Mary Eggers

Date archives February 2014


Circles in my head

You have to be ready for anything when you arrive at RIT for indoor track. The workout…. we know what that’s going to be. But we don’t always know what’s going on around us. Or exactly where we will be executing the workout.

Some nights we share the indoor track with the RIT track team (who so graciously do so), some nights the lacrosse team practices in the center (and the curtains are drawn). Other nights there’s an event and we move to the upstairs track. I’d like to say that at GVH we can run anywhere, anytime, on anything.

Last night it was the career fair.

On the indoor track tables were set up occluding some of the lanes, yet we were still allowed to run there. On one side of the oval we just had to run wide, then cut over. It would make for laps that were slightly off a bit….. but that was just fine. What I have learned through my years is that life isn’t neat, you can’t always have a lane, and you just have to roll with it.

Resistance is opportunity in disguise.

I knew the set coming in. 2 X 3 miles at T pace. I knew that this would be mentally challenging. Physically it’s always a challenge but if you overcome the mental you can overcome the physical. The brain is in charge of the body. The body will do what it is told to do. Sometimes to our determent. Most of the time not.

I am racing Texas 70.3 on April 6th and I am in the middle of a Polar Vortex (which is FANTASTIC for snowboarding and the backyard snowboard course… which I need to fill you in on…). Heat prep training has therefore begun, and it’s not easy when it’s 5 degrees out. So when I take to the track I do it in a hat, 2 tops, tights. Next week come the gloves. My teammates run in shorts and light tops. I look like a complete idiot out there. I don’t care. It will be worth it. It’s all mental. I can handle anything. Even looking like a bundled up idiot on a track at a college.

After we warmed up Coach Reif gathered us and laid out our options. Some of my teammates opted for the upstairs indoor track because they needed accuracy in their laps. I chose to remain on the obstacle ridden track. For me it was the most irritating option because I wanted those neat little ovals to track my lap splits. But life isn’t neat. And laps aren’t always going to be perfect. So I remained.

As I walked over to my starting point Ken walked up to me. He’s a much faster runner than I am (and 10+ years older. I say that because this team has a frightening group of Masters athletes. It seems the closer they get to 60 the more they burn up the track.). “I am running easier tonight.” He said. “I will run with you.”

Sweet. This was going to be good.

Three miles on an indoor track is not something to sneeze at. Doing it twice was almost something to throw up about. But I took a deep breath and we began. For us it was 21 times around the track.

The first few laps were fine. A good tempo pace. The splits weren’t accurate due to the tables occluding one side but after a few times around we were able to grab onto a time to repeat. It’s about effort not always about the certain time. Yes it was annoying to run around the tables but we weren’t here to be comfortable. We were here to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Things got uncomfortable. Not in my body but in my head. That’s where the real battles are anyways.

We took turns counting. On the first 3 miles I called out the odd numbered laps and Ken called out the even number.





Oh my god this is never going to end. Those are the kinds of thoughts that can make or break the set. I shook my head. Just stay with Ken…. just stay with Ken.




Stay in the game Eggers. Be tough. Texas 70.3 has been rumored to be a four lap run course (it’s normally 3) and while that’s wigging people out it’s all you’ve been doing all winter. Running and skating in circles. Turning left. If anyone’s mentally got that run course nailed it’s you.




Almost there. Part of me can’t believe I am doing this part of me wants to lay down. The pace is strong. I am HOT. My winter hat, my layers are HOT. I want to rip off my hat. The smile I have been running with the past few months has vanished the past few weeks. It’s turned into focus.

Twenty one.

Yea. We high five. Grab a drink. I want to rip off my layers. I take a deep breath. Keep them on. Keep them on. This will pay off. My teammates are a few laps ahead of me. I remain the slowest one on the track. That’s my solid position and I am good with it. I am a triathlete and they are runners. I like to think of myself as the token triathlete here. Running with these guys is helping me in ways they will never ever understand.

The second set begins. After a lap or two Ken has to pause a lap to get some glass out of his foot. I pick him up on the next one. We settle into the pace. The route around the track with the tables is no longer annoying. It’s just part of the game. My legs are feeling fried but strong. I has a session with Steve yesterday that caused me to scream out in the middle of the gym “I am going to die.”.  We are focusing so much on single leg strength, particularly my left leg and its role in my speed-skating,  but on the track I felt fine. The whole running in circles thing doesn’t physically bother me at all, a good sign of my durability (We do run the opposite direction for warm up and cool down).





Ten more to go. This time I am calling evens and Ken is calling odds. It’s the little things that help you handle the big things. As I begin to think ugh there are ten more to go I switch my mindset to eleven down. Twelve down. Thirteen smashed.

I am really hot and sweating bullets. Our teammates pass us and I am envious of the girls wearing sports bras. Rip off the shirts Mary you can be in your sports bra too…. the devil on my shoulder promises me. NO NO NO. Texas Texas Texas I respond.

