Beer Quest 2014

On Saturday a group of friends and I went on a quest. A beer quest. Our mission: Bike around Indy to check out some of the new craft beer players in town, with stops at a few trusted favorites along the way. Yes, it was as awesome as it sounds. And no, this wasn’t the first time we’ve done it. I missed last year due to Woods Go West (where I bought the perfect shirt to rock this year!) but you can read all about the inaugural Beer Quest here.


Our group was a little smaller this year and changed up at each stop. One friend and I biked up from downtown to our starting point in Broad Ripple. Two friends met us later in the route and used the Pacers Bike Share. Others drove and met us for one or two stops. We were on the Monon Trail, the Cultural Trail, bike lanes on downtown streets and more. I biked close to 25 miles with five official stops plus three extras we tacked on to keep the party rolling.

Before I get into reviews, I have to give a disclaimer. I have very particular beer preferences. I rarely enjoy IPAs, stouts, porters, etc. I go for blondes, cream ales, lagers and kolsch. Some beer snobs out there will scoff at that but I know what I like and I drink it. I will sample everything though and did on Saturday. Just keep that in mind.

Stop 1: HopCat
The hype has been building for this place to open for weeks now so I had high expectations. With 100+ beers on tap, the selection certainly didn’t disappoint. I ordered an Alabaster (Belgian white) by local Oaken Barrel Brewing and enjoyed it. The space itself is nice too with tons of tables and booths.

The one problem I foresee is the potential for servers to not be able to keep up with the constantly rotating tap list. The menu is broken down by style, which is helpful, but I couldn’t quickly find any kolschs on the list. I asked our waitress and she basically admitted to not knowing what they had. To her credit, they ran out of at least three beers while we were there and loaded up different ones in their place. So I’m sure it’s crazy to stay on top of but if you want super knowledgeable staff who can make recommendations, this may not be the place for you.

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Stop 2: Flat12
Flat12 has been around for a long time but we love it so it’s a Beer Quest regular. They have a great deck out back and it’s a nice break after the long ride down the Monon before moving on to downtown. The Penrod 22 I had was pretty standard.20140906_140843 20140906_141716


Stop 3: Two Deep
Not a lot of people have heard of this brewery yet but it was one of my favorites of the day. The location is a little random (on Capitol near Walnut) but the tasting room is awesome. I loved the vibe and décor, especially the Indiana-shaped flight board. They had a diverse lineup and even offered wine and liquor, which our one non-beer drinking friend appreciated.

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Stop 4: Tow Yard
If this place is successful, it’ll be because of its food and great view of downtown, not necessarily because of its beer. Nothing really stood out to me on the beer list and the shandy variation I went with (The Hook Up) wasn’t great. Keeping in mind my personal preference, others may enjoy their beers more. I doubt I’ll be back though.




Stop 5: Chilly Water
Virginia Avenue has come a long way in the last couple years and Chilly Water is a great addition to keep the momentum going. The Built to Last pilsner I had was refreshing and the food was delish. Skip’s balls are a must order (just trust me on this one). The lighting fixtures were also very appropriate for our group.


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Overall it was a great day with great friends biking around a city I love. Cheers!








Keeping it real

There was a post floating around last month about what the author Instragrammed versus what was actually happening when the photo was taken. She went into detail about the extensive set up for each photo and the number of attempts to get exactly the right angle. We’re all guilty of this and I’m no exception.

On Monday, I posted this picture to show off my new running gear:

thunder thighs

Of course I moved my body around trying to find just the right twisted angle to make my stomach look flat, my boobs/butt stick out and my legs appear muscular. Behind the scenes of the picture, I was freaking out about my donut (my affectionate name for my stomach) and my thunder thighs. Some of this stems from leftover fat!Melanie issues that linger in my reflection. But I struggled with body image issues long before that.

Monday was the first time since high school volleyball that I ran in shorts. From a practical standpoint, I’ve avoided wearing shorts because my thighs rub together and chafe. Super uncomfortable. From a purely superficial standpoint, I’ve avoided wearing shorts because I don’t have super skinny, “legit” runner legs. I looked stupid and didn’t want to think about my thighs jiggling around. So I always rock three-quarter length tights and endured the heat.

