BYU Grad, Nurse, and Mother Claims Ironman Title in Hawaii

Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 3 November 2014

Former BYU distance runner Jocelyn Gardner McCauley, left, stands with her older sister and coach, Meredith Gardner, after winning the female amateur division of the 2014 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.  Photo by Mary Jo Richardson.

Article Highlights

  • BYU grad, mother, nurse, and elite athlete Jocelyn Gardner McCauley finished the Ironman triathlon in 9:50:39.

“The Lord has taken care of me. My training blossomed when I started taking Sundays off.” —Jocelyn Gardner McCauley, Ironman winner

KONA, HAWAII

For most college athletes, graduation marks a moment of change—a time to box up game-day uniforms and training sneakers and shift to careers, sensible work shoes, and maybe marriage and parenthood.

But for former BYU distance runner Jocelyn Gardner McCauley, completing her college eligibility has simply meant shifting to (and excelling in) another sport.

Sister McCauley, 27, ran cross country and track for the Cougars from 2005 to 2009. With her degree in hand, she moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and found work as an intensive care unit cardiology nurse. She and her husband, Scott, also started a family. They are the parents of 18-month-old Emilyn.

While the lifelong Latter-day Saint relishes being a mother, wife, and nurse, she remains an elite athlete. Sister McCauley recently won the amateur female division of the prestigious 2014 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 11.

“I knew winning the Ironman was possible,” she told the Church News a few days after the event, “but you never know how it will all play out.”

Merely finishing the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii is a grueling challenge. Competitors must first complete a 2.4-mile swim in open ocean waters, followed by a 112-mile bicycle race. The third and final stage is a traditional marathon (26.2 mile) road race.

An exhausted Sister McCauley crossed the finish line with a division-winning time of 9 hours, 50 minutes, 39 seconds. She said the cycling section was the toughest segment of the event because she had to pedal through island crosswinds sometimes reaching 70 miles per hour.

The native of College Station, Texas, discovered early in life that she was very, very fast.

“In elementary school we would have races around the school. I always beat all the boys,” she said, laughing.

She honed her long-distance talents in high school through hours and hours of training. That work ethic served her well when she moved on to BYU’s renowned cross country and track programs.

“I’ve always enjoyed the training,” she said. “The actual competitions are really just a celebration of your training.”

Several years ago Sister McCauley decided she would not train on Sundays. Instead, she spends the Sabbath attending Church meetings, spending quiet time with family, and serving others. The McCauleys are members of the Western Hills Ward, Cincinnati Ohio North Stake.

The weekly Sunday break from training has been both a physical and spiritual blessing.

“The Lord has taken care of me,” she said, “My training blossomed when I started taking Sundays off.”

The triathlon is an individual sport, but Sister McCauley insists she does not compete alone. She’s quick to acknowledge the day-to-day support of her husband and her parents. Her older sister, Meredith Gardner, serves as her training coach.

Winning the amateur Ironman title makes Sister McCauley eligible to compete in the professional division. She hasn’t decided if she will make the leap to the pro ranks.

“I don’t know what I’ll do yet,” she said. “Right now I’m just going to enjoy the rest of my time in Hawaii.”