Jocelyn McCauley says she wasn't thinking about anything when she crossed the finish line of the Ironman New Zealand 2017 race, finishing first place in the women's division.
In fact, it wasn't until race announcer Mike Reilley said, "Here comes your Ironman New Zealand female champion," that McCauley says she began to believe she was going to win this grueling test of will and athletism.
But when she crossed the finish line on March 4, completing her 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26-mile run in a little over nine hours and nine minutes and likely qualified for the Ironman World Championship as a professional, McCauley knew she had fulfilled a childhood dream.
In kindergarten, McCauley remembers drawing a picture of herself running around a track at the Olympics. Even at such a young age, her dream of competing in the Olympics wasn't unfounded.
In elementary school, McCauley would literally run laps around the boys and girls in her school. But her real competition was with her older sister. When McCauley's sister joined a cross country team in jr. high, McCauley did the same, but not because she wanted to follow in her sister's footsteps.
"I obviously had to run cross country in jr. high because I had to beat her," McCauley says. "We were very competitive against each other."
And McCauley's competitive drive paid off. After running high school cross country, McCauley was accepted to BYU with a running scholarship and later ran for the University of Cincinnati while completing a master's of science degree in exercise physiology.
And though as she grew up, McCauley became less competitive with her older sister, she decided to try something new—compete in a half Ironman race with her sister and share in the triathlon experience.
"We have a text message thread that we call 'Iron Ladies,'" McCauley says. "That's just what brought us closer together."
But not long after she began her training, McCauley found out she was pregnant with her first child and her due date would come before the half Ironman.
Determined to continue with her first half Ironman, even while pregnant and with a busy schedule studying to be a nurse, McCauley trained indoors for the race.
"I literally had a book on the front of my bike and I would be reading my textbook as I was biking," McCauley says. "I would have flashcards and I would go through them as I ran on the treadmill."
And a little more than 11 weeks after giving birth to her daughter, McCauley competed in her first half Ironman race and even met her goal of finishing it in under five hours with a time of 4:58.
McCauley running during the 2017 Ironman New Zealand race
From there, McCauley moved on to training for a full Ironman in Texas in 2014. But this time, not only did she take first place in her age division, but she qualified as an amateur racer for the world championships, a prestigious event in the Ironman races where only the best of the best compete.
"People trained for years and years and years to be able to go, and I just feel, I don't know, ungrateful to turn down that opportunity so we decided as a family to go do it," McCauley says.
Placing first in her age division at the world championships in 2014, McCauley continued to race Ironmans, though she told her husband after her first it was a "one and done" kind of thing.
But though she was hooked on Ironman races, McCauley says she made the personal decision to never train on a Sunday and even avoid races held on Sunday. And while training, McCauley finds ways to make time for both her Ironman races and her family.
"Having a really good support group has helped a lot. My husband has really been supportive and helped at home a lot and that's been vital," she says. "And when she [Jocelyn's daughter] was younger, we would go out in strollers and she would call them 'adventures' and we would go out and have so much fun. And as she got older, when we would go out on 'adventures,' we would bring some speakers and listen to Disney music and sing along the entire ride."
And all her training would be needed when McCauley went head-to-head with Meredith Kessler at the Ironman New Zealand race. A renowned Ironman competitor, Kessler had five consecutive wins in the New Zealand Ironman, and she wasn't going to give up her winning streak so easily.
This Was My Olympics
On the race day, McCauley says she did was she always did, she prayed for herself and for her competitors to do their best.
But while warming up for the swim portion of the race, McCauley writes on her blog that another racer's arm came up at just the right moment while they were swimming and hit her in the face, injuring her nose.
"I had some blood come out my nose and thought for a second that it was broken (since your race brain always goes to the worst conclusion)," McCauley writes.
But shaking off the pain, McCauley entered the race full force, completing the 2.4-mile swim. Moving into the bike portion, McCauley kept up with the fastest competitors in the race where she moved up to the top five in the competition.
McCauley biking through the 2017 Ironman New Zealand race
When she broke into first during the 26-mile run, the crowds almost couldn't believe it, complimenting her as she ran the best she could to the finish line.
All the while McCauley stayed focused on the competitors behind her and the reason she was doing this race.
"I think about my family a lot," McCauley says. "My daughter and my husband and the sacrifices that they make to help us accomplish this. I think about people who can't be out there and want to be out there because of injury, because of sickness."
Then, it was over. McCauley crossed the finish line with an incredible 26-mile run that was just under three hours.
"Right after, I was like, 'Where's my husband?" she says. "I found my husband and gave him a big, sweaty hug."
It was a spectacular win in which McCauley likely qualified for another Ironman World Championship, but this time as a professional athlete.
Though there is no Olympic Ironman event, to McCauley, it felt like fulfilling the picture she drew of herself all those years ago now that it's very likely she will compete as a pro in the world championships.
"Qualifying for the world championship as a pro, to be the top 35 in the world, this was my Olympics," she says, "When I crossed the finish line, it just all comes together and just joy and happiness and dreams come true."