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Episode 35: Gwen Jorgensen: Investments, Not Sacrifices

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On today’s episode, Gwen Jorgensen joins us from Spain! Sam and Gwen discuss her early success in the sport. Gwen talks about her time at the Olympics and how she began looking to Rio after she crossed the finish line in London. Finally, they talk about finding love and joining the Wollongong Wizards.

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Summary

Intro
Life Before Triathlons
The First Race
Qualifying for the Olympics
Memories from the Early Training Days
Realizing the Dream
Moving Forward
Joining the Wizards
Meeting Her Husband
The Importance of Team Chemistry
Personal Growth
Process VS Outcome
Your Legacy
Outro

Transcript

Intro
Welcome to Triathlon Research, the podcast that brings together the world’s best triathlon coaches, athletes, equipment experts and medical professionals to get you the right information that you need to race past your personal best and get more enjoyment out of your triathlon journey. Triathlon Research, where we teach you how to train smart. Here’s your host, Samuel Cook, founder of Triathlon Research.

Samuel Cook
Hello again Triathlon Research Radio listener, this is Sam Cook, the founder of Triathlon Research and your host today and I’m sitting here with someone who needs no introduction to the Triathlon Research community, 2014 world champion and proud member of the Wollongong Wizards, Gwen Jorgensen. And we’re sitting here in ???[0:00:51] in Basque Country Spain at their summer training base here in the northern hemisphere. So how are you doing Gwen?

Gwen
Yeah, good, thanks for having me.

Samuel
Thanks for taking the time to, I know a lot of people definitely wanna hear from you coz last time, I think we had you on the shows, so Gwen was a host and since then, you’ve been in a bit of a winning tear as we’re talking right now in June 14th of 2015, Gwen has won a record 10 straight ITU, what is it, World Series IT races?

Gwen
Yah, World Triathlon Series races.

Samuel
Yeah, World Triathlon Series races. And I think last year when she won 4 straight, that was a record so 10 is quite a streak that the sport has not yet seen. So, but what I’d like to do like those of you who listen to the podcast in the past, I’m not a coach, I’ll leave the coaches for the technical training interviews, I like to just go in to the story of Gwen and her career and something that she’s very passionate about right now is her squad and the squad that she trains with that were here this week with Gwen in a training week, documenting a training week with some athletes who are here and just talk about how that squad has made a difference in her training and her racing. So Gwen, I think a lot of people might know your story but for those who don’t, let’s go a little bit in to what you were doing before you took up this sport of triathlon?

Gwen
I grew up swimming and I had a huge passion for swimming when I was younger and I knew I had some talent in running but that wasn’t where my heart was when I was younger. And I went to the University of Wisconsin Madison where I swam on a competitive team for 3 years. In my junior year actually, started running for them as well competitively and I hadn’t run in years so it’s kind of a crazy jump to make and I ended up having some success in running. I was NCAA All American and USA Triathlon recruited me in to the sport while I was going to the University of Wisconsin Madison and I was studying in UMCPA and I had a full time job lined up with Earnestine Young when they came to me and asked about if I wanted to do triathlon and attest to that first but I told them I just give it a try and I did and I fell in love.

Samuel
So Gwen, when you were making that decision to go in to triathlon, were there any doubts among just yourself, for those close to you or was there any hesitation before you started the journey?

Gwen
Okay, so I didn’t really wanna do triathlon at first, I didn’t know that there was ITU triathlon, I thought there was only Iron Man and I’d never really heard about ITU triathlon so they had to educate me a lot. I had the full time job with Earnestine Young and I wasn’t willing to give that up and they said, we’ll just train part time, work full time and see if you like it and that’s how I started and that’s a very scary thing I think to start to a lot of people financially and I just tried to when I was younger, I really wanted to go to the Olympics and so then that I realized I just wasn’t a good enough athlete for that so I didn’t think I had what it took to be an Olympian so I really didn’t have much faith in myself in the beginning.

Samuel
So where was your job at Earnestine Young, was it Minneapolis?

