Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Arnold Classic Sports Festival

Photos by OHventures

February 28-March 3, 2013
Columbus Convention Center
400 N. High Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Ahhh, the Ahh-nold Classic, how I love thee! Truly, I do. I am a fanatic of the Arnold Classic Sports Festival, as I have attended for the past 7 years straight! It's everything that I love jam-packed (literally) into one weekend each year (the first weekend in March) at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in the Short North

To those who are unfamiliar, the Arnold Classic was created by actor/politician/bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger (one of my heroes) 25 years ago (1988). Columbus was chosen as the location of the event because Arnold had won his first ever bodybuilding competition in this city. The event brings millions of dollars of revenue to the city. It is a yearly event in which 18,000 athletes of all kinds compete over the course of 4 days. Forty-five sports are represented at the event, including everything from bodybuilding to martial arts, gymnastics to table tennis (not kidding). Over 175,000 fitness enthusiasts attend the event each year to watch the athletes compete and to visit the notorious Expo portion on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

If you are headed to the Expo, you had better not be claustrophobic! Be prepared for some massive crowds full of lots of Affliction and Ed Hardy brand t-shirts, and brushing shoulders - literally - with meatheads and fitness freaks. Of course, not everyone there fits into such a description, but gym rats and bodybuilders are indeed a majority of those in attendance. 

A collection of freebies I collected at the Arnold Classic Sports Festival Expo

Hundreds of booths are arranged in rows within the convention center and include various vendors from the fitness universe. People are selling everything from workout clothing to equipment, tooth whitener to plastic surgery services. Most prominently, the booths offer workout vitamins and supplements, including protein, creatine, glutamine, glucosamine, fish oil, and countless others. 

Walking up and down the aisles, you are able to sample all of these tasty (and not so tasty) nutrition cookies, drinks, bars, shakes, pills, and powders. Probably the most fun aspect of the Expo is tasting these samples, and filling up bags of more sample packets to take home! If you play your cards right, you can take home so many supplements and protein powder packets to last you for months and months to come! To get the really good stuff, such as cups, shakers, water bottles, t-shirts, and high quality protein and creatine, you will likely have to spend a great deal of time standing in long lines (but it is worth the while!).

Me with Greg Plitt at the Arnold Classic Sports Festival Expo

There are also booths where you can meet and talk with famous (or semi-famous) celebrities from the fitness realm. There are many notable bodybuilders, wrestlers, actors, models, and athletes that you can meet, get photos with, or even get an autograph! I was able to get an autograph of former Ohio State University football player James Laurinaitis; grab a photo with reality television star Greg Plitt (pictured above, of Bravo's "Workout"), and even shake the hand of the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger himself (yes, he DOES attend the event, and if you are as lucky as I was, you might get the chance to see or even meet him).

Arnold Schwarzenegger addressing a crowd at the Arnold Classic

Lou Ferigno, who portrayed the original "Inctedible Hulk" in the hey day (and was a recent contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice), is always situated at the same booth each year, selling "Hulk" memorabilia and signing autographs for fans (below). Aside from Arnold, he is probably the most famous of celebrities you can see at the Classic. 

Lou Ferigno signing autographs at the Arnold Fitness Classic Expo

There are also interactive booths and exhibitions at the Expo, such as an enormous rock climbing wall (pictured below), exercise bicycles, and a number of contests (such as on-the-spot push-up contests, weight lifting contests, and a pull-up contest at a United States Marines booth). On the Saturday and Sunday of the Arnold Classic, individuals may also sign up to participate in the Arnold 5K, The Survival Race (an obstacle course much like the Warrior Dash), or the Arnold Classic Pump & Run (in which individuals must bench press their own body weight then run in a 5K). I will be participating in the Pump & Run this year for the first time and will provide a recap to readers!

Even if you do not choose to give these challenges a shot, it's definitely a great deal of fun just watching others attempt these feats. In fact, people watching in general at the Arnold Classic is one of the main highlights of the event! There are some interesting individuals to say the least!

So get inspired to get fit by heading to the Arnold Classic Sports Festival and the Expo! 

