Mary Eggers

General

The journey

It never fails me to realize my involvement in my sport (triathlon). Being able to be part of this on so many different levels, coach, announcer, athlete to name a few is something I never, ever take for granted. I get to see this sport from so many different perspectives and for some reason, especially right now I feel like I am falling in love with it all over again.

This weekend Curt and did first timer and transition clinics at the Strassburg Sock Keuka Lake Triathlon. ¬†Our clinics are always free because it is our way to give back to the sport that has given us so much. Through the years we have literally done everything. We know what it’s like to be a beginner and have no idea what to expect. We know racing intricately and we truly love to share that.

A woman came to both of our clinics, and I had a feeling she was a beginner by the look in her eyes. That “oh my GOD I can’t believe I am about to do this.”. She listened intently and asked good questions. She revealed to us at the end of the session that she was going to wait until the morning to register, just in case she chickened out.

I think the hardest part of taking on a new challenge is the sign up. I remember a few years ago one of my athletes was considering an Ironman. He sent me the ‘what if’ email, and we bounced around the idea. Then he said “I hit submit and went outside and threw up.” and now….. he’s a seasoned veteran at the distance.

Now it doesn’t have to be Ironman… in fact another post for another day coming soon is about my love of short course. But hitting the proverbial submit button is the hardest part. The second hardest part is walking up to the starting line.

So we convinced her to sign up that night. She did. I had tears in my eyes as I got to announce her across the finish line, realizing that I got to witness such an amazing feat. The look of sheer terror in her eyes from the day before became pure pride. She came up to me after the race and I got to give her a BIG HUG. I don’t know her, I didn’t know her before yet I felt so proud.

I absolutely LOVE to watch people overcome THEMSELVES. To allow something to be new and awkward and totally out of the realm of what they think is possible. And then do it. There was a day when I was fascinated by the pros, these days I am fascinated by people like this woman. It’s a different journey for her. 24 hours previous (and longer) she had no idea that she was capable of this. But she prepared and she learned…. that she IS.

That’s the journey I love. I love to see people achieve things they may not have thought they could. Or they thought they could but weren’t sure….. or maybe didn’t take the time for themselves.

Recently one of my childhood friends got started in the sport. A high school swimmer, I am sure he knew he could do it. But I got to see the look on his face when he crossed the line for his first. In fact I got to announce him! There is something about that moment that grabs me.

As a race announcer I get to see thousands of those looks, from people I know and people I don’t. Want inspiration at a triathlon? Stay until the end. We all know the most inspirational time during an Ironman is midnight. You see what you don’t see off the front. I can’t even explain it.

We all bring our own story to this sport. If you are like me you have a few stories and a few different chapters. As a coach I love to know the why. WHY are you here. WHAT brings you back? It helps me as a coach, but truth be told…. it inspires me.

We are working with such an amazing group of people right now. Their stories range from “can I do this?” to “It’s my first year as a pro…. how do I navigate this?“. I don’t have all of the answers, but I love the journey of learning them together. As coaches we are just the GPS on the dashboard, our athletes are really the drivers. My coaching education has now spanned almost 13 years. I have learned some hard lessons, but the lessons that teach you the most are the hard ones. I have learned some important lessons, again the ones that teach you the most are. I have even learned when I need to step out of the way. I can’t fix everything and I can’t fix anyone. But I can help direct into the right direction, and sometimes if the athlete doesn’t think it is the right direction…. it’s enough to enable them to find it. It’s part of being…. human.

What I gain from all of the roles I get to play in this sport far outweighs what I give, I am certain of that. And that is what has caused me to begin this new chapter of my triathlon career. A book has many chapters. Life has many chapters and so can, triathlon. This one is called short course. More on that later.

Thank you. Thank you to all of you who allow me to be part of your journey. Whether I am the GPS (coach), whether I get to connect with you in a clinic, or whether you choose to do a Score This !!! race and allow me the honor of bringing you through the finish line….. I am sorry for sounding corny but man… it’s an honor.

General

The long haul

“Two down…. two to go.” I said it aloud to myself as I crested the hill. It was my first hill repeat session in what feels like ages. It was hot as balls out, evening, and as sticky as cotton candy on your hands long after the cotton candy has been eaten.

