Mary Eggers

General

Flow

I grew up a dancer, and a swimmer. A strange combination, but the uniqueness of it gave me what I needed to compete at my best. It’s also been what has helped me find my way back.

Dancers learn to feel the music. I remember as early as 6 years old clapping to the beat of the music. One of my friends Kim joked with me a few years back “You are the only person I know who dances at a wedding on the 5-6-7-8.”

It’s true. As a dancer the beat, the count is ingrained in you. Mary Alice used to turn off the record, find a random spot and we’d know where the beat was on the 1-8. If you know dance, you know exactly what I mean. If you don’t….. then there is a self awareness about it all I can’t articulate. Dancers know music. Feel music. We feel it in our bones. The lyrical, the classical, the modern excitement of the beat. We danced to feeling…. not protocol.

When my attention turned solely to swimming it came with me. I was a distance swimmer and when I swam the 500 I would play songs in my head. In high school when I swam my best times it was to “We didn’t start the fire” by Billy Joel. The beat matched my cadence.

I credit dance for teaching me to not think. Recently I got halfway through the book Untethered. It is a great book, don’t get me wrong. But a lot of it was about the voices in your head, the thinking voices.

I don’t have those. I don’t think through my day. As I was reading I kept gaining the feeling…. this would be a horrible way for me to live. I put it down. I referred it to a friend who always complains of how she thinks too much.

And I understood something. I don’t think too much, in fact…. I don’t think at all.

When I race at my best the music plays in my head. I feel.

The years I was not racing at my best were the years I was driven to data. To thoughts, quotes and sayings to focus on. I was trying to be an intellectual when I am not one. I am a feeler. I am a spirit on the field….. and I allowed that to get away from me.

Dance taught me to know. Dance taught me to feel. Dance taught me to connect with the emotion in music. Dance taught me how to express that and somehow….. I don’t know how…. I was able to bing that into the pool with me. Eventually I was able to bring that onto the triathlon course.

I train with music at times. I never ever wear an underwater radio…. but when I swim… through the silence the music is playing. When I ride my trainer I do listen. When I run…. sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.

But the music is always playing. I have tried to force thoughts, and it disconnected me.

As I grow into my role as an athlete with my coach it’s been an amazing experience. He’s the first one who speaks to me as I need to be spoken to. It’s not in wattage and pace. It’s in emotion and feeling. Granted… the paces and wattages are present, but they are the undertone. And I have followed that lead and allowed them to become undertones again.

Ride with your heart. Get to know yourself again. Feel the effort. Knowing how to connect with your athlete is the key. Some do great with numbers. Ericka calculates math equations in her head. I flow. I feel. Neither is right or wrong, but it’s our own.

I spent years trying to think, trying to relate, and all I really needed to do was get back to feeling.

5-6-7-8. Music and flow ignite me and help me find the center of my soul. I don’t think too much and after reading part of that book I feel grateful. That space in my head has been a gift and it’s time I start using it wisely. That is my edge and I must stop trying to fill it. I don’t want to live in a mind where all I do is chatter and compare. My mental hampster wheel is eerily quiet. I tried, I really tried to make it noisy but it just didn’t work. It’s just not who I am.

I don’t believe that there is a right or a wrong in terms of competitive mindset. I do believe that we spend too much time trying to be what we are not. Trying to be anywhere else, anyone else than who we are.

Be who you are. Get to know who you are.

Dancing and swimming were strange bedfellows to the outsider….. but a perfect brilliant match to me. Now….. let’s turn up that music.

General

Free

“Are those snowshoes?” My neighbor called out as I ran on by.

“Sure are!” I smiled.

“What a great idea.”

If there is one thing I am the master at, it’s making the most out of any possible situation. The situation around here isn’t a bad situation. We have snow.

I know! It’s so shocking. We even have a LOT of snow! I know! Even more shocking.

