Using My Past to Plan the Future

This weekend, I finally made it out for my first run of 2022, The intention was to run the Virtual WDW 10K at the Rose Bowl. However, that proved to be too ambitious. To be honest, I knew it was a lofty goal because my last training run came on November 6, 2021 and that run was for only 2 miles. As a matter of fact, the last time I completed more than a 5K was February 29, 2020 (as I was training for the Star Wars Rival Run Half Marathon Runs).

Going into this run at the Rose Bowl, I did remember how awful that first mile can be when you’re undertrained (as I am). My first two run intervals were okay but, I was pushing hard. So, I thought that if I took one run interval off, it might help. Maybe I make 2 of 3 run intervals. Well, that plan fell apart right away. As I tried my third run interval, I didn’t make it all the way to 30 seconds. So, I decided I would walk the rest of mile 1. After all, if mile 1 was the beast, walk most of it and save energy for later. I did get a few more run intervals in during mile 1 to give me a respectable 13:29 mile 1.

By the time mile 2 started, I was losing belief that I would get a full 10K in as began walking more and more. Once I got to the part of the loop that starts having more downhill and level running than climbing, I got brave and started running again. I finished mile 2 at around 29:53 (I think). At that point, I started believing I might find a way to make it through the whole 10K! However, somewhere between 3.25 and 3.50 miles, the wheels fell off again. I was slowing down (which is what happens in the last part of mile 3). My legs started feeling a little wobbly and I started wondering if it was truly worth it to push so hard when I hadn’t done so in so long. It was clearly a case of not remembering how hard I can push. But, by the time I got to 3.0 miles, I was ready to call it a day and just be happy I made it out to the Rose Bowl again.

After getting back to the car, I took some time to reflect on where I was on this running journey….where I hoped to go….how do I get there. I decided that I needed to go back and look over how my running journey has gone since finishing the 2017 NYC Marathon. It’s always sobering to look at the actual data and not the way you remember it. I saw in the spreadsheet a person who had a defined goal in the start of 2018 that helped in keeping some semblance of a running journey going. I completed 36 training runs/races in 2018. I do remember that my goal was to run a 5K without stopping. This fueled pretty consistent training on a treadmill. However, once I got to the run 3 minutes/walk 3 minutes part of the Couch to 5K program I was on, the wheels would fall off. I’d get sad about it. Miss a few runs. Then, start again. By my third missed attempt, I realized that running a 5K without any walk breaks might have been too lofty of a goal for someone as overweight as I was. The Virtual 5K runDisney races in the Summer got me back to training. It wasn’t like the Couch to 5K program kind of consistency. But, it was so much better than where I’d get to in 2019 and beyond.

In 2019, the wheels of this running journey started falling off. While I ran 3 different 5K’s in 2019, counting those 3 races, I recorded a total of 10 runs for the entire year. To be honest, there were a lot of factors in this. I went from 36 training runs in 2018 to 10 in 2019 due to a few factors. First off, in the start of 2018, my job situation went off the rails bad. I haven’t talked a lot about this with others, but, when I became a paralegal at Disney, my boss turned into a workplace bully. I’m not entirely sure why this happened. I don’t think I’ll ever know why. But, by March of 2018 my job headed in a bad direction. I’m pretty sure that it’s no coincidence that my training nose dived at that point as well (and it did). As a matter of fact, of the 36 runs I logged in during 2018, the first 21 came before April 1st. So, in the first three months, I logged in 21 runs. In the last 9 months, I logged in 14.

