Thursday, January 31, 2013

Runner's Tag Questions

A blog I read recently had responses to these running questions, and I thought (since I'm short on substance right now) it would be fun to answer them and share.  He made a video and stuff, but I rarely watch videos by bloggers, let alone have the time and know-how to make one myself.  But I can answer questions, particulary questions about running! 

Here are my written answers for Runner's Tag.

1. How long have you been running?

I've been running for about a decade now.  I ran as punishment when ordered by our tennis coach in high school, then a few times for stress relief in law school, and then mostly for fitness beginning in 2003.  In 2003, my running was solo, sporadic and on a treadmill, and I ran a single 8 mile race slowly that year.  I started running distance (and running very regularly) in 2004, and I've stopped only once -- about 6 months off in late 2005 and early 2006 due to an injury.  I have a very funny story about my mother-in-law and that injury, and I will have to share it sometime. 

2. Why did you start running?

In May 2004, a friend convinced me it would be fun to train for a marathon together. She'd gotten me to sign up for all kinds of things that we'd abandoned in the past (rowing, which we did about twice, and Spanish for Lawyers, which I never even attended (but bought the book and paid to take!), I think a dance class, etc.), and I thought the marathon would be like that. But by the fall, suddenly we were up to 20 miles and I knew it was really going to happen.  We ran together for many years after that first season, though she stopped a couple times to make people, and is now recovering from knee surgery. 

3. What is the furthest distance you have ever ran?
I would say the New York Marathon.  I've done about 16 marathons, and technically, they're all 26.2 miles, but the year I ran NY, there was some pre-race confusion about where we went for bag check, so a friend and I ran about a mile to get to bag check and then ran back to the starting line, and by then the race was already underway, so we both kept right on going.  My chip measured the 26.2, but I know I ran at least a mile before the chip began recording.  Notably, I also did three walks of 27 miles each while training for the Bataan Memorial Death March Marathon in 2012, but NY was about 27.2, so it wins as my longest run ever.

4. What is your best running memory?
The day I qualified for Boston.  I can't say as a beginning runner that I always wanted to qualify for Boston.  In fact, my times initially were so slow, that I set goals like breaking 5 hours, then breaking 4:22 (a sub-10 minute mile, seemed elusive at the time), and then breaking 4 hours.  But at some point along the way, I started reading running magazines and socializing more with runners, including many faster than me, and the Boston seed was planted.  It seemed like a remote possibility, but it was a goal, and I worked for it.  I worked hard for it.  I finally got my first BQ in 2010 at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  Full post here

5. What shoes do you run in?

I started off in Sauconys, then made the switch to Brooks Glycerin, which I wore loyally for many, many, many years.  Within the last 18 months or so, I've also been wearing the Adidas Supernova Glide and the Mizuno Wave Rider, but the Glycerins also remain in the rotation.  Last week I bought the newest pair of the Supernova -- light blue in color. 

6. What are your favorite and least favorite distances to run or race?

Tough to say.  I guess the marathon is my favorite.  There's so much work that goes into it and things have to line up well for it to be a good race day.  I love that challenge.  And I love the calorie burn that comes with training for a marathon.  I also like the 5k a lot because even though it hurts like hell, it's just over so quickly.  My least favorite is probably the 10k.  For some reason I have never paced myself well at a 10k, and my 10k PR predicts me with a marathon time much slower than I actually run. 

7. Do you have a running partner?
Yes.  I have a group of running buddies that I run with faithfully about three days a week, four if we're feeling crazy.  As I've said before, it's a group of awesome friends and we've been through a lot together over the years -- marriages, divorces, job changes, deaths in family, babies, moves, etc.  I'm insanely lucky to have a reliable and stable and fun group of friends that keeps me accountable and makes me push myself hard. 

8. What is your favorite place to run?

Favorite around here is probably the Katy Trail, since I live near it and don't have to drive.  It's a 3.5 mile pedestrian/bike path through uptown.  I also love running at our local lake, but it's a few miles away, so I drive there.  The lake is a lovely 9.3 mile loop.  Favorite places ever to run are in a park near Lamezia Terme, Italy, about 10 minutes in the car away from my husband's family's house, near the lakes in Minneapolis around which the marathon goes in the fall, in Central Park in NY, and up in the north woods of Wisconsin.  Dallas doesn't hold a candle to any of those.  I love running whether there's pretty natural scenery, but it's a fine line since I really don't like running hills (though I know they're good for me). 

9. What is your favorite running accessory?

I would say my Garmin and its heart rate monitor.  In the days before Garmin, I used to love keeping track of my stats so much, but it was such a pain to do by hand.  I love that it all uploads automatically and I can get annual totals or any other kind of extraction that I want.  I like knowing my instant pace, my total time, my average pace, my total distance, etc.  I try not to obsess over instant pace, but few things beat the feeling of thinking you're really struggling and then looking down at your watch to see that you are in fact running a killer pace! 

10. Do you like outdoor or indoor running?

Outdoors all the way!  I try to avoid treadmill running whenever possible, at most a handful of times per year.  I much prefer running with friends, so obviously that's outside.  But even for a solo run, it's so much more interesting to be outside, and I feel like it's better training for my body.  Really bad weather will occasionally force me to the treadmill, particularly when we're in the North Woods for Christmas, but if we have bad weather in Dallas, I usually suck it up and run outside, or give myself a pass and take a rest day.  I did one treadmill run already in 2013, just because I was without a car, dropped off at my office, didn't know the neighborhood well, and I was solo in the dark at 6:30 a.m., but I hated most minutes of those 7 miles. 

11. What is your favorite time of the day to run?

I'm not sure it's really my favorite, but all my training runs start at 6:00 a.m. or earlier, so I'm used to early morning running.  It's kind of a necessity if you live in Dallas and want to keep running in the summer, when it's oppressively hot sometimes in the afternoon and evening.  I did evening runs for about a year when I was just starting out, but too many of those runs got canceled for other commitments (work, no one to go with, just ate/too hungry, sleep, social priorities, etc.).  I learned that I was most likely to follow through with the run if I did it early in the morning, then I hooked up with my running buddies, and now I rarely run at any other time of the day, though I do a social run in the evening about once a month. 
12. What races have you ran?

I've run the following races: 100 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1500 meters, 1 mile, 2 miles, 5k, 4 miles, 8k, 5 miles, 10k, 8 miles, 15k, 10 miles, half marathon, 20 miles, and the marathon.  I've also competed in the long jump (and I sucked).  So I've pretty much covered all the major distances!  In order of frequency, the order is 5k (30x!!!), half-marathon (over 20x), marathon (16x), 15k (16x), 5 miles (11x), 8 miles (10x). 

13. What music do you listen to when running?

None -- the music I hear is conversation with friends.  I used to occasionally wear an ipod on the running-biking trail by my house, but a runner was killed there in 2010 following a collision with a bicycle, and I've never used the tunes since.  Her death taught me and many others a valuable lesson about awareness, which is reduced with headphones.  Full post about that tragic event here

14. What is the hottest or coldest weather you have ever ran in?

The hottest race would be the Chicago Marathon 2007, which was in the mid-90s and resulted in a fatality and the marathon being canceled before most participants had finished.  The coldest was a 15k race several years ago with my local bestie -- it had been sleeting and snowing the night before, and I remember that we discussed whether or not our eyelashes were freezing during the race. 

15. What are some other exercises you love?

I do a fitness boot camp with my husband three days per week that we both enjoy.  I also love Bikram yoga (the 90 minute, 105-degree kind!), but that's not really exercise, it's more stretching.  Beyond that, nothing else that I really love.  I'll lift weights and occasionally try other things, but running really is my staple exercise. 

16. Are you currently training for something?

Kind of.  I'm spending this season working on speed and then in late May, I will begin marathon training again, aiming for a PR on Sept. 29 in Berlin.  I have a few rough goals for the spring in terms of 5k time, but I'm not entirely confident the goals are attainable.  We'll see! 

17. What are your current or future goals?

I would like to run a specific time in Berlin (the time would be a PR by 11 minutes and change).  If I accomplish that time in Berlin or elsewhere, I do not plan to set any other marathon time goals.  I have a 5k goal as well, and I'll work on it this spring, but if I don't get that, I'll likely keep working over the coming years and see if I can do it. 

