Monday, June 24, 2013

Run With The Pack 2013 Recap

Photos by OHventures

How many races have YOU run this year?

My 3-year old 9-pound chihuahua-mix just ran his 3rd 5K race in one year. If that's any more than you have run, then you had better throw out all of your excuses and step up your game! 

The 2013 Run With The Pack 5K took place on Saturday, June 15 at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park in Columbus. This was the 2nd year that I participated with my little canine companion, Slider, who has turned out to be quite the athlete, especially for being such a tiny dog (a vet friend of mine said he has "really great running form").

This "doggy 5K" was to benefit Pets Without Parents, an organization dedicated to finding homes for lost, abandoned, and/or stray shelter dogs. Being that my dog was a stray dog whom I rescued from the Franklin County Animal Shelter last year, I had an invested interest in this particular race. While most people who participated had their dogs with them, it was not a requirement. Many people ran pup-less as well, either because their dog was not able to run, or because they are not dog owners themselves (yet still support the cause).

While last year I knew no one who was running in this event, this year, I had a great deal of friends who also took part in the event. My friends Ryan (who attended the A&F Challenge) and Crystal ran with their dog Franklin, my friend Jim ran with his dog Levi, and my friend Matt ran with a "borrowed" dog Mamba. Being that they were all much larger dogs, they all out-performed Slider and me.

Jim & Levi
Unlike last year, I tried to not carry Slider very much and wanted to go completely at his pace. We FLEW during the first mile, as he grabbed the leash with his mouth and zoomed past all of my friends and couuntless others! I was huffing and puffing trying to keep up with the little guy. But, unfortunately, this meant that Slider gassed out pretty quickly, and our final time was pretty much 39 minutes on the dot (which pales in comparison to last year's 33 minutes).

Thankfully, there were water pit-stops along the way, which were very helpful for all of the dogs in the hot weather. I had a special hydration belt for backup, too, which I advise anyone bring if they are interested in doing a dog run this summer (official or unofficial).

After the race, we were able to peruse the various booths that were set up by the finish line. Everything from vets to pet photographers, and even the "Pet Butler" (who will take care of your poopy lawns!). We got a lot of freebies for both the dogs and ourselves, and we got to comingle with a bunch of other dogs and their owners. There were even kiddie pools full of water for the pups to jump in and cool off!

All in all, my 2nd year at the Run With The Pack 5K was a huge success and allowed my dog and I to bond and get in shape while helping a good cause.

Slider: Small But Mighty!

If you are interested in doing a "doggy 5K" in Ohio, see the upcoming events below:

- 5K Freedom Run & 1Mile Mutt Strut - Chagrin Falls (7/7/13)
- Darby Creek Trail Run 5K/10K Run/Walk - Galloway (7/13/13)
- Dirty Dog Run, Walk, or Wash - Avon Lake  (7/20/13)
- Defend Your Friend 5K - Columbus (8/1/13)
- Woodland Woof Walk - Dayton (8/3/13)
- Mentor Mutt Strut - Mentor (8/7/13)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots

View 25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots in a larger map

It's summer in Ohio, and it's the perfect time to embark on a road trip and go on a fantastic, scenic hike in one of the many unique areas of the state!
But where to go?!

OHventures has compiled a list of 25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots, most from my our personal experience and past reviews (and others by asking readers for their favorites). Be sure to click the links below to read our more in depth posts on each location!
(NOTE: These are NOT ranked in any specific order, nor are these considered the "best" hiking spots in Ohio, just great ones to check out!)
Photos by OHventures

1. Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park (State Route 282, Nelson Township): Known by regulars and locals as simply “Nelson Ledges,” the Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park has always been notorious for its eclectic visitors (AKA hippies) and risky rock-strewn terrain (AKA not for novice hikers). Check out the dramatic quartz and sandstone rock formations, such as Old Maid’s Kitchen, Dwarf’s Pass, Fat Man’s Peril, The Squeeze, and Devil’s Icebox
2. Shawnee State Park (4404 State Route 125, Portsmouth): This park gets its name from the Shawnee Indians, who used to hunt in the area. Today, the park does not offer hunting, but does accommodate camping, fishing, boating, hiking, swimming, picnicking, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and golf. Also included in the park is a nature center, bridle trails, and many, many more amenities. Nearby points of interest are the covered bridges,Ted Strickland's childhood home, and Ohio's largest yellow buckeye tree.
3. Alum Creek State Park (3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware): Having the largest inland beach in all of Ohio's parks, there are two hiking trails and both are ranked as "easy" trails. The Park Office Trail is 1.5 miles, and the Hollenback Trail is about double that length. A Multi Purpose Trail is available for snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross country skiing. 38 miles of bridle trails also exist.
4. Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve (2200 Gratiot Rd SE, Newark): 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. 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.
5. Inniswoods Metro Gardens (940 S. Hempstead Road, Westerville) Inniswood is one of those places that is so gorgeous that it is difficult to find words to accurately encapsulate its beauty (which is why I have dedicated a photo blog solely to this park). The hiking paths found at Inniswood are mostly man-made boardwalks, which makes exploring the area easy for all types of hikers of all ages and abilities. Be sure to go for the cascading waters at the stunning rock garden, the handsome trellises and brick walkways that make up the rose garden, and the bee garden!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

6. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (15610 Vaughn Rd, Breskville): Radiant with plants and other wildlife, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio's one and ONLY National Park and is ideal for hikingbiking, cross country skiing, picnicking, fishing, horseback riding, sled riding, and even golfing! Marshes, lakes, meadows, hills, and creeks are right at your fingertips, as well as berry, sheep and tree farms. Education centers, shelter houses, nature centers, and reservations add to the lineup of what the colossal park has to offer. Check out the Kendall Lake hiking trails or the famed Towpath!
7. Caesar Creek State Park (8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville): Located in the Southwest portion of our state at the crossroads of Warren, Greene and Clinton counties, there are many highlights within Caesar Creek, including an educational Nature Center, and an intricate collection of paths for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Pioneer Village contains 15 authentic buildings from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Many of these buildings are original structures where the founding pioneers of Ohio's earliest years resided.
8. Charles Mill Lake Park (1277 State Route 430, Mansfield): Pack a picnic to eat at Charles Mill Lake Park's peaceful 1,350-acre reservoir with 2,000 acres of land. Afterwards, hike on designated trails through the woods, but be sure to pack lots of bug spray! The hiking trails are not on difficult terrain and are easily navigable. Afterwards, swing by the marina to rent a boat to enjoy the waters of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District!

9. Atwood Lake Park (9500 Lakeview Road NE, Mineral City): The Atwood Lake Campground in Tuscawaras County is constantly buzzing with activity! Over 500 camp lots are available and 1,500 acres of water surfaces (with 28 miles of shorelines) are an outdoorsman's playground! Each October, Atwood Lake holds its annual "Fall Fest" celebration with fall food, crafts, Native American activities, and more!
10. Clear Creek Metro Park (185 Clear Creek Road, Rockbridge): This is by far the most strenuous and advanced paths on the list! Perhaps the fact I hiked here during the icy, snowy winter contributed to its difficulty, but regardless, there are plenty of extremely steep hills that will prove challenging (try the Hemlock Trail). Be sure to pack appropriately before heading here for the 12 miles of trails! There is a large barnon site that often holds events for the public.

