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Mary Beth Ellis’ road to Kona 2013 was marred by a bike accident and subsequent surgery just four weeks out from race day. Despite her best efforts at a full and speedy recovery (which she documented a series of articles), her race day resulted in a painful DNF. We caught up with Ellis at home in Boulder, Colo. to hear her post-race perspective and learn what she’s been up to since her trip to the Big Island. It turns out she has a few prime pieces of news to share.
Triathlete.com: Let’s start with a Kona recap. In retrospect, do you think your body needed more time to rest and heal after the accident, or were you simply not able to get enough quality training in because of the injury setback?
Ellis: I think I learned a lot from trying to race, so I don’t have regrets, but in retrospect I underestimated the toll that the surgery and physical therapy took. Mentally and physically I had to go so deep just to make it to the starting line. Really, getting to Dig Me Beach in one piece was my race. But it was still disappointing that I didn’t have it on race day. I was actually surprised when the swim went OK, but then on the bike in the last 40 miles everything just seized up. I could barely even push on the pedals. When I got off the bike and tried to start the run, that was it–I was done. It was such a great women’s race; I wish I could have been a part of it!
Triathlete.com: Since Kona what have you been up to?
Ellis: I took two weeks pretty light–maybe doing just one thing a day, like some hiking or easy biking or a swim. Then I started getting back into early off-season training, but nothing too serious.
Triathlete.com: Is it too soon to ask what’s next for you race-wise? Have you mapped out a strategy for getting back to Kona, assuming that’s still your goal?
Ellis: Yeah, Kona will be the goal for at least another couple of years, but I won’t race again in 2013. Tentatively we’re planning on Ironman 70.3 Panama and Ironman Melbourne next year, but that’s just a rough idea. If I do those, then depending how they go will determine what comes next. I’d love to go to 70.3 worlds again–I haven’t been since 2009, and it’s going to be a great course in Mont-Tremblant. I love racing 70.3’s, so it would be nice to go and have another shot at the world title there.
Triathlete.com: There have obviously been some major changes at TeamTBB, with the departures of Caroline Steffen and coach Brett Sutton. How will this affect you–will you continue training with Brett? Will you stay on the team?
Ellis: The team’s structure will change, so team athletes will have the flexibility to work with any coach of their choosing–they won’t be tied to one particular coach. As for me, I’d love to keep working with TeamTBB. The team supported me when I was down and out and continues to support me today. So I’m talking to Alex [team manager Alex Bok] about what’s next. I’m sure Alex will be sharing the new shape of the team soon, and I’m creating some awesome individual partnerships as well. I can’t share much now, but I’m lucky to have some very supportive business partners that allow me to do what I do.
In terms of coaching, Brett will continue to coach some athletes, but I’ve decided to work with Siri Lindley going forward. My reason for leaving Brett is solely based on a lifestyle choice. The accident gave me the perspective that I had literally devoted the entire year, 365 days, to one race. Then 30 days out I crashed and lost my chance at the world title. So it gave me the perspective that I no longer wanted to put the rest of my life on hold to chase the dream of winning Kona. I will continue to chase that dream, but hopefully I can live at home in Colorado, be with my husband and still try to be a world champ, without isolating myself and making it the sole focus of my life.
I feel incredibly lucky for the three years I spent with Brett. I learned so much from him! He made me a better athlete and person, and I am eternally grateful to Brett. But I know that I don’t work well with long-distance coaching relationships. For me, personally, I need supervision. I don’t have the self-control to take a rest day when I need one. I need a coach on deck to say, “Today you can go hard,” or, “Today you need a day off.” I think that with long distance, even the most amazing coach and diligent athlete in the world might not work well together.
I’m really excited to be back with Siri and back at home. I worked with her when I first started triathlon. She was my coach from 2006-2008. The primary reason I moved on from her at the time was that she moved from Boulder to California, and I didn’t want to relocate. So now that she’s back in Boulder, it’s a perfect fit.
Triathlete.com: In conjunction with your decision to spend more time at home, you also have some exciting news about a new furry addition to your family!
Ellis: Yeah, Eric and I call her our dog-ther. She’s about four months old and her name is Keiki, which is Hawaiian for little kid. She’s a German Shepherd mix–they think she’s German Shepherd and Lab. She was picked up as a stray in New Mexico. For Eric it was love at first sight. I thought maybe we should look at other puppies, but he was hooked. There were a bunch of other puppies bouncing around, but she was the quiet one and just came over and leaned against him. That was that!
Triathlete.com: Will she ultimately become a training partner?
Ellis: I think so, but only up to five mile runs–so for the shorter sessions!
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