Insider Story: Year of Firsts for Olympian Gwen Jorgen
Gwen Jorgensen won a gold medal in triathlon at the Rio Olympics in 2016, with a time of 1 hour, 56 minutes, and 16 seconds. The Wisconsin native was the first American triathlete to earn a gold in the history of the Olympics. Not bad for someone who essentially discovered her inner triathlete accidentally, switching from a tax accountant to a pro-circuit triathlete only after she blew away the competition during her first few races.
2017 was equally exciting for Jorgensen. For starters, she and her husband, Patrick Lemieux, welcomed their first child into the world. “Patrick and I have both always wanted to have a baby. And I had wanted to get pregnant after the Olympics but I didn’t realize how difficult it can sometimes be. You can’t just snap your fingers and get pregnant. Luckily, we were able to get pregnant very quickly. I feel really fortunate about that.” Baby boy Stanley was born in August.
“It’s been fabulous to spend time with him and watch him grow,” Jorgensen says. “But it’s hard to find time to get anything done. If he’s awake, you want to play with him. And when he’s sleeping…well, he’s just so cute, you want to sit and watch him.”
Before 2017 began, the couple bought a house in Portland, Oregon, after years of renting an apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Until recently, we just had a lease. Because we were traveling so much, we never bought a couch or a TV” Jorgensen says. “It’s exciting to have a place to make our own and decorate it the way we want.”
The couple picked Portland, in part, because it reminded them of New Zealand, where they recently spent several months training. “You can see the mountains from Portland on a clear day. It’s absolutely gorgeous and very outdoorsy. The city has good food. And while it’s a big city, it has a small-city feel. It also has a big airport, which is important considering all the flying we have to do to get to races.”
Perhaps the biggest change for Jorgensen in 2017 was her decision to commit herself to a new challenge: marathon running. “It’s a huge risk–not only financially, but physically,” says Jorgenson, who depends largely on corporate sponsorships to support herself and her family. “I don’t know if my body can handle it but I know that I have to take big risks to get big rewards. I needed a new challenge.”
Jorgensen ran through much of her pregnancy. “I actually had a couple of 100 mile weeks,” she says. “And I did a month of high-altitude training, in Flagstaff, Arizona, as well.” But marathon training will be intense, she admits, requiring up to 120 miles or more per week as she immerses herself.
What will 2018 bring? Jorgensen has yet to sign up for a particular marathon—but when she does, you’ll want to watch. “I’m just trying to get fit, stay healthy, and build up endurance. I know if I have a race on the calendar, that’s going to push it too much. I don’t want to rush it. I think I haven’t reached my potential in running.”
To hear how she incorporated sleep into her training for better performance before her gold-medal win at the Olympics, check out this article about Gwen and another triathlete.