Rotoruas Roberta Ingram spent three years volunteering at Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand, caught the bug and signed up to compete this year, and has already won a race against time to overcome the effects of a training accident and make the start line on March 3 at Taupo.

It was back in 2015 when this amazing 36-year-old mother of four had her first involvement with Kelloggs Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand, working as a volunteer in the transition area, it was quite the eye opener for the Rotorua Hospital Administrator.

"I was at the dinner on the Monday night back and I thought it's just so cool, look at all these people, they're just ordinary people. I said to myself I could do this. The ordinary people that have obviously put their mind to it come up with a plan and just gone through with it. So, through volunteering I wondered if I could do Iron Man."

Ingram is not alone though, with a few others catching that same bug in 2015.

"There is a few of us who volunteered and we're all now stepping up to the start line. Other people have said where do I start to do an IRONMAN? I say, start with volunteering - it gives you such a great insight.

Ingram got her first taste of endurance racing at IRON MAORI, before she had even caught a whiff of IRONMAN. It was a battle with depression that saw her first turn to exercise.

"I had postnatal depression after my third child and I found then that exercise got me out of depression. In 2014 I did IRONMAORI and I chipped away at doing different events, they can cost a lot of money and time, but you don't have to be a pro, you can just be Joe Bloggs and hold down an office job like me. You find the right people to support you and it can be amazing."

Fast forward to late 2017 and training was going well with her group In Training when disaster struck.

"The crash happened the Saturday before New Years, that was our last ride for the year. I had concussion, a lot of scrapes and grazes and bruising, a hematoma under my right eye and for some weeks I couldnt grip my hands properly yet but I have made good progress and cant wait for race day now.

"It was during one of our regular Saturday training rides, normally four or four and a half hours. I was coming down a hill, going down quite fast and I lost my balance and ended up on the side of the road, I hit the road instead of sliding into the bushes. The ambulance was called and took me to hospital all banged up. I couldn't see out of my right eye, the right side of my body took all the impact but me being a hero, I decided to get home carry on, thinking I'll be alright.

"I was at home recovering for a week and things weren't feeling right so I went back to hospital a week later with concussion, so I've only just started training again these past few weeks."

Ingram only recently received a clearance to get back into full training, but in a typical show of courage and determination she has no doubt that with the support of those close to her, she will be ready when the gun goes.

"My family, my four children and husband sacrificed a lot for me to get this far. I did 70.3 Taupo in December and I knew then that I could do IRONMAN. It's not being cocky or anything. There can be so much doubt - even people that I know that have done several, they have doubts, but I just need to get that confidence boost, you just know this is what I have to do. I have to keep on training, tick all the boxes. I'm really hopeful that I can finish IRONMAN."

That support includes her very patient and understanding family, with Social Worker husband Aiden, and children Johnny and Charlie (14-year-old twins), Kenneth (10) and Aiden-Taylor (7), as well as an amazing couple that lead the In Training IRONMAN training group.

"Doris and Max Bragg (74 years old) are just so inspirational with their leadership skills in organising our group. Max won a slot at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in September 2018 in Port Elizabeth. Without the In Training crew a lot of my training would not have been possible, they have nurtured and guided me in so many ways it really has strengthened my belief in the mantra Nothing is impossible to the willing mind. Without their support my journey would not have been possible. They are all ordinary people doing something so special."

Roberta will be relying further on the support of the Braggs, her fellow In Training buddies and her family, with husband Aiden and the kids there on the day, shouting their encouragement.

"The family came over to Taupo for the 70.3 and I think it was a really big eye opener for my husband. He was like you guys are just amazing, this is why you guys are trying so hard.

"Fitting in training around the family is a real challenge, some days I am practically training in my sleep. You have to stay committed, do early mornings getting up at five in the morning. And yes, sometimes I would find myself hanging out in togs all day because Id got too busy to change!

"You just have to balance everyone, your partner, your children, work. Luckily work is very supportive toward me. Work is not paying me to do it, I've had to fundraise to do IRONMAN, I've done cake sales during work hours and I have done some movie nights, they have been so supportive."

For Ingram though, she will remember her days as a volunteer when she takes to the course, knowing that she might in turn be inspiring others to give the race a go in the future.

"I think for me that's what the volunteering has done. I'm an ordinary person and I'm one of those ordinary people I've seen over those years doing the IRONMAN, I am hoping this year is my turn to get to that finish line and hear Mike Riley shout out Roberta, you are an IRONMAN. That would be cool."

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Triathlon New Zealand