Sundried cycling athlete triathlon Ironman

Francesca is a triathlete who has had her share of setbacks but always comes back stronger and more determined. She talks to Sundried about racing highs and lows.

Have you always been into sport?

Since school I have always been sporty playing netball, hockey, tennis & athletics - I carried on hockey through school and university playing up to National level and still play at Southgate Hockey Club in the National Conference League.

What made you decide to enter the world of triathlon?

At the end of 2017 I signed up to do The London Triathlon in July 2018 to raise money for charity. As it was my first triathlon at such a big venue, I thought I should do a smaller one first to get some practice. I found one with Hercules Events near where I grew up so I knew the area and the roads I would be cycling on well. After that first race in May 2018, I was hooked! I love the competitiveness of the races, the thrill of racing and the sense of achievement when crossing the line.

What’s been your favourite race to date and why?

My favourite race has been Sundowner in August 2019 - it's the race that made me fall in love with middle distance as everything clicked into place. It was also the race that qualified me for ETU GB AG Middle Distance!

And your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement has got to be qualifying for the ETU GB Age Group team in middle and sprint distances in my second year of triathlon racing.

Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

My toughest race was easily my first Ironman - Frankfurt in 2019 when it was 39 degrees Celsius, one of the hottest IM races ever! The swim was non-wetsuit but I came out feeling good, onto the bike and 30km in I injured my groin so cycling became a bit of a struggle. 130km into the bike, one of my contact lenses fell out (to say I cannot see without them is an understatement!)

I made it to the run course but was struggling with my groin and finding it hard to run, coming back from a torn MCL the extra weight on my knee didn't help - by 20km both my knees had gone and I was walk/hobbling to the finish line. But I am proud to say I made it and not ashamed to say I cried as I crossed the finish line!

How do you overcome setbacks?

2019 was one of my toughest years for setbacks. In January I tore my MCL and then, a few months later, sprained my MFPL and MCL again. This caused me to have to pull out of Brighton Marathon whilst also leaving my hopes for IM Frankfurt in tatters. I overcame this through pure determination, I rested when needed, I threw myself into my physio and did everything I possibly could to make sure I was race-ready again. I tried not to let it get me down and found that by focusing on my goals for the year - completing IM Frankfurt and qualifying for the ETUs - it gave me something to aim towards during rehab.

What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing?

Start your training slow and steady - don't suddenly throw yourself into the deep end with really long and intense sessions, that is how you will get injured! I also wish I was told sooner that there is nothing more useful than getting some swim lessons even if it is just a one-off to start it will make all the difference.

What are your goals?

Making it to Kona will always be a dream but, for now, I would love to place at the Euros one day.

Who do you take your inspiration from?

As much as looking at pro athletes who are dedicated and work hard to be the best in their field, I often find when I really need to dig deep I find the most inspiration from myself. I had a year full of injury and setbacks in 2019 but still managed to push through to qualify for GB AG teams as well as complete my first Ironman. When I'm finding sessions or races tough, I look back at what I have achieved and know that I can get through most things.

What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?

Having bought so much kit over the years and constantly having to replace everything, I love that Sundried's is quality kit that will last you a long time without breaking the bank (as well as being eco friendly!). I also love that the company was started by a triathlete with athletes ideas in mind when designing the kit. My favourite bit of kit has to be either the Les Rouies 2 in 1 running shorts or the Power Sports Bra - I've been searching for a good pair of running shorts with an under-short that don't ride up when I run for ages!