than any run I had ever participated in. The start and finish line took place at the one and only Columbus Commons, which has become a staple for events such as this (this is the same place where the Capital City Half Marathon and the Bike Columbus Festival had their finish lines). Much to my sister-in-law's surprise, getting to the event was a piece of cake. She was not used to running in such a large race and was impressed with how organized it was despite having approximately 10,000 runners (and even more spectators) there that day.
Regina and I were thankfully both in Corral A, which was closest to the start line. This is where the serious 5K-er's could be found, and it meant we wouldn't be forced to have a slow start by running (or practically walking) behind those who had a much slower pace than us. The route headed north on High Street, past the Statehouse into the Short North. It then headed west on Poplar and back south on Park Street (which turned into Civic Center). We ran alongside the Scioto River when getting back downtown, and eventually circled back to Columbus Commons by heading east on Mound Street and north on 3rd Street.
My run went surprisingly well! I was a bit skeptical of my time, since it was so early in the morning, so chilly out, and because I had been out with friends the night before (hey, I gotta be honest!). I clocked in with a time of 25:54. Not far behind was Regina, who had a time of 26:54. We were both incredibly pleased and impressed with our results and felt absolutely fantastic! It was the first race since my half marathon in which my knee gave me zero problems! While our times could have been even better, we chalk it up to a pretty tough course with a large hill near the 3 mile mark! I came in 319th overall, or 22nd in my age group for men (out of 118) and Regina came in 474th overall, or 30th in her age group for women (out of 580).
It had warmed up quite a bit since the brisk 36 degrees at the start of the race. It was more like 50 degrees when we finished, and we were of course sweaty in our layers of dry fit gear! Since we finished so quickly, there was no line whatsoever for us to get our finisher's mug with chocolate fondue and dippers (which included pretzels, a banana, marshmallows, wafers, etc.). There were inflatable marshmallow men and mugs of cocoa all around the park as more and more people trickled in from the finish line. On stage was a rather interesting choice of entertainment. I am just not so sure that a band that covers rap songs from Nelly and Eminem is really fitting for such an event, especially at 8:00 AM. But it made for a good laugh!
We gobbled up our grub and made it out of there by 9:00! We truly enjoyed the race (we were lucky to have such fantastic weather) and everything that came with it: the chocolate, the charity, and the camaraderie. If you want to join in on the fun, this extremely popular race already has 2013 dates on the calendar for other cities outside of Ohio. It's likely Columbus' 2013 Hot Chocolate 5K will be announced soon, and perhaps other locations in the state?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Circleville Pumpkin Show

Photos by OHventures
152 East Main Street
Circleville, OH 43113
(740) 474-7000
Pumpkins are taking over the nation: from the recent shortage of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin flavored Pringles, the nation is going gaga over gourds! If you're looking for the greatest collection of pumpkin flavored fair food and some of the largest pumpkins in the nation, odds are you'll find it at the Circleville Pumpkin Show. Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin has nothing on the large array of pumpkins to be found at the Circleville Pumpkin Show.
For 106 years, the Circleville Pumpkin Show, located in Pickaway County, is where families have gone to make memories! It is one of the most highly anticipated festivals in the state and the biggest festival in the United States dedicated soley to pumpkins! I first became aware of this gourd-tastic event when my college roommate and his family  performed in a band each year on the main stage, ranting and raving for the weeks leading up to the fair.
In addition to live entertainment, there is much fun to be had at the annual show, which takes place over a four day period each October (this year, the fair ran from October 17-20). The Great Pumpkin Weigh-In draws a great deal of excitement, as it finds out who has grown the largest pumpkin in the state that year (these puppies are HUGE, weighing close to 1,500 pounds!). Below, I am pictured sitting next to this year's award winning pumpkins! If that isn't enough squash for you, everything imaginable is made out of pumpkin: pies (over 20,000 to be exact), cookies, dips, salsas, - you name it!
Being the adventurous type that I am, I decided to go for the craziest pumpkin treats I could find! I gorged on the gourds in some very peculiar forms: pumpkin sloppy joes, pumpkin pizza (pictured below), and deep fried pumpkin pie. I washed it down with a pumpkin coffee and a pumpkin soda (also pictured below). Trying all of these pumpkin infused concoctions was definitely the highlight of the visit for me. I even took home some pumpkin butter, pumpkin brittle, and pumpkin cookies! If I keep all of this up, I may end up turning as orange as an Oompa Loompa! Or, worse yet, Snooki!
Each year, Lindsey's Bakery (located at 127 West Main Street, Circleville) bakes the world's largest pumpkin pie (pictured below). It took 96 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 44 pounds of sugar, 16 gallons of milk, 15 dozen eggs, 4 pounds of corn starch, 24 ounces of pumpkin spice, 24 ounces of salt, and 36 pounds of pie due baked for six hours to complete this prominent pie!

