I ran Corning’s Wineglass Marathon

A heavy mist blankets the air as I walk to my car. I tell myself I must be crazy for doing this. It’s 5:00 am. The world is still sleeping around me as I drive. After parking in Corning its a short walk to a row of buses. As I climb on-board I can feel the nervous excitement in the air. I think to myself, “This is it. Once this bus pulls away I’m committed. There’s no turning back now!” And then we are off.

The bus is taking us to Campbell High School where we will start our 13.1 mile trek back to Market St. in Corning. There are other runners who will go all the way to Bath for the full marathon, 26.2 miles. I wish them good luck as I exit the bus. Who knows, maybe someday I will work up the nerve to continue the trip to Bath but for today my goal is to complete my first half marathon.

As we enter the school there are hundreds of other runners getting ready. Some are sitting on the gym floor relaxing. Others are stretching and warming up. The air is electrified and intense with nervous chatter of “I hope I can do this” and “We have trained for this”. The buzz of encouragement is all around.

The start time is drawing near so they move us outside to the starting line. There are pace runners holding signs showing the time for that section. While training for this race, me and my running partner, Dawn, have been averaging just over three hours. We decided to get in the two and a half hour pace pack hoping this will push us and help us to stay on pace for three hours. To be realistic we set a goal to finish in three and a half hours.

As I wait at the starting line I feel my palms start to sweat. My stomach is rolling with waves of nausea and I question for the hundredth time if I should have gone to the bathroom one more time. No matter how many races I do I always feel sick while waiting at the starting line. There is something about that moment when you are surrounded by hundreds of people yet you feel so alone and anxious. And just when you think oh God I might throw up the gun goes off and we start moving.

With hundreds of people moving around me I feel myself being pulled into motion. We are packed together so the first half mile or so is pretty slow. As people spread out our pace picks up and we settle in.

For me the first mile is always the hardest. I never know if my body is going to loosen up and go or tighten up and fight me the whole way. Thankfully, everything loosened up and we set a nice even pace.

By mile three the sun is up and I can feel the sweat trickling down my neck. It is time to start shedding some layers. The side of the road is a sea of color from the multitude of sweatshirts people are tossing aside. I also see gloves and hats scattered around as we continue on. The wineglass marathon collects these items and donates them to a homeless shelter so these items will not be left to litter the roadside.

At mile six I am feeling really good. So far we are keeping pace with the 2.5 hour pack. To be honest I am ecstatic about this. I really thought I would have walked or slowed down by this point. One thing that really helped keep us moving is the app on our phone where friends keep sending us songs and sayings of encouragement. It is really cool to hear the Rocky theme song just start playing or someone yelling “you got this” when you are running out of energy. I am so thankful to my friends who sent hundreds of messages to keep us inspired and moving.

The course from Campbell to Corning is fairly flat. The first half takes you past several farms and lots of cornfields. There are water stations set up along the way. I have learned from running multiple 5K’s don’t drink the water. Swish it around your mouth and spit it out. When I drink the water I feel it sloshing around in my stomach for the rest of the race. It is a horrible feeling.

As we move closer to Corning things are going good and then came mile nine. This is where I hit a wall! I knew from training that mile nine was always my enemy. We are still in the two and a half hour pace pack at this point. Now we decide to slow down some and even walk a little bit. My body is tightening up and starting to ache. The doubts come barreling in like a locomotive. And then like an angel in the dark I see it. Just ahead there is a lady handing out popsicles. I will never know her name but I can never thank her enough! I slowly ate my popcicle as I walked mile nine. This little bit of a sugar lift gave me the boost I needed to keep moving.

As we hit mile ten we told ourselves this is just another 5K. We can do this! We picked up the pace again. At this point we are just ahead of the three hour pace pack. The course is now moving through Painted Post and goes into a park. The park is filled with people cheering us on. It is just the motivation I needed at this point. There were multiple signs with sayings like “You can do it!”, “Just keep moving!” and my personal favorite “Smile! You paid to do this!”. Mile ten was behind us in no time.

