Team Jenkins: Who wants to be normal?!

The latest update from Helen and Marc Jenkins. IRONMAN Virtual Racing and dealing - or not - with the "New Normal", feature this month...

Chief Correspondent
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Team Jenkins (Jinx Sport) Monthly Column – July 2020

GOING VR And Trying to be F*%@ing Normal…

ITU Triathlon World Champion in 2008 and 2011, Helen Jenkins has also represented Great Britain at the last three Olympic Games.

Since then, she’s had a child (Mali), had to go through major spinal fusion surgery (2018), and in 2019 she and her husband, coach and Olympian himself, Marc Jenkins, welcomed their second child (Max) into the world. Family life, time to move on, racing days over and time to reflect back on a great career? Absolutely not! Helen returned to racing in February at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai.

Each Month, Helen and Marc will give us their separate and individual takes on the past month, as they strive for their next success in the sport they love.

Here’s their latest update, which covers the month of July 2020, which leaves Marc wondering what ‘normal’ is…

You can find previous updates here:
Aug 2019 | Sept 2019 | Oct 2019 | Nov 2019)
 | Dec 2019 | Jan 2020 Feb 2020 | Mar 2020
 | Apr 2020 | May 2020 | June 2020

Helen Jenkins

It’s been fab to have some sort of normal life resuming. We have been able to catch up with friends, get back into parks with the kids and even go to a pub! To be honest, still not been to a pub… but I was in the park the first day back!

I have had a good month of training, nice and consistent and I’m back running. One of the things I find quite hard is that I compare my training from years ago to now. And I am not as fast as I used to be! I have to remember I am training to run longer than I use to as well…

Helen Jenkins
Photo Credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd

My situation is so different now; I do a bit less training and obviously two kids and a back surgery is a hindrance to elite triathlon training! Well the kids are not a hindrance, but the lack of recovery is tough, not much down time and we are currently in a teething phase so a full nights sleep hasn’t happened recently.

I do love the crazy busy life of fitting in my training and time with the kids. We are wrecked at the end of the day but I appreciate the family time and then love the time to train. Having a flexible training plan that fits in training/family really helps. We currently plan my training weekly as to keep it flexible for fatigue levels which can change so quickly if I have a rough few nights sleep. Anyone out there with young kids, try to be really be flexible with your training. I have found training with a severe lack of sleep is not sustainable for too long, so schedule the rest days. 

Helen Jenkins

The positive of coming back to triathlon after such a long layoff is that every session and even reduced training means that I am improving, even if it is slowly. I am training with the mindset I’ll keep trying to build good base fitness and if the opportunity to do a race this year presents itself, I will be ready to go with a few weeks’ notice. 

I was really pleased to be asked to race IRONMAN VR 14 race this month. I really enjoyed the format, it involves having to run a 3km time trial and then race 40km against three other Pro women on the bike on Rouvy.

It really felt like race week – there was a couple of briefings leading into the race to discuss the logistics and making sure everyone was set up on Rouvy, how the video links would work, and how to record the 3k run. The race was streamed live for the bike portion with the hosts being able to chat to us during the race. The 3k run was pre-recorded by us and then used in the race coverage.

Helen Jenkins IRONMAN VR

I was so nervous for the 3k run, my running had been inconsistent lately, so I was putting myself on the line with a lack of hard run training. We headed down to the local industrial estate where there is a 1k loop regularly used by the running club. You do have to dodge the occasional lorry!

The weather was typically Welsh…, windy and drizzly! I loved the run, it felt great to push myself hard and I managed to run a pretty even pace; as I wasn’t super run fit, taking it out steady was important. The time didn’t set the world alight, but I was happy with it and my body came out of it in good shape with no injury flare-ups.

