Mary Eggers


Speedskating, Lesson One

Saturday I turned 40. And I did something I have been saying I would do for years. I took a speed skating lesson.

Why haven’t I done it before? Ironman was my favorite excuse. Didn’t want to mess that up. Today I have a wall filled with plaques and medals and a burning desire to skate. I don’t know why, something about it intrigues me. But I am tired of saying “One day I will.” Maybe that happens when you hit 40?

Lessons are given during two sessions of the speed skating season (which runs Sept – March) by the Rochester Speed skating Team. The first session was in November, and this second session began on my birthday and runs for four weeks. For $100 (a $50 deposit is for the skates, you get it back) you learn from some of the best coaches around. Lessons are held on the rink at Genese Valley Park.

I spent three hours on the ice in hockey skates this week just to get my feel back for the ice. I have a long way to go.

I walked in as the team was ending practice. It was myself and three adults, and several kids. The team was on the ice. Ages ranged from the very young to the very mature (now that I am 40 I won’t say old, but there were some amazing mature skaters out there skating circles around the youngins!). I could have watched them for an hour. I may come earlier next week and do just that. Unreal.

I got my loaner skates on and took a deep breath. These blades are long, thin and the boot is ankle height. I was so nervous.

Beth… one of the coaches and one heck of a skater herself gave us the run down of how things would go. She directed us to hop out on the ice and skate around. So we did. I was shaky at best for a good ten minutes. These were a different feel than the skates I was using for the past week.


My skates for the next four weeks!

A woman came up behind me and introduced herself. She explained to me that in hockey and figure skating you push more off the front of the foot. In speed skating you find the middle to back of the foot and push off almost from the heel. She was so so comforting. Soon after another woman joined her and they just skated around with me for a bit.

I have to say that in swim, bike and running circles…. when we meet people they typically list off their accomplishments. “Hi I am Mary and I am an 8 time Ironman finisher.” is what you usually hear. Myself included. Not here. They could have been world champions and they never said anything but… hi… welcome….. let us help you…. what brought you here? Another man came up and asked if I was a triathlete. I didn’t want to admit that I was, I don’t know why! He assured me I would be fine.

Coach Tom gathered us up on center ice. A bit prior to that he asked where Mary was. I told him it was me….. he said that he ran with a friend of mine, Jim. Jim told him to beat up on me. JIM!!!!!!!!!

Tom went through the basics of speed-skating. We first learned the basic position. Photo below from this link.

Basic position

Oddly enough….. that position was relatively easy for me to hold. As a cyclist and a yoga teacher who spends a boatload of time in chair pose…. it feels natural. I had to work at allowing myself to fall into the center and back of my foot. I also had to focus on rounding my back. Otherwise it felt good.

The rest…. notsomuch.

We cycled through some drills. Against the boards (with pads) and on the ice. I have a lot of practice ahead of me. It will do nothing for me to only go once a week and not skate in between. I committed to myself on this one. Four hours a week on the ice this week. Oddly again…. the rink time near my house falls in a crazy good time during my day.

How does it fit in with triathlon training? It seems to fit in well. It seems a bit more forgiving. The endurance and strength aren’t the issue. I have those I lack technique and skill. I have a huge amount to learn. I need to get comfortable on these skates and these blades. I need to feel the inside and outside and even the middle.

I have to crash a few times. I have to stop being afraid of that to happen. The more time I spend on the ice the more I will stop thinking and start feeling it.

I love the way skating has felt on my body. Like I said it doesn’t beat me up. I love the sound…. or lack thereof. I love the feeling. In a strange way it’s like swimming. There is a rhythm that I want to reach out and grab but have to let come.

I loved it. I absolutely loved it.

When I came home Luc wanted to know all about it. I think it’s important that he see mom try new things. That he see me get outside my comfort zone. He knows how much of a beginner I am at this…. and he’s never really seen me be a beginner. He’s a beginner snowboarder and he’s tentative and reluctant yet he wants to learn so badly. Right now he’s comfortable with getting on his boots and adjusting the bindings. He is comfortable carpet surfing. Last year he did go down the “bunny hill” a few times, but we needed to back up.

If I can learn he can learn. (And trust me I will be boarding with him.) If I can show him that I can get up he can get up.

This next four weeks is NOT going to be easy for me. Nor should it. I have a lot to learn. A lot to master. I am below zero on the scale of 1 to 10. I have my you tube videos, the coaching from Coach Tom and the other amazing skaters I met… and I have a pair of skates for a month. I want to see what I can learn in four weeks, with practice.

Then we will think about what comes next.

Either way it’s exciting to learn something new. To take a chance. To glide across the ice instead of saying…. some day. I wish I would have. I am surrounded by plenty of athletes over the age of 40 who show me continuously that life truly begins at 40.

And I am so ready.