18. Advice for new runners
Commit to a race, then find a training group and run with them faithfully.  A group that runs together about 3-4 times per week is going to get you in shape to run the race and is likely going to result in a whole new circle of friendships.  I can't emphasize enough how wonderful a group is.  Many runners successfully train on their own for a race, but then sometimes don't stick with it.  An ongoing group training setting can help keep you going.   

19. Why did you start making running videos?
Not applicable.

20. Who will you tag?
Not applicable.

There you have it! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taking a Ride Home

So after my muggy and unusually warm commute to work yesterday morning, I planned on running home, as usual.  I've gotten pretty serious about watching the weather, so I knew that yesterday's forecast was a warm and humid morning, storms coming in around 10 or 11, storms rolling out by 1 or 2.  I'm lucky if I leave work at 5:30, and that's only happened about twice ever.  Usually it's between 6 and 7, with a vast majority of nights it being 6:45 when I turn off my computer and head home. 

I was hoping to leave work early, around 5:30, and it actually seemed plausible.  Lunch time came and went with no rain or storms, but I just assumed maybe they'd gone south or north.  Hadn't even considered the possibility that at 7:30 a.m., the weather forecasters were still unable to make an educated guess at what would happen in the next 6 hours. 

This is what the sky looked like to the northwest at about 3:00:

This is what the sky looked like to the northeast at about 3:00:

See over the east how the sky is supposed to look?
Within half an hour or so, it was pouring.  So I called my husband and asked if he'd pick me up on his way home from work.  He ended up working a bit late and running an errand, so by the time he picked me up, it was after 7:00 and it had stopped raining, so really there was no reason I couldn't have run home.  But I took the ride, and thus, yet another week goes by where I don't do all 8 scheduled runs...  Oh well!  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What is wrong with this picture?

Jan. 29 at 4:51 a.m.

Wow.  It may as well be June or something.  It was a hot and sticky morning, but at least the wind helped.  I wanted to quit after 5 miles, but I hung in until about mile 6, then I let a few of my friends slowly slip away and finished about a minute behind them. 
My group run today was about 7.8 miles.  We were done before 6:30.  I then drove home, made a smoothie, watched the news for a little while, and then headed back out to run to work.
I'm proud of myself. 
This is actually going to be my first full normal week in terms of mileage.  I did about 15 over the weekend (5k on Saturday, 12 miles on Sunday).  Then I'll get about 15 miles with friends this week (Tues and Thurs, about 7.5 each day on average).  Then I'll have about 18 miles of commuting (round-trip Tues and Wed, and then into the office on Thurs).  And I should have a couple miles total at boot camp during the week (Mon-Wed-Fri).  That is going to put me at 50 miles for the week.  Wow.  It's weird for me to be running this mileage and not be in marathon training. 
Guess we'll see how it works out for me...
Maybe I'll try to get a ride home one night this week to save a few miles.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

FMM: Getting to Know Each Other

My weekend was lovely, but not as productive as I'd hoped.  I missed out on perhaps the most important thing on my agenda -- calling my baby brother for his birthday on Friday.  I called him Saturday around lunch time and left a voicemail, but in my family, birthday phone calls are important and I feel awful that I didn't make one.  I thought about him so many times on Friday during the day and was waiting for the right time to call.  And then we stayed at dinner pretty late and I didn't think about it on my way home.  Ugh.  I left him a message on Saturday saying that I'd worried it was too late to call, but that was BS.  Sometimes people call really late at night and joke about getting the call in just under the wire.  But we'd sent him a card and I did think of it several times that day, just didn't actually dial.  I'm irritated with myself.  Fortunately he called me back on Sunday on my way to a party with my running friends and we got to catch up for almost an hour. 

The 5k race on Saturday was a mess.  Typical Lewis George (aka Mellew) race.  It was supposed to start at 8, but the start was actually at 8:23.  The excuse?  Apparently more people came to register that morning than expected.  And apparently it's more important to make more money than it is to hold a race that people have already paid $30 to enter.  His races are always so poorly organized, I have no idea why I did one again.  Well, I do know why -- it was because this run promised donuts.  Good donuts.  On the course and after the race.  That to me is a fun reason to run a race on what is normally a rest day.  But no, it ended up being just plain glazed donuts, nothing spectacular.  Very disappointing.  My time was slow but I think I still managed to be toward the top of my age group, which was nice, but it mostly means that it was a slow field.  But I was proud of myself for eating a donut hole at each of the 5 donut stations on the course, and I ran near my friend the whole way, which was nice.  I love having company. 

The rest of the weekend was nice.  I brought a friend with me for her first Bikram yoga class ever.  She did really well.  She sat out several postures, but she stayed in the room the whole time.  And she's a natural at locking her leg, which is so difficult for me, even now after all these months. 

My long run on Sunday was only 12 miles and I would not say it went well, but it was okay. 

I'm expecting another hectic week at work, but hopefully less stressful than last week (did I mention I had to fire outside counsel?  that was a painful conversation).  Since it's Monday, here we go with Friend Making Mondays. 

Now it’s that time…If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Getting To Know Each Other
1. What is your favorite color?  I've never really had a definitive favorite.  Today, I'd choose blue.  I usually would say red or blue, but sometimes maybe purple or pink.

2. Share one or more of your talents.   I was a stud at boot camp this morning, front of the pack.  I don't really have any talents that come to mind, so that was a bit of a stretch.  Maybe a talent is that I'm decent at learning bits of languages?  I don't think it's really a talent since obviously many people can do this and learn many languages to the point of fluency, but I tried to learn the basics of Thai, Russian, Bosnian and Chinese when we traveled to those places.  I speak Italian and French. 

3. If you were spending the day getting to know someone new, where would you want to go?  I love running with new friends.  Spending a few hours pounding the pavement gives you a chance to talk about all kinds of stuff -- and in some ways, running together is like the car effect -- there's no direct eye contact, so sometimes it's easier to have conversations you wouldn't otherwise.  It's just so nice to talk to someone while running since no one is distracted by phones, family, or other obligations.  You're just wholly present in the moment. 

4. What is your favorite meal?  Tough call, I like so many different things.  My husband's favorite meal is what we had for our rehearsal dinner and I think it's becoming my favorite meal as well -- pizza, fries, gelato and beer, preferably in Italia. 

5. Do you prefer to text or talk?  I text far more often, but spending an hour on the phone with my baby brother this weekend reminded me how much I really do prefer connecting my talking. 

6. Share something about yourself that might surprise someone that you’re getting to know.  I come from a very large family. 

7. Do you color your hair?  Never have, not sure I ever will.  I live in Dallas, which strikes me as a very superficial city, and I don't want to feed into that.  It just feels unnatural and misleading, like you're not content with who you are naturally.  I wonder if my answer would be different if I were single. 

8. Do you wear glasses or contacts?  Contacts.

9. What is your favorite breakfast food? I do smoothies pretty much every day, but this morning I supplemented with a grapefruit sprinkled with splenda.  Ooh, it hit the spot! 

10. Would your friends say that you’re sarcastic?  Probably, but not overly so I don't think. 

11. Do you prefer salty or sweet? Depends on the day.  Usually salty.

12. What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?  I've said before, I hate this question -- the first thing I notice is I think the same thing every single person notices.  You notice sex, general build and height, and race or skin color.  I think it's absolute BS to say you notice smile before you notice race.  Or that you notice eyes before you notice if someone is rail thin or heavier.  But if the question is really what is the first thing I consider to determine if I'm attracted to someone, I'd say arms or smile. 

13. What is the last movie you watched?  In the theater, Zero Dark Thirty.  On TV, something on Lifetime. 

14. Are you religious?  Not overly. 

15. Are you a neat freak, a slob, or somewhere in between?  Somewhere in between.  I am good about keeping things put away, but I don't freak out if we have a clean dishwasher waiting to be unloaded and dishes stack up in the sink for a few days until we have time to unload.  But for the most part, on any given day, it would be no big deal if someone came over to visit and wanted to scope out the entire house, including our bedroom and even our closets.  It's generally pretty orderly. 

