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

Adopt Your Own Wine At Camelot Cellars

Photos by OHventures

I have been coming to Camelot Cellars in the Short North in Columbus for years - in groups to celebrate a birthday, with a couple of friends for a special event, and even by myself for a quick glass of vino after a long day of work. All are enjoyable experiences, but what makes Camelot Cellars stand out in my opinion is that they offer customers the chance to handcraft (or adopt) their own wine!

The handcrafting process allows you the chance to make your very own wine using the equipment on site at Camelot. You come in and taste various wines to see which you want to make, then you are guided through the process - adding the chosen grape/fruit juice(s), correct amount of yeast, oak, etc. Then, you come back about 12 weeks later to complete the process, which consists of bottling, corking, capping, and labeling (you can design your own labels too).

The entire wine making experience can be read in full here on OHventures in Part I and Part II.

This year, instead of making my own wine at Camelot Cellars, I ADOPTED my own wine instead.

What does that mean? Well, if you don't have 12 weeks, you can skip the first step and "ADOPT" wine - meaning, they have the wine already fermented in a large container ready for you to just come in and bottle, cork, cap, and label!

The wine this year was "Blush Mime Blush Wine" (an inside joke) - an Australian Grenache Rose!

The wine label I created for my adopted wine (pink for breast cancer awareness in October)

Wine adoption was just as fun as wine making (just a tad less personal and a bit more expensive - but all worth it!). I brought my family with me and it was an awesome bonding time - and a memory creator for sure. I buy a case that I give out to everyone as Christmas gifts each year - personalized and unique!

So, there ya go! Camelot Cellars is your answer if you want to handcraft or bottle up your own wine without all of the crazy equipment at home. Do it now!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

West Side Market

Photos by OHventures

West Side Market 
1979 West 25th Street
Cleveland, OH
(216) 664-3387

The West Side Market is notorious for its world famous cuisines, and has even appeared on television programs such as Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Man Vs. Food. The market includes a series of vendors of specialty foods, such as breads, seafood, meats, spices, produce, fudge, popcorn, and the list goes on and on and on AND ON.

The market is advertised as Cleveland's Oldest and Most Trusted Market (with its origins dating back to the 1840s), and is on the National Registry of Historical Places. It was dedicated and opened to the public back in 1912 (just over a century ago!), and can't be missed with its 137 foot tall clock tower! You'll be in awe of this place!

Today the market is home to over 100 vendors of great ethnic diversity. This past weekend, I was able to see this firsthand for myself when my Cleveland friend Emily and I explored the market! 

Talk about an adventure for your taste buds! There were so many things to see, taste, and smell at the West Side Market. I could spend hours and hours there, but unfortunately we only had just over an hour to cover the entire locale! We started in the produce section, where we were approached by vendor after vendor attempting to sell their fruits and veggies to us. It was a late Saturday afternoon, so they were likely trying to get rid of all of their tasty delicacies before they went bad (the market is off on Sundays). We made a beeline straight to the main area of the marketplace (signified by the beautiful brick ceiling).

I blew a TON of money REAL quickly. It's easy to do if you visit the West Side Market. There are so many high quality foods that capture your attention, that it is hard to say no. Here is the lowdown of what I bought: caramel & pumpkin flavored popcorn, and chocolate covered pretzels from Campbell's Popcorn Shop; cheddar spread and a 1 lb. bag of "bits and pieces" from The Cheese Shop; a cup of dark roast from City Roast Coffee & Tea; canollis from Theresa's Bakery; and nutella and banana crepes from Crepes De Luxe.

Eating our crepes at the famed West Side Market in the CLE!

I was glad that we only had so much time at the West Side Market, or else I would have spent WAY too much money. It is an adventure in so many ways: culture wrapped in history wrapped in cuisine. It is something you must do when visiting the CLE!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Candy Stick Photography

Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.

Seeing Ohio (and the world) through adventuring over the years has been a wonderful journey. But it wouldn't be the same without having photos to document my travels and experiences. Oftentimes, photos are far more powerful than the written or spoken word. That's why I am a photo junkie, and I encourage everyone to bring a camera with them to capture memories, moments, and magic.

That said, I have enormous respect for those who have a passion for photography and make it their living. It's truly an artform that is essential in our lives. My friend Laurel is one of those artists, and she has established her own company, Candy Stick Photography, based out of the Akron-Canton area. Laurel's philosphy for taking great pictures is "less posing, more fun!" She loves taking pictures that show every day life and the love between family members and friends. 
Her and I went on a photo shoot for Candy Stick Photography, and while there were definitely some poses in the mix, she was able to capture the passion I have for adventure with one of my favorite spots - Portage Lakes - as the backdrop. Take some time to browse through these pics and be sure to check out Candy Stick Photography for yourself!