Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

From a snowy Rochester New York, I wish all of you the most wonderful New Year's Celebration tonight, and the happiest new year ever!

It's my tradition to work New Year's Eve.... I get Thanksgiving and Christmas off, so I make that trade. I have done it for so long that it is something I look forward to. As a pediatric emergency nurse I get to see a lot of ..... interesting.... things. Today I shall work 2pm to midnight and will have the opportunity to spend the ringing in of 2008 drinking Sparkling Grape Juice with my Peds Ed family and the families and children that are with us. It's a strangely special event.

Once the clock strikes 12 we begin the countdown. When will the trauma bells ring and who will be the first to shoot his neighbor of the new year? New Year's Eve is a big "shoot your neighbor" night.

To all of my fellow blogging buddies, to all of my wonderful athletes, to all of my wonderful friends, to the world for crying out loud.... from my family to yours, have a HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR!

:-) Mary Eggers

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Its been over a week, the workouts have been light, the coughing has subsided and this morning I feel like 100% again. So I took a day off.


Yes, a day off. I spent the early morning sitting by the window sipping coffee, making myself a great farm fresh egg breakfast. Curt was already out training and Luc was still asleep. And I just needed to take a moment.

Its as if I am on a roller coaster that is pausing at the top of the hill, waiting to take the big plunge. I know these next 6 months and going to fly by. A lot of work in all fronts, and lot of focus in all fronts is what is coming. I have spent the past 8 weeks recovering and planning the delicate balance that I am prepared to hold from now until the end if July.

Oops... that's 7 months.

Athletically I have set my goals, studied, broken them down. Determined what I need to do to hit those goals. With Coach T as the guide I have no worries that I will come up short.

Academically I begin Grad School in January 2009, and I have another degree to complete in the meantime. This means I have to adjust to sitting in class for 4 hours Monday evenings. If I could only bring my trainer.....

And there's more but I will spare you the details. Bottom line is I have prioritized, balanced, organized, and I have prepared for a smooth flow.

I have gotten a lot of rest and now I feel 100% recovered from the year of Iron. I am ready to begin the real work in preparation for our Carolina Training Camp in just 9 weeks. I am so glad we are doing this because it gives me a big mid winter focus. The thought of riding through mountains with some sunshine and good company is enough to almost take me out of a day off.

It will be good times for sure.

So on this Saturday morning when the Christmas snow has melted but new snow is on the way. I took a few moments to reflect, to refocus, and to sip my Jittery Joe's coffee. I took the time to sit back and watch the sunrise and wait for the little feet to come down the stairs.

Pausing, looking around, taking it all in before the roller coaster lurches forward and begins its descent.... has been the very best medicine of all.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Avoiding Illness

It was a beautiful Christmas here in Western New York. The entire family was together, we did a lot of sledding.... and guess what? The greatest sled on earth happens to be a an air mattress. Trust me on that one. I will be posting some pictures tomorrow.

One thing to remember is that we all get sick. Training happens or it doesn't when we are sick. My old rule was if the illness was above the chest... go easy. Below the chest.... rest. I was almost able to stick to that rule, when I was diagnosed with pneumonia last week. After having it for over a week and forcing through easy workouts... I finally surrendered and had a chest x-ray.

The next day my 30 minute run lasted 4 minutes and 54 seconds before I spent the next 6 hours, and the entire next day in bed.

That happens when you are stupid.

This week has been focused on light workouts and getting better. My runs are feeling good, my bikes are fine, swimming is fine. All are slow, but this time of year they should be.

You can't fight illness. And you can't always prevent it. I know many who double dose on vitamins to attempt to prevent illness, or to try to get past it quicker. Here are my illness tips:

  • Your body can only absorb so much of any given nutrient. Mega dosing is useless because the body will simply excrete what it does not absorb.
  • Illness, colds, etc ..... the very best prevention is hand washing. Those antibacterial soaps are wonderful but remember it is actually the friction of rubbing your hands together that eliminates the germs better than the alcohol. Have nothing but water available? Then rub your wet hands together for 2 round of "Happy Birthday" and you will be set.
  • Avoid antibiotics as much as possible. Colds caused by a virus will not be at all affected by an antibiotic. Many pediatricians prescribe them (not mine) to appease parents. You build up a resistance to antibiotics every time you take them. Have bacterial pneumonia? Yes, take them. Have a viral cold? You might as well drink water. You just have to ride a virus out.
  • Do what you can, do it lightly, and rest. The lungs were designed to breathe in cold air. They are lined with tiny hairs that warm the air up upon entry to the lungs. Now, with a chest cold breathing in ultra cold air can cause bronchospasam and make you cough, so playing it safe and wearing something over your mouth is never a bad idea.

In summary.... you just have to accept being sick. There is not a whole lot you can do to prevent it aside form washing your hands and wearing a mask around town. Take care of your body, eat the best food you can, and give your body the chance it needs to heal.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas To All!

Merry Christmas everyone! Don't forget to track Santa starting at 4am EST at! From my Family to yours..... peace love and a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Santa Tracker

I can't think of anything I want for Christmas. I honestly have everything I could ever need. What I do know however is that my little boy Luc has instilled that feeling within me. Perhaps it's his amazing sunshine personality. Perhaps it's his absolute love for Christmas.... perhaps it is because he is the bravest little boy I have ever known in my life.

Have I ever told you that I named him after Luc Van Lierde? Have I ever told you that in the NBC video of the 1999 Hawaii Ironman, I am in the finish scene with LVL? (In the crowd). And in Triathlete and Inside Tri.... I just happen to be in the background there?????

Make your own conclusion......

He's just 7 years old and truthfully he's been through his fair share of stuff. Whatever he faces however he comes out the other side with a great big smile.

The day after his very first triathlon this summer, Luc broke his leg. He spent eight weeks in that cast, and you know what? It was just a broken leg. Bones heal. How did he handle it? He just did. He learned how to scoot on his butt, he learned how to use a wheelchair and he learned how to use a walker. When kids would stare and people would look at him with wonder, he would simply tell them "I broke my leg.". I might have snarled and said "What are you looking at????"

On October 11, 2004 Luc had open heart surgery to repair an atrial septal defect, a hole between the two top chambers of his heart. We had known about it since shortly after he was born. On the spectrum of heart defects this was the best one to have. It was almost considered a sew and go. Except that they cracked his chest open and his heart was stopped while he was on bypass for 30 minutes.

During that 30 minutes my heart was stopped too.

When he arrived to the PICU later that day he was still intubated (had a breathing tube). He didn't look scared. When they asked him to look at his toes, testing to see if he had regained control of his neck yet.... instead of looking at his toes he pulled up his feet.

When they extubated him he sat upright. With a fresh incision on his chest. I was told that in 10 years of PICU nursing, my friend Bill had never seen a kid do that.

