Mary Eggers

Date archives May 2013



Welcome to the new website! Thank you so much to Pedro Gomes for creating this for me. He’s amazing! If you see him at Rev3 Quassy this weekend, give him a big hug! If you are a subscriber to the old site, just click the orange button in the upper right hand side … see it over there? You will be subscribed to this one as well. As always…. thanks so much for stopping by and making this site a part of your day!

Now….. onto Grit.

I am a lover of Ted Talks, and recently watched this short one by Angela Lee Duckworth. She left a career in finance to become a math teacher to inner city kids in New York, then went on to become a psychologist. Intrigued by the success and failures of her students, she began to research and study what make people successful. She states in her talk that some of her highest performers in the classroom were not the ones with the highest IQ. At the same time some of her highest IQ’ers were not her best achievers.

Throughout her research and studies she determined there was one common factor in determining one’s success. She called it GRIT.  Click here to read one of her studies. It’s fascinating. Ms. Duckworth defined grit as this:

Perseverance and passion towards long term goals.

In her paper she goes on to elaborate and explain, and she’s right on the money. Think about how grit applies in your life. Have you ever set out to accomplish something, that either you weren’t genetically engineered to do…. or others doubted you? Have you ever set your sights on something that doesn’t take months to accomplish but years?

What keeps you going?

In training we know that every workout, every training session doesn’t get faster, doesn’t get better. In fact the harder you work, the more stress you apply to the body during a training block the opposite seems to happen (until the fatigue is reduced through recovery and such). Physiological adaptations don’t take days or weeks. It takes months and years.

Through 6-7 years I have seen 1:10 Ironman swimmers go under and hour, and I have seen others begin to chip away at that improvement then give up after a few seasons, resigned to stagnation. When they just needed patience. I have seen the same thing on the bike and on the run. I have seen the same thing in academia as well…. but sport is where I live.

One of my favorite examples of grit is my friend Kim Schwabenbauer, a professional triathlete with QT2 Systems. In 2009 we were all in Clearwater at the 70.3 World Championships. On the bike course I remember seeing Kim laying in a heap on the ground as she crashed on train tracks. Here she was in the biggest race of the year…. something she has tirelessly worked towards. Broken. Click here for that story.

Fast forward a few years. She just placed third at Ironman Texas with a 9:30 something time. Knowing Kim for these years and watching her get back up and work towards what I know people told her was impossible, has been nothing short of amazing. The easy road would have been for Kim to quit. But she never did. And you never heard one single solitary negative word from her either. She puts one foot in front of the other, remains positive in the face of adversity, and moves on.

Grit: Passion and perseverance towards long term goals.

Professional triathlete and Ironman Champ Dede Griesbauer has it. Read this recent entry from her to see why. If anyone has had a reason… or seventy reasons to stop… it’s Dede. When I have faced my stumbling blocks in sport I always think of Dede. She gets up every damn time. It’s easy to inspire someone when you are out winning. For me it matters what you do in the face of adversity. That’s when I learn. You want GRIT? Dede is grit.

Everyone wants to have grit, yet few people do. It isn’t something that just happens. It’s something that burns deep, deep in your soul. A belief in yourself and in your mission that transcends bike crashes, set backs, slow times and things beyond your control. It’s that light at the end of the tunnel that might be light-years away… that you still can see when you are laying on the ground in a cloud of despair. It’s what causes you to get back up and push past doubt… yours and theirs.

It’s what keeps you getting back in the pool, on the bike and on the road despite. Despite the voices in your head and the ones from others that tell you that it’s impossible. It’s what keeps you moving forward with no complaints, with gratitude, with a smile and without giving in.

It’s that feeling of loving the word impossible because you know this about the word impossible: it’s a damn lie.

Grit: Passion and perseverance towards long term goals.

What is it YOU are working towards? Is it something that you want this very second? Or something you are willing to chip away at for years. Maybe a decade or two. Do you want it that bad? And why do you want to achieve it? What drives you from the inside out? What sustains you when everything else falls away. What causes you to be successful in the end?

