On The Fast Track: From Newbie To Kona Amateur Champ

In only her second Ironman ever, 27-year-old Jocelyn McCauley took the overall amateur female title in Kona last October.

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How an age-grouper mom and nurse went from newbie to overall amateur winner in Kona.

In only her second Ironman ever, 27-year-old Jocelyn McCauley took the overall amateur female title in Kona last October—an accomplishment that many athletes could only dream of after years at the distance. Her 9:50:39 finish was nearly three minutes ahead of any other amateur woman and would’ve placed her in the top 25 among female pros—not too bad for someone who did her first triathlon less than three years ago. Now, after an impressive season, McCauley decided to quit her job as a cardiovascular intensive care unit nurse and race full-time professionally in 2015.

McCauley’s rapid succession was due largely in part to her background as a competitive distance runner at both Brigham Young University, where she received a full ride, and at the University of Cincinnati, where she earned her master’s degree.

Growing up, she swam in a summer league until high school, and because of a stress fracture during her sophomore year of college, she turned to mountain biking to stay active and then transitioned to the road. Post-college, she entered a few local triathlons near Cincinnati—where she lives with her husband and 1.5-year-old daughter, Emmy—and discovered a new athletic love.

She caught the Ironman bug and raced her first in Texas in May 2014, where she won her age group in 9:51 and qualified for Kona. Heading into the world championship in a relatively new sport, McCauley discovered her ignorance was bliss.

“I don’t realize still how big of a deal Kona is, and how big of a deal all of this is,” McCauley says. “Because I haven’t been in it for that long, I didn’t see the hype and I don’t take myself too seriously.”

One of McCauley’s unique approaches stems from her religious beliefs as a Mormon—she doesn’t train or race on Sundays, a personal decision she’s adhered to since college. She found that there was a strong correlation between resting on Sundays and running faster times, like her 30-second drop in her 2-mile time. “It’s not just religious … it allows you to physically, mentally, emotionally recover,” she says. “You don’t have to worry about working out that day; you can spend time around the people who matter.”

McCauley’s decision to leave her job came after much deliberation with her husband. Before Kona, she was typically training 12–15 hours a week. She hopes her max week will exceed 20 hours now that she’s full-time.

“I’m a 100 percent person,” she says. “If I’m dedicated to something, I will give it everything I have. I can’t just do something halfway. I want to see where this can go and I want to be the best I can be. I need that next level of competition and all those amazing pros who are out there to help push me and keep me honest.”

McCauley has many aspirations as an athlete, but she says her goal in triathlon (and in life) is simple: to have fun. “I think that we’re all in this life together to keep going and to progress in our inner selves, and I think having fun is a big part of that. I’m not saying every workout has to be awesome, but if it’s not going your way and you can’t turn it around, go back out the next day or that evening and give that a try again.”

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McCauley had her daughter, Emmy, 12 weeks before her first Ironman 70.3 in 2012. “I think [having Emmy] helps to have perspective in my life, in general,” she says. “I see the fun and joy and happiness that Emmy brings it, and it’s made me really enjoy training. I’m on a training program from my coach [her sister, Meredith] who puts ‘happy fun Emmy run’ and I go out with her in the stroller.”

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