We Talked To Gwen Jorgensen Before Her First Track Race In Nine Years

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As Gwen Jorgensen prepares for tonight's 5K at the Husky Classic, the Rio Olympic triathlon champion can barely remember the last time she raced on the track.

"My PR on the track is 15:50 something and that's from..."

2009, I remind her. And it's 15:52.19, to be exact.

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It's been nearly 10 years since Jorgensen's senior year at the University of Wisconsin, where she was a four-time All-American and two-time Big 10 champion in track and cross country. You can't fault her, though, for not remembering the details — there's been a lot of racing in between that had nothing to do with turning left.

In November, the 31-year-old Jorgensen announced her intent to switch from the triathlon to the marathon for the next Olympic cycle. She has a lot of time to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Games, which is good as she's also a new mom to 6-month-old Stanley. 

The Husky Classic also marks her first race since giving birth. 

"I'm really excited to race," she told FloTrack over the phone after driving from her home in Portland to Seattle, where the race will be held at the University of Washington's Dempsey Indoor Track facility tonight. "I'm the type of person who prefers racing over training, so if it's a choice between a hard session or a time trial, and a race, I'd much rather go out and race."

Top entrants in the field include international medalists from the Bowerman Track Club in Courtney Frerichs, the 2017 world silver medalist in the steeplechase, and Emily Infeld, the 2015 world bronze medalist for 10K. Infeld looks particularly tough after disposing of the field at last weekend's USATF XC championships for her first national title.

Frerichs has run 15:31.62 and Infeld has run 14:56.33; the USATF Indoor qualifier for 3K is 15:55.0. The pace could be pretty hot.

"I'd like to go out with the leaders and just give it a shot," Jorgensen said of racing Infeld and Frerichs. "I have nothing to lose. I'm not going to be scared if the race goes out fast; I'm actually excited and hope that it goes out fast. I'd like to push my limits and fitness and have a little tic mark to see where I'm at right now."

Though Jorgensen hasn't raced on the track in quite some time, she has certainly run a few road race 5Ks as standalone competitions and as the last leg of a sprint triathlon. She won the 2014 NYRR Dash to the Finish Line 5K in 16:03, her official road PB, but says it's more complicated to talk about split times from sprint triathlons.

"In a sprint triathlon in ITU, the courses only have to be within 10% of the actual distance," she said. "So I could run 16-flat or 14:30 or 17 minutes, but it's hard to say what that actually equates to. I don't like to say those times because it's not the exact distance."

Jorgensen's current training includes 80 miles per week of running volume, along with an extra swim or bike tacked on as a secondary workout every day. She also gets in the weight room three times a week with a lot of attention dedicated to her pelvic floor muscles. 

"For marathon training, I need to be up to 100, 120, and right now my body can't handle that," Jorgensen said of slowly coming back from giving birth. "The best part of having a child is if there's an injury that pops up, or there's a bad workout, I can come home and see his smile and literally — I can't think of anything else."

Jorgensen races the 5K tonight at the Husky Classic at 7:25 PM CT. For a full list of top events to watch on FloTrack this weekend, check out the Viewing Guide here.

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