16. Share something from your bucket list that you hope to do someday.  I have a big picture book with a two-page spread for every country in the world (though the very recent ones (Kosovo, Montenegro, South Sudan) are not included).  Some day, I want to be at the point where I can open it at random and have a 50-50 shot of having been to that country.  That would mean that I've traveled to about 98 countries total.  I'm about halfway there right now, so lots more traveling is needed. 

17. Are you a risk taker, or do you prefer to play it safe?  I probably play it safe.  I want so much to travel to Israel and Egypt, but it just seems too risky to me.  I like my routine in general, and don't mix it up enough probably. 

18. Have you ever worn braces?  Never. 

19. Would you rather spend an evening at a theater or at a club?   Depends who I'm with.  I'd say theater 90% of the time, but I love going out dancing with my brothers' wives and some of my friends.  I haven't done that in ages (but actually, I haven't been to the theater in a long time either).  Wait, unless this question meant movie theater -- then I'd definitely say I prefer a club, far more memorable. 

20. If you could have three wishes, what would one of them be?  Continued fitness improvements for about 10-20 more years, and then I would hold steady.  

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions. Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Happy Monday!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Company on my commute!

Yesterday was one of my best commutes to work ever. 

To start off the morning, hubby was off work and so he slept in.  I got up at 4:45 and went to meet my running buddies.  Unfortunately, turned out a tough run was on the agenda.  Lately, since I'm not coaching any runners this year, I've kind of enjoyed just showing up "blind" in the morning -- no idea how far or how fast we're planning to run. 

Yesterday's plan was 2 easy, then 4 miles each getting progressively faster, then 1 mile easy.  I managed to stay with my friends for the 2 easy and 3 progressively faster miles, but then I was unable to step it up more for the final tempo mile, so I fell behind.  They waited for me before finishing up (and actually, two friends were behind me, so we all waited to regroup).  But I got home feeling proud of myself for the pace I ran. 

I ate breakfast and by then hubby was awake so we had coffee together.  He was getting ready to head out for a run, so I asked him if maybe we could coordinate and leave the house at the same time, and then he could run with me on the first mile or so of my commute.

Score!  He said yes.

So we set out, together, on my commute.  It was kind of foggy and fairly mild (I was in short sleeves and shorts).  He didn't know my exact route, so it was kind of fun to show him.  When we were getting close to mile marker 1, he said he'd stay with me until 1.5

We parted ways on the campus I run through, and I ran the last 2.25 solo, but in a great mood.  It was just nice to mix it up and have company on the run.  He doesn't run as much as I do and has never done a full marathon (I think he's done about 5 halves).  We don't run together very often and sometimes it kind of drives me crazy because he's pretty inconsistent on pacing -- he speeds up and slows down a lot with no apparent rhyme or reason, but it was a lot of fun this morning. 

My most memorable commute in quite some time. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Weekend Plans

I'm at one of those points right now where I'm feeling like I have way too much general "must do" stuff that doesn't have any particular deadline, and it's about to all slip out of control. 

In an attempt to restore my own sanity, I'm going to make a list for each day and of the general "do NOW" things.

Call my baby brother to say happy birthday
Go out to dinner at Del Frisco's with another couple to celebrate my good friend from law school's bday

5k race in morning with local bestie
Go to a distant suburb with my local bestie for afternoon playtime with my godson and then dinner with his folks and friends who are visiting them that weekend

Long run
Bikram yoga with a friend
Christmas presents with same friend (hers are the last ones left, sitting on my living room floor!)
Dinner with a bunch of friends up near where my husband works, but early dinner

Must do at some point:
Decide what I'm wearing to Mardi Gras (buy a dress or try on something I have to see if it fits)
Choose a hotel for Berlin in Sept. (since we'll be there for the marathon, things will be filling up fast)
Assemble my tax paperwork
Choose recipe for next week's night o' cooking (and make grocery list)
Stupid work stuff -- watch the HIPAA video, clear out admin emails, start our new wellness program goals/entries for discount on health insurance next year
Get organized -- pack lunches for next week, assemble outfits to take in on Monday
Set up my stupid contacts and speeddials at work (my office phone is my new nemesis)
Tackle homeowner's board emails and cast any necessary votes

The problem is, all those things were on my list last week, and the week before that.  I need some way to push myself to actually do them.  Now. 

In reality, I have a lot of free time this weekend, particularly on Saturday.  I just need to avoid getting sucked into my book (less than 100 pages to go!  the only hope is that I'll finish before Saturday), or the TV (Law&Order or a good Lifetime streak seem to spell the end of productivity for me lately).  The key really is to get home from that race on Saturday, put on the TV in the background, and get cracking on the list.  Then Sunday I can lay around and stretch and relax after the run before yoga, and spend that time finishing my book. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lunchtime Mistakes

One of my resolutions was essentially to clean up my eats.  It kind of fits into my resolution to train hard, and my resolution to cook more.  As both are getting underway, I'm still eating frozen meals at my desk for lunch a few days per week.

Hubby does our grocery shopping, but he generally knows what I like and so the only two kinds he buys me are vegetarian Lean Cuisine, or Amy's meals.

Well, my all time favorites have been Amy's mattar paneer, and Amy's country cheddar.  I knew the country cheddar wasn't particularly healthy, and I don't eat it often, but it works for lunch, and I do view it as kind of a splurge.

And I'm in the routine now of taking my lunches for the entire week on Monday so that I can run to work the rest of the week.

Sometimes when there's a new-to-me frozen meal, I'll photograph the box, text it to my husband and tell him what I thought (either "loved it, pls add to the rotation" or "never ever buy this again").

Today was insanely good.  I took a picture of the box to text him.

And as I was setting the box back on my desk, I happened to see the nutritional info. Holy $hit!!!

I know not everyone in the world is watching his or her weight, but I had just assumed that a frozen meal would never be more than half my saturated fat for the day.

I guess that's why they say to never assume anything...

Oops. So I guess my text to hubby will have to be something like: "this was insanely delicious but not too healthy, so please buy it again for me but not more than once a month."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Civic Duty

I couldn't dodge the bullet again. I'd been called for jury service while we were in China country, and I'd deferred that date, so today is my turn. So irritating.  The vast majority of attorneys would exclude me as both a litigator and now someone who works with insurance, so there are very few civil cases where I'd even have a shot at being seated. Maybe a breach of contract case or a patent suit, but most claims in civil court tend to be tort bull$hit and I'd be excluded. It would be nice and efficient if the court would just get that info in advance, but instead they seem content to waste many people's time needlessly.

This is about the fourth time I've been called in Dallas.   Once was a DWI case, and I was excluded (likely because I mentioned my involvement in a hot and run years earlier by a driver I believe to have been intoxicated). Last time I was called I was still practicing in Dallas (now I work very little in Texas) and I had cases against one of the attorneys, so after wasting an entire day waiting for the panel to be selected, I was finally dismissed. In reality, 4 times in 12-13 years doesn't seem unreasonable to me, but my father mentioned that he has been called twice in over 30 years, and everyone he polled when we were on the phone was exactly the same -- almost exactly once every 15 years. 

Jury service is very important of course, but it's nonsense for someone like me who won't be seated to do all this. If it were a criminal case of course, no complaints. Civil tort cases, waste of time for me. Ugh. I hate this kind of inefficiency.

But even in criminal courts, where I absolutely feel I could be seated, there's so much inefficiency in the jury process. Why can't they send a list of the parties, attorneys and key witnesses involved in advance, and if you swear in an information return that you know someone involved, why waste the entire day waiting to be excused?

Anyway, today it's my turn. I was supposed to report at 8:30, and here is how it's unfolded so far.