It’s been stupid hot/humid this week in Indy, motivating me to get over my weird hang-ups and just buy some damn running shorts. Monday I ran 2.5 miles in them, 1.5 before crossfit then 1 mile as part of the WOD. At first I was really uncomfortable and self-conscious. I kept pulling them down, fully aware of how exposed my pasty, thick upper thighs were.

But guess what? The world didn’t end. No one stared and laughed. And thanks to a generous application of body glide (and sweat during the WOD…), I didn’t suffer much chafing. I lived to run another day.

Running in shorts may seem like a little thing to some people but for me it was huge. It was a big step toward embracing my body as it is – something I fear will be a lifelong battle, for me and for many others out there.

I need to remember that these thighs powered me through three half marathons and will take me across the finish line of my fourth in November and my fifth in April. These thighs gave me the strength to deadlift 245# and back squat 165#. These thighs pedaled me through a 40-mile ride up and down the Monon.

As with my other posts, I didn’t write this to solicit “your thighs are perfect just the way they are” comments. I just felt compelled to be honest, with you and with myself. The “me” you see on social media isn’t always the “me” that’s behind the scenes. I refer to my weight loss as a journey because it’s just that. I’ve managed to keep the weight off for 2.5 years but I’m still trying to figure out how to be confident with how I look. It’s not always easy and it’s not something I feel like you can speak openly about without appearing like you are seeking compliments.

One run in shorts isn’t going to magically change my body issues, but it’s a start.

So here’s to embracing your thunder thighs, donut or whatever body part you obsess over. Here’s to taking whatever small step you need to stop letting that hold you back. Here’s to keeping it real.

An Indy Film Fest #protip or two

One of my favorite events is back this month: Indy Film Fest on July 17 – 26! It’s the 11th year for the festival but will be my third attending. In 2012 and 2013, I had the chance to screen a few films and write reviews that were posted on the festival’s website. You can read all about my 2012 experience here.

They aren’t doing reviews this year but I love this event, so here I am blogging anyway. I thought I would share a few things I’ve learned over the last couple years to help first timers have a great experience and fall in love with the fest.

  • Have a game plan. The festival is 10 days of non-stop movie madness. There are films playing all day, every day in multiple theatres at the Indiana Museum of Art. You could just show up and take your chance on whatever happens to be playing – a festival roulette of sorts. But, your safer route is to check the schedule in advance, watch trailers/read synopses and plan out your week. I like to get the printed version on opening night and highlight my choices (nerd alert!), but you can buy your tickets in advance on their site and build an online schedule too.
  • Take a chance on something different. If judging a book by its cover is wrong, judging a film by its trailer or synopsis can be too. Get outside your comfort zone and see a film that might look a little strange or is something you would normally skip. Last year they showed a documentary about these crazy good, super intense Tetris players. On paper, it sounded like the strangest, quirkiest movie and I debated not going. It ended up being one of my favorite films that year. And on the other end of the spectrum, there’ll be some that look great based on the trailer but might fall a little flat for you. You’ll never know unless you show up, so keep an open mind.
  • Stay for the Q&A. By far one of the coolest things about the festival is getting to meet the directors, writers and actors of some of the films. Last year director/writer/producer/craft beer drinker Joe Swanberg spoke after the screening of Drinking Buddies. It was awesome to hear him talk about the process of making the film, what it was like working with the cast, etc. It can be incredibly nerve-wracking to sit through a screening (sometimes their very first) and watch the audience’s reaction. Even if you didn’t love the film, stick around, learn about the creative process and show your support of people who are putting it all out there for you to judge.
  • Don’t skip the shorts. The festival screens full feature films but also shows several shorts, which are typically 40 minutes or less. The shorts programs can be hit or miss but great short films pack the punch. One of my favorites two years ago, Cadaver, was just shy of 8 minutes but it was incredibly moving and worth sitting through the other shorts to see.
  • Bring a jacket. There are few better ways to escape the summer heat than sitting in a cool theatre. But about 10 minutes into each film, I’m inevitably freezing in my shorts and tank top. Layers are clutch.
  • Thank a volunteer. The Indy Film Fest board is comprised of volunteers who all have full-time jobs. They work year-round to bring amazing, unique, cultural events to the city. During the festival, a crew of additional volunteers puts in countless hours helping make each screening flow smoothly. A quick thank you as they take your ticket goes a long way.
  • Get connected. Follow Indy Film Fest on Twitter and like them on Facebook to get the latest updates on the schedule of events, after parties, giveaways and more. And of course I’ll be posting my 140-character reviews that week too.

