At the recent Rev3 Quassy race, Kelly Williamson finished second to Mirinda Carfrae and is seemingly ready to step it up even more. We had a few words with the Austin, TX transplant who was formerly known as Kelly Handel.
Slowtwitch: Kelly, it appears the nice results keep rolling in.
Kelly: Thanks Herbert! I have been fortunate to have put together a string of very solid races. That said, I am not sure if many people know that I have been doing triathlons as a professional since 2002. I started with ITU at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and outside of a few big results that came rather quickly, the first few years I really fumbled my way through it all. I did ITU style racing until about 2005 when a pretty serious bike crash (I now have 2 plates in my left arm and had 3 surgeries in the span of 9 months) knocked me down for almost a full year. It was the best thing for me, as I re-evaluated what I was doing and knew I did not really enjoy that kind of racing. In 2006, I started doing non-drafting and a few longer events, and my husband Derick and I moved to Austin so my entire career (using that term loosely at that time!) shifted directions. It was tough to leave Colorado and move to Texas, but it has been an awesome change and the best part is that I truly still love what I do each day after many years.
ST: Why the move to Texas?
Kelly: We moved to Texas in 2006 because Derick got into UT for grad school for Exercise Science. I was hoping the move would be maybe Montana or Wyoming for his grad school, somewhere else out west that would be cool; I was less than thrilled that it was Texas, but I have been pleasantly surprised at this town ever since. So much so that we even bought a house here last year; I would have never guessed that to happen!
ST: Talk about your Rev3 Quassy race.
Kelly: I really wanted to do well in Quassy. I knew it was a very hilly and challenging course, and these courses suit me. Outside of Ironman Coeur d’Alene this year, Quassy was definitely the race ‘next in line’ where I wanted to perform well. That said, I am doing CDA just around the corner, so the weeks leading into Quassy were rather big training weeks for me. I gave myself a few days of rest going into it but I knew that I was not ‘fully rested’ so I was also realistic in my expectations. I wanted to be in the top 3, but I knew that it would be tough. It ended up being one of those days when everything just ‘feels good’. I positioned myself well in the swim and was able to hang with the top few girls, feeling comfortable. Once on the bike, I started taking calories immediately because I knew a harder course would entail a bit more energy expenditure. Every time I race this distance, the bike is almost ‘full on’ for me in terms of intensity. I have always lost time on the bike, so I cannot hold back. I essentially bike like there is no run. I felt very strong on the hills and attacked them, but also pushed on the fast winding descents. It was a bit nerve-wracking at times with the wet roads, but I tried to stay relaxed. I did not start to feel tired really until the last 5-10 miles of the bike. Once onto the run, I knew that this was my strength but I also knew the women up ahead were all very solid runners (one being a phenomenal runner!). I simply dialed in my pace and plugged along, able to catch Sam at about mile 6 and Julie at mile 8 or 9. However, I did not count myself in 2nd place until I actually saw the finish chute. I was extremely excited and relieved; but I would not say ‘shocked’ because I have learned that I have to believe I belong in the top 3 otherwise I’d let my emotions get the best of me. It was an awesome event and I am still pretty thrilled to have been able to put it all together among such an incredible field.
ST: Last year you sat out this race to concentrate on Eagleman. Why the change this year?
Kelly: I did Eagleman last year because I was 3rd in 2008; so of course, I wanted to go back and do even better! Needless to say, pancake flat courses do not suit me. I struggled a good bit last year on the bike, and while I love the event, I heard such amazing things about the Rev 3 Series and especially Quassy last season. So this year, I decided this was an event and a series I had to be a part of. So, I simply picked the course that I knew would suit my strengths. And I am not going to lie, the prize purse was pretty enticing as well. ☺
ST: Still doing Eagleman 2010?
Kelly: No, I am in the final weeks for Ironman Coeur d’Alene preparation so I am focusing on resting up for that and fine tuning. This will be after all my first ever Ironman!
ST: Well, what is your goal for Coeur d'Alene?
Kelly: Ahh, people love to ask that question. It will officially still be my first Ironman (I went to Canada last year but had to quit 6 miles into the run) so I want to finish it. Of course, I'd like to do more than just finish it. I simply want to put up a very solid race. I can count on one hand (ok maybe two hands) the number of times I have ridden over 100 miles, so that said I want to swim strong, bike smart and within my limits and hopefully have enough left to run a very good marathon. My focus' for the event are pacing and nutrition; if I can do everything right in those two areas, I think that I will be happy with the result.
