After Olympic Gold

Five years ago I became an Olympian. It was a bitter-sweet moment, leaving me proud to be an Olympian, but also leaving me feeling blue. I gave my best effort at the London Olympics, but came up short after a flat tire on the bike portion of the triathlon. It was a trying time for me. And for Patrick. Patrick and I were a relatively new couple and had just started living together. He had never seen me so sad; but having him there allowed me to heal and redirect my focus on the next Olympics in four years. Because of my blues post London and because of what I read and heard from others, I thought there was no way I wouldn’t experience the post-Olympic depression after Rio as well. As an athlete I devote time, energy and thought, and I experience emotional and physical stressors in hopes of performing at my full potential on a single day. The chances of success are slim, but that’s what makes the effort worthwhile.

I prepared for four years in hopes of performing on a single day. I knew I could fail and assumed no matter the result, I would enter a state of post-Olympic blues. However, I have been pleasantly surprised that the blues never came. Instead, post-Olympics I was allowed freedom and opportunities, and I was left with feelings of accomplishment and gratitude.

Winning gave me the freedom to follow my dream of having a child. I am currently pregnant and on my “maternity leave.” As soon as Baby is born, I will go back to work, preparing for Tokyo 2020. Until Baby’s arrival, I am taking time to hike, visit my family and friends, buy our first home, and watch Patrick in his cycling races. My time is also full of media and sponsor engagements as I try to earn a salary in a non-racing year.

My feelings of accomplishment and gratitude are what I attribute to avoiding the post-Olympic blues. Some days Patrick will just look at me and say, “Can you believe you won?!?” All I can do is chuckle. I am proud of that race and the work and investments my team and I made to cross the finish line in first. But mostly, I feel grateful. The team investment around me was enormous and when I reminisce or see my medal, I smile because I’m thankful for people like my coach, Jamie Turner, and my husband, Patrick Lemieux. Both men invested fully in my goal and allowed me to show up on August 20th ready to compete at my full potential.

Going into the Rio Olympic Games, I never thought one race could change my life or define me. I believed it had the potential to be a defining moment in my athletic career, but I never thought it could define me or my life trajectory. Winning changed my life more than I thought possible. When strangers find out I’m an Olympic gold medalist, their perception of me immediately changes. Patrick and I bought a house with a shower that was unusable, so we hired contractors to install a working shower. After days of work, the contractor stopped me, saying, “I just have to tell you, going to Rio is pretty special, but winning is just amazing! We’ve worked on a lot of houses, and my boss and I agree this is the coolest person’s house we have worked on.” I smiled. How kind, I thought. I’m just me, though, nothing special. His comment reinforced how one moment changed how others perceive me (both on and off the field of play). My favorite part of this changed perception is being able to connect with younger athletes. Patrick and I started a fund to help junior athletes; but, I believe my text and phone conversations are more valuable than the money we contribute. I love waking up to texts from juniors giving me an update on racing, training and life. I recently spent time with a local tri club in Portland and I loved seeing the enthusiasm on the juniors’ faces. They were thrilled to ask me questions and I loved sharing my experiences. My Olympic medal doesn’t define me, but it allows me to make some pretty neat connections.

Although I didn’t get the post-Olympic blues after Rio, and the Olympics brought me more joy than I anticipated, it doesn’t mean I didn’t go through a low. I go through a low every year after race season is over. I spend hours, days, months, and years focusing on one race or goal and the mental (more than physical) fatigue builds until it bursts. I don’t believe my low was because of the Olympics, but instead from needing a break from triathlon. After Rio I was ready for the season to be over, but had previously committed to one more race: the WTS Grand Final. I continued to train, but, my heart wasn’t in it and I dreaded the training daily. I wasn’t having fun and I needed a rest. Also, I was ready for my dream of having a child, but was advised to wait to conceive. Zika was talked about in the media pre-Olympics, but post Olympics there wasn’t much chatter. Patrick and I got tested for Zika and waited the recommended three to six months before trying to conceive. This was probably the biggest contributor to my low: my dream of having children was put on hold.