The goal of the Indy Film Fest is to create a shared experience around film and I guarantee you will walk away from the week feeling inspired and energized. The festival is your chance to get in some culture, support independent artists and further position Indy as a Midwest mecca of movies. Who needs Tribeca or Sundance when you’ve got the Indy Film Fest?

Pass the popcorn and let’s start the show!

What did I miss Indy Film Fest veterans? Sound off and share your tips! 

Race recap: Carmel half

It’s a little strange to say this but 13.1 miles is no longer a super crazy, totally ridiculous, OMG no way I can do that distance. When I woke up Saturday morning for my third half marathon, the Carmel half, I had some of the usual race day jitters but it also just felt like another early morning long run. This is a good thing if I ever want to attempt a full, which is the next logical (but super crazy, totally ridiculous, OMG no way I can do that distance) challenge.

Based on my training, I had a reach goal in mind – 2:15. I knew it would be tough and require some hard work because the pace was a little faster than my training runs. I went out faster than planned but I felt really good through mile 8. When I had my slowest split in mile 10, I started to worry. I picked up my pace in the last two miles but had to pee really badly. I wasn’t about to stop so you can imagine what mile 12 was like for me…

In the end, I crossed the finish line in 2:16:38, a 10:26 average pace and a two-minute PR! I didn’t have quite the overwhelming feeling as my last half but I was really proud of the effort.

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The Carmel half brought on a couple firsts for me. It was my first time doing a spring race. In typical Indiana fashion, I trained in 20 – 40 degree weather but raced in 50 – 60 degree weather. Everyone kept asking if I was excited for the higher temps but it was a little too warm for me.

It was also my first time doing a half that wasn’t the Monumental. That course will always be special to me since it was the first one I did. It also feels like home court advantage since I live downtown and run on those streets all the time. I don’t know Carmel at all and despite studying the course map for days, I got really turned around mentally in the last few miles. Obviously you know based on your GPS watch and the mile markers how much distance is left, but it helps me to break up the course into stretches and know what’s next after each turn. I wasn’t able to visualize the course map at the end and I think it threw me off a little. But I can’t only ever run the Monumental so it was good experience.

The course is a little weird too. Around mile 3.5, the full continues straight but the half turns around a cone and goes back the other direction. With all the roundabouts in Carmel, you’d think they could have made that turn more gradual. There were also more hills than I anticipated. Of course it’s Indiana so they were baby hills but any incline is a lot when you’re used to flat runs. I did enjoy when we were on the Hagan-Burke Trail and the Monon, but if the race gets any bigger that section will be really tight.

Like the Monumental, I saw a lot of familiar faces at the race, either running, volunteering or cheering. I can’t give enough love to the Indy running community. It’s a really special group and the support has been amazing. I have to give a big shout out to my friend Jesse Davis who won the full marathon for the third year in a row and beat his own course record. He is stupid fast and I’m just happy to say I finished the half before he finished the full this time.


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So what’s next? I’m signed up for the Monumental again this November and plan on crushing my 2:15 goal. I think it’s definitely doable and I’m ready to put in the work to get there. Until then, I’ll do some smaller races and get back into crossfit. I tend to back off to conserve my legs as it gets closer to race day but I’m missing Crossfit Naptown family!

Did you run the Carmel half or full? What did you think of the course? Have you ever set a reach goal and fell short? Does peeing your pants while running because you want to finish in a certain time make you legit or stupid?

