So much has happened since my last post that I've fielded questions to organize my thoughts:
What have I been up to since Cozumel?
Patrick and I went on a mountain bike vacation in the North Woods of Wisconsin. It was a perfect recharge. I traveled for sponsor and media engagements. For Patrick’s birthday, we flew to Austin, Texas, for the Formula 1 race. Red Bull sponsors two F1 teams so Patrick and I were able to enjoy the race from Red Bull’s suite. I loved how accessible the drivers were. Every driver, even the ones who were not the favorites, were interviewed by the announcers. We walked in the pits and talked to the drivers. Taylor Swift performed at the F1 after party. Taylor was visibly sick, blowing her nose throughout the show, but she was a professional and had an amazing performance. My favorite part was hearing Shake It Off.
What was my training like after my WTS race in Cozumel and before the Island House Tri and NYC Marathon?
I had about four weeks to prepare for both the Island House Triathlon and the NYC Marathon. I started riding my Time Trial (TT) bike twice a week. I did some longer TT efforts (3x10 minutes) and hated them. I complained, but got the work done. I also started to increase my runs. Before Cozumel, my longest run was about 19km. After, I increased to 25km. With the help of Jamie, I started doing one marathon workout a week. I did 3x6km, the TC 10 Mile, and twice I did 3x7km. Every week was new and my pace varied from 3:45 to 3:30 per km. The TC 10 Mile was so much fun and I exceeded my expectations when I ran 53:13.
How was the 2016 Island House Triathlon?
The 2016 Island House Triathlon had a new format: it was a three-day stage race. Every day was non drafting and athletes competed on TT bikes. I would have much preferred to use my road bike, but using TT bikes made the race more fair between the short course and long course athletes. Eighteen females started the race and after two days, the bottom eight were eliminated. Day one started with a 750m swim. An hour later, we did a 20km TT on the bike. Two hours later, we completed a 5km run. After day one, I was in third place, about a minute behind first. This was what I expected.
Day two was a 750m swim, 5km run, 40km bike, 750m swim and a 5km run straight through with no breaks. Patrick recommended I run conservatively on the first run. I didn’t allow myself to run faster than 10km pace for the first 5km run. This strategy worked and I ended up biking well and was able to end the day in first place, making up more than a minute deficit.
Day three was a non-draft sprint triathlon. I had about a 45-second lead going into the final day and was able to come away with the win. I was surprised and happy with my performance, especially with my bike on day two. Thank you to everyone who made The Island House Triathlon a success. It is not easy to put on a race, especially after Hurricane Matthew hit the Island a few weeks prior. The Bahamians have done an incredible job cleaning up the island and getting it back to where it was pre-hurricane. I can’t wait to go back to the Bahamas!
Why did I decide to run the NYC Marathon?
I’ve been asked if running the marathon was a publicity stunt. This surprised me, but because of all the press I received, I can see why people may have thought this. I actually don’t like the limelight (as I am an introvert), but I learned I cannot do anything anonymously or quietly after winning a gold medal at the Olympics.
Out of the three triathlon disciplines, running is my favorite and I’ve always wanted to try a marathon. The NYC Marathon is an iconic event and a distance everyone, even non runners, know. I couldn’t run a marathon before the Rio Olympics—I asked Jamie if I could and he said no. But after accomplishing my goal in Rio, I thought, What better timing than now to run a marathon?! I signed up with no expectations, no goals, and no agenda. I wanted to run the marathon because I love running and I wanted to see what I could do.
Thank you, ASICS, for working with New York Road Runners (NYRR) to enter me into the NYC Marathon without a qualifying time. I’m proud to work with both ASICS and NYRR to give back. Last year, NYC Marathon runners raised $33.9 million for charities. While in NYC, I participated in the #ExtraMile. ASICS donated a pair of shoes to Girls on the Run for each person who completed the ASICS Extra Mile Challenge. I ran the #ExtraMile and met some of the girls from Girls on the Run who received the shoes. Seeing the girls excitement, enthusiasm, and joy was well worth the extra mile I ran/walked post marathon.
What was the NYC Marathon like?
I had a prior engagement in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, November 4th, so I flew to NYC the next day and woke up Sunday morning excited and nervous to race.
The race was professional. It felt like a World Championship with the hospitality and support—smooth airport pickups, onsite massage and chiro, hospitality suite, meals covered by the race directors, etc. Thank you, NYRR, for the wonderful welcome!
My race started at 9:20am in Staten Island. Since we were staying near Central Park, athletes were bused to Staten Island at 6:15am. We arrived at an indoor track around 7:45am. During the bus ride, we drove through some of the five boroughs. I thought, This is taking a long time. How in the world am I going to cover this distance by foot?! At the indoor track, some of the athletes started warming up and I remember thinking, I can’t waste one step. I’m going to need every ounce of energy to get me to that finish line.
At 8:30am, we reloaded the bus and drove five minutes to the starting line. I did a three-minute jog and a few run throughs. The race started and the first 5km was super slow. When the next 5km started, I thought, Sheesh! This feels kind of quick. And before I knew it, we had run two kms around 3:20 pace. This was way too quick for me and I ended up averaging 3:29 pace for the second 5km.
Going into the race, I had no goals or expectations, but I told myself I couldn’t run any kilometers faster than 3:30, so running 5km under this pace was not ideal.
After the change in pace, I decided to slow down and drop from the group. I ran solo for a long time into a headwind. I did have Neely Gracey to run behind for a bit, but she ended up dropping me. I’ve been asked, “At which mile did you start to feel the wall?” And I really can’t remember one moment or time when this happened. I remember a lot of pain. Every step hurt. It hurt to run downhill, it hurt to run uphill, and it hurt to just move. The hardest part was the last 5km. I remember thinking, Please, finish line, are you here yet? I knew I could make it to the finish line, but I was exhausted, tired, and my competitive nature was drained out of me. Two or three people passed me in the last few kilometers. Usually when someone passes, I latch on for as long as possible. But this time, I let them go without attempting to go with them. I just hoped to reach that finish line alive.
When I finished, I was disappointed. I’m not sure what I would have been happy with, but I’m not happy with 2:41.
Do I wish I had trained differently?
Yes, and no...I didn’t have the proper amount of time to train. I think I should have done more training on hard surfaces. Because I was increasing my run mileage, I tried to train on soft surfaces but on race day, my legs were sore before mile 10 (because my legs weren't used to the pavement).
Should I have tapered more?
I decided to not taper as I wasn’t running enough for a taper to be effective. Prior to the NYC Marathon, I peaked around 70-80km a week, and I ended up with my highest weekly mileage on race week at 90km.
What was my favorite part of the race?
The fans! I cannot tell you how many people cheered “GO GWEN!” Thank you, thank you, thank you! I wish I had enough energy to smile and say thank you as I passed, but I was using every ounce of my energy to move me forward. I think my favorite sign I saw said:
JUST RUN GWEN!
I will never forget the fans, the pain, and the NYC Marathon. It was such cool experience.
*My splits from my watch in the NYC Marathon via my GPS watch per km:
In an ideal world, I want to get pregnant and have a baby and then train for Tokyo in 2020, but you can’t plan pregnancies. Patrick and I were unsuccessful in month one, and we are now on month two. I will take a little break before slowing getting back into some swimming, biking and running.