2015 Indy Film Fest Preview

I’ve never understood people who complain about there not being anything to do in Indy or those who compare us to other cities and grumble about things they have that we don’t.

Truth talk: If you’re bored in Indy, you’re doing it wrong.

One of my absolute favorite things in this city is the Indy Film Fest, coming up on July 16 – 25 at the Indiana Museum of Art and IMAX. The organization puts on events throughout the year but these 10 days are some of the best. There are the 100+ films, ranging from comedic shorts to dramatic full-length features. There are the parties (and the after parties). There are the conversations with the filmmakers that give you insight into the creative process. And there are the many shared experiences you’ll be part of as the lights dim in a room full of strangers, all watching the same film but each taking away something different from it.

The list of films selected for this year was released earlier this week. I took a very short, super quick, bookmarked for later scan and here are a few I’m excited about:

  • “Sleeping with Other People” – this film kicks off the festival on opening night. It’s produced by Will Farrell and stars Allison Brie and Jason Sudekis, all of whom I love.
  • “Blood, Sweat and Beer” – as an avid beer drinker (yes, I’m on Untappd) and supporter of local businesses, I’m a big fan of the craft beer scene. This documentary takes an in-depth look at the ups and downs of opening a brewery.
  • “For Grace” – I also have a bit of a fascination with all the things that have to fall into place to make a restaurant simply function, let alone stand out among the competition. This documentary (I promise the festival isn’t all docs) dives into that world and the sacrifices one chef makes to try to become the best.
  • “Love Me Anyway” – the crew behind this film is a regular at the Indy Film Fest. I’ve really enjoyed their previous work and have no doubt this one will keep the streak going.
  • “Somewhere in the Middle” – I’m intrigued by the premise of this one and how it will come together in execution: “…born out of a year-long improvisational process wherein the actors and director mutually crafted a time-fragmented, ensemble drama.”
  • “Wildlike” – this film closes out the festival and looks like an interesting story with scenic Alaska serving as a supporting character.

The exact schedule hasn’t been released yet so be sure to connect with them on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates. Links will be available to buy tickets in advance (the opening and closing nights will sell out!) or you can purchase at the door. I strongly suggest investing in the all access pass. It’s worth it and I love that it gives you the freedom to take a chance on movies you might have passed on based solely on the summary or trailer if you had a limited number of tickets.

Last year, I provided some pro tips for festival attendees. Those all still ring true but one to add: There’s been some confusion about whether or not you can still bike to the IMA after some recent policy changes. They clarify in this blog post, which I suggest you read before biking over. I live downtown and try to bike to the festival when I can, partly because it’s a beautiful route, but also to help offset the popcorn, beer and hours of sitting.

So there you have it. My entry into the “stop saying Indy is boring and get out and experience all it has to offer” debate. I hope to see you out at the festival next month!

Full disclosure: I have nothing to disclose! While I have been an official blogger for the festival in the past and received an all access pass for it, this post is just me sharing some love for an event I love and hope you will love, too

The perfect southern solo getaway

Before I travel, I usually do pretty extensive research on sites to see and places to eat so I can hit the ground running when I arrive. I creep on Google Maps (satellite and street view!) to the point where I often have a city’s general layout memorized before I even get there. Given all that, I usually have a good idea of what my trip will be like going into it.

Last week, however, Charleston, SC, took me by surprise. I was truly blown away by how beautiful and relaxing it was. I present into evidence Exhibit A: My Instagram account, which I unashamedly BLEW UP for three days solid.

IMG_20150531_194544

Charleston was exactly what I needed after getting through our biggest work event of the year the weekend prior. I love to travel and have never been one of those “It’ll be good to get home” people but this trip was particularly tough to see come to an end. I spent my last night under the moonlight, toes in the sand, just listening to the waves hit the rocks. It was perfection (Exhibit B).

