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Ohio Trip + 18 Miler in Darkness, Hills, and Country Road

This past weekend I made my annual "pilgrimage" to Ohio, where I was born and lived until age seven. My dad has been organizing family trips back to Ohio for the past four consecutive years, and for the past three years I've taken advantage of the cooler weather and more varied terrain that Ohio has to offer for logging some training miles. The particular town (technically a village) of Yellow Springs is where we tend to spend the most time, and to my good fortune there is a bike/pedestrian trail that goes right through the area and its surrounding towns. Last year we stayed in Beavercreek in a neighborhood that was located right up against the trail, so it was no trouble for me to access it and get my mileage in. This year, however, we stayed in a bed and breakfast, which was about 3.5 miles from the trail--on the route I chose to take, anyway.

When visiting with some old family friends on Friday night, I mentioned that I had 18 miles to run the next morning. I first thought I would just take the country roads into "town" and access the trail there. But then a friend, Chuck, told me about a different route. This one would cut through the beautiful John Bryan State Park via a hilly, winding road that I later learned was referred to as "Devil's Backbone." Because there were hills on this route, and my marathon in October has hills, and I haven't done any hill training in flat Florida, I decided I would run this route. After dinner and ice cream, Chuck drove me on the route so I could have a visual of what I'd be running in the wee hours to come. It was definitely hilly, and it was surrounded by forest on either side. Further, there was no shoulder on the road, so if a car were to come over the hills or around the curves, I'd pretty much be running right up against the guard rail. But I wanted a different and challenging run, so I decided that would be my route.

I went to bed early that night and set my alarm for 4:50am. I woke up and started to get ready, then I heard a faint pattering outside the B&B and looked out the window to see that it was raining. The irony of having to cancel a run because of rain in Ohio, while on vacation from Florida, was annoying. But if I'd tried to wait it out, I wouldn't have had enough time to complete my run before our breakfast plans, so I went back to bed and hoped to be able to do it the next morning.

I woke up for the second time that morning, feeling a bit disappointed that I hadn't gotten my run in, but I was excited to meet up with more friends at the Historic Clifton Mill--a breakfast-lover's paradise.

The waterwheel that used to power the mill (left) and an old and picturesque covered bridge (background).
The gang, post-breakfast.
After stuffing ourselves with oatmeal, plate-sized pancakes, french toast, eggs served all kinds of ways, breakfast meats (not me), and endless coffee, it was time to say goodbye to friends and head to town for a bit of shopping.

After shopping, we rested at the B&B and then visited the famous Young's Jersey Dairy, where we got ice cream yet again (apparently that's the thing to do in the summertime in Ohio). 
Interestingly, they don't use the milk from their cows in their own ice cream (but they use it in their cheese).
My niece Evie feeding the goats.
It soon was time to head back to our little country home so we could prepare to have friends come over for a cookout.

The weather couldn't have been better for grilling out, and the company is always heartwarming.
The picture-keepers.
The newest member of the clan, Thomas, is introduced to Evie, who looks a bit apprehensive.
After a long, relaxed evening of delicious and plentiful food, amazing friends, musical entertainment, and children's merrymaking, it was time to say goodnight, and until next year. I went to bed, once again prepared to wake up early for my long run.

I awoke to my alarm--which is usually a challenge but wasn't difficult this time because I was sharing a room with my dad, and other guests were just down the hall, so I was hyper-aware of disturbing them. I put on my running gear, filled my 10oz. handheld water bottle (which needed to last me all 18 miles!), pre-packed with Clif Shot Bloks (which I've recently switched to over GU packs), and although I usually hate carrying anything except these items, I also decided to bring my phone for two reasons: the flashlight app, and in case I got lost. But because I don't have an arm sleeve to carry it in, I had to hold it in the hand not already holding the water bottle. Not ideal, but safe.

When I got outside, it was a chilly 61 degrees out--a temperature I haven't felt in Florida since about March. It was delightful. However, it was also pitch-black outside--a concept I didn't really understand until being out in the country where there are no streetlights, porch lights, store lights, etc., to guide my way. All I could see once my eyes adjusted were the many speckles of stars and a sliver of moon, which, while beautiful, did not help me see the ground in front of me. So I turned on the flashlight app on my phone, which has an LED function to shine light through the camera's flash bulb. I could at least see a few feet in front of me so I wouldn't trip on anything. Eventually my eyes adjusted a bit more to the darkness and I could make out the few street signs I needed to see as landmarks to either keep going or turn.