Training update: Carmel half and Crossfit Open

Something weird (but awesome) happened at some point during this training season. My super fast, can’t breath, basically sprinting pace became the average pace for my training runs. And my crazy, no way I can lift that weight became what I use regularly during crossfit workouts.

I’m not exactly sure what to attribute it to. I haven’t really lost any more weight. I was eating really well in January but have fallen off a little since then. I have been trying to scale less in crossfit and push my pace harder on runs, which helps. But it’s also possible I’m just starting to see the long-term benefits of consistently working out for the last three years.

Mother Nature still hates us all
The weather has been so ridiculous that one day when it crept above 50 degrees, I wrote a love letter to a 17-mile stretch of pavement. My total mileage has been low compared to previous halves but my long runs have felt strong. So, I’m not really sure what to expect on race day. I got in my last long run this weekend – 10 miles in the rain and cold. A lot of people said I was crazy but at this point who knows what race day conditions will be. I wanted to prove to myself I’m mentally and physically tough enough to handle it and I refuse to let Mother Nature win.


Chasing goals
In my first half, my goal was just to finish the damn thing (check). The second time around, I wanted to run the whole thing and hopefully finish faster (check, check). For the Carmel half, I have a somewhat ambitious time in mind. It’s an aggressive pace that I’ll have to work for and the last few miles may be painful. I can’t wait to go after it!

Stepping up my watch game
I started running with the Garmin Forerunner 10. There are a lot of GPS watches out there but this one was recommended by a few fellow runners and has the basic features I need at a reasonable price. It’s been helpful to know how far I have left, if I need to pick up the pace, etc. There’s also an auto pause feature that stops your time when you stop moving. That’s great for me since I run downtown and get stopped by lights occasionally.

The watch stores your last seven runs so I make a habit of uploading the data to my computer right away. This is where it gets fun. You can check your splits, elevation on the route and even what the weather conditions were like that day. The more I use it, the more interesting it will be to compare the data.

garmin screenshot 2014 Crossfit Open
This weekend also wrapped up the 2014 Crossfit Open. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do all the movements, but I would be forced to push myself and Rx what I could (no scaling).

  • 14.1 (double unders and snatches): I was worried about not getting past the double unders since I have a hard time stringing them together. And I was worried about the snatch weight. I ended up getting through two full rounds plus some! SCORE: 99.
  • 14.2 (overhead squats and chest to bar pull ups): I can’t do unassisted pull ups so I knew my score wouldn’t be more than 10. But the OHS weight was not far off of my one rep max and it’s one of my worst movements so 10 reps in 3:00 was even questionable. I picked up the bar, got into position and ended up doing all 10 reps unbroken. Boom. SCORE: 10.
  •  14.3 (deadlifts and box jumps): I couldn’t wait to do this workout when it was announced! Deadlifts are one of my strongest moves and I knew I could handle the increasing weight with no problem. This leveled the playing field for me and I was excited to get one of the higher scores in the gym for people at my skill level. I can’t lie, I felt like a badass. SCORE: 105.
  •  14.4 (row, toes to bar, wall balls, power cleans, muscle ups): I can do three of the five movements. Toes to bar is not one of them. I got through the row and had about 10:00 left to go for my first ever toes to bar. I got closer than I ever have a couple times but just couldn’t make it happen. It was incredibly frustrating and I was in a bit of a weird mental place after this one. SCORE: 60.
  •  14.5 (thrusters and bar-facing burpees): We all knew these two movements were going to end up in the final workout but no one could have anticipated the crazy rep scheme. It’s for time so in order to get points you have to finish the workout. The last time I did Fran, I Rx’d the thrusters but that’s only 45 reps versus 84 in this one. I approached it like I did my 10-miler the day before: Don’t go out too fast, maintain a steady pace and don’t stop moving. It was probably one of the hardest workouts I’ve done since I started crossfit but I powered through. SCORE: 26:46.

