I ran 15 miles this morning, so that’s a wrap for marathon training 2016!
The theme song of this year has to be this little diddy, as I think I ran maybe three long runs where I didn’t get dumped on. That’s Spring for you, I guess.
(My hair was an impossible rat’s nest after an 18-miler in torrential rain.)
Overall, it was a good season. Despite the less than stellar weather conditions, I was fairly happy with my long runs and I’ve mostly kept injuries at bay.
The best part about training for a Spring marathon is watching the park come alive. It’s fun to conclude the season with green grass, blossoming trees and colorful flowers, when it started what feels like ages ago in the dead of winter.
(Trying to motivate myself with Jen Sincero’s You Are A Badass on a cold, snowy, long run.)
(BUT Forest Park is a beauteous place right now!)
(A few more scenes from the running path, because this truly has been a lovely Spring.)
To sum up marathon training 2016, I’d like to pay tribute to some of the handy people, places and things that have really helped me along through these last few months.
Maybe a few of you runners out there might find this little list useful. Without further ado…
The Heroes of Marathon Training 2016:
1. The Forest Park Visitor’s Center
The Forest Park Visitor’s Center is, oh how do I say this, AWESOME. You might know the place as an excellent wedding reception venue, or perhaps the spot to meet your Segway tour of the Park, but did you know that Mon-Fri it is open 6am-8pm daily and it is there for the use of runners’ and other park goers’ convenience??!?! That’s right, you need a clean, flushable toilet? Visitor’s Center. A drink from a clean, cold water fountain? Visitor’s Center! An air conditioned or heated (depending on the season) place to stretch post run? Visitor’s Center!!! I’ll tell you, on many a chilly, wet, rainy run, this place has beckoned itself before me like a dry, pleasant oasis…with fully functioning bathrooms to boot!
2. My Garmin Watch
(This is a huge picture of a watch. Mine looks like this, and it’s about that big too. I’ve heard the kids are getting much cooler and sleeker versions nowadays though…)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t know how anyone trains for a marathon without a Garmin watch. Mine is a gargantuan, green beauty and I’ve had it for NINE YEARS! Seriously! I got it pre-little maps on your phone that show you where you are at all times era. Pre-Smartphone era, really! So, I remember being amazed that it could tell me how many miles I’d run. It also tells me things like, the time, pace, calories burned, sunrise/sunset, average pace, and on and on. And even after almost a decade of use it still functions really well. This year, one of the straps broke, but it turns out you can just order a replacement online for like $12! Good as new and ready for Boston!
3. Fall Out Boy Remixes
I wouldn’t say I’m a big Fall Out Boy fan or anything, but for some reason these two songs have been my go to this year. I can’t say what it is about them, but I’m not gonna question something that really helps to push me through mile 20…
4. Stretch U
I stumbled upon this one by way of a lucky Groupon back in January. The Groupon advertised it as a place that would, well, stretch you, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. My biggest trial in marathon training has always been tight IT bands, so I was determined to stay on top of stretching and foam rolling this year so that my knees wouldn’t succumb to the same old pain. Basically, if you go to Stretch U you pay someone to stretch you and roll you out for 30 minutes at $15 a pop. Is it fun? No, I hate stretching. But my IT bands are in better shape now than they’ve ever been at this point in marathon training, so something seems to be working here. I bought an 8 week package and even plan to use some to recover after the race! BONUS: There’s a running store right next door to this place, so I always stock up on gels, beans and Runner’s World after my session.
5. My Old School Headphones
(These are the headphones I wear on every run. No, I’m not cool.)
First of all, let me just say I know real runners don’t listen to music or wear headphones when they run, but I’m actually a field hockey player in disguise, that is, I’m not a real runner, so I don’t care.
My headphones are stupid looking. I know this. They’re big and they hook over my ears with a band that wraps around the back of my neck like dental head gear. But seriously, I love them. I have worn this style of headphones since my first marathon in 2010. When that first pair deteriorated 5 years later, I bought another two pairs on Amazon because I was afraid Sony would stop making them. Why do I love them so much? Because I hate earbuds. They hurt my ears, and after three hours of running they really hurt my ears and the sound quality sucks. I know, I know, you’ll want to tell me Try Yurbuds, or Whosebuds, or Whatthebuds…but I don’t care. They all suck. You get no bass, ya’ll! And one cannot listen to Ruff Ryder’s Anthem without bass!
