Written by Jocelyn McCauley, winner and new course record holder of IRONMAN New Zealand
Where do I even start! Like we all know, wins, PRs, podiums, and records aren’t made in one moment or one day. The main build up to this race started 10 weeks ago on Christmas week when I decided to make a significant coaching change to my coach Bevan McKinnon. I’ve written in previous posts about that, so I won’t go into it here.
I came out for this race two weeks early to be able to spend some face-to-face time with Bevan, but due to some circumstances beyond our control, I was without him for the first week in Taupo. He and his partner, Chris, came into town just in time for the across-the-lake swim race one week before race day.
MBK did the swim race as well, so we decided to treat it like an IM swim and use it as a measuring stick to see where I could potentially come out of the water on race day. I was able to stay with her until the last five minutes when her group surged and I couldn’t hold it. I came out about 30 seconds after her so was happy about what that indicated could happen on race day.
Taper week in my opinion is the most important mental training week of an IM. I visualize my race and how I want to feel and perform three times per day at a minimum. It’s almost as though I will it into reality with the number of times I’ve seen it in my mind.
On the night before the race, I went to bed around 8pm, as usual for me even on non-race nights :) My night sleep was descent but was intermittent with lots of awake, asleep, etc. time. I ate breakfast at 4:30am and we made our way to transition around 5am. I was able to quickly sort my Quintana Roo bike out and head down to the swim start.
Fifteen minutes before the start I went through the arches and started my warm up. We decided to warm up my kick to get my take out speed as fast as we could. After the men went off I made my way to the side of the start we had planned on taking off from. About 45 sec before the start I noticed MBK was on the opposite end from me. I was confident in my take out speed so planned on getting over to her pretty quickly after the start.
When the cannon fires, I become a different person. I’ve trained my body and mind to flip a switch when I go into training and racing mode and that’s a Jocelyn that is fearless and tenacious. The swim was uneventful other than LOVING that swim. The swim exit is especially fun where the shore is lined with people cheering as you swim past. This is the first race that I’ve gotten to race in my Quintana Roo wetsuit and it preformed beyond my expectations. I can’t wait to race in it again!
I saw my coach along the run up to transition and heard I was 3 minutes back. I had rehearsed transition several times in my mind and it went seamlessly. I even had the fastest T1 time which is far from normal for me! Running out of T1 with my bike I asked Cam what the split to MBK was and he confirmed 3 minutes. In my mind I was sitting pretty because I knew I could at least maintain that gap on the bike and overcome it on the run.
The bike was the biggest unknown to us going into this race. I not only radically changed my training and diet, but also my bike set up. I’ve raced on QR since the beginning because I love the bikes, the people and the amazing performance I get out of their line of bikes. The last couple of years I have been lucky enough to ride on Wheel Science wheels and chose to ride a disc and a 60 up front for IM New Zealand. The biggest change I made was the fit on the bike. I rode with Morf Bars for my cockpit, which made it so I could get lower and narrower than I have ever been. In order to get even lower I also switched to Rotor’s ALDHU 155mm cranks from their 165’s. If that wasn’t enough we also pushed my saddle back. This was all under the guidance and direction of Jim at ERO where we also did testing on some of the new set up. I figured that these changes and testing would help, but I was blown away by how much of a difference they actually made!
I decided to go out a little conservatively compared to what I would normally do. I kept hearing I was 3-3:30 down from the lead, which was fine since I didn’t expect to make any time up on the hill (first 5-8 miles). Once I got to Broadlands (straight section) and started getting splits to the front, I heard I was quickly reining them in. By the turnaround on the first lap I had them in my sites. I didn’t expect to be in that position so quickly. After I felt like I had taken care of myself I went to the front of the group and never looked back.
I apparently need to work on my T2 time but got through and out onto the run covered in sunscreen looking like a ghost! I got the split that I had about seven minutes on 2nd place by this point. I felt amazing! I didn’t feel like I was flying but apparently I was for that first lap.
Towards the middle/end of the first lap my stomach started cramping like it never has before. I felt so ridged and really thought, “Oh this is going to be a very painful three hours!” It may have been because I thought I looked awful and ridged but I felt like I heard the cheering change from “awesome!” and “what a runner!” to “you can hold it together!” and “keep moving!” I ran through the town as best as I could and put on a good face as I went back out and saw my competitors going the other way. I decided to walk an aid station to try to get things under control. I walked the very next aid station from the beginning through the end.
After a couple more kms I started to finally feel ok again. My stomach pain still lingered but not nearly as badly as before. I kept pulling away from second but during the last lap I kept hearing that I was close to breaking the course record. Due to the stomach cramps, I thought I was on pace for a 3:05 marathon and that the course record was out of the question.
The support I had out there was just amazing. I was blown away that when I came through on the first lap and people saw I was the first woman, they would stand up and start cheering. It was such an honor and I think it shows the amazing respect that all the competitors and spectators have for this race.
I remember during the last 4 kms that Stef from WitsUp told me I was going to break the record if I just kept the same pace. My family had been making it sound like I was borderline going to break it, but I trusted Stef. Coming back into town as the leader of the race is always an amazing feeling and doing it for the final time is even more surreal! I sprinted down that finishing chute so I could get the course record.
Just thinking about it now I’m still tearing up. I thought I paused at the finish line but looking back at video there wasn’t really a pause before I spotted my number 1 and ran straight to him. I’m pretty sure that hug at the finish is what gets me through a lot of the hard spots both in training and racing. That embrace is what the finish line is all about to me. That moment is so private yet so public at the same time, we always share tears of joy, accomplishment, happiness that the investments have paid off, and love.
I gave out a lot of hugs at the finish line and more since so if you weren’t there and were cheering from afar, consider this your finish line hug: thank you for all your support!
There are only a few weeks left until the Big Island is swarming with athletes ready to toe the line. The hard work has been put in and the journey to Kona has begun — now it's time to let QR take it from here. Plus, we followed up with a few QR athletes that are racing to see what they've been doing to balance training with everyday life.
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