A chat with Helen Jenkins

After several recent third place finishes, Helen Jenkins is poised to step up a spot or two at the upcoming Dextro Energy World Championship Series Finals in Budapest, Hungary. We had a few words with the 2008 ITU World Champion from Wales.

Slowtwitch: Helen, are you enjoying your time at home?

Helen: Yes I love being at home. I have been based at home for most of this year just going away for races and a couple of training camps. I have a great base for training, a good swimming club, running club and friends to cycle with. It works for me better than being in a squad environment all year, I like being with the British squad for short times then I like to get back home!

ST: When are you heading to Budapest?

Helen: I’m heading out to Spain first with the GB team for a short camp and then the whole team heads to Budapest the Wednesday before the race.

ST: When you are heading out with the GB team as in this case to Spain, does it become complicated which coach you need to listen to?

Helen: On the camps most of us have different coaches but it works well, we submit our personal training programs and most of the time we can fit in with other athletes for sessions or if your sessions can be supported individually.

ST: You are currently ranked 4th in the WCS, only 8 points behind Lisa Norden. Is she your target in Budapest or is it all about winning?

Helen: It is so close in the rankings and it has been so close in most of the World Champs series races this year. I think I will go into the race just thinking about giving my best performance, hopefully that will be winning. I’d like not to be third again, I’ve got too many bronze medals!

ST: You know when you say you don’t want to be third again that could also go a different direction. You may need to be more specific.

Helen: Higher than third would be better! I have been third quite a few times always with different people in front of me!

ST: This season has been very steady for you, are you happy so far?

Helen: Yep I’m pretty happy with the season! I had my first consistent winters running training since 2005 so I had high hopes at the start of the season that I would start the season well, but it seems to take me a few races to warm up! I was 15th in Sydney and 9th in Seoul. Then I seemed to come into a bit better form and had 3rd in Madrid, Des Moines and Hyde Park then my last race 4th in Kitzbuhel. It has been my most consistent season so far in my career.

ST: You sat out the WCS race in Hamburg to prep for London. Was that planned all along?

Helen: As Hyde Park was the week after Hamburg I did plan all along to sit it out. I wanted to give Hyde Park my best shot. I was disappointed to miss Hamburg though as I hear it is one of the best races of the year, but the podium in Hyde Park made up for it.

ST: Looking back the last few months, which race were you most content with and why?

Helen: I think Hyde Park, I had a decent swim and then worked quite hard on the bike and still managed to run well. The first pack out of the swim didn’t get caught from the second pack on the bike, which is always a good scenario, and I felt like I contributed to that as I did turns on the bike.

ST: Career wise, surely your World Championship title in 2008 must be important to you.

Helen: It was so unexpected to me, and a shock it felt a bit unreal at the time. But it has sunk in now and I’m pretty proud of my performance on the day. I swam rode and ran well and won! Not often you have all three disciplines go well on the same day.

ST: How often did you have to hear that the cold conditions in Vancouver must have been ordered by the British team?

Helen: I think the British athletes are probably more used to the cold than some other nations so I think mentally it is maybe a bit easier to deal with the conditions. I was really pleased to race well in Madrid this year as it was over 30 degrees and I got on the podium, its good to prove I can race in the heat too. Although I think I’d probably have a bit more advantage if we did more races like Vancouver!

ST: Did your win in Vancouver change your life much especially in terms of reception / recognition back home?

Helen: Probably not in the UK as a whole but in Wales I think a lot more people knew about it and I am probably a little more well known. Its really nice though a lot of people tell me they have seen me on TV and are following the races.

ST: Having won a single event World Championships, how do you feel about the new series format?

Helen: I’m really enjoying the new series, its great going to every race knowing your racing the best girls, there are no easy races anymore. The races have been well organized and professional. I think the series aspect has made it more exciting for people following the sport.

ST: You are being coached by your husband Mark, is that sometimes tough?

Helen: Most of the time its great! He started coaching me after my long time off with injury in 2007. I had stopped working with my previous coach and was a bit stuck with what to do. Marc started coaching me almost as a temporary measure, because he could see day to day how my injury was progressing, so what we were doing was very short term and adaptable. The coaching seemed to work for me and so we just carried on with what we were doing. I do have a moan every now and again, normally because I want to do more than is set, but most of the time I just get on with it. He is never there with a stopwatch at the side of the road, he is more likely to be doing his own session further in front of me! But it has worked for us.

ST: What kind of training load are you currently on?

Helen: I’ve had a hard block of training since Kitzbuhel and I’m easing up for a few days, about 5 more days solid after that then taper for the final

ST: We'd like to know what is going in terms of sponsorship.

Helen: I’m really lucky, I have some great sponsors, some who have stuck with me when I was injured for long periods and some who have come on board this last year or so. They are GE Capitol, King Sturge, Asics, Giant Bikes, Mars Refuel, Speedo wetsuits, Suunto, Hed wheels, Oakley and Udo’s choice.

ST: Anything special about your diet?

Helen: I try and eat healthily, a lot of fruit and veg, which I enjoy so that is easy. I try to eat a wide variety of foods and if I need a treat I’ll usually go for pizza and some sweets. I use Mars refuel, which is chocolate milkshake, for recovery after hard sessions.

ST: What music do you like?

Helen: I’m not really into music, I always have loads of upbeat stuff on my iPod for running and then I don’t mind I like listening to anything, we always have music on in the house so it’s a Dean Martin phase at the moment.

ST: What was the last book you read?

Helen: A Jodi Picolt book – House rules. I like reading especially before races, I find it helps switch off a bit. I love sports Biographies for good motivation before races.

ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Helen: Hopefully happy and with a few medals would be good! I’d like to still be doing triathlon.

ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?

Helen: I have a chocolate Labrador called Barney and love to do a bit of training with him. I have a website www.helenjenkins.co.uk and twitter – heljinx if anyone wants some more info about what I’m doing.

ST: Will we get to see Barney in an upcoming slowtwitch Pros and their dogs gallery?

Helen: Yes definitely! I'll get a good photo of both of us.