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Fenella Langridge: Pro Triathlon is both a Privilege and a Challenge

Anyone who watched the 2020 PTO Championships at Challenge Daytona will remember Fenella Langridge. Crossing the line in 7th place, Fenella expressed her joy by skipping, jumping and hollering her way down the finishing chute. Not only did this guarantee her the best finish line photos of the entire field, it was a refreshing and honest expression of joy after a challenging year in 2020, “I’d done a few races in the autumn of 2020 but didn’t feel any of them reflected the progress I’d made last year,” explained Fenella when we spoke to her via Zoom over a cup of tea last week, “and my Daytona prep was jeopardised in the final four weeks as I couldn’t run and didn’t know if my body would hold up on the day. Before the injury I’d felt that a Top-10 was feasible, so crossing the line in 7th was awesome as it confirmed that I belong and that there is much more to come!

Athlete Profile – Fenella Langridge

DOB: 1992 Nationality: British First Year Pro: 2018 Significant Results: 2x Ironman 70.3 Victories (Edinburgh & Barcelona), 2nd at 2019 Ironman 70.3 European Championships (Elsinore), 7th at PTO Championships 2020. Sponsors: Reap Bikes, Parcours Wheels, On Running (Shoes), Kogel (Bearings). (+1 new yet to be announced) Favourite Training Location: Mallorca and the French Alps Favourite Race: Challenge Peguera (For the course and the atmosphere, not the results to date).

Getting her start in Triathlon relatively late (2013 in her last year at University), you can’t deny that Fenella wasn’t already a multisport athlete growing up: “As a kid I swam, I ran, I did gymnastics, field hockey and everything. I was very energetic and always very active. I’d given up running and swimming to focus on Hockey at Cardiff University, but the buzz of individual sport soon went missing so I picked up running again before being roped into the Triathlon team,” explained Fenella as we discussed her start in Triathlon. “I was immediately surrounded by a good squad and good coaches,” she added, “and my first race was at the BUCS Sprint Championships in 2013.”

Fenella moved onto the British short distance racing circuit the following year and progressed to the European Cup level in draft legal racing in 2016 and 2017. Her best result came in Weert (Holland) in 2017, finishing 5th in a field that included athletes such as Angelica Olmo and Leonie Periault.

After graduating University in 2013 I worked a number of small jobs allowing me to continue full time training,” Fenella continued to explain, “this included working in Bike Shop, being a PT, a Law firm, writing blog content, coaching running clubs and working at a café. It wasn’t glamorous but it was what allowed me to continue training and racing.”

Moving away from Cardiff back home to Salisbury with her partner (Billy, Head Coach at Triforce Endurance) was the catalyst that saw Fenella shift towards non-drafting and middle distance racing, “Once I began training alone rather than with a squad I quickly made the shift towards non-drafting and longer distance racing,” Fenella readily admits that she’s always been more of a diesel engine, “it suited my strengths better and this was confirmed with my first two outings at Tri The Beast and at the Castle Series in 2017, I took the plunge in 2018 and began racing as a professional at the 70.3 distance.”

Fenella’s first season included three podiums before a win at 70.3 Edinburgh, which she backed up with another win at 70.3 Barcelona in 2019 and a 2nd place finish at the 2019 European Championships in Elsinore. Like everyone else, Fenella had big plans for 2020 but we all know what happened last year!

Turning our conversation to 2021 and beyond, Fenella says she is already relishing the opportunity to race a stacked field again in Miami, “my first race of the year will be Challenge Miami,” she explained, “and then I will spend some time training in Tucson before heading to 70.3 St George in Utah as well. I always target big races as I feel it’s what gets the best out of you as an athlete. I don’t see the point in avoiding the big races, if you shy away then you’ll never know how you fare at that level and what you need to improve to up your game.”

When probed as to what she thinks she needs to work on to take that next step up in performance, Fenella is realistic and down to earth with regards to her strengths and weaknesses, “Currently I think I’m quite evenly matched across all three disciplines, so to compete against and beat the best I’ll need to up my game in all three sports. In the Swim I’ll need to find that extra percent to ensure I never miss a front pack and can swim at the front without relying on anyone’s feet. On the Bike I think my power is good I just need to find ways to better translate that into speed by getting more efficient in the TT position. On the Run I need to improve my consistency. In Elsinore I had the run of my life so far and from my training I know I can do even better, so it’s about being consistent and translating that into a race.”

Currently outside the Top 8 Europeans in the PTO rankings, Fenella is also aiming to earn her spot at the Collins Cup by performing well enough this season to move up the rankings or earn a Captain’s Pick. “One of the things I learnt in 2020,” she adds, “is that professional triathletes need to be adaptable and flexible, but you can’t lose sight of your long-term goals. I used 2020 as a season to progress and improve, and I think I will see many benefits from the long uninterrupted block of training.”

I’m still quite young in the sport, if I want to have a long career in Triathlon I need to focus on the process goals that will build my performances towards the outcome goals. Results will always be influenced by a wide variety of factors like the race course, the race dynamics and so on. To give yourself a chance of a good result you need to be strong enough across the board to overcome some or all of those factors on any given race day.”

Living as a professional triathlete is a privilege,” Fenella went on to explain when questioned about her job as a Triathlete, “you have the flexibility of working for yourself and extreme self determination over your own job. The training, travelling and racing lifestyle that you can enjoy are the envy of many, but you must not forget that you have to treat it as a profession, and tune out the haters who claim all you do is go on holiday and ride your bike. The people saying that probably couldn’t survive a single day on training camp, let alone 4 to 6 weeks.”

Sometimes you have to remind yourself not to feel guilty about sitting on the sofa all evening after a hard day of training or travelling in COVID times like we have to at the moment. At the end of the day, we need to make a living just like anyone else, our profession is a 24/7, 365 days a year job that has no guaranteed income.”

When asked to clarify what she meant with regards to income, Fenella went on to explain the various sources of income that she has to create as a professional triathlete. “Obviously people see the Prize Money listed at races and think that’s how we make our living, but the reality is that most of our income usually comes from elsewhere.”

Prize money is taxed at source and then subject to income tax at home as well, and once you subtract your travel expenses to get to and from the race, you’re usually not looking at much. However, once you start getting some results then you can start talking to sponsors and partners to get some value in kind and eventually a salary, a retainer and/or a results-based bonus structure.”

Fenella says it’s tough to put a figure on your own head when negotiating with a partner, you don’t know what other athletes are earning or how that company potentially values you and the visibility that you can provide for their brand. Representing herself rather than working with an agent or lawyer, Fenella explained that her strategy has always been to try and build long term relationships with brands that you believe in and brands that believe in you.

In my first year as a professional I didn’t earn any money from sponsorship,” concluded Fenella as we finished our discussion about sponsors, “and it was a steep learning curve with my partner Billy in the following seasons as we sought to negotiate contracts with companies that would help provide me with a more stable income. Thankfully in 2020 none of my partners backed out of their contracts, I think I’m quite fortunate on that front that I’ve been building these relationships with a view to long term collaboration throughout my career. I’ve also signed a new partnership that will be announced soon, but I’ll keep it under wraps for now.”

Probing Fenella with the classic ‘when will you do an Ironman’ question that’s asked of all 70.3 athletes these days, Fenella laughed it off and admitted that it’s more of a long-term project and reaffirmed that her focus is firmly on the 70.3 distance for the time being as she seeks to perform at championship races in the future.

If you enjoyed our conversation with Fenella, go follow her on Social Media via the links below and show her some support by tuning in for Challenge Miami next month. Instagram - @fenella.alicia Facebook - TriFenella Twitter - @fenella_alicia

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