I marvel at Luc's attitude, his brightness, his lack of fear about anything. He is a kid who speaks his mind and if he has a question, he will ask you it.

I don't know how this little guy became so amazing but I am learning so much from him.

This year for Christmas he wants nothing more than a Polar Express Train. Nothing else. Just a small train please. He's been wearing a Santa hat for the better part of a month now. They even allow him to wear it all day at school.

This morning he woke me up.....

"Mommy!" He whispered..... "Look out the window!" I came to the window wondering what he had seen. "Look" He pointed to the sky. "Very small Mom." I squinted. "If you look very closely Mom, you can see his sleigh." He touched my shoulder. "But only if you believe."

I believe little buddy, I smiled and hugged him. I want that magic forever.

Do you believe? Well just click right here to track Santa for yourself on Christmas Eve. Call the phone number and speak to one of the Santa Trackers and I promise, you will believe too!

Thanks for stopping by.

:-) mary

Friday, December 21, 2007

In the News

I am very proud to be coaching Amy Moritz, one of the sports reporters from the Buffalo News. She's new to triathlon, and cycled through Europe this summer. Problem is, she didn't know how to swim. As she's been taking swimming lessons she has made great progress.

One of the reasons I became very excited to work with Amy.... she didn't sign up for the Ironman as her first race.

Amy is chronicling her journey to become a triathlete both in print and online. She'll have a monthly article about how things are going in the Buffalo News, and she is keeping an online blog.

Click here for the first article in the series, and click here for her blog.

Amy was contacted by a man named Paul who used to live in the area, but now lives in Georgia. He has a really nice site called A Ticket to Kona. Take a look at this guy's results section by clicking here. Notice his progress. Notice how consistent training has significantly improved his Ironman times. Notice he moves past the bad days and embraces the good ones.

And notice this..... his 5K time has not improved significantly in comparison to his Ironman time. I just had an applicant for my Ironman team who believed he was going to qualify for Kona in 5 years. He almost didn't make the 17 hour cut off this year. He refused to swim more than once a week because the water was too cold, and in December he was doing 400 repeats on the track to get his 5K time down, as he believed it would help his Ironman.

You make the conclusion.

Specificity. Goals. Dedication and commitment.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Goaltending Part II

Thanks for the amazing comments, support and friendship. I can't believe how lucky we all are to have this community out here. This Christmas I am feeling more grateful than ever to have such great friends, however, whenever and wherever we have met.
I did forget my number one goal.... survive training camp in February. Gulp!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


The season is being planned and my goals have been set. Through the past 2-3 seasons things have not gone exactly as planned, but I attribute that to a lack of dedicating myself 200% to my goals. Yes there were injuries and nutrition issues, but in reality those were within my control. Blaming other things besides me, didn't get me very far.

2007 was a great year for me. My 70.3 performances, lackluster as they had become, catapulted me into a renewed focus.

Ironman Lake Placid was the day things turned, the day I laid the demons to rest. I was flirting with 11 hours and found myself walking in a hyponatremic state. I remember making the decision, I could walk 13 miles or I could put this all to bed. I literally drank almost an entire can of table salt, but more importantly I made the decision to end the disappointments now. I was only 20 minutes off my previous best Ironman Lake Placid time after that.

As we headed into Ironman Florida Coach T gave me the kick I needed. The data proved that I could. The question was if I would. I raced Ironman Florida in completely in control of the world, knowing I could give more, go faster, but stayed within my box and myself and proved to myself that I could.

I just needed to believe it.

And so I sit here on the eve of the 2008 racing season. I want this to be my fifth and final Ironman for a little while. I love to walk away from and come back to it. So I want this fifth Iornman to be everything I can make it be. (And I can return my focus to 70.3 for a while!)

And the 2 1/2 Ironmans along the way I am bringing Mary back. The only reason I have not gone under 5 hours since my 4:48..... is because of the space between my ears.

So I am laying it down now. Here are my goals......

1. Sub 4:50 at Gulf Coast

2. Sub 4:50 at Mooseman

3. Ironman Lake Placid..... sub eleven.

My smaller goals that will help me achieve the big 3

1. Optimize my nutrition. Eat Clean.

2. Focus on the plan that Coach T creates with me

3. Run.... run...... run

I am dedicating myself 200% to this plan, to this agenda, to these goals. On July 20th I want to know I did everything I could do to get to where I want to go. I might fail, but I might not. In fact I will not.

Because as my friend E.L.F. has taught me, the race is won in my head, and as my friend Jen has taught me, I need to believe, and as my amazing coach has taught me.... I need to HTFU.

So E paced runs and sweet spot rides.... here I come. So mountains of North... or South... or whatever Carolina I am going to... here I come. So 100's on intervals that I will not allow Grimm to lap me on.... here I come.

Because if I want something I have never had, then I've got to do something I have never done. And believe me, I am ready.

:-) Mary

Monday, December 17, 2007

Running Again

I had to warn every single person I knew in Rochester. Look out… I warned…. we are going to be in for something new, something terrible and I promise they said that the sky is going to fall. Literally.

Sit down, I said. Take a breath. It's going…. it's going….. TO SNOW!!!!!

I know, I hear you gasp. I know how strange it is to live in Western New York and hear this very strange word call snow. I know the weather forecasters are trying to frighten you; we might get 6 inches… a foot… maybe even 2! Stock up on your emergency kits and hunker down people!!!! The sky is falling.

But let's not let the weather channel in on our little secret. We'd steal their fun. Listen close everyone….. we are not new to snow! Holy Cow you cry! I know, I know. We don't want them to know because what would they have to say to us?

Truth of the matter is, we don't get frightened until power lines hit our houses. We don't blink an eye until the feet total over 5. This is snow for heaven's sake and we've been dealing with it all our lives. In fact… we even like it.

See, this is the United States of America and being that it is the good old USA, we can live wherever we want to! So those who live here, choose to live here. Those who don't …. take a breath…. DON'T!

Case in point, my brother. He moved to Georgia years ago. Funny thing is though, he is immersed in air conditioning. Doesn't go outside much.

My sister…. moved to Paris 8 years ago. I don't know if it was the snow or the bad croissants that drove her away. Doesn’t matter she's a full fledged Frenchie now.

So when Sunday morning arrived and there was a mere foot of snow on the ground I didn't think much of it. Except that it was ass cold out. Ever been in ass cold? It's just like it sounds. Ass cold.

But we HTFU 'round here.

And I was ever so grateful for my recent treadmill purchase. Because today was my first land run in 3 weeks and I was not about to go ice skating. But wait…. our mill of dread is not in the comfort of the house. Our home gym is in the garage. We bike, vasa train, and now run in there. And yes, today it was ass cold in the garage.

It helps us HTFU to train in there.
So I followed instructions and I ran slower than E pace and I focused on cadence as I ran a gingerly 30 minutes. It felt incredible, I felt like I had been given new legs. Could this rehab plan have actually worked?