Other than eating, attendees have a lot more to explore up and down the 12 streets blocked off in downtown Circleville. The Miss (and Little Miss) Pumpkin Show Queen is crowned in a yearly pageant, a tradition that dates as far back as 1933. There are also rides (such as the giant ferris wheel), crafts, and shops full of knick knacks galore for sale. One other staple of the show is that there are seven - yes, SEVEN - parades over the course of the four days!

If you can bear the traffic jams leading into Circleville, and the mayhem involved with finding a parking spot, then you should most definitely make it to the Circleville Pumpkin Show to see what all the hype is all about firsthand!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hubbard Library Zombie Run Recap

It's always more fun to run a 5K with a twist. The hot new trend for 5Ks nowadays is the "zombie run," which geniously capitalizes on the growing popularity of the undead (Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, Lindsay Lohan...) and combines it with the growing popularity of competitive running. The basic premise is that people dress up as "zombies," who, along the course, "attack" runners by ripping a flag off of them (much like flag football). It's an all-out war between zombies and runners, as each tries to conquer the other. What will they think of next?
This particular zombie run took place in my hometown of Hubbard, Ohio, located in Trumbull County in the northeast region of the state. It was enouraging to me that my little city was finally jumping on the active lifestyle bandwagon, as this was one of the first 5K races that has ever taken place there, at least to my immediate knowledge (mind you I have not lived there in 9 years, so I could be wrong). I decided to head home to have yet another bonding experience with my older brother Curt (pictured above, before the race), who has also caught the running bug as of late and recently ran the Warrior Dash with me.
Curt and I traveled to Battlefront Paintball, located in the outskirts of Hubbard (which is also known as one of the best paintball spots in the whole state) on Sunday, October 14 to begin the race at 11 AM. The rules of the race were really not so clear, as we were left wondering what was supposed to happen to us if we were to lose both of our flags (do we quit running? do we become zombies? do we lose? do we keep going?). The rules were probably not so strict, as this was an event for all ages, and it was meant to be fun for the kids (you know, one of those "everybody wins" kind of things).

It was a beautiful October day, which was soon ruined by the ugliness of the zombies all along the run. Makeup artists worked their magic to transform the citizens of Hubbard into monsters (although I can vouch that I know some citizens that wouldn't need any makeup...joking...). The race route was a double loop through the paintball fields, which were peppered with junk cars, fortresses, and other obstacles along the way. The terrain was rough and tough. There were hills, holes, uneven ground, and a few creeks we had to splash our way through (or jump across, which Curt and I managed to do successfully).
My first flag was taken from me almost immediately when a "zombie" child no taller than four feet came out of nowhere and ripped it from my belt. I continued on the run, climbing over walls made of wooden palates (pictured above), crawling underneath another obstacle made out of 2x4s and thrashing through the brush, collecting countless burrs on my socks along the way. My calves were burning pretty badly because of the tough terrain, and I had a minor cramp in my stomach as well. Additionally, I could feel a blister on the bottom of my right foot, which was caused by my wearing a pair of my dad's old ill-fitting tennis shoes (the problem with mud runs such as this is that you don't want to wear a good pair of shoes in fear that you will ruin them).
As the race went on, I lost my second flag to a zombie gal who cornered me at an obstacle (not fair), and my brother somehow had his flags snatched up as well. This didn't bother us much, as there seemed not to be any repercussions for having lost the flags. In fact, it was pretty fun to see all of the scary looking kids (and adults) who were acting as zombies and jumping out of the weeds. It added a fun factor attempting to dodge the enemy and save your flags. I even got legitimately scared a couple of times from surprise zombie attacks. Despite losing our flags and experiencing some minor aches and pains, my brother and I conquered the second loop and crossed the finish line side by side with a time of 27:57, which was great considering all of the obstacles and the difficult course.
All in all, I feel it was a successful event for the Hubbard Public Library, and I hope that it is the start of many more years of zombie runs (or any other kind of run) in my home sweet home of Hubbard, Ohio.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top 5 Burger Joints in Ohio

