Mary Eggers

Date archives September 2017

General

To feel

Somewhere around mile 14 I stopped, for just a moment. I was on that road that the farm is on, you know how it runs along both sides of the road? The corn is so high you can barely see over, but you can  see over, and there is that tractor in the distance, just below the horizon. And the wind is blowing just so, and the sun is so bright and so warm that you can feel it from head to toe. And your legs feel amazing here at mile 14, with just 3 to go of the third 17 miler.

I never thought I would ever run 17 miles again. Or that I would want to.

It was in that moment I got a little emotional, I tend to do that. I am an emotional athlete, I cry at finish lines, I smile the whole way through ten-hour races. I have been known to just stop and hug people I don’t know.

I am just so grateful for this. Right here. Right now. Sometimes it bubbles over and I just have to let it all out. I thought I walked away from all of this, I really did. I didn’t think it was possible for me to find or even feel this again.

I have gone over the edge with all of this before and it took me years to get back to here.

I stepped close to that edge this weekend, but sometimes you have to get close to it, even look over it, to know it is still there and you still have those tendencies and you still need to be careful. And you have to listen when people you trust call you out on it. You have to believe them, and that they know your soul and that they love you enough to be honest. You pull yourself back, take a deep breath and remind yourself that the edge is kind of like your drug. Alluring yet disastrous at the same time. You have to know where that line lives.

And then you turn around and you look up at that sun, and you feel how it lights the whole world without compromise. Without hesitation. Without reservation. And man you feel that deep in your bones.

There are people in this country piecing their lives back together and here I stand, on this hill, by this farm, and it is not lost on me what a privilege this life is. I won’t waste it by staring into the past or regretting anything. I will keep doing what I have always done. Look forward and live as big as I can possibly live. Every single second of every single day.

It feels to feel so good again. It feels good to feel so strong again. We are sitting 9 weeks away from this marathon and just the thought of it makes my heart flutter. Not because I am nervous, not because I have afib, but because I can’t freaking wait. As a kid, my Dad used to tell me to put the butterflies into formation and let them fly.

I can’t wait to do just that. This time it’s not about the time or the podium. It’s about the experience of experiencing 26.2 miles without a 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike in front of it. These are the races you meet people you will never forget, yet you will never see again. These are the races where you realize that all you thought you should walk away from was really beautiful. Walking away would have denied you what you really love.

These experiences let me feel and they let me feel deep, and I love it. They crack me wide open and let me feel what I can’t articulate and breathe deeper than I otherwise can.

I finished those 17 miles with the biggest smile on my face, and that old ache in my legs…. it wasn’t there. The places these legs and this body has taken me….. I wish I could somehow capture it all. It’s more than traveling around the world, it’s more than ascending mountains.

It’s the sunsets I have seen. It’s the beautiful people I have seen them with. It’s the many hands I have gotten to hold in mine. It’s the many times I get to wrap my arms around the good souls of this world, and the way they hold me.

That’s what this all means to me.

General

Ossian Mountain Run Report & Erie Canal Trek

I had the most epic weekend. I am so over the moon tonight that my heart is racing. It’s so good to be on this path back that I am grateful all the way through my bones. Nothing feels better.

On Saturday I raced my first ever mountain run, the Ossain Mountain Run.I learned quickly there is a major difference between a trail run at Mendon Ponds Park, and a Mountain Race. Big difference. I somehow got talked into it my our area’s Ultra Guru Eric Eagan. He has this infectious way of making you say that’s a terrible idea…. where do I sign up?

I clicked on the 8 mile option because I needed about 8 to round out my 40-mile running week. To make room for the race I did my 15 mile run on Monday with the mindset of…. easy 8 miles on Saturday, then I ride to Buffalo Sunday.

The night before I realized I was in for more than I knew. I looked at the winning times and calculated I would be late for work in Peds ED if I did the 8, so I’d drop to the 4 in the morning. 1200 feet of elevation, I know what that feels like on a bike. I wondered what that meant for a mountain run?

Within the first 90 seconds of the race I was on my hands and knees, crawling up a ski hill, grabbing roots, pushing someone by the butt as someone else pushed me by the butt (thank you!). You didn’t worry about pace or anything like that as you were hopping, running, hiking and crawling some more. In the midst of all of that I was in the company of some amazing human beings. Who laughs in a race? Who stops to make sure people are ok? Ultra runners do, that’s who.

