This Harvard graduate has gold on her mind.¬† This young lady relocated to Australia to train with the best as she readies herself for a shot at Olympic gold in the 2012 Sumer Olympics.¬† During a recent conversation, Jenna told me that someday she would like to do Kona. Ladies and gentlemen: Jenna Shoemaker¬†
KK: Jenna, please tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?
JS: I was born and raised in the small Boston suburb of Sudbury, Massachusetts.
KK: What was your athletic background as a youth?
JS: My mom enrolled me in ballet class when I was 3 and soon after, I started playing soccer, swimming and beating all of my male classmates at recess running races. I was a twelve season Varsity letter winner in high school in field hockey, swimming and track and became a two-time state champion in swimming and an All-American in outdoor track.¬† I decided to continue my athletic pursuits as a member of the Swimming and Outdoor track teams at Harvard University.
KK: What is your academic background?
JS: I attended a small private girl's school, Nashoba Brooks School in Concord, from third to eighth grade, after which I attended Lincoln-Sudbury regional high school. I then enrolled at Harvard University where I earned a Bachelors degree in Psychology.
KK: How did you get involved with the sport of triathlon? After graduating from Harvard, what made you want to become a pro?
JS: My freshman year at Harvard, while I was swimming every morning and running with the track team every afternoon, I simply had a revelation one day that I could put all the training to use and become a triathlete.¬† I bought my first road bike early that summer, 2005, and headed down to a triathlon camp in Florida.¬† Two weeks later I entered my first triathlon and finished 3rd in my age group and 16th female overall. ¬†Two weeks after that I entered my second race, a sprint distance race on Long Island, and won.¬† At that point I realized that I could have a future in the sport. ¬†By the end of the summer I had earned my pro license and made my debut at Pro Nationals.
KK: You are currently living and training in Australia. Is this where your coach lives? Why live and train there?
JS: I went through a bit of a rough patch for a few years with my training and racing and after getting myself back on track last year, I decided that if I wanted to really pursue my goal of reaching the Olympics I needed to make triathlon my top priority.¬† You don't have to know much about the sport to know that Australia is a triathlon power house.¬† They took home both the Gold and bronze medals in Beijing in the women's race and have tallied more World Championship wins than any other country.¬† So, when it came time to picking the place to go to train and to make triathlon my priority, it was not a difficult decision.
KK: The US is going through its Triathlon boom. Why do you think so many people are so attracted the sport and lifestyle?
JS: I don't think there is just one reason behind the boom, I think it is a combination of a few.¬† Triathlon is a sport that people of all ages can enjoy and participate equally in.¬† Whether you are 5 or 85, there is an age group and a race that is right for you.¬† This also makes the sport truly family friendly. It encourages a healthy lifestyle and, being a relatively social sport, allows families and friends to train and work towards achieving goals together.¬† Because there are three disciplines, training can be kept fresh and exciting and there is always an area of weakness to develop and grow.¬† It is also truly unique in that it is one of the few sports where the professionals are often racing on the same course, and sometimes even at the same time, as the age group athletes.¬† This creates a real sense of community and a great atmosphere that everyone wants to be a part of.
KK: One of the most important things in life is "balance." How do you balance family, friends, training, travel, career, racing, etc?
JS: Balance is a hard word for most triathletes to really digest.¬† We are known to be perpetual over trainers and achieving balance in our sport, let alone in our personal lives is anything but easy. The commitment and the sacrifices required to become great can be all encompassing at times.¬† Realizing that there are some sacrifices that I have to make if I want to become one of the best in the world I have chosen to put certain things in my life on hold, for now.¬† It is definitely hard to balance the important things, like family, as I live just about as far away from home as I possibly could, but knowing that I have their support behind me makes it easier.¬† I don't get to keep up with friends as much as I might like, but they all understand and we take full advantage of the chances we do get. I use my online blog to help keep everyone up to date with my latest travel and training adventures for when communication becomes sparse.¬† I guess you just have to learn how to make time for what and who is most important.