Once I passed the directional signs for John Bryan State Park on Bryan Park Road, I knew I was entering the hilly/curvy territory. But because I couldn't see very far in front of me, I didn't exactly know when the inclines/declines were about to hit. Suddenly I felt myself flying downhill, barely able to pull back. At that moment I realized that downhill running was difficult; after all, I wasn't in the form of a ball and couldn't just roll down as I felt inclined to do. After surviving the downhill, I was soon at my next landmark, the Grinnell Mill, where I turned onto Grinnell Road. I had a bit of uphill to conquer, but because I had some momentum going in, I didn't struggle too much. Grinnell Road took me to what all the locals call the "bike trail." This made me think there weren't many runners in the area and the trail was primarily used by cyclists. (Should I have been on it?) Further, the fact that there were no water fountains on the majority of the trail--something I remembered from last year--made me wonder how runners would survive long runs.

I ran the majority of my distance on the trail--about 11 miles total. From there it was smooth sailing--a straight, mostly flat shot out and back. And by then I had a little bit more light to see by. On my way back, I decided to make use of my phone's camera and snap shots of some interesting features of the trail and the roads leading back home:
Bridge on bike trail.
An old, abandoned building sitting along the bike trail. An old school house, perhaps?
Two deer.
"Find Yourself Here"
Another mill (and B&B).
After passing the mill and turning back onto Bryan Park Road, I knew I had an uphill battle ahead of me--literally. Although I could see the road coming back the other way, it was still winding enough that I couldn't see the full altitude all at once; I had to run uphill in segments that seemed never-ending. At one point, for maybe 20 or so footfalls, I had to walk.

This was pretty much my view for all of the uphill running on Bryan Pk Rd, up through the park.
I made it to the cornfields; I survived.
My dad happened to be outside of our B&B taking pictures when in I rolled, or rather stumbled.
My mile splits, route, and elevation.
I was able to maintain a slightly speedier pace than I typically hold on my long runs because of the weather. I was so delighted to have completed this run. My reward was a homemade breakfast prepared at the B&B by a much-loved local cook. The main feature was an enormous breakfast burrito (vegetarian, per my request), complemented by crispy hash browns, sweet cantaloupe, fresh orange juice, and coffee.

After breakfast, we all packed up and said goodbye to our country inn. We left Yellow Springs and headed out to Kettering to visit with family. Each time we come to town, my dad's family (who are largely established in and around Dayton) gets together at one of the relatives' houses. My sister and I refer to this group as "the cousins." Many are our own cousins with a couple of offspring, but more are our dad's cousins and their offspring, and their offpring's offspring. It gets confusing. There is also some sort of cross-marriage among the families a couple generations back, not to be confused with intermarriage (at least, I'm pretty sure). Each year I get to know a little bit more about the family and its history. My dad's cousin Diana hosted everyone this year at her lovely home with an expansive backyard, where everyone mingled and played (and ate lots of yummy food!).

It's possible I took this picture with my dad's camera, attempting to get somewhat of a group shot but not noticing that practically nobody was looking in my direction.
And I know I took this shot, and they intentionally were not looking at me.
This is my aunt Shirley, whose arrival I was greatly anticipating because I knew she was bringing buckeyes and peanut butter fudge. She also cut all of her hair off to be like me. That's only partly (but mostly not) true ;)
This is my uncle Randy, who promised to do a cartwheel but didn't fulfill that promise (he's also one of few dedicated readers of my blog, so I should probably be nicer).
This is me with the newest family member--Mason. He's my first cousin's son, so I think that makes him my first cousin once removed. Whatever relation he is, he's absolutely delightful!
I mean, seriously. Here he is having an intellectual conversation with my dad. He's like half a year old.

Thus concludes this year's journey to Ohio. I always love "going back," to my roots, my kin, my other home. I can't wait to do it again next year. In fact, I'm thinking of signing up for the Air Force Marathon, which takes place in none other than . . . Dayton! Who of my Ohio family/friends wants to host me?


B.o.B. said…
Gorgeous photos and cute babies! I love it. And kudos on a kick ass run. That pace is awesome with those hills!!!

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