Ossain Mountain 1

About to crawl again. Photo Credit: Eric Eagan

 

On one section we could run the woman ahead of me called back…. slow down and look…. so I did. Revealed to me was a view that took all of my breath away. We were high on the ski mountain and we could see the beautiful world. Miles and miles of it. It was amazing. 

ossain mountain 2

Trying to stay UPright! Photo credit: Eric Eagan

The race wove its way up and across and down and up and across and at one point I was crawling down a hill on my hands and knees. No lie. I thought about nothing. I was only wearing a regular watch but I never looked at it. This style of racing had me so completely present. I took a wrong turn at one point and didn’t even care about the time I lost. I couldn’t stop laughing about it and smiling.

I smiled the whole way. No lie.

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Coming down the last hill. Hanging onto trees for dear life. Photo credit: Eric Eagan.

 

ossain mountain 4

Literally hanging on trees. Photo credit: Eric Eagan

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That’s a tree in my hand and I am laughing, just 100 yards from the finish. Photo credit: Eric Eagan.

My goodness, that was so much fun.

I came out of it unscathed, not sore and feeling really good about where my fitness was. I have the endurance and the strength for it, but I need to develop the skill. Some of these athletes were just hopping down the hill like it was nothing. During the above photo, Eric said to me “Trust your feet” and I realized I had been doing the same thing as I was doing when I was learning to ski this year…. I was letting fear be my guide. So I will have to incorporate some more of these into my schedule.

Big huge thanks to Eric & Sheila Eagan, to all of the volunteers and to Flower City Raceworks for such an amazing event!!!!!!

As I said I was super pleased with my fitness. Since March I have been building up my mileage slowly to where I am now…. 40 miles per week. I am not a whole lot faster today than I was back in March as my body has been absorbing the addition of volume. I don’t expect to see any real speed come forth until next spring at the earliest. Fitness is a lot like investing. To get the best return you have to be patient. You can invest $100 and make a quick profit, but it may come with risk. The long term return is what’s worth waiting for, and very few people have that kind of patience in both finance and fitness.

I do. For both.

This race was a great benchmark in realizing that the fitness gains I have made in the past several months are in the durability, endurance and strength departments. That’s perfect for speedier running as it develops later on.

Yeah!

Sunday morning I embarked on an adventure along the Erie Canal. Since I got my cyclocross bike last year I have thought about riding from Rochester to Buffalo, with all of my gear in panniers. I originally scheduled it for a few weeks ago but had to switch to my rain date.

And it was raining.

I don’t mind riding in the rain. In fact, I love it! After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear!

Curt dropped me off at Lock 33 in Rochester, which is in Brighton, and I set off on my ride!

Erie Canal 2

That bag on the back was HEAVY!

I learned a few weeks ago that there is a big difference between time trialing 112 miles on a time trial bike (which usually takes me about 5:30-6:00), and riding a cyclocross bike, with panniers, in the rain, into a headwind, on a whole bunch of different surfaces!

I rode into a driving rain for the first two hours as I made my way through Chili, Greece, Spencerport, and Brockport. Somewhere after there, I stopped to change to a vest and get rid of my waterproof socks, which I had on inside out! In the side bags of my paniers I carried four water bottles filled with water and carbo pro, plus the ones on my bike frame. I had gear to sleep in at my parents’ house, some solid nutrition, chargers for my phone, & some safety equipment. In a backpack I carried 7 tubes, tire levers, a pump, and valuables. I also had several people along the route tracking me via the Road ID phone tracker.

I used my old tried and true Ironman nutriton plan. I take in 300 calories / 24 ounces of water in the form of Carbo Pro, which is maltodextrin. Many will advise not to rely on a single sugar source, but I have 100% success rate with this system. 100% of the time I have deviated I have encountered GI issues. So I am sticking with what I know works.

Carbo Pro is flavorless, and has no electrolytes. I like to keep them seperate so I can adjust either on the fly. For electrolytes I typically take in 300-600 mg of sodium via SCaps…. which I forgot to bring. Because it was cold, I didn’t worry too much. For this trip I brought along some Lara Bars and pureed fruit in case I needed a boost!

The bike didn’t feel heavy, but it was. The wind was driving and most of the canal was crushed gravel which was thick. It was a slow go but I felt really good the whole time. I didn’t use any metric except percieved exertion, and it was spot on the whole way.

50 miles in one of my trackers, friends and athletes Denise and her husband Dan were the best sight for sore eyes!

Erie Canal 1

The moment I saw them! Photo credit: Dan Salmons

Man it was good to see people I knew! After a quick visit with them, I was off!

Once I got to Lockport the path veered on and off roads. I did have some navigational trouble there, but a quick trip to the visitors center got me on the right path. The ride took over 7 hours, which is the longest time I have ever spent on a bike. Not once did I get down, frustrated (even when lost) or anything like that.

