Turning off

Written by Mary Eggers. Posted in General

In his book Elite Minds, Stan Beecham tells the story of a holiday visit by a family friend. To this visit this family friend brought her new boyfriend who it was learned later, was a longtime member of the Army. The boyfriend… after spending some time with the family began asking Mr. Beecham questions about his work as a psychologist and soon revealed that he was a member of Special Forces and was involved in the selecting of candidates for those Special Forces.

One of the things we look for is a person who can turn it on and turn it off.” He told Mr. Beecham. To further illustrate his point he said this (found on page 159); “A lot of men go into the Army because they want to prove that they are tough and not afraid. They want to kick some ass and then go home and tell their family and friends about all the dangerous things they did. We don’t want those guys. we look for guys who don’t feel they need to prove their manhood by taking another life. The guys we choose are not overly proud of what they do or how well they do it. They don’t get tattoos or walk around with t-shirts that say what they do. That’s what I mean by ‘turn it off’. When not on an operation, they don’t think about it, nor do they want to talk about it either.”

Later on in the same theme Mr. Beecham elaborates… “I quickly shared how this is true with great athletes and great leaders as well. While they are at work, it is the most important thing in the world, but when they leave, they don’t think about it very much either. The ability to turn it on and turn it off as the Army Special Forces member defined it, is what allows one to perform at the highest of levels. Turning it off allows one to recover and prepare for the next mission. People who are stressed and unable to recover are the ones who think about their work or sport all the time. They worry, and in doing so deplete their energies and harm their performance. This is the essence of focus or concentration. Only one thing matters at the time, and that one thing is the most important thing in the world.”

Side note: whenever I learn something from the military I immediately feel inadequate. These are people who give their lives, families and even their own freedom to go fight terror and wars that we honestly don’t know much about. They dedicate their soul to fighting for what is right…. and we run around in our bathing suits posting workout selfies all over social media. In all honesty it feels downright trivial.

With that being said there are great lessons to learn from people like this Special Forces soldier and how Mr. Beecham uses that example to bring to the world we live in. This chapter really resonated with me. It challenged me, and make me think.

Turning it on….. and turning it off. It’s something I have been working hard on. As a nurse I have always been able to do it. I have seen so much horror that I have to. What I have seen and the experiences I have had as a nurse can be dramatic exciting stories for those who haven’t been in the trenches…… but they have shattered my heart into a million pieces. So I learned to turn it off. I learned to hold my colleagues tight and process it.

But what about sport? Can we do that in sport?

Do I walk around with my Ironman T shirt all the time? How many pieces of clothing do I own that don’t say Ironman, or triathlon, or hey look at me I am an athlete, I am special?

When you are in the middle of a run in the woods….. where does your focus lie? On getting the right photo of yourself? Or on the task at hand? can you completely turn off your day and completely turn on to being an athlete? Can you flip that switch or is a piece of you drifting between the two entities?

When you are not on the field, can you let it all go? Can you focus completely on the ‘off’ times in your life?

It’s an interesting thing, isn’t it?

What I am not saying is that there is a right and there is a wrong. What I am encouraging is that you think…. that I think….. that we think…… about what we are doing. How we are doing it. Why we are doing it. Are our performances hindered because of the inability to turn on and turn off? Are our performances hindered by our need to let everyone know “I am an Ironman”?

My new job involves a 40 minute commute. The commute I drive several times a week already to swim in the lake. It’s 100% country back roads and yields the most stunning scenery. I drive through farmland. Horse farms, dairy farms. Farmers markets. There are small mom and pop owned ice cream shops, outdoor shops, tractor places. Rolling green land. Trees. There is no traffic. It’s rolling hills and so absolutely beautiful. I have been doing this drive to the lake for ten years. I never get sick of it.

Once I pulled over to get a photo of one of my favorite views. It didn’t turn out. I tried ten different times. No matter what angle though I could not capture the beauty of it.

“Maybe the beauty is meant to be captured in your mind’s eye, not on an iPhone.” I thought to myself. I put the phone down and I stood there for a moment. I felt small in such a big beautiful world. To look at it in person and not through the screen of an iPhone was freedom. Exhilarating. I go to that mental photo often. It’s ingrained in my mind. It’s not on my facebook page, or on my blog, but deep in my mind and in my heart. I feel so peaceful when I think of that view.

Now I get to pass by it daily. In person.

