I will say it a million times and then still keep saying it, I have met the best people through triathlon.
Ellen Hart is no exception.
A former elite runner, Harvard graduate, 10k Olympic qualifier, Olympic Trials marathon runner, lawyer, multiple Ironman World Champion… the list of accomplishments goes on. Behind all of that however is a warm, modest and loving women doing what she enjoys.
During my time in Boulder I was blown away by Ellen. There she was showing up at the track every Tuesday, a women in her 50’s doing the same exact workout as our group of mostly 20 somethings. She was always happy to be there which was evident in her smile.
I am not at all embarrassed to admit that she beat me at the Boulder Half Ironman by three minutes.
She is a bad ass which is why I am so excited to share just a little piece of Ellen and her triathlon story today.
Without further adieu, Ellen Hart….
Give me a quick rundown of how you got into triathlon/your background:
I was a runner for many years, and ran in the Olympic Trials in 1980 and 1984. After I had kids I started competing in masters running which was lots of fun, except that I kept getting injured. I had a lengthy case of plantar fasciitis, which kept me from running for about 2 years. At that point my sweetie, now my husband, gave me a bike for my 47th birthday—so we could ride together and so I wouldn’t keep getting hurt. It was the best birthday present ever! I’d been swimming, but then started biking also. The competitive hard-wiring kicked in, so even with a hurt foot, I entered a couple of short triathlons and limped through the run sections. But I really liked being back in a racing environment, and I liked the people I met. I had somehow managed to qualify for USAT Nationals, and over the winter, in a frivolous moment, entered the race in Portland. By the next spring, my foot was better and I normally would have gone back to pure running training. But I had paid my money, so I went to Nationals. I got there and felt totally intimidated watching other athletes ride their cool sleek racing bikes in the hotel parking lot. They had cool sleek aero helmets, and sleek strong bodies. I felt totally out of my league. But then I placed 5th in my age group, and made Team USA for both Hamburg in 2007, and Vancouver in 2008. I was 11th in Hamburg that year. I was hooked.
In Albuquerque, playing every sport I could find, including kick-the-can in the street with my brothers and sisters. Basketball was my first love.
Erin Carson at Rally Sport for strength
9 World Championships 2008-2014:
7 X Ironman 70.3 World Champion (2008, 09, 10 in Clearwater, 2011, 12, 13 in Las Vegas)
2 X Ironman World Champion in Kona, 2010 and 2014
1 X ITU World Champion, Long-course, 2011 in Las Vegas
1 X USAT Nat’l Champion, Olym Dist., 2012, Burlington VT
3 X USAT Nat’l Champion Duathlon, 2009, 2012, 2013
USAT Masters Athlete of the Year, 2008, 2013
In a former life, I won 8 varsity letters at Harvard University 1976-80, in basketball, soccer and track & field
When do you feel your strongest?
After T2, when I find my running rhythm—could be after 500 meters, could take a couple of miles.
Where or who do you find inspiration from?
My husband, my son, 2 of my sisters (one who has MS, one who’s a cancer survivor), my parents, outstanding triathletes like Sr. Madonna Buder
What keeps you coming back to this sport year after year?
The process of growing as an athlete and a person. I’m not a good swimmer, so the challenge of trying to improve in that area, and put together a 3 part quality performance. The joy of being outdoors training with friends. The thrill of Alii Drive.
Favorite piece of triathlon gear/equipment and why?
This is my 2nd year on Team Timex, and we ride Trek bikes. I never would have found my racing bike otherwise, and I love it—Trek Speed Concept 9.9. I also love my Blueseventy Helix wetsuit.
Favorite food while training?
I really do use PowerBar products when I train. I particularly like the Nut Natural bars, because they’re a little bit salty. When I race, I am very fond of the Energy Blasts. Even if my stomach is not doing very well, I can usually keep eating the blasts.
Favorite food while not training?
Favorite place you have raced and why?
Kona. There’s nothing like the pre-race anxiety, followed by 10 or 11 hours of complete focus, and then coming down Alii Drive with all the people yelling and the birds chirping, knowing you’ve done your best (especially if it has resulted in a win!).
Best tip for new triathletes?
Don’t worry too much about equipment—there’s way too much of it out there, and you’ll figure it out little by little. There’s no perfect set of equipment that is going to guarantee a perfect race, a PR, or a great experience. It sounds clichéd, but try to enjoy the process. For me, this is not my livelihood, and it’s not the Olympic Trials. If it’s not fun, I don’t want to be spending all this time doing it. So sometimes I have to adjust my attitude or my training to make sure it’s still fun.
Any other advice for your fellow triathletes out there?
As an aging age-grouper (57 this year), I have to accept that my times are not going to keep getting faster. But I know that I’m still improving in many ways, and still learning. Most importantly, triathlon is still bringing me joy.
Don’t you wanna be like Ellen when you grow up?!
Ellen inspires me to keep chasing what I love, to have fun with it and to show up with a smile.
If you want to know more about Ellen check out these great articles:
Have you done a triathlon? If so, how did you get into it?
If you haven’t done a triathlon… ever thought about it? Would you ever?