Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jitters Bugs?

What is that strange feeling I've had this week?

I know it is familiar, but it has been a long time. I do believe it is actually nervousness.

Nervousness fueled by ego, to be exact.

I am strangely blessed with an almost total lack of anxiety, particularly performance anxiety. My prevailing attitude is "So what?", "There is no such thing as failure - it's all success or experience.", and, as my inspiring friend Ray Morgan always says, "Show up and suit up. That's what matters most." . And the bigger and crazier the challenge I am facing the more this generally holds true.

So how could I possibly be nervous about having agreed to run an endurance event (marathon, 1/2 marathon, Tough Mudder, etc) training program at Mojo Crossfit, the great new gym in town?

I've completed the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon the last three years in a row. I finished the 45 hour 2011 Spartan Death Race (out of 255 registrants there were only 35 of us who hung in to the end, and the 220 DNFs included Marines and elite triathletes). This year, on top of the marathons, adventure races and Death Race, I am signed up for several ultramarathons; 160km in Haliburton, 125km in Alberta's Rocky Mountains, and a double crossing of the Grand Canyon - top to bottom to top, twice, non-stop.

I do not win these races, and my preferred metric is clearly "how far" over "how fast". But I am not training Olympians. These are everyday people who want to learn to run farther and faster, and I can help them with both. I understand basic bio-mechanics, and am well versed in Pose running theory. I know how to teach - having been a professional windsurfing instructor for years, and a nationally certified wrestling coach. Plus my experience as a professional hypnotherapist will be particularly valuable in training them to manage the mental and emotional aspects of endurance events.

So, I am certainly qualified. Then why the nerves?

At first blush I assumed it was a bit of "imposter syndrome". This past year I have received much praise for my Death Race result and, while enjoying the applause, I have at times considered that people's impression of my athletic ability may be tough for me to back up. But that is not it. I know that is ridiculous on many levels - people do not spend all that much time thinking about me (or anyone else, for that matter), and I am taking on racing challenges this year by which I am even astonished myself. So, no. It is goes a bit deeper than that.

But I have figured it out.

Since I started running, and racing, two years ago, I have been "the guy who can do it with almost no real training". My results don't have to be particularly stellar, because I can always highlight just how little sustained preparation I put in and we can all marvel at that instead. My good friend Mark Buckland calls it the "J-Dubstep method" (after I stayed up all night at a concert and after-party immediately before my last marathon). It is actually a nifty bit of "self-handicapping" on my part. Saves me from ever having to step up and see what I can really accomplish. If I truly train (as I am setting out to do this year), and train others too, I will be expected to perform on a whole new level - especially by myself! That is what I am afraid of.

This bit of reflection (in real-time, as I typed, by the way) has helped me enormously. By shining a light on my fear, I have also illuminated two other very important thoughts for myself.
First, the whole reason I joined the gym (and re-embraced Crossfit) was to ramp up my training significantly, so I can play these bigger and bigger games. And this opportunity to incorporate a solidly structured running program in that is absolutely invaluable. This is exactly what I want!
More importantly, this isn't really about me anyway. As a coach, it is my role to focus on my athletes' goals and help them to improve. My unique experience, and willingness to dig in and do the work with them, will serve them very well. And that is something I am very excited about.

So bring it on! Faster. Farther. Stronger. Together.

(*** Very inside reference in the title. "Bugs" is a nickname for me used almost exclusively by my Dad. But it fit so well with "jitters" that I had to go with it!)

1 comment:

  1. I cannot believe you passed up a prime ... not to mention, rare... opportunity to link to a Wham! video in your post.
    Shame on you, John David. Shame. On. You.
    Jitter(s) Bug(s), indeed.