So far so good. Pain? What pain? None, nada. Zip, silch. I smiled form ear to ear, hell my smile might have even been wrapped around the back of my head I was so delighted. Amazing this thing called rest and rehab. Amazing what happens when you listen to your body and to your coach. Amazing when you know when it is not the time to HTFU because to do that through a niggle only ends in disaster.

Happily running I will be, on the treadmill until the streets are ice free and don't present a danger of re injuring a tendon. I feel great, hopeful, and ready. As we are slowly beginning to ramp up training I am holding a nice and steady low 10 hours a week right now.

Did I mention that I did 2 Ironmans in 3.5 months? My husband told me that I reminded him… enough. When I reminded him that an Iron Girl needs to take the time to heal… he reminded me of one thing….

I need to HTFU and shut the hell up!

When I am ninety and crocheting transition bags in the nursing home with my titanium walker, sitting next to the senile and over caffeinated Jen Harrison…..

"Jen in 2007 I did 2 Ironmans…." I will tell her, she will have Alzheimer's by then and won't mind the story telling….

"Really?" she will say as she sips an empty coffee mug. "That's nice. Did they put soy milk in my coffee? I really need soy in here…."

"Yes," I will tell her, "And you did Hawaii a few times."

"Who's Hawaii?" She will ask… "Was he cute?"

Sunday, December 16, 2007


While training for Ironman Florida my coach told me I needed to HTFU. To learn what that means and how you can too.... I suggest clicking here.
:-) Mary

Saturday, December 15, 2007

My Nod For Performance of the Year

Thanks to my good old friend Kevin McKinnon for including my performance of the year nod for Lisa Bentley over on!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The End of the Streak

The insanely great swimming streak has finally ended. At least temporarily. The streak where I was seeing times I hadn't seen in years came to a crashing halt this morning.

Our 90 minute swim turned into a 30 minute swim as Coach was held up due to a car accident on the 590 blocking traffic. When we did finally enter the water I should have known something was up when Grimm was in first.

"Hell has frozen over." my teammate Bill said to me as Grimm rips off a 25 fly. Not only is Grimm typically last in the water, a 25 fly for warm up?

"The loser is even wearing his Ironman Hawaii swim cap still." I said, and as soon as I said it, I realized it. Everyone was looking at my damn head with my Ironman Lake Placid cap on. "At least his is Hawaii..." I smiled.

Into the pool things didn't get much better for me. During a kick set I set myself up by putting on fins when we weren't supposed to. Not only that I put on one of mine and one of Bill M's. Which would have been fine except mine are red and his are blue. Which Grimm and gang spent a good chunk of time helping me determine. I learned that blue and red are not the same color, even when wiggling in front of your face.

Pulling a 500 might be my favorite thing on earth, but not when my trusty paddles have a loose strap. After missing a 100 trying to embroider it back in I threw the paddles on, minus the strap and swam anyways.

Grimm hasn't lapped me in a 500 in a while, yet today he did. When they lap me I don't hang at the wall. I flip turn then wrap my legs around the lane line.... so I am under it hugging it, and then I miss the wall completely. Which is awesome when you are pulling and your lane is kicking your ass.

To make things worse our final set was 10 X 50 on :40. I make this set all the time. I thought I was making it today.... but apparently not as Ken caught me. Ken was leading and I was caboose-ing, and apparently too well.

Who gets caught on a 50?

When 7am finally arrived I was glad. Hell was I glad. But I was smiling. My flapping toenails and crappy swim and all... I was still smiling.

You have days like these. Sometimes you have weeks like these. Power Meters fail, times get missed, you even forget your towel at the pool.

That's part of the journey. Dealing with the stupids, the brainlessness, and still enjoying the experience.

Now on Friday I will be first in the water. But I am not ripping out a 25 fly. Not for the first lap!

And I might have my Ironman Florida cap on this time.

:-) Mary

Monday, December 10, 2007


I want my son to remember the neat things that we did together. On his 35th birthday I hope he can look back and reflect and laugh about our silly adventures. Silly songs. Silly meals.

Tonight Luc and I went night sledding. Here in Rochester we are blessed to have parks everywhere, suitable for sledding. We have lots of hills around here and I really believe when the designs of all these amazing parks were created, sledding was a priority.

So at 5:30pm we headed over to Mendon Ponds Park with our snowsuits and our sleds. If there was any way I could capture Luc's face as we screamed down hills on our sleds, headlamps on, arms in the air….. I would have. Actually I have it captured, in memory. I hope it is an image that I can pull up when I am an old woman in the nursing home.

The light in his eyes. The thrill in his voice and not a care in the world. That's what he's teaching me.

I missed so many years when I was sick. Years that I spent battling the inner demons of Bulimia, a hell I didn't have the ability to escape. I could have been living those years.

But if I had lived those years would I be battling those demons now? As a mother? In some ways that experience…. I am glad it happened then. It didn't affect my child. And yet it did affect my child. Would I have the ability to live as I do right now? Or would I be fighting a battle that would eventually take my life?

Things happen for a reason. And if this is the second coming of my childhood…. then I am glad it is happening this way.

I have a child who thanks me every single day…. for so many things. For getting him a glass of juice. For taking him sledding. For being a mom. Did I ever thank my mom for being my mom??? And where did he learn that?

I have a child who is full of gratitude. And I don't know how he learned that.

I have a child who sat on Santa's lap yesterday and asked for a train, and said that was all he needed. Then he turned to Santa and asked Santa… what he wanted for Christmas. Santa didn't know what to say.

Neither did I. Has anyone ever asked Santa that?

Later on Luc told me he would like to leave Santa a box of twisty straws on Christmas Eve…. so that when Santa drinks milk at everyone's houses … he has nice straws to drink from. I thought that was a great idea... the truest meaning of Christmas. Free form political correctness, free of judgement, free of everything and preserving one important thing.

Love of the world.

Thanks for stopping by.
:-) Mary

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Deep End

Good luck to Bree and Brooke in the Honolulu Marathon on Sunday!!!!!

After you have done the Ironman, you tend to have a few niggles. Do 2 in one year... in 3.5 months.... (Have I mentioned that I did 2 Ironmans this year yet? :-) , and niggles become a part of every day existence.

In 2005 I partially tore my left Achilles Tendon and it was a long road back. While in a walking boot I biked with one leg, I swam with my feet tied together, it was awful.

My right AT began to feel sore before Ironman lake Placid, but luckily I did no damage to it. I was easily able to run through it, and I was able to have good solid training and a good Ironman Florida. The soreness would vanish after 15 minutes. Whew.

The off-season is about healing those niggles so they don't become problems. Coach T and I decided to take a full 3 weeks off road running and put me into the pool. Our goal is 100% pain free Achilles tendon on Monday December 17th. Now, granted my pain was a 2/10. But a 2/10 can stay a 2 or can become an 8.... and we don't want that to happen in March.