Gwen
I was actually Milwaukee Wisconsin so I was working in Milwaukee Wisconsin then.

Samuel
Okay. So you have a job in Milwaukee Wisconsin with one of the most respected accounting firms in the world. You start training, what was that first race like? How long did you trained for it and just talk through that first race experience.

Gwen
I remember training a lot indoors before I first raced coz it was winter in Wisconsin and I was working at 7AM so it’s catch start so I had to do a lot of training inside which isn’t ideal. Yeah, I went to that first race and I think it gave me, it was a wakeup call in the sense that I saw how good the athletes actually were and it wasn’t even, it was just a continental cup, it wasn’t a huge race. And it also kind of opened my eyes thinking that I could do better if I was able to train outside and training with some more people and the more I got in the sport.

Samuel
So there are lot of butterflies at the beginning or was it just kinda your old racing habits took over?

Gwen
That’s a good question, it was so long ago now. Yeah, it was in 2010 and I’m sure I was nervous.

Samuel
Yeah. Well 2010 is, that’s only 4 – 4 ½ years ago I guess, 5 years you’ve been in the sport now. Okay, so I remember actually, I’d actually taken up triathlon around that time and I remember seeing your name pop up right as the Olympics were coming in, you’d qualified, you’d won. You’d won the, what was it? The Olympic test event in London?

Gwen
Second there but yeah.

Samuel
So year after you do your first race, you’re second at the Olympic test event and that gave you a qualification for London, right?

Gwen
That’s correct, yeah.

Samuel
Okay. So within 1 year of starting the sport, you obviously demonstrated quite a bit of natural ability in the sport but what was it like qualifying for the Olympics after just being in the sport a year, what are that kinda do for you in terms of with your job and everything else?

Gwen
Yah. I guess first, I think a lot of people think, wow, you’re only in the sport for a year and you qualified for the Olympics, you must be really naturally talented. But I think I also, I know that I grew up so in to running and I put that work in for years since I was 8 years old, I was swimming competitively and running as well so I think that carries over in to the sport as well. And when I qualified for the Olympics, I talked to my firm in Earnestine Young and asked them if I could take a leave of absence and go training my winter down south somewhere warm and they’re super flexible with me and let me do that and just have been supportive through my whole journey. So I took a leave of absence and before that, prior to that, I had started working part time actually and they were just really supportive throughout the whole thing.

Samuel
Yeah, that’s really great to have a job that allows you that transition and you can be transparent with them coz I know there’s a lot of triathletes out there who are trying to hide this habit that they have of training all the time or some of the dreams that they might be pursuing. So that was, yet, your winter training was in Claremont, Florida, right?

Gwen
That is correct, yup.

Samuel
Yah. And I remember actually there were some good photos and there’s some media if you’re down there, why did you pick Claremont, what was so special about Claremont to you and what are some of your memories of those training days are?

Gwen
Yeah, it’s a good question. I think I just looked at where are some triathletes were training, I didn’t know much where to go and you would say triathlon had kind of, what it mean if you’re different directions and where to look and there was Sarah McCartney down there and Jerry Schumacher and Alicia K and there was just some US triathletes down there. So if you’re the next to go down there and they’re really welcoming me to the community and showed me around and showed me where to run, where to ride, where to swim and it was all just really easy because they were there and very helpful.

Samuel
Yeah, there’s a great cool with National Training Center there and some beautiful running trails and things like that so…

Gwen
Exactly.

Samuel
Yeah. And one of the, I actually took about a week to train down at National Training Center when I was doing triathlon a lot and one of the things, like you said, there just so many people there training like people living out of their car training people coming over from Europe so it was really, really cool place. There’s actually a good community of families that would take triathletes in.

Gwen
Yeah, well home stay, that’s awesome.

Samuel
Yeah, it was a cool community. So you went to the Olympics that year in 2012, you said it was a dream of yours, I think many kids probably have had the dream of sitting there watching the Olympics when you’re little. What was it like realizing that dream of, did you go to the opening ceremony? Were you able to do all the, what was it like, first of all, the opening ceremony in London, what was that like?

