220 Triathlon was recently alerted to the fact that there is a triathlon club in rural Dorset which accounted for all three of the British medals awarded at the ETU Long Distance Championships in Vichy, France earlier this month: TriPurbeck.
Club founder Fran Bungay was third-fastest woman overall at the event, winning the 35-39 AG women's category, while fellow member Liz Hall (coached by Fran) won the 45-49 AG women's category. In the men's race, Dave Pratten put his coaching duties on hold to win the AG 60-64 category.
We caught up with Fran, Liz and Dave to discuss their success at Challenge Vichy, their top tips for AG triathletes, and the TriPurbeck difference…
Congrats on the win! Did you feel confident going into the Challenge Vichy event?
Liz: Thank you. More apprehensive than confident to start with – I've never done an Iron-distance event before, so I had a few pre-race demons keeping me company leading up to the actual start of the race. Once I was into the swim, I was able to banish a few of those demons by focusing on my race plan and the very long road ahead.
Fran was a great support, she knew what to expect and helped me prepare for the highs and lows that undoubtedly come to every athlete doing this distance. I wasn't planning on racing as such other than with myself. It was more of a mental battle for me than physical in terms of not only finishing but finishing strong and achieving my target time.
Getting gold in my age-group was the real icing on the cake – I never went into the race believing that I would get podium, my main focus was to finish and in a good time.
Fran: I felt fit, but unfortunately not too confident as I injured my shoulder after the long-distance event at Alpe d'Huez, and was struggling to swim more than one kilometre. I also had problems in the time trial position and pain down my arm when running, so I was certainly worried!
As coaches of the club, Fran and Dave have to take a lot of the credit. What are your top tips for age-group triathletes looking to reach the podium?
Fran: Time management is imperative, requiring a well-structured training programme that fits around the other commitments in your life, and is tailored towards your own individual goals.
Dave: As an age grouper remember you are doing this for fun not to make a living… Make your training varied and challenging. It is to be enjoyed not endured!
Why do you think TriPurbeck produces such strong competitors?
Liz: I joined the club not long after Fran and Ade [Bungay] set it up back in 2010. I had been a member of another local tri club, but felt that there was no real focus or direction given to members who had not already proved their mettle in terms of Iron distance.
I was very new to triathlon then and was disillusioned by that sort of attitude, so I left. I met Fran at the Purbeck swimming pool on a number of occasions, and got talking to her. At that point I was training for and competing in standard-distance events with no real notable results other than finishing.
I wanted to up my game to middle-distance, which is where Fran came into my life. 2011 was a real turning point for me in terms of triathlon: I registered for Ironman 70.3 UK Wimbleball 2011 and began one-on-one coaching with Fran and joined the TriPurbeck Club. There is a great respect amongst members and coaches within the club, it's like a second family to most members.
There is no hierarchichal or elitist attitude within the club. There are some notable victories for all the members in the club, ranging from those that have never done triathlon before to those having run their first 5k run. There is also some great inspirational characters not only within the adult membership but also the juniors too.
For me Fran is a great inspiration, and without Fran's support and guidance I know that I would have given up triathlon years ago having not fulfilled my potential. Since being coached by Fran, my race form seems to have improved year on year. But typically, as an athlete you are never happy, there's always another 'beast to claim'. Without TriPurbeck and Fran, I wouldn't have been stood on that podium at the European Championships – for sure.
Fran: We are based in an amazing place for training purposes, and the club is fortunate in having successful age-group athletes as the coaches, providing sound advice and coaching opportunities for the club members.
Dave: The area offers outstanding opportunities for training. The roads are relatively quiet, there are some steep climbs and a number of technical routes for cycling. The coastal path builds strong runners and there is a lively open-water swimming scene along the Dorset coast. We have a thriving local competition menu with rival race promoters producing a regular series of races.
Finally, as the tri season nears its close, what have been the races that you have enjoyed most this year?
Liz: My main focus this year was the European Championships at Vichy, but I entered a few local standard distance races around Purbeck to keep my hand in so to speak. I got podium finishes in all races, and achieved some PBs in both the bike and run splits.
For me Vichy was just an incredible experience – not only as it was my first Iron distance but to race wearing the GBR uniform was truly a unique event for me. It was also the first race that my husband Phil came to see me compete in. To see the immensely proud look on his face when I crossed that finishing line was worth more to me than any gold medal!
Fran: I always love the long distance event in Alpe Dhuez. It's at the start of the holidays which puts me in a good mood as it means six weeks with the kiddies and Ade, it's in an amazing place, extremely well organised, and there is always a brilliant atmosphere there. One I will continue to keep coming back to!
Dave: I enjoyed the Marshman middle distance.. It represents a good early season challenge and gives you a weather check on the effectiveness of the winter's training.