Jason Macom will compete at the 2018 U.S. Paralympics Cycling National Championships, Dec. 8-9, in Colorado Springs.
Athletes must make sacrifices in order to be the best in their sport. Para-cyclist Jason Macom understands this better than most.
After a cycling season that didn’t meet his expectations, Macom decided to eliminate any kind of distractions and fully commit to his goal of becoming a Paralympian with two years left before the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The 38-year-old contacted the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Head Coach, Sarah Hammer, to see if it was possible to move to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center and train alongside other resident-athletes.
“I asked [Sarah] if it would be possible to figure out how to focus solely on this and go all in on the dream, the endeavor, and not just be a hopeful,” Macom said. “I know lots of people that are Paralympic or Olympic hopefuls who aren't really willing to go all in. They're not willing to give up a lot of things that it really takes – and they fall short. I wanted to remove all excuses that I could possibly come up with.”
Hammer found a spot for him and Macom officially moved to Colorado on Oct. 1.
The Little Rock, Arkansas native quit his job, packed his bikes into a trailer and said goodbye to his family.
“My wife and daughter have both been super, super supportive of everything that I've wanted to do,” Macom said, remembering the days when he would train in Arkansas with the help of his family.
When Macom would work on sprints or accelerations, his wife would be driving a car in front of him with their two-year-old daughter yelling “35” as encouragement for Macom to hit 35 miles an hour.
“Those are the first things that I have a vivid memory of, with her being there in a support role.” Macom said.
His daughter, now 14, has continued cheering for Macom over the years, helping him pin his number before races and bringing him ice bags after races in the scorching heat.
Macom trained hard throughout the summer in preparation for the intensified training waiting for him in Colorado Springs. But it still wasn’t the smoothest of transitions.
Dealing with new allergies, a hard fall while riding on a new road, the altitude change and prosthetic issues were all part of the adjustment to his new home.
“It was definitely pretty challenging. The altitude was a big adjustment for me coming from sea-level,” Macom said. “There's also a lot of different allergies here that have been affecting me. I had some prosthetic issues, as well, which is part of being a Para athlete. I say this all the time but it's not just being an athlete or being disabled; it's continually overcoming the disability every single day to go and push yourself as an athlete.”
Immersing himself in his training has already proven beneficial for Macom, however. The cyclist, who now rides with teammates committed to the same goals, said he has felt much more focused than he ever felt training alone.
“When you're by yourself, you're on your phone and become distracted and it's not as easy to stay focused on what you're there for,” Macom said. “When your teammates are on the track, you're watching their form and are involved with it, so your focus is a lot more on the moment. With that gained focus, you can really pull 100% efforts out of yourself.”
Training regularly in the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center velodrome has also helped familiarize Macom with the track on which he will be racing during the 2018 U.S. Paralympics Track Cycling National Championships, which takes place Dec. 8- 9.
“I know what it's going to feel like on race day and I don't have any questions about which direction the wind is coming from, how the temperature is going to affect the air density or any of those factors that play into it,” Macom said. “It's something that you don't have to worry about on the day. You've practiced and experienced it, and it's a repeatable experience.”
Moving to Colorado brought Macom closer to the Paralympic Movement in more ways than one.
With the help of the Athlete Career and Education (ACE) program, Macom started a new job at the United States Olympic Committee headquarters, working in the Information Technology department five days a week.
“The big thing that stood out to me is that all of the people I've met – my boss, my boss's boss, and so on – all said to me, ‘your training is the most important thing. You have to make that your top priority and that is also our top priority,’” Macom said. “To me, that was the biggest thing. They understand the overall goal. They want to give me an opportunity to work, but the last thing they want is to be counterproductive towards my overall goal.”
Macom goes back and forth between the USOC headquarters, the Olympic Training Center and the velodrome five days a week. But balancing an office job with an intense training schedule isn’t always easy.
“A lot of times I'll get out on the track and I get anxious about how bad it's going to hurt,” Macom said. “I have to quickly change my mind to ‘I'm here to do this work. This is the work I've made all these sacrifices to have the opportunity to do’.”
Macom said he’s hoping all of the work pays off at nationals, an event he has yet to win.
“I haven't won a national championship before, and mostly everybody on the resident team has won a national championship,” Macom said. “It's something that I really want. I don't want to let Sarah down, I don't want to let my coach down, I don't want to let myself down.”
The cyclist said he won’t try to put too much pressure on himself, but is excited for the moment of truth, the reason behind all of the sacrifices: the race itself.
“After going through all the training, moving here, acclimatizing, doing all the recovery, I can’t wait to actually have all of those sensations in the race while executing it,” Macom said. “It'll be like really looking in the mirror and being completely honest with myself in that moment.”