There is  perhaps no better way to pig out than with a plump hamburger! Ohio has some excellent burgers, and to prove it, I have compiled a list of The Top 5 Burger Joints in Ohio (according to ME), as featured on DISCOVERING OHIO, THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF THE OHIO DIVISION OF TOURISM.


1. Swensons Drive-Ins: Swensons has only seven locations and they can all be found in beautiful  Northeast Ohio. The very first of these yummy establishments was erected in 1934  near Market Street in West Akron. Now, you can also find  Swensons in North Akron, Kent, Montrose, North Canton, Jackson Township, and Seven Hills. These restaurants  have been recognized numerous times as having some of the BEST burgers in the  nation, including Forbes Magazine, who gave Swensons the title of America's Best Burger. Swensons was also featured on The Food Network's show "Food Feuds"  in which it won the title of the "Best Juicy Double Cheeseburger in the Akron Area." These are just some of the morsels of praise Swensons has received throughout the decades. The Galley Boy hamburger is what to get when you go there. It is famous for its two mysterious special sauces that are slathered  all over a double cheeseburger and garnished with a single green olive.

2. Kewpee Burger: I had never heard of Kewpee Burger until a  coworker and I made a random trip toNorthwest Ohio. In search of a cheap yet  different lunch, my coworker spotted the Kewpee Burger  restaurant and excitedly squealed into the parking lot. The building  looked like it was straight from the 1960s and had an over-sized baby doll  donning a chef's hat on its sign. Looking past the weird baby dolls and inspecting  the menu, it looked like your standard McDonald's  menu - only cheaper! The prices seemed as frozen in time  as the burnt orange decor! I ordered the  cheeseburger combo meal that came with fries and a soda. As it turns out, there are  only five Kewpee Burger locations still in existence, three of which are in  Lima, Ohio. It was founded in 1923 and is the 2nd oldest hamburger fast  food chain in the world! In fact, Kewpee Burger is where Dave Thomas used to go growing up  as a kid and served as his inspiration for Wendy's. This was some rich fast food history that originated  right here in Ohio!


3. Thurman Cafe: Located in the quaint neighborhood of German Village in Columbus, this burger joint has garnered a great deal of fame, as it has appeared on national television, most notably on the Travel Channel's hit show "Man Vs. Food." On the show, the host takes on the challenge to attempt to eat the ginormous burger "The Thurmanator." It's quite an impressive sandwich that consists of two 3/4 pound beef patties under a half a pound of ham and bacon, covered in mozzarella, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, sauteed onions, pickles, jalapeno peppers and mayo. WHEW! It's so massive that the bodybuilders who come to Columbus each year for the Arnold  Fitness Classic come here to wolf one down. The normal sized burgers are indeed delicious here as well, but be warned that because of its appearance on TV, there is often a wait involved.


4. Fathead's Saloon: Take one look at the photo above of the gargantuan burger with roasted red  peppers, bacon, cheese and a side of homemade chips and you will know why it's called Fathead's! Located in North Olmsted (a suburb of Cleveland), you can not go wrong by visiting this fan favorite brew pub! The amazing food is paired with fantastic award winning  beers like Head Hunter Pale Ale, Up In Smoke Porter, and Bumble Berry Honey Blueberry Ale. Fat Head's  also offers tours, which is an added bonus! The ambiance here is laid  back and perfect for a pre-concert or pre-Cleveland Indians game meal & brew.

5. Tank's Bar & GrillIf you're ever in the Dayton area, you owe it to yourself to head to Tank's Bar & Grill located not far from the Oregon District. This place may look like a dive bar, but they sure know how to throw together one hot, juicy, amazing beef patty! Tank's is known for their Tankburger, which consists of a half a pound of ground chuck on an onion, kaiser, or wheat roll with mushrooms and grilled onions. Additionally, Tank's offers one of the best vegetarian options around with Lori's Veggie Burger (I couldn't forget about all of you herbivores out there). After a long day of fun in Dayton with friends, I stopped here for a refreshing PBR and to find out why Tank's has been dubbed "The Best Burgers in Dayton."

