Car Less Ohio

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Category Archives: Events

How to Run a Marathon

Back in 2010, I decided in the Spring that I would run a marathon that year. I looked up a training plan, but that’s about as far as it went.

I do the events and adventures that I do for my own enjoyment, not to impress anyone or prove anything to anyone. But I have to admit, I’d always wanted to run a marathon just so I could check that item off the list, and whenever the subject comes up, I could just sit back, breathe in pensively, and casually say, “Yeah, I’ve done that.”

Running is something I’ve done on and off over the years, just to mix it up and try to do some cross-training outside cycling. Getting back into running after getting away from it gets harder every time. The first few times I run, I think, “This sucks; this is why I don’t do this.” Then, I eventually get my running legs back, and start to enjoy it again, and the thoughts start churning again of, “Y’know, I bet I could do a marathon if I put my mind to it.”

In mid May of 2017, my girlfriend and I signed up for the 10K run in the Cleveland Marathon. Following the race, as we sat in the beer garden and enjoyed a post-race refreshment, I watched as some half-marathon runners arrived, and later some full marathoners. The thought hit me again, “I want to do that.”

The Towpath Marathon is the perennial first-timers marathon. It’s on the mostly unpaved and flat Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, practically in my backyard. It’s held the first Sunday in October. I made up my mind in early June and registered. So, I had roughly four months to train.

I Googled “four month marathon training plan” and came across something that looked reasonable. I printed it out, hand-wrote the dates for each week, and stuck it up on the refrigerator.

MarathonTrainingPlanThe plan involved five days of running per week. Fridays were rest days; cross-training with a different type of activity was suggested on Mondays. The longest run of each week was on Saturdays, with short to medium runs the remaining days. The length of the runs reached their peak during the 13th week, then tapered back down during the final three weeks leading up to the race.

I didn’t want to give up my cycling that much, so I figured I’d plan on running three or four days a week. Working retail, it usually wasn’t practical to do the longest run on Saturdays, so I’d typically do it on my mid-week day off, usually Wednesday or Thursday. I’d do a short run early in the week, and a medium run late in the week, and sometimes squeeze in and extra short or long run on one of the remaining days.

Most of the time, I ran on the Towpath, but sometimes on the streets in my neighborhood, or on some private trails in a housing development adjacent to my neighborhood. Once in a while, I ran on the Buckeye Trail near Peninsula. I like trail running; the non-paved surface does feel easier on my joints, plus it kinda has the same vibe as mountain biking.

The Towpath Trail provided the ideal terrain for training. I have been biking on it for fifteen years, and ride some part of it at least once a week, either as part of my commute to and from work, or just for fun. Name any two points on the trail, and I can tell you the mileage between them. This would help in planning my training runs. A coworker suggested that the Columbus Marathon would be a better “first” marathon. The Towpath has limited access for spectators, so much of the time, you’re running on your own. The Columbus course is also very flat, and being in the city, there are crowds to cheer you on every step of the way. The crowd support is not a big deal to me, and I never get tired of the Towpath scenery.

I still biked a couple days a week; not as much as in a typical year, but enough that I still felt like I was getting my fix. My girlfriend and I signed up to do RAGBRAI, so she was actually riding a lot more than I, often getting in long rides on her own. We rode our only century of the year on July 9, to Massillon and back on the Towpath.

Immediately after returning home from RAGBRAI week, I flew out to Nevada for a work event, so there was basically two weeks of ignoring the training plan, although riding about 60 miles a day for seven days straight across Iowa kept me in good cardio shape. I worked back into the plan somehow without falling too far behind.

Some people register for a half-marathon and train for it. My first half-marathon was just another inauspicious check-mark on the training calendar, and it came on August 17. It was a cool day for August, with a light misty rain. I actually felt the worst that I had ever felt on a training run; I think mainly because I underestimated the water and snacks that I’d need. I ran from home, with the plan to being to meet my girlfriend at the Rockside Road trailhead on the Towpath. I ran through a couple of the local neighborhoods, then hooked up with the Sagamore Creek Trail, which was more overgrown with weeds than I expected, so the required bushwhacking slowed me down a bit. I got on the Towpath at the Frazee House Trailhead. When I got to Rockside Road, I was still a bit short of the needed miles, so I continued north on the Towpath. I’ve biked that stretch dozens of times, and it seems to go in the blink of an eye, but running it for my last mile seemed to take forever, all the while as I was doing the mental calculations for when I needed to turn around to get exactly 13.1 miles. The upward slope of the first of the trail’s suspension bridges loomed before me, but fortunately, I reached my turn-around point just before I got to the base of the bridge. Back at the parking lot, it was 13.1 miles exactly when I reached my girlfriend waiting with her car.