One word: GRIT.



On Sunday I rode with Les, from Tryon bikes. He turned out to be a terrific riding partner, one of the best in fact. A former mountain biker turned roadie… just a few months out of surgery, building his mileage.

When people ask me what pace I am riding, I never know. I stick to my HR zones as they need to be that day. Sunday it was a simple zone 1 long ride. It was beautiful out. Sun, some wind, and good company. We looped back to Mendon to join up with the final Tour de Cure ride and I got to ride with those folks for a few miles too.

It’s been awesome to watch these folks build up their mileage since December. I love watching people achieve new distances, things they didn’t think were possible. The excitement on their faces…. that’s what I am here for in the first place. As we rode I felt at peace. I wasn’t chasing any particular speed, just my own HR zone. Fueling like I know how, loving every minute of those five hours.

It’s taken me the better part of the last 6 months to build my health back. It’s been a long road. I haven’t talked about what happened…. I might never. It was a deliberately  small group of people who helped me through it, who carried me to be honest. Who let me have moments of frustration and anger. Who walked me through the small stepping-stones of coming back.

I didn’t plan for all of it to happen this way. It just kind of did. I have never been through anything like that before, and it caused me to get really…. really comfortable with being uncomfortable. It was beyond getting comfortable at a hard effort or with the fatigue of training. That… is actually now the easy part. When I am sore I relish in the feeling of being able. I never have the feeling of “UGH, I don’t want to do this session.” because I have been in the position where I wished for that kind of pain.

What it took to get from there to here was a tremendous amount of trust. I was in uncharted territory as far as training went. There was a lot of “Should we even be doing this.” and then a lot of “I am not sure, but let’s move forward anyway.” Training became the way for me to heal and get through more than it was about physiologically becoming stronger.

The stronger part has been happening in the process.

It’s funny because I don’t really look at paces or power. I keep a loose eye on all of that. I am present only in the process to be honest. I know the rest will come with time.  I was in a position where I could not dictate the timeline of when my body would respond. I knew it would be slower than usual. So I let go and I leaned into it. I leaned on the few people who were in the know. And we just kept moving forward.

Something really magical has happened in this process. I had never lost the joy of training through all of this…. I have always looked at my athleticism as a gift. But now there is more than joy in training. There is absolute happiness. Yet I had never lost the love.

It’s like I have been born again so to speak. The gift of being an athlete feels more like a gift. It’s absolutely beautiful to me.

When everything came down last year I went through a period of “why me.” And as I stand over on this side of it I think “Thank God it was me.” Because I can handle hard things. I can handle a rocking boat. I can not be shaken by a diagnosis and I can keep moving forward.

There was a substantial wind coming from all directions this past weekend. Actually that’s been the theme of late. I love the wind to be absolutely honest with you. It teaches you not to fight, but to relax. It teaches you that if you tense up and white knuckle the handlebars that you are one step away from getting knocked down.

The wind teaches you trust. Lean in….. relax…. trust that it will hold you up. Trust that you don’t know where the end of the wind lies but know that it will. And then another gust will come and you have to relax even more.

Wind is metaphorical. At least for my life. When that big gust comes you just have to take it. Smile. Keep moving forward through it. Trust that it won’t hurt you and if it does hurt you there will be people around you to help you get back up. Never fight that wind, because it will fight you back and it will win. Wind is bigger. Wind is stronger. You have to learn to roll with it and how to accept it while continuing to move forward.

As I rolled into the driveway I again had that feeling of 100% gratitude. It was a hard journey. Not one that I could have learned anywhere else, from anyone else. If there is one thing I am good at it’s paving my own way…. with a lot of help from a few people I can trust with my life. It’s been a long and strange road….. but it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me a lot about trust. Trust in the process, trust in myself and trust in the universe.

And it’s something I will never be able to teach