ST: Early in May you got to sprint at the Olympic Rev3 event. Relatively speaking, do you consider yourself usually a good sprinter?
Kelly: Not at all! I grew up swimming and I think I made every event for the state meet when I was young except the 50 freestyle. In college, I swam the 1650, 200 fly, 400 IM and 500 free. Maybe if we consider a 5k a ‘sprint’ I can hold my own, but in terms of an actual ‘sprint’? No, I am terrible. I specifically recall when Sam Warriner and I started battling it out in Knoxville and she got a bit physical near the end (simply playing the game as she should), my thoughts were, “Now, come on… is this really necessary?” I have to look back and laugh at myself or kick myself because I need to be a bit more aggressive sometimes in that respect. I am not a fan of contact sports (hence my departure from ITU) and I like my ‘own space’ too much. I also got out-sprinted in a half marathon in St. Louis back in April; that one I took the lead at mile 12, led until about 10 meters from the finish and got passed back; lost it by a second.
ST: Which result are you most proud of to date?
Kelly: That is a tough one, as each race means something different to me. I would have to say this past weekend at Rev 3 Tri Quassy. I finally showed some solid cycling this past weekend, which has been my perpetual weakness for so many years. I have seen improvements, but this past weekend was the first time that I felt strong and actually confident on the entire bike leg of a race. I was able to put together 3 solid disciplines, and I kept my head in the game from start to finish. I think what I am most proud of is going into a field of women with huge resumes and not being afraid to go into it with a big goal; not being afraid to put myself out there, and seeing it all work out even better than I had expected.
ST: What else is on your calendar moving forward?
Kelly: As mentioned earlier, Ironman Coeur d’Alene is next up on June 27 and then I am honestly taking it all from there. I have a few key races that I would like to do the second half of the season, but I am going to re-assess everything after CDA.
ST: Would you describe a hard training week for us?
Kelly: In general, I probably train a lot less than most do; or than what most would think I do. I have never been a volume-hound but what I have done has worked for me. I started swimming with UT Masters in February which I think has made a huge difference. I swim 3-4x/week usually 3-5K (usually 13k-16k in a week). I run anywhere from 40 to 50 miles/week (50 would be very high) and those include a speed run (track or hills), tempo run, short transition run and a long run. I ride 4-5x/week but I also include a good bit of intensity in my cycling. I train with an SRM and that holds me accountable. Intensity will vary from max effort hill intervals to time trial efforts to even indoor trainer workouts. In terms of mileage, I’d say that I ride between 175 and 250 miles/week. This is definitely the area that I focus most on in terms of ‘volume’. I do most all of my training alone, though occasionally get a partner for a long ride or my husband Derick and I will play cat and mouse on the track; he’ll give me a 200 meter lead on mile repeats. He is a phenomenal runner. I guess this is not a typical ‘hard’ week but more so how most weeks are with some higher in volume or intensity than others.
ST: What is new and exciting on the sponsor front?
Kelly: I currently have an awesome support network. Chris McCrary with Katalyst Multisport has been instrumental the past year in helping me out in this area. I started working with Quintana Roo this year, and I absolutely love my CD0.1. I am sure it is combination of many years of hard work and the bike, but I feel incredible both in the TT position and climbing. I am lucky to have partnered with PowerBar this year as well, which is perfect since I have been a long-time user of PowerBar gels (11 get me through a half ironman). I am also continuing to work with Zoot Sports who has supported me for a few years now. Locally I have some incredible support through Jack and Adams bike shop, Advanced Rehabilitation, 3 Cosas Massage, Go with the Flo Acupuncture, Hill Country Running and Xcis Software. One thing I’d absolutely love is a good micro-brew sponsor. I am thinking someone like Stone Brewing, Oskar Blues, Dogfish Head, or locally 512 Brewing. Any takers?
ST: We hear you on the 512 Brewery front, but would you say no to Independence?
Kelly: Definitely not! Independence Pale Ale is a staple for us. I am just a bit partial to 512 because they are located about 1/2 mile from where we live. We can walk to where they brew! They are in our zip code.
ST: Do you follow any other sports?