My anxiety levels grew considerably as I dealt with a boss would bring me in his office to yell at me for one thing or another at least once a week from the beginning of May 2018 through April 2019. It got so bad for me that I would end up dry heaving every morning at least once from the time I woke up until the time I got to work from June 2018 through May 2019. On the first Saturday of March 2019, I had my first anxiety attack. When you’re in the middle of being bullied at work, you think that you can find a way to make it go away. At least, I did. Even though several friends told me that my boss was being a bully, I didn’t want to believe them. After all, I was being yelled at for work related issues and not issues that would constitute harassment. It wasn’t until the end of 2019 that I realized this was bullying. We had to go through compliance training on various workplace issues each year. In 2019, Disney added a bullying module to go through on the harassment compliance training. As I watched the videos in this module, the tears became incontrollable as I watched actors play out scenes from my previous year and a half. By the beginning January 2020, I was blindsided with a second write up and news that I was being put on a performance improvement plan. If you’ve ever been on one of these “plans” you know that it is a mere formality towards getting fired. I filed a complaint with HR about the bullying. However, I’m sure that, by then, it looked like an employee just trying to save their job. So, I didn’t get much traction. Then, in August 2020, I was fired. To add insult to injury, my boss’s boss chose my birthday as my last day with the company. As you might imagine, there is sooooo much more to this story. However, I needed to share this because of its effect on my running journey.

As I mentioned, by 2019, I only ran 10 times for the entire year. Y’all, there have been months where I ran more than that. However, the physical toll of the bullying was killing my confidence in myself, leading to lower energy levels, and the mental capacity to just get through the day. The anxiety attack hurt my ability to run races. In 2019, I ran 3 races. The Rose Bowl 5K was where I started noticing a change. I had to work really hard to keep the pre-race anxiety down. When I ran the Big 5 5K race, it was even harder. I remember I had to work really hard on a plan to keep my emotions in check until the race would just start. By the time I got to the Minion 5K race at Universal Studios, I was a total mess until I got into the starting corrals. I had a couple rounds of dry heaves once I got off the freeway and found myself waiting in my car as long as I could. I then missed the Angels 5K race in 2019 because the dry heaves started right away on my drive to Anaheim. It was such a scary time. I missed running. But so much was going on in my life outside of running that I didn’t have the energy or focus to get me back on track.

By December 2019, I had signed up for the 2020 Star Wars Half Marathon in Walt Disney World. Signing up seemed to bring me back a little bit. In the last week of 2019, I even got out and ran 3 days that week. The momentum continued into the beginning of 2020. A cold killed off one week of training in 2020 and fighting for my job hurt some February training time. Then, COVID came in and destroyed it all. The Star Wars Half Marathon was cancelled just after the entire world shut down. It was a scary time to live through. I had no idea what was safe for training. I only completed 8 training runs in 2020. The first 6 were before COVID. As a matter of fact, from the time COVID shut us down, I didn’t run again until October. There were 2 runs in October….then nothing until June of 2021. That June run was one of 8 I would complete in 2021.

So, let’s look at where I’m at since I ran the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon, by year…

As you can see, it’s been a picture of diminishing returns. If you saw a fuller chart, you’d also see my speed gradually decreasing. So, when I signed up for the 2022 Virtual WDW 10K, it was another attempt to get myself going again. It didn’t work out so well.

First, I signed on to be my son’s soccer coach in the fall. That meant one soccer practice per week and a game every Saturday. As Coach, I had to be at them all….and 15 minutes early.

Once the season ended, a week or two later, I got a cold that wiped me out. Don’t worry, it wasn’t COVID. However, it meant that I would have to run the Virtual 10K without any training. Considering how 2018 – 2021 went in training, it wouldn’t have been wise of me to finish the entire 10K.

To finish this post out, it is important to look at where I’m at right now. So, here’s part of that picture…

I’m waaaaay out of shape. I’m totally undertrained. So, I shouldn’t expect to run as fast or as far as I think I can. Part of what killed my 2018 was the fact I knew I could finish a 5K race no matter how much or how little I training. It was incredibly frustrating that I couldn’t get past a certain point of my Couch to 5K program without watching the wheels fall off. That’s when the real retreat began. It’s also when everything went to really bad in my job. But, I felt like, after 3 tries, it wasn’t something I should have pursued. So, as I enter 2022, I am faced with the realities of where I’m at currently and where I want to go. This was supposed to be the year that prepared me to get ready for a Boston Marathon Qualifying time. Instead, 2022 is really about showing myself that I can still do really hard things. So many of my goals involve getting to a point where my 2023 goals can emerge and flourish. I’ll get into that more in my next post. Just know, the work is just starting.

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