To be fair, it would have been hard for Charleston to fail as a destination, what with warm weather, water, southern cooking and historic homes. It did end up being an expensive town but I was in full on treatyoself mode and had budgeted appropriately. I didn’t do as much as I typically fit into my trips (event planner hangover, perhaps) but I did get a taste of everything Charleston has to offer and loved it.

I stayed at the Charleston Harbor Resort which overlooked downtown from across the bay. The hotel had a free trolley to/from downtown and there was also a water taxi that was a cheap way to get out on the water (and see dolphins!). I took advantage of the free hotel bikes one day and also got in a five-mile run to the bridge and back. It was a convenient location to both take advantage of all the excitement of downtown and escape from it to relax by the pool or on the marina dock.

So, the highlights:

  • Magnolia’s: The fried chicken meal I had was the epitome of southern cooking and I was in carb heaven. Since I traveled alone, I sat at the bar right away but I would recommend reservations.
  • The rooftop at The Vendue: Pretty popular on a Saturday night and for good reason. I enjoyed a beautiful view of the sun setting over downtown.
  • 82 Queen: I wish I had been hungrier when I was here! I stopped in for lunch and the menu looked amazing but I kept it light with a super tasty local Kolsch and a crab cake. They have an adorable patio but I sat at the bar since the wait was so long.
  • Kaminsky’s: Did the cliché dessert of a warm slice of apple pie a la mode while killing time before taking the hotel trolley back. So good!
  • 39 Rue de Jean: Hands down one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Ever. I ate every bite of the steak frites and can still taste the deliciousness thinking about it now. So glad one of my friends recommended it!
  • Tavern and Table: I biked over for lunch and saw yet another gorgeous side of Charleston. I sat outside overlooking Shem Creek with a delicious charcuterie and cheese board.
  • The Griffon: For my last dinner, I took the water taxi over and asked the captain to recommend somewhere chill and unique with a tasty burger and local brews. His suggestion was so on point!
  • Nathaniel Russell House and Aiken Rhett House: With no car, I was limited in getting out to the larger plantations. However, Charleston has preserved several urban plantations and house museums right in the middle of the downtown neighborhoods. I visited the Nathaniel Russell House first and it had a cool staircase. But the Aiken Rhett House was far more impressive and the audio tour was really well done.

I realize it looks like all I did is eat but I’m okay with that. I enjoyed every single thing I ate, except for the crab cake which I tolerated in an effort to eat seafood. If I had a car, I could have ventured to Folly or Sullivan Beach, too. But I enjoyed keeping it low key and spending a lot of time just walking around and taking in the views of the water, the architecture and the flowers.

And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you how perfect this trip was, here’s a gallery of pics:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you been to Charleston? What did I miss out on? Did you also eat all the food while there? Add your recommendations in the comments below!

Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon

“Train hard, race hard” is a mantra I’ve adopted as I’ve gotten more into running. If it’s snowing, you run. If it’s raining, you run. If it’s 0 degrees, you run. If it’s 90 degrees, you run.

You do this because you never know what will happen on race day and training in all elements makes you more mentally prepared. If you only train in “perfect” weather, you will only be prepared for “perfect” race day weather, which is super rare and means something different to every runner.

This weekend I ran my fifth half marathon, the Kentucky Derby Festival MiniMarathon, and the race day conditions were far from perfect. The forecast called for 53 and rainy. I was excited for cooler temps since I tend to run hot but wasn’t sure how heavy the rain would be. I wore a hat and mesh tank top and brought a poncho for the start line corrals.

20150425_063815 20150425_071536

It ended up being a light rain for the majority of the race, which I actually didn’t mind. But in the last few miles it turned into a downpour. It was honestly some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever ran in but I kept my head down and grinded out to the end for a 2:13:56 finish.

