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Jenna Shoemaker, Jarrod Shoemaker and Alicia Kaye are more than just teammates - they're family.
Jenna Shoemaker, Jarrod Shoemaker and Alicia Kaye are more than just teammates - they're family.
photo: Paul Phillips

Family Ties Extend to World Championships


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Living a multisport lifestyle can be a challenge, but a strong support system can add balance when training sessions or race days get tough. For three of USA Triathlon’s elite triathletes, support may come in the form of a family member racing in the same events on the international circuit. Siblings Jarrod and Jenna Shoemaker and Jarrod’s wife, Alicia Kaye have learned that competing with family nearby makes the experience less stressful and more memorable.

Jarrod and Alicia will be competing this weekend in the ITU World Championship Series Grand Final in Budapest, and Jenna, who had to withdraw due to illness, will no doubt be cheering for them every step of the way.

All three athletes have toed the line at most of the WCS events that took place this season, and they have mastered the dynamic of competing in the same event. “When Jarrod and I are both racing, we try to find a balance between being there for one another and taking care of our pre-race preparation,” Alicia said. “Since we room together, we had to learn quickly to be respectful of each other’s race-day preparation and routines.  Jenna and I look out for each other on the race course, but at the same time we’re competitors.  We challenge each other to go faster, but we’ll do what we can to protect one another as long as it doesn’t negatively affect our own race.”

Though Jarrod and Alicia share a coach, they are not able to train with Jenna because she lives on the other side of the country in Los Angeles. Despite the distance between them, there are still ways to connect and encourage each other. “Jarrod and I chat about training and check in with each other on occasion,” Jenna said. “Not seeing each other regularly makes it even more fun when we meet up in cities around the world.”

The Grand Final, which is the culmination of the seven-race World Championship Series, has been the focus of these athletes throughout the season. “I start preparing for the Final at the beginning of the year,” Jarrod said. “This is the event that I most want to win all year long.”

Although the training blocks are similar throughout the season, Jarrod, Jenna and Alicia know that the competition will be fierce and they will need to have a strong race from start to finish. A veteran of championship events, Jarrod has an idea of what to expect. “As I have found out over my past few years of racing World Championships, the Finale is faster than every other race,” he said. “Everything happens faster and you have to be ready to roll from the first second.”

Even with previous experience at a world championship event as a U-23 athlete, Jenna had planned to take a relaxed approach to this weekend’s race. “It is just another opportunity to grow and learn as an athlete which is what I have been trying to do this season.”

The trio won’t stop training after the season’s official end. All three have goals for improving aspects of their swim, bike and run in hopes of having strong, faster races next year as the 2012 Olympic Games approach.

For now, the opportunity to race together helps to take some of the pressure off the competitive nature of the sport. Sometimes this comes from worrying about the outcome of each others’ races. “It is actually tougher to watch a race that you have a loved one racing in than it is to race yourself,” Jarrod said.

“Whether we are all at a race or alone, we are always supporting each other,” adds Jenna. “If I race an event and Jarrod isn't there, I can be sure I will get a phone call afterwards asking me how it went and vice versa.  We feed off of each others’ successes and it is always nice to know that you have people who you can turn to who really understand what you are going through.”

No matter what the outcome of the race may be, competing side-by-side with a family member makes the race-day experience unforgettable. While Jarrod, Jenna and Alicia all wear red, white and blue for the U.S. in competition, they also represent each other.

“We’re more than a team, we’re family,” said Alicia. “I’d do anything for Jarrod on race day, and Jenna and I always have each other’s back. There’s also a healthy element of competition between Jenna and I that really pushes us to go harder.  Having the opportunity to see each other at different places all around the world makes living in a hotel for most of the summer a little more like home.”