Catching Up with Kelly Williamson

FOMO Training coach and AFM columnist Carrie Barrett visits with the Ironman Texas champion.

Kelly Williamson celebrates with her husband Derick after the victory.

Austin-based Ironman Champion, Kelly Williamson visits with Austin Fit Magazine following her victory at Ironman Texas.

What's it like to win your first Ironman, especially in a sub 9:00 race?

It is pretty amazing, especially to do it here in Texas. To be honest, I have never gotten too obsessed about gaining the "Ironman Champion" title because I usually try to go into strong fields and get the best out of myself and let the result fall where it does. But, given the setbacks I have had the past year, to be able to finally get an Ironman win, much less dip under the nine-hour mark (and under three on the run) means so much, especially at a time in my career where I was starting to question if I still had it in me. The race answered some questions. My parents were there as well (from Indiana) and, of course, my husband Derick, and a very close friend came in to surprise me, so being able to share it with them—I couldn't have asked for more. I also didn't have any idea of my time (overall or my run time) until I saw the clock in the chute, so it was an unreal feeling to see that I had gone that fast; easily one of my most exciting moments in the sport in 12 years. 

You had a difficult year with injury, surgery, and frustrating races. What changed on this Ironman Texas race day?

In a strange way I think when I pulled out of Texas 70.3 (in Galveston), it forced me to make some much needed changes, both in my training and in my head. I realized I was putting far too much pressure on myself, and we were being a bit too aggressive in the training. I was dealing with so much frustration. I had this epiphany that I needed to “let go,” accept where I was, and work within it. Almost, let it come to me. That said, I also approached Ironman Texas with a laser focus, doing all I could in my power to be as prepared as possible. But I accepted and believed that I was strong, I was prepared... I was totally capable of having a perfect day out there. While I knew all of this deep in myself, I had to let that performance come to me. It really shows you how much of this can truly be between the ears. 

Were the race conditions particularly challenging that day?

I think they were ideal. The swim was typical of The Woodlands, pretty clear, easy to sight; being wetsuit legal it was not typical swim, but I wore a Zoot sleeveless and was never too warm. I felt great the entire time, especially in the canal when I pulled in a pack of men. The bike is always going to throw some wind at you, but it seemed pretty steady and shifting. I only recall one stretch for about five to ten miles of a strong tail wind. Otherwise, it was head winds or from the side, and temperatures were not too bad. Similarly on the run, it could have been so much hotter. It warmed up a bit but nothing like what it could have been. I guess living in Texas, you expect it to be an oven on race day so anything less is a treat.

You live and train right here in Austin. What are some of your favorite places to train?

I live south, so I like to be able to head out from my door to ride, which often means San Marcos, Lockhart, and Johnson City routes. I like these roads because they are fairly quiet, especially stretches like between RR 12 and Johnson City. I love the solitude of open rolling roads. I also love to hit up climbs like Mesa, Far West, and Bonnell but that just means more stop and go to get there, which is alright, you just need to plan for that. As for running, I am usually on Town Lake for workouts (I use the mile markers for intervals), but will often peel off to the Green Belt (if Derick is with me to navigate) or Scenic area for longer runs. For swimming...there are so many, from Pure Austin Quarry, to Lake Austin, Longhorn Aquatics, Deep Eddy, and Garrison pool near my house in summer months. 

What do you love most about the athletic community and culture in Austin?

We have said it since we moved here in 2006:  it is just so welcoming. There is a vibe in Austin that you just do not find in other triathlon-friendly cities. I think that Jack & Adams epitomizes it. They welcome everyone into the shop with open arms; they genuinely want to help you out and teach you about the sport. Plus, they offer up fun, awesome training events and races. I don't feel that uber-competitiveness among people here. It seems that people in Austin can train together to make each other better and then have a beer afterwards. I think that the community support here is a large reason that I have had the chance to make triathlon a living. 

Do you have any local sponsors that you want to thank?

Yes, without a doubt. Jack & Adams is a huge reason we love the triathlon community. Not only the constant support for Derick and me, but their events are fun for triathletes of all levels and are still some of my favorite races. Nulo (pet food) has been awesome. We recently did a video with our cattle dog, Amico, showing what our day is like and how we incorporate our pup into our active lifestyle. Devon Hornby at Tao Health Clinic, Kendal Jacobson at Massage PT, Mark Kendall (massage), Steve Cuddy (PT), Pieter Kroon, and Karen Smith (acupuncture) have all been instrumental in keeping me healthy and keep the body in working order. Pure Austin is a great supporter, and I frequently use the Quarry for open water practice. Of course, it goes without saying, but my husband Derick at Durata Training; I would not be where I am today without his incredible knowledge, support, and belief in me. All of these people combined... when they help me, it is because they believe in me as an athlete; and that support really goes a long way. 

What's next on the race calendar?

Next up is Ironman Coeur d'Alene on June 29. A bit soon right? Unfortunately I was a behind the points game for Ironman Texas, so that win put me in a 'bubble' position. I need quite a few more points for the early qualification and with Ironman Hawaii being a big goal for me this year, I have to do what I have to do. We knew IMCDA was the likely next race if Texas did go well. After I took the lead in Texas, and I got within a few miles of the finish, I thought to myself, "Crap Kelly...if you win this, you're gonna need to do this all over again in six weeks.” Ha. That said, I am excited at the chance to try to secure that qualification and there are worse things in life than 'having' to go to a beautiful place like Coeur d'Alene. It was my first Ironman in 2010 so it brings back great memories.

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