8:25 get in line in freezing cold outside to wait in security line
8:30 line for security still, but now I've moved forward enough to be indoors
8:37 into central jury room, taking a seat with the general public
8:45 sworn in en masse by a judge, lectured about how it is one of three important contributions you can make (military, voting, jury), call for exclusions ( under 18, felons, deferred adjudication, non citizens, no English, not resident of Dallas County)
8:50 still a huge line of non-English speakers being excused
9:00 call for people who didn't complete questionnaire
9:05 video, former jurors talk about their experiences, explaining who is ineligible and who can elect not to serve, you know, going over the info mailed to us and then read off by the judge, wasting time in case the first two times this info was presented didn't make sense
9:27 video over
9:28 another call of names who didn't do questionnaire
9:44 still just all sitting here wasting time, no jurors called yet, just all wasting time, argh, I hate this
9:48 pointless announcements about numbers being printed, they will be calling in order (glad I have a low number, I didn't last time)
9:51 lots of people who can't read directions and went to wrong court, all being called up to get new juror numbers assigned
9:53 I'm thinking about whether all these people are idiots or are they all illiterate? Lazy? Do they just assume there's only one place to go? Crazy how difficult it seems to be for people to follow such basic directions
9:56 I'm in the first batch if numbers called. They make a big show of telling you to write down the floor and court before you leave the room, you know, in case you're stupid and can't remember two numbers for about 60 seconds, it's just the lowest common denominator. This could have been done well in advance and instead of showing up at 8:30, I could have gone directly to this court at 10
9:57 going to my assigned district court on 7th floor on a crowded elevator
9:59 Waiting in hall outside the courtroom, got a seat on the bench since I got up here quickly
10:14 someone calling names to pass out juror questionnaires specifically for this case I guess
10:17 still calling names, only on number 35, about 100 more before they get to me
10:20 I'm called, guess they renumbered us
10:24 working on my questionnaire, it's a criminal case, no longer feels like a waste of time even being here, but still so inefficient
10:27 collecting completed questionnaires
10:29 still collecting
10:30 turned mine in, probably thinking I'll be excluded
10:31 turning in all the questionnaires, we will be seated in order, I'm in the 40s, so pretty unlikely I'll be picked
10:38 announcing a mistake in where a couple dozen jurors were sent, it is apparently very difficult to call numbers and courtrooms, or to order how many jurors you need, who knows where the mistake was, more inefficiency
10:39 kind of have to pee but don't want to give up my seat
10:41 now more than two hours spent here doing absolutely nothing other than security screening that could not have been done well in advance. Massive inefficiency
10:54 still just sitting here waiting. If I'd been given the case-specific form in advance, they could have now avoided 2.5 hours of wasting my time, no wonder people view this as such a burden, who doesn't have something better to do for 2.5 hours on a Tuesday morning?

I'm clearly pissy today. Oh well. Will have to update later. First, adding a random slew of pictures from my wasted 2.5 hours. Hitting publish.

11:01 Big announcement that plea deal reached in court behind us, capital miser case plead out, so all those people just wasted half of their days. They didn't even do questionnaires. Just came here and spent 2.5 hours doing nothing except missing work, paying to park, etc. Huge waste.

11:03 calling us by name to go into courtroom. Wait, instead of typing, I should be counting.

11:08 still calling names and they've passed 45, so I think I'm out.

11:09 nope, just got called in. This should have happened 2 hours and 40 minutes ago

11:14 judge asks us to be patient as they go in search of a missing panel member

11:17 judge will start anyway, can't wait all day, asking us if we watched video, repeating some of it again (but mostly relatively new info for non-attorneys), first 12 not struck will be seated, sworn in again, qualifications again, FOURTH time now about age, residency, citizenship, literacy, etc. Major waste of time.

11:21 found missing juror, my row just got more crowded

11:22 going over exemptions again, age, caretaker, student, why oh why do we have to go through all this again? Almost three hours wasted if you don't count driving down here

11:24 felony criminal case, wow!

11:27 introductions

11:30 prosecution begins speaking, intro, 3 hours after we had to show up, expects to go 1-1.5 hours, ugh, so late lunch apparently, thanking us for our service

11:38 rights of defendants posted on screens, explaining criminal process, for nonlawyers who haven't watched much Law and Order, probably very interesting

11:48 prosecution discourse continues, about Fifth Amendment right, presumptions, subpoenas

11:49 charge is aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury. Interesting!!!

11:51 elements if crime, intentional or knowing or reckless, Dallas County, serious bodily injury, using deadly weapon, during assault, and defendant has or had a dating relationship with the person or was a member of the person's family or household. I didn't know about the relationship element! First degree assault against a family member is apparently the exact charge.

12:05 recess until 1:30 for lunch

12:15 miserable choices in the cafeteria. I went with frilled cheese, baked potato and side salad. Not good. Yuck. Now trying to boot up my laptop to at least do some work from my archived email.

1:30 going back into courtroom, juror spilled coffee all over my shoes and hallway and didn't do anything about hallway. Just left the spill there, no effort to clean up or alert anyone. Someone could slip and fall there and try to strike it rich, which is undoubtedly occurring in multiple other courtrooms right now.

1:35 questioning of several indiv jurors based on questionnaires

1:43 called me out to see if I'd ever practiced criminal law.

1:44 dating relationship is or was continuing relationship of romantic or intimate relationship. Look at length, nature of relationship, frequency and type of interaction. Wonder if that football player's fake online girlfriend would count

1:55 I may have secured my exclusion, raised my hand on a question about witness credibility, answered it, believe I'm going to be struck when it comes down to it

2:08 prosecution still going, talking about conflicts in testimony and burden of proof. Given it's flu season, I'm surprised I'm the sickest one in here. Have been worried for a few days that I'm getting bronchitis or something. I'm coughing a lot. Not to get too graphic, but they're "productive" coughs. Yuck. But no one else here is hacking away like I am.

2:20 prosecutor asking each person now about incidents of personal family violence. Interesting. People then being asked if their experience means they're not sure they can be fair.

2:27 surprising how many people who said they personally believed they couldn't be fair in a case of family violence, wonder if some people just want to get out of it. I said I could be fair. I've never really been a victim of family violence (setting aside a one-time thing in college with a guy I was dating back home, not serious medically, not even very scary, but across the line and the end of that relationship), but I have seen a lot of it earlier in some pro bono work. But I could be fair about it. If he didn't do it, I could accept that.

2:28 talking about sentencing now, penalty is 5-99 years and up to $10k fine, probation if eligible and sentence of 10 years or less and jury agrees it's right punishment.

2:49 15 minute break, defense about to start questioning

3:09 back in for defense questions, promises to be shorter; much better speaker. I think it's paid counsel, total of three attorneys I think (maybe two) (and 2-3 prosecutors). But way better than I'd expect for a public defender.

3:26 something the defense attorney said to me makes me think I'll be struck. But he's still going back through the elements and the presumption of innocence, trying to get people to say things to be struck for cause, not electively.

3:57 defense just put up a slide explaining what self-defense is. Very interesting in a domestic violence case. Wouldn't have expected that but I guess it makes sense.

4:06 crazy ringing noise in courtroom. Coming from the defendant. He goes into his pocket and pulls something out but it keeps ringing. He talks to a court officer and then something to one of his attorneys not doing the questioning. The attorney doing the questioning clarifies that it was not a cell phone and he wants us to know that so no one thinks his client isn't taking this case seriously. But I really wonder what it was! Something from a jail for monitoring where he is? Hmm...

4:20 defense attorney is reading a list of witness names to see if we know any of them. We must be almost done, right?

4:28 finally done with the witness list. Now he's done.

4:29 judge letting us out, but to stay close for any necessary individual questioning.

4:57 a few people have been called in and I ate a bag of Cheetos, had a call with my boss and had a call with the attorney I want to hire to replace the one I want to fire (yikes, scary, new first at this job). Otherwise, just waiting.

5:26 called back in

5:27 calling names. Seating 12 and one alternate. Up to 5 and they haven't called me.

5:29 up to ten and not me.

5:30 all clear! Now I get to fight rush hour traffic to go home. I miss my running commute today...

