Pretty good weekend, I’d say.

Saturday I finally got to run what I feel is a slightly more “normal” long-run-mileage for me; I was scheduled to go 5, but went 5.13 because that’s the way the route panned out. I’d wanted to concentrate on going slowly, so I picked a route with lots of hills. It took me down one road that I’ve been using that has a fairly big hill about 3/4 of a mile from home, so getting up that hill always leads me to that “almost home!” moment, which is fun. But, before I got there, I had to do a nice steady half-mile uphill that gets steep enough in some parts; I used to call it my ‘punishment’ hill when I lived closer to it and ran it with more regularity.  The fun effect of doing the Punisher before the Almost Home hill was that the Almost Home hill seemed like a molehill compared to the Punisher; I got halfway up, and thought, This is nothing. And I am kicking its ass! So that was cool. I finished at an exactly 11:00/mile pace, which was also exactly what I set out to do. Also cool.

I spent the rest of the day wine-tasting (since there are a metric f***ton of wineries within an hour’s drive of where I live) and playing golf with the boy, after which we played video games and watched basketball with friends. (Our team won, which was also nice.) In case you’re wondering, drinking wine before playing golf should be considered a decent handicap – I’m already terrible, but the wine helped me not care that I was as bad as I was.

Sundays are my cross-training days, and since I missed last week, I figured I could maybe probably squish it into this Sunday’s cross-training and just double up this week. (Or quadruple up; cross-training is supposed to last for an hour, and we were out for over four. Oops!) Hiking is an acceptable cross-training activity, so I joined some friends for a ten-mile hike at a nearby lake that has some good rolling hills and waterfalls and heart-pumping elevation changes. Oh, and a rock scramble:

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It was a wee bit vertiginous at times, but damn, what a good total-body workout.

My knees were kind of unhappy with me at the end, as they are at the end of every hike; I really need to invest in a set of hiking poles, but I keep forgetting this until it’s too late, and end up just picking up a walking stick of some sort on the trail (that’s the long, thin thing you see sticking out of my backpack; I named him, eponymously enough, Sticky). Thankfully, glucosamine and ice packs are not in short supply at my house, and I was more than happy to avail myself of both after a long, hot shower that involved lots of stretching. I had a couple of beers, too, and then Boy and I tackled the Cook’s Illustrated spaghetti puttanesca for dinner. I was so hungry by the time we sat down to eat it that I didn’t even think of taking a picture of it, but it was remarkably delicious – not too salty, not too garlicky, not too heavy; perfect, really. Two things we did differently from the CI recipe were to use anchovy paste instead of anchovy fillets – since I’m not terribly crazy about anchovies to begin with, and figured the paste would reduce the flavor a little, plus I got creeped out at the thought of having weird little fish in a jar just hanging out in my pantry – and adding a splash of vodka to the tomato sauce as it simmered. Mmmm. The fish taste was nearly non-existent, and the dish as a whole turned out pretty spicy, but not overly so. Next time I might use a bit less than the teaspoon of crushed red pepper that the recipe called for, since it was quite kicky. In my famished state I forgot to leave leftovers, which would have been smart since I teach tonight and will be at school quite late and will not have a chance to eat dinner before class starts. Instead, I’ll, uh, just have to have some cereal when I eventually get home. It’s a rest day; I can eat what I want, right? 🙂

Happy Monday, y’all!

Hahaha… I’m so awesome.

And humble. But allow me to indulge in some self-back-patting, no?

Thursdays (as well as Tuesdays) are one of my ‘easy-ish 3 miles’ days as far as training goes. Given how poorly yesterday’s 3-mile pace run felt, I decided to just start out today’s run nice and slow, ignore the clock, and see what my body told me. So that’s what I did – I began loping along at about an 11:00/mile pace (because I really can’t entirely ignore the clock), and felt pretty okay after the first mile. I decided to continue at that pace without making a conscious effort to run faster, just to see if I actually would settle into a faster pace on my own. To my surprise, I did, and got the second mile off in 10:30, putting me at 21:30 for two miles. Right at the beginning of the third mile I thought, “well, if I’m aiming for a 30-minute 3-miler, that means an 8:30 last mile, but I’m not so keen on trying for that, so let’s just relax and see if we can get a 10:00 third mile”, so that I had for all 3 miles a 10:30/mile average.

So I relaxed. And somehow peeled off a half-mile in about 4.5 minutes. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t miscounted laps, but no, I hadn’t; I was moving now, and it felt good. Really really really good. I did some quick math and realized I could still just about make that 30-minute 3-miler… and then I thought, “aw, hell, let’s just GO FOR IT”.

So I did. It was so cool to ask my body to go faster and put forth some extra effort and actually have it respond; it was like everything lined up perfectly- my breathing fell into place, my arms were exactly at my sides as they should have been, my feet felt like they were barely touching the ground… I rounded the corner for the last lap* and saw I had 35 seconds to still make my 30-minute cutoff. I dug in and went for it. All systems are go!

