James JenkinsJanuary 18th, 2022 by paulhart
In late 2019, I applied for my Irish citizenship with the main intention of being able to keep an EU passport following the UK’s disappointing exit from the body. Unfortunately, when Covid hit, the Irish passport office only processed emergency applications and mine was on hold for around 18 months. In the spring of this year, it was finally processed and I had my citizenship confirmed. My grandmother was as Irish as you could get and I had always planned on getting my citizenship, but it was not until her passing and all the documents being uncovered and compiled that I finally got around to it.
Once my application went in I started to think of whether it may be better for me to change my UCI nationality over to Irish since they seem to give opportunities to deserving riders, and not just ones that have gone through the academy. It became clear in my mind fairly quickly that this would be the best for my future cycling career. Seeing Ben Healy’s success as an ex-British rider and the opportunities he has been given has been amazing to witness and I hope one day I could potentially have similar ones.
The actual UCI bureaucracy went by surprisingly smoothly. Within two hours of getting my citizenship confirmed by the Irish Immigration Office I had an Irish UCI license. This was something I thought may take months, but no: two hours! The people at Cycling Ireland have been nothing short of incredible and made my transition as smooth as I could imagine. Fortunately for me, the nationals had been pushed from their usual June slot to the end of the season, similar to the British ones. This played into my hands as it allowed me the opportunity to race them. With a very uninspiring UK calendar, I turned my focus to the Irish national time trial and road race with the hopes of doing as best a ride in each one as I could muster.
Everything was going to plan with several top fives in National B road races along with encouraging power numbers and sensations coming into the month of August. The race rhythms were getting to where they needed to be for my two UK targets: the Lancaster and Ryedale GPs. There was just one small hurdle to overcome before those two races: the Tour Series. I had raced the Tour Series a few times before and got half-decent results but I am very aware that crits are not my specialty. I was excited for the races though and probably equally as excited to be able to spend some time away with the team.
We headed up north for ten days for the three rounds of the Tour Series and the Lancaster GP. The week started disappointingly for me after being held up behind a crash on the first lap and then spending the whole race by myself. I was disappointed and angry at myself for letting that happen so when it came to the Sunderland round I was determined to prove to myself I could do better. Everything started really promisingly. I was up the front of the race for the first two laps right up until someone rode into the back of me. This person was doing 60 km/h while the whole bunch was doing 40 km/h into a tight corner. They came charging into the back of me and sent me flying into the barriers. It was game over for me. I knew immediately something was seriously wrong. The full impact from the other rider was in my right calf and then I had landed on the foot of the barrier with my full weight on my arse. I barely had a visible scratch but I couldn’t really walk.
The injuries became more obvious when I was helped out of my skinsuit by my teammates and a large hematoma was revealed around my lower back and the top of my glutes. This egg-shaped lump was taking ages and ages to go down and it was becoming increasingly likely that I would not be able to race either of the two August National Road Series races. I ended up having two weeks off the bike followed by a week of very very light riding.
It was now only five weeks away from the national champs. I knew realistically my road racing would be compromised with this set back so decided to go all in with the time trial. I contacted a local time trial-specific coach, Paul Hart from Hart Performance Coaching, to see if I could get back into the shape required to do a respectable ride.
In the two weeks off I had lost roughly 30-40 watts so knew I would be up against it. Most of the rehab work was done on the turbo with a large focus on improving my core, back, and glutes so that I would be able to hold as aggressive a position as possible. The nationals course was on a single carriageway A-road equivalent in the Wicklow region. It was slightly rolling but had long stretches of flat road. I knew that I would not be able to match the WorldTour guys in terms of power output, but I was confident that I had a lower CDA and therefore I could hopefully close the speed gap.
In the final five days before the nationals my power was nearly back to where it had been pre-crash so I knew that a good ride would be possible. Since the nationals would be the only two races of the whole year where I could show myself to bigger teams after my misfortune in the summer I went all-in with my preparation. I drove out to Ireland by myself a week before the race and spent the lead-up recceing both the time trial and road race courses. Not only was this to know where I would be going, but also where time could be saved. The TT had several roundabouts all of which I rode several times as fast as I could to see if I had to brake or not, and if I did, how late could I get away with it.
I arrived on the startline in the best possible shape I could be in and with the best preparation I could do. As long as I had an accident-free ride, I knew I would not have been able to do anymore. In the end, I placed 5th, only 18 seconds off of the podium. Obviously, there was a part of me wishing I had got a medal, but I was really proud of my ride. I had just executed maybe my best time trial ever and all of the hard work had been worth it.