5 Fun Fall OHventures

Looking for some fall fun for the whole family? OHventures has you covered! Here are 5 fantastic fall adventures across the Buckeye State for you to enjoy before the snow starts up!

1. Circleville Pumpkin Show: The Circleville Pumpkin Show is where families go to make memories and is one of the most highly anticipated festivals in the state. I first became aware of this gourd-tastic event when my college roommate and his family would perform in a band each year, ranting and raving for the weeks leading up to the event. In addition to live entertainment, there is much fun to be had at the annual show, which has taken place for the past 40 years for an entire weekend in October (this year, the fair runs from October 17-20). The Great Pumpkin Weigh-In draws a great deal of excitement, as it finds out who has grown the largest pumpkin in the state that year (these puppies are HUGE, weighing close to 1,500 pounds!). If that isn't enough squash for you, everything imaginable is made out of pumpkin: pies (over 20,000 to be exact), cookies, dips, salsas, burgers, sloppy joes - you name it! Crafts, games, parades, pageants, and more are crammed into the weekend as well!

2. Mansfield Reformatory Haunted Prison Experience: Nothing is spookier in Ohio than the Mansfield Reformatory. I don't mean the "fake spider web and bedsheet ghosts" kind of spooky. I am talking about the "decaying walls, rusted jail cells, and eerily quiet hallways echoing with stories of tortured prisoners" kind of spooky. This now defunct prison is one of the most majestic buildings in all of Ohio, resembling a Transylvanian castle soaring high into the sky. In the fall (RIGHT NOW) the prison is transformed into a haunted house! It is hands down THE SCARIEST haunted house experience I have ever had. I am not afraid to admit, that at age 25, I was jumping and shrieking left and right! The cost is $17 and the lines are incredibly long....but you can guess, it is worth the wait!

3. Camping: I have done a lot of camping at various locations throughout the state, all of which were unique and memorable in their own way. Some places I would suggest for any aspiring camper in Ohio are: The Atwood Lake Campground in Tuscawaras County (where they hold the annual "Fall Festival" each October), Pymatuning State Park in Ashtabula County (and partially in Pennsylvania), and of course Hocking Hills State Park in Hocking County (the most famous for hiking, ziplining, and pretty much every other OHventure in the state). However, the fun certainly does not stop at those 3 suggestions. There are HUNDREDS of campsites all over the state, which you can find at Ohio Camper. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!

4. Apple Picking: A sea of apples and a maze of corn lie just minutes away, in every nook and cranny of Ohio, providing a perfect escape for anyone wishing to relive their childhood. For those in Central Ohio, Lynd Fruit Farm, located on the corner of state Route 310 and Morse Road in Pataskala, provides a bounty of fall activities for the young at heart throughout September, October and November. When you're there, it's like walking through a postcard. It's so serene and peaceful here. Coming here makes me almost forget about school and work and bills and all the responsibilities of life. It's also a cheap, or sometimes free, activity. To find the nearest apple orchard for public picking, visit Ohio Apples!

5. Tailgating: Whether you are a Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, or Ohio State Buckeyes fan (or even another college, high school, or peewee team), you are bound to be found hooting and hollering on a weekly basis (sometimes more), rooting for your favorite team to win. This is probably the most common and easiest of OHventures to be had, as it's probably not too difficult to round up some friends to drink some beer, eat a potluck of chili and hot dogs, and throw on some jerseys while gathered around a big screen TV! No matter what way you do it, the pigskin sport brings people together, in sports bars, parking lots, and man caves across the state! Ohio is truly a football-loving sport, so on the off days, you can try visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton to get your fix and learn some interesting history!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dedicated To My Brother

I have never really written about my brother and wanted to take the opportunity to do so on this very difficult day. I hope the story can shed some light as to why I feel it's so important to get out and live life to its fullest.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should - Desiderata

This quote was my brother Nick's favorite line of his favorite poem (Desiderata). Now that he has passed away, it takes on a whole different meaning. I can't help but think that God knew that we would need that quote to help cope with the loss of my brother. It helps us to move on with our lives in the best way we can and allows us to accept that what has happened is part of a greater plan.

