Fran is a triathlete who set up her own triathlon club and now also trains others to become triathlon coaches. She talks to Sundried about the highs and lows of triathlon.
Have you always been into sport?
No, I didn't get involved in triathlon until after I had children. I wish I had though; it's great to see so many juniors enjoying the sport from a young age, and the great thing about triathlon is that with Age Group competition, you can still race no matter your age.
What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?
A friend suggested giving it a go and I loved every second of it. My breaststroke at that point was better than my crawl, but I worked hard at it over the years. It was a critical turning point in my life as it also changed my career from a teacher to a PT to a Triathlon Coach and Triathlon Coach Educator, working for the BTF training new coaches.
While my children were young, I re-trained, set up taster sessions in schools to promote triathlon to our younger generations, and established a Junior Triathlon Club in the Purbecks. This is now a family club for all ages and abilities from 7 to those in their 70s.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
This is tricky as I have fond memories of lots of races, but for different reasons. The race I keep going back to because it is just iconic is the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon. I have raced the long course quite a few times and the short course a couple of times. We have a place overlooking Lake Verney, the start of the race, where we run triathlon camps and spend most of the summer, so that probably helps!
However, the race itself provides a challenge; you have 3 mountains to climb on the bike route, the last one being Alpe d'Huez, as the run is at the top of the mountain. The race features stunning scenery, amazing sportsmanship and the experience of being involved in an athlete-centred week-long festival of triathlon, as there are junior races, duathlons, and both short and long triathlon events.
And your proudest achievement?
In terms of racing? That's a really hard question, as all the races I have won have been amazing, either championship events or local events. Maybe a standout race for me would be winning the European Ironman Championship Event. Racing was going really well that year, but unfortunately I had damaged my ankle, and halfway through the 3rd lap on the run I went over on it again and couldn't walk, let alone run.
I knew I was having a fantastic race and was in the lead, so I managed to find a way of running on the straight bits of the road and walking around corners, finishing the race in the medical tent. It was also my last key race in terms of performance, as from that point onward it was about managing the ankle until I had surgery.
If we are looking at triathlon in a more broader sense, then setting up Tripurbeck Club and establishing an amazing team of Goalspecific Athletes, who work hard and perform out of their skin is very special. I am probably more nervous when we have team members racing now!
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Lots! I have had my handlebars on my bike come loose, my breaks have failed, gears broken, the best was probably my pedal coming off - sadly it was a Championship event! Getting disqualified due to losing my race number on the bike. Last year racing in Peguera I was stung in the face by a jelly fish, which meant I couldn't see out of my left eye, my face blew up, and over the course of the bike I began to feel rather unwell. I still have the tentacle scar on my face! That is one I will not forget, and I still managed to climb onto the podium. They were not my toughest races though.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I have suffered from anaemia a few times throughout my racing career, but the biggest setback for me was returning to racing after ankle injury. I had surgery to have a ligament pinned in my left ankle a few years back, and at the same time I was losing my dad to cancer over the course of a couple of years. The net result was my rehab was sidelined as my dad was the priority, and the next few years I found that I was unable to run, picking up injury after injury on my left leg, starting from the foot working its way up to the hip.
All races over the last few years have been a swim, bike, then struggle to the end. Last year I was going to call it quits as I could not find a solution to it. However, I decided one more year, worked hard on specific ankle strength work and mobility work, went back to basics with running and built it back up very slowly.
Joe, my physio, worked very hard on my hip and left leg, and I have got to a place now (fingers crossed) where for the first time in literally years I can run pain-free, consistently, and am enjoying it again. Huge thank you to my husband, and coach Ade for getting me to this position. It's just a shame there are no races! However, I am finally excited at the prospect of being able to race again.
What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?
Just focus on yourself, your own goals, and don't worry about anyone else, and always remember the reasons for doing it in the first place!
Focus more on the impact of your mental self, as it's very powerful. Self doubt and negativity will have an impact on every outcome, although this is easier said than done!
That is not to say I didn't know this and was not provided with the advice, but when it all is going your way, you are naturally more positive, and do not have so many negative demons. After many setbacks, it's very difficult to find that positive mindset and to create realistic positive goals that are far from what they used to be.
Over the last year, I have had to work very hard at this, and hopefully when racing starts again I will be racing with a more positive mindset and self-belief in my ability to race to the end, not just T2!
What are your goals?
In terms of my racing goals, my overriding aim is to be able to get off the bike and run pain-free (obviously within reason, it always hurts!) with a positive mindset to the end of the race. In terms of outcome goals, if I am fit, have raced to the best of my ability, I will be happy with the outcome, whatever it is.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
My family and our Goalspecific Athletes. They are all truly inspiring; without them and being fortunate enough to be part of their own triathlon journeys, I would have stopped racing years ago.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Sundried's values and ethics are paramount. I also love the simplicity of the kit, comfort and quality. At the moment my favourite would be my running shorts, which are very comfortable in this heat. Though I am looking forward to riding in the bike kit I have just ordered!