August 19, 2012 1:59:09 PM
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
Ellie Jeffreys may not remember an overcast morning on Aug. 18, 2012, in Columbus, Miss., when she grows up, but maybe it will come back to her in a few years when she is in the water, or on a bicycle, or pounding the road.
Watching from the comfort of her stroller, seventh-month-old Ellie had the best seat in the house Saturday as she watched her father, Charles, offer encouragement to her mother, Chelsea before she competed in the inaugural Possum Town Triathlon.
Looking up, Ellie gazed into her mother's eyes and watched as she made her final preparations for a 600-yard swim that would welcome her into the world of competitive triathlons.
"It was great," Chelsea Jeffreys said. "I was really surprised how I did in the swim. I really kind of taught myself how to swim in the summer. I didn't know how to freestyle. Once I got through with that, I was ready to go."
Chelsea said she never swam in open water, and that she hadn't trained for it, so she was a little unprepared for it. She also was one of the few competitors who used a mountain bike as opposed to a lighter, more aerodynamic bicycle.
A veteran of 5-kilometer races, Chelsea hopes her healthy lifestyle will be something her children pick up. She said the cycling portion of the triathlon was tougher than she expected, but she was proud of the fact she didn't walk any of the running portion.
"I definitely will do more," Chelsea said. "I loved. (My brother) I trying to talk me into doing a half Ironman in New Orleans, so we will see. I definitely will be doing this again. It was fun."
Chelsea's brother, Chad Welch, also competed in the event Saturday, finishing 14th overall in the men's division with a time of one hour, 24 minutes, 44 seconds. Jeffreys overcame tired legs after the 17-mile cycling portion and worked out the kinks in the 5-kilometer run to finish with a time of two hours, 12 minutes, five seconds.
Charles said Chelsea was supposed to have competed at a triathlon last week in Jackson, but she had to pull out due to sickness. He said she was pretty demoralized, so they decided to come up from their home in Madison to compete in Columbus.
"It is pretty neat," Charles Jeffreys said. "What was interesting to me was people getting off track in the swim. ... She probably had to swim twice as far as she had to, but that is part of it."
Charles Jeffreys said Chelsea has been training pretty hard, six days a week, in the seven months since she gave birth to Ellie, their second child. Emma Grace, their other daughter is 4 years old.
"I have a feeling Chelsea will want to do more after this one, and, as she gets older, if Ellie sees her competing in them, I bet that will increase the chances of her wanting to do one, too," Charles Jeffreys said.
Charles Jeffreys said he noticed a comparable number of families at the triathlon last week in Jackson. He said he would need to start training as hard as his wife to get into shape if they were able to find someone to care for the kids before an event.
Welch was proud of his sister for stepping out of her comfort zone and trying something new. He feels her athletic background helped her succeed. In his second year of competing in triathlons after coming up as a runner, he said he didn't have to sell his sister on the idea of competing in the events. Now that they have something in common and can bond at the events, maybe Ellie can use to triathlons as a gateway to a healthy lifestyle down the road.
"I think triathlon is more than a sport. It is kind of a lifestyle, and it is a healthy lifestyle," said Welch, who is from Richmond, Va. "I wish that when I was a kid I had been raised around triathlons and gotten into it earlier. Maybe Ellie will be a future Olympian, so I hope my sister keeps this up and gets her daughters into it."
Judging from the look in Ellie's eyes and the smiles she flashed at Chelsea during and after the race, there's no way any parent could dream of keeping her away.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.