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Catching Up With American Olympic Hopeful Jarrod Shoemaker

Jarrod Shoemaker was crowned U.S. champion in late September, and he’s one of the U.S.’s best hopes for a medal in London in 2012.

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Jarrod Shoemaker was crowned U.S. champion in late September, and he’s one of the U.S.’s best hopes for a medal in London in 2012. Inside Triathlon’s Courtney Baird caught up with him while he was preparing for the 2010 Puerto Vallarta PATCO Pan American Championships in Mexico this weekend.

Shoemaker ran his way to a U.S. Nationals victory last month in Alabama. Photo: Paul Phillips
Shoemaker ran his way to a U.S. Nationals victory last month in Alabama. Photo: Paul Phillips

Triathlete.com: What’s it like to be the newly crowned U.S. champion?

Jarrod Shoemaker: It is something that I have wanted since I started the sport 6 years ago. I have never had a good race at Nationals, so I was excited to get on the line and race hard. It is great to have my name up there next to U.S. triathlon legends Hunter Kemper and Matt Reed.

Triathlete.com: You’re racing at the Pan Am championships this weekend. How do you mentally cope with racing at the end of the season once the biggest races of the year are behind you?

JS: Oh boy, that is a big question. One of the things that I try to do is to make it fun. I try to add some different things to my training in the weeks after hard races, find different ways to challenge myself. I also am trying to see these races as experiences where I have nothing to lose but a lot to gain. I know this weekend that Matt Chrabot and I are going to be marked men and we both have to find a way to come out on top. In addition to that, my wife and I are making this trip a bit of a working vacation. We are staying at a nicer hotel than we usually would and trying to separate ourselves a bit from our friends before this race.

Triathlete.com: Are you planning on taking a break after Pan Am? If so, what are you planning on doing?

JS: I actually am not taking a break. I am going straight up to Massachusetts and getting my new cyclocross bike built up and jumping headfirst into some races. I used to have fun mountain biking around my neighborhood trails but never have raced anything off road. My coach is a big proponent of cyclocross so I am excited to see how it goes. After that I am headed to San Diego to race in the Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix. Marc Lees is trying to start up a super sprint series for next year and a bunch of us are headed out to Oceanside for a trial race. I am really excited for that as it will be extremely fun to watch, and really tough to race.

Triathlete.com: Do you have any ideas what your 2011 training will be like? Is there anything that you’ll be focusing on as you prepare to try to qualify for the Olympics?

JS: I actually am in the process of setting up the team meeting to prepare for 2011 and 2012. My swim coach, Rich Axtell (Minuteman Masters), my triathlon coach, Tim Crowley, my manager, Mike O’Neil, my biomechanics specialist, Pam Minix, and I will all sit down and look at the ups and downs of this season and decide what worked and what didn’t. Obviously there is a lot to work on—I need to get slightly better in all three sports to medal in London—but first I have to qualify for the team. I am going to be working really hard on my cycling and my running this year. In addition, I am planning on racing a lot less. I think this year I will have raced 21 or 22 times by the end of the year. I love racing, but I think it was a bit too much. I also spent a lot of time in Europe this past summer, which had its positives and negatives. But with the schedule for 2011, it looks like I will get to spend a lot more time in the US in my own house!

Triathlete.com: It seems like you kind of had a tough day this year in Budapest at the ITU’s World Championship Series Grand Final. Could you fill us in on how the day went for you?

JS: Budapest? What race was that? I was prepared for a race in hot and humid weather and we had the opposite in Budapest. There are a few things that I am not yet good at in triathlon and those are wet pavement and cold, rainy weather.

Unfortunately, we had both of those in Budapest. I did everything I could to prepare for it once we realized what the weather was going to be like. I wore two race suits to try to stay warmer, taped up all the coverings on my entire helmet, and had thicker rain tires on my bike. All those things helped, but you can’t get good at riding in wet weather in one day.

One of the other problems was what happened in the few hours leading into the race. USAT usually is among the best prepared federations around the world—we spend lots of time and energy having the best chiropractors and massage therapists at races with us. But they made a big mistake in the two hours leading into the race. Our race hotel was 2km from T2 and a further 3km from T1, and the plan was to bike and drop our shoes off then head to T2. Rain was forecasted so I prepared for it by taking dry clothes with me to take to T1 to change into.

When we stepped out the door to bike to T2, I was already soaked. It was a downpour. By the time we navigated to T2 I was shivering and completely waterlogged. We were putting our shoes in T2 and next to us walk the British and German athletes in street clothes with umbrellas, completely dry. They walk back to their hotel as we head off to bike to T1.

Somehow we navigate the wet streets over a bridge, down stairs and get to T1. By then I was done. I mentally had checked out of the race and what do I see, but the British and Germans getting out of a van, walking with their bikes to the athletes’ lounge under umbrellas. At that point I did everything I could to get mentally back into the race, changed into my dry clothes and warmed up running longer than usual. Luckily the sun came through, but my race was already over. That’s the story and I learned from it and I hope that USAT learned from it. You can do everything right, but if you get the LAST piece wrong it can ruin your race.

Jarrod Shoemaker's biggest victory came in 2009 at the ITU World Championship Series in Hamburg. Photo: Triathlon.org
Jarrod Shoemaker's biggest victory came in 2009 at the ITU World Championship Series in Hamburg. Photo: Triathlon.org

Triathlete.com: The World Triathlon Corporation just announced that Hy-Vee will no longer be draft legal. Do you have any thoughts on what that means for ITU racers like yourself?

JS: I actually knew about this for a long time before this. I am bummed as I felt like we put on a great race for four years there. Hy-Vee is an amazing company and I am excited that they feel they can do a better job than the ITU, but it just will be hard to regulate a lapped bike course with 30 of the best men and women racing at the same time. The reason ITU races are draft legal is because it is almost impossible to have that many athletes not draft. If our WCS races were non-draft it would be crazy. People would not even be able to leave transition for a while because we have 30 to 40 people coming out within 20 seconds of each other on the swim and the draft line would be almost a quarter mile long.

I plan on being there still as they put on a great race. The field will be much weaker because lots of the foreign athletes will not be able to come over and race because the Beijing WCS finale is the next weekend—all the better for a US athlete to win the money!

Triathlete.com: Did you watch Ironman over the weekend?

JS: I did watch the Ironman, almost from start to finish. I picked Andreas for the win, Macca to finish a strong 2nd and Crowie to run his way up to 3rd. So I was almost right! Andreas is currently training down in Clermont, Fla., so I see him almost every day and watch how hard he is training. He is an animal and Michael [his brother] is too. I have had some great conversations with Macca and would consider him a friend. He is one of the great names in triathlon and has done everything so it’s great to see him back on top. It was an inspiring race to watch on the men’s side. One the women’s side, I just hope that Mirinda will be remembered for the amazing race she had and not that she won when Chrissie was sick. I can’t wait to see next year!

Triathlete.com: Have you ever thought about giving Kona a try once your ITU career is over?

JS: Will I race Kona? Yes. Will I race it when I am a pro? I have no clue. I am looking to 2012 right now and then I am going to see where I am. I’d love to stay in draft legal, as I find it to be the toughest competition, but you never know where life will take you. I want to take shot at breaking 14 minutes for a 5k, too.