May 07, 2017

Reader Meet-up in Indy!

Wow. All I can really say about this group of readers is that I honestly could not have hand-picked more delightful people.

Sarah, Laura, Amy, Val, Gail, Glory, Christie, Cathy, Sarah, me, Erin, and Keri-Ann
Last fall, I had the idea to host a Runs for Cookies reader meet-up in Indianapolis for the Indy Mini weekend. The Indy Mini is the half-marathon that I've done five times now. It was my first-ever race, which I walked in 2008. My infamous "before" photo was taken during that race in 2009. I walked it pretty fast with my sister in 2010 after losing about 75 pounds. It became the first half-marathon that I ever ran, which was in 2011. I spectated in 2015 when my Ragnar SoCal team had a reunion.

So, this race is pretty special to me! It's a fantastic race for first-time half-marathoners--runners or walkers. It's the largest half in the country, with 35,000 people. (I am not an ambassador, but I do love the race so much that I certainly do my share of free advertising!)

Anyway, I thought it would be the perfect race race for a reader meet-up. I mentioned it on my blog, and I was surprised at what a great response I got. We formed a Facebook group to get to know each other a little, but these women were all strangers to me (except Caitlin, my friend who I write about frequently on my blog).

I was really nervous going into it, because I had no idea what to expect. Everybody knows ME pretty well, because they've read my blog for years. But I knew nothing about them, and I had no idea if we'd get along or even have much in common. Usually when I host meet-ups, I keep it to a couple of hours, just in case it's not ideal (thankfully, I've never had to worry about that--they've all worked out great so far!).

However, this was different because it was a weekend, and not just a couple of hours. I've already spoiled the ending by telling you what a great group of people this turned out to be, but I am just so happy that we did this and everything went well!

Caitlin had something come up on Thursday, and wasn't able to go to Indy. I was super bummed, but I totally understood and it was out of her control. I was glad Jerry was with me, because otherwise I wouldn't have known a single soul.

Jerry and I left for Indy on Friday morning. We stopped at Sam's Club for Buca di Beppo gift cards (that's where we were planning our group dinner for Friday night, and Sam's has $100 gift cards for only $75... since our bill was going to be $300+, we saved $75 by buying gift cards up front!).

We were staying at the Omni downtown, and I wasn't sure what to expect with that, either. I've always stayed at the Embassy Suites, but back in August, they were already sold out for Indy weekend! The Omni ended up not being the greatest place to stay, and if I was to go back to Indy for the race again, I would make sure to book the Embassy Suites right away. (I usually don't complain about hotels, but our room in the Omni was not very clean, and the pillows totally grossed me out.) Embassy Suites has free breakfast, free happy hour, suites (obviously) that are great for having lots of people in the room hanging out, and the location is PERFECT for the race.

Anyway, our room wasn't ready at the Omni, so we left our bags there and then walked to The Yard House. I went to one in Portland, and I knew Jerry would love it--when I saw there was one in Indy, I was really excited for Jerry to go! (They have an enormous beer menu, and since Jerry loves craft beer, he was thrilled.)

Sadly, this photo is way too dark, but it is
Jerry with his flight of beer
We met up with the readers who were already in town (a few had their husbands with them as well, which was good for Jerry not to be the only guy there). I had a salted watermelon margarita (yes, in a beer place) and it was actually really delicious! I love anything watermelon flavored.

Just from chatting with the people who were there, I felt very comfortable and I knew I was going to like this group. Each time I met one more reader as they showed up, I was more and more excited about how the weekend was going to go. After drinks at The Yard House, Val, Glory, Laura, Jerry, and I walked over to the convention center for the expo and packet pick-up.

At the expo, I saw reader Lise who I met at the finish line a couple of years ago, so it was nice to see her again! She had some family things going on, so she wasn't able to make it to dinner.

After the expo, we went back to the hotel to hang out for a little bit before heading to dinner at Buca. Christie does private wine tastings and brought a couple of bottles for us to try. So Jerry and I invited everyone to our room for wine and chit chat before we walked to the restaurant. A few other people showed up then, so the room was pretty crowded, but it was fun to get to talk to everyone. I was curious about how everyone discovered my blog, so that was interesting to hear.

