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Helen Jenkins: when the best-laid plans don’t work out…

After IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai, it's not been the easiest month for Helen Jenkins - but the arrival of her new bikes has put a smile on her face...

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Team Jenkins (Jinx Sport) Monthly Column – February 2020

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!

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 of course covers the month of February 2020 and Helen’s return to racing at IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai.

You can find previous updates here:
Aug 2019 | Sept 2019 | Oct 2019 | Nov 2019)
 | Dec 2019 | Jan 2020

Helen Jenkins

First race done! Dubai 70.3. Finish position 4th.

It was amazing to be back racing after so long off. I enjoyed the race and the distance, and it ignited the competitiveness inside me. I came back to from the race excited to see the kids after being away for five days, excited to have a chilled week and then crack on with training. Like all best-laid plans, that hasn’t happened.

IRONMAN 70.3 Dubai 2020 - Helen Jenkins / Pamella Oliveira
Photo Credit: Ryan Bowd

It has been a bit of a crappy month. I never want to write about the harder times, I use social media less and retreat from the triathlon world. When you’re not on track to achieving your goals, it can be hard to see the constant feed of everyone’s amazing training and progress. Although logically I am aware that social media is the highlight reel, personally, it doesn’t help me! Also, my crappy month is nothing serious… so many people are going through a lot worse, I am just not able to swim, bike and run as much as I would have liked.

I spent my easy week being run down with a cold. I also had some pain from the race I needed to get under control, Max got Chickenpox and the last week myself, Mali and Max have all had a virus! I don’t even want to look at my Training Peaks of the volumes completed this month.

I guess that is life with two young kids, especially ones that attend a nursery a couple of days a week. It is a lesson that I have learnt so many times that your plans have to flexible. You can have the most incredible plan in the world but you have to be able to adjust it and change as you move forward, even more so when you have kids. I am very self-motivated and not much stops me from sticking to my training plan. I don’t need anyone else around (although company makes life easier), I will always do my best in sessions, but since having the kids I am much less able to do this. The unexpected night of no sleep (or five in a row, thanks Chickenpox!), throws the plans out the window. I have to be a lot more relaxed about training and make the most of any opportunity I get.

Helen Jenkins

The month hasn’t been all doom and gloom. I spent a lovely few days with my sister who has a little girl, Olive, who is exactly the same age as Mali. So, we had cousin carnage for a few days. My time off of training has meant more time spent with the kids. I appreciate the extra time with them, although a five-hour training day is easier than entertaining two kids on your own all day on a rainy day.

Also, I took delivery of my new bikes, from my new bike partner Vitus. As a Pro you would expect me not to get excited about these things, but I have to say they made me smile, and they are beautiful, and their unique logo shape makes the inner geek in me smile. I am excited to get fitted on them and get out training and racing on them.

Helen Jenkins / Vitus

Speaking of bikes here is a bike session that you might like to try…

Helen’s Workout of the month

I know I am fit if I can do this session;

Warm Up

  • 4/5 x 8mins with 3 mins recovery after each
    • 5mins slightly below LT2 (FTP) – approx. 5% below
    • 2mins at LT2** to LT2+5% Watts above
    • 1min at best power
    • 3 min recovery Below LT1

Main Set

  •  6 x 5 mins at best power with 2 mins recovery
    • 5 mins at Best Power*
    • 2 mins Recovery


  • 10 minutes starting at LT1 and descending 5-10 watts every minute until it is super easy

* aim to be consistent with your best power each set, this effort you should really, really feel

** LT2 power’s have been proven by blood tests results in a laboratory. You would expect to see a similar figure for a 60min TT on the bike so an FTP would give you similar number over a long enough period.

Marc Jenkins

A triathlete again!!!

So, Helen made Dubai and survived the race to the finish. As a young family thinking about what we both had to do to get her there compared to how it was pre-2016, this seems like a completely different life and journey.

After the race Helen was happy with being able to compete again. She knows she is a way off of where she was, where she wants to be and what she is capable of doing but this was the first objective – line in the sand, get there and finish it. Neither were certainties. She had fun in the race, she was proud of what she had done. She loved travelling with Morgan and being there with Ryan, Ladi and Martin, all part of the Dubai team helping Helen make her first start.

Helen Jenkins / On Running
Photo credit: Ryan Sosna-Bowd

Post-race, Helen was probably more sore than she’d ever been because of the limited time she had to train to get herself fit. By fit she was fit enough to complete the race, but to race fully, she knows she needs different training, and will work on that in coming months.

Physically afterwards, she had a really sore toe, some swelling in her knee and just a severe case of the DOMS, so recovery took some time.

That said, I actually had it much harder during the race: two kids awake all night with Chickenpox and no sleep. Women are definitely tougher than men, Helen would have coped with it fine. I managed but felt a lot sorrier for myself than she would have done.

Marc Jenkins

Now back to Helen. Since the body has recovered, Helen has been sick twice and has generally had a pretty average month while dealing with the painful body post-race and two nasty viruses, but these are all things we have to cope with and just keep moving forward as well as we can when things aren’t going our way.

Additionally, since Dubai we’ve had some great partners decide to come on this journey with us, CLIF Bar nutrition being one them. They are a partner you want for after a big session but don’t want to have when you are wondering around the house looking for something good to eat… I am at risk of eating two or three of their bars at a time, they taste so good!.

Vitus Bikes have also partnered, and Helen is super excited about having since she thinks the Logo is the coolest ever and for any of you sci-fi geeks out there makes her feel like she is riding something made by the “federation”.

Vitus Helen Jenkins

The plan moving forward is to get set up properly on the new bike now with the Dan Bigham from the HUUB Fellowship of Speed and properly prepare for the next race where she is in a position to compete not just survive.

Marc’s Coaching Tip of the Month

Stay safe on the roads guys with this weather getting worse and worse and if you aren’t sure whether the conditions are good enough to ride… just get on the indoor trainer. You can lose more than you gain if bad things happen and it’s just not worth risking. You need road miles, but not at the risk of injury.

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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