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Faith first and no racing on Sundays – why the 2024 calendar looks very different to Jocelyn McCauley

While most of the top triathlon pros have more races than ever to choose from in 2024, Jocelyn McCauley is an exception.

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We featured the story last month about Jocelyn McCauley turning down a hard-won IRONMAN World Championship spot after her podium place at IRONMAN Florida.

And that was because next year’s IMWC, the first women’s one to be held in Nice in France, takes place on a Sunday – and will do so again in two years’ time.

For McCauley, her faith comes first which means not only does she not race on Sundays, she doesn’t train either.

And having looked back on her 2023 season in the first part of this in-depth interview, we now chat to the American in more detail about that key part of her life.

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‘I am so blessed’

Lots of top-level pros are in the welcome position of having more high-profile races than ever to choose from in 2024, with an expanded PTO Tour, when it’s eventually revealed, and the newly-launched IRONMAN Pro Series also both offering lucrative end-of-season bonus pools to those at the top of the rankings.

It’s a different – but chosen – scenario for McCauley but what are her thoughts on only being be able to take part in the IMWC – the sport’s biggest race outside the Olympics and at her favoured distance – every other year?

“People have said, oh shucks, that really stinks,” she tells TRI247. “But I’m like, you know what, there’s Olympic athletes that only get to race on the biggest stage every four years. I am so blessed. I’ve gotten to race there every single year and now it’s every other year. What does that matter? That’s not a big deal.

“We have these PTO races and there’s so many other championship-level races that I get to do as well. And so I view it more as an opportunity to show God how important he is to me and to show myself that I’m more devoted to God than I am to triathlon.

“I mean, would I want it every year if I could? Of course. But like I said, I can’t change that and so there’s no point in worrying about it and more point in just being grateful for what I get to do.”

Texas the only option

But one aspect of the 2024 calendar that did momentarily stop McCauley in her tracks was when she started to look in detail at the IRONMAN Pro Series – exactly the sort of initiative that she and many other full-distance specialists had been hoping for.

Because to contend for the top end of the bonus pools – which are double what the PTO have offered so far – you realistically have to do well in three IRONMAN races and two 70.3s.

There are 18 races in total to choose from, with six at full-distance for women – but their only IRONMAN not on a Sunday is Texas at the start of the season.

Jocelyn McCauley IRONMAN Texas
Jocelyn McCauley winning IRONMAN Texas in 2022 [Photo Credit – Kyle Rivas / Getty Images for IRONMAN]

“That honestly was probably the biggest disappointment out of all of these different things. Because when I saw that release, I had so many people send it to me and then I looked it up myself and like, oh my gosh, this is right up my alley.

“I’ve been trying to do these 100K races [on the PTO Tour] and I’ve been beating my head against the wall sometimes.

“And suddenly there’s an Ironman-focused series with some good payouts and I’m like, sweet!

“But then I sat down and looked at the races and noticed there was only one non-Sunday IRONMAN race. And so I was like, there’s actually no point in me trying to do that series.”

Fingers crossed

“I have never talked to IRONMAN about Saturday races, Sunday races, ever, or anything like that, because I don’t want anything to change for the 1%, and I am the 1% in this aspect. And so because of that, I’ve never asked, I’ve never put anything out there. And I have plenty of races to race, I get to travel, it’s awesome.

“But this was the first time I actually did step out and I ask IRONMAN, is there any possibility to just add two full-distance races that are non-Sunday races? Any possibility? I was met with two different opinions on that. One saying, absolutely not. This year, well 2024, it’s set in stone. And then one saying, I’m sorry, when we put this together, we honestly didn’t even look at Saturday races versus Sunday and things like that.

“And I said it’s totally fine. I’m sure I’m the only one who cares about this, and was told, no, you’re not the only one who cares about this, which was interesting to hear. And obviously different religions worship on different days.

But anyway, I don’t think anything will change for 2024. I can still cross my fingers and hope.

“And so I’ll be doing some other races and still having fun racing IRONMANs and, who knows, probably winning a couple more this next year, because no one’s going to be at those other ones! Hey, it doesn’t matter. It’s fine but, yes, probably the biggest disappointment for me for in terms of the 2024 schedule.”

New Zealand and Texas

So with that said, what does her provisional race calendar look like for 2024?

“I think there’s two places that just always will have my heart and one is Texas and one is New Zealand.

“So IRONMAN New Zealand in March, I’ll be doing that for sure. That’s actually coming up quite soon and I just got off of my off season so we’ll see how fit I can get for New Zealand.

“And while 70.3s don’t excite me as much, just because it’s not quite my distance as the full IRONMAN, the 70.3 Worlds are in Taupo at the end of 2024 so that will hopefully be another trip to New Zealand.

“But back to earlier in the year and IRONMAN Texas again in April [a race she won in 2022 and was third at this year following an incredible comeback from two surgeries] is obviously a big target. I think it’s going to be World Championship 2.0. It seems like everyone is going to be there, so it’s going to be a super high-calibre race, which is awesome. I love the race and have great support there, so it’ll be cool to have a ‘quote unquote’ World Championship at my course!