I love the mental game. The battles the conversations that can go on in our heads. There are times when nothing happens and there are times when everything happens. The longest distance we ever have to travel is the the distance from ear to ear.

The group runs by us and someone calls out seventeen. We are on fifteen. Stay in the game. Stay with Ken. I rely on him to set the pacing and keep it. He’s an amazing pacer. I am grateful he’s running easier. His easy is my hard which was perfect for what we both needed today.




Done. We are done. Ken takes off on one more to account for the one he stepped out on. He smashes it. I rip off most of my clothes and the cool air of the track feels so incredibly good.

Ken and I high five. It’s that I can’t believe we did that kind of high five. Never in my life did I ever think I would do 2 X 3 mile repeats on an indoor track. It’s a lot of laps. It’s a lot of circles. Those circles are more mental than they are physical. We at GVH are freaking tough athletes.

I arrive at the track every Tuesday and Thursday evening ready for anything. Lacrosse balls, shot put discs, mighty fast college runners, my amazing teammates. They could set that track up in a square and I’d run the damn thing. It could be crowded it could be empty. We could be in the field house or we could be on the upstairs track. Doesn’t matter.

I will run anywhere.

Be the athlete that can handle anything, anywhere, anytime. Be the athlete who doesn’t need it neat and tidy and predictable. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable both physically and mentally. Come race day….. you’ll handle anything.



As we ran up the long climb I felt strong. Stronger than I have in months. The sun was rising behind the trees, the air was crisp but not polar vortex crisp. This rare break in the frigidity of the winter felt like spring. I was surprised we weren’t stripped down to our sportsbras.

It was that kind of run that makes you feel alive.

My first run with Oven Door Runners almost brought me to tears. Not tears of pain but tears of happiness. The strictness and rigidity of Ironman training is what kept me away to be honest. As my personal Ironman chapter has closed (Ironman, not triathlon) it’s brought a breath of fresh air into my life completely. I am loving the focus of shorter distance (70.3, when that became a short distance is still a mystery to me). I am loving the feel. It’s taken months and months to strip the distance mindset, the distance feel out of me and allow the hunger and fire to return.

Tuesday night is when I noticed it first.

I’ve been running with GVH for 6 months now, and it’s really begun to click. We run indoor track at RIT and this past Thursday due to a track meet, we were on the upstairs track. It’s a longer oval that is elevated and  looks down over the basketball court. In all my years of going to RIT I have never run on it.

I loved it. It’s 3 lanes and banked on the corners. It reminded me of the elevated indoor track at Stony Brook. When I think of Stony Brook I think of my coach there, Dave Alexander. The greatest swim coach I have ever had in my life. One of the greatest people I have ever known in my life. He passed away not too long ago and I feel that hole so big and so deep. I always will.

I spent many hours in this office. Not just talking about swimming but talking about life.

coach dave

It’s amazing that all of these years later he impacts my life. That’s a good coach.

Normally at GVH I run the workout that the Boston Marathon group does, and I chop off a few intervals. This night Coach Reif suggested I work on some shorter intervals while focusing on bio mechanics. The set was 2 X {2 X 400 /200/200} with a 200 recovery between each set and 5 min between each grand set.

Somewhere during that set I ran a 200 8 seconds faster than I have ever run one. I remeasured to ensure I did it right. 8 seconds.

“That’s like swimming a 50 free 8 seconds faster.” Jennie later reminded me. Yep. That’s exactly what it is. Which means there is more in here than I believed there to be. Not just more speed but more tolerance to pain. More ability to handle the effort of running hard and having the guts to stand in the middle of the fire and not step to the side.

This week Julie Mancuso, the Olympic Gold medalist skier said “Believe in yourself… it really works.” How true. And how timely.

There are still new depths to this old dog. Years of Ironman didn’t ruin me, it prepared me for the new adventures and new experiences I have been so fortunate to have had this season. I’d never have thought to learn speedskating previously. It would have been too risky. But the addition of it has taught me to feel again. To feel the effort, to feel what it feels like to land on my butt (literally). To be a beginner again.

I have the energy to explore. I have the energy to live again. I have the energy to seek.

As the great author Stan Beecham says “Fear is keeping you from reaching your potential. Conquering fear should be your primary goal in life”. Ain’t that the truth brother. Ain’t that the truth.

As I ran through those back hills yesterday morning I listened to a man named Carl tell me of his running tales. It was wonderful to hear a new perspective, new thoughts…. on a new but old and familiar route that seemed to welcome me back. It’s been too long since I came out to run with ODR but something I plan on making permanent. I love connecting with people. I love sharing those kind of miles with friends and with strangers.

Most of all   I love that feeling that 6:30am gives me, especially come spring. It’s good to be back.