Pro triathlete and TrainingPeaks user Gwen Jorgensen tells us about how she got started in triathlon, only 18 months before qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.
From the age of six, my love was swimming. I started swimming competitively at age eight and my parents couldn’t get me out of the water. From early morning swims to after school swims, to meets on the weekends and even sneaking off to the YMCA during my rest weeks, I was always the first one in and last one out. And when there were no pools with open swim available, I would play in my grandma’s pool all day long!
However, growing up I did not love biking. I remember my parents persuading me to go on bike rides by promising me we could stop for ice cream halfway through the ride. It worked most of the time—but only because of the custard sundae, covered in hot fudge.
Then my sister’s track coach saw me in the pool one day. He noticed I had a natural talent for running. After much persuasion, I joined the high school track & field team. But I did this only under one condition: that I could continue my daily swim workouts. Quickly, I realized my high school coach was correct: I have a natural, God-given talent in running. It is freeing to run, and comes naturally for me. This is something that swimming and biking were never able to match up to.
In high school, I swam all four years; however, I only ran outdoor track (I never ran cross country nor did indoor track) for three years. I would go to swim practices during the week, and then compete in outdoor track meets on Thursdays and the weekends.
In 2005, I did my very first triathlon - and the only one I'd enter for several years. It was the summer after I graduated high school, and the race was a super sprint I completed in Pewaukee, WI with my friend Maggie Lach. Maggie had always wanted to do a triathlon. We had swam and ran together in high school, so I said, "Sure, why not do a triathlon with one of my best friends?" We signed up and didn't even train for it. We waited for each other during and after each discipline, and our main goal was just to complete it and have fun - mission accomplished! It wasn't pretty, as I was on my mom's mountain bike that was way too small for me and neither of us had trained, but we had a blast!
I was collegiately recruited more heavily for running than swimming, but my heart was in swimming. So I walked on to the University of Wisconsin-Madison swimming and diving team where I was a three-time Big Ten Participant. After my junior year I started to miss running, and with the encouragement of my high school track and field coach, I joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Track and Field Team. I ended up becoming a multi-time All American, along with a Big Ten Champion in the 3000m and 5000m.
In college, Barb Lindquist (with the USAT college recruitment program) encouraged me to participate in triathlons - something I knew nothing about, and frankly wasn’t interested in. I already had a full-time job with Ernst & Young, LLP working as a CPA.
But Barb put me in contact with my current coach and USAT's 2011 Coach of the Year, Cindi Bannink. Cindi explained what a draft-legal ITU triathlon was—among other basics—to me in a meeting over coffee.
The first triathlon I raced competitively was the Elite Development Race (EDR) in Clermont, FL in March of 2010. I remember finishing the triathlon and thinking that I had a lot of work to do! I did well enough to earn my Elite/Pro card, but I struggled on the bike. I had only been on a road bike for a few months, and most of it was spent on the trainer as I was in the "Wisconsin winter wonderland". That triathlon really opened my eyes and made me think hard about what I wanted my goals to be in triathlon - was I just doing it for fun, or did I have other, bigger goals? That EDR race was one of the turning points in my career.
Although I continued to pursue my accounting career with Ernst & Young, LLP, I did decide to talk to my boss about potentially working part-time. It was my first time I decided I really wanted to see what I could do in triathlon. After the EDR in Clermont, I started to focus on my weaknesses on the bike with the help of USAT, my coach Cindi, and a local ex-pro cyclist, Tom Schuller. With the help of others, my bike started to improve and I was able to focus on other key elements such as recovery and swim pack awareness.
I live in in Milwaukee, WI, and Cindi is based out of Madison, WI. So that she could coach me from a different city, we have used TrainingPeaks since day one, and it's been a huge asset. It's the biggest way my coach and I communicate. It’s easy to use, fast, and can be utilized anywhere at any time. I recently downloaded the training application for my phone and love how convenient it is - I can look up what I am supposed to do on any given day. Specifically, here is why TrainingPeaks has worked so well for Cindi and me:
1. We did not live in the same city;
2. I could easily plan out my week when I was busy working full time with Ernst & Young;
3. I could easily communicate how I was feeling by uploading my results from daily workouts and races; and
4. It was a great way to track my progress throughout the season (and now years).
Follow along with Gwen on her journey to the Olympics - she'll be sharing select training files and blog entries on TrainingPeaks throughout the year. You can check out Gwen's first training file now - a bike ride with two fellow triathletes working on sprint power.
If you want to use the same software tools as Gwen to track your triathlon training, learn more about TrainingPeaks Software for Athletes.
Gwen Jorgensen has taken the elite triathlon field by storm in the past two years. Only 18 months after her first competitive triathlon in March 2010, Gwen placed second at the London Triathlon with the record finish time for an American woman. She also earned the honor of becoming the first woman to qualify for the United States Olympic 2012 Triathlon Team. She was named USAT’s 2010 Rookie of the Year after her remarkable first year as a pro. Learn more about Gwen at www.GwenJorgensen.com, or follow her on Twitter.