“Hopefully I’ll then get some PTO wildcards and then I’ll definitely choose probably two Ironmans in the fall.”

Jocelyn McCauley Skye Moench India Lee IRONMAN Floridaa 2023
Jocelyn McCauley rounded out her 2023 season with third at IRONMAN Florida [Photo credit: Douglas P. DeFelice / Getty Images for IRONMAN]

War-torn Israel puts everything into perspective

One race she had been hoping to take part in this season was IRONMAN Israel before the devastating situation in that part of the world.

“It’s just heart-breaking to see all of this war and hatred and animosity amongst all of us humans – children of God is what I would say. It’s just really sad,” Jocelyn says.

“Israel was a bucket list race for me to do, to combine two passions and swim in the Sea of Galilee, which has a tonne of Christian significance. And then you bike to Capernaum and back, which is where Christ started his ministry, and then a long run along the coast of the Sea of Galilee and then go tour around Israel, which I’ve never been to, and to be able to see amazing historical sites.”

The plight there puts issues in the triathlon world into perspective and McCauley is clearly mindful of that when asked about what could potentially be seen as a PTO Tour versus IRONMAN Pro Series stand-off when the 2024 calendar is finalised.

She said: “I love the PTO, and I love IRONMAN, and I will support both as much as I can in their own ways.

“I’ve done every single PTO race that there has been because I want to see the sport grow. And they’re the new guys in the sport, right? So I want to support them so I can see the sport grow even more for the next generation and everything to come.

“They know how to put on really awesome races and treat us well. There’s lots of little things that I feel like the PTO does right, that IRONMAN could learn from, and I think there’s lots of big things that IRONMAN does right – they both could learn from each other.

“An example of a little thing the PTO do is putting together a WhatsApp thread for everyone at their races. So any questions get answered and you’re kept right up to date. It would be awesome for IRONMAN to do this at races. Sometimes it can be 4am and you don’t know if it’s wetsuit legal or not and they say we’ll announce it in transition over the intercom. Like, can’t you just message it so I can leave my wetsuit in the hotel?”

Double standards

McCauley is currently #22 in the PTO world rankings and hoping to feature in their stacked start lists again next year, adding: “I didn’t really do well at any of the PTO’s races this season but I absolutely just cherish every opportunity I get to race against the best in the world. And that’s what the PTO races are.

“I’m not going to be getting a contract for 2024 but I’m sure I’ll be able to get some wild cards and to go to a couple of those. And I don’t think I would want to go to more than a couple of them just because that 100K distance is not quite my forte. But I’m not giving up yet to say that I can’t have success in it.”

But back to that PTO / IRONMAN debate, she says: “I do feel as though people give IRONMAN a really bad rap and say they don’t listen to the athletes, they don’t try to do what’s best for the sport and so on.

“But you know what, they will listen and they will change things. I’ve seen that plenty of times, one of the latest is them trying out RaceRanger. Some will say that’s because of the PTO but even if that’s the case, it’s something that pros have wanted and it’s happening. IRONMAN will listen if they hear us enough.

“I think another example this year is out of competition tests – from everyone that I’ve heard from they have risen dramatically, like doubled.

“But IRONMAN are a big target whereas the PTO are relatively new.

If IRONMAN didn’t have their races out for next year, by this point, how crazy would people go?

“There can be a double standard – if you’re going to bash one, bash the other, or if you’re going to like one, like the other.”

Moving in the right direction

And it’s a very balanced view too from McCauley when I ask her about the first all-female Kona this year: “I think there are pros. I think there are cons. But IRONMAN have their own agenda, which I totally understand. They’re a for-profit company and they need to make a profit. People get mad about that but it’s what has to happen to be able to have that business stay afloat.”

A more important aspect for McCauley, who has two daughters, is the fact that the triathlon and sporting landscape is changing in a good way for girls and women.

She says: “I started the sport right after having my first child, did it as an age grouper and then went pro. I did my first IRONMAN when she was about a year old and it was virtually unheard of. I would actually go to sponsors and I would be like, I am a mom. This is something that we can use to market, I’m more relatable.

“I’m like an ‘age-grouper pro’ in that I know what it is to have a kid at home and everything like that. And so it is so cool that it’s not as unusual now – Rinny [Carfrae] came back right after having her first and there’s so many out there at this point now that it’s just awesome that we get to all support each other.

“We were going to have like a little toddler get together in Kona. It didn’t end up happening, unfortunately, but it’s just so cool that we all have our little ones running around, our best cheerleaders in the world, to be honest.

“And that definitely gives you another reason to be able to propel and to grow the sport.

“I want to be able to leave not just triathlon, but sport in general, a better place for my children. And I definitely think that we’re going in the right direction. And I don’t just mean mothers in sport, for women in general things are really progressing now in many different ways.”

Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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