So I have been taking to the pool, and strangely I am loving my pool running sessions.

I am a believer in specificity. If you want to run well on the roads you have to run on the roads. No amount of pool running will replace road running, but it does make the transition back to the roads a bit easier. It is excellent for a day of no pounding. It absolutely has its place.

Because I teach spinning as a college course at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I have access to the most amazing facilities. A 10 lane pool, a diving well, a kids pool with a lazy river built in, and a giant hot tub. My husband and son come as well.

So I am blessed I am not stuck running during water walking time at the YMCA with the blue hairs.... who claim we runners splash too much....

I get to run.... get this.... in a pool with other runners. Kids from the indoor track team, cross country team.... at noon there are about 10 of us running in the giant diving tank. It takes me about 10 minutes to complete a rectangle around the pool, so a 30 minute run is a breeze.

I do wear a heart rate monitor so I have something to gauge intensity. And I pay very close attention to form. I wear an aqua belt and as I am getting stronger I take it off at the end, I allow myself to run without it as long as I don't lose form! To emulate running form as best I can I concentrate on running form (genius... I know) and keeping a cadence around 90.

When fatiguing it is easy to revert to a cycling form, so pay attention, keep the focus!

So I am healing nicely, and it is all I can do to prevent myself from running. But I will be back to the roads soon enough. In the meantime I am back to the pool and back on the bike. And man, it feels good!

Thanks for stopping by.

:-) Mary

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Guess what I learned today...... Charlotte is in South Carolina, not North Carolina. Did I ever mention I failed 10th grade Global Studies?

Grimm and I are having a contest to see who loses their toenails first. I have 3 blackies and he has 2. He did Hawaii and I did Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Florida (will I milk that forever.... oh yes.) I have one popped off and he has none.

Wednesday was a day of testing beginning at 0545 in a wonderfully cool pool. And by the way, those of you Masters swimmers who think this water is cold? You should have gone to high school with me. 0430 practices.... colder than this ;-)

It was sprint week. I hit the wall after a 200 free and when I heard 2:15 from Coach Lorie, I asked Grimm if we did 150 yards instead of 200. He shook his head. And we did it three more times.

I was ready for the bike test. I was psyched. If there is a place I can hurt it is on the bike. This would be my reward from holding back at IMFL and not biking hard. I calibrated the Ergomo and I hopped on with one thing in mind.

To Hammer. And Hammer I did.

An hour and five minutes later I got off the bike happy. It felt awesome to push so hard.

I hopped up to my office to download the data. Did I raise my FTP after a 3 week break after an Ironman (after a previous one.... ha ha)? I sat and waited and waited while it downloaded. 3 minutes later after 19000 files were downloaded..... the error message came.


This is sometimes a problem with Mr. Ergomo. This mystery disappearance of files. I worked so hard. I retrieved what I could manually but it wasn't enough. I should have hooked up the computrainer and had a back up recording of the data there as well. My mistake.

I am begging to retest next Wednesday. I know my results were good. And nothing to show for all that data!

:-) Mary

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I have something I need to tell you. I have a problem and it is a very embarrassing problem. Those whom I am joining for training camp in North Carolina, might want to take note. I do not snore, I can sleep anywhere, I just need coffee and I have this very strange.... weird.... issue.


Now there is something to be said for being someone who is concerned about general safety and there is another thing... when you are ridiculously anal about it.

My husband has a good fix for it and y'all might want to take note. When I start to get a little... we could say.... weird about safety... all you need to do is look at me and shout "SAFETY" and I will instantly snap out of it.

I blame this on the fact that I am a Pediatric Emergency Nurse. I am a product of my environment and I know that all of my colleagues are the same way. We even have developed a little game ...... One person names a situation.... and we all come up the injuries.


Sledding....... Skull fractures, closed head injuries, broken arms, broken legs, etc.

Picnic.... food poisoning, eating bugs, poison ivy, cutting oneself with a plastic knife.

Sleeping...... the shelf over your bed falling onto your head. (This actually has happened)

You get the idea.

But please understand that I am this way because of what I see. I see what people look like after they crash their car into a tree. I see what people look like when they ride motorcycles without helmets. Brains oozing out, limbs missing, it's all ingrained in my mind.

Did you know that most of the time when someone hits a deer.... they die from the deer kicking them to death? The deer many times comes up onto the hood and gets stuck in the windshield. Then they kick you to death. I learned that when I took care of a young mother with hoof prints on her face and fur stuck in her broken head. She didn't make it.

Or what about the kid who was riding his bike 3 fourth of July's ago and his arm arrived before he did?

What about the woman who was scalped from a fan?

What about the guy who partially amputated his arm in a snow blower?

Now can you blame me?

These images are so darn fresh in my mind that I get really, really anal when it comes to safety. I drive very slow in the snow (as my teammates poked me for on Sunday). I do not drive the car if you are not buckled in.

When I travel I travel with a roll of duct tape. What if I have to duct tape some airborne nut to his seat mid air? What if someone cuts themselves mid flight? There are lots of uses for duct tape.

When I walk into a room or a new situation, without even realizing it I have located the nearest exit and figured out what things I can use if someone has a heart attack, their head falls off, anything.

Convenience store.... I can use anything there to even give you a chest tube if you have a pneumothorax!

I figured out how to perform a blood transfusion if my husband slices an artery at home.

Ironman Florida..... I had shark bites taken care of before we even hit shore.

I even make my son sled with a helmet.

So I apologize in advance. I know how strange it makes me, but think of it this way my friends.... if you are out riding with me I can easily handle dehydration, lacerations, head injuries, road rash, broken bones, and yes, even amputations.

But if I refuse to drive before you have clicked your seat belt.... again just scream SAFTEY!

I have already thought of the items I need to take care of any issue that arises on our North Carolina trip. It will all be in my back pocket and it won't take up any space.

Now this issue of mine, you are not likely to notice. But just in case, I think you should all be warned. Because when we walk into a new and strange Starbucks.... know that by the time you order your drink I have figured out how to escape... give CPR using a coffee fliter.... and yes, I have figured out how to admister coffee directly into your veins. I will being a 14 G IV cather just in case.

:-) Mary

Monday, December 3, 2007


Luc had just crawled into bed next to me, as I was sleeping in preparation for a night shift in pediatric emergency that night. I was half asleep and I peeked my eyes open at him. He was wearing his pajamas and a Santa hat. He stared out the window for a moment. Eyes wide as could be. He was looking at the blanket of snow that covered the ground this morning. It lit up the forest, it made everything look so bright.

Before he layed down he looked up into the sky. He smiled and then he put his head down. I never mind when he comes crawling into bed. Sometimes it is 10pm, sometimes it is 2am but by the morning there is usually a third in bed with us. These days won't last forever, when he's 16 I will be embarrassing him with I love you's. I will take what I can get.