Some of my last 100 miles rides in 2013 involved me throwing my time trial bike accross the lawn and laying in the driveway for an hour. None of that today! It’s been since 2013 since I have ridden over 3 hours, and for this trip I have been averaging 150 (sometimes 200) miles a week, but nothing over 3 hours. So the fact that this was feeling good was so promising.

As I rode into Canalside in Buffalo I spotted a familiar minivan. It was my parents! They had been tracking and they met me in the final mile. I was so happy to put my bike in the van and sit back.

erie canal7

SO psyched and feeling SO good!

They brought me back to their house where we cleaned my bike, washed all of my gear and I took the longest ever shower. I ate my weight in my mom’s spaghetti and layed on the couch. I was so absolutley thrilled to have done the ride and to be feeling so good.

I had a hard time sleeping, my heart was racing. That’s typical after a long event. Then I began to develop a migraine, which caused me some worry. In addition to my sodium I forgot to bring my migraine medicine (I take Immitrex and it works great for me). I never ever travel without it.

I don’t get migraines to the degree many people get them. I started developing them after my concussion sustained during IMLP 2008. If I don’t take Immitrex I end up with an IV and vomiting. So I was worried.

On a scale of 1-10 it remained a 3. I tried Tylenol and Motrin and coffee to try to combat it, but it was staying a good solid 3.

I consulted with my parents and with Curt. We decided to pull the plug on riding home because we knew if it got bad out there I wouldn’t be able to ride and I would be stuck somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I felt like my legs could have ridden. But I have made enough bad athletic decisions to know when it’s time to be smart. I have spent the past few years recovering from so many years of those bad decisions and I know what a bitch it is to get through that.

I thought about why I was doing this ride. I wanted to get a fall century in before I began IMLP training, for the mental confidence that I could actually do 100 miles. I wanted 100 miles in as cycling has such a nice way of boosting running endurance, and it would be great for my upcoming marathon. I didn’t need to ride the second ride, and there was a risk of digging myself into a hole, that I just thought wasn’t worth it.

When I get closer to Ironman I pop off 100-mile rides like they are nothing. But those are built over time. Just like I have slowly built my run to here, I needed to let my cycling build too. I think I may do this again next spring and then I can reflect back on this and feel the difference.

erie canal 6

My Dad owns a realty company in Buffalo, this is one of his signs, but his last name isn’t Militello!

I have been around this sport for 20 years, and I am not afraid to default to plan B,C,D or Z if necessary. As I said I have made enough bad athletic decisions to know now to make good ones. This whole weekend was such a huge accomplishment for me. For where I have been and where I am going.

I think my migraine is honestly from smiling so much!

In all honesty… I think our bodies signal us when we need to pause. I know that because I have ignored that so many times. I think this was a big stretch for where I am fitness wise right now, and I needed to not push it just yet. I am so incredibly patient, and I know this return on my investment won’t show until spring at the earliest. There will always be highs and lows in fitness (like the stock market) but if you are patient, the fitness always comes. Just like the market…. always recovers (and if it doesn’t we are all screwed anyway!).

You have to be patient on your investment and not get caught up in the highs and the lows. The ones who hold on and ride the even keep are the ones who see the biggest returns.

My Dad brought me to Batavia, where Curt and Luc were waiting. I feel so lucky that I can still rely on my family to support this insanity. My parents have never questioned these things, they jump in and help make it work. They are also my sounding board for when I need to make a good decision. My Mom reminded me that I have a lot of cycling in me and a long time to go before Ironman Lake Placid.

I thank my lucky stars for them, not everyone gets to have that and it’s not lost on me.

Not everyone gets to have parents and a husband and son who at the drop of a hat, will drive to rescue you from yourself. But that’s what we do for one another around here. That’s our lifestyle. I don’t even give a shit how corny it sounds but I have been blessed beyond belief with all of this. Therefore I won’t abuse it like I did. Ever again.

Tonight I feel pretty awesome. I am rehydrated, refueled, not too sore. I am ready for a pretty exciting week as I get to meet my new students at my new college. In just two months I am taking on the marathon. As I said I am not running a whole lost faster than I was in March but I am 15 pounds lighter, and I am handling 40 miles a week INJURY FREE. That speed will come later. Patience is king.

Big thanks to everyone who helped me put this trip together. The gang in the Buffalo Triathlon Club helped me figure out logistics, Denise, Curt, Mom, Dad and Luc tracked me, my parents fed, cleaned me up and housed me, and a bunch of you sent me texts of support. I can’t thank you enough!!!

Never be afraid to do big things. Never be afraid to be patient. And never…. NEVER feel bad for diverting to whatever plan you need to. Period.