A personal post from our head Coach Paul Newsome this week:
I was deeply saddened late last month to learn of the untimely passing of one of the biggest idols, heroes and influencers of my athletic and coaching life, the great Julian Jenkinson.
Julian was taken from us suddenly from a heart condition whilst out riding his bike - something he was very good at - on his home turf in the New Forest in the UK. Julian had held the British Ironman record at an incredible 8h15m for some 13 years and was still knocking out in excess of 1,000km per month on the bike at the time of his passing. He leaves behind his partner of some 17 years, Erica, whom he wed just 6 months ago.
Besides a great athletic background, Julian was also renowned as a property tycoon down in the Southampton area, owning in excess of 200 student properties (see link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/property/3358514/Master-of-home-economics.html). The story of how this all came about is shrouded in folklore but as I recall it directly from Julian, he was unfortunate enough to have been knocked off his bicycle in the 90s whilst out on a training ride in the USA. The driver wanted to settle for his damages out of court and with this compensation Julian was faced with the prospect of either buying some fancy new carbon fibre race wheels, or listen to the advice of his friend and invest in the relatively affordable Southampton property market, something he did with aplomb - and then some!
I first met Julian when I was studying Sport & Exercise Science at Bath University (1997 to 2001) where I was also fortunate enough to be on the World Class triathlon program. Those were simply electric days at Bath University for a young influential sponge like myself - the entire British triathlon team was based there at that time. It was like a who’s-who of triathlon and as a young whipper-snapper I’d feel like I was perpetually in a state of awe at the fortune I had to be learning my craft from the very best.
Five times world triathlon champion Simon Lessing and Olympic hopeful was of course the biggest name to train there in Bath during that period, but it was long-course athlete Julian Jenkinson who - along with the fantastic coaching team of Chris Jones, Richard Hobson and Robin Brew - really inspired me to be the best that I could be as an athlete. Little did I know at the time just how much Julian’s support, encouragement and influence would go on to have in my more recent coaching career. In fact, for those of you who know me well and experienced first hand my fastidiousness for proper pacing and the benefits this can have, you really have Julian to thank for that. In many ways, his influence and encouragement inspired everything that is at the essence of Swim Smooth.
Julian had this unique ability to really drill-down to the core of what people needed to know and do to be the very best that they can be. In reading many of the remembrances penned by his fellow athletes, friends and colleagues - it is evident in their words that Julian held a similar role-modelling position in all their hearts and minds too. He will be deeply and widely missed.
I want this week to dedicate and share a brand new 5km Red Mist endurance session in Julian’s name - something, I hope, he’d have really enjoyed himself. My squad here in Perth had the fortune to try it first themselves and by all accounts it was very well received. I hope you will join us in having a go with this session yourself, see below.
Of all the snippets of information and advice that Julian passed on to me in Bath, it is without doubt his emphasis on pace awareness and the mental control that this takes when everyone else is racing off ahead of you, that stands out the clearest. In fact “becoming a diesel engine” is a term of expression I coined from Jules, who was quite literally the greatest diesel engine I’ve ever met.
Every Tuesday evening we’d have a 10 to 12km tempo run at the University of Bath around the campus, winding in and out of the 1960s concrete jungle hovering up there on the hill well above the beautiful Roman City below. As a massively excited teenager and wannabe triathlete superstar (we all were!), it was all too tempting to go off like the clappers each Tuesday night to try and stay with the Big Guns. Of course this was great for the first 5km or so, but then I’d blow my doors off and end up being caught, and passed, by the back markers time and again. In my head I believed that one day I’d just be able to hang on to this break-neck pace, but it wasn’t until Jules took me aside and literally forced me to run side-by-side with him all night that I finally started to understand the value of pacing. I had a great run that night - possibly my best ever - and the memory of it today is as visceral as if it were yesterday, not nearly 20 years ago!
To this day - as this sad event has caused me much reflection - I can now clearly see that all of my best ever races have been done with good pacing. I never did manage to hang with the Big Guns when the Big Guns were clearly too fast from the outset, but in my heart of hearts I’d like to believe it was Julian’s pearls of wisdom that spoke sense to me on the 8th June 2013 when I actively forced myself to slow down and recognise that my early pace was just too great to survive 28.5 miles (46km) in the frigid, dirty waters around Manhattan Island in New York. I waved goodbye to the early leaders thinking I’d never see them again and resigned myself to - at best - a top-10 finish, but low and behold that little seed that Julian had so firmly implanted in my head some 15 years earlier started to sprout and came roaring to the fore as I crept back up on those leaders and took the lead myself with only 15km completed, and some 5 hours of racing to go. The empowerment and sense of satisfaction this created filled me with massive confidence that day and through the mental control that Julian had shown me how to play out like a poker game, I went on to win my biggest ever victory. It was the perfect race. The perfect result. Brought about by good preparation and an exceedingly well executed pacing strategy that I’d learnt all those years ago from a man who stands quite simply at the top of list of those that have inspired me over the years.
Someone recently tried to complement me with some feedback that what they love about Swim Smooth is how it seems to have grown totally organically given the perception that in the last 12 years we’ve been instrumental in changing the world view on many aspects of efficient freestyle swimming. A “game-changer” she called us. I couldn’t accept her complement though (as nice as it was) as we’re all products of the advice and influences we’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced over the years. So, if you’ve found that our advice on training strategies and particularly pace awareness have really helped you, that’s great, but it’s Julian you should be thanking. I thank you for reading this post this week as it means a lot to me for Jules to be recognised in this manner.
Here’s the set on the squad board
Parts 1, 3 and 5 are multiple intervals of increasing distance (from 200m to 400m) and involve you setting your Tempo Trainer Pro to a progressively tighter RM Cycle (see here for RM Cycle calculations). All you have to do here is beat the beeper to form your rest, but you need to show control here as burning all your matches in one go will result in a massive blow-up later in the set.
Parts 2, 4 and 6 are longer intervals (400m, 600m and 800m) on a very specific target pace based on your current CSS pace. Set the beeper to notify you of your pacing every 25m in the 400m, every 50m in the 600m and every 100m in the 800m. Reducing the frequency of this pacing reminder in this way really requires you to be in control of your pacing otherwise it will be “goodnight Vienna” very rapidly. This is also progressive in that you’re expected to hold a faster time for the final 800m than you swam for the 400m at the start. Not easy! As you can see, all nine of our sub-groups hit their target times on the 400m, one group missed their target on the 600m and only 5 out of 8 sub-groups hit their targets for the 800m - was this because they were overly excitable in Parts 1, 3 and 5? You’ll find out yourself by giving it a try!
In memory of a great athlete, a huge influence on myself and Swim Smooth generally, and most importantly, a great friend. Rest In Peace Julian Jenkinson, you’ll never be forgotten.