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Mary Beth Ellis' Blog


Cow Bells

June 12th, 2012 by marybethellis

Running through the Swiss Alps this afternoon, I heard the wonderful song of cowbells in the air.  It is that time of year when the hills are alive with the sound of cow bells.  In the US, we like to keep out cows silent.  I think the Swiss cows are happier with the beautiful Alpen vistas and the song of their bells constantly reminding them that they are still alive grazing on wonderful swiss grass instead of being force-fed grain in huge feedlots like their US cousins.

Ring on Swiss cows and keep making all that great Swiss cheese and milk to fatten me up like a cow going to slaughter in Kona this fall!

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No Time to Dwell in 2012!

June 10th, 2012 by marybethellis

It has been a whirlwind year so far! I haven’t stopped to do anything much less smell the roses. From the team standpoint, I am so glad to be back training and racing on the team this year. We had an amazing camp in Australia and now I am back at our summer base in Leysin. From a racing standpoint, I have had two wins at 70.3 Singapore and IM Texas, two 2nds at 70.3 St. Croix and 70.3 Mooseman, and a forgettable result at 5150 St. Anthony’s. I won’t go over the details of each race but will just give a funny little story from each below.

1.) 70.3 Singapore was the passport adventure race. I spent the entire days leading up to the race racing to and from the Embassy to get more passport pages. Luckily it took my mind off the race and I won!

2.) St. Anthony’s lets just say this was the train through race. It was a test for me as Doc for the first time had me training up until the morning of the race. I still had a solid day but not enough to compete with the speed of the ITU girls. I was stuck in 2nd gear while they were in 5th.

3.) St. Croix was the wet and wild day. It was pouring and we rode through puddles literally over my bottom bracket. I loved it! The course is amazing and I can’t wait to go back. I would have liked to have raced better and won but maybe next time. St. Croix and Wildflower are now tied as my favorite two races.

4.) IM Texas was a tough day at the office. I find that Ironmans are always tough. There is always a part during the race when the shit hits the fan and you just have to get through it. This race I struggled alot on the 2nd half of the run with heat and cramping and just wanting to lay down on the side of the course. But luckily I held on for the win.

5.) Mooseman 70.3 was good fun with Eric Ols. We went to this race as a last trip before I was to leave for Switzerland. While racing 2 weeks post Ironman isn’t advisable, it ended up being fine and I felt good just a bit flat. Like St. Croix and Wildflower, this course in the white mountains of New Hampshire was amazing. Just the kind of course I love: tough hills, fun descents, and little chance to get bored.

Now, I am back in camp in Leysin. It is time to get back to work after some fun racing and lots of great times at home with my two favorite men Eric and Mr. Fur. It is tough to be away from home but I know that now it when I need to put in the work for the rest of the season. It is only two months until Ironman NYC and four months until Kona. Time to put my nose to the grindstone and hurt now so that I can hurt less later.

Eric and I post-race at 70.3 Mooseman Eric and I post-race at 70.3 Mooseman

Train on and if you’re not hurting then go harder!

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In Time All is in Tune

March 8th, 2012 by marybethellis

I had an epiphany of sorts while out riding the other day. I have plenty of time to ponder on the bike as we are putting in the hours now working to build that up for 2012. So my supposed insight was that training is like a symphony. It requires the right mix of base and winds with a soft massaging of the textures of sounds layering over one another in the perfect combination. In my musing, the symphony’s magic is in the mix and balancing just as triathlon training requires the same delicate balance and wise hand in the mixing. You could have the best violinist in the world but if he/she is drown out by a sub-par trumpet player then what is the point. You need the right supporting cast in place to allow the entire orchestra to shine. In addition, it would be better to have a balance of great musicians over just one soloist. I was also thinking of the conductor or coach in training. The timing and the subtleties that make the job of this leader so hard are very similar. The timing of training is key when to work on weaknesses, strengths when to mix in speed, strength, aerobic work, and all over multiple sports. In addition, when it comes to the performance I think a coach more than a conductor is powerless and must observe the outcome and hope their vision is executed. Through any orchestral piece there will be soft gentle movements followed by dramatic building stanzas and crashing cacophonies. Similarly, training and racing may have slow times, building years, crashes and injuries, but the highs and lows are always balanced and in harmony.

