Honestly… I will remember that finish line forever. Luckily I have it on video as Rich recorded the whole thing. That few moments started well before I entered the Olympic oval though.
As I hit the turnaround on Mirror Lake drive, there was a group of men manning the spot. They had a tent, music and may have been drinking beers. They looked like they had all been friends for an eternity, and they remembered me from my first loop.
A lot of people did. I was the girl power walking with the world’s biggest smile.
“We’ve been waiting for you!” they cheered. A lot of people said that. I truly believe I got more cheers and support on course than the women’s champion that day. As I high fived them and began the one mile trek to the finish line it really hit me. The epicness of the day. My god it was epic.
I didn’t walk that marathon because I planned to power walk a marathon at the end of an Ironman. The gravity of what I had just fought through hit me at that moment, it hit me hard.
Lake Placid was dark. Throughout my career I have been extremely fortunate to always finish in daylight, and here I was nearing 10pm at night. The day had begun at 6:30, and actually earlier. Mirror Lake was still. The backdrop of the town was illuminated and reflecting on the water.
In the distance I could hear the roar of the cheer and Mike Riley calling in previous finishers.
That’s the neat thing about Lake Placid, it’s small. The town shuts down for this event. You aren’t lost in the big city. Everyone is there and regardless of where you finish you feel so so special. Ironman is also interesting in that while there is a pretty good sized crowd there when the winners finish, the closer you get to midnight the bigger the crowd becomes and the louder the cheering gets to bring you home.
As I made my way through that final mile I felt like every single person on Mirror Lake Drive was screaming for me. I know a lot of people in this sport and community, this is my family. In a moment where I needed to be lifted up and carried home….. I was.
The tears started to really flow as I passed the Brew Pub. Until that moment I had prohibited myself to think ahead more than two minutes. I had refused to allow myself to feel any sort of emotion except for gratitude and privilege. As difficult as my day had been, I was wearing number 723 on my kit. That’s Joe Rosati’s number. I held zero tolerance for any sort of self pity and had dedicated myself to one mile at a time. I had vowed to smile and give away good will to every other competitor I saw out there. When I needed a plan I cleared my garmin and set it up so that I was walking with a damn purpose. My goal was 15 minute miles and I pretty well held that while every ounce of my GI system was just one hell of a mess.
The day had been great, despite all of that. At the swim start I seeded myself with the 1:00 group and saw so many familliar faces in the coral. Dave and Peter made me feel so at home and as the cannon fired I tricked into the water with everyone else and as planned….. I swam wide. In an event where everyone goes of the underwater cable…. I aimed to be the last person on the left.
While it gave me a non typical swim finish time, it was where I expected to be. No one touched me, which was my goal. Getting over that concussion was a huge hurdle for me and I knew this was the final piece. Towards the end I started to move towards the crowd because I know it’s something I have to do.
Out of the water and through the wetsuit
strippers peelers there was nothing but happiness and cheer. Man you feel like such a rock star in Lake Placid.
The bike. Dear lord. I have been riding this course multiple times a year for the past 20 years. Nothing scares me out there on that 10K descent. We immediately rode into a headwind up the first 30 minute climbs. Gusts of crosswinds complimented that and the descent was the scariest I have ever experienced. Normally if we have a crosswind I lean into it. Normally I welcome a headwind on the descent. Normally I can figure out the pattern and the gusts. Today there was no rhyme or reason. So I pushed on.
The first hour of the second loop was a little more harsh. Because I was battling the wind I fell behind on nutrition. I never do that. Ever. Once I got into the clear I tried to make up for those lost calories by doubling up. I have done that before and it’s worked. Not today.
I will spare the gory details but GI distress began. The way out of it is to slow down so I significantly backed off the second loop and made sure I kept on hydration and electrolytes while things settled. But the gut bomb kept growing.
Off the bike I knew I was in some trouble. I spent a good 8 minutes in transition…. well not in transition but in the port potty. Instead of panic I came up with a plan. Let things settle. I am no stranger to GI meltdown in longer races. I have consulted every expert on the planet and practiced fueling like it was my job. I don’t have any underlying GI issues. I don’t have food sensitivity. I don’t have IBS. I don’t have allergies.
I do have a significant eating disorder history and I spent the greater part of my youth destroying my GI system. Destroying. While I have been in recovery of 20 years, that’s been the price I pay in these long races. And deserved. I did it to myself back then. These are the long term effects.
As I made my way onto the run course I was able to run down the hill to the chanting of my name and hugs from my family. I smiled even though things were not good on the inside. Once past the crowd I started to walk thinking it would help things settle and empty. I started to panic. My legs actually felt good but I knew I needed to work through this. Everything was literally running through me.