Our dinner reservation was at 7:00, so we walked over to Buca, where we met up with the rest of the group. We were a large party of 17, but our server (Christy) was phenomenal. And we made it easier on her by having our whole order written down ahead of time. Buca serves family-style, so we got a variety of pasta (and a chicken dish, but I didn't have any of that). My favorite was the Spicy Chicken Rigatoni, on the far right in my photo). I was really bummed that we didn't have a refrigerator in our room (another perk of Embassy Suites) so I couldn't bring the leftover rigatoni back to the hotel to eat the next day.

Buca di Beppo
We also had garlic bread, but I ate that before the pasta came
I was tempted to have a glass of wine with dinner, but I've been trying hard to stick with 1-2 drinks max in a day; and I'd had that margarita in the afternoon, and then wine at the hotel, so I just stuck with water.

Most of us were staying at the hotel, so we went back there after dinner.

Packed into the elevator
I was still wide awake, so Erin came up to our room and Jerry and Erin's husband, Noel, went downstairs for a beer. Erin and I have gotten to know each other a little via email, and I was really looking forward to getting to know her in person, so it was nice to get to chat with her. She decided to walk the race with me the next day, instead of running, which made me happy to have a partner to walk with.

I didn't sleep very well, but that's not unusual for me in a hotel. Got up in the morning and dressed for the race. I just hoped it wouldn't rain! That was the main thing I was concerned about. The morning was a little hectic. Jerry and I were talking about maybe leaving late Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, because the hotel was pretty expensive and since we didn't have Caitlin to split the room with, it would have been a LOT of money to stay one more night. We decided to check out, and Gail was kind enough to let us store our suitcase in her room for the day.

I had been planning to have cereal for breakfast, which I brought with me, but I realized I had no spoon. I ate a few dried apple slices and half a cookie, but that was it--not an ideal breakfast before a half-marathon! I went downstairs and met up with some of the others, and we walked to the starting line. Erin and I started in the back with the 8:00 wave.

I stitched some videos and photos together, while Jerry and I were driving home last night, using the 1SecondEveryday app--so I'll just share that here instead of posting a ton of photos individually.

I have to say, walking the half was MUCH harder than any of the half's I've ever run! I'm sure if I had trained properly, I would have had an easier time, but walking 13.1 miles is no joke. Erin is used to running as well, so her body just was not used to the walking. Toward the end, she kept having a spasm in her leg that would happen pretty frequently, so we stopped and stretched every couple of minutes, just hoping to make it to the finish line before the sweeper ;)

I had forgotten about my favorite part of the course--at around the one mile marker, there is a corner where you go right past the elites (if you are walking, you get to see the elites come through! But if you're running, you'll likely miss it). When Erin and I reached that corner, we saw the last of the hand cyclists go by, and then the car that was leading the elites. We stopped for a minute on the corner to watch and cheer, so it was really fun to get to see the first place person at mile 12, while we were at mile 1--haha.

Just after that, I heard someone say, "Katie Foster?" I was so surprised (with the biggest half in the country, what are odds you'll bump into someone you know?). It turned out to be a fan of From Fat to Finish Line named Andréa. We took a picture and chatted for a minute before Erin and I continued. It was so crazy to bump into someone that recognized me like that! (I later got a comment on Facebook from another person who had recognized me at The Yard House, but she didn't come say hi. If any of you ever see me out, I don't bite! Honest!)

Erin and I chatted the whole way, which made the time go by much faster than if I was walking alone. But I absolutely loved taking pictures and videos and really taking in the whole race without a single thought of my finish time.

The video I posted shows the sights (I missed so many, because I wasn't ready with my camera at all times). But it was a great race! I was SUPER ready to be done by the time we got to the finish line, and my legs felt terrible, but we did it :)  My official finish time was 3:46:33.

I love getting cookies at the finish line! But they
didn't survive the trip back to the room very well.

Once I showered and changed, I realized I actually got a sunburn. I had been worried about rain (which it did rain a little in the very beginning) but never thought about the chance of sunburn. Fortunately, it was just the very top of my neck. So, it looks a little ridiculous, but at least it's just a small spot.

Cathy, Laura, Gail, Christie, Jerry, and I went for frozen yogurt after we all showered and dressed. I swear, in that moment, it was the best thing I've ever tasted. SO good!