I am self-proclaimed awful music student. Remedial is being kind. But I do think there are many similarities in an intricate orchestra and a training program. While I know that the base must be strong it can’t be too strong and though the winds must time their entrance perfectly, there is a blending of art and science in both training and music that elevates the task and requires those entering into coaching or conducting to have an ear tuned perfectly and an eye solidly on the goal at hand.

I feel very confident in my conductor. While the music may be labored and clunky now with a few wrong notes and false starts along the way, I know that the training is layering and building slowly so that come October the final piece will be ready for a standing ovation.

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What a difference a year makes….

January 11th, 2012 by marybethellis

I remember where I was at the end of December of 2010 and the difference at the end of 2011 was remarkable.  From a low point in my professional triathlon career at the end of 2010, I have been very happy with the adventures and lessons of 2011 from triathlon to my growth outside the sport.  The journey is long and far from over, but I am happy with the path I have choosen and the teammates and guide that I have to lead me down that road.

Here are just a few of the changees over the past year…

1. Most importantly, I am married.  Now that I am a wife to Eric and a mother to Mr. Fur. It is exciting and fun but also an important step in my life after triathlon.

2. Last year, I had no sponsors or team.  I was dumped by everyone after my 2010 season.  This year, I have the support of an amazing team in teamTBB that took a chance on me last year.  And I hope that I can help the team this year.

3. With the help of Doc, I have turned around my triathlon career rebounding in 2011 from my discouraging results in 2010.  In addition, I am slowly learning from him and am excited to learn more and soak it all in this year.

4. I have been able to swim, ride, and run in the best clothing and with the best equipment thanks to our amazing sponsors Cervelo, Campagnolo, 3T, and 2XU.

5. I am a year older.  Which doesn’t mean much except the old body is just getting a bit more creeky in the morning.

6. I made a resolution for the first time in forever.  I resolve to treat every day as a special gift and put 100% into whatever I am doing whether it is resting or training, relaxing or suffering.  I want to soak up every minute of 2012 and make the most of the opportunities I have.

Well that is all I can think of to list, but I must say I was a bit sad to see 2011 go.  It was a great year, but I know there is more to come.  Here’s to a great 2012 for everyone but especially my teamTBB teammates, our amazing sponsors, and our great support team of Doc, Alex, and the Bike Boutique.  Thanks so much!

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Love, Marriage, & Triathlon

January 11th, 2012 by marybethellis

For most of us, especially the teamTBB professional triathletes during the race season, life is myopic. It is hard to think much beyond the next workout, and SBR is on our minds 24/7. But life is much more than sport, and sport is more than winning and losing. It is important for all athletes, myself included, to keep some perspective and realize that while triathlon is important it won’t keep you warm at night. At the end of your professional career, you may have titles, prize money, and sponsors, but there is more to life than that.

This weekend, I got married to Eric Olson and was able to leave the SBR at home for a week to celebrate a step in my life that will last much longer than my triathlon career. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job being a teamTBB professional triathlete, and I am so happy to have found a mate that supports my lofty goals and ambitions in the sport. However, I also know that now having a partner I need to consider more than myself and my triathlon career. This is exciting and has given me more perspective on life and our sport. If I don’t win a race or fail to reach that big goal, I know Eric will always comfort me, support me, and help me find a way to reach my potential the next time.

The wedding weekend was amazing and provided a great opportunity to share our love with friends and family. Eric and I will remember it for as long as we live. I don’t think I have let myself have that much fun since I was a carefree college student. The only thing that would have made it even better is if some of my teamTBB family could have joined in the celebration. Now that the wedding festivites are over, both Eric and I are recovering and looking forward to getting back to normal life. I can’t wait to get back to my training routine and am excited to start 2012 with a new perspective. As a married triathlete on the best team in the sport, 2012 is sure to be amazing!