After this, the road race was just a bonus. My close friend and road coach Steve Skuse flew out the day before to support me for the race. Without him I would have been pretty screwed as I would have had zero support on the side of the road – so massive thanks to him for the help. The race was on a pretty hilly circuit with two climbs a lap over six laps. The first was maybe 6% for five minutes, whereas the second was far steeper with pitches of closer to 20% and lasted about three and a half minutes. The first time up the shallower climb Ben Healy attacked hard. I managed to follow but I was on my limit. My legs were just not where they needed to be for this race, unfortunately. So when Nicolas Roche attacked over the top I was dispatched. With a group of nearly 20 up the road that was almost a race over for me. I was in a bit of a hole but kept rolling around. Rider after rider was being distanced from the front group until with a lap to go there were only 11 away.
Given how poor I felt earlier in the day I decided it would be wise to try to get a headstart from the bunch into the final climb so attacked on the descent with George Peden (PB Performance). The bunch seemed pretty unmotivated and let us go. We rode well together up the climb, staying ahead of the bunch, and then railed the descent. We managed to keep away to the finish where I managed to ride away from George with 2 km to go to finish 12th. After a rather lacklustre season of only racing National Bs and time trials I was very very happy to finish with two very respectable results, especially one on the road.
I am writing this article after my season finished yesterday with another 5th place at the National Closed Circuit TT Champs back in the UK. (Before anyone asks I am allowed to ride this event with my Irish license. It is a CTT and non-UCI affiliated event so anyone living in the UK is eligible to ride it.) I am currently on a plane (well not by the time you’re reading this!) on the way to Mallorca for a week with some mates from home in Essex to unwind and soak in a little sun before putting my feet up at the end of the month.
Nothing is confirmed for next year, but I will have finished all my studying having completed my Masters in Environmental Engineering in September. I will continue my part-time data analytics job next season as I am not quite at the level yet where cycling can support me financially, but I will have significantly more time to ride my bike which is exciting.
Link to the British Continental article here: https://thebritishcontinental.co.uk/2021/10/29/james-jenkins-journal-from-the-tour-series-to-the-irish-nationals/
Jack Martin – Ironman Portugal !October 30th, 2021 by paulhart
Jack Martin – Ironman Portugal Cascais – October 2021
Coached by Paul Whittaker and Paul Hart.
In the lead up after landing in Lisbon I felt amazing – so fresh so ready and so excited. I had my race plan hr zones and knew my body was capable. I had my plan to eat bland for the last couple of days – the last thing I wanted was to have an upset stomach and ruin everything with the shits, this felt good physiologically as well as physically.
Last swim and run sessions of the taper complete I felt great the water was cold but warm enough for my sleeveless wetsuit so I was happy, just a quick spin to shake down the bike with a new friend I made who was racing the 70.3 on Sunday we started the course and quickly discovered the ‘Atlantic breeze’ with a sand drift covering the road and blinded by a sand blasting my new friend Simon found the drop kerb and went head over heels into said sand drift.
Race day was here, eggs and rice for breakfast at the hotel and then a nervous first train to Cascais i finalised my transition set up filled my bottles and headed to the swim start beach. Pre race nerves finally kicked in and after the last phone calls it was game time.
I got to the start gate, A few punches here, grabs there I made good progress, swimming is always my Achilles heel but I’ve been making progress and getting more comfortable and it showed I stayed calm and had a consistent stroke and found myself back in the port before I knew it, still feeling fresh, a 650m dash to T1 which was enough time to gather myself and get in the zone for the next 6 hours.
A steady T1 followed by the longest wee I’ve ever encountered I was out on the bike. My race plan was set – patience, patience and a bit more patience. I sat back and enjoyed the first 30km ish uphill towards the Sintra national park and it was stunning. I remembered to look up and enjoy the scenery and I’m glad I did. at 55km ish it was the race circuit, Then down to the sea front for the long out and back stretch which looked flat on the 2inch map it really wasn’t and was a fun rolling section with views across the ocean so hard to remember the patience and not to kick, Back towards transition a 500m leg snapper and another reminder of patience from my HR alert.
Lap 2 was much the same but without the top of the national park climb which was definitely well received. I spent the majority of the second lap trying to stay aero and reduce my average HR back to the plan…because I’m a good boy… oh and a little run to do the temptation to push and knock up the average speed was very very real but I knew that I had the plan for a reason and my real ‘fun’ was going to be on the run. Back around the race track along the coast and back up the leg snapper, the feet came out of the shoes and I was back at T2 and feeling strong and excited for the Marathon…. Never thought I’d ever say that.