Now we are in Corning closing in on the finish. As I turn the corner to enter Market Street, I can see the finish line up ahead. The street is lined with people cheering us on. My heart speeds up as I realize I am actually going to do this! And then I hear “Go Mamaw!” I look over and see my family shouting and waving. I am not one to cry but seeing them made the tears start to run down my face.

And then I cross the finish line! I can’t begin to describe the feeling of excitement, astonishment and relief that flowed over me at that moment. It is one of those moments you need to experience to truly understand. I have a whole new respect for people who train and push their bodies to their maximum limit yet still find an inner strength to go just one step more.

That was two years ago when I completed my first and only, so far, half marathon. Now thousands of runners are getting ready to run that same course again this weekend. If you are running the Wineglass this weekend I wish you all the best. If you are not running then please consider going out and encouraging the runners. Believe me having people cheer you on will lift you up and keep you moving!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Apple Picking Fun!

The epitome of fall family fun in the Finger Lakes region has to be apple picking so this weekend we loaded up the car and headed off to Reisinger Apple Farm. Located on Apple Lane in Watkins Glen you will find acres of apple trees, over 20 different varieties of apples are available on over 10,000 trees. Make sure you check the schedule to know which apples are ready. You can check their website at http://www.reisingersapplecountry.com to see the list for “Now Picking”. We wanted the Snapdragons which were ripe this past weekend.

To make it easier for roaming around the orchards they have wagons to pull the smaller kids. The older kids will find a cute playground area with plenty of photo opportunities including the obligatory big chair. There are also hay bales just right for climbing all over. Then it is off to pick apples! We strolled through acres of different trees looking for the perfect red, juicy, ripe apple. We found lots! My grandson loved to taste test them as he went. He would give us the thumbs up when he found the perfect one. Then we would pick several from that tree to fill up our bag. I can smell the apple pie baking already!

At Reisinger’s you will find pumpkins, squash, apple cider and much more to go along with your apples. There is even a beautiful flower garden you can walk through and pick flowers to purchase.

If you are looking for a fun family activity this fall you should definitely put apple picking on your list!

A tip for you – after apple picking at Reisinger’s you can go about a mile down the road and see the Elk Park. I have heard for years they will be opening to the public but so far it is still closed. You can however see some of the Elk from the road so it is worth the trip to check it out. Just look at the beauties we spotted this weekend. As my husband likes to say, NICE RACK!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

I made a glass pumpkin!

If you are looking for a unique fall experience when you are in the Finger Lakes region, it doesn’t get much better than making your own glass pumpkin at The Corning Museum of Glass. Corning Glass, which is found in Corning, NY offers an amazing glass museum, gift shop and hands on experiences at making glass items. It is well worth spending a day to go to a glass show, explore the museum and make your own glass souvenir. This weekend I decided to go to the Corning Studio which is across the parking lot from the actual museum to make a blown glass pumpkin.

Every year, for a limited time, The Corning Museum of Glass offers the public an opportunity to make their own blown glass pumpkins. Since it is limited, make sure you reserve your spot. They do fill up fast so go online and book it early. We signed up several weeks ago at a cost of $32.00 each. Not bad considering they sell the pumpkins in the museum starting around $34.00 and up. And this will be your own creation.

When you arrive you go in the front lobby to sign in. Then you are directed to the studio area. We were in the 2:00 group. You will want to go a few minutes early to pick out your colors from the display. For our pumpkins we were given the option of two colors in the body and one color for the stem. I stayed pretty traditional choosing a red pumpkin with yellow flakes running through it and a green stem. My Mother In Law was more adventurous and went with a purple pumpkin with black flecks and a black stem. There are lots of colors to choose from so you can be as creative as you want.

When its time to start they give you safety googles to wear and if you are like me and like your flip flops, you will be given leather flaps to put over your feet. Basically the rule is no open toed shoes. There are four workstations. Our time slot was full so eight people total. Since me and my Mother In Law were together she went first. I waited outside the plexiglass divider. You can easily see everything and take pictures from there.

