Monday, March 25, 2013

My Impostor Syndrome


I don't consider myself an imposter on the level of  Frank Abagnale played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie Catch Me if You Can, but I do often find myself wondering just exactly who I really am when it comes to my running personality.

This weekend I ran a 19.5 mile self-supported, training run which consisted of thirty degree temperatures, hard-frozen fire roads, muddy wet-lands and 2 inch ice/snow encrusted single-track trails. And yet I find myself questioning my abilities as a runner.

 I'll beat myself up over all kinds of things...

The run wasn't really 19.5 miles was it? No, my Garmin actually read 19.47 when I finished.

Seriously?...

So you couldn't just run around the parking lot one time to make it an even 19.5?

Or better yet... why not run back down the path a bit to even it up to an even 20 miles? Doesn't a 20 mile run sound a whole lot better?

Sure it does.

As I drove away from the trail-head with my feet throbbing and my body aching from the 4 hour effort, I think to myself that my eventual goal; of completing a 50 miler is 30 miles more than what I just did.

I feel like a moth drawn to the 50 mile flame.

How is it possible to run another 30 miles? Is it possible that I'm really just masquerading in these muddy trail shoes?

I often wonder if  I just like the idea of being an ultra runner and that I desire being a part of a community I don't really have the ability or credentials to justify?

My runs are typically longer (and have more elevation gain) than most people I know could ever complete. And yet, I still find myself wrapped in a cloak of doubt and uncertainty.

I don't worry about the typical things like pace or finishing times that I know torment most road runners because I no longer consider speed the challenge. I just want to run far.

I've turned my focus to trail running just over a year ago and I've since completed two 50k ultras and I'm training for my third. And yet... my mind processes and distorts this information just enough to translate it back to me; that a 50k is the shortest of all the ultra distances and until I run longer than a 50k I wont be a real ultra runner.

Until recently, I've kept the thoughts to myself and have always thought this was just my own running neurosis or idiosyncratic behavior. Over Sunday brunch I was describing some of the details of the 19.5 mile run to my wife and I told her how I often felt like an imposter, particularly after I finish a long training run.

She told me about a colleague who once told her about psychological phenomenon called The Imposter Syndrome, or Fraud Syndrome, where people feel their success or accomplishments have been due to luck  and not the result of their own ability and competence.

I found it fascinating (and somewhat reassuring) that the syndrome exists and others share the distorted perception of their hard work and accomplishments. I'm just grateful that it's not something more debilitating and maybe running is the perfect therapy.

So maybe there's Ultra Runner with an upper-case and ultra runner in lower-case, and maybe I'm just an ultra runner in the lower-case (for now).


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ah, Screw It!

Over the last few weeks I put a pretty good hurt on my Yaktrax.

They've stood up for a few years on the packed snow trails, but since I've taken to running the mountains (when I can), the coiled metal has gotten pretty bent out of shape.

Amazingly the rubber hasn't broken considering the abuse, but they have become pretty misshaped and I'll need to trust them not to fail on an icy mountain top.

A few years ago when I mostly ran paved bike paths I had something similar to Yaktrax that fit over my shoe, but these had machine screws and as I recall they worked like a charm on the glare ice on the local, paved bike path.

I decided I would make my own but these would be permanent. 

I have a pair of Saucony ProGrid Razors that are still in really good shape and stricktly worn during foul-weather, so I thought it would be fine to "screw-up" these shoes. 
 
I used #8 3/8 inch Sheet Metal Screws

I purposely left the center of the shoes without any screws, the tread is still in tact and the outside has some obvious screw locations.

I used Hex-head screws – they “bite” the ice much better than screws with a smooth or a curved head.

Screw Shoes work just fine on roads. It may wear the screw heads out a little faster but the screws are cheap enough not to worry about it.

It's not original idea but it's a trick that has served me surprisingly well on some very icy situations. You won't even know you have them on.



Prepping for Traprock

Last year, just before The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain I was struck down by an injury in the final weekend of training.

This year I registered in early October determined to make my comeback to the course that I can say is in my own backyard.

I had begun my training in late January, early February and started building miles when a haunting thought was beginning to get caught in the web of thoughts. "Why does the weekend of May 4th and 5th sound so familiar?

I knew there had to be something so I thumbed through scrawled notes on our calendar and found nothing.Then it struck me, my wife and her brother had just started planning for their parents 50th wedding anniversary.

Yup, you guessed it... Same weekend. 

How can this be? There's nothing on the calendar and I've been registered since October.

My hear sank and my mind raced through a variety of unpleasant emotions. I didn't know what to think, but I knew that (once again) I would not be able to run The North Face Endurance Challenge at Bear Mountain.

I spoke to my wife and she understood how deeply frustrating it was for me and she said what I was hoping she would "Well, isn't there another one you could do?".

Green light! 

Since I've become interested in Ultras I had been scoping out events that I might be interested in doing. One of which is Connecticut's  Traprock 50k.

Traprock is a particularly intriguing event for me because it's in Penwood State Park located on Talcott Mountain overlooking Simsbury, a small Connecticut town where I grew up and my parents still live in the area.

Within a matter of hours I had double checked calendar dates, read blog postings about runners experiences and had completed my registration for Traprock 50k.

I'm in!

Traprock is just about a month away now and 3 weeks earlier than the Bear Mountain race.

Training is going well despite setbacks from some heavy, late-winter, snowfall that just happened to fall on scheduled weekend long-runs.

I'm anxious but I think it's a healthy anxiety, after all if you don't feel some excitement about an event, is it really worth doing?

In my web search for "Traprock 50k" I found some pretty cool posters from previous years. I'll be posting these in the office and above the treadmill as motivators.