Friday, December 26, 2014

Selfless Elf 2014 Recap

Photos by OHventures and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank

"It's not how much we give, but how much love we put into giving." - Mother Teresa

The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank has done it again with their 2nd Annual Selfless Elf 5K run in downtown Akron! 

The Selfless Elf 5K is quickly becoming one of my favorites, mainly due to how much I care about the local foodbank, which has recently been named as the BEST foodbank in the entire country. The theme behind the run is, on the surface, lighthearted and whimsical, with people of all ages decked out in holiday garb (most of which were elven in nature of course). 

However, there is a much deeper and more meaningful underlying theme of the race, which was to think of the less fortunate during the holiday season, and to give selflessly (get it?) to help fight hunger in the area. 

The race took place at 8AM on Saturday morning, December 20, 2014. The good thing was that there was no rain, but the bummer was that there was no snow. Like on Christmas Day, snow adds lots to the excitement of a holiday themed run!

Unfortunately, I misplaced my elf ears that I wore in last year's run. But, thankfully, all runners receive elf socks for registering. I threw those on, along with my Santa hat, to get in the festive spirit. I also wore a t-shirt from work, to match the others in our "Young Professionals" group that just started this fall. Being the Volunteer/Service Board Chair of the YPs, I organized our group to get together to help the cause.

Some members of our YP group gathered for a quick photo (below) with "Olaf" (of Disney's "Frozen," of course), and we gathered at the start line located on Opportunity Parkway in downtown Akron.

In addition to current co-workers, I was also treated to seeing former co-workers from Columbus, like my friend Mike (photo below) at the race. We had been wanting to do an event together for a long while, and finally got the chance to do so, since he is from the Akron area and was home for the holidays.

Mike & I kept a very gentle pace of approximately 9 minutes/mile (at my pique, I was doing 7:30 minute/miles). Lately I have been taking it rather slowly in my races (Gobble Wobble, Christmas Story Run), because I have not been practicing as much lately in between official races. My theory is: "no matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch." 

Mike & Mike - Elf Selfies!!

The event was a HUGE success - with hundreds and hundreds of selfless elves flooding the city streets all to raise money and awareness for the hungry in Northeast Ohio. Hats (and ears) off to all of those at the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank for making this a reality!

A Christmas Story Run Recap

Photos by OHventures

A Christmas Story House
3159 W 11th Street
Cleveland, OH 44109
(216) 298-4919

We all know the tale of little old Ralphie - the boy who wanted nothing more for Christmas than a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle, but was repeatedly denied of his request by Santa, his teacher, and his parents - all warning him by retorting, "you'll shoot your eye out!" 

We followed Ralphie throughout the cult classic movie "A Christmas Story" on his quest to convince others he should get his prized BB gun. Along the way, we are introduced to such iconic scenes and images, such as the pink bunny suit, the tongue frozen to the flagpole, and of course the infamous leg lamp!

The movie is played every year during the holiday season - including a 24-hour repetitive showing on TBS on Christmas Day. If you haven't seen this 1983 movie (set in the 1940s), then you are certainly missing out on a huge piece of American culture!

What some people might not realize is that a large portion of scenes from A Christmas Story were filmed in the Tremont neighborhood of Cleveland. The home of Ralphie and his family can be found at 3159 W. 11th Street, still standing in all of its yellow and green glory - gawdy Christmas lights and tacky leg lamp still visible year 'round. The house is open to the public for tours 7 days a week, except for major holidays. The house was reconstructed inside (since most of the interior shots were filmed on a sound stage) to resemble the interior from the film.

To celebrate the film's popularity, and to raise money to galvanize the neighborhood and provide upkeep for the landmark for years to come, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and A Christmas Story House Neighborhood Restoration Project have created the A Christmas Story 5K/10K in 2013. 

The race starts in Public Square in downtown Cleveland, with the 5K finish line located directly in front of the A Christmas Story House (and the 10K finish line located where the race began). Race participants receive great swag, including a movie-themed medal and t-shirt, and loads of post-race fuel, the most important of which being "rich chocolate Ovaltine," as enjoyed by Ralphie himself. 

Best of all, runners receive a ticket (located on their bib) to enter and tour the house for free! 

Of course, I had to jump on the bandwagon to run in this race on December 6, 2014. It contains so many elements of the things I love: running, Christmas, and a healthy serving of childhood nostalgia!

I was certainly not alone in the nostalgia department, as many folks were decked out in costumes inspired by characters in the film - there were burglars (from a dream sequence in which sheriff Ralphie "shoots" a bunch of intruders), pink bunnies, elves, and even leg lamp costumes!!

Because I decided late in the game that I would make the trek to Cleveland to run, I had to settle with an ugly Christmas sweater and a Santa hat. They did the trick for sure! I met up with my fraternity brother Jason (who now lives in town) and we ran at a leisurely pace in the chilly lakeside air. We completed the run in approx. 28:36, retrieved our swag, and gawked in marvel at the A Christmas Story house (photo above).