Luc pulled the covers up over him. Kissed me on the cheek and rested his head on the pillow. Very lightly and very quietly he began to sing.

"Jingle Bells.... Jingle Bells..... Jingle all the way....." and he sang it about ten times as he fell asleep. The song got quieter and quieter as he drifted into dreamland and I couldn't help but smile. It was beautiful.

Earlier in the day we went to the park and took a hike. The snow was perfect for snowball making and the three of us engaged in a wonderful snowball fight. In the lodge at the park Santa was waiting. He was there to make ornaments for the kids as well as serve hot cocoa and cookies. And again Luc's eyes lit up.

He was full of wonder as he sat across from Santa.

Upon leaving Luc told me.... "Mom... this is the best day ever!"

To Luc the world is so very big and right now in his life, the world is very innocent. He doesn't know that halfway around the world children like him.... they don't get to see the world the same way. Hell in our own country children don't get to see the world the same way.

As much as I want that innocence to remain within him forever, I know it will slowly disappear in time.

Right now he believes in Santa Claus, and I remember what it was like when I was a child. I used to look into the sky and wonder how Santa got cold as he flew through the night. I wondered if he carried hot chocolate.

I wondered why he always asked us to leave him beer and cookies. Why not something warm to drink? :-)

Luc believes that this world is bigger than him. And it is. He believes that there is a power greater than himself out there. And there is. Right now he may call it Santa Claus. One thing is for sure.... I hope he always believes in something. I hope he always sees the magic of the snow. I hope he always sings himself to sleep with a Christmas song.

I hope he always sees the good in this world.... like he does right now.

He's teaching me so much about the power of believing. The faith of believing without having concrete evidence or proof that what we believe in even exists. He is showing me how to just put blind faith into something and know it will be wonderful.

Does it get any better than this?

:-) Mary

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Have you ever believed in someone so much that you beg them to take a risk? Have you ever seen something in someone more than they see themselves? Have you ever loved someone so much that you are willing to help drive them to see what they truly have deep inside.

For the past 10 years that's what my husband has done for me. And tonight.... it's what I did for him.

The athletic resume of Curt Eggers needs no introduction. At 51 years old he's a four time national champion. He's earned a silver medal at worlds. He's done Hawaii, Ironman Canada. We have a stack of plaques so immense they are stacked in the basement.

Trouble is.... while he's done Hawaii and done Ironman Canada.... he has not reached his full potential. Not at the Ironman distance. This is a guy who should be in the low 10 hours if not 9 hour range. But his passion for distance is not strong... and he's smart for that. Why go ultra long when at 51 you can still kick around the 20 year old boys? Why go long when you can say you've been in this sport 20 years?

I want him to take one more shot. Just one more.

One of my secret goals at Ironman Florida was to inspire him. Beating his quote Ironman Time was for sure a goal. (disclaimer..... it's ridiculous to say I beat his Ironman time, even though I do. Different course, different conditions, I do realize that to truly "beat" his time it would have to be the same day, same course, etc. So while I say I beat his time I do understand that I am FOS... full of shit....).

I knew if I came in under an 11:05 (which was Curt's bad day) he would be motivated. I knew if I came in under 11 hours and still looked good.... he'd be inspired.

The morning after Ironman Florida we sat at the Waffle House. He questioned me about how I physically felt. There was no explanation needed about how I mentally felt :-) And I didn't feel too bad at all.

I asked him if he was thinking about getting a voucher. He said he was. I dropped him off in line. And I smiled.

Registration began on Nov 15th for the voucher holders, and it ended today. Just so happened that Ironman Hawaii was on TV. We watched it and while we did I filled out the online form on

Two stories caught Curt's eye. The story about the car accident victim and the story about the double leg amputee. He watched with fascination as the true meaning of the Ironman unfolded in front of our eyes.

"That inspired me." He admitted. And then I hit submit.

And my heart jumped. And I smiled again. Because this November I get to stand on the sidelines (after Ironman Lake Placid... not an issue) and I get to cheer him on again. I get to be his Iron Sherpa... and it will be my honor.

I will cater his long runs and long rides if he needs me to. I am willing to set everything aside after Ironman Lake Placid to help him attain what he has helped me attain.

One moment of glory. One day of awesome. One day of taking the chance on himself. One day of letting go, and throwing up his arms as he crosses the line.

One more shot... I begged him. Take one more shot.

I think for Curt Eggers, the third time will be a charm.

Thanks for stopping by.

:-) mary

Friday, November 30, 2007


Thank you so very much to all of you who emailed me over the last few days about the "My Choice" entry. If you didn't see it, it was a bit about my eating disorder and the 13 year recovery I am blessed to call my own. It never ceases to amaze me just how many of us are affected my EDO's, and it always comforts me more than anything to know... that we can at least reach out to one another. I am very honored to have made some very beautiful friends through writing, and even more honored that those of you who are affected by this disease would choose to reach out to me. Together I say.... is the best way to be.


Today I set an intention as I dipped into the water at Masters practice. It was 5:45 am and I looked at the pool filled with swimmers, and I looked at my lanemates. It's amazing to me, we have swum together for years. Shared very difficult sets, moments. We have laughed very hard at very stupid things. We have just swum quietly together in times of grief.

When you share yards, miles, or even miles per hour together you become family in many ways. One year ago I became part of the Stud lane. One year ago it was my intention to just live through it. And that I did. Ken, Bill, Eric, Les... they all lapped me. And they lapped me a lot. In many ways I was just a reflection of the swimming talent that I have. That I spent 12,000 yards a day in college learning how to shine.

When you evolve into multisport, those pure runners have to let go of some of those fast 5k times just as we swimmers need to let go of the good old college days. When 200's were swum on 2:20. When 100's were done on the minute. When the workout entailed 12,000 yards a day.

I am lucky to average 10,000 yards a week now. And that's a good week.

So this morning when I swam behind Bill who was behind Ken I set the intention. No longer would I just survive this lane. One morning I am going to lead a set this season. I don't believe that improvement to my swim requires more time. It requires more effort within the time I swim. Rather than hang on.... I will take aim. I will swim next to Bill in lane 1 and as long as it is not breast stroke... I will stay right with him.

I will not get lapped. At least for a 500 :-)

This morning I was able to set the tone. I made all of the intervals, I did not get lapped (okay so we did swim 20 X 25's.........) I didn't die. I wasn't even close.

Which goes to show what you can achieve when you set your mind to it. When you set a goal and expect nothing else than 100% of yourself. When you finally allow yourself to show up.

I saw Ken getting closer but I did not let him lap me. When Bill M. pushed off the wall I gave him 2 seconds and I stayed closer. For a whole 50 I even stayed in his bubbles.

And it felt good. I know I have more to give. I have much more to give. It begins with stripping down the walls that hold be back from reaching, from being, and from taking aim.

Thank you for stopping by.