Hocking Hills State Park

11. Hocking Hills State Park (19852 State Route 664 S, Logan): The holy grail of all Ohio hiking spots! There are 4 "sections" in Hocking Hills State Park. These include: Ash Cave & Cedar Falls, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs. They are all based on rock formations that are so unique, you can't find anything like it in the rest of Ohio. Waterfalls, stone stairways, cliffs, and even what is referred to as the "Devil's Bathtub" are just some of the highlights. It is known as the most recognized state park in Ohio! Click here for my photos from Hocking Hills, winter hiking photos, and click here for a map and directions for each section of Hocking Hills! 
12. Mill Creek Park (123 McKinley Avenue, Youngstown): At 4,400 acres, this is the largest metropark in the entire state!! There are 14 hiking trails, two of which are right by the majestic landmark in the park, Lanterman's Mill. The best are Trails 7 and 8 (East Gorge Walk and West Gorge Trail) which together create a 2 mile loop along Mill Creek. There are massive rocks that exhibit Ohio's geology at its finest. Be sure to grab a trail map and explore! Click here to read about Lanterman's Mill, The Cinderella Bridge, and other attractions at Mill Creek Park.
13. Jackson Bog State Nature Preserve (7984 Fulton Dr NW, Massillon): This bog is really a sight to see! It is preserved here to keep the ecosystem in tact as well as to educate people about the great importance of bogs. There is a 1.25 mile-long boardwalk trail encompassing the bog as well as a few miles worth of forested dirt paths, which are rather hilly. It's well worth it to see the lily pads and other botanical wonders along the paths. Click here for a list of the 89 preserves throughout the state, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
14. Quail Hollow State Park (13480 Congress Lake Avenue, Hartville): Quail Hollow State Park is a multi-functional park that has a variety of trails (14 miles total) accessible to handicapped individuals and experienced hikers alike. There is also a designated horse trail (5 miles) and mountain bike trail (4 miles). One of my favorite aspects of the park is the herb gardens and the Carriage House Nature Preserve, which has educational exhibits and interactive elements. It's a beautiful old house that the hiking path wraps around.
15. Scioto Audubon Metro Park (400 W. Whittier Street, Columbus): Of all of the parks listed, the Scioto Audobon Metro Park is the one I frequent most often. There are hiking paths, an educational center dedicated to nature & birds, a dog park, a playground, a small pond, a water tower, and - best of all - an outdoor rock climbing wall. Not to mention, it is one of the best views of the downtown skyline! It's agreat spot for birding and has also been the location for the Run With The Pack dog runs I have participated in.
16. Prairie Oaks Metro Park (3225 Plain City-Georgesville Road, Harrisburg): This is a very nice location for hiking, fishing, picnicking, andhorseback riding. There are long and winding paths for hiking, and some designated specifically for horseback riding. There are also two big ponds, one of which is specifically for dogs to swim in (or for them to frolic on top of when it is frozen over in the winter). The scenery is fantastic here...the lakes make everything look and feel calm and serene, and the trails have great views. The path crosses over the Big Darby Creek via a pretty impressive bridge.
17. Pymatuning State Park (6100 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover): I used to frequent Pymatuning State Park as a teenager, heading that way to camp, hike, and best of all, swim and skimboard along the shore of the lake! Pymatuning is one of the only non-manmade lakes in Ohio, having been formed by glaciers many eons ago. It rests on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and therefore, some of it is maintained by the State of Pennsylvania. There are a great deal of waterfowl, game birds, and even eagles! There are two easy hiking trails:Whispering Pines and Beaver Dam.

Gorge Trail Metro Park

18. Gorge Trail Metro Park (1270 Front Street, Cuyahoga Falls): This northeast Ohio hiking hot spot has beautiful views and everything from gentle to strenuous hiking paths that are approximately 2-3 miles in length. Aside from the picturesque waterfall, the best part of the trail was definitely hiking in between the large canyons and over intricate root patterns.
19. Wildwood Preserve Metro Park (5100 W. Central Avenue, Toledo): While Toledo has many metroparks, The Wildwood Preserve is a favorite to locals who come here often to utilize the many trails for walking, hiking, running, or biking. There are many open areas for throwing around the Frisbee or just relaxing in the grass. Charcoal grills and picnic tables are also provided so you can have a picnic. On the grounds of the park is The Manor House, a former mansion with beautifully landscaped gardens.
20. South Bass Island State Park (1523 Catawba Avenue, Put-In-Bay): Sure, there's a lot of bars, wineries, and clubs to keep you busy when you are visiting Put-In-Bay. But there's also a lot of nature to be explored! After enjoying the nightlife on the island, hop in your golf cart and head to the South Bass Island State Park for a hiking excursion atop of the scenic white cliffs of this 33-acre park. Or, for the more adventurous type, take a canoe or kayak ride to the beautiful and unique park!
21. Indian Lake State Park (2774 State Route 235 N, Lakeview): A hugely popular tourist hotspot, Indian Lake State Park is located in Logan County, with the Ohio Caverns and Mad River Mountain nearby! One of the most beautiful spots for on-the-water fun, Indian Lake offers two hiking trails: The Cherokee Trail and the Pew Island Trail (a one mile path that encircles Pew Island and gives an amazing view). There is also a three mile bike path.

