By Erin Greene on 03/12/13 at 9:00 am
Gwensanity became a household noun this year when Gwen Jorgensen became the first American woman to win a World Triathlon Series event. Then she cemented herself as one to watch when she followed up her first WTS gold with another top finish in Yokohama. From there, all eyes were on the leading lady as she literally ran down the competition race after race. Jorgensen recently took time to speak with us about her breakout season and what she’s doing when she’s not destroying the record books.
You had quite a breakout season. Did you think you would enjoy three WTS wins this year?
Before the season started, my coach Jamie Turner and I aimed to improve my swim and bike. I had some stellar races this year that surprised me, but I also had some not-so-good races that surprised me. Next year I’m looking to develop consistency.
To what do you attribute the success?
I made a lot of investments last year. I changed coaches, choosing to work Jamie Turner and an international training group. Having Jamie at every workout and being in a daily training environment is a huge component of my success. I spent years resisting the daily training environment because I didn’t want to leave home. However, last year, my boyfriend Patrick Lemieux said he would help support me abroad. With him by my side, I knew we could take on the triathlon world.
Was there anything you really missed about home?
There are things you grow up with that you get used to. When you travel abroad, you get to experience a different culture, but you also miss some things from back home. In Australia, limited internet was difficult to adjust to. I also missed Netflix when I was abroad. Thankfully, we got an external hard drive and downloaded movies/TV shows. I also missed specific foods. At home, I’m within walking distance of a Whole Foods where I can get my favorites such as peanut butter, coconut oil, and bubble tea. But mostly, I missed the people from back home.
Is there anything you’re indulging in now that you’re back in the States?
I’m indulging in friends, family, and food. Last year at this time, Jamie was having me do double swims. This year, it’s double ice cream days. I travel to Sebastian Joes, Grand Ole Creamery, and my favorite: Izzy’s, where there are $5 pints (ice cream, not beer). I also am enjoying wines and restaurants. Patrick and I did an “eatcation” in our hometown of St Paul which was extremely fun. We have also been spending time with sponsors. We went to NYC to stay at the New York Athletic Club, we traveled to HED wheels, went to the Bahamas with the Hincapie/Holowesko family, and visited David Hobbs Honda to get a sweet new minivan (don’t knock it til you try it!).
Will you stay in Minnesota for the winter or head for warmer temperatures?
The month of December in St Paul gets very cold. If it snows, I will attempt to cross-country ski. Last year I took a few lessons, but wasn’t very good. I swim, do a little running, and will buck up and wear lots of Hincapie clothes and my Specialized winter shoes to keep warm while riding. At the beginning of the year, we head to Australia. We will be in Falls Creek at altitude for a month before heading to Wollongong. In Wollongong, we live five minutes away from North Wollongong Beach where you can sit and enjoy a coffee at Diggies while watching the ocean waves. Being in Wollongong is perfect – the weather is ideal, the water is peaceful, restaurants are top notch, and there are fabulous people/friends to enjoy coffee with.
Your boyfriend, Pat, is a cyclist. How much does that help you in your training?
Patrick has been instrumental to my success. He will join me for any training session I ask him to, and he pushes me on the bike. He’s also very good at cleaning and packing my bike and setting up my brakes. He offers a lot of insight when it comes to equipment choices, anything from tire pressure to cassette size.
The season obviously ended differently than you would have liked. How have you bounced back from the Grand Final?
I took two weeks off completely with no activity whatsoever. I got so stir crazy that I was making fake grocery lists so I could ride my commuter bike to the grocery store. Pat would stop me as he knew what I was up to. The break was mentally and physically needed in order to make future improvements. After two weeks of no physical activity, I took another two weeks “off” with maximum 20 minutes a day of training. I’m now gradually getting back into some light training, trying to build up my base. I’ve had time to reflect about the disappointment. Obviously after London I was gutted. However, I had a great network of support. Jamie, Beata Komlo, Andy Schmitz, Patrick, Bobby McGee, and Emma Snowsill were just a few of the individuals that helped me after the race. I dealt with the disappointment differently than in the past – I wasn’t sad, just gutted. It was great to be able to move on and not dwell on the race thanks to my support crew.
How does your offseason training differ from in season?
The offseason is all about fun. I do things that are weather-friendly and join in friends’ workouts. It’s a change of pace from the usual workouts and I’ve found myself asking Pat what his workout is and decide if it sounds fun before joining him or staying at home for the day. I will do some skate skiing if the snow falls. However, right now it’s just cold and no snow, so I enjoy time at the Balance Fitness Studio in Minneapolis with Joey Christian. We do TRX and some lifting to help bulk up and stay warm by working out indoors.
You are obviously a big foodie. In all of your travels, what are some of your favorite spots to dine?
I like to think of myself as a gastronomist and the Basque country is my perfect classroom. It provides experiences from 1 euro pintxo pote and inexpensive coffee at Ramon’s to fine dining at El Portalon or Asador Matxete. I enjoy foods that are different. Two years ago in Hungary, I loved the food because it was inexpensive and new for me. I remember ordering four main courses in Budapest because I couldn’t interpret the menu and looked at the prices thinking, “That’s so cheap it has to be an appetizer, not an entree.” For every WTS that I travel to I try to have one authentic dining experience that is local.
What is your go to meal when you’re cooking for guests?
Pat and I love cooking for guests. About once a week we like to have a dinner party where we collaborate to make some sort of dish based on rice or potatoes. The other ingredients usually depend on the location, but vegetables and cheese are always staples in our diet. In Minnesota, we call upon our friend, Eddie Vetter, who worked five years at a pizza restaurant, to help us make pizzas all night. Everyone is told to bring pizza toppings and we spend the night drinking wine and making pizzas.
Do you have a favorite ingredient you like to cook with?
I love using coconut oil. I mix it in my oats, fry with it, and eat it by the spoonful. As an added bonus, I can apply it directly to my head to treat my crazy chlorine-damaged hair.
Looking forward, what are your goals for the future?
My intentions are pretty clear when I line up. I enjoy the process of preparing myself to extrude the best of myself come race day. I’m investing in the journey towards 2016 and enjoying the steps along the way.
When you’re feeling lousy in a workout, what gets you through it?
I’m known for my nonverbal behavior, but really it’s just a front. I rely on the support of my family, friends, and fans. I race for myself and my support crew; that’s what gets me through.
What’s the best triathlon advice you’ve ever gotten?
“It’s not a sacrifice, it’s an investment.” I used to think being away from home for nine months of the year was a sacrifice. I now see it as an investment. The decisions I make are an investment in my future, an investment in my triathlon career. Having this new outlook helps me succeed and I’m very grateful for the advice, which was given to me about a year and a half ago by Jamie Turner.
Apart from dining out, how do you like to spend your time when you’re not training?
I have a garden and when I leave I get my training partners to look after it (pictures thanks to Grace Musgrove). I enjoy grocery shopping, riding my bike to the carniceria (butcher), listening to country music, exploring wines, appreciating the serenity of Falls Creek, and hosting dinner parties.