Gwen
Yah, I went to opening ceremonies and then after that, we actually went a little bit outside of London, USA Triathlon group did just coz it’s hard to train in proper London, that city’s pretty busy. So I went outside of London in a little bit to train, came back for the race and then after the race, I’m back in to the village and that was probably just a great experience being in the village and being able to meet other athletes going in to the dining hall and meeting somebody from a completely different country or completely different sport. Everyone’s just really welcoming and just asking where are you from, what do you do, where everyone is just super friendly and nice and it was great experience feel to go to some other athletic events and go to the closing ceremonies as well.

Samuel
What was your best memory of the Olympics overall, what was just one of those moments where you just thought, I can’t believe I’m here or never would have dream this would happen?

Gwen
Yeah. It’s just being in the Olympic village and meeting other athletes and, I mean, the dining hall was my favorite place to be coz every athlete had to come through there, right? Coz every athletes eating so you just got to meet all these different people and everyone had a different story but we were all there for the same reason so it was just really, really inspiring.

Samuel
One of my theories on the Olympics, I think the Olympics and the World Cup Soccer probably have done more than anything to create peace in Europe and so there is in the world because you have that healthy competition but also that spirit, we’re kinda all in this together and it’s telling that when there’s a big war, they usually cancel the Olympics so…

You were working part time for Earnestine Young when you went to the Olympics and/or had you kinda taken the full leave of absence with that one?

Gwen
I did, a couple of months before, I taken a full leave of absence, yup.

Samuel
Yah. And after the Olympics, you assessed where you were, what did you decide to, why did you decide to keep doing this versus going back to accounting and what were some of the changes that you decided to make or things that you wanted to do differently going in to your next Olympics?

Gwen
I was disappointed with my race in London and I crossed the finish line and I just had one thought in my mind and that was to go to Rio and since then, that inspired to go to Rio and win gold there, it’s been what I’ve been working for. And so I sat down with my now husband Patrick and he said, what can we do, USA Triathlon was really helpful as well throughout the process but we’ve looked at what the best triathletes in the world were doing and that was, they were training with their competitors, they’re training in a daily performance environment where they had a coach there at every session and they were training with people that they also compete against. And I’d seen a few of the daily performance groups in person and I’d also talk to some people and interview different coaches and Jamie was by far my favorite and I was really nervous asking him if he’s willing to coach me and thankfully, he was.

Samuel
So Jamie Turner, the kiwi, a lot of people mistake him for Australian because he’s worked with the Australian elites and also is now working, not just for the Australian but the Canada team and one of the things I love about Jamie is that he’s 100% focused on the athletes and he doesn’t, all he wants to do is just provide for the athletes. And one of the things that he probably had to do with the Wizards was, well, why would we put someone else in the squad that’s not from Canada or Australia which is the 2 federations he worked for and Jamie just, from he’s telling me, he said, look, this is gonna make everyone better. And so talk about joining the Wizards and being the only American and kind of the dynamics of getting in to a squad coz before you really just been an individual in the sport.

Gwen
Yah, before I was just getting workouts online from my coach and when I was in Florida, Claremont, I was training with some of the other athletes but my coach wasn’t there every day and it was just got every work out once together. Jamie and I, I wanna ask him if I could join Wizards, he obviously had to think about it and he has well impacted athletes because he wants to make sure that the athletes were supportive of it as well coming in coz he knows that he has to have a group where everyone gets along. And that’s one of the things I love about the Wollongong Wizards is when we line up in racing we’re competitors but everyone is own eyes to each other, everyone is encouraging, supportive, if somebody has a good race, everyone’s there and happy for them and it’s just a unique environment I think. We’re able to push each other every day in training and being friends and I do things together and I just absolutely love it.

