Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Camping at Black Moshannon State Park

This past Saturday, Dave and I took our first couple’s camping trip since moving to PA. This is a little surprising considering Dave used to camp on the regular during his years with Boy Scouts. His Eagle Scout skills definitely go under-used these days, but we’re hoping to change that. He has a lot to teach me, from setting up a tent in a reasonable time-frame to building a fire to packing the right gear.

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We got to the camp site around 3 p.m., went for a hike, and got back just in time to get the fire going before it got dark.

It was in the low 40s even during the day (I don’t know how low the temps dropped at night), so the fire was necessary. I don’t know if it’s Dave’s Oregon-ness, but he didn’t really feel that it was very cold, while I was freezing the entire time. Sitting by the fire was my favorite part. Once it gave off enough heat, we could star thinking about dinner.

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The first course was Jewish Cinnamon Maple Whiskey Challah. Our friend brought it to a party we went to on Friday night and gave us some of it to take camping. It was absolutely delicious. He has since sent me the recipe and I hope to try making it sometime soon.

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The second course was a quinoa/potato salad with dried cranberries and roasted pine nuts. Not your typical camping fare, but a good idea since it didn’t need to be refrigerated and was hearty and filling.

For dessert, we had some dark chocolate before getting to my favorite part:

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Spiced apple cider made by holding a kettle directly over the fire from a piece of wood. 

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We enjoyed the cider while I read out loud from a book we’ve been reading together since April. It was so nice. This sounds lame and cliche, but I really never feel like I am unplugged from technology anymore and there is rarely space in my head to do some good old reading from an actual book. Being in nature with nobody but Dave and away from phones and laptops made me so much more receptive to the story. 

I was cold during the night despite about 5,000 layers and a mummy bag. This was mostly due to my lack of an inflatable pad. Overall, I really liked the experience though, and we’re kind of thinking of a two-day backpacking trip for the spring to see if that’s something we would enjoy doing together. Until then, I will stick to my heated apartment and soft mattress!

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Elk Creek Cafe

It’s astonishing that we’ve lived in State College for a year now and have only made it to this amazing restaurant twice. It’s about 34 minutes from our place, so I guess it takes a special occasion to go there. The first time, we went for a friend’s birthday, and the second time to take Dave’s parents there while they were in town.

It was a big hit, not only because of the food and ambiance, but also because it’s located in Millheim, PA, which is this tiny town that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a different time. I can’t even really describe it. Amish people and buggies roam the streets, there is little boutique stores, and the buildings almost have a Wild West feel to them.

Elk Creek Cafe is an eclectic place that calls itself a local brewery and music hall on its Facebook page.  They thrive off of their proximity to State College, which has many people interested in local food, home brews, and a hipster-type ambiance.

They have local meats and dairy products and many vegan options. They brew their own beer and make a big deal out of fresh and sustainable eating. I love it there. We will have to get out there more regularly. Millheim also has a Saturday farmers market, so the two can easily be combined.

We started with a hummus platter to share as an appetizer.

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It was a delicious as it looks.

And then, I had the best cheeseburger and fries combo of my life.

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The beer was really good too, served at a temperature every German living in the US would adore – read: not too cold.

We all left very happy and parted ways with Dave’s parents outside because they had to head back to Philadelphia to fly home.

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Race Weekend – Part 2

I started moving my legs and followed the swarm of runners out of the little village square, through the entrance gate (a little cluster formed here, which would have made me mad if I was a legit runner trying to beat a time), and into a neighborhood development. The road was flat to slightly hilly, and I felt my body heating up. In the mid-40 degree and sunny weather, I was a little worried that my training jacket would get too warm fast.

I found a pair of women relatively quickly who were running at a speed comfortable to me, so I decided to follow them. This allowed me to take my mind off worrying about the time early on.

I told Dave after reviewing the course elevation chart below the day before the race that I was really glad the first 6 miles were flat or downhill. Others may have preferred to deal with the hilliest miles early on, while strength is still in full supply, but I knew I needed the opening miles to gain momentum. My legs needed time to adjust to the movement, my lungs needed to establish a comfortable breathing pattern, and my brain needed some endorphins to ramp up for the pain.

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The first water station was set-up at mile 2. Although I felt strong and didn’t necessarily need the fluid, I decided to drink water and gatorade at all five stations to stay as well-hydrated as I could. I didn’t train this way, only with Gu, so I figured this would give me a slight advantage over my long training runs.