So, there you have it! A few of my favorite running related things.
Now it’s just time to taper and chug the tart cherry juice. T-minus one week until I leave for Boston!
I’m excited and ready to run bold!
Good luck to all the runners in the GO! this weekend!
(This is what I imagine my running route looks like?)
That’s right, marathon training is in full swing! Somehow I’ve managed to coerce myself into spending five of the last seven winters clocking miles through a frozen Forest Park.
John and I are both knee deep in it now, with April marathons hovering on the horizon.
So, how’s it going so far?
Well, pretty good. The longest run I’ve completed this year was 18 miles, and that was last week. I’m at that point in the training where two or three days after the long run I CANNOT BE SATiSFIED. Seriously, I am always hungry. The challenge is finding healthy snacks to fill up on when obviously chocolate valentine brownies are a much more efficient means of replacing calories.
What have the highs and lows been of marathon training 2016?
My lowest point was a 12 mile run about a month ago. Mother Nature was being a bit nasty to me that week, but I decided to ignore that fact and try to get my long run in anyway. It was a sunny day in the 40s–not bad for January–so I opted to give it a go. I ran 6 miles and didn’t feel great but thought, eh, I can slog through another lap. About 8 miles in I hit the wall. HARD. My blood sugar dropped enough for the ground to do that tilt-a-whirly thing whenever I started running. So, I walked. However, at this point I was about 3-4 miles from home and I was dressed for running in sunny, 40 degree weather, not dressed for walking, so I got very cold. By the time I made it back to my apartment I literally wasn’t sure if I could get myself in the door because my hands did not seem capable of turning the key. If you’ve never felt the sensation of your brain being incapable of communicating with your muscles I will tell you it’s lots of fun! (That’s sarcasm there, people). But I survived, even though I spent the rest of that evening in a lot of pain. That was my low.
The high point so far was probably the 18 miler last week. It snowed the night before and my first lap of the park the path had not even been cleared yet! I kept passing the snow plow and by the time I was on my third lap, the asphalt was exposed and I was able to go much faster. There’s something that just feels a little badass about running 18 miles on an icy morning. It got me excited for the race!
(I’ve been listening to this audio book while running because it’s fun to look down at my iPod and see it say You are a Badass. I’m being 100% serious about that.)
At this point in my running hobby, a long run is more about mental toughness and pain management than it is about any sort of cardio stamina. When you’re running in a cold park, alone, for hours on end you have a lot of time to think.
Last week, during my laps, I started thinking about how one of my goals for 2016 should be to live in the moment. I see it with my animals every day. When their bellies are full and they have a fluffy bed of straw to lay on, they are happy and content. They’re not living in the past or the future, they’re just enjoying being right where they are.
I truly struggle with this. I feel like I pass all of my days daydreaming about things I did in the past or things I imagine for the future.
In running I do this as well. When you are on a long run, it’s so hard not to imagine how many miles still lay before you and what those miles are going to feel like. My knee kinda hurts right now, I might think. I wonder how much it’s going to hurt when I get to 13 miles? What about 19? Will I even be able to make it? I think about the miles I’ve already run as well. I’ve run 7 already, how can I possibly run 10 more?!
It’s difficult, but necessary, to stay in that very moment and mile of a long run. I remind myself to focus on how I feel in each individual minute. I keep track of how my body is feeling–sore muscles, aching knees, tight hips, blisters etc., but also the scenery and sensations around me–the birds, the plants, the feel of the wind or sun, my fellow runners and cyclists.
But it’s not easy. I often find my mind floating to the past or escaping to the future. I read a quote once that said depressed people are stuck in the past and anxious people are stuck in the future. Content people know how to be in the present. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be one of the content ones!
Running is such a perfect analogy for life, particularly for living in the moment. So, that is my goal for this marathon season–to practice being content and taking stock of each individual moment rather than agonizing or developing anxiety about the future or past.
