Wherein I Run Like the Wind on a Windless Day (I am [Half] IronFatty, Part 3)

05.8.2013 | 12:58 pm

I knew the moment would come, eventually. The moment when I would have to get off my bike and go run a half marathon.

No, wait. I meant to put run in sarcasm quotes in that last sentence.

By the time I finished walking (as everyone around me ran) to where my stuff was in the transition area, my back felt OK again. I sucked down my seventh Gu Roctane gel of the day (one every half hour for the whole race — I never felt empty or sick the whole day) as I put on my fancy new 3-Sum Altras, but with socks. because I like to live dangerously . . . but not too dangerously.

And then I began to “run” (There, I got the air quotes right that time). Which means that I moved at what was essentially a walking pace, but swinging my arms as if I were running. Allow me to show you what I mean:

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Please do not mistake my facial expression for a smile. Thank you.

This Course Is Just Mean

The thing is, I was as prepared for this run as I have ever been for any run. Running this season in Altras certainly was part of it — the zero-drop thing has really worked for me. Being lighter has helped, too. And starting with low mileage and working s-l-o-w-ly up has made a difference. 

But none of that mattered, because the running course for the St. George Half-Ironman is just brutal. This is the run profile, according to the race website:


But my Strava of the run — which, by the way, did not capture the first 0.8 miles of the run because my stupid Garmin 10 wouldn’t acquire a signal — tells a different story: 1241 feet of climbing.

Yeah, 1241 feet of climbing in a half marathon. At the end of a half Ironman. 

And I’m inclined to believe the Strava record of the event. See, the out-and-back course was always either going up or down. I don’t believe there was a single piece of the run that was level.

Looking For The Hammer

But I made it a point of pride to never stop and walk. Even if I was going nearly as slow as if I were walking, I was going to keep “running.” 

Because I suspected that if I slowed to a walk, The Hammer would smack me on the butt as she ran by. 

I made it to the six-point-something mile turnaround, and began keeping a sharp eye out for The Hammer. I knew I’d see her soon; the only question was when. I figured if I got to mile seven — which would be her mile 5 — I’d have a good chance of holding her off ’til the end. 

I reached mile seven. No sign of The Hammer yet.

A chunk of mile seven (also mile 5) is in a little detour the half-marathon takes your through the hilly (because the course isn’t already difficult enough, apparently) Pioneer Park. Before the race, this is where The Hammer said we’d see each other.

She was right.

“Lisa!” I yelled, and held out a hand for her to give me five as we crossed paths. 

Instead, she laughed and threw a piece of ice at me. I didn’t mind. I had two miles on her, and fewer than six left to go before I reached the finish line.

Slowdown + Gratitude + Pain

Encouraged, I kept running. But — even more than before, somehow — my running felt less like running. It was a trudging jog, at best. And — except for steep downhills, which weren’t super-pleasant either — it was always uphill.

People passed me in droves. “It isn’t the course that’s the problem,” I realized. “It’s me.” I began to suspect that my lead over The Hammer was far from safe.

I told my legs to go faster. My legs failed to comply.

I made it to the bottom of the last big descent — just a couple miles to go. Then I got diverted (along with everyone else) onto a little side street, where we had a short run up (and I mean “up” in the most vertical sense of the word) to the local Elks lodge and then back.

I knew that if I saw The Hammer coming into this out-and-back section while I was still on it, she’d catch me. If I didn’t see her, I was — more than likely — safe.

As I ran I watched every runner, knowing that long before I could recognize any features I’d recognize her smooth running style. 

I made it onto Bluff Street without seeing her. I knew I’d finish first. And with this knowledge came a sudden lack of urgency, and I slowed down further, so that my forward progress could be measured only by sophisticated scientific instruments.

I turned onto Diagonal Street: a — finally! — gently downhill grade leading to the final turn and the home stretch. There, a large man was standing in the street, holding out popsicles for anyone who wanted them. 

I took one, briefly considering that in this era, taking food from a stranger in an event like this might not be wise. “I’m not going to live like that,” I thought to myself, “and besides, a popsicle sounds great right now.”

And it was great. Truly cold and sweet and wet and delicious. Just what I needed and wanted right then.

