Of all the holidays in a year, there are few that elicit as much heartfelt appreciation as Mother’s Day. From the nurturing at youth to the sheer inspiration as we get older, it’s been proven there’s simply nothing a mother can’t do. Or won’t do.
We spoke with four women that can do it all: QR pro triathlete Jocelyn McCauley and three I Race Like a Girl athletes. They are triathletes. Runners. Company bosses. But above all, they’re mothers. They get up early, make the sandwiches and head out in the dark for an hour run. And after a crazy year, that run is regardless of whether a race is down the road or not. and get it done at any cost for their kids.
Jocelyn McCauley, QR professional triathlete
“Anytime I travel without Emi, we each paint our fingernails pink, so we can always look down and see that love and connection with each other.”
Before things shut down, I went to New Zealand for a race, got sick and having lost my sense of taste and smell, was pretty convinced I got Covid. After three weeks away, I came home and the grocery stores were all cleaned out. I literally came home as things hit the fan.
I have one daughter in the first grade—her name is Emilin, but we call her Emi—and granted, every school tried to handle it as best they could, but homeschooling was a disaster. You see so many kids were falling behind in school, but she got way ahead. We had her doing gymnastics at home.
My husband and I felt like the downtime the pandemic put on us made it the perfect time to have a second child. Sydney was born March 3rd, and I kept training through the whole thing. Now my husband and I are juggling a newborn, along with Emi’s school and friends. It’s a lot easier when you have such an awesome life partner like my husband. He’s patient, forgiving and helpful—a true co-parent.
I’m training now for Ironman Lanzarote on July 3rd, to have that hopefully be my first race, then the plans are hopefully to qualify for the Collins Cup, and then go back to Hawaii for the Ironman. I feel like an athlete again— it’s so joyous. Having people understand how important training is to do, even as mom, is super vital. And to be able to plan again, to see races happening, to get back to what I love doing, it’s doubly exciting.
Sydney eats every three hours of the day, which makes it hard to get a long bike done, so twice a week my husband will take the feedings. And even then, I do that at home on the trainer; I ride my bike and pump at the same time! And my other daughter is uber-helpful! She vacuumed and emptied the dishwasher. She’s my little teammate!
Emi thinks every kid gets to go to Hawaii every year. She said to me once “tell me about when you came to came to Hawaii as a kid.” We had a laugh. She loves it all; she loves watching me race and cheering. When she was a toddler and I was on my trainer, she would come in, put her arms straight out with two fists, and say “mommy, I’m giving you leg power!” Anytime I travel without her, we each paint our fingernails pink, so we can always look down and see that love and connection with each other.
I volunteered in her class once, and she introduced me to her friends, saying “this is my mom, and she’s a professional triathlete, she swims, and bikes, and runs.” She was so proud. When she was younger, she thought all mommies would swim, bike and run all day, and all daddies worked on the computer!
Anytime I drop Emi off at school, I always tell her: “Try your hardest, do your best, smile and have fun.” One day I was struggle to get a run going and my husband was taking Emi to the gym, and she said to me “try your hardest, do your best, smile and have fun on your run while I’m at the gym. Hearing her say that just encouraged me!
I always say the best hugs happen at the finish line. That accumulation of emotion from the race, you want to give back to the people who got you there. Racing with those in mind powers me so much more.
Brittany Kalso, Lake Orion, Mich.
“Sometimes the best workouts happen when I am getting shot by Nerf bullets while riding on the trainer!”
Over the past year, like many other people, my life has shifted greatly. Waking up and preparing for the day often meant figuring out how my 10-year-old son Jackson’s virtual schooling and my remote work would fit together. Trying to keep him social and active was hard at first, but a few friends got together to keep our kids engaged with peers.
Then add in Ironman training. It was hard hearing so many races get canceled, but my Coach and I agreed; train like it will happen and never give up hope. Even when others called me crazy (daily), I kept training!
I was one of the lucky athletes that was able to race three live races (in 2020)—I only gave up IM 70.3 Muncie. I was able to compete in Tawas, MI Olympic, Ironman Florida and Challenge Daytona Middle Distance. I feel so fortunate! My luck will hopefully carry over this year. 2021 will bring IM 70.3 Steelhead, a few Olympic distance races, and Ironman Florida.
While keeping my son educated and working full time at home, I somehow put all the puzzle pieces together, not always pretty- but we made it happen and we had fun!
I feel as a mom, you are accustomed to “getting it done, no matter what.” Moms are some of the mentally and physically strongest athletes I know. There is no problem leaving it all out there!
Same goes for training, as a mom. Some days I am at the pool by 5:30 a.m. Other days I am finishing a Zwift session at 10 p.m. Again, it is all about how creative you can be, and how you piece it all together. You may need a special person to hand you a water bottle while you run. Sometimes the best workouts happen when I am getting shot by Nerf bullets while riding on the trainer!
I am proud that my son can see me on my lowest days and the best days. He knows that if you want something bad enough, you must give it your all even if that means blood, sweat and tears!