Samuel
Yeah. And I think a lot of people, triathlon is a very lonely sport, if you’re listening to this, you might live in an area where you don’t think there’s other triathletes out there or maybe you just haven’t taken the time to look but I think one of the things that I saw when I was doing triathlon for very brief period of time was I was teaching at West Point and they happen to have an amazing, just won the national championship collegiate and there’s nothing like training with people who are like 10 years younger than you at least who are doing sub 2 hour Olympic distance triathlon. And I think I got way faster than I should have just by virtue of training with the squad so I can, and it happened very quickly and I can completely see how that would be just a game changer for any triathlete and…

Gwen
And even if they don’t have a Triathlon group, you can find a local cycling group, their local bike shops and run groups and swimming squads as well and that’s I think is just as helpful.

Samuel
Yah. And those cycling squads, cycling groups are definitely there but also I don’t think a lot of triathletes are as aware as they should be and this is one of things that now that I’ve seen the daily performance environment and what having people around you can help you do is local tri clubs and if there’s not a local tri club in your area, maybe you should start one. And that’s one of the things that in Triathlon Research, we’d like to start helping tri clubs get a little bit more inspired for what they’re doing just coz I think it’s a great, I think it’s really good for the sport.

Your husband Pat, we’ll get in to that a little bit more coz Pat’s such a great support and part of your life in everything you do. He travels with you the whole time and you said many times, there’s no way you could do any of these without Pat. Talk a little bit about, you got married last year, how is that transition been from getting, I think you met Pat, well, tell us the story, how’d you meet Pat coz I can see you just smile in beam and I’ll just let you tell the story.

Gwen
I was working for Earnestine Young in Milwaukee and I just went on a normal bicycle training, I’ve got enlisted because they’re a group of, basically, older man in cycle everyone and then I’d go out with them…

Samuel
So that’s why you recommend finding the local cycling group, right? You might meet that special someone so…

Gwen
Patrick was actually living in Minnesota at the time but he was a professional cyclist and he was in town for a race and he just happens to be out riding right in to our group and we had a mutual friend in the ride who introduced us and Pat was giving me some tips and at the end of the ride, Pat, he asked me on a date that night and we went out and I guess the rest was kind of history.

Samuel
So that’s, I mean, as good reason as any to be social in the sport, right? Coz I know a lot of triathletes are little bit solitary sometimes in their training so, well that’s great. And the reason I brought Pat up was, well first of all, if any of you have not had a chance to meet Pat or see some videos with him, he’s just a fantastic person and just amazing support for Gwen but also, Pat’s a pro cyclist or is a little bit of a hiatus right now coz you’re doing your Olympic quest and he’s supporting you which I think is awesome. But Pat, he comes from the cycling world and in the cycling world, teams are, they’re competing together so if their lead rider wins, they all win whereas in triathlon, you guys are a team, but then on race, if one wins, that doesn’t affect the rest of you, your earnings or anything else like that. So I think in triathlon, it’s a really special and a lot harder to do than a cycling team where the competition’s there for a team. Have you and Pat ever talked about the difference between the cycling team and the tri team and kinda compared notes on that?

Gwen
Yah, he brings a lot of the support side to it. Like you said earlier, I couldn’t be in triathlon without him, I just can’t win a bronze without someone, it wasn’t until he said I will quit professional cycling to help you so he quit his dream to basically help live mine, I mean, it’s incredible ways in doing. But he brought overall knowledge that he had from professional cycling and he saw, okay, this is the support that grow to where riders have and this is what I see in triathlon and I think he tries to tell me the gaps, he knows what it takes to support the professional athlete because he’s been one, he knows what a professional athlete needs and so I think, I mean, he’s a huge entry for me just he’s able to do everything that I need.

Samuel
He also, I mean, I think he brings great insight to the squad and all the athletes coz pro cycling has been doing squad work for quite a while compared to, and of course Jamie’s like, he’s one of the coaches, there’s not many coaches in the sport that can pull off what Jamie does with his squad. Getting everyone to play well together, race and then forget about it and I think that’s a special, a very special skill as a coach and something quite frankly the sport needs quite a bit more of.