And then I got a monster of a brain freeze. Which at least kept me occupied for a minute or so and distracted me from the fact that everyone in the world was passing me at the moment.

Big Finish

I made the final turn. Now all I had to do was make it down the big downhill stretch to the finish. I heard someone call my name out, and turned around — it was Kenny and Heather. “Hey,” I said, happy to see they had come to see me.

The finishing line crowd was huge, and cheering for everyone. Dozens of people put out their hands for runners to give them five. I complied as best as I could:


Hey, let’s get a closeup of my legs in that shot:


I confess to having mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I think my legs are looking pretty darned good. On the other hand, there’s some very clear old-man-legs wrinkleage going on up there on my left quad. Ew.

As I approached the finish line, I thought to myself, “I need a finish line celebration.” Raised arms wouldn’t be appropriate — I knew I for sure hadn’t won anything. 

But how about a heel-click? Yes, a heel click would be perfect. Which just goes to show exactly how addled my mind was at the time. Still, here’s the launch:

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And here I am on my way toward the click:


And for those of you who — like me — have been waiting your whole life for a good shot of me doing a heel-click while wearing a super-form-fitting outfit as I cross the finish line of a half-Ironman, here’s the zoomed-in version of the shot:


Unfortunately, I haven’t been exactly training to do heel clicks when I’m completely and utterly exhausted, and I very nearly went down when I landed:


But I pulled it out and recovered my balance. 

Meeting The Hammer

Now all I needed to do was wait for The Hammer to cross. And I didn’t have to wait long. In fact, I only needed to wait six minutes, during which I drank three bottles of water (no exaggeration). Kenny caught a photo of us moments after she crossed the line:


Yes, I was as salt-encrusted as I appear in that photo.

We sat down and recovered.

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Yes, I really was that salt-encrusted.

Heather wanted a photo of The Hammer and me together, but neither of us was willing to get out of our seats. This was our compromise:

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We were not actually anywhere near as sunburned as the above photo would suggest.

The Hammer Hammered

After a few minutes or possibly half an hour, we went to check and see what our various splits and times and whatnot were. You can look us up at the results page for the race (I’m racer 2261, The Hammer is 2076) but I’ll be more than glad to give you a quick snapshot for your consideration.

Here’s me:


And here’s The Hammer:


You see what’s important there? Yep, The Hammer podiumed.

That’s right, The Hammer took fourth in her age group. And in fact had the fastest bike time in her age group.

That rules.

So here she is on stage, getting her trophy:


And here’s the trophy itself:

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I’m so proud of her. 

And also, I’m so happy that I don’t have to run again for a long, long time.


  1. Comment by Eric Finn | 05.8.2013 | 1:15 pm

    Please tell me Lisa is going to write up her version of the events as I’d really like to hear what you really did to deserve having ice thrown at you. :-)

    I have already begged her to write her story, because it’s a good one. I think if a number of commenters (like yourself) say they’d like to read it, that might help convince her. – FC

  2. Comment by Sthenic | 05.8.2013 | 1:26 pm

    Deserve has nothing to do with it.

  3. Comment by Rob L | 05.8.2013 | 1:28 pm

    damn nice report Elden. I think it’s official time to rename the blog to Skinny Cyclist Slow Runner :)

    Congrats to Lisa!

  4. Comment by Carl | 05.8.2013 | 1:30 pm

    If it wasn’t for the quads I wouldn’t have recognized you in the photos of you running. You look taller and thinner than past running photos. Great job you two!

    P.S. Lisa, write your story also!

    I’m afraid I’m still 5′7″ with a poor chance of that ever changing for the taller. Alas. – FC

  5. Comment by Christina | 05.8.2013 | 1:33 pm


    If I attempted a heel-click at the end of this, I’d fall over. I’m impressed.

    EXCELLENT JOB! This writeup was awesome.

  6. Comment by Joe | 05.8.2013 | 1:42 pm

    Congrats to both of you!

    I was all on board with feeling your pain in having to pretend you’re running while actually doing little more than walking and really suffering through it until I saw your total times. That’s faster than I was on the half marathon I did and I didn’t have to bike or swim beforehand. You kicked ass and were full on jogging the whole time, you’d have to drop to 15 minute miles before you can really call it walking.

