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How many World Triathlon Series races will Gwen Jorgensen win in her career?
photo: Scottie T Photography
Brains Over Brawn
It wasn’t how I had imagined my race morning – not concerned with when I woke up, no need to meticulously review what I would take to the course and no timeline to follow for my race day schedule. I wasn't applying my race tattoos or checking to make sure everything on my bike was good. Rather, I found myself doing my best to maintain normalcy around the people who would be racing. Whether it was carrying a spare wheel to the course or returning a wetsuit to the athlete lounge, I wanted to do everything I could to be useful to others on race day. The ITU World Triathlon Yokohama was the first race I’ve had to sit out due to injury. After crashing at ITU Cape Town, I was forced to take 2-3 weeks off for my ribs to recover. I have no doubt many athletes in my situation would feel the same, the doctor was telling me the recovery time for a "normal" person, not me. I had every intention of traveling to Japan and racing.
But when my ribs didn’t mend as quickly as I had hoped, it turned out I am a bit more human than I would like to believe. It wasn’t until the day before the race, doing the swim course recon, when I realized I wouldn’t race. Even if I were able to get through the race, what would be the benefit? Sometimes it takes heart and courage to decide not to race and it was a risk I ultimately decided I was not willing to take.
The decision took on personalities in me I didn’t realize I had. There were two consciences sitting on my shoulder – one of them telling me to be tough and fight through this, telling me that I could finish and that the pain would be worth it. The other one taking the rational approach in reminding me of the physical demands a triathlon would require and what toll a race could have. I sought out advice from others, but ultimately I knew I had to make the decision myself. Leading up to the race, I prepared to take my position on the starting line. The day before the race, clarity hit and my thoughts were reaffirmed. Racing would be a mistake. As hard as it was for me to come to that decision, I was confident I had made the right choice.
However, all was not lost in my trip to Japan. I was very familiar with the course. I rode the course every day leading up to the race, and even though the stoplights were quite cumbersome, I grew to love it, which made choosing not to race even harder. I liked the swim with its two-lap course and dive in right after coming up the ramp. So although this year did not work out, I am already anticipating a return next year and I cannot wait to race at this venue.
I also experienced a wonderful culture with great people who follow the rules. There is no jaywalking and, despite the severe lack of trashcans, the streets are extremely clean. While at times it was challenging with a rarity on English speakers and ordering food based on pictures, it was a great place to visit.
On race day I watched my friends and teammates prepare for a race I should have been doing as well. I learned a lot watching the race. It was the first WTS race I had viewed and I received quite a different perspective watching it rather than competing. I was able to see how much each second counts; whether it be a gap in the swim, a speedy transition or watching the time between bike packs deteriorate and all of a sudden the race had become a road race. I witnessed true grit on the course and watched how different strategies played out. I watched some athletes have breakthrough performances and others struggle, but every single person left it all on the course.
Watching the race was inspiring. It makes me even more motivated to get back as soon as I am ready. As I've been reminded, there more races this season and I can't wait to perform at the level I know I am capable of. I’ll be competing not just to race, but also to win. I really can't thank my friends, family and Coeur Sports enough for being there for me as I made this decision and supporting me in my choices. Now onward to the next race where I am looking forward to embracing the Team Psycho in me.