277424_192535826_Medium

It wasn’t a PR but it was my second fastest time, which I’m pretty proud of given the rain. The course was also hillier than I’m used to (aka super flat Indy) and the field was bigger than I’m used to, forcing me to weave in and out of runners almost the whole race. I also had a slow first two miles after realizing I had to pee pretty much as soon as I got in the corrals. I’ve never stopped in a race before but I knew it would weigh me down (literally and mentally) so I dipped in and out at the first water station. My gut reaction was to sprint out of there to make up for lost time but I had a lot of course left so I calmed down and settled into a steady pace.

Splits

My Garmin was a little off from my chip time because of my early pit stop but based on how my splits were the rest of the race, I think I might have had a shot at a PR had the first two miles gone differently. But you can’t think that way. I ran the race I ran and left it all on the road, which is all you can do!

One of my other slower miles was when we ran through Churchill Downs. The tunnels going in and out had a steeper incline than I expected and of course I had to get my phone out for a few pics. There were a couple horses on the track, which was cool but you could definitely smell them…

20150425_090047

While the water stations were a giant cluster (I had to stop and wait for them to fill up cups…), the City of Louisville came out and represented in some ridiculous spectator conditions. They were some of the best I’ve had in any race. My favorites were the church near mile two, the high school drumline not far down from there and a girl’s cross country club whose cheers could rival the Wellesley College section of the Boston Marathon.

20150425_100946 20150425_120352

What’s next?

My goal is to maintain my base in May then in June start training for my first full, the Monumental Marathon. SHIT JUST GOT REAL.

Louisville Love

I stayed at the Galt House the night before the race, which was a little pricey but worth it for the convenience factor. This was my first out of town race and it was really nice not to have to worry about race day logistics (the start line was half a mile down the street).

After the race, I met up with my friends who also did the half (Efe’s first!) and stayed at their house in the Clifton area. I’ve driven through Louisville so many times but never really visited and I have to say I was really impressed. So much good food, beer and bourbon (of course).

This post is already super long so I’ll spare you the details and just give you the highlights with some pics in the gallery below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Have you raced in the rain before? What are your strategies for tough conditions? Where else should I visit in Louisville when I go back? Drop a note in the comments below!

Naptown Smackdown recap

This weekend I competed in my first crossfit competition, Naptown Smackdown, hosted by my gym Crossfit Naptown (CFNT). I’ve been doing crossfit for over two years but have never signed up for a competition because there are still some moves I can’t Rx (perform as prescribed without scaling) that tend to show up in competition programming, like unassisted pull ups.

CFNT hosts the Naptown Smackdown each year to give all its members a chance to experience the competition environment regardless of their skill level. Athletes can scale the workouts as needed but only those who Rx can advance to the finals. This was the perfect the opportunity for me to get exposed to the competition setting and push myself to Rx as much as I could.

When they announced the workouts the night before, I was super excited because it was all moves I can Rx! They were going to be tough workouts but at least I had a chance to see what I could do.

20150207_121028

WOD 1
This was a burner! I watched some YouTube videos for tips on getting in and out of the clips quickly but it all went out the window during the WOD. My main strategy was just to keep moving and ignore the fact that my lungs were on fire. I would probably tackle the burpees differently if I did this one again since I got a little dizzy with my spin move action.
Score: 69 calories

WOD 2
This is one of those workouts where strategy becomes crucial. Breaking up reps early, doing push jerk even if you can press it to save energy, taking a few extra seconds to make sure you are set before you attempt to go overhead…there are so many small, quick decisions that can dramatically affect how well you do in a WOD like this.

My goal was to get through the set of 85# and have time to attempt the next weight up. Unfortunately I didn’t do a lot of the things I mentioned above. I rushed through the lighter weight. I stayed with push press at 65# even though doing push jerk would have conserved some energy. I wasted a couple attempts overhead at 85# because I didn’t take a moment to breath first. I will definitely try this one again and remind myself that 7:00 is longer than you think so chill out and be smart!
Score: 80 reps

IMG951977

WOD 3
To quote my dad’s commentary in the video, I was struggling early on with the jump rope. While warming up, I did them unbroken but just got too excited or nervous at 3-2-1-go. I made up some time in the other movements luckily and was pretty happy with my pacing overall. My legs were total jello by the time I got back to the jump rope though.
Score: 260 reps

Lessons learned/takeaways
I wasn’t really sure how to mentally prep for this versus a race. Similar to picturing each mile on the course the night before, I walked myself through each WOD and tried to strategize.

