Monday, September 29, 2014

Akron Marathon Relay Recap 2014

As a runner, you gain a special connection with the pavement that lies beneath you, and thus a special connection with the city in which that pavement lies.

I have a special connection to the City of Akron and its pavement that happens to be painted with a bright blue line all year long in honor of the Akron Marathon.

On September 27, 2014, that iconic blue line has been conquered, along with my great friends from Team Bootleggers. We were a co-ed team consisting of Matt (leg 1, 3.9 miles), Jim (leg 2, 4.8 miles), Beth (leg 3, 7.5 miles), Jen (leg 4, 4.5 miles), and myself (leg 5, 5.5 miles). We finished in 31st place out of 848 co-ed teams with a final time of 3:27:58!

This is the second year in which I ran in the Akron Marathon, and I have an entirely new perspective than I did one year ago. In 2013, I had just moved to the area to embark on a new journey: a brand new job in a brand new place. Running in the race last year felt like an initiation of sorts: a meet & greet icebreaker with the city where I now would be spending a great deal of my time.

Since then, I have grown very close with the greater Akron area, and the community has been nothing but warm and welcoming. In just one year I have become extremely acclimated to the town, I’ve met a ton of new people, and the once unfamiliar streets I ran on are now the backdrops to my day-to-day life.

I took pride in being a part of my team as the only person who is a local to Akron. The rest of my team was from one of my “other homes” – Columbus – and they drove up the night before (Friday). After having a carb-loaded pasta dinner with my former team (Running For Donuts), I met up with Team Bootleggers to hand out our matching shirts – special made dri-fit OHventures shirts!!

It was then time to rest up for the big day (trying to get adequate sleep is always the most stressful part of a race like this). I awoke at 4:45 AM and arrived in downtown Akron at 6:00 AM to meet my team (all clad in their OHventures shirts) at the start line. It was still dark out – and pretty chilly!

Jim and Beth headed to their respective starting lines while Jen and I accompanied Matt as he lined up in the appropriate starting corral. The sun was rising as the National Anthem was sung. Dawn was breaking and it was time for Matt to kick off the race as our starting leg!!

Jen and I then took our respective shuttles to our respective starting lines, mine being located at Firestone High School. It was only 7:30AM at this point, meaning that I had about 2 hours and 15 minutes before I was estimated to start running. I utilized this time to relax, stretch, mingle, and energize – all things you must do if you are a runner in any type of race!

When it finally came time for me to go (thanks to some updates via text message), the temperature had risen to about 75 degrees – perfection! I grabbed the slap bracelet from Jen, started my new Garmin watch, and turned on the jams on my iPod.

The 5.5 course took me east on Garman Road to the famed Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens – a notable landmark in the city, south on Portage Path past Portage Country Club, and south further on Market Street through Highland Square (this is where the most cheers came from)! The homestretch took place as I turned right onto Main Street, passing the Akron Civic and Lock 3 until I reached the finish line in the middle of the baseball field at Canal Park.

This was a very inspiring, challenging and rewarding race for me.

Inspiring because I felt such a sense of support and appreciation from strangers cheering as I ran by. There were children on the sidewalks with outstretched hands waiting for a high five from me. Even out of 20,000 runners, I managed to see friends along the course and at the finish line – Kyle, Mayor Drew, Matt & Andrew, Katie & The Donuts…the list goes on.

Challenging because I had severely sprained my ankle in early August while at a game in my adult soccer league. I had to nurse my foot with a great deal of ice, rest and medication the past 1.5 months, which set me back quite a bit, but also humbled me to appreciate when all my parts are in working order. Thankfully, I was well enough to run again. But there were a few hills on the leg of the course that pushed me to my limits, and there were times I didn’t think I could keep going. But I did.

Rewarding because I was able to actually cross the finish line with a stadium of people cheering! Being the anchor of the team is something everyone should experience. I was able to get all 5 of our medals after finishing, and hand them out to my teammates. We were sweaty and tired, but we had enough adrenaline to celebrate with our beverages of choice (beer, water, and chocolate milk)!

The Akron Marathon has proved to be, for the second year in a row, one of my finest moments in running. That’s because it’s one of those races where I have a special connection to the pavement. I challenge you go out and find your own special connections to the pavement that means to most to you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tree Frog Canopy Tours Photo Blog

Who: You and up to seven others in a group!
What: Tree Frog Canopy Tours
Where: Glenmont, OH
When: Spring, Summer, and Fall - day OR night!
Why: To zoom through the foliage up close and personal!
How: Save up about $75 and ignore that fear of heights - you'll be safe!

Photos by OHventures and Tree Frog Canopy Tours

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tree Frog Canopy Tours

Photos by OHventures and Tree Frog Canopy Tours

21899 Wally Road
Glenmont, OH 44628
(740) 599-2662

Zip lining is not for the squeamish - especially when you're talking about the tallest, fastest, and longest zip line in all of Ohio! Tree Frog Canopy Tours in Glenmont, Holmes County, holds that title with its highest point at 120 feet, its fastest clocked speed at 52 miles per hour, and over 4,000 feet of pure fun and adrenaline (the individual cables ranging from 145 feet to 1,100 feet long). 

The only zip lining complex in the northern part of the state (others available being Ozone Zipline Adventures in Lebanon, Valley Zipline Tours in Lancaster, and Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Rockbridge to name a few), Tree Frog Canopy Tours treats visitors as they are led through the forest via seven ziplines, two sky bridges, and two 50-foot rappels. It was certainly an adventure I could not turn down.

