Mary Eggers

General

Buffalo Paddlefest SUP Race

I finally got to do a SUP race this summer, and I finally got my race board. Actually, I got it on Friday. It’s a 22-inch board, which is the most narrow I have ever ridden, by four inches. I don’t know anyone who rides a 22, except me!

I chose the 22 because I have great balance and it’s a board I am aiming to grow into. a 26-inch board felt so HUGE to me and I was looking for a good fast board… that’s a bit beyond my ability….. because I like to try to grow my skill set, and grow my skill set I will be needing to do!

The board arrived on Friday to the shipping place. Curt and I ripped it open right there, and secured it to the top of the car. “You are racing this thing tomorrow?” Curt asked. I confirmed. “And this is the most narrow board you’ve been on by four inches?” I smiled. This isn’t new behavior for me, I tend to do things like this!

I arrived at the race site and the first person I see is my longtime friend Eileen. We have known one another for YEARS, competing in triathlon together for decades. She’s also an avid Kayaker and Sup’er and I knew she’d be there, I wish I could do every race with her! This year she was Kayaking and she told me right away, the lake is angry.

A quick walk down to the beach confirmed that. The lake was angry. I have been to oceans all over the world. California, Hawaii, Florida, Maine….. and these were some big waves. To have whitecaps THAT bar out meant rough conditions. So I grabbed my board and headed out to see if I could even STAND on this thing.

Hell, I could barely kneel!

My little board and I were not acquainted at all. It felt so light and so fast and yes, this was not my best idea. But I was doing it anyways.

As the morning wore on it was clear there was no calming of the lake going to happen. Other athletes started to arrive and there was this amazing mix of SUP, Kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe…. and I don’t know what else. I love the variety in sports. I love that people can find what they really love and what resonates with them and fits with them, and we can all come to events like this and have a ton of fun while striving for our own personal bests.

In all of the boating athletes I have met in the past two years, I have only run into two people who mock out SUPers. One asked me recently if I needed a loan to buy a Kayak because…. apparently you SUP if you can’t afford one?

I don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. It exists everywhere. In triathlon, in running, in cycling, in sking. Heck, I am sure it exists between rollerbladers and rollerskaters. The constant “My sport is better than your sport” attitude.

Here is my view: I SUP….. because I LOVE IT. I ned no other statement than that. It’s the closest I can come to surfing in Upstate New York. It was born in Hawaii in the early 2000 era, and it’s captured the hell out of me. It’s close to swimming for me (you will see why in a few minutes)…. and in case I didn’t mention it…… I LOVE IT. Find what you LOVE to do. And do it. Have no excuses for doing it. Do it with all that you are. And don’t worry what anyone else says. That’s their issue, not yours.

I personally feel that getting to do this….. is such an incredible privilege in my life. I am well aware not everyone has the opportunity or ability to do this. So I won’t ever…. ever …. try to put someone down for doing what they love. So kayakers, canoers, SUP’ers……. it’s all such incredible fun and it was more than a privilege to get to share the water with SO many incredible athletes on Saturday!

Back to the race! As we drew near to the start time, I was becoming a little worried about how this was going to work out. Speaking of kayak…. it was a better day to be a kayaker….. but then again, still crazy!!! There is a lot to kayaking than paddling in a boat!

My big plan for racing a board I have never been on was not working out so well! Imagine that.

The race director informed me that I could prone on my board. I had no idea that was “legal” in a SUP race. To prone, you lay on your stomach on the board and on the paddle (this is NOT real comfortable by the way) and you paddle! Being a swimmer, this spoke to me, and I soon realized this was my only option. I couldn’t even kneel on this board yet!

So the race began and I went prone! The waves were crazy and I loved every second. My narrow board is PERFECT for it! It was just like swimming but on a board. There is this incredible rhythm I find when SUPing (or now proning) that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. I can’t quite describe it.

It’s this feeling of rhythm with the waves and the paddle and the wind and ….. you.  It’s silent and you are disconnected from everything around you. In a race, you are with people who seem to feel the same way too. The phrase I keep hearing at these races is “It’s all good.” and while that is cliche it is so incredibly true.

