Ohio and Pittsburgh: Siphoning Gas and Presidential Pancakes

Since the last update we've been to many new places: Akron, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and now Somerset, Pennsylvania. The Akron Marathon was last weekend and we had a pretty busy expo day on Friday and race day on Saturday. The race had 15,000 entrants, so 3 times the amount of our previous biggest race. The expo day on Friday was insanely busy and fun!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park was... interesting. It's a fairly new national park (established in 2000) that and fairly small (50 square miles). It definitely did not top the list of places I would need to visit again. Because it was a state park before they declared it a national park, it had the typical state park feeling to it. I guess at least it's now checked off the list so I can focus on my remaining 48 other national parks!

We've been very lucky in all the places we've visited to hit up some amazing running trails. A lot of them are rails-to-trails but instead of paving over them they leave them as gravel or dirt. THANK YOU for not paving these trails! Nothing ruins a good long running route like some hard pavement. The east coast has a lot more of these rails-to-trails projects, with many of them running 50+ and even up to 150 miles. I can only name a handful of them back in Washington and they're all paved (therefore not a "trail" so why do they insist on duping us by calling them trails??)

Anyways, we had an interesting day before the expo last weekend. When we were supposed to be setting up we realized that the Deep-Shoe Diver had too much gas to drive into the expo center (the law is that if you intend to bring a vehicle inside, it must have less than 1/4 of a tank of gas) so we spent two hours that night siphoning 15 gallons of gasoline from our 55 gallon tank. The options were for Zach to drive around for 2.5 hours or siphon the gas. Zach chose the latter, knowing the horrible taste that was soon to be in his mouth. After we siphoned all that gasoline (a lucky person got a completely free full tank of gas) we were okay to set up, but it turned a 30 minute job into a 2.5 hour job. We won't be making that mistake again!

We could only fit the tiniest of hoses into the gas tank... It took a while.

We could only fit the tiniest of hoses into the gas tank... It took a while.

After Akron we had two days off in Pittsburgh, which is such an awesome city!! I wish we could've explored it more but we'll have to come back another time. My good friend and fellow White Pass counselor Dusty sent me a list of the "Best Pancakes in Each State" and we managed to check one off in the city - Pamela's Diner. Obama visited there in 2008 and, during a speech in the city, announced that he thought they were the best pancakes he'd ever had and hired the chef to come to the White House to cook Easter brunch that year. Even with that legacy they did not let me down!

We adventured northeast on the night of the lunar eclipse, chasing a gap in the cloud formations. Zach had his weather app open and was tracking the cloud coverage as we raced northeast, through Punxsutawney and Amish land.

Here are two last pictures of what I do during events to give you all sense of my work days. Gait analysis and shoe recommendations based on their gaits.

Canada Part I

We've been in Canada for four days and, more specifically, Toronto for the past three. We said goodbye to Michigan, the Brooks Hansons team (Jake and I are pictured below), and our marketing company, EventNext and crossed the border into the Great White North. Neither Zach, Shannon, or myself had ever crossed into Canada commercially, so this was quite the journey...

We decided to take the tunnel from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario without realizing that it was NOT the place for commercial vehicles to cross. Upon realizing this and not having any possibility of turning around, they had us park in the middle of the road to the crossing tunnel, get out, and go into the customs office to get everything checked out. We sat in there for probably two hours (it felt like ten) before they very quickly signed and stamped our papers and let us on our merry way.

Our first impressions of Canada were torrential downpour, downed trees, and power outages, but we had an event to do at The Running Factory in Windsor so we had to show up in good spirits. We had a fun time despite the weather and met many of the Brooks Canada crew. It thundered and lightninged all that night but cleared up by the next day when we drove to Toronto. We've been here since then. Everything is so cheap in Canada! Meals, at least. Even better knowing that 1 CAD = .75 USD right now. We got all you can eat sushi the first night for $22 and it was delicious!

Anyways, we're having a great time and we'll be here in Toronto until Monday when we move to Rochester, NY (with a stop at Niagra Falls along the way, of course).

Canadian things we still need to do:

  • Consume a ton of Canadian Maple Syrup
  • Eat pierogi
  • Apologize for somebody else bumping into us
  • Canadian National Tower

If you can think of anything else we need to do while we're in Toronto, let me know!

Tin can ukuele in the Distillery District of Toronto

Tin can ukuele in the Distillery District of Toronto

The Big Leg: Kent, Washington to Utica, Michigan

Greetings from Utica, Michigan! Yep, we made it to our first destination last night and we’ll have an event here on Tuesday before departing for Toronto on Thursday. I still can’t believe that I’ve been getting paid since I started working as a Brooks Run Happy Island Brand Ambassador last Monday. It’s been an awesome first week and I know it’ll be a great three months on the road!

For a little background, my job is to basically be the face of Brooks Running for the next three months. I’m driving all over America (mostly the east coast) and (a two-week stint up in Toronto) Canada and running gait analysis, giving shoe recommendations, and basically showing the world how Brooks is an amazing company that cares about its consumers! NOTE: this blog is not intended to be the voice of Brooks running and is a private blog about my experiences, not the company as a whole!

A quick run-down of my tour crew is: Zach and Shannon, two awesome new friends who’ve been doing tours like this for years and are every bit as adventurous as I am; a Dodge Ram truck that Shannon and I trade off driving with a 15 foot trailer with event supplies; and the Deep Shoe Diver, a box truck turned submarine on wheels that Zach proudly drives around the country. We’ve been getting some hilarious looks and had some great conversations with folks about the Diver while driving across America.

Our travels have been great! On the first day, we made it about one hour from the Brooks headquarters in Seattle to North Bend before we ran into our first problem with the Deep Shoe Diver. That turned into a three hour pit stop while we had it fixed, but now it’s been running like a champion. We’ve only almost run out of gas once (again on day one) and we’ve had an awesome time talking back and forth through our CB radios. Two days ago we explored Crystal Cave, Wisconsin’s long cave, and overdosed on cheese at a Wisconsin dairy. Yesterday we went into Chicago and I dodged triathletes as I ran along the Lakefront Trail (pretty okay. Definitely not the best trail I’ve been on but decent for a downtown recreational trail) and then after a fountain bath in the middle of downtown Chicago (pictures to follow) we ate some good ol’ Chicago style deep dish pizza. So delicious! I ate half a pie myself and felt the gut bomb the rest of the day, but it was well worth it.

This morning I ran with Jake Riley and Brendan Gregg (for those of you who don’t know them, they are two of my Stanford teammates who now run professionally for the Brooks Hanson’s Distance Project here in Michigan) and afterwards BG, Zach, Shannon and myself got pancakes at Granma’s House of Pancakes. So much sugar and so much goodness! We’re planning on a dinner a Settlers of Catan session at Jake and Kendra’s house tonight, which’ll be great to see them both and BG.

Michigan is awesome! To Mike, I'm sorry we always give you a hard time about it. The trail we ran on this morning was fantastic and besides the weird phrases they use and "Michigan lefts", it's a pretty awesome place!

Feel free to check out this blog from time to time, maybe weekly? I’ll update it (probably extremely inconsistently) on all that’s happening out here, but please forgive me if I neglect it. It took me forever to find the time to write this initial one, but I’ll try to recap all the good stories to you all! There’ll be plenty of pictures to follow, but most importantly I’ve been having a blast and am super excited for the chance to represent the company that does so much for its runners. I can’t reiterate enough how lucky I feel to be chosen for this awesome opportunity!