I also wasn’t sure how to fuel for this versus a race. Doing three WODs in one morning is a totally different animal. A few people told me to eat right after each WOD even if I wasn’t hungry and drink lots of water of course. I followed that advice with a KIND bar after the first WOD and a Clif bar after the second. I felt like my energy held up relatively well throughout the morning.

If I do another competition, I need to do a better job of calming down between WODs. I had a lot of nervous energy before the first one and was just super excited to cheer everyone else on and be part of the whole thing. I don’t even remember sitting down much.

We don’t have mirrors in the gym so it’s interesting (and super weird) to watch these videos and see these pictures. I definitely have some room for improvement on my form. But it was kind of cool to see myself doing the same weights and moves as everyone else. I’ve been trying to push myself to Rx more in class and stop doubting myself and selling myself short. I may not be able to do an unassisted pull up, but there’s a lot I can do and this was a nice reminder of how far I’ve come in the last two years.

It was great to have my dad there cheering me on! He got to experience firsthand why I love this community so much and get a glimpse into the crossfit world and what we do during workouts. He’s a runner so we always talk about my training for races but this was a foreign world to him.

2015020795105608

Overall Naptown Smackdown was an awesome experience! I learned a lot, pushed myself and had a blast. I would definitely recommend all CFNT members sign up next year!

Have you done a crossfit competition before? What tips do you have for rookies? If you participated in Naptown Smackdown, what was your favorite part? What would you say to other CFNT members to get them to sign up? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

An unforgettable London holiday

The idea that you can summarize London in a blog post is ridiculous. The notion that you can capture a city so big and vibrant and alive in any number of words is preposterous. A city that sits on top of seemingly infinite levels of underground trains constantly whirring back and forth. A city where you can go to a different pub for lunch and dinner every day for an entire year and not even come close to eating at them all. A city with so many unique neighborhoods and districts intertwined in such a way that you can experience a completely different scene by walking 10 minutes in any direction.

Sure, I could give you a laundry list of things I did and places I went while spending a week in London. And I may still do that by the time this post is done. But it won’t do it justice. It won’t even come close.

I suppose I should back up and explain how I ended up in London. My friend Amanda had planned the trip with someone else who unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. On December 12, I booked my flight and less than two weeks later, on Christmas Day, we were off. It might seem crazy to book an international trip on such short notice. But when you make travel a priority in your life, saying yes to an opportunity like this is a no brainer. (Practical side note: I already had the time off work.)

Since being back, I’ve had a hard time articulating my favorite part. It wasn’t one thing or place, but rather a feeling. I immediately felt super comfortable in London. Of course no language barrier helped, along with my pre-trip Google Map stalking and natural sense of direction. But it was more than that and different than my previous trips abroad.

I felt like we were there, not just visiting. Walking around, taking the tube, drinking pints at a pub (all the pubs)…it all felt so natural and like something I could do every day forever. Our Airbnb flat contributed to that a lot I’m sure – a two-bedroom flat just east of the Tower of London past St. Katharine Docks. It was so nice to be able to spread out, cook a few meals and feel like we were locals. You just can’t get that same experience in a hotel.

It ended up being sort of a weird time to visit London. We arrived on Boxing Day, an official holiday and also Amanda’s birthday. A lot of places were closed, not just that day but at odd dates and times throughout the week. That didn’t decrease the number of tourists though. The lines at all of the major sites were crazy. We walked by each attraction but skipped the long lines and high admissions prices to keep walking and take in more of the city.