Thankfully, my low didn’t last long, and was lessened with time, the NYC Marathon, and Patrick and I given the go-ahead to try to conceive. Being Olympic Champion was always the goal, but my dream has always been to have a family. I’m so grateful Patrick and I are married. If you know me, you know how amazing Patrick is and I am so excited to see him be a dad. He’s going to be amazing.

 2012 Olympics  

2012 Olympics  

2016 Olympics

2016 Rio Olympics. Photo thanks to Delly Carr

IMG_2390.JPG

Patrick post Rio Olympics ❤Photo thanks to Delly Carr

February 2016 Update

I spent six weeks in Wollongong, Australia, from January 24th through March 7th. Wollongong has become my home away from home. My first year in Wollongong was in 2013 and at that time it didn’t feel like home. I didn’t know anyone. I didn’t know where anything was. Wifi was hard to get and had limitations that made staying in touch and getting around challenging. Slowly, Wollongong has become a place of comfort. It’s now a place I consider a second home. I know my way around without maps, know where to get the best food, and know where my friends hang out. Best of all, I discovered an international MiFi hotspot called Skyroam (@MySkyroam) which has allowed me to stay connected with family and friends back home. It’s a gadget I don’t leave home without. I traveled to New Plymouth, New Zealand on March 7th for a training camp with the Wollongong Wizards and did not forget Skyroam. I will use it during our New Zealand training camp as well as in Vitoria (Basque Region of Spain), the UK and wherever else my travel may bring me. Skyroam works nearly everywhere in the world and is an essential tool for those who travel often and don’t have access to local internet options.

My time in Wollongong went by quickly. I trained, ate, slept, read a book, and had a few dinners with friends. I also took a mini holiday (one day) and went to the famous Bondi Beach in Sydney. I stayed with a very nice couple who I met through Team Visa. When Patrick and I arrived at Bondi Beach, we were treated to a local tuna dip and had a personal tour guide for the next 24 hours. It was the first time I really enjoyed Sydney. The beach was beautiful, the food scene was perfect, and the parks were plentiful.

Training in Wollongong was more strength based than usual. My fellow Wizards who were racing in Abu Dhabi did some speed work, while me and others stuck to base training. For a few days, I really wanted to just go for a PR, but I restrained because I know the only goal for the year is the Rio Olympics. I have to remember, I am building a strong base for a top performance on August 20th.

Right before leaving Wollongong, I did a Continental Cup (CC) race. There are three levels of racing in ITU: CC, World Cup, and World Triathlon Series (WTS). WTS has the highest quality of field (the toughest competition) while CCs are entry level races. The last time I raced a Conti Cup was in Devonport in 2013 where I came second to Jodie Stimpson (who recently won the first WTS of 2016 in Abu Dhabi). I was really looking forward to the Wollongong CC because it was the first time I was able to run as fast as I wanted (as opposed to the training which had been capped at my 10-mile PR pace). I was happy to come away with the win at the Wollongong CC. I was able to get in a race and hopefully get most of my mistakes out before sharpening up and joining the world’s best on the WTS circuit in Gold Coast on April 9th. 

Patrick and I packed our bags, cleaned our guest house, and flew to New Plymouth after the Wollongong CC. I was a bit apprehensive at first because I don’t like change, but New Plymouth is beautiful and the people are very welcoming. Flying here is not the easiest, but it’s beauty made me forget about the ten hour travel day it took to get there. The people of New Plymouth also make it worthwhile. Blair Cox, the owner of a Mitchell Cycles, a local bike shop, has taken the time to show us the local running trails and bike routes. Another local, Ross Dingle, opened up his house to the Wizards and me for a wonderful Sunday BBQ.