I am a big news radio junkie, I love to hear what is going on. No matter the personality I love to hear talk radio and be provoked into thought. But lately I have been driving to the lake in silence. 40 minutes of silence has done me more good than I can explain. I don’t think about anything. But I don’t think about nothing. The phone is unavailable and it’s just time being there. Being present.

It’s helped me learn to turn on and turn off of my sport. It’s taught me to tune in.

What if just for a day….. we put the Ironman shirts away? We put down the iPhone and we captured moments in person instead? What if we devoted all of our attention to the task at hand? What if we took quiet pride in what we are aiming to achieve?

What would happen? I bet something extraordinary would. I bet something would click inside of you. I bet something amazing would happen.

I challenge you to find out.

New chapters

Written by Mary Eggers. Posted in General, Race Reports

I am so proud of my athletes. They inspire me. They fill me up. We work together, I don’t dictate. We get close. Their goals are my goals. I care about them as people first, as athletes second.

A year ago I put myself back into a position to coach athletes as I needed to coach them. It’s paid off in dividends.

At Ironman Mont Tremblant Dan Pierce earned himself a 9:51, fastest amateur swim, and a spot to Kona. Which he declined. He said he wouldn’t go without his family, and for this year the timing just wasn’t right. It’s funny because with my athletes I don’t go out and say “Let’s qualify.” and they don’t come to me with that either. Those who have it on their radar though…. we put in the position to have the best executed race that they can. We focus on the process, not the outcome. We don’t even discuss finishing times. We simply get the job done and let the cards fall where they fall.

dan pierce IMMT

The clock reads 10:00, but the time differential to the pros wasn’t set. He did a 9:51.

Another one of my athletes, Paul… came in at 10:02 and missed Kona by 3 slots. Kona is something he wants. So we will go after it again at IMMD in a few weeks. Both these guys have four kids, wives, professions…. lives. I am proud of how they balance it. How they don’t abandon famalies and when they go after Kona when the time is right for them.

paul immt

It’s a humungous honor to work with all of my athletes. It means so much to me to be part of their journey. My coaching spots are full for 2015 and I am looking forward to continuing with some, while some take a break, and new adventures with others. I am grateful to be in a position that I can keep my stable small. I like to be personal.

For me….. race day on Sunday was not so great. I raced at Peasantman 1/2 steel ….. and I had to pull out on the run. The past 10 days I have been feeling a very slight ache in my right Achilles. I tore my left one in 2006 and I know all too well when trouble is trouble. Prior to Sunday the discomfort was a 2/10. On the bike at Peasantman it escalated to an 8.

Pulling out devastated me. It’s mortifying. It’s beyond disappointing. You hear people all the time cry “death before DNF!!!!” But they aren’t the ones who have to live my life. They aren’t the ones who are beginning a new job in a week. They aren’t the ones who are doing the work around my house while my husband recovers from surgery. They aren’t the ones who have to pay for the imaging and the treatment if I injure myself further. They will laugh at your misfortune. They will gloat.

I am immune to folks like that. They cease to exist to me. Karma has a way of paying back behavior like that. So does Madame Pele.

The disappointment is to the woman in my mirror. And her alone.

I allowed myself 24 hours to wallow. Then I moved on. What I am good at, is restructuring and rebuilding. For the first time in a long time I am taking a complete off season, but a coached one. It took me a LONG time to find the right coaching fit after QT2. Now that I have it….. I am not going to lose it.

My focus going forward was going to shift anyhow. To Olympic distance triathlon. Now I get to start on that a lot earlier.

I set a goal that was so big that I laughed at it. I told no one, and I won’t. “Keep the big goals a secret” they say. I am accountable to Wingman and to myself.

Onward we roll.

I am so excited about what is coming I can barely contain myself. Next week I begin my new gig as part of the nursing faculty at a local college. I am likely the ONLY one in the world so excited about the beginning of school. I am excited to begin my own Masters program (Masters in Nursing Education). I am excited to roll forward with my 2015 stable of Valor Triathlon project Athletes.

And I am so freaking excited at the chance to let my body heal from 20 years of triathlon, 12 of them distance focused. I will be back in the pool 20K per week (that’s only 5 hours of swimming, don’t get excited), getting my swim back. I will be spending time building my strength, healing all that needs to heal.

I have had an amazing career in triathlon. A new chapter gets to begin now. With the coach I finally feel at home with, a distance I have been craving and not brave enough to commit to….. and a goal that scares the hell out of me.