It's tough to find the best words to share about my brother. He passed away 8 years ago today: October 12, 2004. Whenever this time of year rolls around, I can't help but be reminded (even more so than normal) of the terrible tragedy that me and my family went through. The smell of autumn leaves in the October air, especially when it rains, reminds me of the morning I heard the horrific news that my brother had died.

I was away at Ohio State, living in the dorms with my roommate Austin. It was way too early in the morning to be getting a phone call, yet both my cell and dorm phones were ringing. Austin and I rolled out of bed and I saw that I had missed a call from my Dad. I called him back immediately, with an intuition that something bad had happened. My grandfather had Alzheimers at the time (something I previously blogged about), so my mind went straight to thinking that he might have taken a turn for the worse. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to learn.

I don't quite remember the exact way in which my Dad told me, but he let me know that my brother Nick, freshly out of college at the age of 22, had passed away in a car accident. I dropped to my knees, bawling my eyes out, letting Austin know through the tears what had occurred. My dad said my uncle would be coming down to Columbus to get me, as I did not have a car on campus and was 3 hours away from my grieving family. Plans soon changed, however, thanks to my great high school friend, Kelly, who lived down the hall in the same dorm. She immediately offered to drive me to my hometown of Hubbard, no questions asked.

The car ride was surreal. It was gut wrenching to not be hugging and holding my family members. But, thankfully, I could find solace in Kelly, as she was practically the one and only person in my dorm and on campus that personally knew my brother. While I knew that everyone in Columbus was overwhelmingly supportive, the condolences weren't the same coming from people who had never met my brother. It was quite the opposite in my hometown. Everyone knew Nick - and I mean everyone! He was an amazing person who touched so many people's lives - so much so, that I had learned that his funeral broke records in our hometown in terms of how many people attended. He affected so many people in such positive ways, that it was actually a joy to see the overpouring of compassion and sympathy from the community.

Being reunited with my family at this time was one of the most catastrophically beautiful times in my life. Over the next few days, which were a giant blur, I found myself surrounded by love and sadness coming from the hundreds of people who were a part of my brother's life and my family's life. I remember putting together a photo board of pictures of my brother throughout his life to have displayed at the funeral. Going through those shoeboxes of pictures really helped me in my grieving process, providing smiles and laughs as my cousin Sara and I reflected on all of the good times in Nick's time on earth.

I was told that I was one of the strongest of my family members at this time. Losing my closest of kin was by no means easy, but I was able to be a rock for my other brother and my parents as we suffered through these days (and years) ahead. Perhaps it was because Nick and I shared such a special and close bond that I was able to handle the blow a bit better -- because, Nick and I understood each other and I knew that he wouldn't want anyone to be miserable due to his absence. It was my job to help people in this dark time. Nick wanted us to keep living our lives to the fullest. And he would want us to understand that this was his time - things were unfolding as they should, as the poem indicated.

I always have valued life and lived each day fully. However, Nick's death at such a young age (22) made me embrace life even more than ever before.

It made it clearer to me that there is no way of knowing when your time on this planet will be up, and being young doesn't mean you have decades more to live. It sounds morbid and depressing in a way, but I feel it to be encouraging and profound.

You can't hold off on living out your dreams, working to better yourself, exploring the world around you, and showing others how much you love them. You must always do good for others, create a legacy, and never stop growing and learning.

It is why I have taken the liberty to create a blog to share my passion of adventuring and scratching items off of my ever-growing bucket list. I want others to do the same, I want others to never cease to challenge themselves. I don't want anyone to miss out on the beauty of life.

I feel that whenever you are taken from this earth, whether you are 90 like my great grandfather, or 22 like my brother, you have lived a full life. Your purpose has been served, and your physical life on earth is no longer needed. Heaven will take over from there, granting you an eternal spiritual life.

My brother's soul lives on. I will always love him as the best friend I have ever and will ever have. Even 8 whole years after he has passed away, his message to me and to the world lives on as well:

Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should

RIP NME 9/10/82 - 10/12/04