TW Interviews: Helen Jenkins

Find out why race day nerves won’t be getting the better of Helen Jenkins as she prepares for her London 2012 qualification races



helen jenkins, hyde park triathlon

We were lucky enough to catch up with one of Britain's finest triathletes, Helen Jenkins, as she took a break from training for her London 2012 qualification target races in Hyde Park and Beijing.

Jenkins is already on blistering form this year after twice finishing a close second to Paula Findlay in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series.

But it's Olympic dreams that are driving Jenkins to push ever harder. The 2008 World Champion and two-time London Triathlon winner reveals her strategies for coping with race day nerves - and the pressure of being the 2012 Olympic triathlon favourite.

Do you have a strategy going into the Olympic qualification races?

I'd like it to be a hard swim, hard bike, hard run - but I've got to prepared for every scenario and able to deal with whatever happens on the day.

How do you cope with the pressure of being one of the favourites to take a Team GB slot?

The main pressure is the pressure I put on myself. I try not to think about the overall result, I break it down and just focus on the individual disciplines. Before I start I'm just thinking about the first ten strokes of the swim, I try not to think about what's going to happen on the bike or run. That keeps me calm as I'm just keeping my thinking in the moment.

What's it going to take to beat Paula Findlay?

I don't think she's unbeatable and I will be able to do that at some point, it's just about getting the best performance on the day. Looking at her race it seems to be a hard swim, bike and run and if she's a faster runner, it just comes down to the run. She might not be able to run as fast if it's been a really hard swim or bike, so I need to make sure that happens.

What does competing in London 2012 mean to you?  

Being an Olympian is a big deal and not many people will ever have that experience. To compete at a home Olympics is even more rare and I think the public will really get behind the events and make them special.

What tips do you have for people competing in the Hyde Park triathlon?

It's a good race for beginners and it's a pretty flat course. A common problem can be pacing because you can easily get carried away and go too fast at the start. Make sure you don't go crazy in the first discipline and that you have enough energy to get round the course.

Which discipline would you like to improve most in the build-up to London 2012?

The run is the main area for improvement, because the race is usually won on the run, but you can't let the other disciplines slide. You don't win prizes for being the fastest runner, you win by being the best overall. I need to keep improving at all three disciplines and looking at the small things to make gains. Improving my run though is probably crucial if I want to take home an Olympic medal.

What sessions are you currently doing to hone your run?

I'm just generally increasing the volume. In the past three years I haven't been able to do as much as I would have liked due to injury. I'm now being able to consistently get a range of long and hard runs in, so I'm hoping to see improvements.

Where do you hope to finish in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series series this year?

It's not my main goal this year. Instead this year it's all about the Olympic qualification races for me, which are Hyde Park and the World Championship in Beijing. If I do well in those races, I'll do well in the series. If I was chasing the ITU rankings I'd be competing in Hamburg as well, but instead I'm just going to focus on Hyde Park.

What are the advantages or disadvantages of being coached by your husband, fellow triathlete Marc Jenkins?

He knows me so well. He knows the days when I'm really tired and I need to skip a session and he knows the days when I'm tired but it's better for me to push on. We see each other every day so he knows how to achieve the right balance and he designs the right program. It has evolved over the last few years and it really works. Mark was racing some of the best triathletes in the world for years, so I'm able to draw on his experience. Then he has had a few years out due to injury problems, so I could give him advice about racing as well.

When competing in a race series, how do you balance the demands of recovery and training for the next event?

You have to recover after the races. The big races take more out of you mentally as well, so you do need to have some down time to refresh before you return to training. We'll plan my training diary at the start of the year, but at the same time you have to be flexible. If you get an injury things will change, so there always has to be a back up plan. After the Kitzbühel race I took three days off. It's a mental thing - after a few days of resting you're dying to get back to training.

What tactics do you have for pushing through the pain barrier in the final stages of your race?

It's hard, you're running at your limits. I think you just have to learn to deal with feeling uncomfortable. You try to ignore the pain, you're just in the moment and you're thinking about what's going on at that time. Sometimes you can do the first lap and you just think, "Oh God, I've got two laps more to go." But you've just got to get rid of those kinds of thoughts and race hard in the moment.

World Champion and Olympic Triathlete Helen Jenkins was carrying out a triathlon masterclass alongside husband and coach Marc Jenkins with 20 young aspiring athletes from Lambeth and surrounding area schools. GE capital have been working closely with SAZ (Sports Action Zone) an organisation that offer sports programmes to underprivileged children in the South London area who otherwise wouldn't have access to such opportunities. 

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