This month I donated a bike in honor of Ellen Spatt. Ellen, like all of the women featured on this blog, has many athletic accomplishments. Ellen’s endurance roots are in triathlon, she competed in several triathlons and in 2011 became an Ironman Finisher at Ironman Wisconsin. Recently, after relocating to Arizona Ellen took up mountain biking and she seems to find the podium at every race she signs up for. Here are just a few of her recent accomplishments:
- 3rd Place Women’s Masters, Prickly Pedal
- 5th Place, Women’s Single Speed, Cactus Cup Fat Tire 40
- 1st Place, Women’s Masters, Tour of the White Mountains
- 3rd Place, Women’s Masters, Carson City Off Road
I think it’s fair to say she is unstoppable! Ellen is wicked fast, but she also has this tenacity hidden behind her small stature and contagious grin. Just hearing about some of her single speed gearing choices makes my legs ache. I recently went on a challenging training ride with Ellen and noticed the bike she borrowed was not well suited for the climbing, while I was spinning up hill in my granny gear Ellen was out of the saddle grinding away and she never complained, even though I’m positive her legs were trashed!
I know Ellen well enough now to say that her grit and determination come from an inner strength. A strength that has been refined and sharpened through the challenges and hardships she has faced in life. Ellen also strikes me as someone who is quite brave, not long ago she told me she was looking into the AZT (Arizona Trail) Bikepacking Race…I have some experience bikepacking and the thought of that race is enough to give me nightmares, but I would not be one bit surprised to see Ellen toeing the line in the next year or two. Maybe this bravery comes from her experience as a firefighter. Ellen worked as a firefighter for twenty-seven years and even served as the Battalion Chief for the City of Milwaukee Fire Department.
Ellen’s athletic accomplishments, strength and bravery are all admirable in their own right, but above of all of these things she inspires me because she challenges me to think about how I live my life. Though retired, Ellen works at our local coffee/bike shop so she can stay connected with the community. I love when I walk in for a cup of coffee and see her smiling face behind the counter. When Ellen is working at Local Johnny’s I never see her standing idle she is always busy serving a customer, making a fresh pot of coffee or wiping down the counter. She is one of those people that sees what needs to be done and takes action before anyone has to ask. Watching her work at Local Johnny’s has given me a small glimpse into her incredible work ethic. In addition, Ellen works as a guide for Wild Bunch Desert Guides. In this role she takes vacationers out hiking and biking on the trails in our beautiful Sonoran Desert. I couldn’t think of a person better suited for this type of work.
Finally, Ellen loves others so well. One of the coolest things about hanging out with Ellen is getting to hear her say, I love you to her closest friends. She says the words often and they are heart felt. She does not use the words flippantly but she isn’t stingy about pouring out her love for others. Getting to know Ellen has inspired me to step outside of my introverted shell. She has challenged me to be a better human, to be friendlier, to be involved in people’s lives, to love others and to take action. On an even more personal note Ellen was there for me during the hardest moments of my life and I am forever grateful for her friendship. I hope the girl that receives a bike in Ellen’s honor will grow up surrounded by women like Ellen. Women that push her to be a better person and women that will love her fiercely when she needs it most.