Arnold Classic Photo Blog

Who: You and 175,000 fitness enthusiasts
Where: Greater Columbus Convention Center
When: The first weekend in March of every year

Photos by OHventures

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Photos by OHventures

All throughout the year, and even on the coldest and most wintry of days, The Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve is buzzing with visitors. Perhaps it is the geographical wonders that draws them in, or maybe it's the historical aspects of the park that brings them by. Whichever it is, the 956-acre area is sure to satisfy.

Located in Licking County, just east of the City of Newark and in the small town of Toboso, the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve was established in 1976 in order to protect the area for generations to come. Ten miles of hiking paths run alongside the magnificent sandstone formations, which are a tremendous sight to see. On the other side of the path is the Licking River, which runs east to west and is responsible for forming the gorge many years ago.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the preserve got its moniker from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river. However, the petroglyph was destroyed during the construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpaths and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Colors & Bottles

Photos by OHventures

Take one part booze, one part art, and a dash of creativity and you've got Colors & Bottles, one of the coolest new trends sweeping the nation one stroke of a paintbrush at a time! 

Colors & Bottles is a revolutionary concept: teach people how to paint while drinking! Yep, it's that simple. As it turns out, all it takes is a bit of wine, a sip of beer, or a swig of liquor to loosen yourself up and unleash your creative spirit!

Twenty-seven year-old Ohio University alumna Jessica Burley (who hails from Columbus) cooked up the idea in 2011, holding the very first Colors & Bottles painting class in Columbus in October of that year. Just months later, in January 2012, Jessica added Chicago and Cleveland to her list of cities offering classes. The company grew exponentially throughout the year, adding cities from coast to coast, including Orlando, Denver, and Ohio's own Cincinnati. By the end of 2013, Colors & Bottles will be in at least 25 cities nationwide, and continues to grow! 

If you are intrigued, then read on and find out how what I thought was going to be just another Friday night with my wild and crazy friend of 15 years, Lauren, turned out to be the discovery of the artists within us thanks to Colors & Bottles! 

Each Colors & Bottles session lasts for three hours and typically costs $35 per person. The cost of the session covers all painting supplies, step-by-step instructions by a professional local artist, and of course your take-home canvassed masterpiece. To find out what classes are available in your area (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati), all you have to do is check out the calendar section on the Colors & Bottles webpage. You will find that classes take place at a variety of locations, such as bars, wineries, restaurants, and art galleries. If the location serves alcohol, there typically will be discounted drink deals available for painters. If no alcohol is served, that means it's a Bring Your Own Beverage (BYOB) event.

Lauren and I attended a BYOB event at the 83 Gallery in the Short North, Columbus. Since she was pregnant at the time, I had the whole bottle of wine to myself that evening! When we arrived (before anyone else, mind you) we picked our seats front and center so we could get a great view as the professional artist taught us how to recreate her artwork. Soon, others filed in with their alcohol in tote, ready to get their creative juices flowing with a stress relieving session of art making!

The artist for the evening turned out to be Jaclyn Fischer (whose drink of choice was PBR) with a mermaid painting she wanted us to recreate. At first, I thought painting a mermaid would be pretty lame (I mean, I am a dude after all), but as time passed, it ended up working out and I was extremely pleased with my final product (below).

Even though both Lauren and I were very inexperienced artists - especially when it came to painting - both of our final products were rather nice. Our success was thanks to the artist (Jaclyn) teaching us the proper techniques for shading, outlining, contouring, blending, mixing colors, and other great tips. She gave special one-on-one attention to each and every one of us as we tried our best to mimic her original mermaid, and helped us when we reached a speedbump or made a mistake.

One of the coolest parts of Colors & Bottles was looking around at everyone else's final products to see just how different they turned out to be. Even though we were "copying" a professional artist's piece of work, we were all able to walk away with our very own, very unique, one-of-a-kind and personal paintings that we did all on our own!

My painting hangs proudly in my apartment, and I plan to go back gain and again to fill up my walls with more and more original art that I never knew I could do! Thanks Colors & Bottles!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fight For Air Stair Climb Recap

Photos by OHventures

On February 2, 2013 I was literally fighting for air.

Along with 200 other brave souls, I challenged myself with what turned out to be one of the most intense physical feats I have ever encountered. I signed up to participate in the 2013 American Lung Association Fight For Air Stair Climb that took place at the Rhodes Tower in downtown Columbus.