Monday, December 15, 2014

14 Runs In '14

Photos by OHventures

It wasn’t planned, but I ran 14 Races in 2014 (AKA “14 in ’14”) in Ohio. 
Most of the events had a fun element or theme added in, such as running in nothing but your underwear (Cupid’s Undie Run) or running to get delicious food at the finish line (Slavic Village Pierogi Dash)! Many were done to support a cause, such as the World Fit 5K or the Selfless Elf (to support the local Foodbank). Most were 5Ks, but some were longer, such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Half Marathon. 

I also added two more runs that were not done in Ohio (both in Pennsylvania). I do feel a bit like a cheater for putting them on this site. Either way, I am happy to have successfully completed over 76 competitive miles in one year!
Below, you can find links to all 14 of these events from 2014 in chronological order! Hopefully these can give your ideas for races you can run in the New Year!

1. Cupid’s Undie Run (February 2014 - 1 mile, untimed – Cleveland)
2. Arnold Pump & Run 5K (March 2014 – 3.1 miles in 21:46 – Columbus)
3. Funny Bunny Run (April 2014 – 4 miles in 32:23 – Canton)
4. Pro Football Hall of Fame (Half) Marathon (April 2014 – 13.1 miles in 1:56:27 – Canton)
5. World Fit 5K (May 2014 – 3.1 miles, 24:00 – Warren)
6. Tough Mudder (May 2014 – 10.5 miles in approx. 3:30:00 – Mansfield)
7. Slavic Village Pierogi Dash (June 2014 – 3.1 miles in 23:38 – Cleveland)
8. Warrior Dash Ohio II (August 2014 – 3.1 miles in approx. 45:00 – North Lawrence)
9. Akron Gen. Birthday Bash Dash (August 2014 - 3.1 miles, untimed - Stow)
10. Akron Marathon Relay (September 2014 – 5.5 miles in 44:35 – Akron)
11. Spartan Race Ohio (October 2014 – 11.5 miles in approx. 3:30:00 – Cumberland)
12. A Christmas Story Run (December 2014 – 3.1 miles in 23:36 – Cleveland)
13. Selfless Elf 5K (December 2014 – 3.1 miles in TBA – Akron)
14. The Great New Years Eve Run (December 2014 - 3.1 miles in TBA - Stow)

Additionally, we ran in two races abroad in Pennsylvania, which deserve their own category:
1. Foxburg Nature Festival Run (May 2014 – 3.1 miles in 25:27 – Foxburg, PA)
2. Buhl Park Gobble Wobble (November 2014 – 3.1 miles in 29:35 – Hermitage, PA)
For kicks, you might also be interested in the 3 walking events I took part in for charity this fall:
1. Stark County Mutt Strut (September 2014 – 2 miles, untimed – North Canton)
2. Walk A Mile In Her Shoes (October 2014 – 1 mile, untimed – Canton)
3. Out Of The Darkness Walk (October 2014 – 2 miles, untimed – North Canton)
You can also now visit the NEW OHventures Running Archive Page – which has ALL runs we have completed to date in chronological order!

Discover Zoo Lights In Ohio

Photo by Discovering Ohio

The following is a post that can be found in its entirety on Discovering Ohio, the Ohio Division of Tourism's official blog. OHventures partners with Discovering Ohio and contributes monthly articles. This post was written by Discovering Ohio blogger Anietra Hamper. We wanted to include it here due to our love of "zoo lights" in Ohio!

There are few holiday traditions that can compete with strolling through the Wildlights display at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on a chilly December evening.

The smell of fresh kettle corn in the air, my cup of hot coco to keep me warm and the sounds of holiday music and excited children provide a festive backdrop.

This is a winter wonderland of three million colorful, twinkling lights that whisks me away to that magical place where Christmas comes to life.

I set out to North America to look for Santa’s reindeer and stop along the way to marvel at how fascinating is to see the zoo in such a different light - literally. Zoos throughout Ohio are giving visitors lots of reasons to bundle-up and head out in this winter.

Holiday experiences can be found at:
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Cincinnati Zoo
Toledo Zoo
Akron Zoo

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top 10 OHventures of 2014

Out of any other year, I feel that 2014 put the most miles on my odometer. I drove to every corner of the state - Toledo to Athens to Geneva to Cincinnati visiting friends, attending weddings, working, and of course adventuring. In doing so, I definitely had a year full of unique experiences. As with every year (see 2012 and 2013), I give to you the Top 10 OHventures of 2014. There were many to choose from, but if you needed to see the best of the best, here they are (in no particular order)!

Use this list to start planning some awesome bucket list items to do in 2015.

1. The Lodge At Geneva-On-The-Lake: The romanticism of Ohio's Lake Erie shoreline is encapsulated to perfection at the upscale yet affordable Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake. I stayed here for a weekend in June and saw for myself all the fantastic pleasures that can be unearthed while staying at this hot vacation spot.

