An Ironman means different things to different people. It is an event that unites many of us, creates a family, represents something bigger than ourselves…. pulls us apart in order to put us back together. We each have our own personal Ironman. It might be starting a business, a family. It might be climbing a mountain, riding across the country. It does not have to be the Ironman to find that one thing that makes you keep going in life, in sport, in anything. The one thing that drives you to find out who you really are, to see how deeply you can dig, and again to be pulled apart in order to be put back together again.
I am delighted to announce that for the third year in a row the Train-This Ironman Team has had a 100% finish rate. Each one of our athletes came across the finish line, including myself. For the third time in my life I can proudly claim to have finished an Ironman. My race, detailed below was perhaps the greatest victory I have earned in a few years. I finished in 11 hours and 37 minutes, 12th in my age group out of 127. My biggest goal coming into this race was to be under 12 hours. My day was terrific.
SWIM 58:44I was aiming for a sub 60 minute swim and I had to fight for this one. By fight I mean that the swim was an absolute dogfight. Remember we had 2,500 people starting at the same time and I seeded myself in the front, a little wide to the right. Surrounded by white caps, which were all men, I knew I was in for something.
An Ironman swim is an experience. You will never truly find a groove because it is 58 minutes of flailing, beating, and wrestling. In fact I had to at times remind myself that this was an Ironman swim and not a wrestling match.
The hardest part was the beginning and then the end. The guys were clawing, hitting and pulling on legs, bodies. At 58 minutes I stood up and smiled.
T1There are many exciting parts to an Ironman and the first is the wetsuit strip. After nearly an hour of swimming you exit the water to 50 people who are waiting to rip your wetsuit off. You peel the top down, sit down and they yank it off. After handing it to you, you embark on a 1/4 mile run to transition, which is so lined with people your heart rate launches into zone 5 automatically.
Into the changing tent you have 2 volunteers who kindly help you don your bike gear. My transition went nice and smooth and as I made the run to the bike, another kind volunteer was waiting with my bike all ready to go.
We could not have asked for a more perfect day here in Lake Placid. Every time I have ever ridden this course it has been in wind, rain, hail… but not today. Today the wind was calm and the sun was shining. The temperatures were cool and I was feeling happy.
A lot goes through your mind on a 6 hour bike ride. My goal on this ride was to keep my wattage between 140-160, and my heart rate no higher than zone 3, with a cadence of no lower than 70. It's a hilly course with plenty of room to rest.
There is a 10K descent into Keane which I rode on Wednesday in the pouring rain. So today would be easy. I lightly feathered the brakes and hit a new record speed of 55 miles per hour. I had good clean roads, everyone was respectful of one another, and everything was going along fine.
Nutritionally things were all right. Towards the end of the first loop my stomach felt sore. I was using Infinit Nutrition and I can't say that it was terrific. I was able to pee four times so I knew things were passing through me, but I did have to make a switch to gel and water towards the end. It left me in a slight calorie hole but I did not feel worried.
Another exciting part of this race is the last climb up a hill that someone named "Pappa Bear". You can see it from the top of "Mamma Bear" and it is lined with people. I knew that Rich Clark would be sitting at the top with his megaphone and the Train-This gang would be there. I got so excited as I rode up it, the cheers were incredible and so spirit lifting.
The top of Pappa Bear enters you through the town of Lake Placid, where you feel like a Tour De France cyclist. Crowds screaming wildly. I was up far enough in the field that I was able to enjoy a solo ride through town. My big secret on getting people to cheer for you….. smile. Smile and they will scream like crazy. And that's what they did.
The second loop was a bit windier but I felt very in control of my ride. I knew that a 6 hour ride would leave me fresh for the marathon, and I knew I had to stay on top of nutrition. My stomach still ached but I could still pee so I kept getting in as much as I could.
And I rode my personal best of 5:58. I came off the bike feeling great.
Once you dismount the bike in the Ironman a volunteer kindly grabs your wheels and takes your ride away. I ran through the coral, grabbed my bike to run bag and headed into the changing tent.
"Do you have any scissors?" I asked a volunteer.
"Yes, why." She replied.
"Can you cut my ponytail off?" I asked her.
"WHAT?" She cried.
"My hair is way to long." I told her as I changed. "I am completely okay with it. Just cut off the ponytail, I will have it fixed tomorrow."