I crossed the line first, and I felt like I had cheated. A few other people had gone prone as well, but it didn’t feel right. The race director assured me it was part of the rules. My fellow competitors also assured me it was part of the rules. But it still felt weird.

I loved the event. I loved the vibe. I loved the atmosphere. I loved seeing all of the different types of boats and athletes who came. I love to see the cast of characters sport can bring together. Sport is a place where you can lose yourself and find yourself, it’s a place you can reach new heights and has new lessons every single time. I have been a competitive athlete my entire life. Competition has developed new and different meanings and importance for me through the years but it still…. it still ignites me in my core.

In the one week, I have had the board I have been out on it daily. I have so much to learn on this and summer is fleeting. God willing I can be out on it daily for another month. Right now I can use it to replace swimming (I went through a big swimming burnout this past year and I am being really careful about it).

I have spent more time on my knees, prone, falling and getting back up…. but it’s coming. Yesterday I was able to stay up in the wake of some boats! It’s a lot of learning to feel the water. Feeling….. will always take you further than force ever will.

So don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new, whatever that may be. Find what speaks to you. Find what ignites you. There will always be someone who tries to knock your enthusiasm down, I have been dealing with that my entire life. It hasn’t made a dent on me and never will. Understand that it has 100% to do with them, and ZERO percent to do with you. Find what you love and go after it. Never be afraid to follow your crazy dreams. My crazy dream? Click here.

My father always told me “What other people think of you… is none of your business”. That applies in so many other places aside from sport. At the end of the day….. this is a gift and a privilege I will never stop appreciating.

 

 

 

 

General

USAT Sprint Age Group Nationals

I loved Nationals. I loved the whole experience.

The main reason we were here was for Curt, he came into a new age group this year and every five years (sometimes more) he makes a push for the podium. He’s been National Champ of his age group a few times in his career, and this time, he earned the silver medal in his age group for both races. In both races, he also earned the fastest grandmasters run prime (and won two Garmins). Score!

To watch and experience him put in that focus for a season is beyond inspiring. We trade seasons and the past few seasons while I have been retired…. it’s been him as the focus. Which I have equally loved. I love everything about this whole sport, so it’s easy. It’s short course, so he doesn’t train long but there are certain things that I need to pick up when he gets close to race day. Like planning the whole trip and figuring out where we need to be when.

That’s the thing most people forget about races, there is bike check in here…. registration there, awards at this time…. then time to get recovered and rest to do it all again the next day. This I have down to a science with him.

I can not imagine being married to someone who isn’t in this sport. I really can’t. It’s just been my life for so long.

Sunday I got to race the sprint and end my retirement. I am SO so happy I did.

My wave began at 8:47, which was over an hour after the first wave began at 7:30am. We checked in bikes the day before, so there wasn’t much to do race morning. At 5:30 I put my shoes on my pedals, checked my transition area and then went back to the car….. to sleep.

I am not one of those athletes who hangs around transition for 3 hours chatting. I close my eyes and fall asleep like a teenager. I woke up with enough time to double check my transition (I get in and get OUT) and then we headed to the swim start to see Curt off.

The shorter the race, the longer the warm up. Around 7:50 I embarked on my warm up run and actually ran most of the run course. I love this course. It’s straight out and back on the bike and the run. Closed to traffic. GREAT roads. It was hot but I have trained SO much in the heat that it never bothers me. The water temperature was 84 degrees which I dreaded, but it was actually fine. I wore a swim skin and it was good.

Finally, it was time to walk onto the pontoon. Tim Yont (the announcer) knows every single person on earth. I don’t know if he has ever forgotten a name. I got to say hello and I told him it was my first race back in 15 months.

“Mary….” he said in a  fatherly tone “We don’t retire from a lifestyle that we love.” Perfect send off words.

With one hand on the pontoon and my feet up on the side of it, the air horn sounded. It was the perfect mix of excitement for me. No nerves. The bigger the stakes in the race the more nervous I get, but there were no big stakes today. I told myself “This will either be the last race you ever do, or the start of the next part of your career.”

As soon as I took my first stroke I knew. It’s the first race of the next part of my career.

The swim went fine. I knew what my fitness level was, I am fit but not A race fit. So I settled in and landed somewhere in the middle of the pack. I always swim alone for some reason. Unless I have a stalker. Then they swim on top of me.