A group of six of us (me, Greg, Steve, Ryan, Marc, and Stacey) arrived on Labor Day weekend ready and roaring to go. Driving through the winding roads of the Mohican Country, we lost all phone service (something to keep in mind if you are trying to find your way with a GPS). The main office for Tree Frog were in a large lodge directly down the street from the famous Tree House Cabins.

You must make reservations prior to your zipline tour in order to ensure your spot. Groups can be as large as 8 individuals, all of whom must be at least 10 years in age and between 75-250 pounds in weight. 

Our tour took place at 1:30 PM, but we were required to arrive a half an hour early so that we could sign waivers and get suited up in our harnesses and helmets. Our tour guides were named Matt and Dan, two hilarious guys that eased any fears or hesitations we might have had, by cracking jokes and calming our nerves.

Not only were they personable, but the guides were extremely professional as well. All of the guides were trained to meet the standards of the Association for Challenge Course Technology (ACCT), a rigorous certification program to ensure that they are equipped with the essential knowledge when taking guests like us on our treetop treks.  

We were soon taken to the start of the zip line course by riding an ATV to the top of a large hill in the thick woods. There, we discovered a mini zipline that was no more than 8 feet off the ground and a few yards in length. This is where we did our practice runs so we could get used to sitting in the harness and practice the braking techniques. 

After this crash course, it was time to ZIP! I will admit, I was a bit shaky on the first platform. It is only natural to be afraid of being up so high with nothing but a cable holding you up. But, I just had to remind myself that we were 100% safe. Once I had that in my head, it was smooth sailing! One by one, we each stood at the edge of the platform, lifted our legs and off we went, zooming to the next platform! One of the guides would stand on the other platform to let you know when to put the brakes on so you didn't go barreling into the tree. It was a good system!

This is the ONLY zipline tour in Ohio that uses a dual cable system for faster speeds and smoother rides. This was evident as we progressed through the course, zipping on longer and longer cables along the way. The group became more comfortable as we went along, and we started incorporating fun moves in the mix, such as the cannonball! 

Another added touch at Tree Frog Canopy Tous that you can't find at most other zip line establishments was the rappelling platforms! Here, we had to lower ourselves from the 50-foot and 60-foot platforms down to the ground by using a rope attached to our harness and a pulley system. Again, the hardest part is trusting that you can dangle over the edge of the platform. Once you conquer that fear inside your head, you can let go and enjoy the ride! The rappelling might actually have been my favorite part of the tour.

In all, the experience at Tree Frog Canopy Tours was unlike any other zip line adventure I have ever embarked on. If you are looking for something a little different, Tree Frog Canopy Tours also offers Night Zips with glow-in-the-dark and moonlit elements. You also can purchase a photo CD of your experience, or rent a GoPro camera to fasten to yourself and record the trip from a one-of-a-kind vantage point! 

If this is on your bucket list, I highly suggest you book your tour NOW. Don't let the fear of heights get in your way of enjoying this exciting, safe, and unique thrill.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Discover Bon Appetit Appalachia!

Throw out your preconceived notions about Appalachia, because a new campaign has been launched with the goal of attracting visitors and generating interest in the area through the power of food. The project is entitled Bon Appetit Appalachia, and it was created by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in order to bust myths surrounding the 13-state, 205,000-square-mile region.

Bon Appetit Appalachia accomplishes this by showcasing amazing innovations that an influx of farmers are introducing to the scene, creating things that are true to Appalachia: resourceful and ingenius.

A total of 32 Ohio counties are considered Appalachian, ranging as far as Southeast Clermont County, to as far as Northeast Ashtabula County.

Dozens of locations within Ohio's Applachian foothills are distinctive local food destinations selected as part of Bon Appetit Appalachia (see full map)! These include:

I had the privilege to witness a glimpse (and sample a taste) of the farm-to-fork concept on a recent visit to Athens County - the setting for a large number of these culinary destinations in the state. The two main stops on my excursion were Jackie O's Pub & Brewery, and the aforementioned Casa Nueva.

Jackie O's embodies the Bon Appetit Appalachia concept in a number of ways, as evidenced by its slogan: "sustainable crafted with a purpose." This incredibly popular brand has a great presence in the area, with both its downtown brewpub and the nearby taproom and production facility.

A visit to the production facility gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how the local beers are brewed, using 100 percent locally grown black walnuts, pawpaws, hops, apples, quinces, peaches, coffee, and raspberries (which lends itself to its biggest seller, Raspberry Wheat). Not only can you enjoy this amazing beer at these two locations in Athens, but you can now find Jackie O's at approximately 1,200 bars and stores from Canton to Cincinnati.

Without a doubt, the main course and the leading star of the booming foodie scene and locavore movement in Athens (and perhaps all of Ohio) is Casa Nueva. This Mexican-inspired restaurant has been serving dishes consisting of 99 percent local ingredients, since 1985. Using only local ingredients (most from within a 30-mile radius, but extending to a 150-mile radius if needed) ensures freshness, and keeps money within the community.

I chowed down on a rolled chicken enchilada topped with black bean salsa, with a small cheese empanada and jasmine rice on the side. It blew my mind to know that this was completely local, and gave me pride to be a part of Bon Appetit Appalachia!