"You are making an irrational decision." Another cried.
"I can do it then!" I told then, "Can I have the scissors?"
They wouldn't give them to me! But it was true my ponytail was hanging all over my back and my hair is way to long for an Ironman. But they would not budge to I bunned it up, threw on my visor and headed out for the marathon.
I wore my Garmin GPS watch, which told me current pace. I had to really hold back through the first 5 miles as I was running 7:30 pace when I was not looking. I was aiming for a 4:00 marathon and by mile 5 I was able to slow it down enough. I knew if I could hold a 4:00 marathon pace I would be in good form to break the eleven hour barrier.
I did feel the marathon legs set in through mile 2 but I was not worried. I knew this was going to be a difficult one. It's been 4 years since I have done the Ironman and I was ready for anything.
My first loop went exactly as planned. I got 13 mile at 2:00 and I was happy. I walked each aid station and took Gatorade, Coke and water. By mile 9 I did feel like the caloric deficit I had endured on the bike was catching up to me. I tried to be very careful.
When I approached the Hill I again found Rich Clark and the Train-This gang. Anyone who has ever done the Lake Placid Ironman knows who I am talking about. I am the lucky one to be able to call them my family. Once they see you at the bottom of the hill you begin to hear a siren and then screaming and for the next 5 minutes the entire world is cheering you on. O knew where I was, I knew how I felt and I was psyched. On my way down the hill my son Luc got on the mega phone with a loud "GO MOMMY GO!" and that was gold. Curt was there too and I swear it was like seeing heaven itself. When the people you love most are near you…… you feel invincible.
Still there was an underlying feeling of dizziness was looming.
At mile 15 things became strange. It was hot but I got cold. I felt dizzy and thought I'd puke. I started to walk and then Doug Bush, my coach caught up to me. He's a superior Ironman athlete and I knew I was in front of him. He caught me and began to walk with me. I reported my symptoms and he handed me 3 X 350 salt tablets with the instruction to walk it off.
The next 4 miles were rough. I alternated between feeling sleepy, nauseous, and cranky. My hamstrings tightened. I wanted to stop, I wanted to DNF. I wanted to lie down. Things got ugly. I pulled to the side of the road to stretch out my hamstrings several times. Twice I think 2 of my athletes saw me and I quickly pulled it together. I did not want them to see me weak.
As I approached mile 20 I realized that even though I had walked about 30 minutes total of this marathon since mile 16….. I knew if I just ran the last 6 I could break a 4:30 marathon, which would still bring me in under eleven hours and 40 minutes. And that was glorious.
So I started to talk to myself. Okay Mary….. you want this bad streak to be over. All the bad races, all the puking, all the falling apart. You can put an end to it right now, right here. Let's put these demons behind us right now. The only one who can do this is you.
And at that moment I saw a can of salt, the big kind you refill your salt holder with. I picked it up and I poured it into my mouth. I tipped my head back and filled my whole mouth with salt, until I felt it hit my front teeth. Then I gulped down three cups of water. I knew this brilliant move would either make or break the day and I had to take the chance.
"That was the most disgusting thing I have ever seen!" a guy next to me cried at my stunt. "You are awesome!" I smiled knowing this would either save me or make me hurl.
5 minutes later I was running 8:45 miles and I was closing in on the finish. I still walked each aid station and made sure to take in enough nutrition. I felt so bad that I told myself to run to mile 24 and walk the final 2 miles home.
The only problem with that plan was that mile 24 was at the hill where Rich was. So I stared up the hill with a purpose and I walk the hill no matter what. So here I was planning on walking the final 2. And at the mile 24 marker the Train-This spectator team was standing and that was my moment of truth.
If you want this streak to truly be over Mary, you will stop your whining and you will run. You are 15 minutes from the finish line and you will run. Your legs feel fine now F$%#& RUN!
The gang standing there joked later that at that moment I wiped my mouth and put my game face on and started to run. And that's right. I started to run and I ran those final 2, the inner talk now was out loud.
As I hit mile 25 I knew I was under 11:40 and I started to cry.
For many of us an Ironman is seeing just how deeply you can dig. You find your edge, you take yourself to the brink and I had done that today. It'd had been four years since my last finish and I still was not confident, that the 2003 finish was not just luck. But here I was four years later close to the same time in different circumstances. I knew it right then and there that Ironman and I can live happily together. I knew that my favorite place to be is in Lake Placid New York. And I knew I was coming home.