2. Mohican Tree House Cabins: Halfway between Cleveland and Columbus is an adventurer's paradise, an outdoorsman's dream, and one of the most unique attractions found in all of Ohio: The Mohican Treehouse Cabins. I stayed overnight in these AWESOME accommodations!

3. Bon Appetit Appalachia!I had the privilege to witness a glimpse (and sample a taste) of this innovative farm-to-fork concept on a visit to Athens - the setting for a large number of these culinary destinations in the state. Follow me as I eat - and drink - my way through Appalachia!

4. Tree Frog Canopy Tours: Another year where a zipline locale makes the list! This time, we made our way BACK to Mohican Country for the tallest, fastest, and longest zip line in all of Ohio! Pictures say 1,000 words.

5. Tough Mudder Ohio: If you think that a 3-mile obstacle course like Warrior Dash is crazy, then you ain't seen nothing yet! The Tough Mudder was 12 miles of muddy mayhem in Mansfield, trumping anything I've ever done before! And how can I EVER forget the arctic enema and the electroshock therapy?! I must be a masochist.

6. Akron Birthday Bash Dash 5K: This was a very special 5K walk/run for me, because it was the first time ever that - instead of running the course -  I ran the ENTIRE event as the race director! The 5K in Stow was a TON of work, but proved to be a success, raising money for Muffins For Mammograms & celebrating the 100th "birthday" of the health system. 

7. Columbus Pedal Wagon: My family & friends hopped aboard this contraption that required us to use our man-power to wheel the wagon from bar to bar to bar in the streets of the Short North one football Saturday in October. Check it out in Cincinnati as well.

8. Kayak The Bay at PIB: Between drinking wine and barhopping on 4th of July weekend in Put-In-Bay, a group of college friends decided to get a workout in and kayak the beautiful waters of Lake Erie surrounding South Bass Island

9. Polar Plunge: A polar plunge (also known as a polar bear jump) is for the bravest of brave and the craziest of crazy! I participated in the Polar Plunge at Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland on January 18 as a benefit for the Special Olympics of Ohio. Even the photos make me shiver.

10. Dragon Boat Festival at Portage Lakes: I competed with my friends Chelsie and Craig in the annual Dragon Boat Festival at Portage Lakes on July 12 in Summit County. We learned just how hard it is for 20 people to paddle in unison to power a dragon boat - but Team Morgan Stanley made it to the FINALS!

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! May the next year bring you an endless thirst for adventure! See you in 2015!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Gobble Wobble 5K Recap

While most people have turkey and football to look forward to on Thanksgiving morning, my family also has running on that list of holiday traditions!

With hundreds of 5Ks taking place on Thanksgiving Day across the country with hundreds of thousands of participants, we are certainly not alone in this growing trend!

Since 2012, the Evans family has thrown on our compression clothes and laced up our running shoes to take part in the Warren Kiwanis Turkey Trot. However, this year, we switched it up a bit and signed up for the  Shenango Conservancy Gobble Wobble 5K located in Buhl Farm Park in Hermitage, PA.

Yes, I know. I realize that this race is not in Ohio, and therefore it doesn't technically make it an OHventure. I myself was none too pleased with our change in venue for this reason alone. But, truth be told, this turkey trot is closer to our house in Hubbard than the one in Warren. And, everyone else wanted to give it a shot, so, majority rules.

But - just because this wasn't in Ohio doesn't mean there aren't a cornucopia of turkey trots that you can choose from if you do decide to take part in this tradition in years to come. Check out a list of some of those turkey trots at this link.

The Gobble Wobble is pretty popular! There were over 1,500 runners present on Thanksgiving morning, despite the blustery conditions. It was in the 30s with snow flurries and gray skies overlooking the icy pond, Lake Julia. Folks were crowded in the beautiful park, many with Thanksgiving-themed attire, such as pumpkin pie hats, turkey sweaters, Native American garb, and fall-colored tutus. There were even people braving the weather showing some skin

We met up with my friends Matt and Jess and we all decided to make it more of a leisurely run than a competitive race. This was perfect, since we all had a long day ahead, and it allowed for us to take in the scenic views of the park's gardens and landscaping. Even in the winter, Buhl Park (one in which I have frequented over the years) still looks beautiful and serene.

The Casino

Our pace was set at a very steady 9-minute mile, partly due to our choice, and partly because of the large crowd we were stuck behind. We started by the "Casino" (the large white building which is the focal point of the park, regularly housing social gatherings and park activities) and circled around Kite Field for Mile #1. Mile #2 continued past Lake Julia, the baseball diamond, the Julia Buhl Memorial Gardens, and the Wilderness Area. Finally, Mile #3 made its way past the Acker Gazebo & Becky's Garden, finishing by Kite Field and the Casino.

Along the way, we had some fun by goofing off and catching snowflakes on our tongues, and pushed ourselves to conquer the giant hill near the end of the course. It was great to go at such a gentle pace that we were able to talk and catch up, taking our minds off the cold! At the finish line, hot chocolate, coffee and popcorn awaited us in the pavilion.

