2016 Cozumel WTS

What an incredible year! Since Rio, the most common questions I’m asked are, “Can you believe it?” and “What’s next? Will you go to Tokyo?” To answer the first, yes. Yes, I can believe it. There is power in what you tell yourself and for four years, I’ve said I aspire to win gold in Rio. I believe I had that great performance this year because I conditioned myself mentally to achieve it. I focused fully on August 20 and it paid off.

After the Olympics, I spent a week in New York for media engagements. I then joined the Wizards in Clermont, FL, and I was honestly having so much fun training. Everyone was happy, including me. The sun was shining some days, but all the days, the group was happy. Training was relaxed and we enjoyed our workouts.

At the beginning of the year I said, “If I come in last at every race this year but the Olympics, I will be happy.”

Patrick said, “But don’t you think it would be nice to be World Champion too?”

 I shrugged and said, “That’s not the goal.”

It wasn’t my goal to be World Champion this year, but when I was in the running for the title, my competitive nature kicked in. After Rio, I wanted to be World Champion again.

The WTS World Champion is decided by adding an athlete’s top five WTS races plus the Grand Final. I raced in four WTS events (plus a World Cup). In order to win the World Title, I needed to win in Cozumel and Flora Duffy needed to place outside of the top two places.

At the Grand Final in Cozumel, I put myself in position for a great race after my swim and bike, but I failed to execute on the run. I was mentally fatigued and struggling. I knew even if I passed Flora, I still wouldn’t win the World Title. I allowed myself to think negative thoughts about factors outside my control. 

I gave it my all, but Flora outperformed me in the swim, the bike, and the run. Flora had an amazing race and earned her World Title. I’m so happy for her! She has truly challenged me and forced me to become a better and different athlete. I’m also super happy for my training partner Charlotte McShane. I vividly remember a talk we had about three months back. Charlotte was convincing me I could win gold in Rio and I was convincing her she could podium at the Grand Final. I’m not sure if either of us believed each other, but her words motivated me in Rio and I hope mine helped her in Cozumel. We also talked about future plans – I told Char what I wanted to do post Rio. It’s something I haven’t shared with many others. 

Up next for me is the Island House Triathlon and the New York City Marathon. But the big question is what’s after that? Charlotte knows, Patrick knows, but not many others know. I’ve been afraid to say it aloud because I’m scared of failing; but if I’ve learned anything these past four years, it’s that I can condition myself for greatness. So, I’m going to start conditioning myself now for my next life goals: Patrick and I want to have a baby and I want to go to Tokyo 2020. There, I said it. It’s in the universe and there’s no taking it back.

Thank you all for your support these past four years. It’s been a great journey and I can’t wait for the next four years.

 

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My parents came to visit in Florida :) 

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Pre riding the course with Patrick in Cozumel. Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Photo thanks to Specialized. 

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Love this photo. So happy for this girl!

2016 Rio Olympics

Four years ago, I set a goal: to win the Rio Olympics. In 2012, Patrick and I asked Jamie if he thought winning gold was possible. He said, “You need to improve your swim, improve your bike, and probably run high 32 minutes.” Jamie was right about two out of the three (my 10km in the race was a 34 something). Jamie’s confidence in my ability to be an Olympic Champion didn’t come until London at the WTS in 2015. I was sick the week of the race. I was struggling to just get out of bed in the morning. I did efforts the day before the race and could barely breathe. My legs were heavy, my nose was stuffed, and the last thing I wanted to do was race. I was underprepared for the race and I wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but I came away with the win. It was the first time I proved I could perform under pressure. 

What’s it like to win the Olympics and achieve a four-year goal?

It's pretty awesome! I’m enjoying it all and am still on a high a week later (I’m wondering if/when the low will come). I had four years to prepare for one day and I executed on that day. It’s pretty remarkable and only happened with the help of Jamie Turner, my husband Patrick Lemieux, and my many other supporters.

What happens after the race is over?