Gwen
Yah, for sure. Jamie’s just incredible the way he’s able to create this atmosphere and I think it’s partially do we know all the athletes he picks and then he’s just molding us in to these people that are able to, yeah, just really thriving in this environment.

Samuel
So Jamie obviously is a, he’s a fantastic coach but also think one of the things that I’ve seen in all the great coaches in the sport is that they use sport to make you better person. What do you think are some of the biggest personal growth things that you’ve gone from triathlon and from Jamie that you’re gonna take with you for the rest of your life?

Gwen
One of the first things Jamie taught me was that people will talk about get that y’all and sacrifice this. Giving up not being able to go to weddings, that call not being able to go to family functions coz you’ve gone for 8 months of the year, all these things are sacrifices and Jamie really flipped that and he said it’s not sacrifice, it’s an investment, you’re making an investment in the future, it’s a choice, right? You can choose what you want to do and you’re deciding right now if you want to, you can do triathlon full time, you can put in the work and put in that investment and hopefully you see some return on that but you don’t go in to it knowing that it’s a choice that you’re making and it’s not a sacrifice, it’s an investment and I think that’s something that you can view, you can take to every area of your life and apply it.

Samuel
Yeah. If you go to the gym or do triathlon or recreationally, you just turn that attitude to what you’re doing and…

Gwen
Or even in the workplace.

Samuel
Yeah, exactly. I mean, you spend 8 hours a day plus of your life at work and if you’re maybe not doing what you wish you’d be doing the rest of your life, start looking at that as an investment to getting to that point and I think that’s great. And you’re, I’ve definitely seen you and Jamie talked about, it’s funny, when I do all these camps coz I’m not doing triathlon anymore, I always try and pick some of the things and apply it in to business or other things I’m doing and one of the other, I think that’s one of the great points that Jamie makes. But other one is process versus outcome and this is a theme that I just keep running in to and we talked to Mark Allen and all the other pros. We just did a camp ???[0:22:56] and it seems to me that there’s this paradox that you love to win, I mean, obviously, you wanna win gold in Rio and you’ve wanted to go to the Olympics, you’re extremely competitive but what Mark Allen explained in episode 6 of our podcast was you want it so bad but then you have to learn to let go of it a little bit and just let the work that you’ve put in, the things that you know how to do take over. Talk a little bit about that phenomenon of process versus outcome focus when you’re racing.

Gwen
Yah. I’m not, yah, I don’t, when I’m out at a race, I’m not thinking about wanting to win, I’m thinking about I want to execute on this one, my bike, my run. I have no control over what the other athletes are doing and they know that every other athlete might not is trying to get to that finish line as fast as they can as well. And I think there’s no use in worrying about what you can’t control and I can’t control what others do so I think it’s really rewarding as well to just focus on what you can do to the best of your ability and if you do that, you have a successful day coz you’ll get everything out of that race that you put in.

Samuel
And sometimes when you try and force it, it just psyches you out, it makes you do worse than you could normally do if you just relax, right?

Gwen
I think you just need to focus on the technical bits of what are you gonna do in swimming to get you out of the water first and what are you gonna focus on in the bike that will help you bike as fast as you can and you’re just focusing on those things and think it’s really beneficial.

Samuel
And was this a skill that you have to learn before when you’re racing, do you think you’re overly outcome focused before you’ve met Jamie or how does he train this? Because we hear outcome versus process but how do you actually start doing that and how do you internalize that?

Gwen
I think it starts with the beginning of the year when you write down goals and you look at what goals are you writing down, are you writing down I wanna win or are you writing down I wanna improve some technique, I want to make sure that my arms are relaxed when they’re running, I wanna make sure that I’m doing xyz and I think that’s kind of where it starts and if you have that mindset and you have that mindset every single day in training as well, it’s a really good thing. Every day in training, you’re not gonna have best times, you’re not gonna have peak powers, you’re not gonna go with fastest in the pool and you can’t get caught up on that stuff. I think, when I was younger, I think I used to when I was really young, when I’m swimming, I get upset if I had a bad time and swimming or something it seems silly now looking back like everyone’s gonna have bad days and the outcome isn’t what you should be focusing on. If you’re doing everything right, you know that that “bad day” from an outcome perspective is just one day closer to a good day from an outcome perspective.