A photo of all the people who couldn't follow directions on their summons and report to the assigned courthouse:

Milling about in the hallway waiting for instructions:

The judge swearing in the hundreds or thousands who were there first thing in the morning:

A guy doing a questionnaire (part of the reason I knew my seat would be taken if I'd gotten up to use the restroom):

The huge non-English speaking line (or non-residents, under 18, etc., but I could hear the judge and for at least 80% of them, he was just confirming they didn't speak English):

Chilly line to enter the courthouse:

The defense attorney, haha, not a good picture, he turned around just before I took it:

The pretty sunset I got to see, probably the brightest point of the day:

Ugh, the traffic heading home.  All brake-lights:

If you look on the shoulder the direction I'm driving, you will see not one, but TWO separate police cars responding to separate incidents, ugh:

One of the prosecutors:

View of Big D from the Courthouse:

For the record, this sign should say 5-6 minutes.  I really missed having my running commute:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Another weekend

Is it sad that the best part of my weekend was probably an aircraft change on the flight from Chicago to Dallas?  That meant not only did I get an upgrade, but it was to "lay-flat" seat!  If only I'd been traveling further...  The only other time I've been in a lay flat seat was on Royal Thai and it was for another short flight within Thailand (think it was maybe when we went from Phuket to Chiang Mai, but not sure).  Why, oh why, don't I ever get one on a long flight?  Oh, that's right, because I'm cheap and the free upgrades (or upgrades with credits) only work on flights where there are seats available in first class.  Oh well...

My seat menu:

My "snack":

Safety first:

My seat (along with all my carry-on crap):
The pictures are a little out of order.  Anyway, since I got upgraded right before we went, that meant there was no request before the plane was loaded for a vegetarian meal.  The choices were chicken and pear salad, or a roast beef wrap.  I asked if the flight attendant could prepare the salad without the chicken, and she said yes.
But when it came out, it had nuts on it.  Darn it.  I told her I was allergic and she said, well, what if instead of the roast beef wrap, you just had the crudites that accompany it.  That sounded good, so she made me a little plate of cucumber and carrot sticks. 
As for the rest of the weekend, it was all good, just not quite as exciting as a lay flat seat. 
Friday night, we went out to dinner with my in-laws, and my brother-in-law and his wife.  I don't remember where we ate, it was a restaurant in some little strip mall/shopping plaza thing.  Not sure what city it was in, but we had to drive about 15 mins from my in-laws' to get there.  It was a pizza place and they had one of the more unusual and one of the more delicious pizzas that I've had in some time -- roasted cauliflower pizza.  Yum!  We each ordered a small (except my brother-in-law and his wife got a large roasted cauliflower to split).  But they were all stacked in the center part of the table -- my mother in law took a piece of my small roasted cauliflower!  Not a big deal.  But then, it was so good, she gave a piece to my father-in-law.  And since they both had meat on their pizzas, it wasn't like I could help myself to a piece of theirs.  But lucky for me, the pizza was very filling and a small (less two pieces) was plenty.  But I was still pretty shocked she did that.  If we'd been with my family, I would have smacked one of my brothers' hands away from my pizza.  Or I would have expected one of my sisters-in-law to ask first (very unlikely my brothers would have asked). 
Saturday was mostly getting organized and flying home alone.  Hubby stayed behind for a memorial service for his high school wrestling coach.  In the end, flying home solo worked out very well since he and one of his brothers were up very late helping their mother balance the checkbook.  Ugh!  But since we only see them a couple times a year, it's nice that he was able to help. 
Sunday was my best "long" run yet.  Very steady pace and quicker than usual for me, at least until the last half mile.  One person in our group was lagging behind (recovering from the flu in general and a wedding the night before), so I slowed to a walk and waited for him to catch up so he wouldn't have to finish up the run alone.  After the run, I cleaned up and went to pick up hubby at the airport, then spent most of the rest of the day at Bikram yoga or reading.  I started a Stephen King book (Hearts in Atlantis) that had been near my bed forever.  I'm about halfway done and it's very odd -- not sure exactly what is going on yet. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

720 pounds

I'm writing this post solely so I do not forget. I want the record to reflect that today, Saturday, my arms hurt. Still.

Wednesday morning at boot camp we did so much arm work that I have been in serious pain ever since.

I've already forgotten a lot, but this is what I remember:

100 jumping jacks, run (the run was always a short figure 8 that took maybe a minute at a very slow jogging pace)
90 curls (this was the problem for me), run
80 mountain climbers, run
70 crunches, run
60 air squats with weights on shoulders, run
50 alternating lunges with weights curling, run
40 "dirty birds" (weights up, to shoulders, down, to shoulders, up), run
30 chin raises (weights up along body to chin, then down, weight heads touching whole time), run
20 shoulder tees (weights up to eye level, then arms out to sides, back to center, down) (I can only do about one of these with good form, then my arms bend), run
10 "home wreckers" (push up, right row, push up, left row, push up, 4 squat thrusts, 4 mountain climbers), run

Then there was an "easy" set for those who finished. It was the same theory, 100 reps and going down, but no weights on anything. Jumping jacks, crunches, air squats, cherry pickers, push ups, knee tucks, some stuff I don't remember.

The problem was definitely the curls. I used 8 pound dumb bells, so by doing 90 curls, I calculate that I curled 720 pounds per arm. "That's gonna leave a mark." (Name that movie, one of my brothers' favorites to quote.)

Technically, I also did another 350 pounds per arm on the curls that went with the alternating lunges.

72 hours later, it still hurts to fully extend my arms. Hubby is in the same boat. Makes me feel much less guilty about the fact that I haven't worked out a lick since we've been in Pittsburgh.

Maybe that's why I'm wide awake at 4:30...

Friday, January 18, 2013

My funny Chinese joke

Now that we're here visiting my in-laws, I get to use the funniest joke that I've ever made up in my entire life, counting years of making up knock-knock jokes in my childhood.

So as I've written, in an attempt to not be an idiot American on our trip to China this past fall, I spent a lot of time working on learning some basic Mandarin Chinese.  I studied from books and worked with a tutor.  In some ways, Chinese is much easier than other foreign languages (no tenses, no subject-verb agreement, no gender), but in other ways it's much harder (tones, written language mostly unrelated to spoken language, very different sentence structure).

One of the very first things I learned were my question words -- what (shunmuh), why (wayshunmuh), who (shay), where (nar), how many (gee), how much (dwoshau), etc.

And one of the more basic questions I learned how to ask is where something was.  The sentence structure for that is to say "where is there ____?"  The word for "is there" in that type of sentence is "yoh".

So I learned to say:

Where is there restaurant?
Where is there subway?
Where is there bus?
Where is there train station?
Where is there departure gate/platform?
Where is there museum?

All of those set up as "nar yoh ____?"

And of course now that we're back in the US, we still use Chinese expressions sometimes.  This is just one of those weird things my husband and I do, and we do with lots of our trips and foreign expressions.  I'd say more than 50% of the time that I say "thank you" to my husband, I say it in Bosnian ("havala") and he responds in Bosnian with "you're welcome" ("naymahnahchaymu").  Anytime I need to say to him "I need to speak with" (or something similar), I say it in Russian ("munyah nooznah pahvahgahreets").  So of course I keep using Chinese expressions.  Probably my most frequent choice is why ("wayshunmuh").  In fact, pretty much every time I have to ask my husband why, I ask in Chinese. 

When we were home for Christmas, totally unplanned, I busted out my best ever Chinese joke when I was trying to figure out where my mother was.  I didn't learn familial relation words in Chinese (other than husband and wife) since I didn't think they'd be relevant, so of course I had to use the English word for mom. 

So I asked my husband:  "Nar yoh mama?"

Since it came out with "yo mama" in it, it totally cracked us up.  Like seriously, laughing way too hard.  No one else in my family thought it was quite as funny as we did. 

And now that I'm in Pittsburgh visiting the in-laws, I get to use the joke again and again, pretty much every time I don't know where my mother-in-law is.

Ahahahahaha.  (Did you know that's how they write laughter in Italian?  Instead of starting with the H and going hahahaha, they start with the A.)

Guess you had to be there.  No idea why I shared that story.  Maybe there is one other person who would know a little Chinese but enough English to remember "yo mama" and would also find it absolutely hilarious. 

My very own joke.  Wonder if anyone else has ever laughed at that. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Going on my Dream Date

I was tempted to go back through my lock box and pull out an old junior high diary to see if I ever described my actual dream date back then. 

If I did, I would guess it would go something like this -- we go to dinner, and then a movie, and then he takes me shopping and I can buy whateeeeeevvvvver I want.