I cleared my watch and set the goal to walk 15 minute miles. If I wasn’t able to run just yet I would be the best 15 minute mile walker out there. I also set the goal to smile. Smiling in an Ironman is THE way to recruit course support. Smiling also has an effect on your fellow competitors. If they are having a rough day… it helps them. I also offered cheer and energy to anyone and everyone around me. Positivity is like a boomerang. You give it out and it will come back to you TENFOLD.
So I power walked and let things run through me. At each aid station I started with water and salt and eventually added in coke. I soaked in the crowds. I refused to allow myself to EVER GET NEGATIVE. This is a privilege and I was racing with Joe’s number on my chest. Joe wouldn’t entertain self pity out here. He would put one foot in front of the other and that’s what Iw as doing. I never thought “OH MY GOD I HAVE SO FAR TO GO”. I never thought about that once. I never thought about finish times or what this meant. I stayed so in the present moment and I was determined to be the best version of myself I could be out there.
At mile 16 my stomach finally settled down. I started to run….. after a few minutes I became lightheaded and stumbled as I passed one of the medical teams. They immediately came to me. I assured them I was fine. I smiled. I pumped my arms like the awesome power walker I was. I decided to try to take in more calories and then in a few minutes I would start running.
Dan S. came by and walked with me for a few minutes. Gibby came by and did the same. And Jim. I realized that I was getting such an added bonus out there by getting to experience this with so many people that mean so much to me. In a time where it would have been easy to get really negative and upset….. I only found positive.
I didn’t really realize I was going to walk the ENTIRE. MARATHON. until mile 21. Honestly until that point I was thinking I would be able to start running. I was behind on calories but I was good on hydration. With what was going on I was pretty proud of that.
Before this race began I knew that this was going to be my last Ironman. I know we never say never but I just know. If not my last it will be my last for a very long time. I loved every piece of preparing for this. I loved it. In 2013 I hated it and I never want to feel that again.
But for now this is it. That quadrupled my emotion as I got closer to the oval.
We are not guaranteed finish lines, much less starting lines. I was carrying with me a whole list of people who would have done anything to have the ability to get to this oval. I was not going to throw that away. I was not going to tarnish that.
What if something happens to me and this really was it?
Therefore…. I was more determined than ever to soak up every second of that finish line.
As you enter the olympic oval you are about 200 yards away from the red carpet, the lights and the crowd. The tears were flowing at this point. I saw Sarah, John, Joe…. and of course my husband. If anyone in this world believes in me it’s him. We met in this sport, we built a life in this sport, and him screaming and waving his arms was my tipping point into full on ugly cry.
As I came around the Oval……. I kept walking. I didn’t walk this far to run the red carpet and rush through these final yards. The crowd saw me balling and they just got louder. They bagan to POUND on the banner lining the finish line. The spotlight was BLINDING. I took every damn high five I could take. I saw Luc and I saw Rich. And then I heard Mike Riley say:
“Mary Eggers YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.”
He actually said it twice.
So much emotion came down on me at that point. Rich captured all of it on his phone and I haven’t been able to watch it more than twice without losing it. So much is wrapped up into that.
I crossed the line later than I ever have, but happier than I have ever been, more content than when I broke 11 hours. The volunteers grabbed me and I pointed at the volunteer in front of me. She was holding finisher’s medals and had one held out.
“I would like that one please.” I told her. As she placed it around my neck, it was ten years in the making. While I have gone on to finish several other Ironmans after my 2008 DNF here, this medal was ten years in the making. Everything I have been through since that day, EVERYTHING, was right here right now.
Oh my GOD.
I know athletes who go sub nine hours and are unhappy with their days. I will never allow that for myself whether I nail it or I take all day. I will never tie my self esteem or self worth to a finishing time or place. I was so FREAKING happy at that finish line…. nothing could have made it better.
Ken found me at the finish line (he finished way earlier) and kept me together as I reunited with my family. Happiness was all I could feel.
I swear the hardest days are the most rewarding.
I guess it is fair to say that the number on the clock didn’t match my fitness coming into this. My coaches Jen and Liz from MSM / JHC Coaching had me ready. Ironman is so much more than making those two things match though. It’s adapting and overcoming whatever presents during the day.
And I did that. I loved every second of that. I dealt with some real literal shit out there. I dealt with it well.
If I had to go back to Sunday and change anything….. it would be nothing. It was all so freaking worth it.
Thanks so much to everyone who has helped me on this journey. As Joe reminds me it’s the people we meet along the way. If I ever doubted my place in this sport (which I haven’t ever), Sunday showed me my place. I was lifted up by so many people on that course. I am so used to being the one who does the lifting, does the picking up. I can’t thank you all enough for allowing me to ride on YOUR good will. On YOUR cheers. On YOUR love.
I felt so much LOVE out there. I wouldn’t trade that for anything on earth.
Oh man, that was epic. I got the F*ING medal, and I couldn’t have ever done it without you.