The glassblower takes a long, hollow, metal tube and dips it in the melted glass. She starts it out by placing the glass in the oven and heating it to 2100 degrees. She then blows in the tube and rotates it around. Once she gets it started she dips the melted glass in the colors you picked out. Then back in the oven it goes. When she pulls it out this time she puts it in a mold to give it ridges then it is your turn to blow in the tube. To keep it all sanitary they have alcohol swabs to clean the tube and then cardboard cylinders you put over the tube. You then blow in the tube while the glassblower rotates the metal pipe. This expands the melted glass and forms your pumpkin. It is so cool to watch these chunks of glass be formed into a cute pumpkin.

The glassblower will keep warming it in the oven as needed and bringing it back over for you to blow in the tube until the pumpkin is fully formed. Then she adds the stem and twirls it around to make it really cute. At this point the pumpkin is so hot you can’t see the true color. They put the pumpkin in a big oven to cool off slowly and set up. Because of this process you will need to leave it over night. Since we live nearby I went back today to pick ours up. If you are visiting our area the Corning Studio will ship your pumpkin to you.

One tip I will give you if you are planning to go make your own blown glass pumpkin; stop by the Corning Museum gift shop ahead of time. They have lots of already made pumpkins. This will give you an idea of different color combinations. Seeing the finished products will help you decide what you want to do for your own pumpkin.

This is a really awesome experience. When you are in the Finger Lakes area you will definitely want to take a day to explore the museum and make your own glass item. They offer a variety of items all year long so there is always something you can make. I am planning to go back in a couple months to make a Christmas ornament!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Sunset Hike at Sperr Park

Tucked away in Big Flats, NY is a hiking trail that will give you an amazing sunset view. The trail runs beside a pond that is home to a multitude of wildlife. Tonight the atmosphere was alive with the sounds of birds and other musical creatures. As we made our way down the trail we watched the color display of purple fading to pink then exploding with gold as the sun slowly dipped down to kiss the sky goodnight.

This now beautiful, peaceful park had a somber beginning. State Trooper Andrew J. Sperr was killed in the line of duty in an empty field by two bank robbers. This field is now known as Sperr Park and dedicated to his memory. It has been transformed into a memorial park for Trooper Sperr and other law enforcement who’s lives were lost in the line of duty.

There is a narrow strip of land that branches off the main trail and runs in between the two ponds that make up Sperr Park. This area is full of wildflowers and has a raw, natural beauty. There are benches scattered around this section of the park with memorial plaques to honor law enforcement officers. You will even find a large rock with a plaque in honor of K9 officers. As you make your way around this area, you will come to a large stone engraved with Andrew J. Sperr’s picture and the details of what happened that fateful day, March 1, 2006.

Trooper Sperr’s family and friends have done an amazing job transforming this tragic area into a place of hope and joy. Along with hiking and fishing, there is a pavilion and small playground area for family fun. Throughout the park you find areas with whimsical details that will bring a smile to your face. This is a wonderful place to visit for a hike and to remember the first responders who put their lives on the line everyday.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Fall Fun in the Finger Lakes

When the air turns crisp and the breathtaking landscape of the region is transformed into a spectacle of color the Finger Lakes region comes alive with fun fall activities. You will find several places for apple picking with the family, pumpkin farms with lots of activities for the kids and what is quickly becoming popular – Corn Mazes!

This weekend I had a chance to try out my first corn maze at Trinity Valley Dairy Farm in Cortland, NY. This farm is super cute and a great place to spend some quality family time. They have a cute gift shop that is full of home made pastries and pies. After picking out the items to take home we are off to try out our hand in the corn maze.

I will admit I thought it would be a quick, kid type thing to do. Boy was I wrong! First of all the maze is designed to look like a barn with a big silo. I guess if you look at it from up above that is what you see. Hats off to the designer that can pull that off! And it is huge! It spreads out over 7 acres of land. Which happens to run up a hill!