The Rhodes Tower is a government office building located across from the Statehouse on what is known as Capital Square. Souring far into the sky, it stands at 40 stories high, making it the largest building in Columbus, and thus, the perfect setting for the 3rd Annual Fight For Air Stair Climb. The American Lung Association holds events such as this all across the country. Two others are scheduled in Ohio: March 2 at Cleveland’s Terminal Tower, and February 17 at Cincinnati’s Carew Tower.

For the Columbus event that took place this past weekend, I was a member of the 4-person team representing (fittingly) Oxygen Health & Fitness – a gym located in the Short North. My teammates were friends Kristen, Chris, and Stephen. None of us – except for Chris – had ever done such a thing before, and we did our best to train in the weeks leading up to the event (stairclimbers, ellipticals, the stairwell of the office building I work at). 

Chris, however, was a seasoned pro, having tackled the same event at Rhodes Tower in 2012, and finished with an incredible time of approximately 5 minutes 50 seconds! Needless to say, this was rather intimidating to the rest of us! But Chris assured us that the adrenaline would keep us going, and gave us tips as to how we could do our best as well. For instance, he advised that we not only use our legs to push us up the stairs (obviously), but to also pull yourself up with the railings. And, he said to of course skip steps!

In the lobby of the Rhodes Tower before the climb, "flights" of participants gathered around, stretching and preparing for the ascent that was to come. Many signed up for the "Beat The Buckeye" Challenge in which you could wager $10 that you could beat the climb times of former Ohio State University athletes who competed in the event earlier that morning. Never one to shy away from a challenge, I of course signed up! I bet that I would beat former defensive end (1998-1999) James Cotton. Thankfully, there was a 2-minute buffer as well, so my chances seemed pretty good.

Jeff Hogan of 10TV's Commit To Be Fit program was the emcee of the event. Early in the morning my teammates and I saw him get off the elevator after completing the climb and he looked pretty tired (as it turns out, he had a time in the 6 minute range, which is amazing). After the race, Chris and I snagged a photo with him (above).

When it was time for the Oxygen Health & Fitness Team to fly up the stairwell, the adrenaline was indeed flowing! Mistakenly, I pushed myself to the max right out the gate, which caused me to lose steam after only the 6th flight! Sensing that I was running out of gas - I slowed it down a bit, but kept in mind that the best way to continue would be to never stop...just keep going!! 

The stairwell was pretty dismal. Unlike when running in a 5K or marathon, there was no scenery to look at aside from the cinder blocks and the 880 stairs before you. What's more is that everyone was so staggered that you really didn't encounter many people along the way to keep pace or keep sane! All you had to look at was each flight number as you crept your way to the top! It was very much a mental game! 

My legs were definitely burning (especially my quads), but what hurt even more were my lungs and chest. It was more and more difficult to breathe the higher and higher you climbed! I don't know if it had to do with the altitude, the type of exercise, or the fact that I had minimal experience in such a climb. It was probably a combo of all three! Luckily there were water stations every 10 floors!

A view of the Statehouse from atop Rhodes Tower

Reaching the finishing line was a glorious feeling! At the top, everyone was FIGHTING FOR AIR, coughing, wheezing, and breathing heavily. My chest was on fire, and I was not alone. It seemed everyone was experiencing the same sensation! They were giving out peppermints, because they supposedly help in those situations.

When we came back down (via the elevator) we received our medals, a round of applause, and our times! I finished 40th place overall (out of approximately 200) with a time of 07:48! Remarkably, my teammate Chris was 2nd place overall with a time of 05:34. Remarkable!! Teammate Stephen was 16th overall with a time of 06:21 and Kristen had a respectable time of 10:41. I was very proud of our team!

After congratulatory photos and whatnot, we collected protein bars, bananas, water bottles, and free massages by Serenity. Then, I discovered that I had won a raffle prize because I did in fact beat the Buckeye, James Cotton. My reward was a kick-ass 150-liter duffel bag from Eddie Bauer. It is enormous and awesome!

The Fight For Air Climb was one of the most unique and challenging events I have done in a long time. On top of that, it was for a fantastic cause. We all raised at least $100 for the American Lung Association to help those suffering with lung cancer, emphysema, asthma, and other lung diseases.

