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Dispatch: They Sure Do!

Mary Beth Ellis traded her racing flats for sparkly heels when she wed her one true love, Eric Olson back on December 10, 2011.

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“Dispatch” is a new online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that will feature pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on

Three-time Ironman champion Mary Beth Ellis traded her racing flats for sparkly heels when she wed her one true love, Eric Olson, on December 10, 2011. I was privileged to be a guest at their wedding and to spend an evening out in Boulder with them last week. I chatted with the cuddly couple about how they’re enjoying married life and managing the travel and time apart dictated by their demanding careers since saying “I do” a little more than four months ago.

Mary Beth: [giggling] It feels like 20 years!
Eric: But it seems like I’ve only seen her for four days.

The two actually enjoyed a brief but cozy post-wedding winter at home in Boulder before heading out of the country in late January. They traveled together to Vietnam, where Mary Beth joined her TeamTBB teammates at their winter training camp, first in Asia and continuing on to Australia’s Sunshine Coast. Eric was able to share one week in Vietnam and another in Australia with his bride before his role as General Manager of Business Solutions with the Active Network took him to meetings throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Fortunately, he was often able to meet up with Mary Beth on the weekends.

Eric: I was basically commuting to work in Singapore and Melbourne.
Mary Beth: For the first month I saw him at least on the weekends. But then we had about five or six weeks completely apart. The hard part is coming up though. I’ll be in Colorado until June, then I’ll go to Switzerland for July and August. I’ll come back for the New York City Ironman race and then maybe spend some time in the States. And hopefully we’ll have some time together pre-Kona, assuming I qualify.
Eric: I’ll get over to Europe also. I think we’ll both do Norway 70.3 in July.

Eric races in the 30-34 year-old age group, and by his own admission does not mind being “chicked” by his wife. He did have an opportunity to ramp up his fitness during his visits to camp, as he would often accompany Mary Beth to her job training with Brett Sutton’s TeamTBB squad. He described the challenge of cycling with some of the sport’s top pros:

Eric: I got dropped a lot. I saw MB’s butt for a long time. I tried to hang onto a wheel. And then I cried!
Mary Beth: He had two different rental bikes while he was there. The first one wasn’t working right and he dropped the chain.
Eric: That was a really good excuse to stop on the side of the road, look for koala bears and get my heart rate below 190.
Mary Beth: We were standing on the side of the road and Xena [Caroline Steffen] was looking at her watch like, ‘It’s time to go!’
Eric: I was in trouble.

Then he tried a swim set: 100 x 25s.

Eric: That was their warm up. I was swimming with MB and Xena in the front group. It wasn’t very hard for them, but it was really hard for me. That was just the warm up but I was pretty much done afterward. Like most things, their easy stuff is my hard stuff.
Mary Beth: It’s nice though, because we can go to the pool together but do our own thing. And on the bike I think we’re pretty compatible. Although sometimes we end up going when I have an easy ride and I get kind of cranky just because I’m tired. And he rides like a boy who sprints up every hill.
Eric: She’s allowed to drop me but I’m not allowed to drop her.
Mary Beth: [giggling] Yeah! It’s a one-way street! But no, I don’t really mind being dropped.
Eric: What? There are tears!
Mary Beth: OK. I don’t like to get dropped. I get very cranky.

The couple is gearing up to race together at St. Anthony’s on April 29th.

Eric: I’m really comfortable being chicked. The hard part is that I get nervous when she races. Nervous about how she’s going to do and whether I’ll have to pick up the pieces afterwards!
Mary Beth: Ha-ha! Yeah, but St. Anthony’s is short, so I’ll be OK.

Mary Beth is quick to point out that Eric is also hard on himself at times.

Mary Beth: With working so many hours a week and traveling as much as he does, he has to realize that his training isn’t going to be the same as an age-grouper who might work part-time and train 30 hours a week.
Eric: I do work a lot of hours. I travel pretty much every week. It’s tiring, but it’s all right. I’m an endurance business traveler! I’m really good at that. I crush her at that. She gets much more cranky on a 15 hour flight than I do! She needs more training on the long haul flights.

I asked Mary Beth and Eric if anything felt different since tying the knot, or if they’d learned anything new through being married.

Eric: [laughing] It feels more permanent.
Mary Beth: The first month or so, I still introduced him as my boyfriend.
Eric: Yeah, I’ve learned how to say “wife”. And I’ve learned that marriage is cool. It’s not scary like I’ve been led to believe my entire life.
Mary Beth: But we’re only four months in. Just you wait! You’re a little optimistic!

And with that, the lovebirds shared another warm giggle and dug into their matching hamburger meals.

Look for Holly’s monthly column “Confessions of an Age-Grouper” in Triathlete magazine.

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