Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pro Football Hall Of Fame (Half) Marathon Recap

Photo by OHventures

The night before the 2nd Annual Pro Football Hall of Fame (Half) Marathon in Canton, I had a major case of the pre-race jitters. And rightfully so. It was no one's fault but my own, but I had not trained nearly as adequately as I should have - and I knew better. Last year, I followed a strict 100-Day Training Program and successfully completed the half marathon with a landslide PR. This year, I slacked off - majorly.

Like a kid who didn't study enough for his big final exam and still hoped he'd get an A+, I didn't train for the race and yet I hoped I'd still succeed. I posted on Facebook at 11:00 PM the night before asking for good vibes and positive energy to be sent my way (and I don't believe in "luck," but I was willing to take that too).I knew it would be quite the challenge, and so I was relying on words of encouragement leading up to the race to truly be the motivation propelling me through. 

This race would prove how running can often be more mental than physical in many aspects. I awoke the next morning before dawn and had plenty of messages waiting for me on my phone. Words from friends and family members near and far, saying things like:
  • No doubt you do well! You're a superhero!
  • Just get to 7 miles, and it's cake from there!
  • Praying for your strength and endurance!
  • Do it for Slider! (that one was from my vet)
  • I love you! (and that one was from my mom)
  • You got this! Can't stop, won't stop (in the style of P. Diddy)
  • Say out loud "I am prepared" and mean it! It is 90% mental. 
  • The worst that can happen is I will see you in the medical tent (said my friend Simas, a doctor working at the emergency aid station)
  • At least you don't have to run in those heels (advice given to both me and fellow runner Blake, in reference to our Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event two days prior)
  • Just run, and sing the top 50 songs in your head to make the time fly....and YOU fly through this race!
  • You are more prepared than you think! One foot in front of the other!
And, just like that, my attitude changed. My outlook improved. And there's no doubt in my mind that these very words were the reason I was able to reach that finish line.

The bitter cold did NOT help (I love Ohio and all, but DANG it's been cold for far too long). It was a mere 39 degrees when I made it to Fawcett Stadium, where the starting line was. I spent a lot of time fueling and stretching (in hopes to make up for my lack of training) and I zoned out with a quick prayer and moment of meditation in order psych myself out for the 13.1 miles that lay ahead. After the national anthem and invocation, we were off and running. There was no turning back.

At this point, some of you might be wondering what fun it is for me to even do what I did. Why even put myself through the anxiety, apprehension, and discomfort, especially if I wasn't even willing to put the time and effort into preparing for it? (I should clarify that I did train for this half marathon, but not to the extent that I should have). There are 3 simple reasons: 1) I love a challenge, 2) running is addicting, and 3) I am not a quitter.

It's remarkable what the body can do, especially when you have a little bit of drive and a whole lot of heart. You are stronger than you think you are. 

The 13.1 mile course was a roller coaster ride - and not just because of the hilly terrain. There were times I was speeding along on cloud nine, a smile from ear to ear. Even past the halfway point, I was on track to breaking my PR once again! But then there were moments of doubt and even some brief moments of apathy - little voices in my head just telling me to mosey along and take my time. But then the crowd of strangers motivated me to keep going. 

The one sign summed up my appreciation for spectators: "RUN, RANDOM STRANGER, RUN!" How cool is it that these random strangers take the time to root for you? It's almost better than your loved ones cheering for you! 

One small boy had a sign with a hand drawn on it that said "TOUCH HERE FOR POWER BOOST." So, of course, I touched it. And, of course, it helped give me a power boost! Another young kid was standing on the sidelines on crutches, extending his hand for a high five. It really inspired me and was exactly what I needed at mile 11 of the course (especially since my knees were hurting so badly).

Finally, I made it back to Fawcett Stadium to the finish line (above) and I was ecstatic! I clocked in at 2:08 - which was way off from my PR of 1:54, but I will take it! There was definitely a sense of pride that came over me when I was given my fleece blanket and finisher's medal. 

I certainly do NOT recommend the lack of training for anyone interested in running a long distance race such as a half marathon. However, I do recommend surrounding yourself with encouraging people who will set you up for success by getting you in the right state of mind!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paint The Night Purple

Photos by OHventures

There are many galas and receptions I attend each year, and I rarely post about them. However, this one in particular means a great deal to me.

The Inaugural "Paint The Night Purple" benefit for the Alzheimer's Association (Greater East Ohio Chapter) took place this Saturday, April 25 at the Lake Forest Country Club in Hudson. The night was to honor the thousands of people living with Alzheimer's disease in the region. In the 17 counties served by this chapter, there are approximately 60,000 individuals living with Alzheimer's or another related dementia. The proceeds raised during this gala would go to support local programs, services, and much-needed research.

