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.
2016 Rio Olympics. Photo thanks to Delly Carr
Patrick post Rio Olympics ❤Photo thanks to Delly Carr