Mary Eggers

General

No easy way

As I drove home from Houghton College my heart was both heavy and light at the same time. Tears rolled down my face, tears brimming with pride and despair. Luc was on the bus behind me riding with his team…. and being part of a team has been his dream for a long time.

I felt despair because I just wish one thing….. one thing…. would come easy for Luc. His entire life, everything he has done…. has been 9 times harder than it has for other kids. Open heart surgery. School. Sports. Making friends. Every single thing has come his way as an obstacle. He works 9 times as hard. Every single time.

At the same time I wished that one thing in his life would come easy….. I know that it can’t. The worst thing that could have happened at this track meet, would have been for him to run some incredible time. When things come easy we become complacent. When things come easy our ego inflates and too many of us gain a false sense that we are superior to others, and that’s not who I am raising, nor who we are. If there is one thing that Luc has learned…. it’s that everything worth accomplishing comes with work. In Luc’s case though…. EVERY DAMN THING comes with an incredible amount of work.

It was Luc’s first indoor track meet, his first ever track meet, his first ever event as part of a team. He attends a private school, but is eligible to run for the district. The fact that he walked into a team of 130+ kids, in a huge school he’s never been to, to run in events he’s never comprehended before, he knows not one single person….. that in itself was the first accomplishment. I know adults who wouldn’t take that on.

The first few weeks have gone really well. He sustained a minor calf injury on Thanksgiving that set him out of track for a week. He consulted the team trainer and worked at rehabbing because he wanted to get back to business. He rode a spin bike and stretched every day. He returned with just missing a few days and picked up fine.

I dropped him off to ride with the team early Saturday morning. Four busses took the kids to Houghton. The head and assistant coaches took a group of Varsity runners to a meet in Ithaca, so 4-5 coaches were in charge of this group.

I followed down to Houghton in time for the meet to begin. I have never been to an indoor track meet either. Luc was sitting with the team, but alone in the bleachers. The facility was amazing. Teams were everywhere. As the meet got underway Luc and I consulted the meet program to determine where and when he would be running. As the meet moved along a few kids on the team asked Luc what he was running, introduced themselves, which gave he (and I) great relief. These kids clearly have their social groups established and I told Luc that we needed to give it time for the team bonds to form.

It was soon time to get ready for Luc’s event. Some of the kids were kind enough to help us understand where he would line up, and when he should get to the starting line. I had hoped that the coaches would know which kids were here for the first time…. but it may have been Luc was the only one. Luc began doing some warm ups and I began googling. I sighed, and a guy next to me asked if I was ok.

“I was a swimmer growing up.” I confessed, “This is my son’t first meet and we really don’t know how this all works.” He said he was a college scout and gave me a quick rundown of how these things worked. He explained to me what a waterfall start was, the rules for running the 600m when there were more than 6 kids in the heat, and where kids usually gathered. He asked me if Luc’s coaches were there, I said yes but also confessed I was hesitant to ask them for help because Luc was embarrassed that he didn’t know, and I am so afraid of being “that mom”. He smiled and assured me that they likely didn’t know this was his first meet and he knew them…. they were good folks.

Thank you to whomever you were college scout guy!

As we were watching the 300 …. I realized we had a massive issue. The starting gun. Luc looked at me in panic. He’s not good with really loud sudden noises. Shit. He said he needed earplugs, then he said he would just start far back, then he said he could just plug his ears. I knew I needed a plan.

Thankfully there were eight million heats of the 300. We stood right next to the starter. We took a look at her set up. See… not a real gun…. see how it’s attached to that thing…. let’s see if we can figure out the pattern…. ready…. set….. BAM. It took eight million heats….. but thank God we did that. He was fine by the time it got to his event.

I sent a very nervous Luc to the infield where it looked like his teammates were gathering. He had the event, heat and his number written on his hand. He accidentally walked in front of a girl running and got yelled at by another team’s coach. Cardinal sin in track. He really and honestly didn’t mean to. I could tell how badly he felt about it by the way he continued to the infield. Afterwards he was distraught, he tried to find the girl to apologize but we couldn’t. He’s still upset with himself today. I assured him that it was an honest mistake. He learned from it. He won’t do it again. He’s really hanging onto it.

