Monday, October 17, 2005

2theadvocate > Features > BR teen completes triathlon 10/17/05
101705 features112theadvocate.comThe crowd erupted when Lindsey and Wendy Ellis crossed the finish line in a dramatic, surprise finish in just under two hours.-->
BR teen completes triathlon
Advocate staff writer

Wendy Ellis, left, and Lindsey Ellis prepare to cross the finish line at the Crab Trap Triathlon in Destin, Fla. The Team Ellis members had more than 30 family members and supporters cheering for them as they competed. The crowd erupted when Lindsey and Wendy Ellis crossed the finish line in a dramatic, surprise finish in just under two hours.
More than 30 family members, friends and fans of "Team Ellis," not to be missed in their lime green and hot pink T-shirts, cheered, clapped, yelled and cried as the 45-year-old woman and her 18-year-old niece completed the Crab Trap Triathlon two weekends ago in Destin, Fla. A few feet from the finish line, Wendy Ellis pulled her niece from her trailer, supported her from behind and, together, they walked across the line.
Lindsey Ellis, a junior at Arlington Preparatory Academy here, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. She can only walk short distances with assistance. Wendy Ellis, a physical education teacher in Pensacola, Fla., has been competing in marathons for the past five years and training intensely for this triathlon for the past several months.
"There were a few tears shed," Wendy Ellis said about the end of the race. "Lindsey and I had been planning the surprise for a while and I think it really touched a lot of people."
The two, who were first profiled in a People story in July, originally planned to compete in the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon in September. When that was cancelled because of Hurricane Rita, they switched their focus to the Crab Trap Triathlon which featured a 10-mile bike ride, 3-mile run and 400-yard swim in the Gulf of Mexico.
Outfitted with special equipment funded through a $10,000 grant from Balance Bar, they used a custom-designed convertible trailer that could be pulled by bike or hand, and an inflatable boat to pull through the water.
"I liked the swimming part best," Lindsey Ellis said. "The dolphins were swimming alongside us. It was all fun for me. I was just along for the ride." Teased by her stepfather, Andy Leavy, she admitted that she also enjoyed attention from the lifeguards.
The swim was easy compared to the cycling part of the race, Wendy Ellis said. "Pulling the trailer was kind of like pulling an open parachute behind my bicycle. I can pedal 20 miles an hour without the trailer. I'm lucky if I can do 10 miles an hour with it. Lindsey weighs 85 pounds, and the trailer weighs 32 pounds. I weigh 119 pounds, so I was pulling almost my body weight."
The 3-mile run came last. With adrenaline coursing through her body, Wendy Ellis said she was not even tired at the end of the race. The pair had met its goal, which was not to win, but to finish the race.
"I wasn't nervous. I was excited," Lindsey Ellis said. "But, when I finally stood up with Aunt Wendy, I was stiff as a board."
Many of the race participants who finished ahead of Team Ellis stayed to watch them cross the line. The winner had his picture taken with Lindsey Ellis and said that she was his inspiration. Team Ellis also won a special award and plaque in the team category.
"I'm just so proud of her," Bill Ellis said of daughter Lindsey. "I tell you, she inspired me. I started running again. I have a long ways to go, but maybe by this time next year, I'll be running with her."
Her grandparents have also taken up running, and her mother and stepfather are "talking about it."
As for Lindsey and Wendy Ellis, both said they are already looking forward to the next race. They plan to compete in the Santa Rosa Island Triathlon next April and are looking for an event to enter in the Baton Rouge area.
"Three hurricanes and two tropical storms couldn't stop us," Wendy Ellis said. "If Lindsey's story can inspire other people, that's what it's all about. We're a team and we're ready to go again."
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