22. Twin Valley Backpacking Trail (9688 Eby Road, Germantown): Set in the rolling hills of the Twin Valley, this trail provides a backpacking experience reminiscent of other wilderness trails with beautiful hills, babbling brooks, abundant wildlife, history and small town charm. Secluded designated camping opportunities are sprinkled throughout this 22 mile trail that includes and connects Germantown and Twin Creek MetroPark.
23. Little Miami State Park (8570 East State Route 73, Waynesville): This is a new, non-traditional concept for a park: a trail corridor. The park itself runs 50 miles in length along the Little Miami River and goes through four counties: Greene, Warren, Clermont, and Hamilton. There are trails not only for hiking and backpacking, but for horseback riding, rollerblading, and running. You can also enjoy canoeing down the river, or ziplining at nearby Ozone Zipline Adventures.
24. Caldwell Preserve (430 West North Bend Road, Cincinnati): I have yet to go to this southwest Ohio locale, but I have heard tons about it from readers of the blog. Cincinnati Parks web site says it: "features a Nature Center, an amphitheater, and 3.5 miles of nature trails, including a level-paved trail that makes it possible for wheelchair users to go into the woods, see the flowers, and hear the birds" 
25. Portage Lakes State Park (5031 Manchester Road, Akron): While most of my time has been boating on the Portage Lakes and drinking at the Harbor Inn with the locals, there are also great hiking trails to take on if you're in the area: Planet Walk Trail, Shoreline Trail, Rabbit Hill Trail, and Pheasant Run Loop.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Monumental Workouts

Monumental Workouts
by Michael J. Evans
2013 Fitness Edition
History is rich and deep in Canton at the absolutely stunning and ornate McKinley Monument that was built as the final resting place of the 25th President of the United States, William McKinley, after he was assassinated in 1901. Having been born in Niles (near Youngstown), President McKinley later practiced law in Canton, which he called his “adopted” home (which explains why he is buried here). Even if you’re not a history buff, you can still appreciate what this building holds and represents.
In addition to the architectural splendor and historical aspects the monument brings to the city (and the state as a whole), the McKinley Monument also adds an element of fitness and adventure to the community. Each and every day, rain or shine, one can find any number of individuals or groups of boot-campers running up and down the stairs Rocky Balboa style!
Over the years, the 106 stairs at the monument have become a hotspot for health nuts and fitness freaks looking to use the landmark as their very own outdoor public gym!
Folks get their cardio fix running the stairs over and over, feeling the burn in their calves, quads and lungs. People can also build muscle by using the landings of the monument as areas to perform sets of push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, and other body-sculpting exercises. Even simply walking your dog or taking the steps at a leisurely pace can do wonders for your overall health and wellbeing!
Maria Potvin, Fitness Director and Certified Personal Trainer at Powerhouse Gym in North Canton, has been working out at the McKinley Monument for at least 15 years, and says there is a reason for its growing popularity.
“The monument provides a very non-intimidating atmosphere because it’s outside and you’ll see all walks of life,” she said. “People are much more inclined to train outside, because they are tired of being in a gym doing the same thing over and over. The monument is instrumental in giving everyone a different perspective and providing different workouts.”
Potvin, who has been in the fitness industry for over 25 years, said that her focus and goal has always been to get people to embrace a healthy lifestyle and get them excited about exercise, no matter who they are or where they workout. She stressed the importance of incorporating a variety into your everyday routine, which is what Powerhouse Gym aims to do with its array of cutting-edge classes: spin, yoga, zumba, kickboxing, and more. She recommends heading to the steps of the McKinley Monument for an equipment-free experience in a stunning location!
Kim Wagler, owner of Impulse Training on Whipple Avenue in North Canton, is one of many local personal trainers that offer free workout classes at the McKinley Monument on a regular basis.
“I love the environment [at the McKinley Monument],” Wagler said. “The smiles on everyone’s face is just what we need in today’s society when most people are so glued to their phone that they don’t even look up to acknowledge other people!”
Wagler has been offering free community outreach classes through Impulse Training since July 2009, when she held an Independence Day Boot Camp. The times and days in which classes are offered vary, but are posted on She said that clients love to come to the stairs to experience a different type of training, and to socialize with others while busting through obstacles and celebrating those victories together.
“There are so many options,” Wagler said. “No matter what fitness level you are at, just walking or running those steps will provide an amazing workout to strengthen your heart and muscles as well as burn tons of calories, which can lead to great fat loss.”
An extremely wide variety of individuals all ages, both male and female, make it to the stairs to workout! Wagler said she has everyone from 8-year-old boys to 70-year-old ladies join in on the action. However, she noted that the typical participants are 35-55 year-old women.
Daniel Williams, founder and owner of DWFIT, said that age and fitness level is not a factor in the boot camp classes he teaches at the monument.
“The workouts I teach at the monument are set up so you can go at your own pace,” Williams said. “It’s open to super-fit people as well as people who have not worked out in a long time and are looking to get back into shape. I walk around and help everyone individually when I teach. We mix it up so you get the most out of your workout and don’t get bored.”
Williams takes his boot camps to the monument any chance he can. If the weather is nice, he alerts everyone who has signed up for his class that it will be held at the McKinley monument. If the weather is not nice, classes take place at Grand Slam, located on Dressler Road in North Canton. Currently, classes are weekdays at 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM; Saturdays at 10 AM; and Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 AM.
To spice things up even more, Williams sometimes brings various pieces of exercise equipment with him to his monument classes, including: agility ladders, 4x4 logs (for frog hops) and light weights (for deadlifts and curl presses). He also brings sidewalk chalk to create exercise “stations” so his students can do circuit training at the monument. He said the possibilities are endless, and that one can get a great full-body workout by visiting the landmark!
Below are some exercises that local fitness instructors Maria Potvin, Kim Wagler, and Daniel Williams have recommended to try on your own if you decide to workout at the McKinley Monument. You can pick and choose which workouts to incorporate, customizing your routine to fit your specific needs:
·         Run to the top of the stairs, loop around the monument, and run back down. Repeat.
·         Perform decline pushups on the stairs to work both your upper and lower body.
·         Utilize the stairs to do calf raises and lunges if you are looking to focus on the legs.
·         At the top of the stairs, do plank variations and squats to work the core.
·         At each landing between the sets of stairs, do 30 burpee exercises and/or 30 sit-ups
·         Use the wall at the top of the monument for triceps dips and/or jump squats
·         Bring small dumbbells or wear weighted gloves to add more strength training to your stair climbing!
The fresh air, sunshine, and cool breeze make exercising on the McKinley Monument different than exercising inside the confines of a gym. Knowing that you can strengthen your heart, build muscle, and improve your wellbeing by visiting one of the most noteworthy landmarks in Northeast Ohio makes getting active in the community so much more exciting! We all owe a special thanks to President William McKinley for keeping so many people in shape after all these years!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ohio Runner's Boston Connections