Sarah Maxwell, Everett, Wash.
"As a mom, I have struggled with all the 'regular' feelings that go with a pandemic: loneliness, fear, worry, sadness and mom guilt, fear for my child. There have been several miles of rage running, but … I keep showing my son what it means to show up when things are hard."
I am one of the owners of Snohomish Running Company, which owns and operates running events in the Pacific Northwest. My company had to cancel our first four major races of the year and change a lot of protocols. However, we were able to host a few covid-mitigated races in the late fall/winter of last year. Personally, I had four half marathons--including one of my favorites: the Missoula Marathon—cancel or go virtual last year, along with several 5k and 10k races.
On tap for 2021 is all new-to-me races! I am registered for the Windermere half marathon in Spokane in May, the Utah Valley half marathon in June, the Mt. Rainier half marathon in July, and the California International Marathon in December. I am excited to run different courses and chase people again! Professionally, my company has hosted one half marathon/10k in March, and we have another (the Snohomish Women's Run) coming up this weekend. I love being able to give people the chance to race again and cheer them into the finish!
Last year, and the 2020-21 school year, has been beyond difficult. My son Isaac is 10 years old, he finished third grade online last year, and has just recently started going to school for fourth grade two days a week—after more than a year of doing everything online. It makes me so sad to think about all the friendships, connections and activities he has and is missing out on because of online schooling. I have been so depressed this past year that it has been tough to encourage him. We have helped each other though, and we are starting to have activities separately again. For example, he is playing Little League baseball, and I am running without him riding his bike next to me.
As a mom, I have struggled with all the 'regular' feelings that go with a pandemic: loneliness, fear, worry, sadness and mom guilt, fear for my child, worry for a child. It has been a constant, depressing cycle of "I need to go for a run. I feel guilty for wanting to get away. I want to be a good example to him," over and over again. There have been several miles of rage running, but (my coach) Angela Neath has been patient with me and I keep showing my son what it means to show up when things are hard.
Amy Woods, Cape Cod, Mass.
“Being a mom makes me a better triathlete, because this wouldn’t be as fun if my kids were not at the finish line!”
Ugh… I missed so much in 2020! My first Boston Marathon, Rooted Vermont gravel race, Maine 70.3, my first Ironman at Ironman Arizona. For 2021, I have Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast (on Mother’s Day weekend!), Rooted Vermont Gravel Race; Maine 70.3 the Boston Marathon (fingers crossed) and Ironman Arizona.
We had an extra weird 2020. My 16-year-old gymnast daughter tore her ACL in late Feb 2020 and had it repaired five days before Covid shut everything down. In some ways, the fact that school went remote allowed her to heal while still remote learning. Then almost a year to the day of her first surgery, she fell off beam and tore it again. We are now three weeks post second ACL reconstruction and still hybrid learning. It feels like Groundhog Day.
My son is in eighth grade and like my daughter, has been hybrid learning. You know, the biggest challenge was the summer. We couldn’t travel. They couldn’t hang out with friends (well, maybe one quarantine buddy) and all camps and such were closed. It was tough. It was also hard to see them up in their rooms three days a week staring at a screen.
Being a mom-triathlete during Covid, there was definitely a perspective shift. My biggest disappointment was the Boston cancellation, because it came so early in the pandemic and cancelled races were such a novelty. However, my kids were struggling even more. They were bored. Schools had not caught up to digital learning like they did in the fall. I had one kid whose gymnastics career was on pause because of a massive injury. The fact that there were no races became a relief. I was worried about traveling to races and bringing Covid back to my family. I didn’t want to have to choose between my family and my passion for triathlon. I did end up racing the virtual Boston Marathon here on Cape Cod and really raced it, and my kids met me at the mock finish line. That was pretty awesome.
I hate to admit this, but I am lucky. My kids are older; they are independent and motivated. I have a flexible job. And if I am being really honest, there is this weird silver lining of being able to spend time with my kids—time that I would not have if we had not been forced to stay home. Sooner than later, they will be heading off to college and I will miss this time with them. That being said, I can’t wait for them to go back to school full time (this is happening soon here) so I can get some space.
I didn’t grow up as an athlete. I was a late bloomer, I guess. I didn’t realize what I had inside of me until after I had kids and found my passion in running and tris. I have one kid who is a serious athlete—the gymnast—whom I actually look up to. Sometimes when things get tough, I think of her and everything she has been through and how hard she works, and that motivates me to keep going. I have another kid who isn’t competitive and is still trying to find his thing. He motivates me to show him that it’s never too late to find something you love to do and to get out there, even on the hard days and to just keep showing up.
Finally, sometimes I do get jealous of the women out there who don’t have kids. They can train whenever they want and take off on the weekends to go to races or go to group rides or swims more easily because they are not doing the “second shift.” No carpools or sports practices. But then I realize that being a mom makes me a better triathlete, because this wouldn’t be as fun if my kids were not at the finish line!
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