:-) Mary

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Choice

I am extremely excited to announce my participation in an event that I fully believe in, that will be happening here in Rochester this coming February. I was recently invited to speak at a Symposium that will be held at the University of Rochester, as part of a traveling exhibit highlighting Eating Disorders. It is a combination of voice and art which will demonstrate and help educate people as to exactly what an eating disorder entails and means and does not just to a person… but to their family.

I will also be giving my annual talk at the State University of New York at Geneseo on February 11th. We'd love to have you along.

Many of you know that I am all too familiar on this topic. I am in my thirteenth year of recovery from an active 10 year run of Bulimia Nervosa. Yes, do the math that is correct. I began to binge and purge when I was ten years old.

My son is seven years old. I was only three years older than he is right now when I began my journey on this almost deadly road. Truth is, I was one of the lucky ones.

As I said I am now in my thirteenth year of recovery, and just like every other process of recovery…. it is one day at a time. There are days when I feel absolutely free of this illness and then there are days where I feel I am still under its thumb.

Eating Disorders are a tricky business. They begin with weight and they morph into something very frightening and very difficult to understand. Look at an anorexic and tell them how thin they are, how can they not see that?

On the surface when an anorexic looks into the mirror she sees a different image than you do. But on the inside is where the illness is truly happening. There are issues of control, fear, etc.

Bulimics tend to look normal and they know that the binge / purge cycle is "disgusting". We know it's horrible. That causes us to become even more ashamed. To rid the feeling of shame we binge to stuff it down and then vomit…. to get rid of it.

For me Bulimia was a lot about getting rid of feelings that were too big for me. I had a terrible relationship with my older brother. He was physically and emotionally abusive towards me. Most brothers can be, but I learned to handle it very badly. I learned to soothe the feelings of pain by eating and then I learned to rid myself of those very same feelings, shame, pain, fear…. by throwing up. I did know that this was not the right way…. but it was the only way I knew at age ten. Age ten.

Because that was the way I dealt with life that became the way I dealt with life. From disappointments to elation…. this is what I did. From exams to swim meets to enduring adolescence. This is what I did.

My parents did everything they could to help me. But until I hit absolute rock bottom, until I had to stand on the edge of life and death…. all the help on earth wasn't going to save me. Save me from myself.

Believe me everyone on earth tried to help me. The harder they tried the sicker I became.

Over those years I did a lot of physical damage to my body. My teeth, my esophagus, my heart. every single day that I look in the mirror I can't believe I have finished four Ironmans.

13 years ago I was supposed to be dead. My senior year in high school I was voted most likely to be dead by 30… for this reason.

The doctors told me I would never have children and I would not be healthy enough to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. I would have problems forever they said.

So at the finish line of my fourth Ironman, my fastest Ironman, I thought about what they all told me. And here I was, a sub eleven finisher, a mother, a wife, able to fulfill a dream that most healthy people would never even try to embark on …….

The issues with my heart were one of the biggest catalysts to my recovery. The bigger inspiration to me were the children I met at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. I was a volunteer there, trying to learn what nursing was like before I embarked on my nursing career.

One day I sat in the game room of the hospital. My job was to play with whoever came in. A boy who was eleven was sitting in there watching TV. His parents were working and he had cancer so long that it didn't affect him that he was alone. We got to talking and he told me he dreamt of being a hockey player. He dreamt of it every single night. He told me that he would close his eyes and he could feel the stick, he could smell the ice, and if he tried really hard, he could feel the wind as he skated towards the goal.

I realized that this boy would have given anything to be in my shoes. He would have done anything to only have an eating disorder and not cancer (which he did later die from). And I felt so selfish. I felt that I had created this illness within me, and this was something I could recover from, and this was something I…. in a way …. chose.

I think about that boy very often. I think about him when things feel like they are heading up hill. I think about him when I feel tired or sore, or even when I lean towards those old thoughts and feelings.

I don't believe I am someone special because I am recovering from an eating disorder. I put my own fingers down my throat by my own accord. No one diagnosed me with a disease that I didn't know was happening to me. I had opportunity after opportunity to get help. And I had refused.

The first day of the rest of my life came after a hospitalization 13 years ago. I felt absolute gratitude. Absolute gratitude. I vowed to the memory of this boy that I would earn what I was given. I'd earn this life.

I have tried very hard to do just that.

When I speak about my experiences I try to emphasize that we have help available to us. All we have to do is make the decision that we need to get better. We need to reach out our hands and take hold of the ones that have been reaching to us.

We need to stop making it complicated. We need to do what we do with everything else. Make a decision, put our head down and get better.

I imagine my little friend is skating away somewhere in the universe. Free of cancer, free of pain. I imagine he can now hold the stick and now head towards the goal.

And I realize that my recovery is my choice.

Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, November 26, 2007

My Victory Lap

Please forgive me in advance.... I am going to take a victory lap. Because tonight I opened up my bike box, which was sealed on November 4th as I rolled it onto an airplane after Ironman Florida. A day that held many great things for me.

My fourth Ironman. My first sub elven finish. My first Ironman that was not Ironman Lake Placid. The second Ironman in a year. The second time I crossed the finish line feeling that feeling of... I have more to give to this race.

The day I laid doubt to rest.

My race bags still had sand in them. My Ironman Florida cap still has saltwater inside of it. My wetsuit still smelled of the ocean.

I remember reading one of Elizabeth's race reports. I think the title was something to the effect of.... The race is won in your head..... and never before did it ring so absolutely true for me. Before race day Jen sent me an email and all I remember it saying was BELIEVE.

And believe..... I did.

Since my injury in 2005 I was full of doubt and my 70.3 results showed that. When I teamed up with Coach T in August he helped me find so much more than pace. He helped me see a lot more clearly, just how in my own way I truly was. It was nothing physical except learning pace and not trying to reach for a pace I was not ready for.
He took care of the training. It was up to me to clear the space between my ears and that I did.

As I assembled my bike tonight and mounted it on my computrainer.... I felt like a breeze of Florida air was washing over me, and with it excitement spread through me.

As I picked up my cap and goggles that still had remnants of the day on them, I was full of memories. Funny ones.

Did I ever mention that there was a big rip in my wetsuit that morning? It made me laugh. Did I mention that I have never seen so many lines as I did at IMFL? I waited in line with Jen and Jerome for a long time.... for... now I forget what we waited for. The merchandise tent perhaps? When we found out if was another 90 minute wait to get to the register we bagged it. And then we waited for something else. Of which I really don't remember!

Did I mention that there were girls dressed in S&M gear on the run? They were handing out beer. They were funny.

Did I mention that nearly everyone out there wore Pipi Long stocking socks? They looked hilarious.

Did I mention that I passed Amanda Lovato somewhere on the run? And I will say it was not a good feeling to pass Amada Lovato, she was having a really rough day. It never feels good to pass someone who is suffering but she cheered me on. I was grateful to see a professional woman walking, aiming to finish, and still cheering others on. Did I mention Amanda Lovato has a hell of a lot of class?

