plus Learn Tips for Racing Knoxville and Recovery Techniques!

The sprightly professional triathlete Kelly Williamson continues to rack up podium finishes this year with first place in both the San Juan and Texas 70.3. She battled for second in the Panama 70.3 and raced the fastest run of the day with a jaw-dropping 1:16 half marathon. Although she keeps a cheerful and spirited demeanor, Williamson is one of the toughest competitors on the triathlon circuit today. Coming up for Williamson is the Rev3 Knoxville triathlon followed by the Rev3 Quassy race. She will face tough competition from the likes of pros such as Australia’s Kate Major and Americas very own Nicole Kelleher who just walked away with the win at Rev3 Costa Rica.

We chatted with Williamson on the 2012 season thus far, her tips for racing Rev3 Knoxville and her surprising vices (which include ice cream and “The Real Housewives”).

Rev3: Congrats on a great year so far. You started out the year with a win in the 3M Half Marathon. A lot of triathletes compete in both running and multi-disciplined events. How do you prepare yourself mentally for a running race versus a triathlon?

Williamson: Thank you much! I cannot complain with how the year has begun. I could say I am “pleasantly surprised,” but I have felt strong and so I am not shocked either. I’d say a running race often just entails a good bit less nerves. I know that I always want to perform well anytime I toe the line, whether it be Kona or a local 5K, but running races just feel a lot more laid back to me. Much more simple. I know that there are not too many external conditions to deal with or worry about; it’s just me and my legs. That is one of the many things I love about running races, they are so much more “pure” than triathlons. Mentally, I try to put myself into the place of a pure runner. I try to not step up to the line thinking, “I am a triathlete so it’s ok if I don’t win.” But more so, I tell myself, “I want to be the best runner here, period.” It is a fun change of pace and of course brings along a different set of nerves, but once the gun goes, they often subside.

Rev3:  You placed first in San Juan 70.3 this year. What do you like about racing internationally?

Williamson: Well I am kind of a homebody when it comes to racing…I like to keep my trips as close to home and low-maintenance as possible. But early in the season, it seems all the big races are further away and I love to race early in the year, so I go where the races are. I did San Juan in 2011 and loved it from the beauty of the location to the race logistics (seemless!) to the people in San Juan, so it was almost without question that we would return. I guess point being, if I can race a big, competitive race close to Texas, I’ll do so. If they are further away and I know I need to race at this time of year, I’ll go there as well. It involves a bit more logistics and expenses, but it’s always worth it to go international, especially if it is a destination you would like to see. Working a race into the trip is a nice bonus, especially if you can stay a few extra days.

Rev3:   What tips can you provide a triathlete thinking of participating in an international race, such as the Costa Rica race Rev3 offers?

Williamson: Well, I always get on organizing these trips as early as possible. I will usually use the race website as a resource for where to stay, etc. Sometimes it is nice to stay away from it all (like in Kona, it’s nice to relax by staying a few miles away); however, I have learned that when going to a race, especially international, it is nice to be as close as possible to the race venue. So I’d always recommend staying at the host hotel(s) if at all possible–just keeps the stress levels down a bit. Do your homework before arriving three to four days early; if you can’t train there, don’t arrive early! Arrive with a day or two to spare, so you’re not stressing out about not being able to train; then stay a few days after to enjoy yourself.

Rev3:  You do very well at the 70.3 distance. What is it about the distance that suits you?

Williamson: I just think that my body is made for that type of intensity. I grew up swimming and I could never swim a good 50 free; it was too short! I have not raced enough full distance triathlons (I have done five but my first one was 2010, which relative to my triathlon career is not that long ago) to know if that an uber-long distance suites me, and I am not sure I enjoy riding my bike enough to love that distance. I like that in a 70.3 you can push yourself just below that blowing up point the entire race. Physiologically, I think I am just made for a race of this distance. I also know that my body is able to dial in an intensity and just sustain it. I don’t really think my Olympic distance intensity is that much harder than my half intensity. I guess I just love to go hard!

