“Make the most of these opportunities they are never to be taken for granted” – Jamie turner
I felt pressure build as the days approached June 28th. My coach Jamie Turner physically prepared me for the demands of the competition; however, I don’t think I fully understood his warning and preparation for the mental pressures and stresses I would feel. I’ve been to the Olympic Games, Pan American Games, WTS races...how much different could the race in Chicago be? I thought. I couldn’t understand why Jamie was contacting my support crew to ask them for help in being my ‘body guards’ around the media and event. I’ve been through this a million times, I can handle it, I reasoned; however, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Without some sheltering from the media and a heavy dose of Silver Edition Red Bull, I’m not sure I would have made it through the week. So, before I tell you about my race, I need to thank Heather, Jono, Andy, my family, and Patrick for their help.
June 24th, Patrick and I flew to ORD (Chicago, IL). It was the first time on US soil since December and there were many things I was looking forward to (including seeing my family, friends, sponsors), and some others I had forgotten about (like how good pepper jack cheese, black beans, and chipotle are!). The days before the race were spent with family, friends, sponsors, and fans.
I’m not sure how the time passed so quickly, but it did and pretty soon it was the day before the race. I felt like my mind was in overdrive and I needed to decompress. Friday afternoon, I asked Patrick to just spend some time with me (without others or phones). He graciously ignored all phone calls (from some of his best friends who he hadn’t seen for months) and pulled out a book we both wanted to read: Pro Cycling on $10 a Day. I put my feet up and relaxed as Patrick read to me aloud. It was a unique experience and a bit strange at first, but it was exactly what I needed to decompress. Thank you, Patrick! Race day came and I was excited to race. My training was going well and I wanted to have another race like London.
Chicago was an Olympic distance race, starting with a two-lap 1500m swim in Lake Michigan. Although the water was below the 20 degree Celsius cut-off for a wetsuit, the Technical Officials decided to NOT let us wear wetsuits because the air temperature was hot. This was not something I expected. We prepare for wetsuit swims (when water is below 20 degrees) and for non wetsuit swims in water above 20 degrees. I had no preference on wetsuits versus non wetsuits, but I didn’t know how my body would react in such cold water without a wetsuit.
The horn sounded and we dove in. As we ran up the ramp after the first lap of the swim, I was in an OK position, but needed to move up. A minute or two later, I was attempting to sight the first buoy in the choppy water and took in a big breath of water. I started to choke and did not remain calm. I kept my head up and it felt like an eternity passed as I gasped for air. I looked for a rowboat thinking, If I drown, I want one nearby! As soon as this thought entered my head, I pushed it away and told myself I was fine and to concentrate on getting to the first buoy. My arms were moving, but they were not catching any water. It felt like five minutes passed before I was able to breathe, but when I am in a race every second counts, and 10 seconds can feel like an hour. I slowly began to inhale air and before I knew it, I was passing a few people and starting to see the front girls again. I exited the water after the second swim lap and started running to transition. It was a very long run. My legs were tingly and numb from the cold water. They wouldn’t turnover as quickly as I had hoped. Thankfully the run to transition helped warm up my body and I was ready to start the eight lap 40km bike leg.
I mounted my bike and never caught the front pack. Our chase pack formed quickly, with a few strong cyclists joining our group from behind. The front group of cyclists slowly gained time on our pack every lap, and we entered T2 about a minute down. I quickly put on my Asics Noosa Fast shoes and started the four lap run course.
It was extremely hot out and I knew the heat could play a major role in the outcome of the race. I didn’t want to overheat, but knew I had to push the run if I wanted to have a chance at a medal. I remained calm and focused on relaxing my shoulders. I don’t remember much from the first three laps of the run, but I will never forget running past the grandstands on the third lap of the run. Normally I do not notice the crowd; however, as I ran past the grandstands, the noise from the cheers created a rush of tingles throughout my body, rejuvenating me. I could see Helen and Juri up the road and started thinking I still had a chance at catching them, especially with the hometown crowd behind me.
The leaders got closer and closer. Before I knew it, I was on their heels. I sat behind Helen to catch a break from the wind. I knew I didn’t have enough energy to make a decisive move at that moment and if I made a move, I wanted it to be definitive. Helen led through a corner and I was tucked in right behind with Juri. I I took a deep breath in and decided to go for it. I surged as hard as I could and thought, I hope I didn’t just burn too big of a match! I ran with my head forward and waited until the next 180 degree turn to see if I had a gap, and I did! I knew I couldn’t let up. Helen is a fighter and she never gives up until the end.
Running down the blue carpet, I had a million things running through my head: Is this really going to happen? Am I really going to win? I crossed the finish line and was spent. It was an incredible experience and one I will never forget.
That night, I was able to spend time with family, friends, and sponsors at a local bar, Rockit. I felt lucky to be able to catch up with so many people. Many friends, family, and sponsors had never seen me race live and being able to show them what I do was incredible. As I walked back to the hotel with Patrick, my future in-laws (Jane, Craig, Paige) and my family (Mom, Dad, Elizabeth) I couldn’t have been happier. I was with the people I loved most and the ones who have given me so much.
The next morning, I woke up exhausted. I was physically and mentally drained. I didn’t realize the amount of emotions and physical energy I had poured into the race. My body guards had protected me, but I had still pressured myself. I emailed Jamie telling him how incredibly drained I was and asking what I should do. He replied, “Enjoy time with folks and family and country folk – make the most of these opportunities they are never to be taken for granted.” It’s moments like these that I know Jamie is the best coach in the world and there is nowhere else I would rather train. He prepares me physically for races, but more importantly, he knows what matters in life and what we need to focus on. I spent the next day and a half with sponsors, family, and friends. I am now back in Vitoria and am finally letting it all sink in…
The Chicago WTS was also the USAT National Championship race. I want to give a special shout out to my compatriots who I shared the National podium with, Kaitlin Donner and Lindsey Jerdonek. Both girls swam and rode incredibly hard and ended the day 17th and 21st overall. Congrats, ladies!
Up next is Hamburg. There is a sprint WTS race on Saturday July 12 and a WTS team relay race on Sunday July 13. Thank you for all the messages and cheers. I am overwhelmed with how many people are able to share in my success. And, I feel truly honored when I hear stories about how I’ve inspired someone to do a triathlon or give that little bit of extra energy in a race. It is one of the many reasons why I love this sport so much. Thank you.
Here are a few articles about the race:
http://www.triathlon.org/news/article/jorgensen_creates_history_winning_in_chicago - Elite Women's highlight video