When we paid – $7.00 per person – we were given a trivia card. There are 6 stations inside the corn maze. When you find the station you have to answer the question that corresponds with that station. A tip – if you are with a group don’t assume you all have the same questions. There are a variety of cards.

We entered the maze at 11:15 in search of station #1. After twisting, turning and running into multiple dead ends we finally found it. Then up the hill we hiked to find the rest. Once we found #6 over 45 minutes had gone by. Now it was time to head down hill and back toward the exit. We finally made it out at exactly 1 hour! There is a reward for hiking up a hill, getting lost in a corn maze for an hour to answer your trivia questions. You get a fresh made donut! I do have to admit that was one of the best tasting donuts I have ever eaten! Of course it could have been that I was starving from climbing a hill in the hot sun for the past hour. Whatever the case may be it was melt in your mouth delicious!

They do have other kid activities at Trinity Valley Farm. There are wagon rides pulled by a tractor. A small animal petting area with a couple of adorable goats, sheep and calves. There is an awesome climbing area made out of tractor tires and a nice shaded pavilion to sit, relax and enjoy your day at the farm.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

A Day at Seneca Lake Wineries

After yesterday’s exhilarating but exhausting day of exploring the Finger Lakes, today I decided to go for a more relaxing day. If you are looking for laid back, easy going enjoyment it doesn’t get much better than sipping wine while viewing Seneca Lake.

The drive up the left side of Seneca Lake from Watkins Glen is one of the most scenic views you will ever see. Patchwork like swatches of land cover the opposite side as you overlook the lake. The water, dotted with sail boats, sparkles in the sunlight.

We made our first stop at Belhurst Castle for lunch. The food was delicious and the views are phenomenal. We chose to sit outside on the stone patio. They only have five tables outside so we did have a short wait to get a table. If you don’t want to wait they have indoor seating in two different restaurants. Stonecutters is casual dining and Edgar’s Steakhouse is formal. Both offer a castle atmosphere with beautiful woodwork but Edgar’s has more in terms of castle ambience. If you want to enjoy outdoor seating you will need to go to Stonecutters. On a picture perfect day like today, I highly recommend sitting outside and taking in the lake view.

After a relaxing lunch we were off for wine tasting. Seneca Lake offers numerous wineries all featuring a multitude of dry and sweet wines grown and produced right here in the Finger Lakes Region. I chose to start at Seneca Shore Wine Cellars. This winery is known as “Medieval Wines of the Finger Lakes”. The ladies pouring for us told us the story of the Locavore Movement; Eat and Drink Local. A Medieval king knew everyone who grew his grapes and made his wine. His wine was locally grown and locally made by local people. When you walk in you will be greeted by a medieval theme and whimsical creatures. I prefer sweet wine and really liked the Castle Blush.

From here we continued South back toward Watkins Glen. The drive is so peaceful. Be sure to take it all in. To continue our relaxing day we stopped next at Miles Wine Cellars. In my opinion this is the most serene and stately winery in the Finger Lakes. The large columns on the front porch remind me of a Southern Victorian home. It sits high above the lake offering a beautiful lookout view. If you want to get closer to the water they have a boat house bar on the water. My favorite drink here is the wine slushie. Yum! It doesn’t get much better than sipping on a wine slushie while over looking Seneca Lake on a beautiful day.

After relaxing with lunch and wine my next thought is chocolate. I personally like to go to Magnus Ridge Winery just for the chocolate. And oh yeah, the wine is pretty good too! When you walk into Magnus it is like walking into old world France. This winery is elegant and definitely pays extra attention to all the small details. They have large tasting rooms and a cute café. The patio out back is peaceful and relaxing; the perfect place to sip a glass of wine and enjoy their delicious chocolate truffles. It is a perfect way to cap off a relaxing day on Seneca Lake.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

Waterfalls Worth The Hunt

The Finger Lakes region is known for beautiful lakes, numerous waterfalls and rolling hills. For decades, people from around the world have been drawn to this region. It is easy to see why when you take in the vast beauty of Seneca lake, the peaceful retreat of Cayuga Lake and the spectacular sunset from Harris Hill overlook.