As I watched him in the infield I nervously asked the coaches if they could just make sure he’s ok. One of them looked at Luc across the track and realized how terrified he looked, and immediately went over.Through the girls’ 600m I watched as Luc’s teammates talked to him, the coach seemed to be giving him some pointers. See. All I had to do was ask. My paranoia of being that mom got in my way.

Finally Luc’s event was up. He fell into formation and he was off. He ran wide, lane 2 and 3 adding precious meters to his race. He ran well, he ran strong. Throughout the 600 I felt so proud. Not only for running but for everything he had overcome to get onto that track.

He finished 19/21 with a 2:13. I asked him if he had fun. He said yes. I asked him if he did his best. He said yes and he could not wait to do it again, because “I can do better.”

He cooled down and I showed him the video as he requested. “I ran so wide mom!” He said, and I realized he wasn’t upset with himself. He watched again and again and again as I wondered what was going through his mind.

“Mom I can run faster if I just get closer into lane 1.” I smiled. I like when he does things like that. He does something hard and he looks for a way to make it better. Then he wanted to know what the state time was for the 600m. 1:24. “I wonder if I could ever do that.”

Luc track

This is where my worry about being that mom kicked in. I explained to him that he could accomplish anything in the world with the right attitude, the work, and taking good care of himself…. but reminded him we can never lose the fun or passion in the process. I don’t want him to be that kid who runs themselves into the ground to have a hip replacement by age 25. My goal in this whole endeavor is to have fun, learn to be a good teammate, stay healthy and fit and to do what you want within this realm.

He’s in the hands of good coaches. Who care more about the person than they do about the ability. I see too many 10 year olds running varsity (or insert other sport here) in other places because their parents are pushing them. Whether it be to live their own failed dreams or to get scholarships. What I can do as his mom is to support whatever he wants to do. I can help him with recovery and eating well and doing his stretches at home. I can listen to his dreams and aspirations and keep him grounded.

When he got off the bus he was so excited. He was so happy to be part of a team, and he still doesn’t really know anyone just yet. But he’s part of something, and that is amazing to me. That in itself. If you know Luc’s story….. you know that we were told he would grow up in a group home. To which of course I said “Fuck off”.

Running has been amazing for him in more ways than running alone. He’s been running 5K’s for a few years now and it’s helped him hone the social skills he has worked so hard to develop. It’s given him an outlet. It is fun for him. He stays focused on school while other kids are playing video games. He’s healthy and fit. It’s helped him in so many ways.

Yesterday I found him making a binder. In it he placed his team’s code of conduct, the meet program, his number, and a few other things his coach sent out. “I want to keep all my stuff from my meets” he said. Then he brought me his computer to show me a quote he searched for online, one that said what he felt. He asked me to write it out on an index card. So I did:

MP quote

I realized when I wrote this out…. that he knows he’s always been an underdog. At the same time he’s well aware of those who love and support him. At 15 years old he knows that he has what it takes to accomplish anything, because of everything he has endured in his life.

His goal is to see how he can do next week, just by getting into lane 1. He googled and studied the rules of passing. I conferred with some friends (thank you Amy, Jennie, Nick and the Wev!). I like that he’s coming to this with curiosity. He’s wondering about other events. How they work. How they would fit him.

This is what I was hoping for. A fire. A light. Something that grabs him a little bit. My job is to keep him grounded and support his quest. Whatever his quest may be. I also need to stop being so afraid of being that mom and ask the coaches if we need help. There are too many kids to keep track of to give 1-1 attention like that.

This kid and I have learned a lot together (and Curt…. I don’t know why it seems I left him out!!!!). Nothing has ever come easy for him and I have had to finesse a lot of situations without helicoperting but supporting and helping him develop the ability to drive himself forward. There is no manual for this stuff. My goal is to raise a good, independent man who knows how to advocate for himself and others. Who is strong and trustworthy. Who thinks of others deeply.

He is actually all of those things right now.

Later Sunday evening he scrolled through the meet results trying to figure out what girl he walked in front of on the track. He would like to send her an apology. To me, that speaks volumes about who Luc is.

As I pulled into the high school a few minutes ahead of the team busses, I took a deep breath. My tears dried, like they always do. My moments of wanting an easier path for Luc pass, like they always do. His path has never been easy and it will never be easy. As he assembled his green binder though I realized…..he appreciates this. He knows his path is harder. Everything he accomplishes he does with incredible determination, courage and grace.