Bike in, trainers on, after another pee I’m off. I can actually say I loved every second of the run and that can only be down to my training and the reminders that I could do it with the guidance from you both. The Km’s ticked down, I was passing people left right and centre. Every aid station saw a bottle of water over my head and a few sips of my hydration pack and keep my head in the game. Every km was marked on the course and it was great to see the numbers going down with my pace staying steady, at the end of the second lap I ran past the female leader (she was obviously a lap ahead of me) after a brief exchange I gave her my best wishes carried on. LAST LAP, 3x park runs yipee!!! I took my 2 gels out of the bag and binned the hydration pack, last lap was about getting across that line feeling good, still passing others my pace started to drop, I was walking 10m at the aid stations to take on electrolytes as I now didn’t have the bag, so I knew where the pace went and it wasn’t bothering me, I still felt good and comfortable. 4km to go, ohhh was that cramp.. ‘shut up legs’ it was mainly downhill so I sacked off the last aid station and pushed on. The last 3-400m was properly downhill and I could open up. Oh – my – god, turning right towards that red carpet was the best feeling ever, my 3 man cheer squad were going crazy and I heard them a mile off, my friend Neil had FaceTimed Laur to see me over the line and I caught a glimpse of her as I ran past with a huge smile to then hear ‘Jack Martin – you – are – an – Ironman’ and then cross the line in 10:59:10. WOW!
I’d mentioned to a few people my A goal would be sub 11 and I cannot explain how happy I am with the day out and hitting my goal. The end result was well worth the effort, seemingly endless hours of training, solo rides, long runs and numerous days of thinking ‘who the f**k signs up for an Ironman….’ Turns out I did and I’m so glad I did.
I honestly can’t thank the two of you enough for picking me up 3.5 months ago and imparting your wisdom, knowledge, patience, encouragement on me. It’s made the the athlete I am after crossing the line with the ability to say I’m an Ironman and a pretty good one. I cannot believe I got my sub 11 on my first (and last) Ironman and just want to thank you both again
Why choose coaching ?March 11th, 2021 by paulhart
Written by Nick Knight.
Why Choose Coaching ?
If its about the numbers then does an 83W FTP improvement in 18 months tick all the boxes you have as a recreational, or competitive cyclist. What about a reduction in weight of 4 KG meaning a 1.4 w/per KG improvement – surely this will make you faster and better at climbing the dreaded hills, right ?. Or is there more to it than just this ? – I think it is time to recognise that although the numbers are important there is a lot more to coaching than just what your training peaks / Zwift etc. account can tell you.
Consistent and structured tailored workouts
What are you training for, Crit racing, TT, Cyclocross or just to be a better Sunday rider ? All of these as you get more and more into your cycling discipline become about being better than you were the last time out. Whether it be getting the extra few seconds between you and the KOM that has always eluded you or smashing a PB on a TT that you particularly want to target. Consistency and structure to your training will get you there. As a single minded cyclist you feel you can do this, you know what is needed and smash out sessions on the road or turbo and feel you are really pushing yourself, but what about the days you get home tired and really can’t be bothered ? Do you just take a rest day and hit it harder tomorrow, or do you get on the bike and carry out the plan as you know your coach really can see through an excuse. What about a recovery week, is this lying on the couch watching Netflix or is it lower intensity sessions designed to keep the blood flowing while the muscles get stronger from weeks of hard work.
The mental side of the sport
Following a consistent and structured plan you will get stronger and fitter, but what about when it comes to putting yourself in that uncomfortable zone – you know the zone where things really start to hurt, and your head is saying that’s enough. What about the really uncomfortable zone where you really have only ever been in the last 30 seconds of a race sprint, but now you are planning to spend 5 x 5 minutes there. How do you cope with this? How do you get through it without throwing up, or worse still chucking the towel in? Progressive intervals and consistent tweaks to sessions with your coach mean that what once seemed impossible is now part of your warmup for an important race, and you have moved on. Strategies to cope with pain, race craft and power outputs or HR bands needed in certain areas of a race will be discussed and programmed in. Once you have successfully completed and achieved a goal, you set a new benchmark and most importantly of all build trust and confidence in yourself, you can do this, it will hurt but I will be OK. The human body is capable of so much, the power of the mind and ability to cope with pain or adversity is what sets you apart and will in turn make you a stronger and faster cyclist. Training this ability is a side of coaching that will not be represented by numbers, unless of course we are talking reduced race times and PB’s.