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4th Time not the Charm

October 13th, 2011 by marybethellis

The Ironman World Championships in Kona has been a goal of mine for many years. While the ITU path and Olympics is the biggest stage in sport every four year; there is no higher stage in Ironman triathlon than Kona. I entered the race this year on a binge of racing Ironmans but had high expectations for my fourth Ironman in 14 weeks. However, the fourth time wasn’t quite what I envisioned in fact it blew my worst case scenario out of the water.
The race started off well. I was in the back of the front swim pack for the first 1K; then I followed the wrong feet. Next time, I sighted we were off the bike and game over rover. Then the feet was following sighted and gave me a big kick to the goggle. I could see for the rest of the swim out of one eye bad enough to be annoying but so bad as to stop and fix my goggles. Coming out of the swim, I was pretty demoralized. The time and place were much worse than I was hoping for. I didn’t give up and may have gone a bit hard the first 40K trying to make up for the subpar swim. I also swallowed lots of salt water, and puked up everything I tried to eat for the first 80K. Luckily switching to water, I was able to eat and drink fine by the second half of the bike. However, my bike motor was completely broken. My legs weren’t working and nothing I did managed to fix the problem. It felt like the entire field just passed by me and I could do nothing. To add insult to injury, I got a flat tire running over a staple. The quick fill worked for a few a miles, but I rode in fishtailing on a flat back tire. Starting the run, I think my mental state which was fragile at the start of the race had cracked. I was feeling sorry for myself, angry that I could swim or ride a bike, and really just wanted to quit the race. But I managed to suck it up and run an adequate marathon. By the time I got to the finish line, I was glad that I didn’t quit but very disspointed with my performance.
Coming into the race, I had no choice but to race three Ironmans. However, mentally I think I had such a hard road to get to the start line I didn’t take the time to refocus for the hard race at the world championships. When you are tired physically, it becomes even more important to be prepared mentally. In retrospect, I was strong enough mentally for the battle ahead, and I was physically compromised by the three Ironman events I had to finish. But the positive note is that I did suffer out there on lava fields and have learned some important lessons for next year.

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Ironman Canada Race Report

October 13th, 2011 by marybethellis

Whew! Three Ironmans in eight weeks and three wins finally got me a ticket to Kona! I cant believe it – i keep pinching myself and it hurts so it must be real. I love racing in Canada. I had my first win there in 2006 just up the road in Kelowna. My how much has changed! Back then as a first year pro, I was racing ITU and couldn’t have envisioned winning the ironman there.

The day started a bit slowly. I was sluggish off the line and spent the swim getting pummeled by the pro men. Good practice for Kona! . It was a wetsuit swim so I was a bit disheartened with my time but at least there is plenty of racing after the swim in Ironman. For the first time, I had no cramping or issues early on the bike, i just tried to stay with Meredith Kessler as she set a fast pace out the first 60k. Aided by a tailwind, i think we sat on 40k an hour. When we got to the first climb, i felt good and decided to push a bit harder. I rode the rest of the way alone and with the headwind coming home, i was very ready to get off the bike. I was equally excited about my bike time. In contrast to Austria, this split reflected a true solo hard TT effort and gives me some much needed confidence for Kona. Also despite hard hot conditions, I had no stomach issues, please check out my full race nutrition report here: . At the start of the run, I was tired the wind and bike sapped me more than in previous races. Also the heat was starting to get oppressive around 95 degrees F. On the run, I drank as much as I could and grabbed as much ice as possible. And still I felt like I was melting. The last 8 miles were tough more from the fatigue and heat than any bonking. Luckily, Eric biked out on the course so I had some moral support out there. And the age groupers and crowds especially in town were amazing. Breaking the record was an unexpected bonus to the day. I wasn’t going for it, I just wanted to finish and get out of the heat ASAP. Overall, I am so pleased and now also a bit sore. Luckily, Eric took it easy on my during our run and swim Monday.