In the later weeks of training, the medium-length runs were starting to get long enough that I’d have to get up extra early to do them before work. It was still dark in a couple of cases, although never enough that I had to resort to running on the Towpath with a headlamp.

I believe I hit my physical peak on the day of my training mileage peak. On September 13, I did a 20-mile run on the Towpath, and felt fantastic. I even toyed with the idea of just running an extra 6.2 miles and getting it over with.

My food and drink plan for training runs was pretty simple. For any run over five miles, I’d bring a water bottle with a hand holster. I’d eat a packet of GU every 5 miles. Running on the Towpath afforded places to refill the water bottle, usually at the Boston Store Visitor Center and the Hunt Farm Visitor Center. Post-run, I’d recover using protein powder mixed in milk with some Hershey’s chocolate syrup to make it more palatable. I tracked my runs using Strava on an Apple Watch 2. I found that I only had any chafing issues on runs of about 8 miles or more. So, on those runs, I started using Body Glide. My shoes were a pair of New Balance 481 trail running shoes. I had a pair of Pearl Izumi eMotion Road M3 shoes for street running.


I wasn’t training for speed; I just wanted to get the miles in. Occasionally, though, I would do some interval work by sprinting for about 50 yards every mile or two. My goal for the race was to beat five hours.

The final week prescribed the last training run of two miles, three days before the event, followed by two days of rest. I ran those two miles in the early evening on Thursday, October 5, and ironically, it was probably my second-hardest training run, after the half-marathon run. I picked up my packet and race bib number without incident on Saturday at Boston Mills Ski Resort.

20171008-towpathmarathon-bibRace morning was the typical routine. Wake up before the crack of dawn, eat some yogurt and granola for breakfast, get dressed and get in the car to head to the race. My girlfriend signed up for the 10K race, and fortunately, the start and finish for both the marathon and 10K were close to Boston Mills, so we didn’t have to deal with any funny business of drop one another off, or taking a shuttle before or after the race. We got there in time to park at Boston Mills, took our last-minute bathroom breaks, and walked a bit up Riverview Road to the starting area.

While waiting for the start, I had an interesting conversation with a pace runner. I don’t remember what pace the guy was setting, but he said he had run the Towpath Marathon a few times before, and this was his first time being a pacer. I asked him how he kept a consistent pace. He said that he set his GPS watch to show his pace as one of the data fields on the screen, and just keeps an eye on it to stay within range. He also said, though, that some experienced runners just have a natural ability to keep a chosen pace. He had a trainer that he worked with in the past, and she had this ability. She would say, for example, “Okay, today we’re doing eight-minute miles,” and she did not use any technological aids. Sure enough, following the training run, his GPS report would indicate that’s what he did, within a couple of seconds.

At the starting horn, we ran south on Riverview Road, turned left onto Boston Mills Road, then made a right onto the Towpath Trail. As I headed south, it seemed like the other runners around me were so serious and quiet, so as we went through the railroad tunnel about a mile north of Peninsula, I let out a bit “Whoop-whoop!” and a few other people chuckled and joined in.

The turnaround point was just a bit south of Ira Road. Along the way, I used the rest stops to top off my water bottle, and grab a GU, banana, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A couple miles south of Peninsula on the return, I hit the half-marathon mark and was still feeling pretty good (and that ended up being a personal best for a half-marathon).

I distinctly remember the point where I started to hit a wall. It was between the Ohio Turnpike overpass and the Boston Store Visitor Center, around the 16-mile mark. My legs started feeling tired; my feet started feeling heavy. I just thought, “10 miles sounds like a lot, but you can push through it.”

The northern turnaround was the trail loop under the State Route 82 bridge. As I approached the Station Road intersection just before that, I was happy to see my girlfriend there cheering me on. After her 10K, she had time to go home, shower, eat lunch, and get back to the course to see me.

Following the turnaround, it was about five miles to go to the finish. My pace had slowed considerably, but other than snack and bathroom breaks, I kept running the whole time. During the last stretch between Highland Road and Boston Mills Road, my “running” was barely a trot. I came upon a woman who appeared to be in her 70s, who was alternating between running and walking, but I couldn’t keep up with her.

I finally arrived in the parking lot of the Boston Store Visitor Center and crossed the finish line, making my five-hour goal with about 3 minutes to spare. My girlfriend was there and managed to get a cell phone snapshot.


The finish was followed up by some recovery snacks and a celebratory beer, then a celebratory cake at home (my favorite, Boston Creme).


The next day for work, I decided that yes, I would “be that guy” and wear the race t-shirt the day after the race.


So, yes, I learned that if I put my mind to it, I CAN run a marathon. Of course, I also learned that “putting your mind to it” is the real trick in the process. Running a marathon is easy; it’s training for a marathon that’s hard.