A view from the Lake Forest Country Club

There was certainly no shortage of purple (the official color of Alzheimer's Disease) at the event. Vibrant decorations, festive clothing worn by attendees (including me and my violet polka-dotted tie), and even purple-colored drinks helped to reflect the continuing determination given to those who have suffered or are currently living with memory loss. I was joined by my friends Kyla, Jay, and Katie (of Life Is Katetastic). We took many photos to showcase our matching purple duds as we perused the silent auction items (spoiler alert: I won - via a generous monetary donation - a great Trader Joe's gift basket).

Soon, it was time for dinner accompanied by a presentation of the 2015 Champion Award to Dr. Maryjo Cleveland. After her touching remarks about working with a local family combating this terrible disease, we were all drying our eyes of tears. Portions of her story reminded me of my family's own experiences, when my grandfather had Alzheimer's disease, losing his battle in 2005. It reminded me also of the time my family banded together for the Walk To End Alzheimer's, in which we participated to raise awareness and funds.

It was troublesome to learn the facts surrounding this disease. 1 in 3 seniors will die from Alzheimer's. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. And it is the only cause of death in the "Top 10" that cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured. Yet, comparatively, funding for Alzheimer's research pales to that of other diseases that affect fewer people and have known cures. It is estimated that in the next 10 years, the number of people living with Alzheimer's will increase by 40% of what it is today. This is why - more than ever before - it is important to give appropriate attention to Alzheimer's Disease.

When someone loses their memory, they lose a sense of who they are as an individual. Who are we without our memories? What do we do when we don't have a sense of purpose or an understanding of our own past? How can one live when his or her own brain not only forgets the autobiographical details of life, but also forgets how to function? It's heart-wrenching to think of the dismal realities that are the answers to these questions. Which is why we must take a stand, to protect ourselves and our loved ones from this frightening disease.

Consider donating to the Alzheimer's Association Chapter nearest you, and also consider participating in a local Walk To End Alzheimer's in your area.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Coshocton Three Rivers Wine Trail

Photos by OHventures 

If you need one word to convince you to explore Coshocton County, that word would be: alpacas. I bet you didn't see that one coming!

There are a lot of hidden hotspots - including alpacas - tucked away in the rolling Appalachian foothills of Southeast-Central Ohio. One of the best ways in which you can experience this area is by taking a day-trip on the Three Rivers Wine Trail. Make sure you have a designated driver in tow, because there is a lot of wine to be had on the trail! There are 4 major wineries that can be found within a 15-minute drive of one another: Raven's Glenn Winery, Rainbow Hills Winery, the Yellow Butterfly Winery (home of the alpacas, which we will get to later), and Heritage Vineyards.

It being my birth-month (when you turn 30, you're allowed to celebrate all month), I wanted to whet my whistle with some new Ohio wines. The Three Rivers Wine Trail is located just over an hour south of where I live (straight down 77S from Canton). It was a clear blue Saturday afternoon, and we were set to cram in all of the wineries in just a few hours. You can easily spend a couple of days on the winery tour in Coshocton County, especially with great lodging.

Our first stop was Raven's Glenn, a Tuscan-style winery and Italian restaurant where every meal can be paired with the perfect wine. In fact, a great wine-buddy of mine, Rick, told me we needed to stop here for food (which is why we made it our first stop, to make sure we had a good base of good food in our bellies). There are usually private wine tours available (you must call ahead for reservations), but since that was not offered on the day we went, we went straight to the tasting room to order some flights!

When I am at an Ohio winery, I tend to try the wines that are made with Ohio grapes, if possible. An entire flight - "Vintner's Reserve" - was available with exactly that! I tried the White October (honey-citrus taste), Autumn Interlude (pineapple/grapefruit undertones), Vino Della Casa (an off dry red that can be served chilled or warm), R2 (a dry red with licorice tones), Moon Dreams (a very jammy finish with high alcohol content and fantastic bottle art), Sonata Evening (wine port), Scarlet Raven (red port), and Vidal Blanc (ice wine). I took home a bottle of Moon Dreams!

The dining experience was just as tasty as the wine. In fact, there was red zinfandel marinara sauce on my lasagna order. The red zin marinara also accompanied the yummy fried oysters appetizers I scarfed down (pictured above). 

The restaurant had large open windows facing the Tuscawaras River. It was pretty darn gorgeous, I must say. We spent a LOT of time at Raven's Glenn, which shows how much of a fan we are.

Before heading to the next winery, we stopped at the Unusual Junction located right across the street. It caught our eye because of the old train cars outside. The best way to describe this place is that it is, for lack of better terms, an "unusual junction"! It's a gift shop that you just have to see for yourself!