While I still had hoped we trotted and wobbled in Ohio rather than Pennsylvania, it was still a refreshing and exciting 5K with family and friends. And, thus, the tradition continues!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

All-American Soap Box Derby

Photos by OHventures

789 Derby Downs Dr.
Akron, OH 44306
(330) 733-8723

The All-American Soap Box Derby is truly an all-American pastime. Every July since 1934 (except for the years of World War II), hundreds of youth have flocked to the Derby Downs racetrack in Akron (except for the first year in which is was located in Dayton) to compete in the iconic race. 

To take part in the competition, youngsters aged 7-18 (separated in heats by age and experience) throughout United States and the world are required to construct their own race car to bring with them on the big day. Originally, this meant they were tasked with designing the cart and acquiring the materials themselves. Currently, however, those participating are shipped the materials and blueprints so that all cars are on an even playing field. 

The cars (either stock, super-stock, or master, according to the division one has entered) are made out of wood (originally wood from soap crates, hence the name) and standardized wheels with precision  ball bearings (all produced at a warehouse on site in Akron). The cars do not have a motor and rely 100% on gravity to zoom down the track. Thankfully, Akron is extremely hilly, which is how the location of the track was determined.

Derby Downs is comprised of a giant hill with a 989-foot paved track and multiple lanes, with metal bleachers on each side. At the height of its popularity (in the 1950s and 1960s), upwards of 60,000 spectators (including many famous actors and celebrities) would come to marvel at the event. While it is still popular today, the crowds are not nearly to the same magnitude as they once were.

Because of this, the All-American Soap Box Derby has in recent years added many other events and programs that allow for other folks to experience the splendor and excitement of Derby Downs.

Some of the events and programs include: 
  • Senior Day: Seniors enjoy lunch, health information booths, health screenings and a trip down Derby Downs in an adult Soap Box Derby car.
  • Autism Day: A special day to raise awareness, support and hope for Autism and give an opportunity to folks who would not normally have the chance to experience the thrill of the hill.
  • Corporate/Private Events: A company or individual can rent the track for a day for a corporate or private event!
  • STEM Summer Camp: High schoolers in STEM schools have the chance to design, construct, race, and showcase their own creations!
  • Gravity Racing Challenge (GRC): Designed to provide K-12 educators and students with meaningful, project- and standards-based, intercurricular learning opportunities in classroom setting.
Keep an eye out for these events and more ways you might be able to experience Derby Downs. If you are unable to ride, spectators are always welcome!

I had the once-in-a-lifetime rare opportunity to hop in an adult-sized soap box derby car and ride the track all by myself this fall! I was so grateful to have the chance to be on this sacred track, and it didn't hurt that they put me in a Swenson's cart! I am unsure of my exact time or speed, but I was told that the cars reach speeds of about 35 miles per hour. Although I was a bit nervous I wouldn't be that great at steering the race car or braking in time, my ride was smooth and successful!

In addition to the track and production building on site, there is also a museum and hall of fame, which showcases the evolution of the soap box cars, famous items from over the years, photos of every winner in soap box derby history, and more historic artifacts & memorabilia.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Columbus & Cincinnati Pedal Wagon

Photos by OHventures


That's the slogan me and my rowdy crew of Ohio State Buckeyes fans lived by while riding in the Columbus Pedal Wagon one brisk morning before the football game!

The Columbus Pedal Wagon (and similarly, the Cincinnati Pedal Wagon), is a contraption that requires you and a group of able-bodied buddies to hop on board and use your man-power to wheel the wagon from bar to bar to bar! 

It's essentially a bar on wheels - except state laws don't allow you to drink while ON the pedal wagon - YET. So, that means, for now, the cupholders are merely spots to put your phones while you ride!

The Columbus Pedal Wagon offers various routes which you can sign up for that will allow you to navigate the vehicle to various drinking establishments within different neighborhoods. The tours last approximately 2 hours, and you usually get to visit about 3-4 different bars in that timeframe, depending on how long you stay at each one, and how far apart they are.

Themes are prescheduled to correspond with particular launch times, but if you love a route and not its scheduled time, the Columbus Pedal Wagon will make it work for you. Just be sure to give them an advanced notice so they can plan around the changes. What's cool is that they are also always open to new themes and routes, and will work with you to choose which bars you go to along the route that you have chosen.

On October 18, me and selected family (my mom, dad, and aunt) and friends (Alex, James, Alyce, and Steve) boarded the Columbus Pedal Wagon for the High Street Shuffle theme route. This route cruises through the Short North neighborhood of Columbus, stopping at 4 eclectic bars. Each spot had drink specials specifically for us pedalers. We wore a special wristband to designate to our bartenders that we were with the Pedal Wagon to get our discounts on drinks!