Did I mention I launched my spare tubular? In retrospect I was glad I didn't go back. I only broke 11 hours by 61 seconds and that would have been it.

Did I mention how hard I worked for this day? I put in a lot of hours at Ironman pace. When training that doesn't seem so fast but at 20 hours per week after you have just done Ironman Lake Placid... it took a lot of focus. When no one was willing to ride long, and I was up on the parkway alone.

This season I achieved all of my goals. The last one... breaking the 11 hour barrier was the most important. I have more to give to this race and I will say it out loud.... I will aim for sub 11 at IMLP this year. Given the right day, and the stars aligning..... I believe I have a shot.

I might be a little shot at it in Placid, but I will be the littlest shot with the biggest smile and the biggest heart. Because it will be my last Ironman... for a while.

One last run around the track, the victory lap. Tomorrow morning the silver bracelet is removed and I continue through one more week of active recovery. Come Monday it will be December and I have a lot of work to do. Taking aim at a dream is my goal.

And now that doubt has been laid to rest, the dragon has been slain. Going forward there is only opportunity, and I am going to be right there to greet it.

Thanks for stopping by.

:-) Mary

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Between The Black Lines

The swimming questions keep coming! Thanks so much for writing in, keep at it and I will keep throwing back the best answers that I can! Keep in mind that all of this is my big opinion. I have swum forever and it's my first love. I have had terrific coaches and they taught me all I know. So it's my opinion!

1. Do you like to pull? My favorite thing on earth might be pulling. I swear I was born with paddles on!

I love using pull sets for a few reasons; strength and catch. If you have no shoulder issues I recommend paddles. A few different types of Paddles are out on the market.

My favorites are the TYR Catalyst, shown here. Each color signifies a different size. I use both the red and the blue, and sizes are very individual. My shoulder health is terrific, as is my shoulder flexibility. If you are not sure where to begin or have shoulder issues, go for a smaller size, or skip it all together. Paddles should NOT hurt your shoulder. Using them with an existing shoulder injury, using them when you are not ready for them, using them too much, or using them with a significantly impaired (AKA BAD) stroke can cause a shoulder injury.

How do paddles help your catch phase? Take off the wrist strap. Your fingers must point to the bottom of the pool to execute the catch, or they'll flip up.

Great sets for paddles are 200-1,000 yard repeats. I can not stress enough the importance of shoulder health previous to using paddles.
2. You said you use Swedish Goggles, what are those?

I have used Swedes since I was a kid. They do not have the foam piece around the eye, they fit right into the eye socket. Swedes come in pieces so you can achieve that custom fit. I do not race open water in these as they do fog up. I don't care if they fog up in a pool. It is annoying if they fog up in open water, but I can easily get through a race if I forget my other duds. Swedes should not hurt your eyes. If they do they are too tight. If the eye piece is too big for your socket, then try children's Swedes.
Hint; best anti fog..... spit. Lick the insides of your goggles before hitting the water, do not rub with your finger, same goes for any other goggle. If you wear a special goggle for open water, never ever touch the inside of the lens with your finger. Most have an anti fog film already on them.
3. I always lose my pull buoy, should I go bigger or smaller?

There are a few tricks to keeping hold of your buoy. Go smaller, I use a children's size. It is enough to float my legs to the surface and small enough that I don't lose it on a flip turn. Another trick.... buy an inner tube. (deflated ;-) Cut it into strips and you'll have a great band to slide around your legs.

Note: if you area runner and you "band" your legs..... know that most runner's legs sink, so dropping your legs will change the dynamics of your stroke in a negative way. Band and buoy I always say, and keep your shoulders healthy.
4. Zommers or fins????? I am old school and I hate Zoomers. If you are putting on fins, put on fins. Many triathletes are addicted to Zoomers, which I believe are "fake fins." to me it is like drinking decaffeinated coffee or fat free ice cream. Use regular fins. I find the best pair to be the simplest pair. If you have issues with blistering or chafing you can wear socks inside your fins.

Fins will help develop ankle flexibility, as well as enhance your kick, emphasizing kicking from the hip rather than from the knee.
How is ankle flexibility? Sit on your knees. Then bend and sit on your heels. Does that hurt your ankle? If so, you need to improve your ankle flexibility. Nothing blows up your total immersion style than toes pointing to the bottom of the pool.
5. What can I do out of the pool to enhance my swimming? Keep it simple outside the pool. A simple set of cords will do. I have a Vasa Trainer and I have tried the TriTon swim trainer. Vasa is the gold standard. Nothing compares to it, but remember I used it all through college.

6. What were your events in high school and college?
High school; 500 free, 200 IM and 200 Free. College; 1000 free, 1650 free, 500 free, 200 fly 400 IM.
All this talk about swimming has made me realize how blessed I am that my parents threw me in the pool at the age of 2. I don't work very hard in swim training to swim a good IM swim. My husband has to work a heck of a lot harder to swim the same pace. With all the tools and opportunities I have however.... I can regain some of those former swimming days.

Thanks for inspiring me... your great questions have motivated me to really find the pool focus again. Rather than hanging on in the stud lane.... I am going to go for it.

And please..... more questions!
:-) mary

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I am not sure what I have gotten myself into. Last week I received an email from Jen Harrison… it was an invitation, and it was intriguing.

An invitation to a weekend of training. In North Carolina.

So far so good.

Then I read the list of characters…. no one whom I knew, but I knew by reputation. Jennifer herself, the speedy little Elizabeth Fedofsky , super star Ashley Long, and some other super size names; Amy Kloner, Tracey McKee, Stacey Richardson… Kristin Villipoto…. (please forgive me if I have missed anyone) I could be in form some big time trouble.

None of them know me, but they are graciously welcoming me along, and Ashley opened her home to all of us. Thank you in advance Ashley.

I don't know what is in store, but I know this…. it will be good, it will be adventurous, it will be fun, and heading south in the winter? The timing could not be any better. Just when the miles on my comptrainer will start getting to me, just when the darkness of winter is making me a little crazy… a little sun and a little fun.
If nothing else it gives me something terrific to prepare for as I head into my own busy season. Work, school, teaching, it all gets quite busy very soon. I will have to be on top of my game in all areas, especially ahead of my school work.

February isn't that far away and on the other side of this trip there are just a few weeks between touchdown and take off again.

I never went on spring break in high school. I never even did that in college. I braved the cold of old SUNY at StonyBrook and buried my head as I trekked to the pool on New Year's Day. Coach Dave and the rest of my team…. we hunkered down on Long Island while the rest of the University were tanning themselves, we had our fuglies on and we had business to attend to.