Immediately after the awards ceremony, I was interviewed at the race site by about ten different media outlets. I was then taken to drug testing (blood and urine). A press conference with Nicola Spirig and Vicky Holland followed. After, I was taken to the International Broadcast Center (which was an hour and a half away) for more interviews and media. At this point, I was starving and really wanted a shower. I got food, but the shower had to wait…At 10pm, I joined Team USA at the USA House for a celebration with family and friends where I awarded Jamie with the Order of Ikkos for his commitment and dedication. After the party, Patrick, Jamie, and I had drinks at our hotel. I had a caipirinha, which was way too strong for me. I stumbled to my room at 2am where I was finally able to brush my teeth and take a shower. The next morning, we were up at 8am for more interviews. I flew to NYC the following day with sponsor ASICS for more media opportunities, including CNBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, SI and AOL…and surprise tickets to the hottest show on Broadway, Hamilton. Red Bull was also on-site to help organize this whirlwind trip and Columbia Threadneedle treated me and Pat to a delicious celebration dinner at Morimoto.  Every day, I got to wear gorgeous dresses by designer Gabriela Hearst and other fun outfits by Tory Burch and Michael Kors. I had my hair and makeup done daily – I felt like a princess (fun fact: I don’t own any makeup).

Pre-race thoughts:

After Hamburg, I told Jamie I wanted to see a sport psychologist. I was complacent in Hamburg and I was nervous I had lost my fire before the biggest race of my life. Jamie insisted, “No new faces. Stick to the plan. You are lucky, Gwen. All you have to do is what you’ve already done.” Thanks, Coach Jamie, for always knowing what to say. After our conversation, I focused on training and wrote my Rio race plan, which calmed my nerves.

The week of the race, I have never been so calm. I wasn’t nervous, but instead, I was excited. I knew the work was done and I was ready. It’s strange, though, because at the test event a year prior, I was equally as prepared, but I was not as calm. In 2015, I had a huge fear of getting a mechanical or flat on the bike course. For some reason, which I can’t explain, 2016 was different. It was also the first time Patrick hasn’t been nervous for one of my races. We were both just at peace and ready for the race, no matter the outcome. We dedicated four years of work, sweat, tears, and investments into this one day and knew we had done everything possible to prepare.

We were stubborn at times, refusing interviews during my blackout period and not taking in the whole Olympic experience. At the Olympics, there are sponsor and hospitality houses: The Oakley House, Red Bull Athletes’ Lounge, Beats Barra House, USA House, P&G Family House. Each one is unique, but the goal is to have a place to hang out, eat good food, watch the Games, and get in the Olympic spirit. In 2012, the houses were my favorite experience; but in 2016, I refused to go because I knew it would distract me from the race. I missed out on some good food, but, fortunately, USAT had an amazing chef (Adam McCluskey) cooking whatever we wanted while in Rio. I was eating like a queen and Patrick didn’t have to cook either which was a nice break for him (maybe this is why he was so calm?!). Fortunately, my family was able to reap the benefits of the houses – thank you for welcoming the Jorgensens. They had a blast! Pat and I were also stubborn in refusing interviews. In January, I did up to ten interviews a week and it was stressful. Media exposure is beneficial for my sport and personal sponsors, but I have to carefully balance interview requests to ensure my training remains a priority. Pat, Jamie, Heather, and I came up with a plan: two interviews per week and no interviews after July 1st. It worked great for me, but news outlets weren’t always happy. We stuck to the plan but only because we refused to comprise the goal of winning the Olympics.

 

The race:

  • The swim: The swim was standard. I was in a good position the entire swim, until about 200m to go when I lost a few places. I’m still not sure how or why, but I exited at the end of the pack in about 24th place after being in the top 10 for most of the swim.
  • The bike: The first lap of the bike, I was under pressure and in a bad position at the back of the pack. After a few laps, I was able to work myself up to the front. I had more fun riding in this race than in any other race. Ever. I felt strong and confident. It felt like a game we were playing. I would go to the front, but then Nicola would attack and I and/or the group would cover the move. Because Nicola was attacking, others were not encouraged to lead (if someone went to the front and took a turn, Nicola would attack and they risked being dropped).
  • The run: I planned to build throughout the 10km. I was running strong, ready to put in a surge after two laps, when I noticed Nicola was still with me. I wasn’t sure if Nicola was suffering or not, and I wanted her to take the lead so I could get a better read of the situation. On the third of four laps, Nicola was hesitant to take the lead. We were running into a headwind and it’s easier to sit on in a headwind than take the lead. Nicola said she decided to play mental games.

Nicola said, “Let’s share the lead.”

