Thursday, May 30, 2013

Boardman Memorial Mile Recap

Photos by OHventures

For the past 23 years, the Township of Boardman (a suburb of Youngstown) in Mahoning County has been holding its annual "Memorial Mile" race each Memorial Day. Since the road (Route 224) is already shut down for the city's big celebratory parade, it only made sense to incorporate a mini one-mile run into the mix!

Starting at the corner of State Route 7 and State Route 224, the course proceeds in an eastern direction, ending at the intersection of State Route 224 and Applewood Boulevard. Even though it is only one mile, there are two giant hills that are part of the race (thankfully that means a lot of it is downhill). The first .4 of a mile is a gradual downhill. From .4 to .55 of a mile, the course goes uphill. From .55 to .8 of a mile, the course is downhill again. From .8 of a mile to the finish is flat. The scenery consists mostly of commercial storefronts, including the Southern Park Mall on the right. The course is run by two separate groups: non-competitive runners, and competitive runners.

My sister-in-law Regina (who recently ran the Hot Chocolate 5K with me) is a pro at finding races in the Youngstown-Warren area and is even better at convincing the entire family to jump on the bandwagon and get moving! In fact, this race had the most number of my family members participating in it that I can recall! Myself, Regina, my dad Mark and mom Kim (who both walked in the Glo Run Columbus), and even my 9-year-old niece (who ran in the Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot alongside me) AND 3-year-old niece RAN in the race! What's more is that my 2-year-old nephew was pushed in a stroller the ENTIRE way by my sister-in-law. On top of that, before the race, she made red, white, and blue glitter tutus for the girls to wear during the run and parade. I really do not know how she does it all! I am very impressed.

Adding to the extensive list of family running, the one and only Kristen (AKA my "fitness friend" extraordinaire) joined me. Like me, Kristen lives in Columbus but is from Trumbull County and was visiting for the long holiday weekend. It was great we got to run together in a different part of the state!

There are only a few hundred people who ran in each race. Because we had the little ones, we all ran in the non-competitive heat. It was absolutely hilarious to watch my littlest niece run all bow-legged through the crowd in her tutu with her blonde ponytail bouncing around and her arms waving wildly about. After a good laugh running with her, Kristen and I decided to catch up to the older niece! She was WAY ahead, but was easy to spot because of the tutu. When we finally caught up, we decided to keep pace with her so we could enjoy the experience together (and, because, I really was in no shape to push myself that hard).

We crossed the finish line with an approximate time of 9:05! I was very proud of my niece for running the entire way. We got some water and watched as my father came in a couple minutes later, followed closely by my sister-in-law with the little kids, and my mom. It was a great bonding experience and a nice alternative to hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill!

Because the course was not a loop, we had to WALK the entire mile back to our cars! But that didn't bother us at all, and in fact was one of the most fun aspects of the race. We even stopped to get a coffee and then found a spot halfway to watch the parade! it's been so long since I have been to a patriotic hometown parade like this! There was tons of candy throwing, marching bands, elected officials, antique cars, local businesses, first responders, and more marching by. It felt good to be doing good in the good ol' Mahoning Valley!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Wilds Photo Blog

Who: Anyone who is still a kid at heart!
What: Open Air Safari Tour at The Wilds
When: Daily May through September
Where: Cumberland, Guernsey County, OH
Why: To learn about science, research, education, breeding, and observation; and to have a personal experience.
How: $30 and a call ahead for reservations!

Photos by OHventures. Take as many pics as you want when you visit The Wilds, just be careful not to drop the camera out of the open air safari bus!!