My legs were killing me, so we walked back to the hotel, going through the mall. I noticed a food stand in the mall called "Cup of Corn"--and it was literally a place where you could get a cup of corn with different seasonings. Odd, right? I happen to LOVE corn--it is probably my favorite food after ice cream--and I stopped for a sample. I asked for whatever seasoning he recommended, and he gave me lemon pepper, parmesan cheese, and chili power. I never would have chosen that combo, but it was heavenly!! I immediately decided I was going to get that for dinner instead of eating the planned pizza in the room, haha.

We all went up to Gail's room and hung out there, watching the derby on TV. Well, I just sat and talked with the girls while Jerry massaged my feet ;)

(He didn't do the race--he had an omelet breakfast and went out for a beer while I was walking!)

As stated, I decided to have the Cup of Corn for dinner, and it was delicious. Such an odd idea, I know, but it's not unusual for me to have corn for dinner, so I was happy.

I'm going to get some lemon pepper seasoning so I can make it at home. Yum!

At around 9:30, everyone headed home or back to their rooms, so Jerry and I packed up our stuff. We said our good-byes, and hopes for doing another meet-up next year sometime, and then Jerry and I drove home. It's a four hour drive, so we didn't get home until 2:00 this morning! But it was totally worth it.

We had such an amazing time with lots of new friends, and I hope to see them again for another meet-up!


  1. Seriously just can't stop smiling about this weekend! I was totally hesitant to tell people I was going to hang out with a bunch if women I'd never met in person, but now I'll shout it from the rooftops lol! One of the best experiences I've had. I only wish I hadn't hit the wall & could've hung out longer. Thank you again Katie! Oh and those were the BEST fruit snacks!! :)

    1. Hahaha, I told you they were awesome!! I'm obsessed with them. I'm so so so glad that you had fun, and it was fantastic to meet you!

  2. Looks like so much fun.. Next time I want to be there!

    1. I would love to plan another someday!

  3. Dang, I wish I would have paid more attention so I could join in the meet-up! I love your blog and have enjoyed following your journey. I'm a Michigan native living in Indy and it would have been great to meet you and some of your other local readers!

    1. We started planning it last year, so it's been a while. But I would love to plan another in the future--thinking of possibly doing the Detroit Marathon/Half in 2018 :)

    2. That race is on my list to complete as well! I'll keep an eye out. Glad you enjoyed your time here in Indy!

  4. So you and my pastor inspired me to register for the Indy Mini 2018 (he's training for a half and talks about it in his sermons occasionally). When I looked up the date for next year's race, it is on my wedding anniversary! I was so excited to surprise my husband with this. I talk about your blog frequently so he's heard me talk about the Indy Mini. Well, he wasn't exactly thrilled with my surprise. He has a year to GET thrilled, haha!

  5. Katie, I think its safe to say WE ALL had a great weekend thanks to you! And I'm so happy that I know how do make "lasagna" frozen yogurt now! Can't wait to do it again in 2018.

  6. My husband ran it for the 5th time. It's my favorite to spectate. I love seeing the start. But I have 2 little kids and I couldn't muster up the energy to wake them up early with it being chilly and possibly rainy.
    Did you see the starting line with the elites? There is a picture of a young man in crocs! He is super fast and runs the whole thing in crocs! He came in 16th.

  7. down here in south Texas we have those, they're called elotes (or Mexican street corn) can either get it in a cup or on the cob, and typically they're slathered with mayo, chili, salt, cilantro, and sometimes queso fresco.

    1. Amanda, you beat me to it! I was going to add that when we lived in San Antonio, "Corn in a Cup" was sold out of food trucks and it was new to me, although I was told it was a typical street food in Mexico. It never seemed like the right time to try it, and now I wish I had after moving away!

  8. What a fun weekend! Glad everyone could meet up & share the race. Have always wondered if walking the race would be harder than running it! It was great seeing you again at the Expo, Katie, and giving you a big hug. Also got to meet Jerry, who also wanted a hug. :) I had a family birthday dinner or I would've joined everybody at Buca. You guys should know (and the pictures prove) that though Katie posts about her battle with the scale, she is seriously TINY! It's all muscle. Katie, you remain an inspiration to me, and are the reason I ever did the 5K at the Mini in the first place, before losing weight. And still haven't quit. Thanks for meeting up at the Expo! :)


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