Island House Tri and NYC Marathon

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:

SWIM
BIKE
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:

4:19

3:34

3:33

3:41

3:29

3:31

3:20

3:26

3:24

3:34

3:29

3:35

3:33

3:35

3:33

3:29

3:35

3:30

3:25

3:47

3:45

3:52

3:42

3:58

4:24

3:58

3:42

3:53

3:42

3:57

4:01

4:14

3:50

3:56

3:57

3:51

4:05

4:11

3:58

4:19

4:22

4:10

What’s next?

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.

 Mountain bike vacation

Mountain bike vacation

 TC 10 mile race

TC 10 mile race

 TC 10 mile

TC 10 mile

 Sleep Number event with Patrick

Sleep Number event with Patrick

 Loving the F1 race

Loving the F1 race

 Island House Triathlon TT bike on day 1

Island House Triathlon TT bike on day 1

 Exiting the water at the Island House Triathlon 

Exiting the water at the Island House Triathlon 

 Island House Triathlon

Island House Triathlon

 Fundraiser for the WI Bike Federation 

Fundraiser for the WI Bike Federation 

 One of many signs I saw at the NYC Marathon - thanks for all the cheers!

One of many signs I saw at the NYC Marathon - thanks for all the cheers!

 The struggle of those last few steps at the NYC Marathon ...

The struggle of those last few steps at the NYC Marathon ...

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.

 

IMG_2584.JPG

My parents came to visit in Florida :) 

IMG_2695.JPG

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

IMG_2709.JPG

Photo thanks to Specialized. 

IMG_2704.JPG

Photo thanks to Specialized. 

IMG_2718.JPG

Photo thanks to Specialized. 

IMG_2719.JPG

Photo thanks to Specialized. 

IMG_2724.JPG

Photo thanks to Specialized. 

IMG_2766.JPG

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.

 

image.jpg

Olympic Champion 

image.jpg

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

image.jpg

This was me and Pat at a swim pre race. 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

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

image.jpg

Me, Jamie, Gold. 

image.jpg

Thank you family and friends for coming to Rio!

image.jpg

Thank you USAT for your support. 

image.jpg

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. 

image.jpg

Doing media in NYC

image.jpg

More interviews - Here I am dressed in Gabriela Hearst 

image.jpg

And another interview...

image.jpg

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

image.jpg

Thank you Ilana and Heather for your help in NYC

image.jpg

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 :)