Unintentionally, last week, probably for the first time ever, I went on my junior high dream date. 

Since we're old and we wake up early, I had to switch the order around a little -- movie, then dinner, then shopping.

I work from home on Fridays, and I busted my butt to be done with work early.  I was at my desk at home before 7 a.m., and I kept working while I ate breakfast and then lunch, and I managed to wrap it all up before about 3.

We went to the mall to see a late afternoon showing of Zero Dark Thirty.  Hubby's choice, but I'd heard good reviews, so I was 100% on board.  The reviews I heard, however, seemed to just be vague and positive, so I somehow wasn't entirely sure what the movie was about.  While I love war movies, it's really more that I love WWII movies, not so much modern warfare.  But it was obviously an engaging story, just disturbing enough to give me nightmares and weird dreams for two nights.  It's basically about a CIA agent who is searching for someone who is rumored to be a courier for Osama Bin Laden, and how that quest leads to finding a house that could be his, and then the decision to go into the house and then the process of entering and killing him. 

After dinner, we went out to eat at a casual restaurant/pub place in between the mall and shopping.

Then we went shopping.  Bed Bath and Beyond.  The thing I'd wanted more than anything for Christmas this past year was an electric can opener.  I know it's weird.  But ever since I fell in March and tore ligaments in my finger, it's hurt to use the crank ones.  I'd been warned that the Cuisinart ones suck but I really wanted one, just some other brand. 

As is the danger with anything that is reasonably priced and you really want and you have people who love you, I received more than one.  My folks got me one and so did hubby, so we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to return it.

And I was allowed to spend my $54 and change any way I wanted.  It was seriously just like I'd dreamed in junior high.  We walked through the whole store and I thought about what I wanted.  Hmm, new kitchen trashcan, pretty picture frames, pie beads, a silicone pastry mat, a new water filter, a baby crockpot, a juicer, a new fancy blender, living room curtain panels, smelly candles.  I jokingly suggested a few things and hubby just kept saying, "whatever you want, it's totally up to you."  So in junior high, maybe this date would have occurred in a clothing or jewelry store, but as a grown up, I think I was just as excited to have it unfold in a home goods store.

Eventually I chose 4 items and spent $4 over the amount of our return, but my sweet husband didn't make me pay the overage or put something back.  I chose pie beads (can't wait to make a quiche!), a new water filter, a linen spray that smells so good, and TWO new toothbrush caps (one for my work shower/toiletries bag, which I desperately needed, and since they came in a pack of two, a new one for my travel makeup bag too). 

I suppose the dream date has changed.  Junior high would have been a romantic comedy no doubt.  Probably a very fancy dinner.  And the shopping would have been very "Pretty Woman" style.  Like I said, probably clothes or jewelry.  I guess I wouldn't have wondered if I'd really want to wear the same thing to a movie and to a fancy restaurant, which is quite unlikely.  But this dream date was still pretty good. 

It's nice to indulge the inner child sometimes.  I used to do this when I worked at a big firm and they'd order pizza for dinner before we went to work at a pro bono clinic, and they would consistently forget to order any pizza suitable for a vegetarian, leaving me to eat only cookies for dinner.  I just sucked it up and told myself that I owed it to 8 year old me who probably used to beg for cookies only for dinner.  Not quite the same anymore...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Commuting in the Snow

It doesn't snow often in Dallas.  I'd say we get about two dustings per year on average.  There was of course the massive snowstorm in 2010, conveniently about 3 days ahead of the superbowl that dumped about 10 inches and was a complete disaster since there isn't a single snowplow here. 

But this morning (corrected:  yesterday morning (Tuesday), I wrote this out on Tuesday but am having trouble adding photos), I woke up at 4:45 with my alarm, got dressed to go run, and drove to where I meet my friends (less than 2 miles from our house).  By the time I got there, there were ice/snow pellets coming down. 

This is what it looked like:  

In the shadow on my dash you can kind of see that the pellets are somewhat solid (you can also see that I need to remember to go renew my registration in the next 15 days!).  But I ran anyway, you know, being crazy.  There are a few other runners standing out there, so at least crazy has company.  We set off for a scheduled 7 miles, but before we had gone even a block, we'd all agreed it would be a 6 mile morning. 
We ran in the ice pellets for a few minutes, and then it basically eased up for a few miles.  Conveniently, it started coming down again right before our u-turn point for the 6 mile run.  As far from our cars as we would get.  Oh well.  At least when you're with people, you can joke about the misery, and in reality, I've run in much worse and this wasn't that awful. 
New word for the day:  graupel.  It means soft hail or snow pellets, and is something different from ice pellets or hail.  So I ran several miles in graupel. 
I actually dressed pretty well for the run.  It was 30 degrees and apparently winds of 5-15 mph.  I wore running tights, a very light long sleeved shirt, my Boston convertible jacket, gloves, a skull cap, and a baseball cap (to keep the graupel out of my eyes) (trying to use my new word 10 times to make it mine!).  Not bad.  By mile 5, I was regretting the light long sleeves and wishing I'd worn short sleeves under the jacket, but not too bad for my first really cold run of the year. 
When I got back to my car, it looked like this:
Keep in mind, I park in the garage at home, so it was completely clear before I started running.  Now there was a clear coat of graupel.  Anyway, after our cool 6 miles, I drove back home and had the next dilemma to ponder over a smoothie:  to commute on foot or not?
Since we are flying to Pittsburgh tomorrow morning (well, now today), I can run to work but I have to get a ride home so I can take my laptop.  I was planning on having hubby pick me up at the office on his way home from work.  It would work well since it would get me out of the office by 6:30, so I can get home, eat dinner, finish watching The Bachelor on DVR, pack, and have our neighbors over for dessert (to finish off the black forest cake from Sunday night's dinner guests) and to finally open their Christmas presents.  And hopefully go to sleep early enough to get up at 5 to go to boot camp tomorrow. 
But I was a little nervous about running to work since the conditions seemed to be getting a little worse.  By the time I had finished breakfast and planned out most of what I want to pack for the rest of the week, our porch looked like this: 
Look at all that graupel!  Actually, I wonder if it's called snow when it accumulates.  No, I think it's still graupel. 
In the end, I decided to go for it.  Not sure it was a smart decision, because I felt some knee pain over the last mile, but I took it real slow and the conditions weren't too bad.  The sidewalks felt a bit icy where I was on them, but the streets were better.  I just ran very slowly and easily.  I think I actually set my record for all-time slowest commute by about 30 seconds.  The good part is that I got the miles in, I got the mental "kick @ss, I'm running in the snow" feeling, and there's no way I'll get stuck working way later than planned thereby derailing all my evening plans...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cooking More in 2013

One of my resolutions for 2013 was to cook at least 52 meals from recipes.

Typical weeknight dinners at home for us in 2012 included:
heat-and-eat Indian food over microwave packets of brown rice
big salads
veggie burgers on buns with a steamed veg on the side
cheese and olive quesadillas
bean tacos with microwaved canned beans, cheese, olives and salsa
Lean Cuisine bagged steamer meals (I never eat these for lunch because you need a plate) (usually one of the two or three vegetarian pasta options)
prepared tofu with red bell peppers and snap peas purchased pre-made from the counter at the grocery store
grocery store sushi (brown rice, avocado, carrot and cucumber rolls for me)
prepared Israeli couscous with some veggies and too much oil purchased pre-made from the counter at the grocery store
boxed mac and cheese with microwaved fake chicken nuggets or buffalo wings (pretty rare, takes too long to boil the water and make the mac and cheese)
cereal (also pretty rare).

Not particularly healthy, inexpensive, or interesting.  So my goal for 2013 that I set was to cook more from scratch this year.  The dilemma however is that I usually work until at least 6:30 (often more like 7), it takes me at least 30 minutes to run home from work (usually about 35, but I also have to get dressed to run at work, which is another 5 or so minutes), and we try to head upstairs for bed around 8:00.  That means that I really don't want to spend more than about 10 minutes putting together dinner.  Ideally more like 5 minutes, then 20 minutes or so to eat, 5-10 minutes to clean up, then a few minutes to chill (and usually open the mail). 