“I lead last two laps,” I responded.

“I already have a medal.”

“I don’t care. You also are a mother and that’s more impressive!” I responded. I respect Nicola. She is a strong athlete, but she is also someone who proves you can be a mother and an amazing athlete. I’m so glad she decided to continue in sport after having her son. Anyway, our conversation happened while we were running and I’ve been told it looked quite strange on TV. I can tell you that there is no playbook for triathlon and what happened on August 20th has never happened before, and will likely never happen again. It’s why athletes train to expect the unexpected.

Nicola took the lead after our conversation and as we rounded the turnaround, we were in a tailwind. If Nicola was tired, it would be more difficult for her to surge with me in a tailwind (as opposed to a headwind), so I surged and didn’t look back. I only focused on getting to that finish line. I couldn’t hear Nicola behind me, but to be honest, I didn’t hear her the first two laps either (the crowds were too loud – which is a good thing!).

I came to the final turn with about 1.25km to go and saw I had created a small gap. A white board said I had a 9 second lead. I thought the race was going to come down to a sprint, so I continued to run hard until I crossed the line. It wasn’t until way later that I learned I had won by 40 seconds!  

 

What was I thinking after I crossed the finish line?

It was such an emotional day. My first thought was Where are Patrick and Jamie?! but I was paralyzed with tears. It’s hard to explain, but after four years of work, it was a mixture of emotions: joy, happiness, relief, pride, thankfulness, disbelief…Everyone has supported me so much - Patrick, Jamie - all these things just were overwhelming and I broke down in tears.

I need to acknowledge and thank all of my sponsors: they have stuck by me and supported my vision to win gold even if it meant me not giving them every opportunity to promote me.

Thank you to my family and friends for their unconditional love and support. Thank you Jamie and the Wizards for getting me prepared. And thank you Patrick for joining me on this four-year journey.

What is next?

I am currently in Florida with the Wollongong Wizards preparing for Cozumel. Patrick and I will get tested for Zika. We are ready to start a family, but you can’t plan that, so we will just see what happens. I am also signed up for the Island House Triathlon and the NYC Marathon. I’ve always wanted to do a marathon, but when I talk about the distance, it is a bit daunting. I’m not naive and know I won’t have a good build up to prepare for the marathon, but it’s more of a bucket list type of thing. I can’t wait to test myself!

After Cozumel, Patrick and I will finally head home. ☺ I cannot wait and I’m sure training will be on the backburner as we search to buy our first home and catch up with family and friends.

 

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Olympic Champion 

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This is Adam, he was our chef in Rio :)

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This was me and Pat at a swim pre race. 

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Love this photo taken by ROKA. It is me giving a kiss to Patrick as I run down to select my spot on the starting line. 

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Bike in Rio. Photo is not mine.  (Please contact me if this is your photo, I love it!)

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Me, Jamie, Gold. 

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Thank you family and friends for coming to Rio!

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Thank you USAT for your support. 

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This is my favorite picture because it tells such a story: Me and Patrick hugging with a picture of me on the big screen. So many emotions. Thank you Delly Carr for capturing this moment. 

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Doing media in NYC

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More interviews - Here I am dressed in Gabriela Hearst 

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And another interview...

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Thank you Gabriela and Austin Hearst for the wonderful lunch (and purse!)

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Thank you Ilana and Heather for your help in NYC

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I got to take pictures on top of the Empire State Building! Such an amazing view of NYC - I will be back soon running around the streets :)

Hamburg WTS 2016

This year, I raced twice in Hamburg: once in the individual event and once in the Mixed Team Relay (MTR). The highlight was the MTR where Team USA won the 2016 World Championship title. I swam 300m, biked 6.6km, and ran 1.6km before tagging off to teammate Ben Kanute, who was followed by Kirsten Kasper and Joe Maloy. It was Team USA’s first victory in the MTR and an absolute blast to compete in. It is short, fast and very difficult (especially with tired legs from racing the day before in the individual event). It is a day I will never forget because of the pride I felt being a part of Team USA.

The MTR was extra special after my third place result in the individual event. After tasting victory in Hamburg the past two years, third place feels like defeat. Hamburg is always a difficult race for me – it is a sprint, while my specialty is Olympic distance. In 2013, I had one of the worst races of my career in Hamburg when I came out of the water almost last. During my winning streak, the two WTS races in Hamburg were my toughest feats and shortest winning margins (less than 10 seconds each).