But I love that shit, and as I said… I haven’t felt that in ages. I haven’t DONE that in ages.

Those hill repeats were ugly, they were messy, but they made me feel alive again. The time SUP’ing and skiing and wandering has done me a world of good. It has allowed me to appreciate the gift this sport has been to me. To my life.

I got to do this particular hill repeat session with my 15 year old son, who runs a 6:09 1600, and I don’t. He dropped me like a bad habit. I apologized for all of those Ironman finish lines I dragged him through, he said “Revenge is sweet Mom”. I get to do these with HIM. Never in my wildest dreams of parenthood did I dare to dream my teenage son would not only want to run with me…. but be invested in this journey.

There’s this one house on the route of hill repeats, with that one guy who is always tending to his lawn. He wasn’t out there on the first two repeats but he was out there for the final two (I run the same hill, this week it was four times. Next week, 5). He smiled and waved….. it was like reconnecting with an old friend. You know, the ones you haven’t seen in a while, but the moment you do it’s like you’ve never skipped a beat. I have missed him. I have missed his flowers. I don’t even know his name. I didn’t even realize that I missed him.

The third time up the hill was when I began to question if I was going to throw up. It made me smile because I love that feeling of being on the edge of breaking and getting stronger. When you just rip off your shirt and stash it on someone’s lawn (or in someone’s mailbox) because it’s so-freaking-hot- and you just don’t care.

It’s cliche to say but I don’t care. I am lucky. For whatever reason after my surgery last year I fell into a hole…. and it was likely from a long bout of overtraining…. I really questioned my place in this sport as an athlete. I played and wandered and took a break. I skied and SUP’d and rested. It all came to a big head this past winter and I took care of longstanding issues of doing too much and neglecting myself.

And quicker than I have ever expected…… I have rebounded. It took great patience. There were big and deep dark moments behind this big smile of mine. Stepping back was difficult and painful and I was ready to retire from competition if that’s what I needed to do. I was that done.

A friend wrote somewhere that she recommended everyone take a year away from the sport, especially those of us who have been doing it for so long. Of all things through the past year…. that struck a cord with me the most. By the time she had said it I was 6 months into it, and it really all began to make sense.

I am so excited. I am so freaking excited to be back at it again. Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say. In the midst of all of that, people had suggested I take a break, that I step back, and I rationalized all of it. I’ve been training 20+ hours a week my whole life, I am fine. I know how to work through fatigue like this. I just need to do some race to really motivate me. La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-. I would have never admitted it during. But hell I admit it now. I needed to step back, especially for my health. In my 20 years as an athlete (more if you count my youth), 12 years as a coach and 15 years as a NURSE I have never seen anyone train themselves OUT of injury or illness. Not even my own self. You have to allow the body to do what it needs to do. I learned the hard way, but I did it, and it worked. The nurse in me knew that. The athlete in me didn’t want to admit it.

Regaining my health, being able to guide our Valor Triathlon Project athletes, announcing athletes through finish lines, getting back on the roads…. and let’s face it… SUMMER…. have all been what have brought me back to what I love. The chance to go to Nationals …. the nudging from my family and those I love to never give up on myself…. all of it together.

Through all of this there has been one thing that has never wavered. My belief in myself. I have always felt that my best performances…. whatever sport those might be in…. are ahead of me. I believe that with my heart and my soul. I searched for the perfect coach, the perfect training plan, and the perfect goal. I searched and searched and searched.

I realized that I needn’t go further than my front door. I have everything I need right here. Starting with an unrelenting belief in myself.

The fourth time up the hill I felt that cross between exhilaration and exhaustion. That feeling of getting stronger both physically and mentally with every step I take. I was drenched and boiling and as sticky as all get out….. and I loved every second of that feeling. Once I crested that hill the skies opened up and rain began to belt down on me. In a movie-like moment I threw up my arms and just let it soak me to the bone.

It just felt awesome. So painfully awesome. This stuff… it just makes me so happy.

That feeling…. is why I do what I do. That feeling…. is what I have missed. I love turning myself inside out. I love the way it feels. Nationals is going to be ugly, and that’s how it should be. This road back is a long one and it will take more than 12 weeks.

But I am in it for the long haul.