    Give yourself some (more) credit!

  7. Comment by UpNorth | 05.8.2013 | 1:46 pm

    I’m seriously disappointed you wore socks for the run.

  8. Comment by Tiffany | 05.8.2013 | 1:50 pm

    Congratulations to both of you! I would love to read a race report from Lisa.

  9. Comment by RodNeeds2Ride | 05.8.2013 | 1:57 pm

    Race report Lisa!!!

    Good job Fatty!

  10. Comment by Kristina | 05.8.2013 | 2:03 pm

    Absolutely want a race report from the Hammer.

    Congrats to both of you!

  11. Comment by eclecticdeb | 05.8.2013 | 2:12 pm

    Ha-mmer! Ha-mmer! Ha-mmer! (said in chanting way as to entice Lisa to write her story).

    Congrats to both of you on an excellent race!

  12. Comment by rich | 05.8.2013 | 2:20 pm

    You’re looking pretty darn slim in the photos for a blogger named Fatty…
    Great job to both of you and the Hammer ROCKS!

    Congrats and can’t wait to read her version as soon as it’s finished (that’s called an assumptive close in case you’re not sure)

  13. Comment by Mike | 05.8.2013 | 2:29 pm

    My wife and I saw you on diagonal and gave you a shout… almost didn’t recognize you because you’re so skinny. We kept watching for the hammer, but we apparently didn’t recognize her. We thought for sure she was ahead of you. Good job to both of you! Would definitely like to hear the Hammer’s story!

  14. Comment by Maggi | 05.8.2013 | 2:29 pm

    Congrats to both of you! And please, Lisa, do a write up — I’d love to hear about the event from your perspective.

  15. Comment by Mellabella | 05.8.2013 | 2:31 pm

    The Hammer gave me some great encouragement on Strava before this race and I really appreciated it. I would so LOVE LOVE LOVE to hear her race day story (not that yours wasn’t awesome of course ;) ) Please convince her to tell it. I am so happy for both of you, congrats on a really well-earned finish!

  16. Comment by Barb | 05.8.2013 | 2:37 pm

    Great job both of you. Sometimes I secretly wish I had your quads, but then I remember that I’m an almost 60 year old female- would not be a ood look. Please ask Lisa to write her story- what an awesome finish or her!

  17. Comment by Brian in VA | 05.8.2013 | 2:52 pm

    Terrific race report, Fatty. Congrats on a wonderful race and, especially, a heel click at the finish line. That’s the kind of stupid stuff I would be caught doing, too.

    Well done The Hammer! Please write up your report, too. Your past stories have been really great!

  18. Comment by UpTheGrade SR,CA | 05.8.2013 | 3:07 pm

    Fatty, is your number-bib supposed to be worn like a loin-cloth, or did you have something to hide? And what were you holding in your hands the whole run? Ice to throw at someone?
    Should I keep calling you Fatty just to be ironic, or is a name change in the offing? “Fat cyclist” becomes “Fast Cyclist”?
    Congratulations to you and the Hammer on a very respectable Half-Ironman.

  19. Comment by davidh-marin,ca | 05.8.2013 | 3:23 pm

    I for one am looking for some official confirmation that it was indeed a one ‘Mr. Elden Nelson’ on the run, and not some doppelganger. I’m not sure the skinny guy pictured in the photo is one and the same.


    Now for the important comment:

    lisa, Lisa, LISA LI SA please

  20. Comment by Sara | 05.8.2013 | 3:45 pm

    I’m so glad I was too busy at work the last couple of days to check your blog. It meant I got to read the whole enthralling story at once! Now I’m looking forward to hearing from The Hammer. But tell her she doesn’t have to make it in installments like you do. ;)

  21. Comment by walter | 05.8.2013 | 4:41 pm

    Way to go!! Congrats to both of you!!! Fatty, I may be looking at your numbers wrong, but it looks like a pretty good run time. I would say it is your swimming that is the slowest part, not your running. But your cycling, wow – extremely impressive!

    Lisa – way to go! What an awesome job! We need a write up!!!

  22. Comment by Al Pastor | 05.8.2013 | 4:52 pm

    I am amazed how thin you look in these pictures.