Rev3:  You have Rev3 Knoxville and Quassy coming up. What is different about the Rev3 events?

Williamson: I think have a lot in common, but Knoxville is shorter! They are both hilly and a bit technical on the bike. Both of the bike courses are scenic, winding and challenging. From what I recall in 2010, the run in Knoxville had some good hills and we all know that Quassy does as well. Swims are both in pretty calm waters. I guess the only real difference would be that one is in an amusement park and the other around a college campus! But, I recall from 2010 that I really enjoyed both courses equally.

Rev3:       You placed third in the Knoxville race in 2010. Do you have any special advice you could give an age grouper participating in Knoxville?

Williamson: Well the swim was fast, as it was with the current…so good swimmers won’t necessarily have much of an advantage unfortunately! I do recall it was chilly in the morning, but given the crazy weather of the past year who knows? It was a cool morning but beautiful conditions once we started racing. The bike was a bit technical and hilly, so be sure that your bikes are totally dialed when it comes to shifting. You may need to go from big to small gear a few times quickly. You also want to be a bit careful on some of the turns and descents on the bike. The run was beautiful but had some nice hills as well, so be sure you have a gel or two with you for the final 10K as your body may be feeling the cumulative effort by this point and the calories may be much needed.

Rev3:  With back-to-back wins at the San Juan 70.3 and the Texas 70.3, where you became the US Pro 70.3 Champion, how much down time do you give yourself in between races? 

Williamson: I usually take a day off post race or do very easy recovery activity (such as a 20 min light swim). The second day post race may entail a light spin and another light swim (20-30 minutes). It really depends upon what is next, but I would say anytime that I race a 70.3 it is 3-4 days of very light easy activity, usually a lot of easy swimming, and I often don’t run for 2-3 days. By the following weekend, I may put in a 3-4 hour ride but even then the intensity is still pretty low. I remind myself that you gain so much fitness from races, but only if you *fully* recover. I definitely do not do any sort of real or hard workout for at least seven days after a race of 4+ hours.

Rev3:   As a professional athlete, what are some of your recovery techniques within the first 24 hours after a race?

Williamson: Within the first 24 hours, I try to get in a good meal, even if it is a few hours post race (which it often is). I actually think that moving is better than not moving, so assuming that I don’t have to travel immediately, I try to do a light swim or even a long walk later in the day from the race or the next morning. Sleep is huge, although it can be tough sometimes to sleep that night if your body is pretty beat up. I definitely make sure to sit in my Recovery Pump boots the day of the race, or at the latest, the day post race (again given the situation). If I have another race the following weekend, I will try to take an ice bath soon after the race if it is possible; I know that the research is inconclusive on this, but I think it helps me and you can’t discount a placebo effect if nothing else! If in Austin, I’ll try to get a massage within 24-48 hours. And again…listen to my body, eat well, and get good sleep.

Rev3:   What are your favorite nutritional products to take in during a 70.3? 

Williamson: I am a PowerBar girl, and my plan is always 7-8 PowerBar gels on the bike and four PowerBar gels on the run. For me, this works great. If it is a very hot and humid race, I may add in a bottle of PowerBar Perform drink on the bike mostly because I find that my body craves it when I am out there in the heat.

Rev3:   For fun, what are your favorite bad vices?

Willamson: Well, I don’t restrict anything, ever, from my diet, at any point in the season! So, there are no foods that I consider treats post race. My husband and I love good craft beer and I enjoy one most evenings when I cook dinner. I like to have a beer the night before a race, often a Peroni (it’s light and goes well with Italian food). I eat ice cream and peanut butter almost every single day. Hmm…bad vices…I am a sucker for lame TV shows like “The Bachelor” and “Real Housewives”! I love good Tex-Mex and good margaritas, and we often head out about once a week in Austin to enjoy them. Last year we started a tradition that anytime I had a good race, we had to go out for Tex Mex and margaritas. Not that Derick [my husband] and I need an excuse for that!

By Jennifer Purdie