This is no different.

Side note: Curt wasn’t at this meet because he ran “It’s a Wonderful Life 5K” with some friends. He ran a 19:06. Curt is on the right below….. and the guy on the left, turned 70 that day. We have had a wonderful life knowing him. He’s a legend. 

Tom&Curt Wonderful life

 

General

The work… of work.

My first official block of triathlon training is complete and I have nearly survived a recovery week. Even at my elder age, with all this experience being an athlete and a coach, I sometimes find recovery difficult. We get on a roll, training volume and intensity isn’t that high….. why don’t we just keep a build going?

I have fudged recovery weeks in the past…. too many times….. and I have paid the price for it. Injury, burnout, longer progression for adaptation to training. I don’t believe there is a real “magic number” for building and recovering. It depends on the athlete, the load, the logistics, etc….. but what I do know is that a 2-4 week build fits most athletes and it’s always best to recover when we don’t feel we “need to” rather than when we should have.

There are times for overload training yes, but I am talking week to week, regular training. Somehow we need to give the body the chance to adapt to the training load, let it absorb and as we begin another build, bring that with us and go further.

Recovery doesn’t magically happen in one week, and neither does adaptation…. but how it all blends together is where the art and science of coaching comes in. There are lots of good resources on how that’s done. Head over to PubMed. When it comes to training and plotting it all out, I tend to head there rather than magazines, I tend to look to the figures in sport who have been around a long time.

Recovery is important, especially as we transition into Masters athletes. Don’t mistake recovery for laying on the couch…. although that’s something I have to aim to do daily (#loser). Active recovery has always been a real game changer for myself and our athletes, and I learned that from Jesse Kropelnicki. You have to have the ability to ride 100 watts, and less. I once did a loop of IMLP under 100 watts. The reason for that is another story….. but recovery sessions need to be done embarrassingly easy. Stupid easy, and your ego takes a beating.

But they work.

Through this first block I was sore, the volume wasn’t high…. yet I loved every second of it like I was a beginner again. I am healthy. Surgical wounds have healed. During that time the minor injuries and niggles I have carried for 20 years have finally also healed. It took months of deep rest, not couch rest, but paddling and 30 minute sessions ….. to really allow things to turn around.

I didn’t hate it either. I struggled with it somewhat….. but as I have come to the other side and am realizing the benefits of it…. I am appreciating it and proud of my patience.

Going forward is nothing exciting. Training isn’t that exciting (Except for Zwift!!!!!!). It’s a slow and steady progression and load adaptation. I smile when I hear athletes say “Carry water chop wood” because as true as that feels….. none of them have ever actually done that, so it remains a funny saying (I am sure true). It’s just the day in and day out. I have no sexy phrase to embody that, because there is none. I don’t have any beautiful instagram photos, because I don’t train with my camera on me. And I have no requirements of photo journaling this season, thank god. Training is all mine again and I can’t be more thrilled about that.

Today Luc is running in his first indoor track meet. It’s his first meet on his first team. He’s running the 600m. I will drive 3+ hours to watch him run for 2 min at an all day long track meet, and I can’t think of a more important way to spend my time today.

He’s still new to the team, and he runs for a school he does not attend, so falling into a group of kids has been tough. I adore the coaching staff and have assured him that as the season progresses he will make friends. All I care about today is that he is a good teammate, does his best and has fun. He was so so proud when he came running out the door of practice last night wearing his RH uniform. I could see the pride on his face.

He loves it. That’s all I care about. I don’t care if he gets a ride to college, his tuition is already covered. I don’t care if he ever wins. I care about what I mentioned above. I hope that Curt and I have shown him what sport can be in someone’s life. For me it’s kept me focused throughout my life, it’s given me opportunities I never imagined and it’s provided me with a family.

Curt and I met on a bike ride 20 years ago.

Sport has been a presence in my life since the day I was born and I hope that Luc feels the same way as he moves through his life.

I want him to see that with work and patience …. anything is possible. There has been a little fire lit within him as he wonders how he will compare to the rest of the runners today. I want him to set a bar for himself and then work to reach it. Whatever that bar is….. we will be there supporting him.

With my first block of training done and recovery week leaving me a bit twitchy and excited….. it’s good to be back.