Solutions I'm going to try are using the crockpot one night during the week, but doing the prep either over the weekend or the night before, cooking a big enough meal over the weekend to yield leftovers, and planning meals in advance. 

I'm going to try to keep track of the recipes I try and may do a few summary posts over the course of the year. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

FMM: Interesting Things

My weekend felt insanely short.  And sadly, it doesn't even seem like it was that productive!  Positive things were getting a start on my resolution about entertaining at home (we had a friend over for dinner and one of hubby's coworkers, but not a set-up, but they did get along really well), a great Bikram yoga class, a retirement party for one of hubby's co-workers, and a couple runs.  Negative things were actually the runs.  The lactate threshold 10k was very disappointing.  I didn't pace myself well and I completely ran out of gas.  It was a humid and warm morning.  I managed to get an age group award, but I was more than a minute per mile off a PR, so that just means the field wasn't huge and the weather sucked for everyone.  My "long" run on Sunday was also disappointing.  It wasn't really long this week given that we'd all raced on Saturday, but I couldn't stick it out.  I went out too fast and was out of gas about a quarter mile before the u-turn.  So instead of 9 miles, I ran 8.5, and instead of 9 fun miles with friends, I had 4.25 fun miles with friends and then 4.25 sucky miles mostly alone, though I did run into some other friends for the last 1.5 miles or so. 

Oh, I also went on what would best be called my junior high dream date on Friday night.  I'll have to write about that later this week.  We're going to Pittsburgh on Wed morning to see my in-laws for about 5 days, so I'll hopefully have more time then.

Anyway, since it's Monday...

If you’ve taken part in FMM then you know the rules. If you’re new, please take a moment to answer this week’s question on your own blog then add your link in the comments section here at: so we can all see your FMM questions and answers. Please invite your blog readers to add their links here too so everyone has to opportunity to be seen. The idea is to connect with other awesome bloggers so take a moment to post your own FMM post and comment on a couple of other posts. Now it’s time for this week’s topic!

Interesting Things
1. What is the last movie you saw in a theater? Friday we went to see Zero Dark Thirty (the movie part of my junior high dream date).  I had to pee a little bit when the movie started, and by the time they entered Bin Laden's house, I couldn't wait another second and had to duck out of the theater.  Fortunately, they're in the house for some time, so I didn't miss anything too significant. 

2. How old were you when you had your first kiss? I was in 7th grade, so I guess 12 or 13.  It was outside the roller skating rink and, to my utter horror, it was witnessed by my parents, who were in the line of cars to pick up kids. 

3. Share the coolest thing that you’ve done so far in 2013.  Last weekend we went to a distant suburb for a little mini-vacation.  One of my good friends moved out there and she was having a dinner party, and we didn't want to drive all the way home afterward, so we planned to spend the night at her place.  Major reality check for us -- just because you're hungover doesn't mean the kids won't wake up early.  We both agreed when we left the house that kid-free is 100% the way to go for us! 

4. What kind of cell phone do you use? Do you love it? I have an iPhone, and I love it I suppose, though in 2013 I am making a concerted effort to spend significantly less time on it -- no more face-booking in particular, but also less texting and more talking. 

5. How many times do you plan to workout this week? This week is weird since we'll be in Pittsburgh visiting my in-laws for 5 days.  And I don't know exactly how to count workouts.  Like would my usual Wednesday count as three workouts -- an hour at boot camp, then an hour or so later, running 3.75 miles to work, then about ten hours later running 3.75 miles home?  And does Bikram yoga count?  In a usual week (like last week for example), if you count each separate thing as a workout and if you count yoga, I worked out 13 times, about 12 hours.  But this week, there will be no running to or from work except tomorrow.  So this week, I'm predicting my workouts will be the 2 that I did on Sunday (again, assuming yoga counts), 1 that I did today, 3 tomorrow, 1 on Wed, Thurs and Fri, and probably taking off on Saturday -- so 9 times I guess?  I'd guess only 9 hours total.  Pretty much sucks considering there are 168 hours in a week!  When I think about it that way, maybe 16.8 hours per week would be a good goal.  Someday! 

6. What is your favorite movie from the 80′s? Dirty Dancing or Savannah Smiles.

7. If you could choose one character from a TV show or a movie to fall head over heels for you, who would it be? Well, that would significantly complicate my life!  Maverick from Top Gun? 

8. If you could eat one food everyday for the rest of your life without gaining any weight as a result, what would you choose? Hmm, french fries or cheese?  French fries or cheese?  I almost never eat fries anymore, and I do eat cheese frequently, so I guess I'd go with cheese. 

9. What is your favorite flower? Not sure I really have one.  Maybe hydrangeas? 

10. Did you watch the Golden Globes last night?  No, we had two people over for dinner. 

Now it’s your turn to answer this week’s questions. Don’t forget to come back and link up in the comments! Also…say hi to someone new this week! Happy Monday!

Friday, January 11, 2013

2012 Reading Conclusion

Having resolved to read more and record what I read, here is my list for roughly the second half of 2012.  If you're interested, here is a link to the list from the first half of the year.

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.  Fiction of course.  This is the third book in the Twilight series and I liked it pretty well.  Not great literature, but an interesting 600 pages so next I'll read the fourth book.  Wonder how many there are...

The Tipping Point:  how little things can make a big difference by Malcolm Gladwell.  Ugh.  Nonfiction, about 300 agonizing pages.  Thought this would be good because I liked Freakonomics a few years ago, but this book was pretty painful.  It seemed like lots of numbers and examples, but it never really got to the point.  Definitely not recommended in general.  It made a few points that I'd kind of recognize in everyday life, but not the best use of my time.  Still wondering why I bothered to finish it, usually I give up if I'm not enjoying a book, but I kept waiting for this one to get better. 

Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer.  Non-fiction, about 370 pages, about an Austrian POW in India during WWII who escapes (multiple times actually, he gets recaptured) and flees to Tibet where he lives for ... wait for it ... seven years!  This is one of those all-time-great books, makes it onto a lot of lists, and somehow I'd never read it.  The underlying currents of racism and sexism are interesting, but not atypical of the time. Harrer for example talks about women "not making a big fuss of giving birth," repeatedly boasts of being the first European to do something there (climb a mountain) (but no explanation as to why it matters that he's the first white man...), and even comments on things like Tibetan children being "not inferior".  One of the funnier quotes, "Of course, one cannot compare the productivity of Tibetan workers with that of Europeans."  But for what it is, fleeing the war, meeting the Dalai Lama, living in Tibet, it was an absolutely amazing book.  Highly recommended. 

The Survivors Club (the secrets and science that could save your life) by Ben Sherwood.  Nonfiction about 400 pages but goes by quickly.  Fun book about random disaster survival.  Mountain lion attacks to Holocaust concentration camps, and pretty much everything in between.  My big take-aways were to always follow the safety briefing on a plane, to actually say out loud how many rows away I am from the nearest exit on a plane, and to figure out the evacuation plan from any hotel room. 

Packing the Court.  LOOONG.  by James MacGregor Burns. Nonfiction, technically only 330ish pages, but feels much longer, about the history of the Supreme Court and its landmark decisions.  It pretty much starts with Washington choosing the first Justices, covers Marbury, covers almost all the other notable decisions since (and some that didn't strike me as notable), talks about various changes (or attempted changes) to the number of Justices, almost each appointment to the bench, and even covered the nomination of Harriet Miers (what a joke -- I was appalled that Bush would nominate an SMU grad for the Supreme Court -- I may sound like a conservative here, but really, it's just me as a lawyer saying that someone who went to a school that is barely in the top 25 has no business on the Court) and the decision of Bush v. Gore and its impact. 

The Racketeer by John Grisham.  Fiction, about 340 pages.  As with most of his books, a very quick and enjoyable read.  This one is about an attorney in prison on RICO charges (which he claims were bogus) and his scheme to get a Rule 35 release.  I think I read the whole thing in less than 2 weeks, and since I seem to have very little time to read on the average day, that's pretty quick for me.

