Why Gwen Jorgensen Is The Most Dominant Triathlete In The World
Five years after climbing into the saddle on her first road bike, Gwen Jorgensen has the top spot on the World Triathlon Series podium on lockdown. The Wisconsin native has been unbeaten for more than a year, logging her 10th straight win on May 31 -- the first time any triathlete, male or female, has accomplished this in the history of the series. After a disappointing 38th-place finish at the London Olympics because of a flat tire on her bike, she's also the early favorite to win in Rio at the Olympics next year.
We caught up with her as she was taking a postrace holiday in the Spanish coastal region of San Sebastian with her husband, cyclist Patrick Lemieux.
espnW: Congrats on your most recent win. Double digits! How does it feel?
Gwen Jorgensen: Thanks! Any win is always a successful day. I go into any race trying to execute on my swim, on my bike and on my run. And I was really happy with my swim, my bike and my run over the weekend.
espnW: As you build what's turned out to be a real winning streak, do you feel more pressure to keep it up?
GJ: I don't really think about the winning streak too much. My main focus for the year is the Rio test event coming up in August. That's where I hope to qualify for the Olympics, so that's been the goal all year. To qualify, you have to get in the top eight overall and be the first or second American. So it's a pretty big race -- one of my biggest races to date. Since 2012 I've aspired to be at the Rio Olympic Games, and in order to do that I need to qualify first!
espnW: One of the exciting things this season has been seeing you and your U.S. teammates Katie Zaferes and Sarah True on the podium together. How does having them along with you affect your training and racing?
GJ: It's been an incredible season for the USA. Before this race, the USA had won 60 percent of the total WTF medals, so it must have increased after we won all three [at the most recent race]. Katie and Sarah train together and I train in a different [location], so we only see each other at races. But it's always exciting to be together for races and get together for team dinners. And when we're not racing together it's fun to follow them online.
espnW: How do you keep your nerves in check for racing?
GJ: I think a little bit of nerves is always good. At races you want that bit of adrenaline that gets you excited and ready to race and makes your body aware that it's racing. But obviously you don't want to be too nervous.
I keep a daily training journal where every day I write down three things I can improve upon and add three things I did well. Before a race I go through that and read what I did well and it gives me confidence.
espnW: How do you fuel your training?
GJ: In the past couple years I've been trying to put on some weight, so I try to eat a lot of healthy fats and protein. I eat protein in every meal and red meat every single day, and then of course lots of fruits and vegetables and carbohydrates.
On the bike I use Red Bull in my water bottle, but besides that I just try to do natural foods. After a workout it's important to have a good meal and I'm lucky to have my husband, Patrick, who cooks for me, so whenever I come home from a workout he has a big meal on the table. (See Jorgensen's power breakfast here).
espnW: What's a typical training day like for you?
GJ: There's no real "typical day." It depends on the training cycle and day of the week. But five days of the week I wake up in the morning and run 30 to 60 minutes, swim an hour and a half in the middle of the day, and either swim, run or bike in the evening. And of course there are gym sessions mixed in, too.
On the weekends, we normally do a long ride of about three hours, then a long swim or run, plus an easy ride on Sunday. I'm also getting a massage a couple times a week to keep [my] body healthy and in check.
espnW: Who do you train with?
GJ: I train with [coach] Jamie Turner and we call our group the Wollongong Wizards. Jamie is actually Canada's national federation coach so I train with a lot of Canadians, and then Australians and a couple others from other countries. All in all there are about 15 athletes. [When we] swim we do all the boys and girls [together], and the runs and bikes are usually gender specific.
espnW: You swam competitively from a young age, and were an All-American in track and cross country in college. At this point, which of the three disciplines do you have to work on the hardest?
GJ: I work really hard at swimming and biking compared to the other people I train with. I swim and bike more than they do, and they may run more than I do.
Swimming is obviously a very technical sport, so we work a lot on technique in the offseason with a lot of drills. And then it's about being able to hold that technique with strength, so I work on some of that through gym sessions out of the pool, and some in the pool just by swimming.
It's the same thing with the bike -- just trying to get stronger and do some more kilometers to get some more strength. Jamie has an individual training plan for each athlete, so one day I might be only riding with one other athlete and other days I'm riding with the whole group.
espnW: What advice do you have for a first-time triathlete? It hasn't been too long for you!
GJ: No it hasn't! I'd say just have fun with it and be willing to risk it. When I first started I was a little bit shy and I'd never been on a road bike before, so I was just falling over and couldn't unclip. Just silly things like that.
I think what was really helpful to me was finding groups I could train with. I'd talk to people at local bike shops and go and ride with them.
espnW: What's your funniest story from a race?
GJ: It was at my second race ever, the FISU World University Championships, which was my first international triathlon. [When] I come running into transition and I try to put my shoes on to run, I couldn't get my feet into my shoes. I couldn't figure out what was going on.
It turns out I'd put my socks in my shoes to save room when packing, and had forgotten to take them out. It was a little embarrassing and something I've yet to repeat. And I check my shoes every time now to make sure there's nothing in them.
espnW: What inspires you?
GJ: I really just love triathlon. I love being able to compete...and being able to see how far I can push myself is really exciting.
I also have a lot of people who invest in me with their time and are really patient with me, and that gives me motivation on days I don't want to get out and train.