What better time than St David’s day to announce that I signed up yesterday for Ironman Wales and it’s (almost) all because of Rhyzostoma pulmo.
Yes, I’m talking about those not so little guys who regularly wash up on Welsh beaches.
My love affair with jellies began with my first 70.3 in Aarhus, Denmark. The sea was clear, beautiful and jellynfested. I swam in the first wave, with the other women and the pros, our pre-race brief was simple: clear the jellyfish for the next waves. It was love at first sight and considering this jelly attraction, I think I might make a passable whale, or maybe a sea-turtle.
Truth be told, I’m slightly disappointed that the magic sunscreen/jelly protector combo that is apparently sold for Ironman Nice is not available in northern latitudes. Seems that no one needs sunscreen north of the Channel.
OK, so we’re all told the local jellies don’t sting, but do the jellies know it?
I also heard that our local jellies can weigh up to 40 kg and measure up to 90 cm in length so I can’t help wondering what a mid-swim collision with one of these babies could feel like…
With all these questions in mind I decided that the first step on my Ironman journey would be to go on a fact hunt about jellyfish: are they really scary or merely misunderstood?
Here are a few facts (mostly courtesy of treehugger) about jellies that I will be sure to bear in mind when swimming the murky, uphill and jellyful waters of Tenby.
1. With a bit of luck I won’t need a head torch, even if it’s still dark when we start: some jellies glow in the dark.
2. I’ll remember not to use my karate chop swim stroke: cut a jelly in two and… voilà: you have two jellies. These guys can clone themselves. You’ve been warned.
3. And don’t even think about chopping them to oblivion: some species are immortal. Yes, immortal, they can actually regress to their baby stage (polyp) when they’re under stress. Makes me wonder whether I know more jellies than I actually though.
4. They’re so blooming efficient when it comes to underwater propulsion that researchers are trying to copy their pulsing motions to create better underwater vehicles. Fancy being beaten on the swim by a jelly?
5. But they’re disgusting with their tentacles… Well, actually not all jellies have them so if tentacules aren’t your thing, just get to know the right species.
6. Rhyzostoma pulmo, the Ironman Wales giant jelly is called the Barrel jellyfish but there’s another giant jelly with the interesting name of Pink Meanie. Yes, you’ve guessed it, that jelly is big, pink and has a mean sting. Suddenly our mellow barrel jelly is growing on me.
7. I won’t try to explain my right of way when swimming through the swarm: jellies are brainless. Literally. No brain. Just nerve clusters.
8. Seems you don’t really need a brain to know that nuclear power might not be the best for the oceans: jellyfish swarms getting stuck in pipes have blocked and shut down several nuclear reactors. Hinkley Point, we’re coming for you!
8. And again: they really move so efficiently that they’ve also inspired a flying machine. Seriously. Have a look here. Wondering if we could adapt this to create an aero jelly trisuit…
9. No salted caramel pancake for post race recovery: powdered jellies are used in Japan to create salted caramel. Sticky.
10. The protein that makes jellies glow in the dark could be used as a power source for medical devices. Better remember to keep my mouth shut when swimming: you never know if inadvertently swallowing a jelly might not lead to trouble with the performance drugs enhancing brigade.
11. Some jellies eat peanut butter (don’t ask how they get it, just don’t). Another thing I won’t be having on the bike then: peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Well, that’s the fact finding done and from now on it’s training, to make sure that I’ll be full of (jelly) beans come race day and since Mr Tiger will also be racing in Tenby, I’m pretty sure I’ll have some strong arms to catch me at the finish line and relieve my jelly legs.
Oh, and by the way, the jellies didn’t really make me do it, I signed up of my own free will (or was it freewheel?) and because I wanted to.