We were told by our driver, Paul, to meet at BBR (a bar located on Vine Street near the North Market) at 12:00 for our 12:30-2:30 PM scheduled ride. Being the rowdy group that we are, we decided to meet up at 11:00 AM so we could take advantage of the $3 draughts that we received on special for being a part of the Pedal Wagon. We also decided as a group that we needed some shots of FIREBALL whiskey to warm us up. Even though we would be bundled up, wearing a liquor coat never hurts!

When Paul arrived, he and I discussed our route. As mentioned, the tour guides work with you to determine what bars you would like to go to. I wanted to have a mix of modern bars and dive bars, so we decided on the following stops:

  • BBR (106 Vine Street, Columbus, OH 43215) - Our meeting place, this is a sports  bar that is typically loud with a young crowd and a rock & roll theme).

At the Short North Pint House
  • Pint House (780 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43201) - My favorite bar in the Short North. It is modern with eclectic decor, a beer garden pation, a HUGE bar, loads of beers on tap, a photo booth, a mixed crowd, an open ceiling, and an overall slick feel. There is even a part of the bar that is made of ice so you can keep you drink cool.
Drinks at Bodega
  • Bodega (1044 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43201) - A "hipster" hangout, Bodega has been recently renovated and is known for its endless array of draught beers, to-die-for grilled cheese, and a charming crowd of cool kids.
  • Mike's Grill (724 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43215) - The definition of a dive bar: smelly, dirty, sticky, and cheap! But that's all part of the experience. I love bringing people here just because it's such a hole in the wall. We came for $1 Jell-O shots and cans of PBR!
Hanging out at our last stop, Novak's!
  • Novak's Tavern (475 N. High Street, Columbus, OH 43214) - Our final destination. Novak's has also been recently renovated and has pool tables, an awesome rooftop with a view of the Columbus skyline, and great specials on mixed drinks.
We were told to assign someone on board to be the "DJ" for the day. We picked Alyce (an easy choice because of her high energy personality). As DJ, she was able to plug her iPhone into the AV jack located on the wagon, and create our playlist for the entire ride! She was blaring party jams up and down High Street. It was really cool how they let us set the tone with the music, which really did make it even more fun!

A view of Short North on board the Pedal Wagon.

Over all, pedaling the wagon was not too difficult. Because we had so many people, it did not require us to exert too much energy (some of us had some sore legs the next day, though!). However, it did require that we work together and get in sync to get us to where we wanted to go in a quick fashion! All of the steering was done by our tour guide (Paul), who also advised us as to when to stop and start pedaling when we got to red lights, turns, etc. We didn't have to do any of the thinking - just the drinking!

Me & Steve on our new favorite ride!

There were many onlookers in cars and on foot who were amused at the sight of us pedaling by. It was certainly a unique and one-of-a-kind way to enjoy some drinks (and not to mention a TON of laughs) with friends & family on game day, or ANY day in Columbus or Cincinnati. We felt good that not only were we not drinking and driving, we were also getting a bit of exercise in between drinks!

And just because we are getting into the winter months does not mean that the pedal wagon goes into hibernation. You can book a ride on the Polar Bear Express NOW throughout winter!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Spartan Race Ohio Recap

Photos by OHventures and Spartan Race

I must preface this post by saying: I am NOT a wimp!

I swear I am not! I have kicked butt in countless obstacle races, half marathons, stair climbs, and the list goes on.

But now, instead of kicking butt, my butt has been kicked. I’ve finally met my match: The Spartan Race.

Ah, yes, the Spartan Race. This nightmare of an experience took place on the dreadfully cold morning of October 4, 2014 in Cumberland (Zanesville) in Guernsey County.

The Spartan Race is a well-established obstacle race series designed to push your limits, test your strength, and challenge your endurance. There are dedicated followers both nationally and internationally who travel to compete in these epic events year-round.

There are several ways in which one can experience the Spartan Race. Three main events at most all Spartan Race functions are the Sprint, the Super, and the Beast.
  • The Spartan Sprint is comprised of 15+ obstacles over 3+ miles and is a great way to get off the couch and onto the course! 
  • The Spartan Super will test your physical strength and mental resolve. Tackle 20+ obstacles over 8+ miles, and show that you're Spartan tough! 
  • The Spartan Beast is a true test of will. Tackle 25+ obstacles over 12+ miles, and prove you're the ultimate Spartan! 

Given the opportunity to participate in the Spartan Race when it came to Ohio this month, I jumped on the offer. My brother - who is just the most badass warrior I know (I may be a bit biased) - was up for the task as well. Together, we decided to go "middle of the road" and sign up for the Spartan Super. We had done so many Warrior Dash races in the past, so we thought this would be the perfect match to challenge us.

And challenge us, it did.

Making our way to Southeast Ohio, we knew we were in for it based solely on the frigid weather that was in the forecast that morning. Our run was to begin at 10:30 AM, and it was in the mid-40s at that time! 

When we arrived, the "parking lot" was MAYHEM! It was sloppy, unorganized, and and very frustrating. We were led by the volunteers through a muddy field and we had to literally park on the course itself!! The back-end of our car was sticking out onto the trail as dozens of runners sprinted by. 

