2014 Season Recap
This year was a bit of a roller coaster. The nice part of this roller coaster was that it smoothed out quite a bit at the end.
Towards the end of 2013 I was coaching myself and figuring out what I wanted to do, keep doing draft legal or switch over to non-draft. Luckily I had my epiphany moment about my career, it is MY career. Nobody can tell me what I can and cannot do as long as I work hard myself and believe in myself. I met Neal Henderson at the Super Sprint in Vegas in 2013 and by December we had started working together.
From the start Neal and I have understood each other. Neal does not demand perfection, instead demanding to be present and accountable for your training sessions and races. We started out the training very easy this year, I did not do a run workout until the end of February and was fairly under prepared for the first block of races in 2014. We worked on my swim and bike and allowed the run to come as it did.
The overarching strategy for 2014 was to peak when it mattered, Chicago WTS and Edmonton Grand Finale. To be brutally honest I was not ready to race at the start of the year, I was still getting over a bit of burn out from 2013 and needed to find the fun again, needed to let my body know it was ok to go hard again.
The first few races where I had 10th place finishes in Continental Cups was not where I wanted to be but based on where my training was I understood those results. My first two attempts at World Cup and WTS races also did not go well. Finally after traveling to Barbados and getting a 6th place finish in another sprint Continental Cup I felt like mentally I was prepared to race again. I was engaged and ready to pounce.
Then things started to turn around, a 5th place finish in the Chengdu World Cup, with my first real solid run of the year showed me that I was back. I had an awful race in Yokohama, but part of that was receiving an email from USAT performance leader Jono Hall on the Monday before the race that was not intended to be sent to me, but to our USAT high performance manager. The email mentally threw me for a loop, getting me frustrated and angry by saying I was not a WTS level athlete. I spent a few hours being pissed off, debating quitting the national team and looking for my own hotel to move to so I did not stay with the team.
I am not saying at that point I did not agree with the assessment, but one thing I did believe in was my plan and what Neal and I intended to achieve. The method of delivery of the assessment also left something to be desired as there are far better ways to work with an athlete.
The good thing about this email was that it allowed me to learn how to deal with a situation like this and it also make me remember why I am racing and what I am striving for as an athlete: I am striving to be the best Jarrod Shoemaker I can be.
After Yokohama Alicia and I packed up the car and I drove the car from Clermont to Boulder for a summer in Boulder. It would be my first stint at altitude and it would be great to train with Neal and the other Apex athletes.
The Pan Am Champs in Dallas had some ups and downs in the race but the travel and the heat took it out of me on the run and my 10th place finish was not as good as I had hoped for. The nice thing was my next race was a month away and I could train.
My next race was the Chicago WTS and after a solid swim, my bike let me down, I just did not have the power I needed out of transition or during the 8 u-turns per lap. I got dropped with one lap to go and lost a minute to the group, my legs were fried and I barely got 40th place in the race.
Another month of training prepared me for the Jiayuguan World Cup, where I finally knew mentally and physically I was prepared to win. My goal was to be in the fight for the podium. A solid swim, pedestrian bike where everybody seemed to be following me allowed me to unleash my run over the last lap but I was outsprinted, coming in 2nd place. Finally a great result, now time to take that to the WTS level.
A last minute trip to Milwaukee for a fun super sprint taking place during age group nationals allowed me to practice running super fast and was a great tune up for Edmonton. Racing in front of a huge crowd at age group nationals was also a great experience.
Neal and I had planned on building towards Edmonton all year long and as the race was getting closer I knew that I was getting to where I needed to be, the workouts were going well and mentally I was prepared to race with everything I had. After an up and down start to the season I was informed by USAT that I might not get funding to Edmonton, so I planned the trip on my own, I was not giving up on my plan. After Jiayuguan I finally was assured of my funding, which was a great surprise.
The Tuesday before flying to Edmonton I was informed that if I did not stay at the team hotel I would lose my funding, luckily after already dealing with an email the week of a race earlier in the year that threw me off my game, I knew what to do this time. I passed the email onto Neal and said I am sticking to our plan you do what you need to do with this.
The race itself was awesome, the swim was chaotic, but knowing the course from before I made a great tactical move at the first buoy and was able to pass half the field. I just missed the first pack and ended up in the 2nd pack. We slowly took time out of the first pack and were 15 seconds down with 2 laps to go when we finally caught them. I got on the run and it hurt every step. I felt great then bad, then great, then bad, then great. I ended up 7th which was a huge success for me and was the best Grand Finale result for USAT since 2008.
The season continued when I made the final at the Vegas Super Sprint, but flatted on the first lap of the finals which was a huge frustration.
After a month of training I raced in Cozumel, where I tried to win but fell just short with another 2nd place finish. The next weekend I found myself in Cartagena which was much worse than I had imagined. The race started out well and I was in the 2nd pack just 35 seconds down on the leaders when it started to rain and lightning and people walked on the course. I stopped racing due to the unsafe conditions.
My final race of the year was a fun race in Bahamas where I placed 4th, but race 31:20. The two weeks on the TT bike were not enough to deal with some of the best bikers in the sport.
This year was great and I could not have achieved it without the support from my awesome sponsors.
TriFlare for the awesome race suits
Scott Bikes for the great road, TT and CX bikes
Shimano for the best components and wheels in the business
USA Triathlon for being the Olympic pipeline and allowing us to race in the draft legal format
NYAC for being part of a club looking to support the best US athletes
Endurance Shield, I might own it, but I have never used a better sunscreen
Gear for Multisport for the help with running shoes and the smiles every time I walk into the NTC
Oakley for the best sunglasses in the business
Skratch Labs for the knowledge and drink mix which powers me better than anything else
Inside Tracker for helping me keep track of my blood levels
Race Partner for providing me with a great easy to use website
Justin’s for providing me with nut butters and amazing peanut butter cups
And of course a great team of people: Neal Henderson (coach), Rich Axtell (swim coach), Grant Holicky (Apex asst coach), Emily Tornatore (massage), Dr. Lopez (chiropractor), Suzanne Gross (MAT), Todd Plymate-Mallory (massage), Dr. Reichlin (chiropractor), Kristian Blew (MAT), Meghan Leyba (MAT), my wife Alicia, and of course my friends, family and training partners.
I have learned quite a few lessons over the past two years. The thing I realized the most is that my career is for me and nobody else. I need to do what I need to do to be successful and I need to believe in myself. I need to look back at the end and feel that I did what I wanted and I achieved what I wanted. I am proud to represent the USA and I am going to go after my dreams.
Triathlon, as is life, is about ups and downs. It is impossible to be the best every time you race, it is how you turn around and rebound from those disappointments that makes you a better athlete.