So the time has come. I am going on a winter break trip. Being that I am not one for drinking much (remember my sister's wedding?), but I am one for working out a lot. Anything above 32 degrees will be tropical and I am a damn expert in keeping warm and staying dry.

Whatever these awesome ladies have in store for me, I will be ready. I will be waiting. Likely I will hang at the back, but I will be the caboose with the biggest smile.

And I hereby appoint myself and Elizabeth in charge of the coffee. We are the coffee captains and no one who should not have coffee (Jennifer Harrison) will have it if we do not say so.

Now, it's time to get rid of this off-season…. winter break is waiting!

:-) Mary

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wat's A Ceiling?

I received a few questions about the below post, that I thought I would clarify;

1. What is a ceiling? I call a ceiling ... the slowest I'd go. In the below set

30 X 100 on 2:00 with a ceiling of 1:20; the 1:20 is the slowest I would go. The early ones it is "easy" to hammer out some 1:10's... and then struggle through just making the last 5. I would slow down and aim for 1:15 and aim to hold that the whole set. So think of a ceiling as the slowest pace you allow yourself to go.

2. What's the best yardage to shoot for? Again, an individual answer. In an ideal world we all have 60 minutes 3-4 times per week to swim. If that were the case I'd aim for 3,000-5,000 yards. I always favor frequency over yards. If you can swim 5 days a week for 40 minutes, I would suggest that over 2 X 60 minutes per week.

3. How much do you swim? I swim 2-4 times a week, 60-90 minutes per session. My masters team swims 2 times per week (the 90 minute sessions) and depending on the focus 3-5,000 yards. In contrast I used to swim 10-12,000 yards per day in high school and college. Added contrast... I swam a 5:30 500 yard free in college.... I am lucky to swim a 6:30 now.

4. What kind of goggles do you use? In the pool I use Swedish goggles. For open water swimming I use TYR Goggles, but I don't know what kind they are!!!

:-) Mary

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Take The Plunge

It's a common belief (and of course I'd support it…) that swimmers make the best triathletes. In my experience it is much easier to teach a swimmer how to run, than a runner how to swim. . Now I know plenty of amazing runners who became awesome swimmers, and I know plenty of good swimmers who struggle on the run (ME!). The common thread in these runners turned swimmers is …. hard work.

It is true that swimming is 90% technique. Make no mistake about that. With that however comes the component of pace, just like in running and in cycling.

Through out my swimming career I have seen it all. The advent of Total Immersion, the positioning of the head, and the progression of turns. Namely the backstroke turn. When I began swimming we did the bucket turn. In high school it evolved to the flip but touch the wall turn, in college it evolved even further.

I left competitive swimming just before the introduction of the speed suit. In college we wore paper suits. Since I swam the 500, 1,000 and the mile, I had to get a new suit every meet. At the end of the mile it was disintegrating.

So how much does it take to improve swimming? It takes longer than cycling and running. Apply the same frequency and dedication as you do to bike and run, and you will see results within a few months.

I like to cycle my swimmers through a swim camp at least once a year. In swim camp they swim 4-7 days a week for 45-60 minutes at a time. This will last from 4-6 weeks and depends on pool availability. Within their workout there is a warm up, a drill set a main set and a cool down. I take a look at their strokes to give them the proper drills and we repeat those drills over and over and over.

Broken down, my swim workouts tend to follow this style:

1. Warm up. Ideally my athletes will warm up 600-1,000 yards depending on ability, experience and time constraints.

2. Drills; I use a variety of drills and we repeat that drill for weeks. Drills are meant to over emphasize a portion of a stroke.

For example the 6 kick switch drill; this drill is done wearing fins or zoomers and the athlete kicks on their side for 6 kicks, and then switches sides. The head is looking down yet slightly forward. The front hand is pressing down, not just hanging out in front there! This drill emphasizes the catch phase, getting on the side, balancing and rotating. And it's very simple.

We repeat this drill for weeks to allow it to absorb. When the swimmer swims their regular stroke the above points are emphasized but the swimmer does not swim identically as the drill.

3. Main set; I like to use the T Time method with my athletes. To establish your T Time swim a timed 1,000 yards (40 lengths). From that final time you can determine your 100 yard repeat time, by calculating the average pace per 100 yards. From that T Time you can then establish your 100 yd repeat time, and from there you can establish appropriate repetition for all distances.

A favorite set of mine is this and it progressed through the season. Let's use a T Time of 1:20.

The set begins as 30 X 100 on 2:00 holding a ceiling of 1:20

It then progresses to:

30 X 100 with a ceiling of 1:20.
#1-10 on 1:45
#11-20 on 1:30
# 21-30 on 1:25

And the final set whittles its way down to; 10 X 100 on 1:20 holding a 1:18.

This set teaches pace, teaches pain tolerance, and improves your speed. How I create this set is determined by the distance you are training for.

4. Cool down; my cool down sets are from 200-600 yards. I like to swim slow, but swim the most perfect stroke that I can.

Mixing the drill and main set portion of a workout can always be fun.


5 X 100 on T Time + 5 seconds

4 X 75 50 drill / 25 swim on T time + 10 seconds

repeat X 4

If you have a coach have them or someone who is a "swim expert" watch you swim. The key to having someone critique your stroke is to have that same person be the one who always critique your stroke. My swim coach will get upset if we give each other swim tips. She has a great point as to why; she is the one who sees us swim in practice. We give each other tips and then don't watch each other swim.

Swimming styles have as much individuality as running and cycling styles. Watching a video of Michael Phelps swim is a great idea, he has a gorgeous stroke, but trying to look exactly like him is impossible…. unless you have a wing span longer than your height too!!!!

Michael Phelps has a Popeye style breathing technique. So do I. My husband does not. Why? Mr. Phelps and I have been swimming forever. Curt has not. So while Curt swims the same speed as me we will look different when we breathe. So Curt trying to look like Michael Phelps when he has never breathed in the same style…. pointless.

Therefore….. Having the same person analyze and critique your stroke is vital, because they would know your background. They know your style of swimming, they see the progression and if the swim tip they give is being executed correctly.

How often should you swim? Again this is individual to you, and what you are training for. If you are a 20 minute 1k swimmer competing in Intermediate Distance or ITU races, it is worth the extra time and frequency in the pool to aim for 18 minutes. In an Ironman you can have a swim over an hour and still win.

Based on those two factors, and see what you can realistically fit in. Think about scheduling a swim camp, perhaps during the fall or the winter when you might be laying low on the running or cycling miles.

The bottom line…. don't be afraid to take on your swim. If you don't have access to a Masters swim team, find a reputable coach who has experience in stroke analysis. A good coach will give you one thing to work on for a few months. One who aims to change it all…. turn and run.

Addressing your weakness in the water will add speed to your stroke, if you give it time. It will also ensure you exit the water a little fresher than you would if you could swim the same time on no swim training at all.

It's all a matter of perspective and having the guts to take the plunge!

Swim Fast!