The team and camaraderie of like-minded individuals
We must all be nuts right? Wrong. We all have a common goal and that is to improve, however sometimes you will need to speak to others in the same process to validate what is happening and work through particularly hard blocks of training. Being in a coaching team is what helps this process work. We are all part time athletes, and have similar stresses of work, life in general and this killer session at the end of a long day. Group sessions on Zwift using discord help this as you can speak to others and more importantly hear them suffering as well, its not just you then !!, this session really does hurt !!. This really starts to come together when you start to see a number of you at a race. We don’t talk before the race, no way we are in the zone……. But after this is a great place to be, to share experiences, times achieved and where we think we finished individually and importantly did we win the team prize?
So, I ask again – why choose coaching ?
ERG Blog #2December 8th, 2020 by paulhart
I didn’t quite appreciate how divisive the ERG subject was when posting previously. I wrote how I disliked ERG on the basis that it took control from you as a rider and prevented riders from learning key skills they need to achieve their real life goals. I have since received a number of messages and emails.
I now want to talk about the practical training side.
This Thursday the HPC coached athletes have the privilege of a racing simulation session. I did this last night to demonstrate the difference with ERG. The main part of the session are two inverted pyramids. The intensity is high. Each pyramid is 12mins ABOVE FTP. The target power changes every minute.
Blue = Target power
Pink = Actual power
Yellow = Cadence
1st Pyramid: With ERG ON.
Because the target power changes by 10 watts every minute its much easier to use ERG. There is little faff. You can just concentrate on your cadence and the effort itself. The problem is the intensity, and often intensity and ERG are not a good match. Because the turbo controls the resistance my cadence starts a little lower at 96 (versus 100). Gradually throughout the interval my cadence reduces. I tried to accelerate the cadence to make the turbo reduce the resistance but gradually my cadence slowed and my torque had to increase as I fought against the ERG. This took its toll as the pyramid progressed, my cadence continued to fall, I continued to fight it by accelerating my cadence but eventually as my cadence fell to under 60, I quit with the final 90secs remaining.
2nd Pyramid with ERG OFF.
Here I was able to start with my natural cadence (100). I was also able to reduce my power under the target for small sections when I was feeling tired. The power is far from smooth in fact it’s a little erratic in places as I suffered but I was able to raise my cadence throughout and raise my power. Because the target power changes 10 watts each time it’s difficult to make the graph look perfect but that’s not important. What’s important was that I was able to complete my 12min interval, at a cadence I use on race day, I was able to raise the heart rate, and this created a fantastic training effect. So the chart might look less controlled but its more realistic and it was significantly better training as I could lower my power when I wanted based on RPE, and I could adjust my cadence freely.
So to summarise.
- If ERG makes sessions less stressful and makes it feel easier for you, and you benefit from that during the winter months by remaining consistent then use ERG. Training consistence right now is the most important thing.
- If you are able to remain consistent with your training without ERG then this is the preferred option.
- If you are using ERG, then please do not suddenly turn it off for every session. Turn it off for the easier sessions initially, then gradually wean your way off it.
Hope that clears up some of the emails!
ERG mode for indoor training?…October 21st, 2020 by paulhart
The question I get asked more than any other… ERG mode or not?
ERG is short for ergometer and it’s when your smart trainer regulates your effort for you. I never use ERG. Ever.
1. Unrealistic. Everyone I coach has real life goals. Having your effort regulated for you is completely unrealistic and is essentially removing important skills you require for your goal, which is the ability to regulate your own effort.
2. Reduces skill. Regulating your own effort is a skill. Changing your cadence, changing gear if required, or simply having to stay in the moment and focus on what you’re doing. ERG removes the need to think and makes you lazy thus creating bad habits.
3. Doesn’t allow for RPE (Rate of perceived effort). Most sessions have a target range. Even if your session has a single number target coaches understand that sometimes when you’re feeling good you go over it, and when you’re not you ride below it. The range allows this. Sometimes you will start below the effort and then finish above as your RPE changes. This is a great practice. Your trainer may be smart but its not as smart as you. Learning how you feel and what level of discomfort you can handle during intervals is a very important skill.
This doesn’t mean your smart trainer was a waste of money. Many trainers have gradient/resistance controls, or slope which are great to fine tune the resistance if you require additional tension or you are in between gears, but this functionality still leaves you the rider in control. You’re not passing all control over to the trainer.
Whilst I’m obsessed over new training methods and best practices, I’m also old school in my beliefs, and its often best in training to keep things simple. Resist the ERG. Don’t let your trainer control you. Resist the temptation to be lazy.
As a coach I’m not looking for perfect sessions, I’m looking for real sessions, so please ride your bike normally and use each session to fine tune your riding skills and to refine your RPE.