Cleveland Camp Coffee Smackdown

Inspired by this article from Outside Magazine, we decided to have our own camp coffee smackdown to compare and rate the different methods of making coffee outside.

We planned to arrive just before sunrise at the Beaver Marsh boardwalk on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I drove to the parking lot on Bolanz Road and bundled up for the brisk (about 40 degrees) morning ride of about 1.5 miles down to Beaver Marsh.


Morning mist over the Cuyahoga River


I was the first to arrive, but Brent showed up soon after. We were both on our way to getting our water boiling when Chris arrived.

Brent had boiling water first with his MSR WhisperLite Internationale stove (but a comparison of camp stoves is a topic for a completely separate discussion).

My coffee contribution came from a GSI JavaPress and a GSI Camp Espresso Maker. Brent uses an AeroPress, and Chris brought a Moka Pot and some Starbucks Via instant coffee.

So, the verdict? My preference was my own GSI JavaPress, but mainly because I put my own effort into it, which always makes something more enjoyable, and it’s what I’m used to. A shot of espresso added made it even better. Brent preferred the AeroPress for mostly the same reason — he drinks AeroPress coffee every day. Chris preferred the AeroPress as well. He said his Moka Pot coffee tasted kind of bitter, but I actually like that, and made it my second choice. Personally, when you’re standing in the cold, any hot coffee tastes good, and I don’t have the most discerning taste buds to begin with. And, this wasn’t a blind taste test by any means.

Conclusion; if you’re looking for another definitive answer as to what makes the best camp coffee, you’re not going to find it here. I suggest you plan your own camp coffee smackdown to find out! Get out and enjoy the outdoors with some friends, which is what this is all about!

I followed up our coffee with a solo ride further south on the Towpath Trail to Clinton and back, for a total of about 52 miles, a nice casual day ride.

P.S. Is camp cooking legal in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park? Probably not…


Sunrise over the Beaver Marsh in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Report and photos from today’s Cleveland Camp Coffee

It ended up being a solo outing for me. The weather felt more pleasant than the mid-40’s temperature and the gray sky would suggest. At least coffee outside alone is better than coffee inside, accompanied by the soothing hum of traffic on State Route 8.

Cleveland Camp Coffee

20150617-clecampcoffee-3-loInspired by #LARiverCampCoffee (, the movement for mini-adventures in Cleveland for when we don’t have time for real adventures continues!

#CLECampCoffee is a casual gathering for lovers of bicycles, camping, and coffee.

Arrive by bike, and use your camp-cooking gear to make coffee for yourself and to share, and enjoy conversation with your fellow campers.

The rules aren’t strictly enforced, so you can come by foot or car if you like, and you can stop for coffee at a (preferably local) shop on the way. Tea and hot chocolate drinkers are welcome, too!

When: Friday, April 29, 2016, 8:30am
Where: The Split on the Summit Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail, near State Route 8, just south of State Route 303

Check for updates on the Event page on Facebook.

Photos from Cleveland Camp Coffee #3

Two of our past regulars could not make it today, but we had three new faces. Maybe this thing is taking off after all? Stay tuned for next month!

Cleveland Camp Coffee #3

20150513-clecampcoffee-2Inspired by #LARiverCampCoffee (, the movement for mini-adventures in Cleveland for when we don’t have time for real adventures continues!

#CLECampCoffee is a casual gathering for lovers of bicycles, camping, and coffee.

Arrive by bike, and use your camp-cooking gear to make coffee for yourself and to share, and enjoy conversation with your fellow campers.

The rules aren’t strictly enforced, so you can come by foot or car if you like, and you can stop for coffee at a (preferably local) shop on the way. Tea and hot chocolate drinkers are welcome, too!

When: Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 8:00am
Where: The Beach on the Cuyahoga River

To get to “The Beach on the Cuyahoga River,” start at the Harvard Avenue trailhead of the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, go south about 1.3 miles, then turn right onto the Six Mile Flats Loop Trail. Go across the bridge, the bushwhack over to the sandy shore of the river.

Check for updates on the Event page on Facebook.

Cleveland Camp Coffee #2

20150415-clecampcoffee-2Inspired by #LARiverCampCoffee (, the movement for mini-adventures in Cleveland for when we don’t have time for real adventures continues!

#CLECampCoffee is a casual gathering for lovers of bicycles, camping, and coffee.

Arrive by bike, and use your camp-cooking gear to make coffee for yourself and to share, and enjoy conversation with your fellow campers.

The rules aren’t strictly enforced, so you can come by foot or car if you like, and you can stop for coffee at a (preferably local) shop on the way. Tea drinkers are welcome, too!

When: Wednesday, May 13, 2015, 8:00am
Where: The Towpath Trail boardwalk along the Beaver Marsh in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Meet around 7:30am at Century Cycles in Peninsula if you want to join a short ride down. A couple of us may continue south on the Towpath Trail for a longer day ride.