Open Air Safari At The Wilds

The Wilds
Located on 10,000 acres of land in Cumberland in Guernsey County in Southeast Ohio, The Wilds is one of the world's largest and most impressive wildlife conservations. There are many rare and endangered species living here, for purposes of science, research, education, breeding, observation, and personal experience.
Even in our late 20s and early 30s, my friends and I were pumped to see these exotic animals out in the open! On our 1.5 hour drive from Columbus, we were as excited as elementary students on their way to the zoo! But "The Wilds" is much more  - it's an interactive animal experience without all of the cages and walking that come along with a visit to your typical zoo.
The Wilds
We called ahead to make reservations for a 2PM Open Air Safari tour, which costs $30 a person, and lasts about 2.5 hours! We found this to be a fantastic deal! Being our first time at The Wilds, we were a bit lost and confused when we arrived. There were so many people visiting, that it was pretty chaotic. Due to the massive popularity of The Wilds, I would recommend arriving extra early to get your bearings.
The Wilds
Once we finally were directed to our open air bus (think of a school bus without the walls and windows), things were a breeze! Our tour guide got things rolling by asking one of the children aboard the bus to operate a remote to open a large gate that would let us into the main conservation area. As the giant gate (operated by solar energy) slowly cracked open, it felt like we were entering a much tamer version of Jurassic Park.
Immediately upon entering, a large pond was on our right, where a group of Pe're David's Deer appeared to be bathing. The deer, which are native to Vietnam and China, are extinct in the wild. We came to find that this was just one of the many species that were exclusively found at The Wilds.
The Wilds

Next, we came upon a group of female Bactrian (double hump) camels. We were SO close to the camels that - if we were allowed - we could reach out and touch them! These funny looking creatures were one of my favorites to see up close!
The Wilds

Continuing on, we saw wild horses,  sichuan takinbison, and zebras! We took a quick stop to feed catfish at a lake and watch as visitors flew by on the zipline tour!
Then, it was off to the mid-size carnivore conservation center where we got to walk around and (barely) see cheetahsdholes, and African Wild Dogs!
Soon after, the bus took us past ostriches, giraffestrumpeter swans, and to a field full of rhinos,oryxes, and antelopes co-mingling! 
The Wilds
The tour came to an end with a bus full of smiling faces! Everyone seemed to enjoy the unique, thrilling, breathtaking adventure. Plus, The Wilds has even more to offer than just Open Air Safari tourshorseback safarisfishing safariszipline safarissunset safarisovernight cabin stays, and MORE!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

1 Year Sliderversary

All my life, I wanted a dog. It wasn't until one year ago, when I rescued my 2-year-old chihuahua Slider from the Franklin County Animal Shelter, that my wishes came true. After this past year with the little guy, I can tell you one thing: it was worth the wait!

Slider has truly been this man's best friend. From the moment I rescued him, I knew he and I were a perfect match. As described in my entry recapping my first week with Slider, he was house trained, great in the car (thank goodness, since we travel a lot), and had a fantastic temperment unlike what you hear about most chihuahuas.

He is a great "mascot" for OHventures, as Slider is always up for any adventure. We have participated in three doggy 5K races: Run With The Pack 5K (2012)Defend Your Friend 5K (2012), and Run With The Pack 5K (2013) and we have gone on countless runs together around my neighborhood. I have taken him on "hikes" to places like Cuyahoga Valley National ParkBlackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, and Inniswood Metro Gardens. We have gone to pet-friendly wineries like Camelot Cellars in the Short North and Perennial Vineyards in Stark County. He also loves running around with other pups at local dog parks such as the Scioto Audubon Metro Park and Wheeler Park Dog ParkHe has even joined me boating at Atwood Lake Park and had a cameo appearance in a Christmas Show at the Akron Civic Theater!

If that wasn't enough, Slider has been pretty spoiled throughout the year. We subscribe to BarkBox (a monthly subscription box that sends dog goods to our front door each month), he often attends Canine Social Club (doggy daycare), gets dressed to the nines for OSU Football days and Halloween (he went as a shark), and even had a shindig at Zoom Room Columbus to celebrate his first year with me and to have an agility class with a bunch of our canine friends (more on that later).

Slider has been described as many things: regal (because of his strong stature), cute (although I prefer the term handsome), a heartthrob (the ladies at his doggy daycare have coined that one), boss (when he unfortunately would bark at some larger dogs at the apartment complex), intelligent (it took me only a couple of hours to teach him what I call the "green bean trick"), well-behaved (he never has to be crated when in my house, as he causes no destruction nor has any accidents), and loyal (he sticks by me and listens so well).

