Gini Fellows is a registered nurse and teacher. She turned 70 last year and qualified for the IRONMAN World Championships after competing in her first full last November in Florida. Her coach is her son, Patrick, who’s a huge inspiration to Gini as he schedules her workouts and helps her sort through her doubts and fears.
Gini has always been active, being a regular at aerobic classes and gym circuit workouts, but only began competing in triathlons in 2007 after knee surgery. While rehabbing her knee her son suggested she do a woman’s triathlon.
“I told him I could not run, so he said, you can always walk the run.”
Gini signed up for the race, Rocketchix Triathlon, in Baton Rouge, LA, which was a super sprint, with an indoor swim. Gini had taught swimming and used to be a stroke judge at swim meets, and rarely road a bike, or ran before the triathlon, because of the knee pain. She used a mountain bike with fat tires, a “granny bike” as she refers to it, and walked the entire run. To her surprise she won her age group. She was 60 years old at that time.
Gini began to run/walk, and started competing in 5k runs. She returned to Rocketchix every year for 4 years, and eventually got to the point where she no longer walked the run portion. To this day she still tapes the knee before any running, but it has gotten stronger over the years and doesn’t cause her too much trouble.
In 2013 she competed in her first IRONMAN 70.3 race, and surprisingly came in 3rd in her age group, qualifying for the 70.3 World Championship, despite dealing with a broken chain on the bike. Frustrated about the chain she signed up for another half, 70.3 Texas, and won her age group.
“I didn’t think I would ever do a full IRONMAN, but I was watching friends finish their race, and so I asked my son if he thought I could do it. He said, yes, but it is going to be hard.”
Gini says she began her journey to IRONMAN by building a base and then adding harder and more specific workouts. Her goal was to finish by the time limit, 17 hours to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon run. She not only finished, but earned a very coveted slot to the Kona IRONMAN World Championships.
Gini swims under the watchful eye of her son and coach, Pat.
Her son Patrick knows her limitations, and modifies her training schedule based on how she feels. Unlike the younger athletes he coaches he doesn’t have his mom do long brick workouts to avoid burn out. Although Gini admits, “He is giving me more difficult workouts than he did for Florida because of the new challenges I will have to overcome in Kona.”
Gini finds it difficult to imagine not working out now. For the past few years she has taught a class on Exercise, Nutrition, and Aging at Tulane University’s Biloxi, Mississippi campus.
“It is so important as we age to stay active. I love my active lifestyle and cannot imagine not working out. To me age is just a number. If a person is physically able then I think they can accomplish just about anything if they are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that goal.”
Gini will compete at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii on October 14, 2017. She will be 71.