The first package of Gu followed around mile three, shortly before the race started living up to its name.

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At this point, there were three buggies in my sight. Traffic was a little backed-up because a runner had evidently fallen and hit his head. He was laying on the road with several race volunteers gathered around him, waiting for an ambulance. Beyond this point, many miles of green, pastoral landscape followed, with the occasional farmhouse and buggy passing by.

Miles 3 to 6 flew by. The course was still flat or going downhill, the air was fresh, and I felt stronger and stronger. I left the pair of runners I initially stuck to behind and passed a few more people who had started walking. Simultaneously, I was also passed by a good amount of people who had started behind me and were now catching up.

When the 6-mile marker showed up on the side of the road, the race really started. There were long uphill stretches and the wind really picked up. Instead of regretting my choide to wear my training jacket, I began feeling extremely grateful that I did. It acted as the perfect wind-breaker, but the wind still made it hard to keep up my speed, especially uphill.

But somehow, the hills didn’t phase me nearly as much as I thought they would. In fact, the hills were the stretches during which I was passing people. Many slowed down significantly or even started walking. It dawned on me that State College was the perfect training ground for this race. Hills cannot be avoided in Happy Valley, and I guess I just really got used to them. This realization made me very happy and proud, and I was able to increase my speed even more.

Miles 7 and 9 brought more water and Gatorade, and I was on my last package of Gu when I finally reached mile 10. Miles 8.5 until then were a nice break from the hills. Because I had been feeling so strong during the entire race, I thought I could really dig in and get more speed out of me on the home stretch between miles 10 and 13. But once I got there, my knees and legs felt less good, and my hips were beginning to feel a little sore too. Also, we were back to an uphill climb, which at times, was pretty significant. I thought I better focus on what I have been doing instead of trying to push for more speed.

Mile 11 came and I still felt reasonably good. There were many spectators on the side of the road because we were back in a developed area. At one point, a little boy, maybe 6 years old, ran alongside me. I took my headphones out to hear what he was saying, which was “Don’t give up, less than two miles left!” He high-fived me with a huge inflatable baseball glove and off he went to the next person.

Finally, there was mile 12. I was still determined to finish strong and really ramp up the speed, but my legs were heavy and even the shortest hill was making me work a lot harder. Again, I had to focus on just keeping it up rather than pushing beyond my current speed. I began to think in songs: less than three songs and I’m there. I also allowed myself to envision the sweet moment of crossing the finish line with Dave there and hugging him in relief to be done.

Sure enough, soon I was back at the village gate with the clock tower. Because the village is windy and the finish line was in the town center, I had to concentrate on arrows on the pavement and pointing arms from the volunteers to guide me. The song I picked to finish to was “One More Time” by Daft Punk, for the simple reason that I finished my 8-mile run to it last week and really liked the feel.

I turned around my last corner and there was the finish line. I think if I had been able to see it from farther away, I probably would have been able to pull off a more significant sprint. This way, I started sprinting about 30 seconds before the finish. The last stretch led across grass, back onto pavement, and through the finish gate.

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Here I am! Dave took this photo before high-fiving me and greeting me with a big hug. I was so happy to be done. When I caught a glimpse of the time, I knew I broke my personal record, which was all I wanted. I decided my time was somewhere around 2:29 because I wasn’t able to start running right when they started due to the line, and I also took into consideration the cluster at the clock tower. My last half marathon two years ago was 2:31:45.

Side note: I know I’m a slow runner, but I really love the sport and I’m excited to work on my time. I’m going to focus on a 10k distance for the next few months and try to reach a solid 9 to 9.5 minute pace.

So anyway, I was thrilled about how the race went, especially considering the hills and the wind.

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The medal featured a buggy and some runners running uphill. Very accurate.

I stretched and told Dave about all the details of the race before we headed over to the post-race buffet.

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Not the greatest offering for a vegetarian, but Dave was happy to eat this at least. I had the orange slices and a small piece of Strudel. We stuck around a bit for the live music and ambiance, and then headed back to the hotel, so I could shower, eat, and stretch.

Around noon, feeling a little lightheaded, but clean, we headed back to the village because free beer was to be consumed and little shops to be explored!

To be continued…

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