He has won over nearly everyone in my family. My mom always tries to smuggle him at night so he will take naps with her, my dad is Slider's favorite lap to sit on, my grandpa is smitten and is always giving him table scraps on the holidays, and my aunt - lover of all dogs - can't get enough of him. Having a dog has also allowed me to spend more time with friends who also own dogs, as we have doggy play dates at the park or each other's houses. Plus, I have even made NEW friends thanks to Slider, such as my neighbor (and his dogsitter) Joanna, owner of an adorable three-legged beagle.
There have also been some minor hiccups in my first year of doggy ownership. I came to find that Slider had tapeworm when I first got him, since he had fleas when the dog warden captured him as a stray. That was quickly taken care of with some pills, thankfully. He also had a month-long hot spot on his neck that I had to treat with a steroid from the vet. And most recently, Slider's dewclaw broke off while running about at my parent's house, which caused him a great deal of pain, and me a good chunk of cash (pain meds).
All in all, having a dog has changed my world for the better. I can not understand why on Earth anyone would have intentionally let him go, or not tried harder to find him. But all I know, is that the world has worked in a perfect way to create this dynamic duo!

In order to celebrate this illustrious first year with Slider, I went ALL out. I know many people would never be able to understand or wrap their head around why I - or any dog owner - would go to such lengths to have a full fledged birthday party for their dog. But, there is no denying the amazing bond I have with this amazing creature, and I am going to do my best to repay him for all of the joy he has brought to my life. And this involves spoiling him like none other.

Since I do not know - and I will never know - what his actual birthday is, I deemed May 23 (the day I adopted him) as his new unofficial birthday (more accurately, his anniversary).And, I made May 19 (a Sunday) the day of his birthday party, to be held at the local Columbus business Zoom Room, located in the Short North.

The Zoom Room is a doggy "gym" which typically offers dog training, agility classes, open gym sessions, and private parties! The parties are 2 hours in length (Slider's being 4-6 PM), and allow up to 15 doggy friends to come and celebrate. The invite list for Slider''s party consisted of: gooden labradoodle Cali and her owner Ali, chihuahua Max and his owner Ryan, chihuahua Lola and her owner Arielle, golden retriever Maizey and her owners Mark and Ashley, lab mix Levi and his owners Beth and Jim, beagle Moo and his owners Jon and Karen, schnoodle Lilly and her owners Matt and Katie, pug China and her owner Joel, as well as humans Judy and Peter.

The party included a FREE 30-60 minute Agility Class taught by Zoom Room owner and trainer, Kyle. The class involved each dog going up a ramp, through a tunnel, and across a balance beam. They also had 2 separate gym areas for the dogs to freely run around and socialize. Slider was a pro at the agility class, and he ran around the gym chasing balls and barking up a storm as if he knew it was his party.

For the humans, I ordered pizza and brought pop, chips and cookies. To make it Slider-esque, I bought a Crave Case of sliders from White Castle as well! For the dogs, Zoom Room provided mini donuts, and there was a personalized peanut butter flavored cake especially for the pups. I also made gift bags with treats and toys for each guest.

It was a huge success, and everyone had a ball watching our dogs enjoy themselves in this unique setting. It was well worth the price and was the least I could do to express my gratitude for a truly amazing year with Slider. Here is to many, many, many, many more years with my companion and best friend!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cap City Half Marathon & Patron Quarter Marathon

On Saturday, May 4, 2013, over 14,000 runners (including yours truly) crowded the streets of downtown Columbus to take part in the 10th Anniversary Capital City Half Marathon (which also included the Patron Quarter Marathon and the Commit To Be Fit 5K). It was a picture-perfect day with runner-approved weather - mild temperatures and zero preciptiation. Save for some windy conditions, it truly was an ideal day for a race!
The Capital City Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart. It seems silly, but it is true. It was one year ago, on May 5, 2012, that I ran in my first ever half marathon (and, to date my only half marathon). I remember being exceptionally neurotic (more so than normal) about every detail of the event - arriving a good hour and a half early, bringing extra layers of clothes for any possible scenario, having friends there serving practically as my personal assistants (err, I mean "moral support"). It was a whole new monster and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never really run a race before, save for competitvely in high school and a silly ol' Warrior Dash. Nothing serious or to this magnitude.
Last year's race was euphoric - tons of spectators cheering me on, tons of friends running with me, and tons of money raised for American Cancer Society. The event catapulted me into the wide world of running, and I have competed in a total of 16 foot-races in the past year alone!! I owe all of this to the Capital City Half Marathon. 