KK: Here at Finishline-Multisport.com we have a reoccurring theme, our goal is to help our sport keep growing. If you would, what are some tips that you would give to someone starting off in triathlon?
JS: Triathlon is a really unique sport.¬† Although it is individual when you race, training can be a great way to spend time with friends.¬† I think keeping training fun and interesting is really important.¬† I also think that it is important to start slowly and not to take it too seriously.¬† Everyone has their goals in the sport, whether it be to finish a race, to do an Ironman or perhaps to qualify for the elusive Hawaii Ironman, but no matter what your goals are, starting slowly and working your way up through the distances is definitely the way to go.¬† Training should always be something you look forward to and not something you dread doing.
KK: As a pro you get to race all over the globe; where is your favorite place to race and why?
JS: Wow, this is a tough question.¬† Growing up, I never thought I'd be afforded the chance to see so much of the world, so recognizing how fortunate I am, I try to take in as much of every country and city that I visit.¬† I try to secure a home stay when I can so that I can get a real feel for the culture and the people.¬† I love Japan. The people are so welcoming and they really get excited to have athletic contests in their home towns.¬† I am always eager to return there.¬† I think Kitzbuhel, Austria is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.¬† While I was there, I had the opportunity to stay with the race director and his family which gave me a real look into Austrian culture.¬† I also had the chance to go paragliding off the Hannekahm ski mountain which was incredible once I stopped screaming.¬† It's a really great ski village, tucked away in the Alps, and I'd actually love the chance to go back there in the winter someday.¬† When I do have the chance to race at home, or anywhere near home, I take it.¬† There is nothing better than having your family there rooting you on, and with the way our schedules work and where the races are, it doesn't happen that often, so when it does, I take advantage of it.
KK: Where do you spend most of your time training?
JS: I chase the sun and chasing races, so I spend American winters in Australia and American summers in the US and Europe.¬† Needless to say, I have become quite accustomed to living out of a suitcase.
KK: Is there anything you could change to help in the advancement or growth of the sport? If so what would it be? What could be done to make it better?
JS: I don't know that there is much that I can do to advance the growth of triathlon except to encourage people to get involved in the sport on any level.¬† I think it is really important for everyone to find a physical activity, whether it be triathlon or another sport, which excites them and makes them excited to lead a healthy and active life.¬† Triathlon is fantastic because you can participate at every age.¬† It really becomes a way of living and can easily be shared with family and friends.
KK: Have you ever had to overcome any major setbacks or injuries in your sporting career? If so how did you overcome them?
JS: As a triathlete, I have been pretty lucky so far.¬† I injured myself a few times during my swimming career, but was able to use the challenges it presented me to actually come out better than I was prior to the injury.¬† I think that's the most important thing you can do for yourself, see an injury or a setback as an opportunity because it always is.¬† Often, the times when we are unable to go about our normal routine are the times when we make the greatest improvements because we are forced to seek out other weaknesses and to improve upon them.
KK: When people think of Jenna Shoemaker, what do you want them to know most about you?
JS: I would hope that people have an opportunity to get to know more about me than just that of the triathlete.¬† I love the beach, love to cook, and like to learn new languages.¬† I love to go to art galleries, movies and the theatre.¬† I can never know enough and am always happy to learn something new from anyone who has something to teach me.¬† My family is my rock and I could not and would not be doing this without their continued support and belief in me.¬† I don't expect to be handed anything, never have, and I rather like to work hard for what I accomplish.¬† I was taught by my mother, in her battle and defeat of breast cancer, to keep fighting regardless and I carry that with me in everything that I do.
KK: What are some of your goals for 2009 and beyond?
JS: In the immediate, I am focused on improving all of the technical aspects of the 3 disciplines and on developing a bullet proof foundation to race off of.¬† Of course, I would like to have success in racing, but with London still more than 3 years away, I have plenty of time to focus on that as it draws closer.¬† Ultimately, I would love the opportunity to represent the US in London but at the root of it, I simply want to see how far I can go and how good I am capable of becoming.