Samuel
And one of the analogies I’ve heard on that is it’s thousands of steps to get to finish line and you have that one where you actually win so, I mean, every step of that’s pretty painful on a race.

Gwen
And that is…

Samuel
Yeah. Well, I think that one of the last things I just like to take away from this is you’re obviously coming up on to some very big races in 2015 as we speak and next year is the Olympics qualifications ahead of you still, Olympics are ahead of you. Hopefully let’s just get through qualifications or let’s focus on process, right? Not even looking at the outcome but you’ve come a long way and if were all to end tomorrow, you’ve still like have one of the greatest runs in the history, well, the greatest run in the history of the sport at the World Triathlon Series, what do you think you eventually are gonna leave the sport with, what do you think that you wanna get from triathlon and then also the other flipside of that is what do you wanna leave the sport like what’s the legacy likely?

Gwen
I love to just help give back to the sport. Last year, Patrick and I started scholarship for junior triathletes striving for excellence and it’s fun to be able to watch them race this year and see how they’re doing and some have great results, some are still developing and it’s just really fun to watch and they’ll email me, sometimes some other race reports and it’s just really fun to follow. And I just love to continue to see the sport of triathlon grow, I think it’s a great sport and I think it is growing in the US and it’s just awesome as you see.

Samuel
Yeah. So really just be ambassador for the entire sport, you just wanna help grow it. And I don’t think there’s many people in the US who are, I mean, I know from just whenever we do your camps and how many people are so excited to apply and see if they can get to your camp and definitely you’ve done a great job on the ambassador for the sport side and hopefully we can help you in some small way grow that sport too because I think golf, I was reading an article recently, golf is dying, it’s getting, like golf courses are shutting down a lot of places and they’re saying triathlon is the new golf, just so many people are doing it, like high powered people…

Gwen
Yeah, business people are going on for bike rides…

Samuel
And picking up professional triathletes, right? So yes, I mean, business people are going out on rides, it’s a great social, it’s a healthy, much more healthy than maybe riding a golf cart and drinking a few beers. So I think it’s a great move in for the sport, we do have a problem in the west, well, the US is probably the biggest epidemic of obesity and some other things and triathlon, I know from so many athletes we’ve run in to in camps and other places has really turned peoples’ lives around and I think it’s just great to see. So how else, after the sport, do you have any, and that’s so long, we don’t wanna talk too far past but what’s, you’ve obviously got a great career that you left and you could go back to, you think you’ll go back to accounting or what do you think you’ll do after this?

Gwen
No idea. I had these goals in triathlon I call in, common goals, but my dream in life is just to have a big family with Patrick and hopefully lots of kids, lots of dogs and just be really happy, so have an active family together, so yeah.

Samuel
That’s a great goal in itself and I hope that just seeing how you and Patrick work together is also might know that you guys will make a great parents for kids and, but let’s hope that this triathlon journey keeps spinning. I know because you’re separated from the outcome that we’d get a ton out of it as we continue but thanks a lot for, again, sharing your insights with the Triathlon Research audience.

And finally, thank you Triathlon Research listener for taking the time to educate yourself on the sport and let’s take up Gwen’s mission here of growing the sport, getting your friends in to it, teaching healthy lifestyle which triathlon is doing. So if you enjoyed today’s episode, please take the time to leave a review on iTunes and forward this to your friends. We’re gonna definitely have many more great episodes coming up with some of Gwen’s friends in the Wollongong Wizards and Jamie and I think you’re really gonna enjoy some of the insights that we’re getting here in Spain with Gwen. So Gwen, thanks again for joining us.

Gwen
Perfect, thank you.

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