I didn’t quite make the 30-minute cutoff, but I finished at 30:12, which means I peeled off that last mile in 8:42. That’s just not something I usually do, if, um, I’ve ever done it at all. So I feel totally turned around from yesterday, and totally awesome, and will have to remind myself that slow and steady at the start is the way to do pace work from now on.

Oh, endorphins, you are wonderful. I am treating myself to a lunch of rainbow veggies and doing some work and teaching my first class of the semester and riding this good mood as long as possible. Woooo!

*This is a small track on which 12 laps are one mile, FYI.

Time for something new!

I went to see my GI doctor for my it’s-been-a-month-since-you-last-stuck-something-up-my-rear-end checkup. I couldn’t help laughing when the nurse who took my vitals asked me if this was the first time I’d ever seen this doctor; I assured her we were quite intimately acquainted, since she’s seen both the best and the worst ends of me. Har!

(Sidenote: it’s really, really hard for me to say the words ‘anus’ and ‘rectum’ with a straight face. Add to this the fact that my doctor had an intern with her who was a dead ringer for Kal Penn, and you can imagine the giggle fits I had to suppress.)

Anyway, we talked about what’s been going on for the last month-ish or so, and since I’ve been suffering some fairly irritating (both literally and figuratively, which is all the detail I’m going to go into to about that; you’re welcome) side effects from my first medicine, Canasa, we decided I should try a short-term steroid next. Specifically, a hydrocortisone foam that is still not taken orally, so I’ve made no progress on that front. When she said ‘steroid’ I was nervous, since I had a horrific bout with poison ivy a few years ago that landed me on a steady month-long prednisone diet, and that was awful; Master P and I did not get along, to say the least. While hydrocortisone can still be systematically absorbed, it’s not supposed to be anywhere near as bad as prednisone, which is encouraging. That said, it’s not intended to be a long-term solution, so I’m to check in with the GI folks after two weeks to see if I’ve responded any better to this treatment.

Today I also had one of those running days where nothing seems to click. Today was supposed to be a ‘pace run’, which means I’m supposed to run consistently at the pace at which I’d like to run my half-marathon; I’m aiming for 9:00/mile, but it just wasn’t happening today. I think I managed closer to 9:22 (and yes, the difference is palpable) for 3 miles. Maybe it was the lack of sleep last night, maybe it was a lack of food and water (I went after seeing my doctor, and I had to wait an hour and a half to see her, when I’d already eaten and hydrated as if the appointment was going to occur on time which means I went nearly three hours without food or water – this isn’t bad for most people, but it’s stress-headache-hangry*-inducing for me, so not really ideal for running at a faster pace than one is used to), who knows. I got a little upset about it during the fact, but I’ve told myself that what matters is that the miles are there and I got them done, which I did. Tomorrow’s another day and another run, so I can work in some pace work if I need to. Right? Right.

*’Hangry’ is so totally a word; urbandictionary.com says so: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hangry

Awww, come on!

So my jury duty is theoretically over, but I got a call from the sheriff’s office this morning asking me if I might possibly be available for jury selection on February 6 and/or 7. (What am I going to say, no? I kind of can’t, really, so thanks for the choice.) Yes, that is the Big Trial – the Huguely trial – and I’m hoping beyond hope that it won’t be necessary for me to report for it. That they had to expand the jury pool in the first place should tell them that they’re going to have a bit of a time indeed finding a jury; I maintain that I want no part of this, especially after how last week ended. I mean – your gut tells you (or at least mine tells me), “this guy is guilty, he should spend his life in prison”, but then you get the evidence and the facts that are the only things that you can legally consider, and I can see very easily how he could end up *not* spending his life in prison. And I want no part of that decision. I did the stupid thing where I read some of the comments being made online about the case I was on last week, and people were vicious in their characterization of the jury – but, as I kept telling myself, they weren’t there, and don’t know the facts of the case. Still, it’s kinda sucky.

On a brighter note, I made sweet potato soup with the skins on last night and it was delicious. Do you want the recipe? Here you go:

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 medium sweet potato, washed and pricked with a fork

A few splashes of heavy whipping cream

About half a bag of frozen spinach (optional)

To taste: salt, pepper, nutmeg, ginger, cumin, parmesan cheese

 

Microwave the sweet potato until it is softened, about ten minutes, while the chicken broth boils. Add softened potato, scraping out the insides and adding the skins with whatever potato is still attached to it. Add whipping cream and seasonings to taste; bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for at least 30 minutes (but the longer you can wait, the better). Five minutes before serving, add frozen spinach and simmer until softened.  Just before serving, add parmesan cheese and stir.

I don’t blend or puree my soup since I like it fairly thick; I make a butternut squash soup similar to this out of a puree, and it’s pretty good too. Good comfort food for those chilly Virginia winter nights.

I go to see my GI doctor for my month-in checkup tomorrow. Should be fun…!