Realizing what I had fought through, realizing I had walked so much of the run and was still pulling off a great time… knowing that this time when I came to the brink, I brought myself back.
The Ironman has a way of making you find the deepest part of you and making it then become the strongest.
I came down the hill and there was the Olympic oval. I could hear the crowd and I knew Luc was waiting to make the finish line run with me.
And there he was.
I began to cry again as I grabbed his hand and we ran together. His hand in mine. I saw the clock….. eleven hours and 37 minutes. I had done it. More tears. And then…….
The final 25 yards own the finishing chute for me are slow. Whenever I come down this chute it is so incredibly loud that I hear nothing. It is so bright but I see one thing, the clock. Luc and I ran together and I realized all that I had come through and done for the past year was realized today. No longer was I broken. I had a great day and I had a great race and now the moment was here.
Because he is almost 7 he's getting so darn big…. I knew this would be the last time I carried Luc across the finish line. Next time he will be too big! Somehow I picked him up and wrapped my arms around him and we broke the tape together.
For the third time in my life I got to hear Mike Riley scream…..
"Mary Eggers YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!"
Then the whole world came crashing down on me. I fell to my knees in a heap of tears of happiness, pain, exhilaration, everything. My Ironman passion renewed. My belief in myself as an athlete revitalized…. it was as if in this moment of physical collapse everything opened up again. I could feel clearly, see clearly the goal. In fact clarity itself existed in a time when it has not been clear.
Eleven hours and thirty seven minutes.
Things are crazy after an Ironman. Finding family, connecting with people, good luck. The Train-This gang were all dressed in Train-This lime green T shirts so it made that easy for me. I grabbed my dry clothe bag and stumbled into a tent. After I sat down I realized I was in the men's changing tent.
"Anyone mind if I change in here too?" I asked
"NOPE!" cried another guy. Good I thought cuz I ain't leaving. Believe me by the time you hit this stage of the race you have peed on yourself so much and been through hell and back, that nakedness means nothing
I found Tom and gang on the side of the road, where I handed Tom my gear bags. Curt and Luc had gone back to the house to sleep, thank goodness. Nothing is worse than bringing kids to the Ironman, it lasts forever!
Tom asked me if I wanted anything to eat. All they had at the post race party were cookies and pizza, which after 11 hours of drinking Gatorade just wasn't appealing.
So Tom got me just what I was craving…… a hot dog, a bag of Doritos and a quart of chocolate milk. Heaven.
Then one by one the Train-This gang started coming through the finish line. Each one had their won day out there and I tell you it was amazing to see them all out there. To be able to smile and share a high five, a word of encouragement. Again I say it was like heaven.
Today, which is Monday….. Luc and I moved into a hotel right in Lake Placid to enjoy a few days of R&R before heading home. Curt went home on Monday, as he's preparing for Duathlon Nationals next weekend. My body hurts. It hurts a lot. I was told "That's what you get for going sub 12!" and I am delighted to wear this badge of soreness.
Luc and I strolled around downtown Lake Placid today, I of course wearing my finisher's shirt. Everyone in town does. You see the shirt with the familiar slow Ironman walk. Your eyes meet and you share a smile. Nothing has to be said but so much is just known.
At this point you are family. Whether you have met or not you are part of the Ironman family. And it's a beautiful thing.
As I allow the recovery to begin, I am excited to prepare for another round at the Lake Placid Ironman… in 2008. I am going to again rethink Ironman Florida…. as I really want to get the proper recovery in before a solid training for IMLP 08. I will likely not race in August and then finish up the season with some sprint races; again the proper recovery is key here.
In 2008 I want to arrive at the starting line of IMLP fitter, wiser and stronger. I know that an eleven hour Ironman is possible, even on the Lake Placid course. I know that I can dig and I know that the well runs deep.
And as I am finishing this report on Tuesday morning, from the balcony of the Wood Lake Inn, I am surrounded by the mountains. There is not place like Lake Placid and I hope you get to come here some day. I can not imagine doing an Ironman anywhere else. I don't know if it is because of the people or the surroundings but this is my home.
Thanks so much for reading, I will have another post in a day or so for all of the people I need to thank, and this report is long enough already.