How does an Olympic triathlon gold medalist switch to marathons? Ask Gwen Jorgensen.
Gwen Jorgensen may seem like she's superhuman, but even she is felled by a common foe of regular people everywhere.
"Can she call you back?" her husband Patrick Lemieux asked when he answered her phone. "TSA is taking a little longer than we expected."
The couple was on their way to Austin for Lemieux's birthday, and then on to Nassau, Bahamas, where Jorgensen would compete in and win the Island House Triathlon on Oct. 28. It wasn't a typical activity for someone who's about to run her first marathon a week later, but Jorgensen, 30, isn't typical. This summer she became the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in the triathlon. On Nov. 6, she'll run the New York City Marathon.
"I have no idea how I'll do," she said of the marathon after she finally made it through security.
Jorgensen became a recognizable name in August when she was duking it out with Nicola Spirig Hug of Switzerland during the 6.2-mile run portion of the Olympic triathlon. With one lap to go, Jorgensen pulled away and won gold.
It was a stunning moment, not just because of the down-to-the-wire victory, but also because Jorgensen's 2012 Olympic chase was sidelined by a flat tire during the cycling portion of the event. Since then, everything she's done has been geared toward winning in Rio. That's why a marathon, which had been in the back of her mind as something she wanted to try, wasn't an option in those four years.
"I just couldn't because of the risk," she said. "I know doing a marathon wasn't the wisest decision for those four years."
With her Olympic goal achieved, she can now try something new.
Jorgensen wasn't always a runner first. In college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she competed in swimming for her first two years. "When I was growing up, I had a huge passion for swimming. If you told me when I was swimming that I would do anything with running, I would have thought it was a crazy thing," she said.
But after those first two years, she hadn't qualified for any NCAA meets, and she felt she reached her potential in that sport. She says wanted a new challenge and switched to running, where she had excelled in high school.
For her college team, she ran everything from the 4x800-meter relay to the 10,000 meter and had a good career. After graduating in 2008, instead of going pro, she became a full-time tax accountant at Ernst & Young. She was recruited by USA Triathlon in 2010 to give the three-sport event a go, and when she was named the rookie of the year, she put her tax career on hold.
"Now the marathon is the same thing. I want a new challenge," she said. "The marathon is a very iconic event. Everyone knows about it, and I think that's why I'm excited to do it."
Aside from a few days off immediately after the Olympic Games, Jorgensen hasn't stopped training. Though she has, with the help of her triathlon coach Jamie Turner, been adding marathon-quality workouts to her regular routine, which still includes biking and swimming.
She increased her long run to about 16 miles, and she's been doing 6K and 7K repeats in workouts, where she runs that distance with a hard effort, then runs it slowed down, and repeats. While most of the 50,000 runners who are taking on New York have trained for 16 to 20 weeks for the event, Jorgensen didn't have that kind of time.
"I couldn't change everything. I'm just trying to be smart and have fun while we're doing it," she said.
Unlike for professional marathon runners, there are very few predictions for how Jorgensen will perform Sunday. Her transition from triathlon to marathon is unprecedented at the professional level.
On Oct. 9, Jorgensen ran in the Twin Cities 10-mile race, which also served as the USA Track & Field 10-mile championships, and finished third with a time of 53:13. She had a simple strategy: "I went out with the leaders from the beginning. I told myself it's only 10 miles, and I can see how long I last," she said.
She finished 24 seconds behind first-place winner Jordan Hasay and 12 seconds after second-place winner Aliphine Tuliamuk.
"I surprised myself at how well I did, but I was also very, very sore after," she said. "It was a reaffirmation that the marathon is going to be quite difficult because I don't really have the run mileage in my legs."
Her approach to the New York City Marathon will be "see how it goes," she said. "Normally when I show up at a race, I have expectations, I have goals, and I have some sort of idea of how I'm going to do. With the marathon, I don't have any of that."
Jorgensen won't be the only member of the women's U.S. Olympic team making her marathon debut in New York City. Molly Huddle, who set the U.S. women's 10,000-meter record in Rio and finished sixth, and Kim Conley, who ran the 5,000-meter race, will also be trying the marathon for the first time on Nov. 6.
While her stick-with-the-leader plan worked in the 10-mile race, Jorgensen doesn't think it's a wise idea in the marathon, so she says her goal is to "run fast."
"I'm just going to go out there and have fun," she said.
When will she finally relax? "Until it becomes full-on winter in Minnesota," she said of her home state. "That's always a great time to take a break."