We climb for those who can't breathe on their own.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Coffee In The Capital

A Cubano at Cafe Brioso - Photo by Dave Rose

Adventuring can be exhausting. And, in the winter, the cold weather wears on you! The cure is simple: a  rich cup of coffee to give you energy AND warm you up at the same time! Columbus in particular is spoiled with a selection of locally brewed gourmet coffee to get you fueled up for OHventuring. Visiting these coffee hot spots is an OHventure in and of itself! Check out the list below!

Café Brioso (14 East Gay Street, Downtown)Four words: Best. Coffee. In. Columbus. This place trumps any Tim Horton's, Starbucks, Caribou, or Einstein's any day. All of those options exist downtown, and I feel the only reason people go to those places instead of Brioso must be convenience. But Brioso is worth the few extra blocks, not only for coffee, but for their tantalizing menu (awesome soups, salads and sandwiches) and for their local appeal. The smells alone should attract you to Brioso (those rich aromas that literally fill the surrounding air should be trademarked because they are so delicious)!
What makes Café Brioso stand out from all the rest are the incredibly unique flavors and rare beans they acquire for their brews (try the Costa Rican Perla Negra to see what I mean).  They have a reputation for having high quality gourmet coffee and high quality staff that give ample attention to each cup that is poured. And, who doesn’t love a good cubano (pictured above)? I will say it again. Best coffee in Columbus.
A Nekisse Pourover at Cafe Brioso - Photo by Dave Rose

Stauf’s Coffee Roasters (1277 Grandview Avenue, Grandview Heights): As the name suggests, Stauf's roasts its own blends of coffee and has said coffee for sale in a room adjacent from the dining area. Barrels of different coffees line the walls. I honestly had never seen such a large array of coffee flavors for sale by the bean. Because I do not have a coffee grinder at home, I opt out of purchasing any beans, but I do gather some sample whiffs (Breakfast Blend is one of my favorites).
Stauf’s Coffee Roasters is always filled with an eclectic mix of coffee-lovers young and old. The large dining area is almost completely full with what look like genuine regulars. Old men are playing serious games of chess while young college kids are hitting the books, likely cramming for exams. Laptops are peppered across the room as people are playing games, browsing the web, or doing work.
Baristas at the counter in the back take my usual order of an Ethiopian blend, black (how coffee should be drunk). It's perfect. There seems to be a lot going on with the menu, from lattes to chai to pastries. However, the tasty coffee and friendly staff take a backseat to the atmosphere at Stauf's. It is a cozy local coffee shop that just has that comfy feel that any given Starbucks just doesn't have.
One Line Coffee - Photo by OHventures

One Line Coffee (745 N. High Street, Short North): I learned about One Line Coffee through a “Science Pub” seminar titled “The Science Of Coffee” that took place at a little old bar called The Shrunken Head. There, one of the owners of One Line Coffee told us all about how coffee is made and explained the differences between mediocre mass produced coffees like Folgers to high quality coffees with multiple layers of flavor, like the coffee you can get at One Line. It was an extremely informative class that allowed me to learn more about how complex the coffee making process truly is!
The One Line Coffee shop is out of this world (at least when it comes to coffee shops). It’s high tech and swanky, which an incredible hipster vibe. Coffee is ALWAYS made by the cup in a drip process of sorts through a ceramic funnel. It takes a few minutes for them to make your coffee (since it’s not just dispensed out of a thermos), so you can have time to chat it up with the barista or make a new friend with another coffee lover. The subtle hints of fruit, herbs, chocolate, and tobacco can be found in each sip of One Line’s unique blends. I highly recommend.
Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea (4541 N High St, Clintonville)The homestead of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea is located on High Street in Clintonville and can also be found for sale at numerous locations throughout Columbus and Ohio (I first had it at Spinelli’s Deli in Victorian Village). The locally-brewed coffee comes in a variety of flavors, ranging from the traditional dark roast, the neighborhood blend, and seasonal blends, like my new favorite, Winter Wonderland (light roast cinnamon deliciousness).
One word best describes the feel inside Crimson Cup Coffee: Cozy! There are ultra-comfortable chairs, a fireplace, and a nice, rustic decor. It is a great place to sip some brew and read a book. On a recent visit, I walked home with a $10 1-pound bag of freshly ground coffee (the aforementioned Winter Wonderland) since I don't live all that close to the store. This way, I can enjoy the goodness of Crimson Cup at home!