Check for updates on the Event page on Facebook.

Trip Report: Cleveland Camp Coffee #1

Other than a little miscommunication about out group’s start time to ride into town, the first Cleveland Camp Coffee was a success, with three participants. If anyone showed up at 7:00am, we’re sorry we missed you; we got there a little after 8:00am. Stay tuned for details about the next gathering!

Come to Cleveland Camp Coffee #1


Inspired by #LARiverCampCoffee (, let’s start a movement for mini-adventures in Cleveland for when we don’t have time for real adventures!

#CLECampCoffee is a casual gathering for lovers of bicycles, camping, and coffee.

Arrive by bike, and use your camp-cooking gear to make coffee for yourself and to share, and enjoy conversation with your fellow campers.

The rules aren’t strictly enforced, so you can come by foot or car if you like, and you can stop for coffee at a (preferably local) shop on the way. Tea drinkers are welcome, too!

When: Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 7:00-8:00am
Where: The Scranton Spoon

The Scranton Spoon is the nickname given to the observation deck/dock that extends over the Cuyahoga River from the new section of the Towpath Trail in the Scranton Flats. If you’re coming from the south, follow the Towpath through Steelyard Commons, then go up W. 14th Street almost to the end, turn left onto Fairfield Avenue, then turn right onto Scranton.

Check for updates on the Event page on Facebook.

Legends of the Beer Ride

Whether you’re in an urban, suburban, or rural area, every group of cyclists has their own set of traditions for the “Beer Ride.” But for the uninitiated, I provide for you here a step-by-step guide to planning your own Beer Ride.

Step 1. Select a date. Under ideal circumstances, the Beer Ride is spontaneous, i.e. “Hey, let’s do a Beer Ride tomorrow night.” But, this is the real world, and folks need time to get permission from their significant others and/or employers, so a week or two advance notice works best.The beer ride is often a recurring event on or near a national holiday, as in the case of my group’s original Beer Ride, as well as this latest one, Cinco de Mayo.

Step 2. Publicize your Beer Ride on Facebook or some other accessible place on the Interwebz. “But,” you’re asking, “Won’t that mean there will be a bunch of whackos showing up for my ride?” Well, yes, but that’s the whole idea–making new friends and having a good time. Worst-case scenario, you’ll have a good idea of who to leave off the guest list for the next Beer Ride. Plus, when some wet blanket hassles you afterwards about not getting an invitation, you can tell them, “It was a public event. You didn’t need an invitation.”

You’ll have a core group of “founders” who started your Beer Ride tradition, and a handful of others who rotate in and out on an ongoing basis. For each ride, one of the founders will have a lame excuse for backing out at the last minute.

Step 3. Choose your bike. Any bike will do, although if you’re the type of person whose bike collection is up in the double digits, you’ll have a bike dedicated just for Beer Rides. A Surly makes a nice choice, as it did for over half the people on this ride.

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Step 4. Choose a starting location for pre-ride beers. A local bar, your local beer-friendly bike shop, or someone’s house makes a good choice. In our case, it was the house of the guy who backed out of this ride. If there’s anything better than raiding somebody else’s beer fridge, it’s raiding somebody else’s beer fridge when they’re not home. The pre-ride beers might get so out of hand as to force everyone to forego the actual ride.

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Step 5. Take photos to share the debauchery during the ride. The photos will get progressively more blurry as the night goes on, either because of the pre-ride beers, or the increasingly dark conditions in which cell-phone cameras don’t work so hot.

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Step 6. Choose a destination. You can vote as a group, either ahead of time or the night-of, or as a founder, exercise your authority to choose when you organize the event. A place with food and a good selection of beer is a good choice, such as Mr. Zub’s Deli in the Highland Square neighborhood in Akron.

An off-road route, like the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, is nice, but not necessary. A few on-road connections are unavoidable, including a hill or two like Merriman Road or Portage Path to separate the women from the girls.

Lock your bikes up, especially if you’re riding to a place like Akron. Not everyone will remember a lock, but as long as you have about one lock for every three bikes, you should be in good shape. Sitting by the front windows where you have a good view of the bikes helps as well.

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Step 7. Enjoy your meal, mid-ride beers, and the ride back. You may want to add more bars to the route–this is where group cohesion usually breaks down, as ride fatigue and beer fatigue catches up with some riders and not others.

Fellow bar-hoppers will notice your group on bikes and make some comment like, “Hey great idea; don’t have to worry about getting a DUI.” While technically, you CAN get a DUI while riding a bicycle, in our experience, The Law will leave you alone as long as you’re not acting like a jerk.

Inevitably, one rider will somehow get lost on the way back and end up at the corner of Steels Corners and Hudson Roads, nowhere near the actual return route.