One of my favorite writing books is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. In it, Lamott tells the following story:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’
I used to use this philosophy as sort of a joke (even though I was actually totally serious) when I worked in the Children’s Zoo. While we were preparing for the summer show season, we often spent entire afternoons training owls, parrots, hornbills etc. etc…Needless to say, it was a lot and it could be quite stressful at times.
Any time things felt like they were getting out of hand I’d simply repeat Lamott’s mantra to myself and others. Bird by bird, people, bird by bird.
In that case, I meant it literally. But, honestly, I try to take this little philosophy to heart in a lot of areas of my life, particularly with marathon training.
Sometimes, I feel a bit immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.
When it’s cold, when I’m feeling anxious about the long runs or worrying about IT band pain, I just have to tell myself Mile by mile, buddy. Just take it mile by mile.
Every season of marathon training truly feels like a journey. I plan to take stock of this one mile by mile and try to enjoy each painful, joyful, insatiable, satisfying moment.
Eight weeks to go!
(I actually met this guy once on an airport escalator. True story.)
Ok, @anniebananie314 you asked for a pic a day, so here is today’s! Isabella’s first trip to visit Aunt Carolyn at work! Meeting Pujii Snow Leopard at Big Cat Country. #isabellagrace #auntcarely #stlzoo (at Saint Louis Zoo)
Hello, it’s me. (Overdone? Perhaps). Today, I have decided to return to working on my Khaki Shorts blog.
Where have I been, you might ask?
On Pinterest. That’s sort of an annoying thing to say, but it’s 100% accurate. John and I got engaged about a month ago and, following the holiday rush where I kind of took a step back from author work to spend time with friends and family, I have found myself stupidly addicted to looking at things like flowers and cakes on the internet.
Who knew such things would prove to be such an utter distraction? Well, we creative types sort of cling to anything like that I suppose, and to me a wedding seems like a fun outlet for creativity. The planning has, however, left me with very little time and energy for things like, this blog I’d say.
So, now I’m back! I’ve been wanting to write about my “best weekend ever” that sparked this Pinteresting spree for a while, so here it goes…buckle your seatbelts, kids, this is gonna be a long one…
Have you ever had a few days that changed everything? I have. In one weekend last May, John’s Aunt Barb passed away after a battle with cancer, my little sister got married and moved to Kansas City and my older sister announced that she was pregnant with my first niece or nephew.
(So much happiness..but so many emotions!)
When I returned to work on Tuesday of that week, I literally could not keep myself together. Anytime I even momentarily thought about one of these three events I started to tear up. How could it be that after four short days Barb was gone, Nancy and Pat were married and moving away and there was also a new little person to know and to love here among us? It was too much for me to handle!
Well, 2016 kicked off with a weekend like that for me again! This time, all happy events, thankfully. When I use the term “weekend” I mean it in purely the Zookeeper sense of the word, in that in this particular case I’m referring to my own weekend Wednesday-Friday.
My older sister told us she was pregnant the day after Nancy and Pat’s wedding in May SO…fast forward to December 2015 and Baby Croce was just about ready to make his/her debut!
(Kristin’s announcement the day after the wedding.)
(Mike and Kristin, teetering five days away from parenthood.)
Every time there has been a baby born in the Mueller family, we have created a baby bet where for $1 you can guess the baby’s sex, DOB and weight in order to win the entire jackpot.
I bet that Baby Croce would be born on December 30, mainly because I took a vacation day that day in the hopes that, well, the baby would arrive! Ah, how happy I was with the foresight of future Aunt Carolyn…
On Tuesday evening, December 29, I was at John’s parent’s house for a game night when I found out that my sister’s water broke! I was excited, but knew (from my vast experience?!?!) that first babies usually take a while, so I figured I’d sit tight and play some games and then stop by the hospital on my way home, go home and sleep, then wake up in the morning as an Auntie!
I left the Kelly’s at around 11:30 and went straight to the hospital. I’d made a labor playlist for Kristin, so I needed to bring her my iPod, plus I had some coffee and Christmas cookies for Mike. When I arrived in Labor and Delivery, the baby’s heart rate was low during contractions, so there was some talk of a c-section.
