Transforming An Ironman Newbie: Jellybabe

From No Tri to Ironman Tri in one season


Posted: 8 June 2005

In summer 2004, more than 20 forum members pledged to take on Ironman Switzerland in July 2005 - that's a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle and 26.2-mile run. Many of them - including Jellybabe - were complete triathlon newbies at the time... Here's Jellybabe's story to June 05

If you can find a family holiday that will stir the imagination of your 17-year-old twins, you know you’re doing something right. In the case of Jellybabe and her husband, Big Dave, it took the offer of a trip to Zurich to see Mum and Dad competing in Ironman Switzerland to tear Luke and Lucy away from their preferred options of shopping and going to the pub.

It's going to be a real family affair, with 13-year-old Katie coming along to offer some extremely vocal support. She got her first bit of practise at shouting 'come on Mum!' at Bala in June 2005, where Jellybabe did her first triathlon.

"We started running four years ago after my father-in-law died," Jellybabe recalls. "My husband wanted to run the London marathon in his memory."

Like many runners, Jellybabe discovered that the RW forums were a handy resource for practical advice and motivational pick-me-ups. Then she chanced on a thread about the Ironman.

"They made it sound so easy. I went on and chatted, and they said it would be possible for us to do it if we were determined. That’s how it took off."

With the knowledge that there were plenty in the Ironman contingent that were as inexperienced as they were, Jellybabe and Big Dave began triathlon training nine months ago. On New Year's Eve 2004 they entered the race, booked the flights, and told the kids they were going en masse to Zurich. "It’s cost a small fortune," Jellybabe admits, "I've given up looking at my bank balance."

As a nurse, Jellybabe has been able to limit her shifts so that she has more time to train. Big Dave is self-employed, so they can take off around the Hertfordshire lanes for a midweek ride together, as well as longer rides at the weekend. It's the bike leg of the Ironman that worries Jellybabe the most.

"My biggest fear is that I'll be pulled off the bike course for being over the time limit," she says. Completing the bike section of Bala at an average speed of 15.2mph was the confidence boost she needed. "That’s equivalent to 7:15 for the Ironman, so I’m really chuffed."

Bala was a tough place to make a triathlon debut. When Jellybabe came out of the water, her hands were so cold that she could not work her fingers to get her shoes and socks on. "I had marshals putting my socks on and peeling my banana for me," she laughs.

All but last out of T1, Jellybabe clawed back places on the bike and run section of the race, and headed towards the finish line overjoyed with her achievement.

"All I could hear was Katie’s foghorn voice shouting 'come on Mum, I'm so proud of you!’"

After almost six and half hours of whooping and cheering, Katie grabbed her Mum's hand and ran the final 400m with her to the line. She was surrounded by people hugging and congratulating her. "I was over the moon that I'd done it. We were buzzing all the way home."

There is another four weeks of training to go before the taper for the big race, and Jellybabe is still smiling. "Apart from coming off my bike once on the ice I've loved every minute of it," she says of her training. "I like pushing myself and seeing what I can achieve."


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