And take in the city we did! We walked through almost every major area on both sides of the river. I promised not to do a laundry list but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note some of the highlights and include a gallery of pictures (below). If you want more recommendations, I’m happy to provide the full list of restaurants/attractions/etc in the comments.

  • I keep a list of states I’ve ran in and was super (nerdy) excited to add a country! The Thames Path provided a great route and I witnessed a pretty incredible sunrise over the Tower Bridge.

IMG_20141228_035822

  • High tea at the Tower Hotel – I was apprehensive since I don’t drink tea but I quickly learned it’s about so much more than tea. It was a fancy, fun experience with delicious food and unlimited Prosecco.

20141228_075159

2014-12-27 12.16.16

  • Harry Potter nerd moments – I made the pilgrimage to Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. We also stumbled upon Leadenhall Market one morning before it opened. A little eerie but awesome and I later learned it’s where they filmed some of the Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley scenes.

IMG_20141231_121847

  • British Library – this is one of my must see recommendations. They have original manuscripts from DaVinci and Shakespeare. Beethoven’s handwritten symphonies. The piece of paper the Beatles wrote “Yesterday” on. The first known use of italics in print. It was incredible and admission was free!
  • Train to Windsor – as much as we loved the city, this day trip was a nice change of pace. The castle was interesting but even better was venturing to Windsor & Eton Brewery. I loved learning about their brewing style versus the U.S. while sampling generous half pint pours. And the staff was so friendly!

20141230_103259

  • And of course counting down to 2015 in another country was pretty cool. We opted for an 80s theme party at The Minories and had a blast dancing in the New Year.

20141231_193742

The complete gallery:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read 26 Indy

When I was 10, my Papa Charlie and I were out shopping and came across one of the thickest books I’d seen up to that point: The Book of Virtues by William Bennett. Clocking in at 800+ pages, he joked about how no one could finish a book that long and I defiantly stated that I could. We left the store and I thought no more of it.

Read26IndyFast forward to Christmas that year when Papa Charlie hands me a heavy present: The Book of Virtues. Wide-eyed and excited, I immediately started reading and was finished within days.

Read26Indy papa

I’ve always been a voracious reader. If it’s a particularly good book, I will completely immerse myself in the story, only occasionally coming up for air. There’s just something about a good book that takes you away from this world. I love movies too but it’s different. Maybe it’s because the characters and scenes can materialize in a number of ways in your mind while reading a book, whereas you are forced into one interpretation while watching a movie.

As much as I love reading, it’s become more and more difficult to carve time out of my day for it. That’s why I was excited to learn about the #Read26Indy challenge and use it as motivation to make reading a priority again.

The goal was simple enough: Read 26 books by the end of the year. I learned a few things on my adventure through 26 (well, 27) books in 2014:

  1. I wish I would have kept a running list of books I’ve read throughout my life. I can’t even imagine how long it would be, not including the books I’ve read multiple times.
  2. I’ve also started a running list of books I want to read next and ones recommended by friends – something I also wish I would have started a long time ago.
  3. When I find an author I like, I tend to read everything by them. (ex: Kate Morton, John Green)
  4. I know there’s a lot of debate among purists about the Kindle. I have an overflowing bookcase in my bedroom and love it. But the Kindle is just too convenient, especially when traveling. For my part, I did a mix of both in 2014. Indy Reads Books is a fantastic shop on Mass Ave that supplied more than a few of my selections.
  5. For the first time that I can remember, I gave up on a book. I got about 100 pages into Anna Karenina, which is on almost every “must read classics” list, before realizing I was forcing myself to get through each page. Reading should be fun, not work. Unless it’s literally for school or work of course. Sorry, Leo.
  6. I didn’t love everything I read (see above) but the challenge reminded me how much I love and miss reading. In my limited free time, mindless Netflix marathons can take over (and are so necessary sometimes) but I need to keep reading a priority.