So, we had to start a bit late bcause of the parking debacle. I was stressed out and failed to eat my protein bar or energy shots. But we eventually made it to the start line and without much preparation, we were off and running! 

One aspect of the Spartan Race that differs from most other obstacle races is that they did not provide a course map online ahead of time. So, essentially you had no idea what you were getting into. I couldn't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. They claim that the "surprise" aspect of the race is part of the whole "Spartan experience" but I personally feel that it's just something they say so that they don't have to take the time to make an official map and put it on the site. Either way, that's what we had to work with.

Here is where the main problem came. We signed up for the "Super" Race thinking it was going to be 8+ miles as advertised, but there was no way of knowing how long it really was going to be. In our heads, we thought perhaps it would be about 9 miles, maximum. But we were pretty far off.

Me taking on the "Bucket Brigade"!

The Super course ended up being close to 12 miles of HELL!

I love a good challenge, so in retrospect, this "hell" I refer to was something I am proud to have accomplished. But, at the time, I was struggling! Let's give a quick recap of some of the main aspects of the race (not all inclusive, and not necessarily in the proper order).
  • Wall Traverse & Under/Overs: A series of walls you must jump/climb over.
  • Muddy Water Pit: I don't know what it's really called, but it was just a pit of muddy water.
  • Bucket Brigade: Fill a bucket with gravel and carry it through a winding, hilly trail.
  • Tire Flip: Pick a monster truck-sized tire and flip it multiple times.
  • Army Crawl: The classic crawl in mud under barbed wire - for a LONG time!
  • Sand Bag Carry: Carry sand bags through a trail. Much like the gravel buckets before.
  • Log Carry: Another carrying obstacle?! I was getting a bit bored with these - and drained of strength!
  • Atlas Ball: A 100-pound perfectly spherical rock you had to carry about 30 feet.*
  • Log Balance: Large logs you walked on over water (I scooted instead of walked).
  • Stumps: Tiny stumps sticking out of the ground - you had to walk from stump to stump without touching the ground. We made out-of-state friends who helped us at this stop!
  • Cargo Climb: A climb up a large cargo net - emphasis on LARGE!
  • Rope Climb: Just like gym class, climbing a rope and ringing a bell (I failed at this).
  • Spear Throw: A pretty unique aspect of the Spartan Race - throwing a javelin into a haystack!
  • Herculean Hoist: Pulling a sandbag via a pulley system to the top, and slowly bringing it back down. Super HEAVY!
  • 1nverse Wall: A wall traverse with a wall slanted at 45 degrees.
  • Double Dirty: Jumping onto three long-felled ascending logs about 5-6 feet apart. This was one of the most difficult and most painful, because you had stand up, balance yourself, then jump from one log to the next (jumping both across and up). You'd basically have your stomach slam into the next log and bear hug it, then pull yourself up.
  • Fire Jump: Like other mud races, a leap over burning logs.

Again, this was just a sample of what we experienced. The main challenge was the muddy, hilly, treacherous trails we ran on in between the obstacles. There was unfortunately a great deal of walking that took place as a result of how difficult the terrain was. 

My brother looking quite miserable.

Bothersome was the fact that we literally would run well over a mile in between some obstacles. And I was frankly underwhelmed with some of the obstacles. I guess what I learned is that the Spartan Race has many tests of your STRENGTH above all else, which is why there were so many items we had to "carry" and whatnot. 

Also - if you did not successfully complete an obstacle, you had to do X-amount of BURPEES! That's right, burpees. The jump/squat/pushup  combo move that everyone loves to hate. 

To add to the already miserable conditions, it HAILED midway through our run. Yes, hail! Ohio is so weird sometimes.

*But not all was horrible. The Atlas Ball, for instance, was one of my proudest moments. It was so very difficult and I wanted to give up. I almost did, but my brother encourged me to keep trying. I kept at it, and I found a spark within me to accomplish the task at hand. I managed to lift the atlas ball and complete the obstacle! You have the strength to do more than you imagine. And this was proof.


Eventually, we finished in one piece. It took us 3.5 hours, but we did it!
Here's the thing. This was the very first time Spartan Race came to Ohio. Because of this, I feel like they had a LOT of things that need improved upon. The parking situation was the worst, and I can not believe I actually had to pay $10 to park where I did. Also, there need to be far more water stops and perhaps some other fueling stations (protein bars, bananas, etc. like they have at the Tough Mudder). Lastly, if they are going to advertise an 8 mile race, it should be somewhat close to 8 miles. That was tough for me because I had not properly fueled.

When all is said and done, I did truly enjoy the Spartan Race, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a REAL, advanced challenge (maybe I have been babied too much by the dinky Warrior Dash).

Call me a masochist, but after a lot of reflection, I was able to look back and appreciate the pain, suffering, and struggle I went through to tackle the Spartan Race. It made me feel like I really earned that medal at the end, and I am part of an elite group of individuals who call themselves Spartans! I almost feel bad to have complained on the course. I witnessed a lot of grit and determination, and even handicapped folks who overcame their adversities to take on this monster of a race.