Moving on, we headed to Rainbow Hills, which is way off the beaten path in a gorgeous wooded area. Here, you can stay overnight at the Inn at Rainbow Hills Bed & Breakfast. Or, you can just stop in for a few samples of wine accompanied by cheese plates while sitting on spacious wooden decks. In summer, they have barbecue nights where you can grill your own steak and chicken! American grape and French hybrid varieties are grown and used for producing high quality wine. I took home a bottle of Drumming Grouse, my favorite of the bunch we tried.

Time was flying by and our stay at Rainbow Hills had to be cut short so we could make it to The Yellow Butterfly Winery. There was no mistaking the big bright yellow barn plastered against the lush green countryside. It was cheerful, inviting, and enchanting. The barn is almost 100 years old, with a deck overlooking the Blue Ridge foothills. Adjacent to the barn is the Yellow Butterfly BNB, which was also another lodging option if we were to have chosen to stay the night. 

We were rather "wined out" by this time, but I couldn't pass up sampling at least a few of their top sellers. They have a lot of fruity varieties, such as Apple Delight, Blackberry Butterfly, Golden Apricot, and Passionate Peach. After all of that sweetness, I needed to taste a dry red - so I ordered their Grande Red to enjoy on the patio.

In the back is where you can normally find their alpacas grazing on the hillsides. It was too early in the season for us to see them for ourselves, but my fascination with these weird looking creatures will surely bring me back soon. In lieu of seeing alpacas firsthand, I bought a rug made out of 100% Ohio alpaca fur! It was too hard to pass up!

Unfortunately, it became too late in the evening to head to the Heritage Vineyards, however, this just gives us one more excuse to come back in the summer for another round of the Three Rivers Wine Trail in Coshocton County!

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes - Akron Photo Blog

Who: 1,000s of brave men (and women)
What: Walk A Mile In Her Shoes
When: Many different dates throughout the year (our recent event on April 24)
Where: Hundreds of cities across the world (ours was in Akron)
Why: To raise awareness and help eliminate sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence
How: Raising money and throwing on women's high heels!

Walk A Mile In Her Shoes - Akron Recap

Through my work at a local health system, I have been highly involved with trying to address the hard-hitting issue of sexual assault, domestic violence and rape in Northeast Ohio. My eyes have been opened to the dark, heavy and emotional details that surround the victims of such heinous acts of crime within Akron, and all over the world. It has been a personal and professional goal to enact change within the community, and it has been at the top of my priority lists when coming in to work each day.

Change happened in a big way this past Friday, April 24. The 10th Annual "Walk A Mile In Her Shoes" event took place in downtown Akron to benefit the Rape Crisis Center of Medina & Summit Counties. This is an international men's march to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. You might remember my prior participation in a similar event in Canton last October. This year, I stepped it up a notch and became a Team Captain for a local young professionals group, Torchbearers.

Photo by OHventures - Team Torchbearers

The event is meant to make a BOLD statement, by requiring that every man taking part also wear high heels (or another form of women's shoes). This takes courage, and it forces men to swallow their pride. Yes, there is a slight degree of "embarrassment" that comes with being a man wearing heels walking down the street. But, in reality, doing so is not embarrassing. It's powerful. It shows that you can put your petty ego aside and stand up tall (even taller when you have heels) for a cause that needs attention. And, let me tell you, those shoes most definitely grab people's attention!

The event sheds light on the fact that sexual assault does happen in our own backyards - and it can be happening to the people we know or interact with each day (studies show 1 in 6 women will experience sexual assault at one point in their lives). It is meant to bring awareness to the issue by having men consider what it is like to walk a mile - literally and figuratively - in women's shoes. 

There are aches and blisters that come from shoving our giant hairy feet into skinny stilettos made for our female counterparts. But that is nothing compared to the pain that women experience as victims of rape. It truly is a clever way to put things in to perspective.

Our team consisted of myself, and a number of other men in Torchbearers: Paul, Willie, Chip, and Blake (our MVP, for raising the most money). Our friends Nicole and Amanda also joined us to support the cause. Collectively, we raised over $2,300, making us the #10 Top Fundraising Team, in dollar amounts (out of 67 teams total! In total, there were over 1,000 people in attendance, and the event raised over $100,000 - the largest amount (by far) in the event's decade-long history!

The walk began at Lock 3 Park and circled through the streets of downtown Akron. Our teammate, Paul, cranked it up a notch and wore full make-up (to match his full beard) and fishnet stockings - something that he vowed to do if he raised over $500. We definitely had a lot of laughs on our walk, especially when Paul's heel got stuck in the crack of a sidewalk, and when Blake pushed his triplets in a stroller while wearing stilettos (an impressive sight).

However, while laughter and camaraderie were present, just as present were our thoughts of those who have been victims. Those people who we like to now call survivors. It is for them that we did what we did. And we hope that the money raised at this event - and all similar events across the country - can help educate and prevent rape and sexual assault.