I told Kristin and Mike I was going home, but really I stopped at the nurses’ station and asked what the chances were of a c-section occurring within the next hour. The nurse’s response? “If I were you, I’d stick around.”
So, stick around I did.
I hung out in the waiting room with a rather large family who had all been there together since noon (It was now 12:30am). They had literally set up camp and commandeered the TV, so there I was with no book, no magazine, no TV, 40% battery left on my phone and no charger, and just a scarf to keep me warm. I entertained myself by talking to the rather large family until their baby was finally born and they left.
At 1:30am I went back to the nurses and asked for an update. To my surprise, she was pushing! Apparently first babies don’t ALWAYS take hours to arrive…who knew?
Well, at this point, it was almost 2am, I was off the next day, she was pushing…so I decided I was in it for the long haul.
I went back to the waiting room (Kristin and Mike still didn’t know I was there) and this time had that whole place to my self! I enjoyed a lovely marathon of Sex in the City and Maid in Manhattan along with waking up my little sister to give her updates and texting with my cousin, Jenny, who is a night shift nurse.
Around 3am I went back to check in with the nurses. “I think she’s getting close,” they told me. I asked if I could just loiter around right there, in front of my sister’s door near the nurses, and they said that I could.
About 15 minutes later, I saw nurses go in and then I heard that baby’s very first cries!! I’ve never seen a (human) baby be born, and I’ve never heard a (human) baby’s first cries, so this was very exciting for me.
My sister’s nurse came out of the room right after. “Is she ok?” I asked her. “She’s ok and the baby’s ok,” the nurse told me. “Boy or girl?” I asked (as Baby Croce was a good ol’ fashioned surprise). “I’m not telling you that!” she said.
Twenty or thirty minutes later, someone passed the word along to my brother-in-law that I was still in the hallway and he came outside to tell me that IT WAS A GIRL!!
A few minutes after that, I got to go into the room and meet my brand new niece ISABELLA GRACE CROCE.
And wouldn’t you know, she was a girl, born on December 30, weighing 7 pounds and 3 ounces…EXACTLY what Aunt Carolyn wrote on the Baby Bet!
(Welcome to the world Isabella!)
When I saw that little baby I definitely started crying and I definitely loved her immediately. I am one of those souls who struggles with change, and when I found out that Kristin was pregnant, of course, I was very excited, but I was also apprehensive in that I knew that things were a’ changin’ once again! But when I saw that sweet baby face, I did not have one ounce of apprehension about our newly changed family at all. I was just in love with her! And I can’t wait to watch and help her grow up.
After a few minutes of meeting Baby I prepared to leave (now around 4am). As I was making my way out of the hospital I saw my Mom! So, of course, I had to show her to Kristin and Isabella’s room, and then when my Dad showed up a few minutes later, I knew I had to stay a bit longer. My Dad, at 4am, arrived wearing corduroys and loafers, freshly showered with a button down shirt. Because that is what a Grandpa wears!
After a blissful hour meeting our new family member, the three of us left. Walking out of the hospital about 5am, I turned to my parents and said, “I don’t remember the last time I pulled an all nighter!”
And then I promptly walked right into a door.
I can’t make this stuff up, folks.
When we were leaving the hospital, it started to snow in the most quiet, magical way possible and on the way home I listen to this Dixie Chicks song, and just cried happy tears that my new niece was here and that everyone was safe and healthy.
Later, I got to go back to the hospital and hold Isabella for the first time.
(And it was wonderful. I love newborns).
On Thursday, December 31, Nancy and Pat came in town and we all went back to the hospital to meet Baby some more.
John and I did not make New Year’s plans this year, even though I had the good fortune of being off both NYE and NY Day, since we didn’t know when the baby would arrive. So, that night we all just had a champagne toast with Kristin at the hospital, which was perfect.
(Isabella meeting her Great-Grandma Mueller)
(A few more pictures of the little one, because who wouldn’t love that sweet face?)
(Annnd we come full circle…)
Becoming and aunt and watching my sister become a mother was a wonderful and magical start to the New Year. But this weekend continued to not disappoint.