Helen Jenkins IRONMAN VR

The bike was fun. The Pro women lined up with all of the age groupers competing, there were also several primes to aim for to keep things entertaining. I was happy with my overall ride and finished up the ride third by a couple of seconds which was enough to put me into second place overall. Chatting to the hosts whilst trying to ride hard was challenging, it’s the balance of a race and entertainment for people watching. This time last year when I was planning on returning to triathlon, I didn’t imagine it was to be virtually!

Helen Jenkins IRONMAN VR

It was a fun race and I loved having the pre-race nerves and the anticipation of competing. VR is not the same as real life racing, but the emotions are the same, and the desire to succeed the same.

The month ended with getting back into the pool a little earlier than most, for which I have to thank Welsh Triathlon for giving me the opportunity to get back swimming this month. Swim fitness feels a long way off, I’m kind of wishing I had actually used my swim stretch cords more than once! Sorry Coach….

August will present new challenges and opportunities and I can’t wait to see how the Covid Adventure continues and new experiences.

Helen’s Tips of the month

As pools are starting to open and swimming may become part of your regular routine again (and If like me you were slack on the swim cords), it’s important to be careful on returning to the pool to prevent injuries. I took my first few sessions really easy, a good focus on swim drills and post-swim stretching to try and get some flexibility back into my shoulders.

We seem so busy at the moment, with the kids, training and currently we are setting up our new coaching business and website. At times like this we quite often get the kids to bed and then start to think about what we are having for dinner. I try and write a loose plan for the week of what we are eating, and this helps us stick to healthier options. We don’t always achieve it and some nights end up with a takeaway, but the plan does help.

Hope everyone is staying safe and well. Keep positive!

Marc Jenkins

Is it Normal it be F*%@ing Normal?

Seems like normality is returning while clearly some things are less than normal? Maybe normal is different now, although I’m not keen on the new normal, so we will see where we go.

Still not a great deal opens in Wales but we seem to be following in the footsteps of our neighbours over the bridge. Some leaders lead, some follow. Guess that’s like people and sheep so may be appropriate Wales is following England’s lead?

We eventually have some childcare so time for me to make a good start on reducing my waistline. I’ve never been so fat. Helen says I’ve been fatter – thanks Helen – but I think there’s more of me to love now than ever.

Marc Jenkins
Photo Credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd

I’ve had some contact from people who want some help moving forward and it seems lots of us have resorted to the same habits in lock down. Less motivation with no clear goals, more unhealthy food, more of a tendency to crack open a bottle whatever that may be and less frequent activity. Most of us are a bit heavier and less fit than when we started this. Come on everyone…. Line in the sand time and let’s break the bad habits.

Goals seem to be returning both long and short. Kids are getting back to nursery and school will return soon. Won’t it? So, less excuses that we are looking after the kids and we don’t have time. We do have time if we make it.

Marc Jenkins

Helen has trained well over the past few weeks with a return to running and a return to swimming which has been organised by Welsh Triathlon allowing her to get back in the pool. I’ve been getting a few swims a week done with my buddies at the local beach which is always great, but we aren’t getting the same amount of work done as we would in the pool so I’m looking forward to club session starting back and Rhys Jones making a start on getting us all fit after the longest time I’ve ever had out of the chlorine. Not really sure where we are going to start. I am sure it’s going to be unpleasant initially, but I’m looking forward to throwing myself into it hard and breaking the back of it quickly.

I had my StagesBike delivered this week. Wasn’t sure what to expect from what I thought would be an exercise bike, but it’s absolutely fantastic. If you aren’t into indoor training, I get it, but this is a real pleasure to ride on and I was amazed at the difference and feel of something specifically designed for indoor training.

Marc Jenkins
Photo Credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd

While racing is starting back up, I think Helen and I are a month or so away from planning anything. We are keen to see how the next few weeks go of this new normal before we plan any trips and racing.

Hope the USA work things out pretty soon as I need a trip to see friends in Vegas. I’ve told Mali that Mickey and Minnie live there not Florida. Does that make me a bad daddy 😉

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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