One more in the bag, and it's one for the books. AROO!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Haunted Prison Experience

Photos by OHventures

There’s no setting more perfect for a haunted house than the famed Ohio State Reformatory located in Mansfield in the heart of Richland County. The decaying walls and rusted cells of this 19th century prison make for an authentically spooky backdrop for the countless shrieks and screams of those passing through.

Even without being filled with grisly monsters and decked out in ghastly decorations, this historic landmark provides an eerie and bone-chilling visit. Add the expertise of award-winning haunted house specialists from Toledo-based Haunted X Enterprises, and you’re in store for one unforgettable Halloween!

For the past 13 years, the Ohio State Reformatory has been offering the Haunted Prison Experience during the fall for anyone brave enough to enter the creepy castle-like structure. In recent years, there have been approximately 32,000-35,000 visitors during the six-week span that the haunted house attraction is open.

This year is no different! Haunted X Enterprises has teamed up once again with the Ohio State Reformatory to present the Haunted Prison Experience: Supernatural II on selected dates from September 26 through November 1. The hours of operation are Thursdays from 7-11 PM, Fridays & Saturdays from 7 PM – Midnight, and Sundays from 7-10 PM. The gates open at 6:00 and the box office opens at 6:30.

Because of the large amount of thrill seekers, it is advised to arrive early and prepare for potentially long lines (which are most definitely worth the wait). You can also consider purchasing tickets online ahead of time (including “speed passes” to help you avoid the wait)! It is important to note that you must be 13 years or older to enter, and that the prison is not handicapped accessible (due to the old age of the building).

Once you are led into the doors of the prison, brace yourself for everything creepy, freaky, and gory to get your heart rate pounding. The smell of fumes from buzzing chainsaws and the sounds of blood curdling screams can be made out through the sometimes pitch black interior of the prison! Stay close to your group, because you never know what will be lurking around the dark corners of this twisting maze. 

Actors, animatronics, and much more is waiting for you at this haunted attraction inside of a real prison (it has not been used as a real prison since it closed in 1990). Because some people believe that the prison is actually haunted by actual ghosts, you might even encounter some real paranormal activity (if you believe in that stuff).Hurry and check it out before it's gone for the year!

If you need your fix of fear during the off-season, you can also consider taking part in a ghost walk or ghost hunt! You can hear the stories  that cause many to believe the prison is haunted and even stay overnight to experience it for yourself. Most ghost hunt admissions are $70 per person, which includes access to the building and a late dinner of pizza and soda. Check out their website for more information on ghost hunts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Mizuno Wave Rider 18 Running Shoes

Photos by OHventures

The following post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Mizuno.

Every good runner knows that a good shoe is the key to a good run in which you will both perform well, and treat your body right.

Finding that perfect running shoe can be difficult, but with my recent experience with the ALL NEW Mizuno Wave Rider 18 running shoes (debuting October 2014), I can make a strong and confident recommendation to any new or experienced runner.

A shiny new pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 18 running shoes arrived at my doorstop, and I was anxious to put them to the test! I took them outside on both pavement and running trails, as well as inside on both an indoor track and a treadmill.

What I found were high quality running shoes that get the job done in all scenarios!

According to the manufacturers, the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 is the “best model yet, providing runners with a more resilient and responsive ride and a superb underfoot sensation, creating a more harmonious fit that works with the runner at every stride.”

So, if you are looking to tackle a zombie run, turkey trot, or simply a leisurely fall jog, you might want to consider the Mizuno Wave Rider 18.

Here’s the lowdown:

Let’s be honest: us runners want a shoe that looks good (yeah, even us dude runners). We need all the help we can get, since we certainly aren’t winning any awards with our strained faces and sweat-drenched bodies. At least our feet can look nice! The Mizuno Wave Rider 18 shoes certainly accomplish that.

I am a huge fan of the ombre shading (in my case the shoes are black in the front fading to silver in the back), and the added splash of neon (every runner’s favorite adjective) on the bottom and on the laces. It’s a perfect amount of color (in my case, lime green) that helps the shoes pop without being obnoxiously bright. 

What’s more important than the aesthetics of the shoe is of course the fit. I was a bit nervous about this, given that 99% of the time, I try on a running shoe before deciding to purchase it. This was the first time I was receiving a pair of shoes via the internet, simply trusting the sizing through a computer screen.

Thankfully, the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 shoes fit like a glove – from the heel to the midfoot to the toe, everything was secure and compact. It was honestly a perfect fit, not too tight and not too roomy (even with the lovely bunion I have on my left foot). To me, this means Mizuno is a brand you can trust when ordering online. If you do not have access to a store that carries these shoes, rest easy in knowing that the Mizuno Wave Rider 18 shoes are true to size.

As a neutral shoe, I can wear them on a run AND at the gym!