On NYE John and I just went and had a few (too many?) drinks at Schlafly. Nothing very special.
The next day dawned bight and sunny for the first time in a long time.
“Let’s go on a run!” John said, quite eagerly, on that early New Year’s Day morning.
“Um, no,” pretty much summed up my response.
“Come on! It’s the first day of the new year!” John said. “Let’s kick it off right!”
“Come on, Carolyn, we’re going to want to hang out with our families today, so let’s run now and get it over with. You can nap later.”
That did it.
The prospect of getting a run done and then hanging out with my family all day was too much for me to resist. And it was sunny. So, I agreed.
I made a few mistakes leading up to the coming moment.
1. Was the third Moscow Mule of the NYE night
2. The amount of effort I put into getting dressed for that run
Sure, I put one of my favorites running outfits on, but I did NOT wash my face, brush my teeth (or hair now that I think about it…) or apply a smidgen of makeup. You get the picture.
John and I left for our run, and I had to admit, it was pretty perfect. I watched this video before we left to pump myself up and shake off the Mules. (I still love that commercial. Genius.) It was sunny and not too cold and Forest Park was just sparkling! After a rainy week, it felt good to get outside with some Vitamin D.
We ran along, and when we reached the top of Art Hill by the Saint Louis statue, John asked if I wanted to stop and look at the view for a moment, and, I must admit, I did perhaps think Hmmm…at this point, because John never wants to stop on our runs. But we did just that. Looked at the view, and then kept running, so, of course I thought Nahhhh.
You see where this is going, I’m sure…
At the bottom of Art Hill we met a friend and chatted with him for awhile, then continued around the Grand Basin, across one bridge to what I refer to in quite eloquent language as “The Bouncy Bridge” because, well, it bounces a lot. It’s a suspension bridge leading to Picnic Island.
As we approached this bridge, John suggested we walk across it because it might be slippery. This I thought nothing of, because it was frosty out that morning and that bridge is notoriously slippery.
When we reached the base of the bridge, John stepped off into the bushes right next to it. I figured he was spitting or blowing his nose or something (winter warriors, you know what I’m talking about…) so I just stood there enjoying the sunshine in my own little world…
BUT then, when he turned back toward me, I saw that John was holding a ring! And at that moment I just felt very calm and thought to myself matter-of-factly Ok, this is happening now.
So, yep, John asked me to marry him at the base of the bouncy bridge. He did not get down on one knee, we were both just standing there eye to eye, which was perfect for us (and very Jo and Frederick from Little Women, as my sister, Kristin noted).
John told me he wanted to propose at the bouncy bridge because “life has its ups and downs, but we will just have to keep running through them side by side.” That basically sums it up. It was very sweet.
I think I said something along the lines of “Of course!” And it was a perfect, wonderful moment.
(Right after saying YES!)
(Maybe not our cutest pic ever, but, hey, it was at least very real!)
After awhile John told me we needed to run home and shower because my family was going to be at his family’s house for brunch at 11.
So, we spent the rest of the day hanging out and celebrating with our two families together. John’s sister, Rachel and her wife, Ana, were in town from Michigan, and, of course, Nancy and Pat were still in town from KC, so it was perfect to have them all there. Obviously Kristin and Mike and Isabella were still in the hospital.
(One of my favorite pics of us telling John’s 90 year old Mamaw, who was over the moon.)
(It was very special to have Nancy in town!)
(Cleaned up a bit!)
(My favorite pic of both families together)
The center stone on the ring belonged to my Nana. She left it to me when she passed away in 2011, and it really means a lot to me to get to wear it and to think about her when I see it. The side of the ring has leaves engraved on it because, you know, John and I really like nature.
All in all it was a perfect, happy, relaxing day.
And that, my friends, is the story of my best weekend ever! Kicking off 2016 with a wedding to plan, a niece to cuddle and a whole lot of love and excitement!
It’s been a great year so far. Can’t wait to see what other surprises 2016 brings!
At least this big guy enjoyed today’s arctic blast. #stlzoo #kalibear #firststlsnow