Local Runner's Boston Connections
by Michael J. Evans
2013 Fitness Edition

Across the nation, hearts are heavy after the recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Fellow runners, fellow spectators, and above all, fellow human beings, are deeply saddened by the horrific events that occurred on April 15. As millions mourn the deaths and injuries from this fateful event, prayers pour out for the families and loved ones of those affected. 

Runners around the world are united by their respect for each other and their passion and commitment to the sport. When the horrific bombing took place at the Boston Marathon, it seemed as if everyone knew someone  who was present.

For marathon runners like John Erme, purchasing manager at The Timken Company in Canton, the events took an extremely personal toll on him. Erme has run the Boston Marathon a total of six times, in the years 
2003, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. After his first Boston Marathon, Erme increased his marathon frequency to one or two every year. He has run a total of 22 marathons in places like New York City, Scranton, Washington DC, Columbus, and Akron. 

With such an impressive running resume, it was no surprise that Erme received a number of calls and texts from friends across the country checking on him after the Boston bombing. Even though he was not present, many acquaintances thought it was possible he could be, given his continued involvement in marathons througout the years. 

Thankfully, Erme was safe in Canton. However, he knew of two Timken Company associates and others in the Canton running community who were there, as well as other friends he had who live in the Boston area. 

"There were many anxious moments waiting for word on them," Erme said (all were found to be unharmed). "The running community obviously feels a kinship to Boston with one or two degrees of separation from it by having run it or knowing someone who has."

Erme, like many Americans, said he had a flood of emotions running through his mind when he caught wind of the horrible news: concern for the victims; anger at the bombers; pride for the volunteers and first responders rushing to help. 

"The finish line at Boston is such a positive and uplifting experience," he said. "No one should have to worry about anything other than a runner pulling a muscle. The crowds are deep and loud, cheering friends, family and strangers in the final stretch. In past races, my friends and family were on that side of Boyleston Street [where the bombs went off]. The sheer innocence of that is gone. But it will be replaced with resilience, defiance and determination in honor of the victims."

Though the marathon was the target, Erme said that it could have happened at any large open event, running related or not. Since running events are open and free to the public and cover many miles of unsecure are, there will need to be increased security at high profile events. But increased diligence and awareness by the public of suspicious behavior will help most. That said, Erme does not plan to let this tragedy slow down his 25 year running career, and hopes to requalify in the fall for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

In the meantime, Erme is joining thousands of other Americans who are giving back and helping in one way or another. Erme participated along with 80 other runners in a music video produced by the Akron Marathon to benefit One Fund Boston. 

Since its creation, One Fund Boston has raised over $30 million to help those most affected by the bombing. If you would like to donate, visit