Which is why, when I returned in 2013, I had an indescrible and surreal feeling. I was back at the very event that started it all! I couldn't help but look around and be grateful for the past year and the journey I have had. All the fun people I have met along the way, all of the bonding I have had with friends and family who have participated with me in various races, all the causes I raised awareness for.
That being said, I also was now an old pro at the whole race scene. I knew what to eat the night before and the morning of the race (my friend Jem will call me out for eating some queso dip and ice cream so I may as well admit it here now), I knew what stretches to do, where to park and where to go when I arrived, I knew it all! But that still didn't stop me from having the inevitable butterflies before the race. Had I trained enough (ahem, no)? Did I get enough rest (thankfully I did, this time)? What if I have to pee (tough luck - I ain't stoppin!)? A lot of worries went through my head still, but it seemed like that was natural.

This year I was running the Quarter Marathon instead of the Half. This decision had a lot to do with the fact that I hurt my knee big time last year, and I want to slowly work my way back up to a half. This lightened the mood a bit for me as well, knowing I didn't have as long to run as I did last year!! I didn't bring those "personal assistants" with me to take a thousand pictures and hold all my luggage. I arrived alone, and met up with one of my best friends, Richard, and my pals Lyndsey & Rachel (sisters!).

While I was running for the American Cancer Society (and had my jersey adorned with ribbons of cancer survivors and victims), Richard was running for another great cause: Team Kelly, in honor of a friend of his, a fallen Marine, Robert M. Kelly. And, we were all running for another cause: Boston. Fresh on the heels of the recent bombing at the Boston Marathon, a moment of silence was announced just prior to the race followed by Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline," which holds special meaning to the tragedy.

After words from Mayor Mike Coleman and Race Director David Babner, the horn sounded and all 14,000 of us lined up in our corrals on Front Street made our way North to the Arena District. We were greeted almost immediately by a challenging hill - thankfully our adrenaline was taking over at this point! We turned left onto Vine Street, where DJs lined the streets cranking out dance remixes to get us pumped up! Soon, we hit a water station, which I regretfully bypassed, and then turned right onto Olentangy River Road. A few folk/rock bands later, it was time for the Quarter Marathoners to split from the Half Marathoners. The Half-ers kept going North on Olentangy while the Quarter runners (like me this year) made a right onto 5th Avenue.

On 5th Avenue, traffic was backed up all the way to High Street. I tried not to look any of those motorists in the eye, because you know that they were all pretty P.O.'ed at the fact that their day had been snarled by us runners. I joked to myself that if you don't want to have to deal with the road closures from the marathon, you can avoid it by just participating in the event yourself! After running all the way down Fifth, we turned right onto High Street in the Short North, running south to approach downtown. Hundreds of spectators cheered us on, and surprisingly a good number of HALF marathoners had caught up and were passing me by! I admire those who are REAL runners. You know, the ones who are genetically predispositioned to run faster than one should ever be able to run? The people that look like they aren't struggling at all, yet are running faster than I could bike? Yeah, those people!

I had the last laugh, though, because I knew that when we got to Broad Street, all I had to do was circle around the Statehouse and I was practically at the finish line, while those people still had to weave through German Village for another 5 miles or so. I finished my race with a time of 56:55, ranking 151st place out of 2,010 runners. Not too shabby! My face was beet red and I was dying for water! I swear I was more concered about getting water than I was about getting my medal (which said Patron on it, so it definitely is cool in my book).

Security was tight this year (for obvious reasons), so once you got your bananas and bagels and such, you couldn't get anymore! So I stocked up and went to the Columbus Commons to listen to a really awesome cover band singing old 90s tunes while I sipped on champagne and Michelob Light (who cares that it was only 9AM?? I just ran a quarter marathon, damnit!). I met up with my coworker Ericka and I then made my way to the finish line to cheer on Lyndsey, Rachel and Richard!!

There was truly no where else I would rather have been than at the Capital City Half (cough, Quarter, cough) Marathon that morning. It begs the question: why don't even MORE people I know do this?? It may seem crazy to run all these miles, but trust me, it's ALL worth it! Just try it, and you will see for yourself!