Overall, the Open was a great experience. I ended up being able to do more than I thought I could and it was a huge confidence builder. I got points on the board for each workout and have a baseline for next year as I continue to improve. The Open proved I need to stop doubting myself and I am mentally and physically tougher than I realized.

Did you participate in the Crossfit Open? What was your experience like? Are you training for a spring race and feeling super frustrated with Mother Nature? Do you use a GPS watch while running or do you find it distracting? Share your thoughts!

The faster we run, the sooner we can drink beer

This weekend was my first race of 2014: the Shamrock Run. The course was four miles from Monument Circle to Fountain Square and back. It was a little chilly at the start but warmed up quickly and ended up being a beautiful day to race.

My dad ran with me, which was a really cool experience. It was only the second time we’ve ever run together, despite him being one of my inspirations and the person I call after almost every single run. I’ve come a long way since our first run and was able to keep up conversation a little better and push the pace a lot more. We flew through the course and toward the end my dad said he wished the race was longer.   


I was surprised at how chill I was going into this race. Maybe it was the shorter distance. Obviously there’s a lot more pressure for a half marathon. Months of training come down to one day, one chance to race your heart out. I spend way too much time before the half analyzing the course map, strategizing my water and fuel breaks, visualizing the race, etc.

My only real thought with the Shamrock Run was that I wanted to finish under 40 minutes. I knew that was doable based on how my training runs have gone so far this season. And my dad is faster than me so I knew he would help push me along. Our chip time was 37:35, a 9:23 pace, which I was super happy with!

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What I didn’t factor in is what it would be like running the morning after doing 14.3. I signed up for the Crossfit Open, which is the first round of competition that leads to the Crossfit Games you see broadcast on ESPN. The Open workouts are tough and designed to filter out the best of the best athletes. Each week a different workout is announced and this week’s workout had heavy deadlifts. My legs felt okay on the run but my back did start tightening up during mile three. I wonder if I could have pushed the pace even more without that.

Outside of some crazy crowd weaving at the start, I really enjoyed this race. My dad and I ran fast and had a great time. And the rest of the day was full of “I heart Indy so hard right now” moments as my friends and I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in the sun.


What race did you have the most fun during? Are you a talker runner like my dad or a huffer puffer shuffler like me? And what’s with the deal with all the St. Patrick’s Day races? There were at least three in Indy on Saturday. 

A love letter to the Monon Trail

We’ve been having a rough winter here in Indy. More rough than normal. Stupid cold, feels like -40 degrees rough. So this past Saturday when the sun came out of hiding and the temperature climbed up to 53 degrees, people went a little crazy.

My first reaction was to run outside – literally. I’m training for the Carmel half marathon, my first time doing a big race in the spring. I don’t think I anticipated how hard it would be to start training during winter. I haven’t been nearly as consistent as my previous two halves because I don’t have the proper gear to run in sub-zero temps or on icy/snowy surfaces.

Excuses, I know, but that’s all the more reason why I couldn’t wait to get outside on Saturday. On my run, I saw a ton of people walking, running and biking down the Monon Trail. The city felt alive again and it was invigorating.


I was struck by how excited I was to be on the Monon again. It felt like I was reconnecting with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever. With each step, the familiarity and comfort of the trail was solidified and soon it was like no time had passed. Like any good friendship, no words needed to be said. No apologies for time spent away. No awkward small talk as we try to figure out how to be around each other again. Just one foot in front of the other, pounding pavement, like we do best.

The Monon is almost like a living, breathing entity. It’s there for your triumphs, for your setbacks and for the occasional pub roll. There’s a sense of community and shared purpose when you pass people on the trail, whether they are in training mode or just going for a stroll. And I know I’m not the only one to lovingly refer to it as a friend. In fact, my buddy Josh even has a tattoo of the Monon on his wrist.

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. I suppose I have this ridiculous winter to thank for making me truly appreciate everything the Monon is and has to offer. Once we can finally shake Old Man Winter, I will waste no time taking full advantage of the Monon every chance I get!

Do you think of the Monon as a friend? How are you dealing with the separation anxiety this winter has caused? Share your Monon stories in the comments below!