  23. Comment by Susie H | 05.8.2013 | 4:57 pm

    Y’all are a seriously fab looking couple! Great write-up, can’t wait for Lisa’s! ;-)

  24. Comment by Anonymous | 05.8.2013 | 6:49 pm

    You say you are not a fast runner but a 2:06 1/2 marathon is pretty fast even without having to swim and ride

  25. Comment by Ralph Blunk | 05.8.2013 | 7:09 pm

    Hello Fatty,

    You have a great race report. I envy your record and your pair of shoes. Congrats to both of you. You are an inspiration to many people. Keep on posting! :-D

  26. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.8.2013 | 8:04 pm

    Nice race you two!

    Great write-3-up, Fatty!


  27. Comment by Ed | 05.8.2013 | 10:03 pm

    Congratulations to you both!! Nice write-up, as usual.

  28. Comment by Raph | 05.9.2013 | 12:39 am

    Forget the weight loss, the socks made all the difference.
    Truly impressive bike leg, 35km/h average, and now you look the speed you’re racing at. Well done.

    Lisa better start training, no?

  29. Comment by Andy Dahl | 05.9.2013 | 6:13 am

    Very impressive race! Thank you for sharing and inspiring me to keep riding!

    My son, Trevar, and I finished his 50 mile bike ride for his bicycling merit badge two days ago. We had a fun time. We were not super fast, but we did have fun and laughed a lot. We were about seven miles in when it started to pour on us. Trevar rode up along side of me dripping wet and said “now we are having fun!” Hopefully,he will want to keep riding throughout his life.

    Anna palaa vaan, Veli Nelson!


  30. Comment by JP | 05.9.2013 | 7:00 am

    Did Lisa go to the roll-down and see if she could do the Las Vegas 70.3 championships?

    She checked but the spots were claimed. – FC

  31. Comment by Roadie Fashion Police | 05.9.2013 | 7:56 am

    Thank you for wearing sleeves. I didn’t see any mankinis in the photos, thank God — have these finally fallen out of fashion among tri-athAletes?

  32. Comment by Christina | 05.9.2013 | 8:31 am

    I’m revisiting today to put in another Lisa vote. Even though she is way faster and fitter than I can ever dream to be, she has such a lovely way about her and her race reports show me that fast or slow, we all struggle the same. She makes me feel good about trying.

  33. Comment by Bee T | 05.9.2013 | 8:34 am

    HamMER, HamMER, HamMER, HAmMER!! Tell your story please!!

  34. Comment by David | 05.9.2013 | 12:34 pm

    I think of all those eggs and avocados that gave their life for this event, what a noble endeavor.

    By the way how many eggs and avocados did the event?

  35. Comment by Jolene | 05.9.2013 | 12:40 pm

    Great job Elden and Lisa!

  36. Comment by Jenni | 05.9.2013 | 2:09 pm

    Hammer, why not just do a video commentary? Then you don’t have to do all that writing, you can just talk into the camera. I’d love to hear your story!

  37. Comment by DavidV | 05.9.2013 | 3:11 pm

    Fatty, I notice in my quick scan of all of these comments, no one seemed to appologize for doubting you’d win this race. I remember when you first mentioned the race everyone (it seemed) said you’d be killed.

    I honestly don’t remember if I echoed that sentiment, but I probably did (I like to follow crowds). So, My appologies for ever doubting you! :-)

  38. Comment by Jesse | 05.9.2013 | 3:19 pm

    Another vote for Lisa’s story!! She gives me hope that someday I will be fast on a bike. And you give me hope that someday I too can learn to swim. Great job, both of you!!

  39. Comment by Bill | 05.9.2013 | 4:51 pm

    Even though you should never compare times/courses from any race over 5k, I’m going to do just that, and claim your race time as my carrot for my upcoming 70.3s. Awesome effort! Reading the installments has me ready for the race season.
    I hope the Hammer gives us the rest of the story soon.

  40. Comment by Cyclin' Missy | 05.10.2013 | 11:19 am

    You both did great and looked great doing it! Congratulations!

  41. Comment by Paula | 05.13.2013 | 9:29 am

    So full disclosure is required here… what kind of bike does the Hammer ride? Is this a level playing field? I want the Hammer race report, I think you need to go best 2 out of 3 and she will take the next 2!


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