With my spot in Kona finally secure, I am excited to start preparing and have a good race there. Thanks so much to Doc, all the team TBB members, Alex, our amazing team TBB sponsors, First Endurance, and of course Eric, my family, and friends.

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IM Regensburg Race Report

August 11th, 2011 by marybethellis
After IM Austria, I didn’t imagine I would be racing another Ironman only about a month later. But WTC new points system and my need for more strength and experience over the distance lead me to try another one very quickly. Heading into this race, I was struggling with some physical ailments from some open wounds on my feet from my last race and a glute strain so was feeling quite cranky and out of sorts. I wasn’t as excited and eager for the race as I had been for Austria but on the flipside I also wasn’t as scared of the distances.
The swim started off badly as I lined up to the far right not realizing that the kayaks holding us pros back would all move off to the right blocking me while the rest of the pros and age groups all started swimming. I was hot and bothered and had trouble calming down my breathing until the first buoy but lesson learned don’t line up to extreme of either side of line. The front pack was already way ahead by the time I cleared the kayaks so I swam the entire 3.8K by myself. It was another long and lonely swim. Once on the bike, I struggled my left glute locked up with cramping and spasms. I went from leading the race to having trouble even turning the pedals over. To add to my issues on a windy day, I couldn’t stay in the aerobars for more than 30 seconds at a time. This lasted for the first 50K and at that point I was positive that I would have to pull out of the race. Finally around 50K, the pain started to subside and at 80K I felt like I was finally able to pedal normally and stay in the aerobars. Slowly, I worked my way through the field enjoying finally passing tons of athletes instead of moving backwards as I did the entire first half of the race. At this point, my glute was still very sore so I didn’t think I would be able to run but figured I could at least get in a decent final 100K training ride. However, I slowly worked my way to T2 and back through the women’s field into 3rd place. I figured I would start the run and drop out if I was in pain. Amazingly, as long as I kept my stride short and cadence high, I wasn’t having any trouble with my glute so I decided to just keep running. Despite two port-o-let stops from overdoing the salt tabs to try to stop the glue cramps, I got to first place at the halfway point of the run. When I accrued a 6 minute lead with 10K to go, I eased off the pace as the only goal was to win as easily as possible. Unlike Austria, I didn’t hit the wall and just cruised the marathon as much as you can cruise anything at the end of an Ironman. Other than that pesky pain in my butt, I pulled up well from the race and am definitely glad that I preserved in the face of my adversity to get to the finish line. And another lesson learned don’t give up in an Ironman; it is a long day and anything can happen.  I was so close to pulling the plug and glad that I just kept slogging through and didn’t give up. The age-groupers out there did a great job getting through some tough weather conditions on the bike and perserving most with smiles on their faces. And the city of Regensburg was beautiful; the scenic run course went through the old town and around some parks by the Danube river. The crowds and volunteers made it easier to keep going all day long. Thanks so much for being out there in the wind and rain.

Now, I hope that I get to Kona and have a chance to race the best gals at the world championships later this year. Cross your fingers for me!

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Overdue Team TBB Tour Day Alps Report

August 11th, 2011 by marybethellis
First, if you haven’t read Brandon’s blog from the trip. Do it now! He has a great review of the adventure along with some photos and video – the candy store video is my favorite.
Day 1: The trip started ominously with a cold rainy morning here in Leysin. I struggled up the first climb as everyone started killing it. I was just thinking are they crazy? We have a mountainous 200 miler ride then a rest day followed by a long course triathlon up Alp D’ Huez then a mountainous 200 mile ride home. I guess I put in low gear and tried to get up without sweating. I claimed that I didn’t sweat at the top but I think there were a few drips under my jersey. Then we had nice decent into Chamonix where aforementioned candy store video records my delight at the stop for lunch and lollies. The rolling and climbing continued until Albertville 175K from Leysin. After a rack of ribs and hot bath, I was ready for a good night’s sleep at the Etap.