Public service announcement #2

IMPORTANT: I saved the first draft of this post after the first day of jury duty, which lasted three days. This is it:

Things you can take away from being a juror with UC, part one (in a series of one, I hope):

1) It is absolutely impossible to fart in a courtroom – even silently – without anyone else knowing that you are the source;

2) Pursuant to this, holding it for the hours-at-a-time stretch means that you are going to make a very joyful noise indeed when you are finally let out of the courtroom, but you should first remember that the jury room into which you are first dismissed is a small room indeed and that everyone can hear everything you do in the bathroom in there, so you should probably wait until you get outside of the entire building and far enough away that no one can trace the noises back to you;

3) This is what you get for loading up on red meat and actively plotting to stinkbomb your way out of serving on a jury. For the most ironic outcome, not only will the fates decree that you serve on that jury, but they will also decree that you very, very quickly realize item 1) and much more slowly and agonizingly realize item 2), and wonder why you set about to be so devious in the first place.

One awesome thing about this jury service is that I have found my new favorite lunch spot on the Downtown Mall. Since links still don’t work here, copy and paste this to read an article in a local weekly newspaper about Song Song’s Zhou & Bing (and yes, that is me who made the ninth comment):

http://www.readthehook.com/102600/healthy-chinese-song-songs-zhou-bing

If you’re where I am, go there and say hi to her, and enjoy the excellent food and super-friendly service. And if you’re not where I am, come visit me and I’ll take you there. 🙂

IMPORTANT AGAIN: I’m now writing this within an hour of having arrived at home from the final day of the trial, about which I can now talk. What I wrote above now seems so flip, but it pretty accurately sums up my state of mind for the first day, day and a half of this trial – it was still sort of novel, not too much of a pain in the rear, and a nice excuse to eat lunch downtown (I’ve now had every menu item at Song Song’s and they’re all excellent).

This last day was so, so much harder than I was expecting. Right now I have a beer in front of me that is more needed than any I’ve had in a good long time, and I can say no more about the trial at this moment except this: It is my sincere hope that none of you reading this ever in your life will have to be responsible for convicting a man of second-degree murder and then sentencing him to 15 years in prison. It is a gross understatement to say that it is not an easy thing.

What I need right now is sleep, and lots of it, and a good run tomorrow and some quality girl time with some of my favorite ladies. Jeebus willing, I’ll get all of those things. But I can’t shake the thought that there’s at least one person in this world who won’t.

Tempting fate

So I got called for jury duty tomorrow morning. It’s a four-day trial, but there’s still a chance I might not get on the jury, which would be great because this is the least convenient possible time for me to have been called – classes start Wednesday, we have a potential professor hire visiting on Thursday and Friday, etc. etc. ad nauseam. My foolproof plan for getting myself off the jury is to load up on ground beef (rare hamburgers with spicy cheese please!) and dark beer tonight so that I have an *ahem* fully loaded intestinal arsenal for tomorrow morning. This could be history, folks: have you ever known anyone to get dismissed from a jury based solely on everyone else’s complete inability to be in a room with the smells that person is producing for eight hours?

After tomorrow, you might. I’ll keep you all posted. 🙂

EDIT: They sent us all home today (Tuesday), but we have to return tomorrow (Wednesday), so the great experiment is going to have to wait. But I’ve hit a snag: the burgers were homemade, and seem to have had nowhere near the expected reaction with my insides that I thought they would. While this is good because it means I can still eat burgers in some form (and really, homemade is the best because my saint of a boyfriend makes the most awesome ones ever, plus this saves money in the long run), it’s also bad because it means I might have to give up restaurant burgers, some of which I have come to adore. It’s a small sacrifice, and honestly probably a very wise health decision – I hear red meat isn’t exactly all that good for you anyway *sheepish grin* – but still. Still! And I thought I had a surefire way to get myself kicked out of court! Sigh…

A test… passed?

I did a potentially stupid thing last night: I made my baked ziti (yes, the one out of “my new precious”) with hot Italian sausage (the recipe calls for, and I usually use, turkey sausage). I was a leeeetle bit nervous about what it might do to my insides, but it’s been over eighteen hours since consumption, and I have to say, the total lack of reaction has me quite pleased. I also had a couple of glasses of red wine, which was on the “maybe bad?” list – I had some white wine at Christmas that made me feel really dizzy and terrible – and they treated me just fine. Hooray!

I went for my “long” run this morning, which was supposed to be 4 miles but turned into 4.5 since the route I mapped out didn’t allow me any shortcuts. I did the thing that I have to not keep doing where my first mile was entirely too fast because I was cold (it was, um, 32 degrees outside and I always under-dress because I know I will warm up, but that first mile is so very chilly!), but the rest of the run was pretty excellent. It was, admittedly, a bit faster than my slow runs should be – I ran a straight 10:00/mile pace – but I felt so good over the last half-mile that I decided to just kick it up and fly. Awesome.

Football playoffs are on later; there are boys playing video games at my house and lots of beer and leftover ziti in my fridge. It’s a good day.