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Local man competes in his second Ironman competition

By Staff | Sep 15, 2019

Jim Fellows competed in his second Ironman competition on Sunday, Sept. 8, in Madison, Wisconsin. Fellows, who served in the Navy from 1986 to 1989, competed not only for himself but to raise money and awareness for local veterans who are in need.

It was just over a week ago, Sunday, Sept. 8, Jim Fellows spent some time getting in a little workout. He traveled to Madison, Wisconsin and swam 2.4 miles, then he biked for 112 miles. Next, to top off his day of exercise he ran for 26.2 miles.

Those of you familiar with Ironman competitions will recognize those numbers, they are from an Ironman event. This was Fellow’s second time participating in an Ironman competition.

“I had done a bunch of half triathlons and one Ironman and I said I would never do another Ironman,” Fellows says. “But then I went and signed up for Ironman Wisconsin which is held in Madison.”

The first Ironman he participated in was held in Lake Placid, New York.

“The one in Lake Placid was good,” Fellows comments. “But the one in Madison was better. They had 2,500 participants and 3,000 volunteers.”

And just how did Fellows get the idea to do an Ironman?

“My daughter Natali is good friends with Karli Olsen, they were partners in high school tennis at Blue Earth Area,” Fellows explains. “Natalie came home one day and told me Karli’s parents were going to do an Ironman. I said, ‘That’s nice, what is an Ironman?'”

Fellows credits Karli’s parents, Dave and Suzi Olsen, for getting him interested in the sport.

“I was trying to change my lifestyle,” Fellows remarks. “I needed to eat better and start exercising, but an Ironman was never on my radar.”

So he began training.

“For this triathlon my runs were always at least six miles and then longer on the weekends,” Fellows says. “During peak training I wanted to be running close to 35 miles a week.”

His training on the bike involved riding about 150 miles a week.

If you would like to join him for a bike ride, Fellows shares his route.

“I start in Blue Earth and take old highway 16 to Alden, from there I ride Minnesota Highway 109 to Winnebago. From Winnebago I head south until I turn to the west and head to Huntley,” Fellows explains. “From Huntley I head south all the way to Faribault County Road 2 and then head back to Blue Earth on the swimming pool road.”

It is a ride which totals 100.36 miles and has an elevation gain of 1,150 feet, according to Fellows.

“The ride in Madison is a little tougher,” Fellows shares. “It has a gain of 4,800 feet over the 112 mile course.”

Fellows was not alone as he trained for and participated in the Ironman competition. His girlfriend, Kim Wilkerson, also trained and competed in the event.

“She was out of the water first in Madison, I originally caught her on the bike ride but I had an accident with 12 miles left on the ride,” Fellows explains. “Between having to work on my bike a bit and stopping for a sandwich during the transition to running, she got ahead of me again.”

He did catch up with her during the run and they crossed the finish line together.

Fellows’ final time, including the transitions from swimming to biking to running, was 15 hours, 39 minutes and 19 seconds. To earn the title of Ironman you have to finish in less than 17 hours so Fellows and Wilkerson both made it.

The change in personal habits, the training and the actual competing in an Ironman competition already make for a great story, but there is more.

Fellows is a veteran. He served in the Navy from 1986 to 1989, and was a Signalman on the U.S.S. Lang FF 1060.

“I signed up for the Ironman for personal reasons, it was something I wanted to do,” Fellows shares. “But I saw an inspirational video about a man who was doing Ironmans in honor of fallen friends and suicide awareness, and I decided I wanted to do something to help veterans.”

Fellows contacted Jenna Schmidtke of the Faribault County Veterans Service and she got the ball rolling.

Schmidtke helped design a pamphlet which advertised Fellow’s participation in the Ironman competition and how people could support it.

“Jenna was a big help in getting the word out,” Fellows says.

Schmidtke also helped him form a mission statement.

“I wanted to use this opportunity to raise awareness and bring resources, and financial support to our local veterans who are in need,” Fellows states. “I believe the men and women coming home after serving their country deserve the best opportunities we, as a community, have to offer.”

Working with Schmidtke allowed him to achieve another goal.

“It is important to me this stays local and 100 percent of the money goes to the veterans,” Fellows comments.

There are cans at First Bank Blue Earth and at Juba’s SuperValu where people can leave donations.

“The cans were Tom Juba’s idea, he has been very supportive of this project,” Fellows shares.

First Bank Blue Earth has also set up an account called Mission 140.6 (the total number of miles in the Ironman competition) where donations can be deposited, according to Fellows.

In his mission statement, Fellows cites statistics which have shown individuals who have served in the military, and especially Gulf War era Veterans, hold a 50 percent higher risk of suicide. This is due to the residuals of mental health conditions caused by military service related events.

On Sept. 30, Fellows will turn all of the money donated to Mission 140.6 over to the Faribault County Veterans Services.

Fellows sums up his feelings saying, “Regardless of what your political views are, these kids, these veterans need our support.”