Kelly: I am a big fan of football, especially NFL. I grew up in Indiana, so of course I am a Colts fan. I went to University of Illinois and despite having an awful football team the years I was there, I went to most all the games. I recall when we beat Middle Tennessee State one year and people stormed the field and tore down the goal post; funny, yet also a bit pathetic! I don’t follow much else; I’d rather be out doing it, I guess!
ST: Do you have a specific diet you subscribe to?
Kelly: Not at all. I would say I eat ‘consciously’. I think about what I am putting into my body but if I want a cheeseburger and fries, I am going to eat it. My husband and I always have Bluebell ice cream in our freezer. That said, we do eat rather healthy for the most part; I never skip meals and I always try to pick up on new ‘good foods’ for you… we eat a lot of spinach salads loaded with good stuff like walnuts, avocado, dark cherries, cottage cheese; and we cook with a lot of garlic and olive oil. I actually had my gall bladder removed in January of this year, which I think has helped me immensely. I used to struggle with eating enough as I do not think my digestive system was ‘working’ very efficiently the past year or two. I thought long and hard but decided this was the best thing to do after having a few gall bladder attacks. Since the surgery, I feel 100% better, my appetite has increased and I feel like I am probably fueling myself much better than previously; and maybe even absorbing nutrients better than before.
ST: Any food items you consider treats or rewards?
Kelly: Derick and I decided that after every good race, we needed to go out for margaritas and Mexican food. That said, nothing is a ‘reward’ to me since I do not deprive myself of anything! I enjoy a good beer in the evening when I make dinner; I guess you could say that is my daily treat after a good hard day of training.
ST: What about your music taste?
Kelly: I like a wide variety; my staples are things like Brandi Carlile, Ben Harper (the old stuff; I miss the Innocent Criminals), Lucinda Williams, The Avett Brothers, Pearl Jam, Robert Earl Keen, Ryan Bingham. Living in Austin we are exposed to so much incredible music. We recently saw Todd Snider who was amazing. Our wedding playlist pretty much sums up my taste in music. It started with Rolling Stones ‘Honky Tonk Woman’ and included Dixie Chicks and of course the highlight was when ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ came on and Derick and I made like rockstars, and everyone was cheering around us as if they were the ‘crowd’. I am not quite sure how that happened, but it was a riot. When ‘Thriller’ came on bats started flying around the rafters of the barn where the reception was! How ironic. That was quite a fun night, to say the least.
ST: What was the last book you read?
Kelly: I am in the slower-than-planned process of taking a correspondence class (Abnormal Psychology) through Texas State; so my ‘reading’ is working my way through this class. I am a bit off schedule, as I am supposed to be done in September and have yet to take the mid-term. I started it in January. My reading as of late has been my magazine subscriptions and studying for this class.
ST: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Kelly: Who knows…5 years ago I’d of never guessed I would live in Texas! I intend to continue racing until either a) I no longer enjoy it or b) my times/performances begin to taper off. I think I’ll know when I am ready to hang it up as a professional. That said I cannot sit still, and I love to run, so I think when I am done racing triathlons then I will likely run marathons; and of course fill my time with skiing. Derick and I love and miss the mountains, so I think that our next move will be back to Colorado somewhere; or a smaller mountain town out west. I have considered going back to school for psychology. We have also toyed with the idea of opening a brewery some day. We should probably start home-brewing before that, though. I guess in short, I don’t know but I am sure I’ll not be doing much sitting still!
ST: Is there anything else we should know about you?
Kelly: We have a 20-pound cat named Corgi and a new dog named Amico, an Australian cattle dog. Derick and I met at the Mt. Evans hill climb in Idaho Springs, CO, a 28-mile bike race going from 7,000 to 14,000 ft. We have a coaching business here called Durata Training, and we coach endurance athletes (cycling, running, triathlon). We spent our honeymoon in McCall, Idaho skiing and I did my first ever back-country trip then. My family is in Indiana; my two older sisters Cori and Robin and my parents, Barb and Charlie, who live in a beautiful log home outside of Bloomington. They have always been nothing but supportive my entire life with my sporting endeavors. I have a amazing 96-year old grandmother in Columbus, Ohio. I feel very lucky to be able to do what I do each day! I live by the motto “Be true to yourself”. I think that if you always do that, you can never go wrong.
The website of Kelly Williamson is kellyhwilliamson.com