There are several very popular, well known areas but what about the ones that are more obscure? Today we decided to go exploring for some of the lesser known waterfalls and hiking areas around the Cayuga Lake area. Here are a couple you might want to try.

If you are driving down Rt. 13 in Ithaca take the exit for E. Shore Dr. This is the exit just past Ithaca High School. At the stop, sign turn right instead of left ( yes I know this is taking you away from the lake but trust me). Go about a mile up the road, just past the high school. You will cross a small bridge. Just past the bridge, pull over and walk across the road. This will take you to Ithaca Falls. The hike is short but very rocky. There are loose stones everywhere so wear good shoes. Once you go about a quarter mile in you will come to a very tall and beautiful waterfall. The glimpse you get the road does not do it justice. You need to take the walk in to truly see the beauty of this one.

From here, we went to Cornell Botanical Gardens. This is a free botanical garden located within Cornell University. To be honest, late summer is not the best time to visit if you want to see the flowers. We plan to go again in late Spring or early Summer to see the flowers in full bloom. For today, we took the hiking trail around Beebe Lake which is still within the botanical garden grounds. This hike is a challenging one due to all the hills. There are two waterfalls to see on this hike. They are at opposite ends of the lake. The waterfalls were nice but the beauty of the lake and the various wildlife in the lake is what I found most interesting. The walk around the lake is shaded and peaceful. Just be prepared for all the hills.

Cornell Botanical Gardens is spread out over 4,000 acres of land, so there is a lot to explore. This is one you will definitely want to put on your list to do more than once so you can truly experience it all.

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly

A Day Spent Exploring Elmira

Elmira, NY a city named after a rambunctious young girl, or so the story goes, is a city full of rich history, museums and old time fun. When you are in the Finger Lakes region take a day to explore Elmira.

Hop aboard the historic trolley of Elmira, NY and explore the rich history of Mark Twain, Elmira College, Woodlawn National Cemetery and so much more. You can catch the trolley during the months of July and August at the Chemung Valley History Museum. The museum is located inside a historic 1800’s bank. I like to go early and explore the museum before the trolley ride. The displays do change from time to time so you will always find something new. As you stroll back in time you will discover stories from the Native Americans that once roamed this valley to Mark Twain’s time writing many of his famous stories such as “The adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.

Once you are on the trolley you will literally step back in time as you walk into Mark Twain’s actual octagonal study, travel back in time to Elmira’s Civil War prison camp and soak up the beauty of historic Maple Ave. Your trolley guide will point out many other features along the way. I have lived in the Finger Lakes region for 20+ years and I still learn something new every time I take this journey into Elmira’s history.

After the trolley ride there is so much more to do. From shopping at The Christmas House, exploring the Arnot Art Museum or if you happen to be in Elmira on a Thursday you can stroll around the Wisner Park Market. I highly recommend you visit Elmira on a Thursday just so you don’t miss this one. Every Thursday during the summer the heart of Downtown Elmira is transformed into a relaxing farmers market and local craft vendors fair.

At Wisner Market you will find melt in your mouth pastries locally baked by the Amish. As you make your way through the colorful array of tents you will discover a variety of booths featuring handmade jewelry, locally produced maple syrup and honey, flavored popcorn and fresh vegetables grown by the Mennonites. You will also find interactive booths for the young visitors. There are a multitude of food trucks and plenty of picnic tables under the large trees to shade you while you enjoy your lunch.

After spending a day exploring all Elmira has to offer I like to enjoy a relaxing dinner with a view. And if an amazing view is what you are looking for Elmira’s Hilltop Inn is the place to go. Sitting at the top of Jerusalem Hill overlooking the Chemung Valley you will find delicious food paired with spectacular views. As you relax sipping your wine you will have a front row seat to watch the sun slowly dip behind the hills. If the air is chilly they have a couple of fire pits to keep you cozy. The Hilltop Inn is a perfect way to cap off your day exploring Elmira!

Thanks for exploring with me – Shelly