Leading into Hamburg the Wizards were in the middle of a Rio training block. Smashed legs and struggles getting out of bed were common. Hamburg was on the backburner and two weeks before the race, I had doubts. I told Jamie, “We haven’t done Hamburg prep and we know what happened last time I didn’t do specific prep for a race.” I began to calm down after a small chat with Coach and realized my fitness was on point. Part of being a professional is being able to stand up and perform under any circumstance.

The week of Hamburg was much needed, as training lessened my mind and body recovered. I’m gutted I didn’t win, but I’m glad the win was kept in the USA family. Katie Zaferes got her first WTS win – this is a huge accomplishment. She swam and biked like a rockstar and finished it off with stellar run. It was an incredible race and one she should be super proud of – congrats, Katie!

I allowed myself to be upset for a day and did an analysis: Hamburg is a rough swim with the first swim buoy within the first three minutes of the gun going off. I found myself pulled back and pushed down, but I know everyone deals with this on race day - we all had the same conditions! I exited the water knowing I wasn’t in top position and fought hard the first lap of the bike to try to close the gap, but failed.

On the bike, I saw a few close calls of people almost crashing. My mind and body switched to protection mode. Six weeks out from the biggest race of my life, I started to play defense. I knew coming into transition, I needed to be on the front, but chose to be cautious and safe, entering T2 almost last. Finishing in third after my mistakes was disappointing, but deserved for the way I raced.

I’m now back in Vitoria Gasteiz where I am back on track for the one race I’ve been focusing on for the past four years: Rio!

Thank you for your continued support. The next few weeks will be difficult both physically and mentally but I am prepared and ready for the work.

Special thanks to Specialized’s mechanic Sandy Gilchrist for looking after my bike, Jamie for his patience, and USAT for the continued support. Thank you as well to Ben Cummings and the Columbia Threadneedle Team for making it a great weekend. I will never forget the MTR win and I really hope it becomes an Olympic event in Tokyo 2020! 

 Mixed Team Relay World Champions. Photo credit: Tommy Zaferes 

Mixed Team Relay World Champions. Photo credit: Tommy Zaferes 

 Pre race swim.  Photo credit: Tommy Zaferes 

Pre race swim.  Photo credit: Tommy Zaferes 

 I love having the Wizards as friends. Photo thanks to  Viviane Sloniewicz

I love having the Wizards as friends. Photo thanks to Viviane Sloniewicz

 Riding in Hamburg. Photo thanks to  Viviane Sloniewicz

Riding in Hamburg. Photo thanks to Viviane Sloniewicz

 This is Sandy, who has been working on my bikes for the past four years. He always makes sure it is race ready! Photo thanks to Etienne VanRensburg

This is Sandy, who has been working on my bikes for the past four years. He always makes sure it is race ready! Photo thanks to Etienne VanRensburg

 Photo thanks to Etienne VanRensburg

Photo thanks to Etienne VanRensburg

 Thanks for driving five hours to watch me compete Stephanie and E rik de Groot. Thank you for the treats too!

Thanks for driving five hours to watch me compete Stephanie and Erik de Groot. Thank you for the treats too!

 Special treats from friends and fans :) I'm one lucky lady!  

Special treats from friends and fans :) I'm one lucky lady!  

 An epic race by Ben put team USA in a commanding lead. Photo thanks to Tommy Zaferes

An epic race by Ben put team USA in a commanding lead. Photo thanks to Tommy Zaferes

 A day I will never forget. Photo thanks to Tommy Zaferes

A day I will never forget. Photo thanks to Tommy Zaferes

 Thank you Sandy for always looking after my bike.  

Thank you Sandy for always looking after my bike.  

 First night in Germany we ate German food

First night in Germany we ate German food

 Post race Spaetzle  with my love and number one supporter. He's there for me through it all no matter the outcomes. I love you so much Patrick!

Post race Spaetzle  with my love and number one supporter. He's there for me through it all no matter the outcomes. I love you so much Patrick!

 This is what I ate the night before the race. Patrick cooked it in our hotel room 👌 

This is what I ate the night before the race. Patrick cooked it in our hotel room 👌