Day 2: The morning started with my consumption of a pot of coffee at the Etap breakfast buffet. After that I was ready to roll for day 2. The coffee in combination with Doc’s admonition that I not save myself for the race I gave it to myself on the big climb of the day not realizing that I would pay for it later on the climb up to the top of the Alp. I definitely arrived at the top of this climb sweaty and felt okay until we reached the bottom of the climb up to Alp D’ Huez. I slowly made my way up and was at least not too disheartened as a few of the others struggled along with me. The second day ride was only about 140K but made up for lack of distance with the climbs.

Day 3: After a good night’s sleep, we had a swim, run, bike pre-race rest day.

Day4: Race day dawned ominously with cold grey skies that opened up as soon as the race started. It was cold and rainy the entire day but luckily I managed to put on enough clothing so that I wasn’t too cold . The race didn’t go great but I managed to pull off a second place despite frittering away 10 minutes trying to fix my bike wheel during the first 30K. Funnily, the easiest part of the bike ride was the climb up the Alp. It was definitely the highlight for me and the run up on the mountain was so much fun a nice hilly mix of dirt and road. I hope that I get to race next year and give it a better go. Hopefully the weather will cooperate too!

Day 5: After an early morning swim, it was back on the road again. We took the longer flat route to our Albertville stop. After a flat pretty comfortable 160K ride, we arrived at the Etap and rested for the night. I was starting to go from slap happy into a complete zombie.

Day 6: Not even attempting to down an entire pot of coffee could help me today. I struggled from the start and limped into Chamonix. After an influx of calories and candy, I had a resurgence and felt much better for the final two climbs and ride home. I even climbed the hill back up to Leysin though I had the option of taking the train. Stupid I know!

Overall, the trip was an unforgettable experience and the saddle sore that came with it from wearing old worn out bike shorts is a reminder. I definitely think it made me stronger physically and mentally. I’ll be drawing on this reserve for the rest of the season and hopefully in the lava fields of Kona.

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Refurnishing Me

July 20th, 2011 by marybethellis

I don’t have much to entertain me here in Leysin no tv (well there is a tv but it only has three channels in French which I haven’t mastered beyond we and merci), no Internet unless I venture out, and no one living with me. It makes for quite a bit of free time to read and listen to podcasts. In particular in one podcast that stuck in my head recently the interviewee was talking about a monumental moment in his life and said it rearranged his mental furniture. I love that analogy and have been thinking about it a lot as it applies to me and my journey this year with the team and Doc.

This year has been hard at times and held up a mirror to my own mental room revealing some flaws i have previously decided to ignore or overlook. As a result, this year I have had to do some remodeling of my own mind. In literature, rooms are often used as an expression of the character and provide some insight. In my own life I have held onto mental furniture that is ratty, old, and comfortable in order to keep a safe design that has outlived its useful life. It maybe hasn’t been as dramatic as it was for the podcast subject, but this year has gradually forced me to reckon with my own room’s setup. I still have some furniture that needs to be tossed and some mental design errors that Doc has pointed out to me. In addition Eric and Mr Fur have added their own little touches of fur, knick knacks, and love to make my room a bit more comfortable and less sterile. Unfortunately it isn’t always easy to get rid of that nostalgic armchair even though it sags, has loose springs, and smells funny or the ticking mantel clock that needs to be replaced by a nice piece of artwork. But after one last argument with the designers, I have seen some of what they have been trying to show me. That old armchair is simply a crutch that is blocking the window where there is natural light and clashes with the new rug I have just laid down. And I have always hated that ticking clock sound. I am by no means done; there is still quite a bit of my mental furniture that needs to be tossed, augmented, or rearranged to maximize the room I have. But I am grateful for what I have already been able to accomplish and look forward to working on fixing the rest of my mental furniture in my little room both here in Leysin and over the next period of my life.

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