The Confession by John Grisham.  Fiction, about 525 pages.  Quick and enjoyable, a desperate attempt to finish another book before the end of the year (to hit my resolution of 20).  About an inmate who confesses to murder, and is sent to death row, and then someone else comes forward and confesses to the crime to a priest before the inmate is executed.  Read most of this over Christmas vacation. 

If I had to rank the second half of 2012 books in order, it would be:

Seven Years in Tibet

The Confession

The Survivor's Club

And my ranking from the first half of 2012 was:

Lost on Planet China

The Happiness Project


The Drop  

So if I had to combine the two and do a single ranking of all the books I read in 2012, it would be:

Lost on Planet China

The Happiness Project

Seven Years in Tibet


I actually fell a bit short of my goal of reading 20 books, I think I came in at 19, but I keep thinking there was one I read over the summer or early fall but forgot to list (maybe something about running?).  Anyway, I think this totals up to just over 4000 pages of nonfiction, and about 3300 pages of fiction.  Not bad!  My mind is stronger for the 4000 nonfiction pages, and perhaps more imaginative for the 3300 pages. 

I decided not to make a 2013 resolution about a specific number of books since I don't want to encourage myself to read quick books that don't improve my life or mind at all.  But maybe I'll aim for 7500 pages, at least 50% non-fiction?  Either way, not an official resolution. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Berlin Registration Drama ... Resolved

This post is about 2 months late in coming because it has taken me almost that long to be able to breathe when I think about it.  But I know Aimee said she wanted to hear it, so here is the story of the drama surrounding my Berlin marathon registration.

By way of background, I have a pretty solid history with race registration in the US. 

Boston 2011 filled up in less than 10 hours.  I posted the full story here -- I persistently clicked from the time it opened until I got in (I still remember my horror and panic in clicking "authorize charges" about 40 times to the tune of $130 per charge!). 

I've gotten into Chicago and Marine Corps by registering promptly.

I was lucky in getting into New York through the lottery on my first attempt.

But my luck with foreign races has not been the same. 

I posted about it as the drama unfolded, but for the last few years (pretty much since the 2008 Olympics), I have wanted to run the Beijing Marathon. And I'd wanted to travel to mainland China for much of my life, probably since I was old enough to learn about the world and how many different and interesting places there are, and then realize that as the world becomes more global, differences disappear. So the Beijing Marathon seemed to be the perfect way to combine an amazing marathon with a trip to an amazing country. I paid close attention to the Beijing Marathon in 2011, knowing it would be my turn in 2012 (and having had experience with some marathons filling up before I had a chance to register, knowing I needed to get a visa, plane tickets, arrange for vacation from work, etc.). In 2011, this is how it went: in the winter, there was a marathon webpage with information about the 2011 race; in June, the registration date was announced; in August, the registration moved to "late registration" status; in October, there was a marathon. So since 2012 was to be the 31st year, I assumed it would be roughly the same.


Instead the website stayed blank for months.  Then finally a countdown calendar appeared, counting down until Oct. 14, but nothing more.  Then the countdown calendar disappeared.  Then it reappeared, again, counting down until Oct. 14.  Then the logo and colors of the website updated.  But then it was late August and there was still nothing more than a countdown calendar and a blurb saying registration info would be "coming soon." 

Then in early September, Runner's World picked up a story about the National Congress of the Communist Party of China planning to meet in Beijing that very same weekend, so the marathon was not going to be held.

Of course we already had plane tickets, so we were going to China.

Realistically, I hadn't thought I'd PR in the Beijing Marathon.  First, I knew the air was not good there.  Second, I didn't know enough about the logistics -- would there be cold water and Gatorade at all the stops?  Third, I'd want to soak in the experience, likely running at a training pace, but possibly a bit slower, and possibly with a few stops to take some photos.

Instead, my PR sights were set on the Berlin Marathon in 2013.  I've also been planning that trip for years.  Since I ran Boston, I realized that I'd run 3 of the 5 (now 6) marathons that are considered the World Marathon Majors -- the two remaining were Berlin and London.  I can't run London anytime soon, as it is a lottery and we like to plan our trips very far in advance.  But Berlin was just right. 

I started telling people about it over the summer.  Inviting friends to plan to run Berlin 2013 as well.  On Sept. 10, I sent a mass email to many family and friends who I know like to travel and run marathons, inviting them to think about whether they'd like to run Berlin with me in 2013, advising I'd send more details later. 

There was one hitch in my plans -- registration for Berlin was set to open on October 25.  I would be in Shanghai that day, and I had no idea in advance how strong the Great Chinese Firewall was, whether it would be safe to use a credit card from an internet cafe in China, whether I'd be able to find an internet cafe (possibly in the middle of the night, due to time differences).

So I came up with an alternate plan.

I gave every conceivable personal detail about me, my running history, and my credit cards, to a very good trusted friend who also planned to run Berlin 2012.

I sent another mass email on October 2, as soon as the registration date was announced by the Berlin Marathon, telling all my friends that it would open Oct. 25, that the marathon sold out last year in early December, and that there's no reason to delay in registering since 2013 could sell out more quickly than 2012.

And then I kind of forgot about it. 

Until I checked my email in Shanghai on October 26.  I saw several emails from friends replying to my mass email.  I opened them in order, starting with the first that I received. 

One friend said she got in.

Another said he got in.

Another said he got in, but he was already group 3.

Another said he'd tried to get in but it was already sold out.

No email from my trusted friend with all my registration info.


Sure enough, a few hours later, I got a text message from her (I was able to receive texts in Shanghai) and an email.

She was apologizing profusely, saying she'd gotten busy at work, she hadn't thought it would fill up in less than 3.5 hours, and that it was already closed out before she'd had a chance to register either of us. 


As soon as I got home, before I even started digging through the 200 work emails that awaited me, I scoured the Berlin marathon website and sent emails to the charity partners and the tour operators asking about how I could get in. 

The tour operator for the US put me on a wait list.  That was going to add about $500-$1000 to the cost of our trip, but I figured it was worth it -- it would mean many of the race logistics would be handled for me, and it would mean we'd be staying in a nicer hotel than we'd usually pick on our own dime.  Plus I'd have months to work that into the budget. 

But then Berlin announced that a limited number of spots had not been filled during the initial October 25 registration, so they would make them available again.

The new registration date was November 17. 

And there would be 2500 spots available.

Bear in mind, there were originally over 30,000 spots available on October 25 and they all were taken in less than 3.5 hours.

So everyone who was busy or forgot that day would now be trying for even fewer spots.

I don't trust my home internet, my home computer, or my work computer in a pinch.  For life and death matters like registering for this race, I decided to call on another trusted friend -- the very first person who'd sent me an email saying she was registered for Berlin.

And I decided to call on other resources as well.  I had four separate people besides her trying for me.  I decided I would sit with her on her laptop at her work.  On their own computers at home would be two other running friends, my husband, and one of my brothers.  Everyone had my basic info and was to call me if they got in. 

The big minute came and we began clicking.  At first it seemed like it was working, then we'd get a "try again" message.  Then a friend and my brother got through and put in my info -- but they were kicked out when they hit submit.  For nearly 20 frantic minutes, we kept trying.  Finally... success! 

I couldn't breathe until I saw in my inbox an email from the marathon confirming that my code would be processed and sent to me, then I would be eligible to complete a medical questionnaire and pay for the race.

Oh my. 

The drama! 

The bottom line is that with much stress and likely permanent damage to my heart, I got registered for the race of my dreams with the help of a friend.  I won't have to spend the extra money for a tour if the wait list cleared, and I wouldn't have to raise money for charity (certainly valuable and important, but I so hate doing fundraising). 

My trusted friend was so bothered by getting shut out (and the fact that she has a new job and just moved into an amazing house), that she decided not to attempt to register when it reopened.

But I think we will have a little group of at least 5 runners, which will be lovely.  My local bestie and her sister are coming, a few significantly faster friends, and hopefully my friend that I could rely on when it was all or nothing in the last ditch effort (she has to work it out with her family, her finances and her job, but my fingers are crossed!). 

And hopefully that means a little group of 10 or so to grab some meals together in Berlin, maybe go see some sites together, maybe car pool to Munich, and perhaps most importantly (and most fun!), meet up with at Oktoberfest the night after the race!!!