In all honesty, the Mizuno Wave Rider 18s are the most comfortable running shoes (or any other athletic shoe, for that matter) that I have ever worn. At 9.2 ounces, these are as light as a feather (literally I think my socks weigh more than these shoes) and cozier than any pair of sneakers – or fuzzy slippers – I’ve encountered.

It’s as if my shoes just disappear while I am running, that’s how light they are. What is this magical material they are made out of to allow them to feel so glorious?! Despite being so lightweight, there is ample cushioning and they feel sturdy and supportive.

Putting these shoes to the test in a number of environments (thank you, crazy Ohio weather), I have been able to experience in many ways the technology that has been incorporated into the Mizuno Wave Rider 18. Wearing these new kicks really felt as if I had a spring in my stride and seemed to boost both my confidence and performance at the same time.

Running down the Towpath in downtown Akron, I encountered wet leaves and slick pavement, but the traction kept me vertical. The official website for the shoes states that the shoe provides “optimal shock attenuation, durability and a superior ride.” I would have to agree.

The Mizuno Wave Rider 18s will absolutely be my shoe of choice for the duration of my fall/winter training season and for my hefty 2015 goals of a half marathon and (first ever) marathon! I am certain they will help fly me to the finish line with ease!

About Mizuno
Mizuno USA, Inc.'s roots stem from its parent company Mizuno Corporation. Mizuno Corporation was established in Osaka, Japan in 1906 by Rihachi Mizuno. Today, Mizuno USA is located in Norcross, GA and continues to manufacture and distribute high quality golf, baseball, softball, running, track & field and volleyball equipment, apparel, and footwear.

Mizuno’s product development strategy is to create products with features that enhance athlete performance and are unique to only Mizuno. These technological advancements make Mizuno sporting equipment and apparel go the extra mile and keep you in tip top playing form no matter the sport or the conditions. Mizuno believes in making products that work in harmony with your body, helping you to be the best athlete you can be.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Out Of The Darkness Walk

Photos by OHventures and Jeremy Wadian Photography

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States - and it is 100% preventable.

A staggering 38,000 individuals take their own life each year in the United States - and over 1 million worldwide. Depression, anxiety, mental illness, alcohol & drug abuse, and the pressures & stresses of everyday life are all contributing factors that lead to suicide. But research, education, and communication are all ways that we can help save lives and create a world without suicide.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) has done remarkable work in the fight against this terrible affliction that has affected so many lives. Its keynote event each year is the Out of the Darkness Community Walk series, which take place in various cities all across the country. The walks symbolize walking out of the darkness of mental anguish and into an eternal life of peace. The AFSP's logo - a life preserver - reinforces this statement by signifying the support of loved ones rescuing those in despair.

There are numerous Out of the Darkness Community Walks throughout Ohio, including: Marietta, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Youngstown, and right here in my own neighborhood of North Canton.

My family banded together on Sunday, October 5, 2014, for the Northern Ohio Chapter of AFSP's very first Out Of The Darkness Community Walk at the Hoover Vikings Stadium in North Canton. Sadly, like far too  many families, my own family has experienced the horror and pain that comes with losing a loved one to suicide. My cousin took his own life in the year 2000 at the age of 18. It is heart-wrenching to know that he was feeling so much inner turmoil and sadness - a feeling we can never understand. Knowing this bright young man I called my cousin had gone way too soon, I knew we had to take part in this event to make our voices loud and proud in hopes that we can save others.

I created Team Forever For Evan to honor my cousin. The team consisted of myself, my mom, dad, two aunts, two cousins, one uncle, and two second cousins. We all wore medals with my cousin's photo on them (much like the medals we wore for my grandfather in the Alzheimer's walk), and we wore honor beads provided at the site. The beads were all different colors, each representing a different relationship to the disease. I wore blue (which shows support for the cause), and purple (for having lost a relative). Other colors were orange (for a sibiling), white (for a child), etc. 

Team Forever For Evan was just one of many dozens of teams that showed up that chilly afternoon. There were over 400 walkers gathered in the stadium! Some were wearing matching shirts, others were carrying signs and photos, and all were there to help address this terrible issue we face in society.

We heard speeches from the race organizers,stories from families personally affected from suicide, a prayer from a local pastor, and a message from the mayor of North Canton. Then, it was time to release yellow and blue balloons into the air to honor those we've lost. Before we walked, we also took part in a yoga demonstration on the football field. The yoga was especially important because not only does it help physically by stretching and strengthening, but it also helps mentally.

Walkers were then free to walk the track around the field as many times as they liked! There was uplifting music and loads of snacks, such as hot dogs and hot chocolate to warm us up.

It was announced during the event that the goal of $10,000 was far exceeded and that collectively, over $28,000 was raised for the cause!!

We were in awe at the amount of money raised and so thankful that so many others were so giving to Team Forever For Evan and all of the other groups represented that day. Life is precious and it's one big adventure - everyone deserves to enjoy life it its fullest. Consider helping the AFSP by participating in a walk or donating individually.

If you or someone you know are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255