Sarcasm aside, it’s where we live. Winter is what we do and winter is what I do best. You have three choices when you live in Upstate New York:

1. Hate winter

2. Embrace winter.

3. Move south.

I choose to embrace winter. My winter arsenal is growing. I have a snowboard, xc skis (both skate and classic) and a great pair of snowshoes. I am by no means an expert on skis or board just yet, but my snowshoes are getting GREAT use.

I live really close to one hell of an amazing park that boasts XC skiing and snowshoeing like crazy. However 4am isn’t likely the best time to head over there and run through the woods alone. So I took to the sidewalks of my neighborhood.

The track is a bit over a mile (or under, I forget) and there’s a second track so I can run a few different ways. I have climbs, I have snowbanks, I have the ends of driveways to contend with. Most importantly I have snow, and I have a load of it.

As I was running I wished I could pause time for just a little while. The moon was out, the air was crisp and …. well snow. Snow is so much fun and it only graces us for a little while. So much strength hides within powdery white.

I am all about embracing the experience this season and I am grateful beyond grateful to be returning to short course. I realized the hamster wheel I was on all those years where I focused on Ironman. It’s so liberating to step off. It’s so awesome to get into a workout, go hard, walk away and not drag my knuckles on the ground.

This past week I put a photo of my abs up on Facebook. They are the abs of a mother, triathlete, all things I am. They aren’t a six pack, I am not cut. I maintain a healthy body weight for me. I eat really really well. And what happened next was really incredible.

Other women began to put their photos up on the thread. A few guys played along and put up their lack of a six pack as well. It was amazing to see the real life abs of Kona podium holders, mothers, cancer survivors. It inspired me. Expect a post to come soon featuring all of them.

Social media is here and it is here to stay. Social media is exactly what you want it to be. Some people use it as their therapist (Unfollow), others use it as their family photo album (follow!). I use it to connect. We raised $100,000 for Teens Living with Cancer by using it. But I love to connect.

I love to use it as a vehicle for positive change in my life and in the lives of others.

On Sunday I became so inspired as women dared to bare their midsections. Their scarred, stretch marked, imperfect abs. I think it is a small step forward for many. Too many women feel shame about their bodies, as if it’s a representation of who they are on the inside.

I used to have a friend, a male believe it or not, who would send me photos. Often it was of guys. Top athletes he competed against.

“If he lost ten pounds he would win an Ironman.” He would say about lean, fit guys. He was obsessive about it. If he lost ten pounds he would not be able to do an Ironman, I would point out. To him, everyone was fat. Literally fat.

I felt bad for him. It’s a sad, sad world to live in to have your self worth hinge on your weight or your shape. I have a long list of athletic accomplishments and none of them have to do with whether my abs are defined or not.

I grew up with an eating disorder. I know that hell. I know that prison. On this side of it…. I am so grateful. I am liberated. I thank God every day  I don’t have to live in that hell. I can look at photos of those same elite athletes and say “He has a heart of gold, and wow isn’t he strong.”

It’s easier for many people to tear someone down, then to help build themselves up.

The reaction to my post was 99% positive. (Which is fine, I don’t mind critics, I don’t mind being challenged, in fact I love a great debate. Bring it.) Two women stated it made them feel sad. What has to be remembered about a post making you feel sad: it wasn’t the post that made you sad, it was your reaction to it, and your perceptions about who you are that did. Get on that.

I can promise you this: if I could snap my fingers and hand you your ideal body, you would still be unhappy. Because if you are not happy without it, you will never be happy with it.

As I was running through the snow yesterday morning I couldn’t help but smile. My strong abs were helping me traverse some pretty unsettled terrain, yes….. sidewalks are not all plowed, flat and easy. I felt strong. I didn’t worry about 1 pound equalling 3 seconds per mile. I inhaled the most crisp winter air and felt grateful I chose this over the treadmill where I used to stay locked in a HR zone.

Life is better when you let yourself be free.