Transition featured the LOOOOONGEST run to the dismount line ever. Noted for next year! And it was onto the bike. The bike was awesome. I raced with zero data and found myself nudging up to that red line. The one that is too fast to even run…. I stayed right below it. It was amazing to race by feel again. I got passed by 2 women and then held my own the rest of the ride.

On to the run, I knew that this was where I would get passed and I did. My race reflected my fitness, and my run fitness is coming along. I have really slowly been building that run back and building it slow. I am not one of these athletes who can build into 12 mile long runs in a matter of weeks. I will get injured. I have slowly and steadily been building weekly….. 5 minutes of total volume at a time. I have been patient. It’s going to take some more time for this part of me to come around. But…. well I have time!

As the women passed me I thought I would feel defeated. But I wasn’t. Instead I was stunned there were THAT many women BEHIND me off the bike. That meant my swim and bike were coming around a lot faster than I realized (and faster than my run, but I know that).

The run is also out and back and in hindsight (and seeing my paces) I didn’t push that run. I ran steady, and if you want to get into the top then at Nationals….. you can’t do that. But I knew that coming in.

As I came to that finish line…… I felt pure happiness. Pure joy. I have won races where I haven’t felt happy about being out there on the course. I felt happy out there on the course that day. Coming through that finish line was awesome. I can’t even articulate it. It represented the end of a journey where I took a load of turns, where I was pretty lost, where I was not healthy and I was burnt out. I feel grateful that my self-esteem and self-worth are not defined by a finishing time or place. I know too many people like that and it’s a very sad, lonely place to live. I thank my lucky stars each and every day that I grew up understanding that those are different.

They say that you never have another first. I feel like I got to. I felt like it was my first time again without the doubt of a beginner. I didn’t think about much out there, except to ask myself the question “Do you love it”. The answer was an emphatic “yes!!!”.

A few months ago Luc told me he wanted me to do this race. He was the big reason I was out there. retirement or not, it was him. I wanted him to see me not only finish what I started but I wanted him to see me when I am not at my best. He’s seen me win, he’s seen me win a lot. He’s never seen this, and I think it’s important that he did. I want him to always know that whether you are at your best or not, if you are having fun and you give 100%….. that is really what matters.

As we were at awards both nights Curt kept saying…… “It would be possible for you to make that podium. I know what you are capable of achieving.” That sparked something within me that I haven’t felt in a long time, and I don’t have the words to articulate.

The feeling of…. what if? The feeling of desire to work for something in this sport again. The desire to achieve. The desire to see what if?

To have that feeling is easy at these kinds of races, where you are removed from life and the day to day grind. Fortunately…… because I have experience, I know all too well the reality of pushing for a goal. But this isn’t Ironman for once. I don’t need to do that kind of training. Short course is a whole separate kind of tough but that’s the thing…. it’s a DIFFERENT kind. That is what I am looking for.

As I have watched Curt grow into his coaching role the past year I have seen firsthand how he applies the work to athletes and to himself. He’s always been self-coached, and well…. look at his results. I got to thinking about whether it was time to work with a coach again and as I expressed that to Curt I realized….. the guy I need is right here. Look at his track record. Look at the results he’s had with our athletes this year.

Curt works quietly and thoughtfully. He’s not on social media, he doesn’t need the noise. Instead of being the coach (like many of us are) who gives out our one liners all day…. he puts that work into his athletes. He’s honestly…. and while I am biased this is TRUE…. one of the greatest coaches I have ever seen. And I have worked with a lot of good coaches. In fact…. I think he might very well be the best.

And he’s right here in front of me.

I have been coached by him before and it’s fine, being his wife only adds to the respect I have for his work. So….. we are going to make the performance push. The beauty of travel is you have a long time to discuss things. We did.

I loved Nationals. I loved everything about it. I loved the vibe, the set up, the whole thing. I LOVED OMAHA!!!!!! We made a huge trip out of it (we are still on it in fact) and it’s been amazing. So much has been learned out here on the road in the middle of I don’t even know where.

I feel like part of me clicked back into place on that course. Like when you know you need a chiropractic adjustment…… and it gets adjusted. Click. Check. Relief.

One thing is for certain (god willing). I will see you again Omaha!