So, onto the list. If there’s anything you want recommendations on, drop a note in the comments and I’ll let you know my thoughts.

  1. Allegiant
  2. If I Stay
  3. The Husband’s Secret
  4. Where She Went
  5. The Distant Hours
  6. One More Thing
  7. Looking for Alaska
  8. The Corporate Creative
  9. Honey Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner
  10. The Complete Graphic Designer
  11. Graphic Design Solutions
  12. The Mill River Recluse
  13. The Secret Keeper
  14. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  15. My Sister’s Keeper
  16. Black Chalk
  17. A Life Without Limits
  18. Mrs. Dalloway’s Party
  19. The Awakening
  20. Madame Bovary
  21. This Is Where I Leave You
  22. The Forgotten Garden
  23. The Children Act
  24. Yes Please
  25. Paper Towns
  26. Rain Girl
  27. The Gradual Demise of Phillipa Finch

Did you participate in #Read26Indy? What did you take away from the experience? What was the best book you read this year? The worst? Have you ever given up on a book?

48 hours in Nashville

For the last three years, I’ve gone down to Asheville for Siblingsgiving with my brother (2011 and 2012 recaps). He moved back to Indy so we did the family thing Thursday but wanted to make the most of the weekend and go somewhere. Our criteria: Close, cheap, fun, new. We settled on Nashville, Tenn. We aren’t big into country music but we’re up for adventure and several friends have visited and loved it.

We stayed at Nashville Downtown Hostel. It was budget-friendly and perfectly located just blocks away from the main strip. The staff was very friendly and helpful and I loved hearing so many different accents in the lounge and hallways from international guests.

IMG_20141129_090549

Our tourist to do list wasn’t very long, partly because we didn’t have much time, partly because we wanted to save money and mainly because we had zero interest in the Country Music Hall of Fame-type stuff. We visited the Parthenon before checking in. It’s incredibly random, especially having been to the real thing in Athens, Greece. You can walk around the park for free but it’s $7 to go in and see Athena.

20141128_114233 20141128_125716

As an art addict and design lover, I was really excited to visit Hatch Show Print. The tour is $15 but worth it to learn about the history of the shop and see the letterpresses up close. Their motto is “preservation through production” as they aim to keep the art of letterpress alive.

20141129_122101 20141129_122953 20141129_123120

My brother’s goal was to “get weird with some locals” and that we did Friday night. I’ve heard the city referred to as Nashvegas and I can see why. Broadway Street is lined on both sides with bars that all have live music. We hit up Rippy’s open air second floor (horrible drinks but fun band), the rooftop at Tootsie’s (awesome view of the strip), Tequila Cowboy (because I wanted tequila) and the rooftop at Acme Feed & Seed (more awesome views and a great DJ). The country bands weren’t so bad but I was definitely more in my element at the last two spots. We danced our asses off and ended the night at a hot dog stand so it was pretty perfect.

10697343_920181432288_7046894964764875537_o

 20141128_203638IMG_5397 20141129_004053

The hot dogs were delicious as were the rest of our meals. Broadway Brewhouse offered classic pub fare with a Cajun twist and some local brews of course. Jack’s Bar-B-Que served up some savory meats. The cheesy potatoes in the brunch buffet at Puckett’s were unreal. And by far the highlight of the trip was Merchants, where we enjoyed seasoned popcorn, duck fat tater tots and mac ‘n cheese with fried chicken on top. Total food coma.

PhotoGrid_1417309899984

To offset some of that, I did manage to squeeze in a three-mile runsploration Saturday morning across the Cumberland River pedestrian bridge and around LP Field where the Titans play. Tennessee is the 13th state I have ran in to date!

PhotoGrid_1417276258466

All in all, Nashville definitely lived up to the hype and we barely scratched the surface during our short, budget-conscious trip. Not sure where we’ll end up for Siblingsgiving 2015 but it’s got some big boots to fill.