How many World Triathlon Series races will Gwen Jorgensen win in her career?
photo: Scottie T Photography
So You Had a Bad Day...
Coming off two solid World Cup races, I was excited for my first World Triathlon Series (WTS) event of the season. However, the Auckland WTS did not go as I had planned. I started the race with a solid swim, which gave me good positioning on the bike. But early in the bike race I realized my legs would not get me up the hills of a challenging course. I continued to fall throughout the eight laps. Additionally, I was caught behind a crash, which created another challenge. Toward the end of the ride, I was concerned about getting lapped out, meaning I wouldn’t continue on the run. I got flustered when that didn’t happen. I entered transition unprepared to dismount my bike, which was my biggest mistake of the race. In a moment of panic, I dismounted my bike and unclipped my helmet before racking my bike. Right away I knew it was wrong and that I would be serving a penalty, but I quickly continued on the run.
At this point my legs were exhausted. Nonetheless, I have vowed to never let myself quit a race and mustered everything I had to continue on the run. I gained a few places, but struggled through the run. On the second lap I passed the penalty box and saw that my number had been removed from the board. After asking twice if I needed to stop, I was told to continue to the finish. I incorrectly assumed I was too far back and my penalty no longer mattered.
Finishing the race I was disappointed in myself. I wasn’t sure what went wrong or why I was unable to perform to my potential. But eventually I was able to get myself to a better place. Not all was lost in the race. I had a solid swim and I finished without giving up. It also helped me identify weaknesses and reflect on things I could have done differently. I was done and it was time to move on.
I was then informed I had been disqualified. I was devastated in learning that unclipping your helmet while still in possession of your bike is grounds for disqualification. The call could have been contested, but that had to be done in the first five minutes after my finish. I was now physically and emotionally defeated. Placing 36th seemed a lot better than a disqualification.
And then the support came. I received encouragement and consolation from so many people. Coaches of other athletes shared reassuring words. The race’s top finishers took time away from celebrating to comfort me. Friends from New Plymouth reminded me not to forget my past accomplishments. Veteran triathletes reminded me these things happen and that it’s no big deal. Friends and family sent their love. My sponsors were unfathomably supportive. And my boyfriend, Tommy Zaferes, was there to listen as I talked everything out.
After being able to reflect, I was still disappointed but I learned invaluable lessons. The biggest lesson was that by not giving up I felt the pain of the race. I suffered through it and I’m a stronger athlete because of it. I’m also driven to not let that happen again and compete as a strong mental and physical athlete and not allow silly mistakes.It’s often hard to find good things in a difficult race. However, if you take the time to go through the race, you can identify what went wrong and the things that went well. Sometimes you may not be able to identify why it was a bad day, but you are bound to learn about yourself as a competitor. I was reminded by a lot of awesome people that not every race is going to be great. It’s important to learn from these experiences and not dwell. Make sure not to focus on the negative result. One of the things I love about triathlon is that there are so many different aspects and with that you have the opportunity to find your strength. Once you’re done reflecting, do what triathletes do best and move on.