Currently, I am renting a house with Patrick, Aaron Royle, and Ryan Bailie. We are 150m from two beautiful running trails. One trail feels likes I am in the middle of a forest, while the other is along a river with flowing waters and big beautiful stones. The riding has been great as well; I doubt I will even come close to riding all the roads in the area. The swimming is pristine as well. We have a beach with black sand to swim in the open water and have a pool less than a kilometer from our place. In New Plymouth, the training will increase and speed will start to be tested. It’s a tough time of the year as my body adapts, but I’m looking forward to testing and pushing myself. We will stay in New Plymouth until April 6th, when I fly to Gold Coast for my first WTS of the season. After Gold Coast it is back to Wollongong.

 

image.jpg

The Wizards going for a run with Blair Cox from Mitchell Cycles

image.jpg

The Wizards in New Plymouth watching a kids triathlon

image.jpg

The Wizards in New Plymouth

image.jpg

This is from the Wollongong CC. Photo thanks to Craig Holbrook 

image.jpg

Wollongong CC.  Photo thanks to Craig Holbrook 

image.jpg

Wollongong CC.  Photo thanks to Craig Holbrook 

image.jpg

Patrick and me at dinner in Bondi. 

image.jpg

Ocean swims in Wollongong were plentiful 

image.jpg

This is from a nondraft race in Kurnell. 

image.jpg

Running in Wollongong with the other lady Wizards. 

image.jpg

We were at the velodrome twice a week in Wollongong. 

image.jpg

Enjoying the black sand and the beauty of New Plymouth. 

image.jpg

Patrick and I out to dinner on Valentine's Day in Wollongong :) It was a wonderful night where we had the entire restaurant to ourselves. Way too much delicious food and wine, but it was worth it. 

image.jpg

I got a new Amira! Pretty :) 

Bike Wash 101

When I began triathlon, the bike portion had the steepest learning curve. Clipless pedals, integrated shifters, and tubular wheels were all new additions to my vocabulary.

Cleaning my bike was something I had to learn to do right away. My general rule of thumb is to clean my bike once a week or after a ride in the rain. Investing this 10-15 minutes may seem like overkill, but the bike will remain in better condition and it will last many more kilometers if it is clean.

I’m lucky to have some great partners to help me keep my bike clean. Motorex supplies me with my bike-specific lubes and cleaning products and Park Tool makes great tools and brushes. Here are the steps I use to help keep my bike clean.

 

Begin with spraying the bike down. Do not use a hose that has super high pressure and avoid constant spraying of the bearings and power meter.

image.jpg

Run the chain backwards and begin to spray degreaser on the chain, cassette, and chainrings. Degrease the chain before cleaning the rest of the bike (grease will fall off the chain and hit your bike). You will then clean the bike (with the grease on it) later. 

image.jpg

Next use a stiff bristle brush and thoroughly brush the chain, cassette, and chainrings.

image.jpg

Do not forget to brush the back of the chain, this is always the dirtiest part.

image.jpg

Now, begin applying a cleaner to the frameset and wheels. Motorex Bike Clean works great for this.

image.jpg

Now, begin to scrub the frame. Remember that your frame/wheel brush should be different than the brush used for your drivetrain. You don't want to scrub chain lube all over your frame and wheels. Focus on the places you sweat. This will mostly be on your stem and top tube.

image.jpg

There will be many nooks and crannies on your bike. Make sure to get all of them.

image.jpg

Make sure to give your brake calipers a good scrub - don’t forget to do between the tire and under the brake, which can get very dirty.

image.jpg

Really scrub the wheels and tires, this is a perfect time to check for cuts in the tires and examine your brake pads.

image.jpg

Getting at the hubs is tricky.

image.jpg

Now it's time to hose the bike down. Keep the water moving and avoid a constant stream in one place. You don't want to strip the bearings of their grease.

image.jpg

Now find a dry rag to wipe down the chain. This will remove most of the water on the chain. You do not want to lube a wet chain as it will not absorb into the links of the chain as well.

image.jpg

Use a different clean rag to wipe the frame down of remaining water.

image.jpg
image.jpg

Do not forget to lube your chain before your next ride!